with my camera

with my camera

I’ve seen dozens of articles lately on staying positive and motivated. There is certainly some great content being shared lately and it does seem that people are embracing creativity during this time of social distancing, but for me as a writer it has been difficult to stay motivated as whilst I don’t lack content I have missed the act of interaction and a change of scenery to stimulate my creativity and to give me the headspace to order my ideas.

Cramped in a small cottage with five young children is a challenge at the best of times, in lock down it has been really hard going. Indeed being unable to turn to the escapism act of getting out with the children has been very challenging, but over the past few weeks I have developed new coping strategies and somehow I’ve managed to keep up with my work commitments and keep smiles on my children’s faces.

Not taking up time travelling anywhere or with visits and trips has allowed me to get the children into gardening and to try out new crafts, whilst also addressing the issue of my neglected blog pages and websites.

I have a couple of blog pages and over the years I have written on them in a sporadic fashion. To be frank my commitment to blogging has been pretty poor; for whilst my intentions have been good it has always been difficult to keep up with writing regular blog posts.

Commitment with blogs and regular posts is key. It is not realistic to set up a blog, publish some content and then hope that readers will stumble across it whilst searching for relevant topics via Google or another search engine. As you publish more content, your blog pages will be indexed by the major search engines, meaning that when someone types in relevant search terms, your page (amongst many others) will be returned in the results list.

I am by no means a blog expert, but over the years I have gleaned plenty of insight into how search results depend on many factors including, the number of high quality links to and from your blog, how much content your blog contains, the loading speed of your blog and how keywords are utilized on the site and many other variables.

I do think that getting a blog site to be successful is a bit of a dark art, because there is lots of conflicting advice out there and it all seems a bit confusing and difficult to master at first, for  even if you regularly update your blog with plenty of high quality content, it may take weeks or even months before it attracts visitors arriving via search engine results and even then it may not be hugely popular.

The reality is that you will need to use other means of attracting readers and a popular strategy to generate blog traffic is to utilise social media. By posting attractive content that signposts other members of a social network to your blog and by networking with others who share your interests, you can start to build your blog’s reputation, before it ranks highly in search engine results.

If you want to survive in the competitive world of social media websites you should consider using social media to promote your blog, connect with potential readers and network with other bloggers.  I think that when it comes to social media the best advice is to keep motivated and get creative. I have taken to creating short videos to accompany some of my recipes and food history articles and I’ve been amazed how many views and shares these have attracted.iStock

A brief Guide to Social Media

Twitter (twitter.com)

Twitter is sometimes referred to as a microblogging platform, as a user’s tweets can be likened to very short blog posts.

Twitter currently has over 300 million users all around the world, giving you access to numerous target markets.

One of Twitter’s best known features is its hashtag system. When you write a tweet, you can include hashtags that relate to its content. When other users search for a particular hashtag using the site’s search function, any tweets you write making use of that hashtag will appear in the search results. This allows Twitter users to locate content that is of particular interest to them.

As a blogger, you can make good use of this function to draw other peoples’ attention to your content. For example if you wrote an article on baking a chocolate cake, you might want to use the following hashtags #chocolate recipe#baking#chocolate cake#love baking

Twitter will also provide you with recommendations regarding who you should consider following, based on your interests. This is a great way to meet other bloggers.

When responding to someone else’s tweets, you can use “@[theirusername]”, to ensure that their attention is drawn to your message.

You can quickly and easily indicate your appreciation of someone else’s content and pass on it on to your followers by ‘re-tweeting’ a persons tweet, this is a good practice and is useful if reciprocated as it spreads your tweets beyond your own followers.

Facebook

Facebook is the best known of the social networks.  I must confess that I haven’t always been a great fan of social media, but we must face the fact that social media is here to stay and it is a great tool in promoting creative works.

Although you can use Facebook to highlight other peoples’ content, it is generally less acceptable to do so than it is on Twitter. Those who have chosen to follow your page will be hoping to see content that you have written, so focus on your own material at least 80% of the time. It is a great place to post article links and I have found the best plan is to put together a post calendar as otherwise it is possible to lose focus and waste time on facebook without achieving anything.

Instagram

Instagram is an image based social media platform and one that until very recently I have avoided. Users post photos and other images with captions which can then be shared by others. It is especially popular with bloggers whose content lends itself to visual communication. For example, bloggers writing about fashion and beauty often post photos of new outfits or makeup products. Artists, photographers and designers can also make good use of Instagram to promote their products.  Traveller’s can post images of meals, destinations and even themselves on instagram and it seems that an instagram page is pretty standard whatever line of business you are in.

Instagram can also be an effective means of providing your audience with a personal insight into your everyday life. It takes only seconds to photograph a place or object that illustrates a project, an idea, or your workspace. This can help create a rapport between you and your readers. Instagram is a fast moving platform and to maintain engagement with your audience, it is best to post several times per day.

Rather than posting text excerpts from blog posts, Instagram images are best used as advertisements for and gateways to blog posts. Instagram also allows its users to employ hashtags, in order to mark content and find other posts and users of interest. 

Choose your platforms 

There are lots of social media platforms, but I don’t think it is possible to do them all. Indeed social media does take time and it is just not possible to devote enough time to building up a following on them all. I think less is more when it comes to social media and so it’s best to choose two or three channels that workn best for your business and stick with them.

What is my target demographic?

Consider where your target audience are most likely to spend time online and choose your platform accordingly, otherwise you will waste time promoting content to and engaging with the wrong people.

How frequently will I post on social media?

Some social media platforms are considered faster moving, than others. If you do not plan to update your social media more than once or twice a week, then Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ are likely to be better options than Twitter or Instagram.

Don’t be afraid to learn from others. If you are not sure what will work for your niche then simply have a mooch around on Facebook, Instagram etc and see how other people are handling their social media campaigns and which platforms they are using. It is important to consider how to be unique and to develop your own style though.

If you would like to use images as the basis of your social media updates, start with an image based platform such as Instagram. If however you are looking to share text based updates with your followers, Facebook and Google+ may be more appropriate platforms.

Social media doesn’t need to be difficult if you really consider how it is going to work for you and if you decide what you want to achieve from your social media activities.

Set time limits for your daily social media use

It is easy to become sucked into social media. With many users updating their feeds multiple times every day, it is possible to spend hours looking through Twitter and Facebook feeds, before realising that hours have passed by. Ten minutes each day should be sufficient time in which to post a couple of updates related to your blog, to network with one or two of your contacts and to repost or retweet any outstanding content that grabs your attention. I am really keen on keeping social media time down to a minimum as I believe a lot of writing and creativity is lost to technology, as I have often lamented about how an hours writing time could easily be lost by the habit of checking my e-mail inbox multiple time and checking out social media updates etc unnecessarily.

I think one of the best ways of keeping motivated with writing is to feel that our writing is being read and appreciated and that is where social media can be great. The more likes and shares that you gain on a platform the more motivation this can lend to writing more and of course the more you write and blog the higher your blog will rank with google and the more followers and readers you attract. So if used correctly social media is a great tool for writers, just stay focused and don’t get caught up in watching videos of fluffy kittens and cute dogs.