A friend of mine solicited advice in Facebook on this topic, and since what I’ve written is probably too long for that platform, I’ll make a blog post out of it!
- First think about what the purpose of your blog is. All of the decisions you make will flow from that, so be clear in your mind on why you are doing it. What is the theme, if you have one? Pick out a title that fits the theme and purpose. While doing business blogging as part of my living, I was taught that one of the purposes of blogging and other social media is to give your company a more personal feel and create a connection with the audience. Whether your purpose in blogging is to make money or just express yourself, informality is expected so if you want to go off topic now and then and write about whatever is on your mind at the time, that is ok to do.
- Decide whether you need your own domain name. Is it acceptable to have your blog at myblog.wordpress.com for example or is it important to have www.myblog.com? If you want your own domain, is there a domain name available that fits your chosen title?
- Decide whether you want to use your real name or a pen name.
- Decide what email address you want to associate with your account. If you’re using a pen name, you might not want to use the same email address you use when you’re using your real name online. Also if you want readers to be able to contact you by email, it might be useful to have a separate email for this so you can better manage the spam settings. On most platforms that I’m familiar with, allowing readers to contact you by email is voluntary.
- If you have any interest at all in Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms, get an account in each to complement your blog – using your pen name if you have one, or it’s ok to use accounts under your real name if you don’t mind revealing all your online activities to the world. Many blog platforms allow you to link your blog to these accounts and it makes promotion of your blog a lot quicker and easier and gives people more ways to interact with you. You will most likely to be prompted to link these accounts when you set up your blog so it’s convenient to have them ready before you start. It’s a lot of work to fill all the social media platforms with content, so whenever you can have one account propagate content to the others automatically it’s a big help. For example, my Twitter account accepts feeds from my other activities, mostly automatically, and I rarely have to go straight to Twitter to add content, though I still can if I want to – http://www.limegreennews.com/ – the rest of that web site is very out of date, but the Twitter feed at least is current!
- Select a blogging software platform. Make sure you picked out a title and how you want to identify yourself online before you start playing around with the software because you often cannot change the name after you start setting up your account. I don’t think you can go far wrong with WordPress because people have written a lot of useful free plug-ins and you will be able to do a lot with it. If there are certain special features that are important to you it might not hurt to look at a comparison chart of different blog software, such as this one – http://startbloggingonline.com/blog-platform-comparison-chart/ or this one – http://weblogs.about.com/od/choosingabloghost/p/BlogSoftware.htm. It isn’t strictly necessary to use “blogging” software to have a blog because the meaning of the word “blog” comes from “web log” which is just a web page that is updated frequently. If you use “blogging” software it will make it easier for people to understand what you’re doing but if you want to get more creative with the format, you can do that.
- Select an avatar image to identify yourself as you set up your account. There will be other decisions to make as you set up the account, they will vary depending on the platform, just keep your purpose in mind while doing it and those decisions will be easy.
- Now comes the fun part – filling the blog with content! Whether doing personal or business blogging, if I’m stuck for an idea I ask myself, what’s going on right now in my life that might be interesting to someone? A project, an observation, an interesting event? If you have an interesting life, finding time to write will probably be more of a problem than finding things to write about. In any kind of creative work, I find it helpful to keep a notebook or scrapbook at hand to jot down any ideas that I can work on later when I have time. Also if you’re stuck in a situation where you are in a waiting room or a line or something, writing is a great portable activity – write a rough draft and refine it when you get home! With today’s mobile devices, you don’t even have to wait until you get home!
Other tips for getting ideas for content:
- Do you get emails with interesting topics that might spark some commentary from you? Collect them in a folder in your email software, and when you’re feeling dry, read some and see if you get inspired.
- Have you read articles online or in publications that are interesting? Clip them or print them out and put them in a folder to look at on days when you want to write but need ideas.
- Have you written a substantive or interesting email or social media post? Turn that into a blog post! For example, a fellow artist at an outdoor show once asked me for advice for finding shows. I wrote him an email and later used it as a newsletter article because I thought it would be helpful to other people.
- Reviews are enjoyable to read and a good service to the readers and are always a good fallback if you’re stuck for ideas.
- If you want to cover a certain topic, you can use the Yahoo News service to have emails sent to you with links to news articles that include keywords of your choosing. Open yourself up to news outlets that cover the topics of interest to you – free community papers, bulletin boards, newsletters, online magazines? A blog is a good place to report timely news since it’s meant to be frequently updated and informal, and posting news is a useful public service too.
- Is someone you know doing something interesting that fits your theme? Interview them!
- Consider allowing guest bloggers. Perhaps you have a friend with a blog and you can strike up a deal where you can occasionally write a post for their blog and they write one for you. Be sure to allow including a link back to the guest author’s blog – that will expose both of your blogs to new readers.
- If you don’t have time for a substantial blog post, don’t feel intimidated – it’s ok to post just a photo, or a couple of lines of commentary, or embed a video you like now and then. Remember it’s informal! It’s more important to post frequently than it is to post long, substantial articles. I personally like to read long, substantial articles, so I would not follow a blog that did not include one from time to time. However I’m probably not typical and many people in your audience would probably rather read something short. I’m always being told to cut down my writings – but I usually refuse if I can get away with it! My reasoning is that people who want to read my blog want to read things written in my “voice”, so I don’t want to mess with that. There are literally millions of other people they can read if they don’t like my style. There is a lot of competition so the way to stand out is to be yourself, in my opinion!
I’m pretty experienced at this craft fair stuff, but I still forget important items now and then. At this past Saturday’s Farmers Market I was organizing the change in my cash box and saw that while I had brought coin and fives, I had forgotten ones! Those are pretty important, luckily I had a 20 on me and I got some ones by buying breakfast from another vendor. I decided I’m going to do something I should have done a long time ago and make a checklist which I will print out and use as a packing guide each time I do a show. In the past I’ve forgotten the cover for my canopy and I’ve been next to a vendor that had to go home because they forgot supports for their shelving and lived too far away to make it worthwhile to go home and come back. Lapses like that can ruin your day. If you check off each essential item as you pack then you can avoid disappointments. Here is my own list – use it as a guide to make your own!
Tax rate for locale
Auxiliary battery for phone
Packing paper (blank newsprint)
Mirror (if selling jewelry)
Some portable craft item to work on
Roll of orange caution tape
Extra price stickers
Oh yeah, and don’t forget the merchandise!
I’ve been working hard lately promoting my upcoming class, “Polymer Clay Beads with Pearl Ex Pigments”. It’s the first in a series, so I’m figuring out some new processes and making several new promotion pieces. The next one should take a lot less time to promote, but only if I remember what I did and can find all the parts – there are quite a lot as you will see!
First I’ll make an action list of all the tasks to perform in a logical order.
- Write up event description and create promotional image – a photo, a logo or whatever image shows what the event is about.
- Create event registration form on web site.
- Create any short URLs, campaign codes or QR Codes you might need.
- Write up event announcement with link to registration page and post on web site(s). If you have a separate mobile-optimized site post it there also.
- Write and send out press release to media outlets. If you’re new to this find some on this promotion resources page.
- List event on all the suitable free online events calendars you can find.
- Promote to all appropriate social media outlets.
- Google +
- YouTube (if you have video or slide show)
- Create banner ads and place where appropriate.
- Create flyers and distribute.
- Create postcards and send to your snail mail list.
- Create announcement email and send to your email list. For my email I used ExactTarget software and made use of the Social Forward feature. I had more than one event to announce in my email and Social Forward allows me to break up the content into segments and enables recipients to share the parts of the email that are of interest to them with their own social networks.
- Send reminder emails to your list of those who have registered as event date gets closer.
I recommend you use my list above as a starting point and use it to make your own promotion checklist, adding and subtracting action items as needed. Then make some kind of master document that includes notes, links or whatever information you will need to carry out the tasks and remember what you did so you don’t have to figure everything out again the next time you have an event to promote. It’s useful to make this document in some kind of format that supports tables such as a private web page, Word document or Excel spreadsheet. Then you can put appropriate links and info in the row next to each action item to make everything easy to find and remember. If you are part of an organization share this document with others involved in the project so you can all benefit from the knowledge you’ll gain during the promotion.
When creating an identity for your company, it’s important to present a unified look and feel across all channels. A few examples of channels are emails, web sites, print ads and mobile apps. Common elements that help identify your brand can be logos, colors or fonts. Sounds, type of paper or photography styles are examples of other choices that can play a role in forming your brand identity.
Few would argue that this concept is wrong, but believe it or not at one of my former jobs I had to persuade some people to make the branding more consistent. Today I had an experience that illustrates why consistent branding is important. I was working on one of my mailing lists, and needed to find a first and last name for a contact in my database. I did a search online for the email address, and found a web site with a logo and color scheme that made me remember a business card that I collected about three years ago. I looked in my business card folio, and voila! There was the information I needed. I never would have remembered where I made this contact if I had not remembered the logo and color scheme. If your potential customers want something that you have, making yourself as memorable as possible with consistent branding can help!
I’m planning on using tent cards when I exhibit my crafts in the upcoming year to highlight certain products or draw attention to deals and sales. I designed templates for two different sized tent cards to hold changeable inserts in two sizes – 3.5 x 3.75 inch and 5.25 x 4 inch. The latter is a good size for postcards. Tent cards can be used for other functions also, such as business events, parties, receptions and more.
One example of how you could use these at a business event is to put promotional messages with QR codes on the tent card inserts. Prospects with smartphones on their person can scan the codes and see mobile content that you have prepared for them.
To use these templates, first print out the four pages included in the PDF download. Cut out the two tent card templates and inserts and if you like laminate them for durability. Trace around the tent card templates on card stock and cut out. Cut four diagonal lines in the front of the tent card to make corners for holding the inserts. Score and fold tent card piece along dotted lines and tape the end tab to the back of the card to form a tent shape.
Create inserts and push them into the corners on the front of the tent cards to hold them in place. I’ve included sheets of inserts laid out so you can see how many fit on an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper. If you want you can scan or import the insert sheets into the graphics software of your choice and use them as a guide to create content to print out.