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Curb Your Enthusiasm: Setting Realistic Goals For Your Blog

 

5 Important Aspects of Blog Success

Successful Blogging

When we venture out with a new idea or project there are unlimited possibilities and the sky is the limit, that is until you actually start. That is when you learn your limits and obstacles and find yourself at the base of a mountain that you want to be at the top of.  It can take months, even years to get the kind of blog presence you desire and you won’t necessarily be able to monetize your efforts right off the bat.  The good news is that blogging does tend to reward those that stick with it, teach us a lot about ourselves (and/or our businesses), and make us better communicators.  Here are some tips for setting realistic expectations for your blog, and we don’t recommend making any great expectations until you’ve been at it for at least a few months:

1. Persistence and Patience:  Most blogs don’t make it past the 2-3 month mark.  Although publishing content to the internet is pretty much instantaneous, getting a post noticed and building a following of readers is not.  Even the blogs of well known companies don’t necessarily make the mark with their blogs.

2.  Curb Your Enthusiasm: Starting a blog is similar to starting a new workout plan.  Tons of enthusiasm at the beginning, but often it takes longer than expected to see the results and we end up disappointed.  It’s common to over do it at the start or set unrealistic goals.  Try to spread your enthusiasm out over a few those first few months and slowly build momentum.

3.  Stick to Your Passions:  If you write about topics that you are passionate about or interested in then you are much more likely to stick with it.  As a start-up, our blog for Cahoots has covered many topics that have not only served as a resource for others, but as a way of organizing information of interest for ourselves.

4.  Be Consistent:  Try not to over commit yourself.  Wait until you have been blogging for a few months to determine which pattern works best for you, and whatever it is be consistent.  Posting 3 posts a day for one week and then none the next is unpredictable for your readers.  Humans are creatures of habit.

The same goes for consistency in content and style.  Try to write your posts with a consistent style/format.  Choose a topic or area of interest and try to stay within it, for example you wouldn’t want to be writing an article on breast-feeding one day and election coverage the next.

5.  Put Yourself Out There:  ‘If I build it they will come’ is a  mantra destined for failure and obscurity.  Make use of micro-blogging tools such as Twitter and Facebook pages to drive traffic to your blog and guide people towards your content.  Interact with other bloggers and blog communities.  There are many, many out there to participate in.

We hope this article has been helpful whether you are just starting out, are just past the two-month hump, a pro-blogger, or have decided that blogging just isn’t for you.

Thanks for Reading,

Cah{o,o}ts

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When and Where to Use Stock Images

This image is an example of a highly generic stock image.

This image is an example of a highly generic stock image.

We use stock photos and creative commons images on our blog fairly often. Why? Because it is available instantly and we don’t have the time to do a photo shoot for every blog post.  However, we would never use stock photography for our web design elements, promotional materials, or our logo.  Here are some recommendations on when and how to use stock images:

Use Stock

-When you are respecting the privacy of your clients (for example a doctor’s office or a daycare) and would not want to put images of them on your website stock is a good alternative.

-If it would be too expensive or time consuming to obtain the images yourself (for example a travel guide) stock is a cheaper and faster.

-Stock images are great for mock-ups and comps where there is not enough time or money for a custom shoot.

-Planning a photo shoot takes time, and even after the shoot the images still need to be edited.  Stock can be a great for temporary use while you are busy piecing together our own original images.

-For low budget marketing such as print brochures, well chosen stock images suffice.

-For blog posts stock images can be very helpful.  If you are doing a daily blog post and covering a variety of topics, it would be very time consuming and expensive to generate unique imagery for each and every post.

Don’t Use Stock

-Logos, icons, and your brand image should all be unique to you.  Do not use stock for these elements of design.

-When you are developing a website and/or promotional materials to promote your products and services specifically it is best to get professional pictures unique to you rather than use stock images that could easily appear on your competitor’s materials as well.

-If you are looking for a very specific image it is best to create it yourself as stock photography tends to be generic and you could spend a lot of time searching for an image that doesn’t exist.

-If you can do it yourself, don’t use stock.  Providing your own images is much more genuine.

Choosing Stock Images

  • Be sure the images chosen are relevant to the topic or message being conveyed.
  • Avoid cliches
  • Don’t opt for the most popular images, do some hunting.
  • Remember to look at illustrations too, they often have more character.
  • You can crop the images instead of using them as is. Keep this in mind.
  • If you are going to use stock images for a brochure or website try to maintain some elements of consistency (crop, color scheme, background, style).

When and where to use stock photography is largely related to the context in which the images will be used.  If you have a good camera and some time, spend a day every once in a while taking pictures of random things yourself.  Create your own photo library that you can then have at your disposal.

We hope this article has helped you decide whether or not to opt for stock or to create your own original images.

Thanks for reading,

Cah{o,o}ts

Creating Clear Content

Decreasing ambiguity in your writing

clearcontent

Content is king and brevity is key. Effective communication is paramount, especially for marketers, bloggers, and content creators. Sometimes we write in the same voice that we have used to research and analyze a topic, and as a result our writing takes on a tone of uncertainty.  The following examples of wordiness are vague and make your writing sound speculative:

  • A considerable amount of
  • After all was said and done
  • Along the lines of (like)
  • As the case may be
  • At this point in time (now)
  • Based in large part upon (based on)
  • Beyond a shadow of doubt (definitely)
  • By and large
  • Can be seen as (is)
  • Concerning the matter of (about/regarding)
  • Consider to be
  • Fair amount
  • For all intents and purposes
  • Foreseeable future
  • ‘I might add that’
  • In a very real sense
  • In actuality (because)
  • In essence
  • In light of the fact that
  • In the near future/ in the not too distant future
  • In view of the fact that
  • Interestingly enough
  • It would appear (appear)
  • Kind of
  • Mainly
  • More or less
  • Particular type of
  • Perhaps this may be (this may be)
  • Quite clearly
  • Seem/seems as though
  • Some kind of
  • Sort of
  • State of affairs
  • Tendency
  • To a certain extent
  • Very/Extremely

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Cah{o,o}ts

8 Ways to Test an Idea Without Spending Money

ideas money

Have an amazing idea for a new business? Great.  Before you start spending your money, going to family and friends, go into debt, or seek investment it is important to test the market potential for that idea.  Not only will this information help you decide whether or not to spring forward, it will give you valuable information on how to go about it. The majority of small businesses fail within five years if starting up. Here are some great steps you can take to test the waters without drowning:

1.  Research:  Has your idea been done?  Is someone already starting to work on a similar start up?  What made them succeed/fail?  You can learn a lot from another concept’s failure. Look for holes in other’s execution to determine how you may succeed where others have not.  Just because an idea has been tried or is being done on some level doesn’t mean it’s being done well or to its full potential.

2. Seek the Similar:  Ask people who are in the same industry what they think of your idea.  For example, if you’re thinking of developing software for restaurant reservation systems ask a restaurant manager or owner for their opinion.  How high is the demand for the software?  Which types of restaurants would be likely to pay for it and how much?  You could find someone who has built something similar, like a booking system for  medical clinics, and ask them about their experiences.

3.  Be Open:  Afraid that someone may steal your idea if you talk about it?  Ideas are a dime a dozen and most people are excited about their own. Like Edison said, success is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration Don’t let fear stop you from obtaining valuable feedback.

4.  Talk to the Targets:  Who are your potential customers? Do they need/want your product? Would they be willing to pay for it?

5.  Bring it to the Bank:  Asking your bank manager for advice is a great way to test the viability of your business.  Experienced bank managers have seen lots of ideas and are trained to look for the attributes of success and failure for start-ups.  Having a conversation with the bank is a great source of insight and can give you an idea of what hurdles you’ll have to overcome to generate profit and secure funding.

6.  Keywords:  The Google Keyword Tool gives you insights into searches for particular keywords, such as the number of global and local searches per month.  By searching keywords and phrases relevant to your idea you can get a sense for the demand for your product.

7.  Build a Free Landing Page:  By building a landing page you can gauge the interest level in your product or service and even determine people’s willingness to purchase it.  Muse Chimp provides a great guide for doing this in conjunction with Google Adwords.

8.  Test Yourself:  Last but not least there is a crucial and frequently overlooked aspect to starting any business: what you want. You must ask yourself how much time and money you are willing to invest to get your idea off the ground.  Starting a business can be a lot of work and doesn’t suit everyone.  As Vidal Sassoon once said “The only place where success comes before work is the dictionary.”  What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead? Do you want to travel constantly? Do you want a family/ how will starting a business affect your family?  What are your exits?

After taking these eight steps you should have a solid idea of whether or not you should act on your idea and at the very least will have learned a lot about it.

We wish you success with all your endeavors!

Cah{o,o}ts

Why Social Media Is So Addictive

Understanding Reinforcement and Social Media

Social Media Addiction

Social networking sites are full of opportunities for positive reinforcement.  A ‘Like’ on Facebook, retweet or mention on Twitter,  comment on a status, endorsement on LinkedIn, a repin on Pinterest and a new follower are all forms of positive reinforcement that drive engagement on these social networking platforms.  In this post we’re taking a closer look at how our behaviour gets reinforced through social media and how it becomes psychologically addictive.

What is Reinforcement?

The concept of positive and negative reinforcement is part of what behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner called ‘Operant Conditioning’. Operant Conditioning is a type of learning in which behaviour is modified by its consequences, resulting in changes in form, frequency, and/or strength.

Learning

Positive Reinforcement is when a behaviour is followed by a response that is rewarding, increasing the occurrence of that behaviour.

Negative Reinforcement is when a behaviour is followed by the removal of something aversive, such as a crying child soothed by giving them candy, resulting in an increase in that behaviour.

Punishment is a consequence that decreases the frequency of a behaviour.

Extinction results when there is no consequence/response at all, eventually leading to a decline in that behaviour.

Social media is an ideal environment for operant conditioning and learning.  There are more opportunities for positive social reinforcement now than at any other point in human history.

Social Learning

Here are some examples of positive social reinforcement three popular social networks.

Facebook:  This is the most powerful network for social reinforcement.  Every ‘Like’, comment, and share has the effect of reinforcing our behaviour on Facebook, making us more likely to engage in it again and again.  This has been a huge part of Facebook’s success and a prime reason we spend so much time checking our notifications daily.  Before Facebook someone who had just gotten a new job had to inform each person individually or via mass email, but now with a quick status update the excitement can begin instantly with hundreds of friends and family.

Facebook Reinforcement

Twitter:  Whenever someone follows you, retweets or favourites a tweet, replies to you or mentions you it acts as a positive form of reinforcement for that behaviour.

Positive Reinforcement on Twitter

LinkedIn: Endorsements and recommendations are not as instantaneous or constant as forms of positive reinforcement on Twitter and Facebook, but nevertheless act as a reward that increases engagement levels on the popular networking tool.

LinkedIn Positive Reinforcement

With all of this positive reinforcement of one another’s behaviour through social networks is it any wonder why it’s so easy to get addicted to them?  Not only is there more opportunity for reinforcement, there is less of a time interval between the event and reinforcement.  Studies have found that the shorter the time interval between the action and the reinforcer the more powerful the learning will be.

In terms of punishment, there are also ways we see this happening through social media.  For Example, with a brand on Twitter someone can complain about their customer service and publicize it, leading to much more accountability and modification of that brand’s behaviour.  Brands are increasingly aware of conversations happening about them through social media and are making efforts to avoid any negative publicity on these platforms.

With respect to extinction, tweets and status updates that don’t receive much attention are less likely to be continued and those behaviours decline over time.

Positive reinforcement has played an integral role in the popularity of social media, the reason some networks thrive while others fail, and keeping us coming back for more.   It is an invaluable social learning tool for brands, marketers, and individuals alike.  The true impact that social media has had on shaping our behaviour will likely only be revealed in years to come, but it sure is interesting!

Thanks for reading and please give us some positive reinforcement!

Cah{o,o}ts

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