How to Work from Home–Or Anywhere–And Still Be Productive

Let me preface this article by saying that it is currently 5:20am on a Tuesday. The only noise I hear is the back and forth pacing of my large, fluffy dog who is hoping for an early-morning dog treat.

That said, these quiet moments at home–where my creativity is only stifled by own brain’s ability to think–are few and far between. Most of the time, when working from home, there is a 4-year old stealing my lap blanket and combing through my hair with sticky, banana-encrusted fingers. As annoying as this may be, it is only one-sixth of the distraction of my active one-year old (we call her the “Tiny Terrorist”), who makes a game out climbing up the furniture in order to find inedible objects that fit in her mouth, then runs around the living room screaming “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy!” And if that fails to get my attention, she will unwind the toilet paper or re-organize the pantry for me.

If you can relate to one, or all, of these scenarios, I want to tell you what has worked for me over the years. After four years of combining mom-hood with stay-at-home work, I’ve found a few tricks of the trade. This is how I do it…the Mom’s Guide to Productive At-Home Work:

1. Set up a day/time that is reserved solely for work.

Yes, part of the reason many of us wanted to work from home was so we could do it all: work, be a mom, make dinner, etc. But you can’t give it a 100 percent unless you have a few moments to yourself to fully get into “work” mode. So set a consistent day/time for your “work mode”, whether it’s a couple hours while the kids are at camp during the day, or two days a week when both the spouse is working and the kids are at school.  Just reserving the same time for your work every week will help your brain switch from mommy/wife/homemaker mode, to work mode.

2. Love your home office.

Every second and cent spent to make your home office a desirable place to work is money and time well spent. That’s because us creative types are subconsciously influenced by our aesthetic surroundings. So take a day and give your home office a facelift (sneak a peek into my home office). Buy pretty notebooks to scribble in, bedazzle your laptop, buy yourself a new coffee mug–anything that might help inspire your home office movement!

3. Change up the scenery.

If the home office blues have you down, remember that the best part of your work-from-home job is the fact that you can do it from anywhere! So pack up the laptop and move your location for the day. Head to a new coffee shop, a park, or a restaurant patio…anywhere that might inspire your work. I’ve even worked from the dock of boat before! Sometimes, just the buzz of the coffee shop fills my head with new ideas, and brings me back to the days of coffee shop meetings and more traditional work life.

4. Go through the motions.

Just as you would if you were headed into office, go through the daily motions of showering, getting dressed, pouring yourself some coffee, and writing out your schedule for the day. When you feel like a professional, it will be reflected in your work.

5. Plan your day.

Keep a planner or online calendar with tasks, to-do’s, appointments, and goals for the day. Spend a few minutes at the top of every morning planning and organizing your day to help you stay on task. Also, plan your most challenging and creative work for the times of day when you are most productive. For me, that’s about 6am!

6. Avoid becoming a hermit.

Get out of the office, or at least on the phone, regularly. It is so important that we bounce our ideas and creativity off other people, just as we would if we were in an office. Meet with clients regularly, keep in touch with industry professionals, and join professional groups. This will help you stay on top of what’s happening in your industry while also giving you the social interaction stay-at-homers require.

7. Set a timer–and time limits.

Set a timer to help you regulate the amount of time you spend on a particular project or client. Take regular breaks, eat lunch, and limit your exposure to time-suck activities such as email and social media (unless, of course, that’s your job!).

8. Play music.

Make a playlist of inspiring songs that get you going without distracting you. Music itself is very creative and induces your mood, so find songs that work for you during various times of the day. I usually start the day off with French music from the Something’s Gotta Give soundtrack, and end my day with a little Aerosmith. Find what works for you!

Being productive outside the work place and working from home is an art, but you can find what works for you! Little tricks of the trade make those who work from home not only productive, but the envy of many traditional office workers!

5 Ways to Re-write a Blog Post and Make it Better

7K0A0129From those of us who have suffered from writer’s block, you may exercise some of these remedies: exercise, talk, meditate, research, or any of these other ways to stop writer’s block. But we have another solution for you–take something that’s been written before, and find a new way to present it!

Blogging is about so much more than a narrative article.  Blog posts can be visual, bulleted, fun, or unusual–there are truly no rules! So here are The Social Business’s Best Ways to Re-WRITE a Blog Post.

1. Write a How-t0 Post. People Google because they want to know how to do something, and find out the fastest possible way. So, you can never go wrong with a how-to post.

2. Reiterate a complex idea with a mnemonic device. Take a list post to a whole new level by creating a mnemonicizer (a-ha! See…we’ve done it here!)

3. Interrogate readers with a quiz. People love quizzes! Remember the days of the quizzes like, “Are you fun?” in Seventeen Magazine? Well, think like that, then relate it to your product, service, or audience.  For example, we might write a quiz, “If you were a social platform, which one would you be?”

4. Timeline. Hash out an information post by using a timeline approach complete with infographic and images.

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Could Facebook’s Organic Reach Become…Zero?!?

facebook reachAlmost seven years ago, when I began working in social media, life was so easy: write a couple hundred characters, share it on Facebook, and *BOOM* the orders flew in like they were on some magic social media carpet ride.

Then it became a bit more tricky.  You had to be creative, engaging, and post a variety of types of media–videos, links, text, and images–to get the same level of reach.

Then, sometime in 2013, social media consultants and professions began to learn the tragic truth about a privatized Facebook: organic reach was slowly becoming obsolete and being replaced with sponsored stories, pay-for-likes, and engagement penalties.

In 2013, social media consultants like myself had to bite the bullet, and raise prices to accommodate Facebook advertising in order to achieve reach numbers that were a 10th of what they were five years earlier.  Sure, there were claims that if you were clever enough, interesting enough, or engaging enough, your organic reach would be satisfactory, but in truth, that’s just not the case anymore.  I mean, if you can’t get organic reach with prizes, clever posts, surveys, promotions, and coupons–the reason many of us “like” businesses to begin with–then what will work?

Even with increased ad budgets, what used to cost $.25 per click, is now in the $1-2/click range, leaving many small businesses and social media consultants saying, “what gives?” and “when will it stop?”  The answer, according to this: “maybe never.”

“Since Facebook pages for business launched in 2007, the organic page reach has been decreasing. By April of 2012, Facebook itself disclosed that Fan Pages reached only 16% of their audiences on average. Recently, a study revealed that Facebook page organic reach went from an average of 12.05% in October, 2013 to 6.15% in February, 2014.

Last fall, Facebook cited “A lack of space in the newsfeed” as a reason for the decline in organic reach. It’s possible that shortly, there will be no room left for organic posts at all.

This change is very bad news for businesses who have spent the past seven years collecting Facebook fans, unless they’re willing to start spending regularly to reach their audience. The worst part is that this applies to pages across the board. Whether you’re a huge brand with millions of likes, a community organization page or a non-profit, this dip in organic reach will affect you…

…At this point you’re asking, should my company even use Facebook—Is it worth the time? Do the thousands of fans you have acquired even matter anymore? With a measly 1-2% reach, it’s hard to justify spending time posting on Facebook.Facebook wants to assure you, “The fans you have matter.” In fact, the sales deck lists a number of benefits to acquiring fans, including improving organic distribution and getting more insight about your audience. The number one reason? “Improving ad effectiveness.”

In short, your fans matter, if and only if, you plan on spending money to reach them. After years of using Facebook for free advertising, this may seem unfair, but Facebook needs to make revenue somehow. And while you may not be too keen on the thought of spending money with Facebook, more engaging posts will still lead to a larger reach (when people share, like or comment on your posts, Facebook will see this as a post of interest and allow it to come up in more people’s newsfeeds)…

…The reality is, Facebook’s organic reach could be zero very shortly. Facebook has been making strides in this direction and it seems inevitable that paid posts will be the norm for businesses. It seems unfair that businesses who have invested time and money acquiring followers will no longer be able to reach that audience, but even with a small budget, companies can turn this bad news into an opportunity…”

via: “Your Facebook Page’s Organic Reach is About to Plummet“, Social Media Today.

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Finding non-copyright photos for reuse on social media

Finding images and photos for reuse on your blog, Facebook page, and online marketing just got a whole lot easier.

If you have fumbled around image after image trying to conclude if they are copyright-restricted to highlight your latest blog, or if you are a small business that doesn’t have the marketing budget to hire a photographer or pay downloads just to keep you Facebook page afloat, Google images now has a search option for searching for images for reuse.

To find unrestricted photos for reuse on social media, go to Google Advanced Image Search and type in a key word. Then, under the option “usage rights,” change the filter from “not filtered by license” to one of the following: free to use or share, free to use or share even commercially, free to use share or modify, or free to use share modify even commercially.

search for non copyright images

Another way to use this search is to Google the keyword or phrase and select “images” in the results page.

google image search copy

Once you are in the screen with the Google image results, click on “Search Tools” and “Usage Rights” and select the best option depending on how you will be using the image.  This filters your search results according to usage permissions.

search images by usage rights

While this search tool is amazingly easy and convenient (and free!) to search for images for reuse, Google warns:
Before reusing content that you’ve found, you should verify that its license is legitimate and check the exact terms of reuse stated in the license.   Read More  

Consultants: How to Close a Deal and Get the Client

close a deal consultantIn the world of consulting, there are two kinds of people: those who can close a deal, and those who end up going back to work for the Man.

But why is it that some consultants–despite their knowledge, talent, and people skills–have difficulty turning coffee into a consulting gig? Where are they going wrong?
If you are new to social media consulting, or if you have just noticed a decline in your ability close a deal, consider the impression you may be giving the client during a sales pitch. You may be giving the client the itch to run in your delivery or sales tactics.

How to Close a Deal on a Consulting Gig

Don’t get caught off-guard.  Don’t allow a cold call from a potential client to turn into a sales pitch.  You need time to prepare and research the company before you deliver your pitch.  Kindly decline to discuss the details of an arrangement until you are prepared to serve your client with a full pitch.

Come prepared. When the time has come to make your pitch, come prepared.  Make sure you have done your homework on the needs of the client’s business, their current social media efforts, and suggestions for how to improve their social media. If you have worked up a draft of your services and prices, be sure to bring that, as well as some examples of your work.

Listen to what the client is really saying.  Really listen close to understand exactly what the customer is asking you to provide.  Understanding their real needs and stresses is key to closing a deal.  If the client feels you can listen and understand their needs from the very beginning, they are more willing to trust you to work for them.

Ask questions. Active listening involves asking the right questions so you really understand the client’s position. Make a list of questions that you want to cover, including questions like:

  • “Where do you see your business in five years?”
  • “What messages would you like to stay away from?”
  • “What do you hope customers say about your business?”
  • “What social media outlets are you comfortable with/not comfortable with?” and,
  • “What kind of results are you hoping for?”

Don’t dictate the direction. Too often, consultants believe only in their way of doing business. Ultimately, the client is the customer, so let them dictate the direction of the business. Your job is to make their vision work, not create their vision for them.  So, if they insist on a certain business model or marking message, spend your time trying to figure out how to make it successful, rather than asking them to reinvent their marketing or business model.

Add, don’t take away. Just as negative marketing messages are a bad idea, so is a negative sales pitch.  Don’t ever talk about what the client is doing wrong; rather, discuss how you can take what they are doing and make it more successful.  Clients hold their businesses close to their heart, and they want to hire someone who respects the sweat they’ve put into making their business work.

Be confident, and realistic.  When you are confident and reassured as to what you actually can (and can’t) do for a business, you earn the trust of the client. That confidence comes from setting realistic and obtainable goals.  No one is impressed by someone who over-promises and under-delivers.

With these tips for closing a deal, you will not only go into a sales pitch prepared, but you ensure a seamless working relationship with their client that includes specific, and realistic social media goals.

Myths and Advice to Boost Your Facebook Posts

Facebook for Dummies, anyone?In the world of social media, how do you separate the good from the bad?

How does Facebook separate “good” posts from “bad”?  How do businesses separate “good” consultants from hacks?  And how does anyone working in social media separate “good” advice from “bad”?

There is so much advice out there about the management of Facebook pages—over 25 million pages to be exact—how do you know when you are getting good tips to increase your Facebook engagement, and when you are getting advice that will actually decrease your Facebook reach?

Since Facebook changes their algorithm about as often as Apple has an iOS update, and new “social media experts” enter the picture faster than Google can do a search, it’s nearly impossible.  That’s why when social media advice comes from a trusted source, it’s like social media gold.

We recently ran across this article, “7 Facebook Marketing ‘Tips’ and ‘Tricks’ That Don’t Actually Work,” and thought, “Now that’s useful!  Why didn’t we think of that?”

So, while we can’t take credit for the idea or most of the content, what we can do is offer advice of what you can do to improve your Facebook business feed instead.

According to the article, here is what does not work when posting on Facebook:

They said this doesn’t work:

Including a Link in the First Comment. This was a pretty popular myth going around about a year ago. Folks claimed that including a link to your content in the first comments instead of in the post itself would increase your chance of appearing in the News Feed because a photo-only or text-only post would perform better than those with links.

But this isn’t exactly true. In fact, Facebook’s algorithm has been promoting posts with links in them more recently and in the past, has favored photo updates. Only a few people have seen anecdotal evidence that this works — and some haven’t seen anything affected at all. ”

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Is Paid Reach Bad for Facebook’s Brand?

facebook reach Naughty, naughty Facebook.

First, we talked about how fewer posts were being seen on Facebook.  Then we talked about how Facebook’s stock wasn’t doing as well as projected.  After that, we talked about how Facebook was becoming profitable through mobile (and otherwise) ads.  Then we talked about how Facebook reach is shrinking. And so here is our conclusion: Facebook needs to make money to stay profitable and make investors happy, and they are doing that by practically eliminating organic reach. 

We know, officially Facebook says good organic content can compete with paid content and will be favored in their algorithm, and therefore, Pages can maintain a steady organic reach.  HOWEVER, Page owners, consultants and now studies agree: that’s just not the case.

“The days of getting any free reach on Facebook may be numbered.

It’s no secret that the portion of a brand’s Facebook fans who see posts that aren’t supported by ad spend is dropping. In a sales deck sent to partners last fall, the social network acknowledged what some brands had observed for more than a year — that organic distribution of posts on brand pages was declining — but it didn’t quantify the extent of the decline to be expected.

One agency is now reporting that organic reach has fallen off by almost half since October. Social@Ogilvy conducted an analysis of 106 country-level brand pages it has administrator access to and found that the average reach of organic posts had declined from 12.05% in October to 6.15% in February.

For 23 pages in the sample with more than 500,000 likes, the drop was from 4.04% in October to 2.11% in February.

For context, Facebook told marketers two years ago at its fMC event in New York that 16% of their fans on average were seeing their organic posts.

‘Increasingly Facebook is saying that you should assume a day will come when the organic reach is zero.’”

via: Brands’ Organic Facebook Reach Has Crashed Since October: Study

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10 Ways to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

inspire creativityI’m writing this article from the inside of a coffee shop on a snowy Bend, Oregon day and distractions are all around me. I could be skiing on Mt. Bachelor. I could be shopping for antiques in downtown.  I could be making snowmen and hot cocoa with the kids. But, no!  I MUST work.  I MUST find inspiration.

Distractions may seem like they eat away at productivity, but when applied correctly, they can also help trigger creativity.  In fact, I gladly welcome distraction when I have blogger’s block.  After all, don’t they say the best way to figure out something is to stop thinking about it?

So, if you are in the midst of a creative mind block, here’s what you should do: open the blinds, grab a cup of Joe, wrap yourself in a blanket, and read these 10 tips for getting your creative juices flowing…then let the inspiration follow!

The Social Business’s Tips to Spark Creativity:

  1. Stop thinking about it.  Ok, so you are reading this article, which puts you halfway there.  But really, contrary to intuition, thinking about a problem too much can actually be counterproductive. So, take a recess from your thoughts and move on to another task for a while.
  2. Exercise your creativity. Spend a few minutes at the beginning or end of each day exercising the creative side of your brain. Free write, write lyrics to a song, keep a journal, re-decorate your office space, cook, or even browse Pinterest.  Give your “B” side of your brain some daily nourishment.
  3. Create a space that encourages creativity.  They say a messy desk means a messy mind, so why wouldn’t an uninspired office mean an uninspired mind? Whether it’s your office space or a place to go to reflect, having an area of your home or office that’s inspirational will help you move to the creative zone.  Change up your computer wallpaper, post inspiring pictures, paint the walls a fun color, and clip inspiring quotes–anything that triggers an emotional response.
  4. Change up the scenery. If you just can’t seem to get out of your uninspired rut, change your mindset by changing your scenery. Move your laptop outside, go to a new coffee shop, sit in front of the fireplace, make a picnic on the beach–go anywhere that might inspire new ideas.
  5. Phone a friend. Sometimes, brainstorming with another individual can move you past a creative block.  Even a call to your mother can be helpful if you ask for feedback on a topic or question.  You never know where the next great idea lives!
  6. Find new ways to do things. We get so caught up in doing things efficiently, sometimes we forget to add a creative touch. When was the last time you sent an email in a pretty font, or responded to an email in limerick? There’s not just one way to do things, so think to yourself, “How can I make this task more fun or interesting?
  7. Play a game. There are lots of games that can help channel our creativity and open up the fun parts of our brains.  Try a crossword puzzle, Scattegories, Pictionary, Outburst, Cranium, or join in on a TV game show right from your own living room.
  8. Read and research. Building off others’ ideas is a great way to spark your own creativity. If you creativity is stalled, read and research the topic to help you internally brainstorm ideas for yourself.
  9. Meditate or exercise. Sometimes the only resolution to creative block is to remove your mind and body from the situation with meditation and exercise. Both can help clear out hurdles in the creative process.
  10. When you’re really stuck, try the “six hats method”.
    • Red Hat: Look at the situation emotionally. What do your feelings tell you?
    • Yellow Hat: Use a positive perspective. Which elements of the solution will work?
    • Black Hat: Use a negative perspective. Which elements of the solution won’t work?
    • Green Hat: Think creatively. What are some alternative ideas?
    • Blue Hat: Think broadly. What is the best overall solution?
    • White Hat: Look at the situation objectively. What are the facts?

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