Learning to Code with Liz Norton

learn-code
This is the third entry in our “Learn to Code” series. You can find our other entries over here. In each post we ask programmers and developers to share their biggest learning experiences. If there’s one thing I’ve learned interviewing these experts, it’s that there are tons of opportunities out there to get involved in the development community. I hope this series inspires you try out something you thought you’d never be able to do!


Liz NortonLiz Norton is learning code on top of working full-time as a manager at a coffee shop. She blogs over at www.lizcod.es. And we are very grateful she took time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions.

JH Media: What made you decide to start learning code?

Liz Norton: For close to a year, Jordan Burke had been trying to tempt me into learning to code or at least getting involved in the tech community. (Editor’s note: Jordan was previously featured in our series.) Back in August, he invited me to the Developers of Athens meetup because he thought that the nontechnical speaker’s subject would be interesting to me. It turned out that the technical speaker reached me. I understood very little of Matt Farmer’s talk, which was on a language called Scala and a framework called Lift. However, something about his talk made me desperately want to start learning. I took my first CodeAcademy course two days later. The second post on my blog is actually a more detailed account, if you’re interested.

JHM: What steps did you take to get started? How long have you been working towards your goal?

LN: I got started with a few courses on CodeAcademy. I did “Make a Website,” “HTML & CSS” and started “Javascript.” Now I’m in the workshop that Jordan is teaching for Ruby on Rails, I go to Meetups and FourAthens events when possible. I can get a lot of information online, but it becomes clearer every day that making friends and connections is just as important. Friends help me when I run into problems outside of language and syntax and with my limited experience, and keep me from giving up when I’m getting really frustrated, as corny as that may sound. Since I have no experience outside of tutorials, I will need connections when I’m ready to start getting professional experience. I’m getting close to the three-month mark, which sounds crazy to me. It feels more like eight months to me, but I’ll talk about that more in a minute.

JHM: What are some of the biggest questions you’ve had in the early stages of learning code?

LN: I’m not going to answer the question that I’m reading, because I think that you might be asking something slightly different. I can do all the online courses I want and know all the syntax and theory for building a program and still not be able to do anything with it. I needed Jordan’s help to understand the programs and tools that developers use. Without him, or someone like him, talking me through my setup process as a developer I wouldn’t know what program to build my code in (Sublime), how to use GitBash, or the point of GitHub. I liken it to reading a DIY home repair book and then stepping into a Home Depot for the first time. You’ll know that you need things there, but where are they? And once you have your hammer, you know the steps that you use it for, but what if no one has ever shown you how to hold the hammer or how to hammer a nail without hitting your own thumb? 

JHM: What are some of the biggest roadblocks/challenges you’ve faced personally (or seen in others), and what did you do about them?

LN: The biggest challenge I have had is my lack of time coupled with my impatience. I am still working almost full-time as a supervisor in a coffee shop, while learning to code. When I started on my own, I was working 30+ hours a week at the store and spending about 10 hours a week on coding. A month and a half later, when the Rails course started, the time I needed to commit to coding and practice went up to close to 30 hours a week, which is very difficult for me to balance. My irregular work schedule keeps me from making a regular schedule for coding practice and class homework. Adding to this, I’m preparing to take on (with a co-organizer) the responsibilities for the women’s development group in Athens while trying to make time for networking opportunities. I think this just turned into a three-minute rant for myself, but thus far, this has had the most impact.

JHM: Can you list some communities or groups where you’ve connected with other coding beginners?

LN: There is another woman in the Rails course that I am taking, and we bonded fairly quickly. We meet outside of class to help each other and plan to go events together to make sure that there is always a friendly face. She is going to be my co-organizer as well, and we hope that this will provide a good opportunity for other women to make those kinds of connections. I have also been to a meeting of Rails Girls Atlanta and met some women through that group. Some of them came up for RGAthens’ latest coding weekend as coaches. That weekend has been the greatest resource for people for me. Some of the coaches from Atlanta and Athens have become sources of help. Also, some of the people that I worked with as a coach aren’t very far behind me, so they’ve turned out to be peers more than mentees. I haven’t been to as many of the Software Dev Meetups as I want, but that is an excellent way to meet people.

The cool thing is that once you’ve met a couple of people, they will introduce you to everyone they know, and your circle starts to expand exponentially. Also, my one experience with the FourAthens Happy Hour is that people WANT to meet new people, so introducing myself to complete strangers and having them introduce themselves has never been less awkward. Twitter has also been a great tool. It has been easier to stay connected with some people I had already met, connect to more code newbies, and stay aware of what’s happening in the tech community. I follow a handful of people that consistently post great articles on tech culture and news. 

JHM: Anything else you want to add?

LN: This is going to sound bizarre, but I’ve been comparing my experiences to AA. I have a mentor that is there when I’m facing a difficult situation, like a sponsor, and people I can turn to when I’m getting frustrated and feel like quitting, like a meeting. One of the most important things I did early on was find people for support and help.

 

 

Learning to Code with Travis Douce

learn-codeThis is the second entry in our Learning to Code series.


TTravis_Douceravis Douce got into programming while working in the field of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). A natural problem-solver, he knew there had to be a better way than manually creating thousands of GIS files for datasets. All he had to do was learn how to code. Fast forward a couple of years: Travis is now a software developer for Big Nerd Ranch, a Rails for Girls coach volunteer and an active participant in the Athens developers’ community. 

JH Media: What’s the first resource you recommend someone check out if they want to get into code?

Travis Douce: It really depends on which type of coding/programming you are interested in. A tutorial designed for a beginner is ideal, where they provide you with a project and a tangible goal.

JHM: How long should a person expect it to take to learn code?

TD: Interesting question. Quicker than most people realize. To feel confident, it takes three to four years. That being said, you can do amazing things with just a few months under your belt. 

JHM: What’s the most common question people new to programming ask you?

TD: “How do you do this?” Where “this” is practically anything. I know that sounds vague, but for me, programming was a completely new field where everything I experienced was a brand new concept. This holds true for most people who are new to programming. 

JHM: What are some of the biggest roadblocks new coders may face, and do you have strategies for avoiding them?

TD: There are a number of challenges/roadblocks. As I previously mentioned, everything will be new. This is both a fascinating and daunting challenge. It is difficult to conjure the motivation to constantly, all day, every day, learn new concepts and skills. The easiest way to overcome this roadblock is to enjoy what you are doing. If you enjoy it, then the obstacles become less burdensome.  There will be times when you won’t want to face the new challenge, and even then it is okay! Step away for a few minutes, hours, even days and come back and face the challenge recharged. And then there are times when being recharged doesn’t help. At that point, it takes grit and determination.

There’s also the Impostor Syndrome. A new programmer will feel, at times, that everybody knows more than they do and that can be discouraging. Sometimes it’s true, but many times it’s not. In those times of self-doubt, just reassure yourself that it is okay to be a beginner. (Remember: everybody was a beginner at some point!) Tell yourself, “I’m getting better and that is what’s important.” 

JHM: Where can new coders can connect with other beginners?

TD: There are a lot of communities and groups, depending on where you live. In Athens, Ga., FourAthens hosts a number of Meetups:

I’m sure there are others. You might think, “That is really intimidating.” It’s true; it is intimidating. You are putting yourself on a limb by attending a group, where (you may think) everybody knows so much more than you. You will be surprised how nice everyone is and how many other beginners there are. Just try it!

Working Out Regularly Makes You a Better Business Owner

working-out
Our CEO Jason is always working out. Even though his schedule is slammed, almost every day he finds time to run or go to the gym. I asked him, “Other than the obvious health benefits, why do you work out so much?”

“Working out saved my life,” he said. “Literally. I was in a really bad car accident five years ago. If I hadn’t been really fit, I would not have survived.”

Obviously, there is no way to predict when trauma will happen, but exercising keeps the body in a condition that can be the difference in the Emergency Room. There are also more subtle ways exercising saves your life when you are a super-busy, stressed-out business owner. 

Tracking and Setting Goals to Improve Performance

When I start an exercise program, my gym gives me an evaluation form, where I can measure and track my progress. Filling out those tracking sheets shows me that I need to work on my flexibility. That I need to work harder to get that one-mile run under seven minutes. Setting clear goals for myself in exercise often translates to my work, too. When I measure where my campaigns and product deliverables are today, I can better determine what I need to do in the next month to get them where I want them to be.

Exercise Away That 2:30 Feeling

It’s 4pm and my energy is lagging. I’ve been sitting at my desk all day—answering emails, writing up project plans, touching base with clients. I still have a mountain of tasks to complete, plus a presentation to give at a tech meet-up later tonight. I’m clearly in need of an energy boost, but I don’t want to slug another coffee. And I don’t like Red Bull. Taking a thirty-minute or hour break to go outside for a run is the best (and cheapest!) way to wake myself up. Exercising in the doldrums of the afternoon is my lifehack for being more productive because it gives me a mental boost, relaxes my tensed up body and releases endorphins.

Pain Can Be a Good Thing

Isn’t weird that sometimes having sore muscles feels good? Whenever I wake up after running an extra mile or two the day before, it hurts, yes, but it also reminds me that I challenged myself. I take pride in that. Sometimes when I’m working late at night on a project that’s got to be finished by the morning, it really is painful. I want to sleep. I want to relax. I don’t want to be working so much. But I always remember how good it feels in the morning to have completed that project; how nice it is when customers complement my hard work. Being able to find joy in the most painful parts of your business will make you happier in the long run.

Compartmentalizing Tasks

When you run or swim or do yoga, one of the most important tasks is to regulate the breath with the movements of the body. Having a regular and deep inhale/exhale rhythm keeps blood flowing to the body’s most important parts: the brain, the heart, the legs. Focusing on the breath when you exercise is another way to help compartmentalize tasks. When you run a business, there are a zillion things that can happen. Being able to focus intently on one project can ensure that you accomplish what you set out to do that day.

It Doubles As Business Development

Going for a long run is one of the best ways for entrepreneurs and business owners to brainstorm new business ideas. Stuck in a rut on a product development problem? Try a long walk or bike ride to free up the mind and open you to new ideas.

It Can Save Your Life

Running a business is hard. Really hard. You are definitely under the kind of long-term stress that leads to health problems like high blood pressure. If you can find time for regular exercise—and you can! just ask Jason—it will lower your stress levels, saving yourself and your business in the long-run.


Join the conversation!

What’s your workout routine? Do you have other methods besides exercise that keep your business running smoothly?

 

Want to Learn Code?

learn-code
Our sister company, the project scoping startup BrainLeaf, recently ran a story by freelance web designer Laurence Bradford, who chronicles her journey as she learns how to code. I was reading Bradford’s blog Learn to Code with Me when it struck me: I bet there are lots of people, from a whole range of backgrounds, who want to learn code. I mean, even I want to learn code! Knowing code (at least a little bit) is more than a desirable job skill, it’s necessary for effective leadership and communication, according to some.

But, umm, where to begin?!

In Athens, Ga., we are fortunate to have a thriving community of developers who love to teach. Last April, I attended a Rails for Girls workshop, a weekend marathon of learning the coding language Ruby on Rails. The sessions and activities, taught by veteran developers, cultivated a great learning experience (not too mention the free bagels and coffee!). I asked a few of the coding coaches to share their advice for beginners. This is our first entry in our “Learning to Code” series.


BurtMacklinJordan Burke is the Chief Technology Officer at Vitamin C. He currently teaches an Intro to Rails course at FourAthens and is a co-organizer of the Developers of Athens meetup.

JH Media: What’s the first resource you recommend someone check out if they want to get into code?

Jordan Burke: I would recommend starting out somewhere like Codecademy.com. It’s free, it’s really easy to get started, and most importantly, I think it lets you feel out whether or not writing code is something you want to continue doing.

JHM: How long should a person expect it to take to learn code?

JB: Well, that’s very much an open-ended question. I’m still learning every day, and in being a coder, I know that’s going to be a lifelong pursuit. The day you think you know everything as a developer is the day you should quit – because you never will know everything, and you should always continue learning. More accurately, in terms of how long it will take someone before they can start coding for a living or in some sort of professional capacity, I’d say anywhere from 6 months to a year if they’re self-teaching and in as little as 3 months if they’re participating in a code bootcamp or some accelerated course.

 JHM: What are some of the most common questions people new to programming ask you?

JB: The most common question I get when I’m teaching isn’t so much about concepts, but where to go to find an answer or how do I know what a reputable source is. And really, that’s one of those things that the more time you spend learning, the more the reputable resources continue to pop up with answers. So sites like StackOverflow.com, Github, SmashingMagazine and Sitepoint are recognized as reputable because that’s where the mentors are and where the answers to whatever questions you have can be found.

JHM: What are some of the biggest roadblocks new coders may face, and do you have strategies for avoiding them?

JB: One of the biggest roadblocks I had to face, and I imagine is one that many self-taught or non-Computer Science grads face is dealing with Imposter Syndrome—am I really qualified to do this? And the answer, of course, is yes!

The skills you develop in learning how to code aren’t just syntax and programming vocabulary, but more of learning how to learn and knowing where to find the resources to move forward. There are always going to be people more experienced than you, but no one else has the perspective and experiences that you do—and that’s as valuable as anything else.

JHM: Where can new coders can connect with other beginners?

JB: The Ruby on Rails community on Github and Twitter are incredibly positive and diverse, and the tech community we’ve built here in Athens is one of the best. I think it’s one of the most encouraging communities I’ve ever been a part of.

 

 

Are You Mobile-friendly?

mobile-friendly

A Word on Mobile Usage Statistics

Time for some cold, hard facts.

  • 82% of mobile shoppers search on Google before they make a purchase. (Google)
  • Smartphone users around the globe will total 2 billion in the next two years. (Bloomberg)
  • 75% of Americans admitted to using their smartphones while sitting on the potty. (11mark)
  • About 85% of the world’s population will have 3G access in 2017. (Econsultancy)
  • As of January 2014, 58% of American adults have a smartphone. (Pew Center)

See where I’m going with this?

Going mobile is not really optional anymore. If a business or organization wants to stay relevant to 75% of Americans in 2014, and to 85% of the world population in 2017, they have to be mobile-friendly.

Gearing Up For a Brave, New, Mobile-Centric World

You’re a smart person. I’m sure you’ve already thought about a mobile website, but maybe you don’t know exactly what it entails. Do you need a separate website for mobile from the web version? Do you need to build an app? How do you make a website display beautifully across tablets and smartphones and laptops and desktops and smart TVs?

The first thing to point out is that mobile-friendly doesn’t just mean designing for smartphones. It actually means designing for a range of new tech devices. Developers’ and designers’ first line of device against this ocean of new technology has been responsive design.

As John Polacek put it, “Responsive websites respond to their environment.” 

When you invest in a mobile-friendly website, Polacek recommends you consider the following:

  • Time and money
  • Browser support
  • Performance
  • Content
  • Website vs. web app

How to Talk to Your Designer About Mobile

This blog post can’t really tell you all you need to know about responsive design. But your web designer probably can. Your web designer is paid to know the latest trends in web development, including mobile-responsive design. Before you meet with him or her, spend a few hours looking over web responsive tutorials. The more you learn about responsive and its capabilities, the better you can envision your business on mobile-centric platforms.

Check out these for a more comprehensive overview:

We recommend reading out these specific articles before you meet with your designer:

You should also check out prominent examples of responsive design. We selected some of our favorites from a range of industries. Don’t forget to check out these websites using different devices! (Hint: If you’re using a laptop or desktop browser window, you can adjust the size of the browser window to simulate the responsive experience.)

And on that note, I’m going to grab a latte from Starbucks…while surfing the internet on my smartphone.


Join the conversation!

How many times a day do you use your smartphone to search something, make a purchase or kill some downtime?

Is Your Team Communication Lacking? You Might Like Slack

slack
Let’s talk about how you talk to your team. Do you use email? Do you wish there was an easier way to search for old conversations? I want to clue you in on a communication tool the JH Media Team uses to collaborate and share random things on the internet: Slack.

Slack is like a more advanced Twitter but for small, invite-only groups. It’s essentially the way all the members of our team, from the designers, project managers, and programmers to the marketers and account managers to touch base with one another. It’s also just a fun way to share information.

What Can Slack Do for Me?

Slack bills itself as the communication solution to end all solutions with real-time messaging (i.e., chat), archiving, and modern search techniques like hashtags. From a business perspective, Slack is versatile. Which is why it’s taken the design and development world by storm. We use it for our in-house design team. But if you were a small business, you could use it to collaborate and communicate with freelancers, contractors, employees and interns. 

For a real life application beyond the business world, consider this: I recently planned a family reunion. Instead of an email chain that was fifty replies deep, it would have been nice if I could have used a service like Slack to coordinate booking the rental, arrivals and departures, meal planning, cleaning, and the other miscellaneous details that go into family reunion planning. Event planning is just one aspect that could benefit from some smarter communication platforms. Let’s say you are organizing a conference or meetup, you could create a Slack community for all the presenters and participants to network before, during and after the event.

Sounds Too Good to Be True, What’s the Cost?

Slack does have a free plan that for the most part will be fine for testing Slack within your organization. However on the free plan, the message archive is limited to 10,000. After that point, if you decide you want to store all the messages your team sends, you’ll have to upgrade. The plan pricing is based on the number of users on your team, costing a certain amount per month, per user.

There are three plans: Lite (Free), Standard ($7 per user/month) and Plus ($13 per user/month). The biggest differences between the Lite and the other plans is that Lite has a limited archive, only 5 integrations (which means connecting with Twitter, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) and offers no support. The Standard and Plus plans both have unlimited archives, unlimited integrations, guest access and IT support. The biggest difference between the Standard and Plus is the reporting and analysis feature. You receive simple stats with the Standard, and more advance reporting and analysis with the Plus plan.

As shiny and new as Slack feels, it’s not quite the end-all-be-all solution it wants to be. One big hole It that it has yet to integrate popular email services with its platform, but Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield says email is in the works. For now, the company is marketing itself as an alternative to internal emails. While it’s hard to say whether Slack will eventually “kill email,” it will definitely lighten your inbox and keep conversations with team members organized and searchable.

This is just one tool of many revolutionizing the way we work and communicate. Want to know the reason we decided to try Slack? This fascinating profile of Butterfield, who some say is more visionary than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

How to use Slack:

  1. Sign up for the free plan to take it for a test drive.
  2. Invite users to your Slack team.
  3. Set up channels (i.e. categories or hashtags) that the community can use to discuss certain topics, like: #general #marketing, #sales, #pizzaparty, #random, #dev, etc.
  4. Make updates!
  5. Archive old messages or channels that are no longer relevant to the community.

Who is Responsible for What on Your Website?

who-is-responsible-for-you-website
New website design? Check!

Service pages full of squishy good content? Check!

Product listings properly tagged and SEO’d? Check!

Weekly blog posts? Umm…I think Suzie was going to do that?

New user tutorial? Oh, right, I did bring that up at a meeting three months ago. Suzie? Or Jim?

Fancy, high res photos on every page and product listing? I think have some photos somewhere…we did a photoshoot last year…

Ok, stop right there.

You paid a significant chunk of change for your brand new website. But if the conversation above has any kind of resonance, then you probably haven’t designated certain must-have tasks to make sure your website breaks all the traffic records, engages tons of users and pays you back on your investment.

Keeping website content fresh and exciting is the best way to attract new people to your business. It’s also the best way to get loyal customers coming back for more. To make both of those things happen, you need to do a little old-fashioned roll call. For each of the following tasks, write down the name of the person and frequency that they need to update that section of the site. I even made a handy spreadsheet where you can manage all of these tasks, or print to post up where everyone on the team will see it. I suggest near the coffee maker.

Website Task Frequency of Update Person Responsible Notes/Miscellaneous
Home Page Title Slides 4 x year
Home Page A/B Testing Ongoing
Calls to Action/Button Testing Ongoing
New Images 2 x year
New Case Studies 2 x year
Product Listing Ongoing
Team Member/About Content 1 x year
Service Page Content 2 x year
Testimonial Content 2 x year
Blog 1 x week
Email Newsletter 2-4 x month
Promotions/Discount Offers 4 x year
Website Traffic/Analytics 1 x week
Design Refresh 1 x year

5 Ways to Revamp Your Online Marketing

Sleeping on the JobWhenever I tell someone I do online marketing, I get some pretty classic responses:

“I need more traffic to my website. Should I do more on social media?”

“I’m on Facebook, but it feels so invasive. I’m thinking of quitting it altogether.”

“I need better online marketing. Where do I start?”

I think all of these questions tap into a general business concern: online marketing is supposed to work, but why isn’t it working for me?

It’s good to question your approach to online marketing. Having this critical lens can help you make better decisions. For clients who are beginners in online marketing or completely skeptical of it, I always outline a super simple marketing plan using free or trial versions of software for them to test their marketing ideas. Once they’ve got some numbers on interaction and traffic through testing, then they can really focus on their message and invest in a bigger marketing plan.

Growing Traffic

Email newsletters are one of the best ways to get traffic coming to you on the web. And if you’ve got visitors there already, having an option to sign up for a newsletter is a great way to entice them to learn more about your company.

Mailchimp is a great email marketing platform, and it’s the one we’ve chosen for J H Media. You have the choice of using email newsletter templates or designing your own. We love the reporting feature where you can track opens, clicks and interactions. It’s also great for organizing your contacts into categories like vendors, customers or media contacts.

Pat Flynn also advises looking for forums to grow traffic and gives a really detailed and helpful strategy (that we ourselves are going to try!) to reach new audiences.

Read more: Mailchimp’s Guide for Getting Started. For the more advanced Mailchimp user: A very detailed tutorial on how to design and set up your campaign using Mailchimp. Pat Flynn’s Simple Traffic Generation Strategy.

Test out Social Media

We’ve already written about the glory of managing all your social media in one account: Hootsuite. In case you didn’t like using Hootsuite (and that is totally fine), I wanted to bring your attention to another scheduling app called Buffer, specifically for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. You know how some people seem to blast updates all day long? How are they possibly working if they’re tweeting that much? Simple answer: Buffer. Give it a shot.

Just remember, social media is a super cheap way to directly chit-chat and connect with your audience. If you get really frustrated or feel like nothing is happening, go back to the basics and pay attention to those metrics: Beginner’s Guide to Social Media.

Read more about Buffer: How to Save Time on Your Twitter Marketing

Website Revamp for Conversions

Last week I wrote about putting your website content to work. Well, today I’m going to take two steps back and say that as important as content is a more refined marketing message, an approach of “less is more” is really hot right now in online marketing. Conversion-focused design is key. It’s the kind of design where you visit a website and immediately know what is being sold and how to buy it. And the purchase process is very simple. Sean Smith, a marketing consultant, puts it more eloquently, “Marketing is nothing if it doesn’t have great design backing it up, because without conversion-focused design you aren’t going to reach your end goal: actually selling.” Is your website designed to be “actually selling”? If it’s not, it may be time for a website revamp.

Read more: 7 Online Marketing Trends That Will Dominate in 2014

3 Reasons Marketing Needs Better Design Focus

Sell More with Landing Pages

To continue the previous thought on conversion-centered design, let’s talk about landing pages. Landing pages are a great tool for capturing information and getting folks to buy-in to your product/service. Unbounce and LeadPages are good tools for creating pages that convert visitors or capture leads. What exactly does a landing page look like? Check out this example and this example.

Read more: Beautiful Landing Pages: Tips and Examples; How to Make Great Landing Pages (With Crazy High Conversions)

Measure with Marketing Analytics

Let’s say you’ve got all the methods mentioned above in place and chugging along. What are you doing to measure your success? This is where analytics come in. Forbes outlines four clear steps to take for marketing analytics:

  • Defining your metrics and developing a plan
  • Collecting the data
  • Developing reporting features and capabilities
  • Ongoing analysis and implementation

What tools are out there to get you started? Domo and Hubspot are the most recommended analytics products at the moment.

Read more: 2014 is the Year of Digital Marketing and What It Means for Your CompanyHow Business Intelligence and Online Marketing Should Intertwine

So those are just a few ways to get started with online marketing. I don’t want to keep you any longer from starting a newly revamped marketing campaign, but before I go, I just want to share this awesome Lord of the Rings-inspired map of all the online marketing software out there. If you find something that works for you, share it with us in the comments below.

photo credit: FindYourSearch via photopin cc

How to Write a Blog That Gets an Audience

33HBlogging! That thing everyone does! A blog has immense potential to generate website traffic…or so they say. I know getting an audience that reads your blog can a BIG problem for business blogs. There is so much content noise already. I know you don’t want to be a noise-maker, but a news-maker. So the question is, what makes your blog better reading than another’s? How do you write a blog that gets an audience?

Here are a couple of criteria our team came up with:

  • You have a captive audience. Perhaps you are a company that requires or requests all employees to be familiar with the content of your blog. Or maybe your company CEO is in the public limelight. No contest! You win!
  • You have information that can only be found on your site. Again, you win.  However, it is a certain fact that you have a small audience. If you didn’t, then the information you present would be available in many locations.
  • You have a following. Congrats, I’m sure you worked hard to get to this point. However, you know the work does not stop. Those readers will desert you faster than they signed up for your site if you do not continue to inform and amuse them.

Does your blog fit into one of these criteria? If it doesn’t, that’s okay because I have a couple of suggestions for you.

Make It Personal

One problem many readers have with corporate blogs is how inhuman or faceless they feel. You want to present the best version of the company, but many corporate or in-house blog writers don’t feel comfortable writing about themselves from the first-person perspective. If the blog writer can personalize the content, all the better. Sharing stories of personal triumph as well as personal struggle is another way to humanize the company through the blog.

Guest Bloggers

One way to grow your audience is through guest blogging—both posting on other blogs and inviting bloggers to write for your website. Knowing your goals for guest blogging is going to be key, and KISSMetrics has a good guide on making the most out of guest blogging opportunities.

Writing Means Taking Action

Marketing superstar Seth Godin writes, “Marketing used to be what you say. Now, marketing is what you do. What you make. How you act. The choices you make when you are sure no one is looking.” What kind of choices do you make when you’re not on the clock? Actions like volunteering, attending conferences, meeting new people, sitting in on panels—all of these are opportunities for a great blog article. The ideas won’t come if all you do is sit at your desk waiting. You have to go out there and seek them.

Finding More Time

Finding More Time

You can’t just invent more hours in the day to get everything done. As much as I wish that were true. (Hello, unstained chifforobe sitting in the garage!) Luckily, there are many tools to help you organize and schedule your day so that you can actually get more accomplished. I put together this short guide on different ways you can find more time for the things that make your business succeed.

Finding Time in Your Schedule

Feeling overbooked lately? Revolutionize your meeting schedule with the free Google Calendar tool. I don’t know how I would keep track of everything without my Google Calendar. Here are few reasons why I think our clients should give it a shot:

  • You can access your calendar no matter what computer (or device) you’re using.
  • You can add co-workers and clients to a team calendar.
  • It’s super easy to use, no fancy interfaces or new software to learn!
  • It’s free.

Read more here: HOW TO: Use Google Calendar To Manage Your Different Schedules

What the Kids Use These Days

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram—how are you supposed to find time in the day to manage all these different accounts for your business?! I know you’ve heard that social media is the best marketing tool out there, but how can you put that into action to grow your business? Here’s our secret: Hootsuite.

  • Manage all your social media accounts in one dashboard. Which means no logging in and out of a hundred different websites every day.
  • Batch schedule social media updates. Spend a good chunk of time (1-3 hrs) composing content for ALL your social media accounts, schedule it all at once. Done and done.
  • Get the premium version of the software to see advanced analytics and tracking.

Honesty box: Hootsuite is not a silver bullet for all social media marketing. It is, however, a tool that we’ve found useful. Test it out (there’s a free version) and see if it works for you. If you see engagement numbers going up, it might be worth investing more time to social media.

Read more: HOW TO: Use Hootsuite as a Marketing Tool and The Beginner’s Guide to Hootsuite