Write Like You Talk Only Better. Six-part ULEARN Series

Write Like You Talk Only Better

Learn the secret to pulling ideas out of your head and onto the page. Develop the skill most vital to connecting, selling online.

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Learn, do, teach

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 @ 07:04 AM
posted by Barbsawyers

I spend way too much time reading on the Internet. Yesterday alone, I learned about body language, native advertising, mid-life crises, gardening, seat belts, anti-busyness, blue auras, dog tumors,  television spoilers and more. Offline, I read a newspaper too.

But the trouble with this information onslaught is my tendency to forget. The next time I go to shake a hand, I’ll won’t recall which side I’m supposed to be on. I’ll get mixed up and plant the seeds in old coffee filters instead of toilet paper rolls. I will mumble when I want to name the new president of Ukraine.

So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut (or is that John Updike, David Foster Wallace or some other white male American writer?) would say.

brainSome information does stick, such as the three-step learning process articulated by a doctor whose name I forgot on the television show I can’t remember : 1) learn 2) do 3) teach.

When I was taking a course on teaching adults recently, this theory resurfaced from the dusty, deep caverns of my consciousness.  Only now it makes sense.

When I only consume information, I forget a lot. When I apply knowledge, I remember more. When I teach , it goes into the memory vault.

When you teach adults, you’re supposed to encourage them to practice immediately, first in a controlled setting where they’re either right or wrong, then giving them enough latitude to perform the task imperfectly and learn from their mistakes. Next you let them interpret what they’ve learned by applying it to something a little different.

While they are learning and doing, group work encourages the more advanced students to teach the ones who are struggling.

When I first went to university, the professors stood at the front of the class and lectured. From talking to my daughter and her friends, I know a lot still do. Good marks still often depend more on short-term memory tricks than long-term knowledge storage.

On the positive side, more educators engage their classes by giving them assignments to breathe life into their new knowledge before it can plummet down the rabbit hole of memory. There’s more group work too.

Similarly, top physicians often work at teaching hospitals so they can share their experience with students. Sales people sell more when they have a new guy under their wing.

Teaching is learning. We can all be teachers.

So how will teach-do-learn help you become a better content creator?

The next time you offer advice, include ways your readers can immediately apply it. Encourage them to start applying it in a controlled way, building to interpretation and critical thinking. Let them teach each other through comments and conversations.

Appreciate that your posts and other content marketing are forms of teaching. Just as writing this post is reinforcing for me what I learned in the course, this kind of teaching will benefit you as well as your readers.

Look for other opportunities to share your knowledge. I don’t mean the easy sharing of links on social media. I mean helping others understand, apply, interpret and challenge your expertise. For example, you can explain Russian history to the guy in the next cubicle who comments on the news, show a boomer how to better use their phone or model desirable behavior for your children.

In a world where people often feel overwhelmed by information and change, teaching opportunities abound. If their eyes don’t shift to the nearest screen or glaze over, your expertise is probably welcome.

Very few people can remember all the information they ingest every day. Much of what’s not immediately relevant slides down the hole, never to be seen again.  If that didn’t happen, information overload would probably short-circuit our brains.

But some sticks. Like learn, do, teach.

Oh, the mysteries of mind and memory.

 

 

 

Warm discounts on uLearn for my friends

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 @ 02:04 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

Clear, concise and compelling writing is the key to building relationships, demonstrating your expertise, looking professional, inspiring and collaborating online.

Up your game, by listening or reading for about 10 minutes a week then practicing with your work. Keep score. Within six weeks, you and your colleagues will be impressed with your progress. Or your money back.20140409_151915

To celebrate the snow melting in my backyard, I’m offering Sticky readers and friends a special deal. With coupon code, snowmelts, you can buy the six-part series for only $40. That’s $60 off. The deal stands even if the snow returns.

The coupon will expire when the heats up.

Learn more.

Buy now.

 

Feed the content machine

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 @ 09:04 AM
posted by Barbsawyers

Many people have trouble coming up with ideas for their blog, newsletter or other content vehicle. But all they have to do is respond to customers’ questions, think about how their business relates to what’s happening in slice of the world they share with prospects and come up with helpful ways to repackage their expertise. Learn more on my guest post at Chamberofcommerce.com.

Three ways your content can work like Weight Watchers

Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 10:03 AM
posted by Barbsawyers

Last year I lost 25 pounds. Unlike the people in ads who did this in eight weeks, I took 50. Slow, steady, but sustainable.

I’ve known too many people to lose lots on those fad diets only to put it all back on again. Often more. Three months later, through my continuing healthy habits, I’m maintaining just fine. I don’t feel deprived.

Over the years, I’ve seen too many people enthusiastically launch blogs, newsletters and other content channels only to run out of steam because they’re not getting the results they’ve been promised. But, like weight loss, content is a long-term investment.

The second way content channels are like Weight Watchers is their insistence on the right kind of fuel. Many of the fad diets I had tried left me ravenous, dizzy and cranky. I could not feel full on mostly grapefruit, cabbage or other fruits and vegetables.

constant contact2With Weight Watchers, I learned to also eat a steady stream of lean protein and complex carbohydrates, downing a tablespoon of peanut butter whenever I heard the siren call of Crispy Cream.

With blogs and other content channels, my fuel is “deep and extremely up-to-date information,” as Bill Gates advised in his 1996 essay Content is King.

Feed your content flow with questions and feedback from your customers, news on the interests you share and your expertise repackaged through how-to articles, advice, news, insight and stories.

The third similarity between weight loss and content growth is the need to be flexible. Sometimes you’re going to be just too busy with work or have a personal crisis or holiday. Probably nobody will notice that you failed to stick rigidly to your schedule.

Like Weight Watchers, you should be encouraged to occasionally take off a day, or month. If you know you have a food fest coming up, you can cut down on what you eat before the fun. Similarly, content publishers can balance their routine by producing more when they have a product launch, inspiration or spare time.

But after your quick break, get back to your healthy habits as soon as you can. No excuses.

To sum up, here are my three content sustainability tips that parallel my weight loss experience.

  1. Go for slow, steady, sustainable results.
  2. Fuel with high-quality content.
  3. Be flexible.

You could also apply this advice to investing, working out or many other activities. Try it and see.

Here are the slides from my Constant Contact presentation on sustaining content.

How to make sure they read your newsletter on their mobiles

Monday, March 24, 2014 @ 11:03 AM
posted by Barbsawyers

The giant Ragan.com is running a version of my post on how to keep your newsletter content rolling. Don’t miss it.

 

 

10 steps to keep your newsletter rolling

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 @ 06:03 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

When I ask people how their newsletter is going, they often reply that they simply don’t have the time any more.

But what’s going to happen when their business slows down or they want to expand? They’ll have lost the opportunity to stay in front of all those people.

As usability expert Jakob Nielsen said, “Newsletters must be seen as a long-term investment: they work their magic over time.”

In other words, you can’t just stop and then expect to start back where you left off. You need to keep your newsletter rolling. If content is king, then consistency is queen.

Despite the growing popularity of social media, email newsletters still deliver the best return on investment, according to the Direct Marketing Association. But don’t forget you are building relationships, not snatchiuntitled (39)ng quick sales.

Although flexibility is vital to your newsletter’s survival, you can’t overdo it. Like the treadmill, the email marketing machine is hard to get back on if you’ve missed too much time.

So how do you fuel your newsletter machine, so it will keep running in good times and bad? That’s what I’ve been pondering, as I prepare to present on this topic at a Constant Contact seminar next week.

Here are 10 tips I’ve figured out.

  1. Start with a list of topics that respond to customer questions, information you wish your customers understood and other issues that come up frequently.
  2. Make a list of seasonal topics that relate to your business.
  3. Continue with a list of ideas to showcase your expertise, for example how-to articles, legislative updates or opinion pieces. Relate your expertise to what’s hot and happening in the world, your niche and your life.
  4. Create a 12-month calendar, starting with the seasonal topics.
  5. Ignore the calendar sometimes. If you have an issue to respond to, a product to launch or an experience to share, write about that. Don’t worry about publishing more often than you’d planned. That will help make up for those busy times. That’s why I refer to my newsletter as “mostly monthly.”
  6.  Keep it short and simple. Most people will spend no more than a minute scanning your content. By setting smaller, realistic goals for each issue, you’ll also be less likely to miss your time targets.
  7. Recycle. A thoughtful email, a killer presentation, a link you found on Twitter or an insightful conversation can be inspiration for newsletter content. Just make sure you rework it to fit the medium and audience. Usually I’ll take a post I think my subscribers will like and shorten it.
  8. Integrate your newsletter with your social media. Post your enticing first paragraph and link on all the sites where potential customers hang out.
  9. Stretch yourself. Hire qualified help or learn how to create newsletter content more effectively and efficiently.
  10. Learn from your stats and reports. The better your newsletter performs, the less likely you are to neglect your content treadmill.

Although the death of email newsletters has been foretold many times, they endure. I predict that they’ll continue to grow.

Look at all the people walking down the street, sitting on the bus or standing in the elevator reading from their phones. Mobile technology is giving people more opportunities to read newsletters. Don’t miss out!

Email: cockroach or cozy?

Monday, March 10, 2014 @ 02:03 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

I saw Her this weekend with my friend Ginnie, post-Oscar hype. We’d wanted to better understand our computer and game-fixated sons. Would they fall in love with their operating system? Should we set her a place at the dinner table?

We came away with so much more than we were expecting. Wonderful acting, subtle visual play, lots of ideas to ponder about the future of technology and humanity.

Set in the not-too-distant future, hero Theodore, an older digital native, enjoys heart-tugging hologram game characters, can’t-sleep sex sites as well as listening and talking, instead of reading and writing, to computers, phones and similar devices. Mind you, this may be less a prediction and more the fact that talking lends itself better to movies.img_hydra

What struck me, probably because I’d been working on an email seminar earlier that day, was the enduring stream of email. Samantha the operating system was frequently alerting Theodore to new email. And Theodore was eager to receive his messages, though he quickly skipped or deleted many.

My first love

Unlike Theodore and the digital natives, my generation welcomed email, a game-changing way to connect with colleagues and friends. Although email is still the best for business communication, much of our friendly conversations have moved to social media and texting.

I enjoy sharing photos with a wider group than I’d send them to via email. Often I prefer quick messages by text because I’m less likely to miss them.

That’s because sorting through my inbox has become such a chore. No matter how many times I unsubscribe, more unwanted content creeps in.  It’s like Herakles cutting off one of the heads of water serpent Hydra only to see two more grow.

Like 800 numbers and private callers

More and more frequently I find I’m ignoring emails, much like I rarely answer the phone unless I know who’s calling. Email is slumping to the phone priority of 1-800 numbers and private callers. And, remember old dudes, telling a woman you’ve been trying to call but the number was always busy makes you look at least 80.

Because email was my digital first love, there will always be a special place for it in my heart. I remember how I used to anxiously check my email the moment I got in. Maybe I’d hear back from my current crush or the client I urgently needed an approval from. Now it’s not even connected on my smart phone. If somebody important wants me, they’ll text. Plus, working mostly from home, I’m not that mobile.

Matter of fact, I don’t recall much texting in the movie, even though that can be easily portrayed on screen, as was shown in House on Cards.

Truth or fiction?

Given that the digital natives aren’t into email, what has to change for Spike Jonez’ email predictions to come true? Or was email, like conversing, something that simply worked better on film?

Like Herakles, will we figure out how to cauterize the stumps to prevent regrowth? Will we keep listening to the first snippet then telling Samantha (think I’ll give mine a nice guy name like Tom) to delete, so we don’t miss that nugget that will make our day?

I’ll probably never know. But I love movies that get me asking questions.

Got any answers?

7 ways you’re blogging completely wrong

Friday, March 7, 2014 @ 10:03 AM
posted by Barbsawyers

A blog is a great asset for your small business or organization — as long as you use it correctly. Of the millions of blogs online right now, most have fewer than 1,000 readers. To become one of the winners, here are seven problems you need to fix:

  1. The title doesn’t capture your audience. The title of each and every one of your posts must draw in your chamber marchreaders. It must be clear. It must be truthful. It must make sense. Title your posts like you would write about them on Twitter. It helps if it is less than 140 characters with a short link so it can easily be shared online via social media.
  2. Your post is too happy. It’s sad but true. Readers like the conflict of the negative post. Take this title for example. “The ways you are blogging wrong” is more popular and more likely to get attention than all the ways you are blogging right even though in the long run, the posts could say the exact same thing.
  3. You tease your readers. Do not start with an introduction and get them all tuned in only to flip the switch and not deliver. Readers will remember and not come back knowing you aren’t trustworthy with your headlines.
  4. The name of your blog needs an explanation. Blog titles are important. No one is going to go to a website called “The Blog” or something as equally as generic. Name your blog something that relates to your business.
  5. You use your blog as a sounding board. A few venting pieces here and there are okay but your blog is not the place to complain. Don’t be the restaurant that blogs about customers that don’t tip. Use your blog to write about necessary and informative topics.
  6. You use your blog as a diary. Likewise, your blog is not the place for all your family drama. Tell your story on your blog as it relates to your business but otherwise, birthdays or funerals or weddings or whatever else that goes on doesn’t need to go on your blog.
  7. There is no passion behind the work. Readers can tell a fake in the first few words. If you don’t like writing, don’t run a blog. Or hire someone to write for you, making sure you are close enough to convey your passion through them. Don’t fake it or expect your writer to be a mind reader..

Dream big with your blog but make sure you can back it up. Mediocre blogs won’t change the world, let alone attract business.

Image via Flickr on Creative Commons

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the

The search for the present perfect

Friday, February 28, 2014 @ 06:02 PM
posted by Barbsawyers

English learners often have a lot of trouble with the present perfect tense, as in I have been to the moon.

This tense doesn’t exist in many languages. What’s more, it’s more about what happened in the past and could happen in the future than it is about the present. And it’s sure not perfect.

In less than two minutes, you can learn how to use this tricky tense correctly. While dancing.

 

8 ways to keep Facebook fans happy

Friday, February 7, 2014 @ 09:02 AM
posted by Barbsawyers

by Megan Totka

Facebook is an integral part social media marketing plan of most small businesses. Saying the right things and keeping followers engaged are important to your success.

To help you, here are some tips:facebook flower

  1. Provide helpful content. Share links, pages and infographics on your Facebook page that relate to nature of your business and profession. Give followers a reason for your business to be remembered.
  2. Cross promote others. Don’t be afraid to mention your competition and give them accolades where they are due. They’ll notice and do the same for you.
  3. Stay consistent. There are numerous tools available to plan and schedule your posts. Take an hour or two out of your day once a week and plan posts for the whole week. Use predictable days and times.
  4. Respond to comments. Don’t just address negative comments. Thank the positive commenters as well. Do no debate on your page. Acknowledge that your followers may have different views in some areas. Be humble and appreciative.
  5. Monitor usage. Be diligent about any users posting spam to your page and remove or block these posts as needed. Also watch for anyone posting hateful messages. It is up to you as the business owner to decide how this usage will be handled but be sure to be consistent.
  6. Ask open-ended questions. The best way to get followers engaged and keep the communication going is by asking thought-provoking questions. Ask for opinions and stories or even get input on upcoming changes that may be occurring with the business.
  7. Promote your work with helpful introductions. Make sure you aren’t just sharing helpful content from other sources; bring attention to your own website and blog too. Be mindful of your introductions so they set up the rest of your post clearly and get users to click the links for more.
  8. Offer incentives for remaining loyal. Everyone loves a good discount. Every month or so, offer fans a special coupon or sale to show appreciation for being dedicated followers.

Social media is a low-cost and easy-to-use marketing tool, so make the most of it. Your business will see the effect.

Photo via Flickr

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

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