30 May 2013

It's the blue tick of destiny, child!...Facebook rolls out verified pages.

Shut the front door. Hold the phone. Stop the press....(running out of phrases now)

It's just been announced that Facebook will be rolling out 'verified' pages and profiles so that people can differentiate between the 'real' accounts of celebs, famous cats, organisations and businesses and the millions of other imposter pages which are run by evil, coffee drinking, binary reading scammers whose soul purpose in life is to befriend you, entice you share their posts and take over the world (obviously). 

A post on Facebook's website says: "Verified pages have a small, blue check mark beside their name on timelines, in search results, and elsewhere on Facebook." - SO pretty much exactly like Twitter then...and Pinterest? Fabulous. 

So where can I get my shiny new blue tick I hear you ask? Well, they're not for everyone. They will be gifted to certain pages with high amounts of 'fans' that are deemed worthy - and if my past experience with other social networks is anything to go by spending a fair bob or two on advertising may just help to speed the process up a bit. 

The idea of having verified pages produces this reaction in me - "meh". I have nothing against them but don't think they are that big of a deal either. They might be useful if you are trying to find out information on current affairs, news stories or even just contact/background information on companies for example - but even still you probably shouldn't use Facebook as a reliable source of information, that's what Wikipedia is for, right? I also doubt if being 'verified' will do anything to help pages increase their organic reach (which has been a bit of an issue of late), but it will be interesting to see if people are more inclined to engage with pages if they know for sure they are authentic..because it's obviously the real Justin Beiber who you're commenting with, not his marketing intern!

What do you think about the new verified accounts? Comment with your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading! Melissa.

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17 May 2013

Google Plus - New layout and features unveiled at #io13

When I clicked onto Google Plus earlier on today my first reaction was 'OH, That's different!' The 'news feed' as you would call it has had a major makeover and now looks like Facebook and Pinterest's shiny new love child. 

The first thing you notice is definitely the appearance of the 'news feed' area [Sorry Zuck,  but I'm probably just going to call it this from now on] but this new roll-out apparently has "41 new features for Google Plus, the most important being related to design, messaging, and photo sharing."

New Google plus layout

Now, at this point I need to say that although I've had a Google plus account for the past couple of years,  it's not something I'm particularly enamored with. I think one of the reasons behind this is the fact that none of my friends really have it, or if they do they seldom use it. A current report from Google suggests they have 190 million active users, and around 390 million who have partly upgraded to it's services....but I'm certainly not pals with any of them! I can appreciate that it has some really cool features like hangouts and events but it's kind of like being at the best party in the world....all by yourself - not much fun! Another couple of things annoy me. For one the 'cover image' at the top is wayyyyy to big, and I don't think I'll ever quite get used to categorising people into circles ..it all feels a bit kumbaya. Sometimes you just know people because you know them, and it feels a bit proper to call them an 'acquaintance'.

Apart from those couple of bug-bears I've been persisting with Google Plus and posting on it occasionaly over the past two years. I mostly use it to link to my blog posts as Blogger gives you the option to post these automatically and I read somewhere that the Google search engine gets particularly excited by these links and will list these higher in search listings. 

New Google Plus photo feature layout

I'm not going to list all of the new Google Plus features as I probably won't give it justice. So, I'll just talk about a couple of things that have caught my eye. 

  • As mentioned before I think the new multi-column layout is a big improvement and a lot more interesting to look at, even if it is a bit of a Facebook rip off. 
  • I also quite like the little 'mini profile' that hovers up when you roll over someones profile name. 
  • GIF's/animations can play straight from within the news feed. Awesome.
  • The new photo page is also pretty cool. It seems to pull photos into albums automatically depending on where they came from, or what they are about. 

However, I don't like:
  • The grey background and pure white colour scheme is just a bit too minimalistic and is a bit of a snooze-fest.
  • I STILL can't find the 'edit profile' button easily, am I missing something?!

Do you use Google Plus? What are your thoughts on the new layout and features?

Thanks for reading! Melissa.

Coincidentally, you can add me to your circles here > Melissa on Google 

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13 May 2013

Improve productivity & well-being in the digital work place!

Woman using mouse at computer desk

Working in the creative/digital industry in this day and age probably means that you spend quite a lot of your time sitting at a computer, tapping away on a phone or swiping on a tablet - at work and during your free time. Almost gone are the days when you'd get out and about for a meeting at work, or go out for a meal at the weekend without instragramming your macaroni cheese. Nowadays emails, calls, video chats, social networking and instant messaging have taken over. Most people probably find that once they've finished work and have plonked themselves down on the train home they head straight to their personal Facebook/Twitter/MyCatster to check out the latest happenings - I'm definitely guilty of this!

While we were at risk of getting 'square eyes' from watching too much TV when we were younger I wonder if we're now as risk of getting '1136-by-640px eyes'...or stylus shaped thumbs - eek!

In the office I tend to find it hard sitting in the one place for hours on end, unless I really am 'in the zone' when I don't notice time going by. This harks back to uni days when I could sit on Photoshop for hours working on a project and look up about 4 hours later and think 'Jeesh, is that the time?!'  

Thinking about the points above, I've been chastising myself recently for spending too much time online and have found myself making rash resolutions to delete my Facebook profile, chuck my laptop out the window and go live in a organic tree village........only to want to want to pronounce my new-found philosophy to the world via a tweet (dangit!)

Whilst I might not be changing my name to Sun-Beam Daisy-Love any time soon I've started trying to do a few things to save my retinas and general sanity which you 'digital folks' can do as well to help break up your working day, improve your general 'office health' and even increase your productivity. Some of them might be obvious but a few are definitely useful...

Stay healthy 9 till 5...

Sit up straight - It's the age old piece of advice but it really will make a difference to your back if you sit with your back against the back of your chair with your feet on the ground....not to mention stopping you having a posture akin to Golum in later life. 

H2OH! - Drink plenty of water throughout the day but if you have a big bottle only fill it up partly as this will give you an excuse to get up, stretch your legs and re-fill. 

Twinkle toes - Rock your feet back and forth (toe to heel), move up and down as if you're walking to keep your circulation going. 

Step away from the screen - Sometimes it might be hard but try to take lunch break and get out and about. Even if you eat your lunch at your desk then try to take a 10 minute walk around, or just go for a mosey around your office. 

Snack time - As well as having a proper breakfast try and have some healthy snacks throughout the day - things like fruit, yoghurt, nuts. 

Take a break - Try and take time away from screens. On the train home try reading a book or just listening to some music for a while. Turn off your phone an hour or so before bed so you're not lying reading tweets right before getting some shut eye. 

Row of dark grey computers in a line

Improve productivity...

Get it out the way - If there's something on your mind that you want to do online, like buy THAT pair of shoes, or get tickets to the gig that have just went on sale then you're best to do it in the morning before starting your actual work. This way it gets it off your mind and will allow you to focus your attention on your work. 

Make lists - I have to say, I love a good list. I normally have a big 'weekly' to do list, and then each morning I split that into things I 'want to do today'. Doing this allows you to have a clear view of what you need to achieve each day and will help you prioritise tasks. It's a good idea to create a list for the week ahead on a Friday before 5pm - meaning you can come in on Monday morning and know what you have to do right away instead of trying to clear away the weekend cobwebs and trying to remember where you left off...

Reward yourself - Another good thing about making lists (above) is that you can reward yourself when you complete a task. This can be anything from getting can of juice to listening to a song...all these wee things will make you feel a sense of achievement and a feeling of "Right!, what's next?"

Keep all your ideas - Sometimes ideas for work or other projects can hit you at the most random times - just nodding off, getting your lunch, walking the dog...It's a good idea to have somewhere to keep these ideas which is more substantial than a piece of paper so I usually send myself quick emails with a couple of lines of text. You can also use the 'notes' or 'memo' feature on your phone to jot down thoughts quickly. 

Do you have any other tips for improving productivity or working tips in general - comment below!

Thanks for reading, Melissa x

Melissa on Twitter

3 May 2013

15 things you should be doing to drive traffic to your blog!

I'm fairly new to the world of blogging, but even during my short stint writing blog posts for my creative blog: The Creative Frontier and my beauty blog: Beauty and the Bargain, I've discovered a few tricks of the trade that can help boost your page views dramatically. 

I'm certainly no expert and I'll admit I still haven't quite yet cracked how to get more followers via the 'Google friend connect' feature. If you've got any tips on this please feel free to 'share the wealth' and comment below! But as for now I'm happy just writing away to build my experience and hoping that it'll come in useful the next time I'm applying for a job!

Anyway, if you're writing a blog and want to help more people read it then here are some methods that I've been using recently...

1 Get social!
As well as linking to your blog on your Facebook and Twitter bios you should post links to all of your new blog posts on your personal channels. If you want to go one step further you could set up a 'fan page' for your blog on Facebook, and similarly a dedicated Twitter account. Depending on what you're writing about use popular hashtags to help get your content noticed, for example, beauty bloggers commonly use #bbloggers when linking to their posts. 

2 Contact influencers
Following on from the point above, you should try and get your blog posts noticed by 'influencers'. By this I mean that getting RT's, replies, shares or comments from influential people who are in some way connected to the theme or content of your blog. For example, if you're a beauty blogger and you write a review of a Revlon lipstick....@mention Revlon on twitter telling them about it and hopefully you'll get a RT to thousands of other fans who like Revlon. (good PR for them and exposure for you) 

3 Use Linkedin
If like me you're writing a blog to help boost your writing skills to improve your job prospects then it makes sense to encourage your Linkedin connections to view your blog. You can mention it within your actual personal profile and also post updates, much like a Facebook 'status'. Just recently you can @mention 'companies and connections', which would be useful if you had written a blog post about a certain company, person or if you just wanted to notify someone in particular about the post. 

4 Use Google+ features
As blogger.com is a Google platform it 'likes' it if you use Google features and other platforms, and I've certainly seen a rise in my page views since I've started using these techniques:
  • Automatically share your posts on your Google+ page (make sure they are set to share with the public)
  • @mention people or companies directly within blog posts
  • Enable 'Google+' comments on your blog posts
  • Search for and add other bloggers into your 'Circles' 
  • Join or even create relevant Google+ communities
  • Use the 'Google friend connect' feature to follow other bloggers and encourage others to follow you

5 Keep search engines 'in-the-know' 
Every time you post on your blog submit the link to http://pingomatic.com/ which is a free service that tells search engines that your site has been updated. 

6 Submit links to Reddit
One of the sites that drives the most traffic to my blog is http://en.reddit.com/. Create an account and sumbit a link to every new blog post you write, tagging in under the right group to make sure it gets noticed. Most of mine go under Graphic Design, Social Media or Marketing. 

7 Get Bloglovin followers 
This site is a tool for publishing your blog posts and following other blogs. It seems to be most popular with beauty and fashion blogs but it could still be worthwhile to create some more inbound links to your blog which will increase it's credibility to search engines. Once you've made an account you can add a badge to your blog sidebar to encourage people to follow you on Bloglovin. You can also link your profile with your personal Facebook page so it automatically posts your latests blogs. 

8 Use good photos and ALT tags
Be sure to include at least one image in all of your blog posts as not only will it help it look more interesting it will pull through as a preview when you link to the post and encourage potential readers to click through. Also, remember to include descriptive ALT tags for images for accessibility and to increase the chance of the image being found through a search engine. 

9 Choose the right 'labels' 
Remember to use labels to categorise your blog posts. They can be shown at the bottom of your posts and users can click through if they see a word, or label they are interested in . You can also use them in your sidebar as a menu by showing how many posts you have per label. 

10 Run a competition
From what I've seen a sure fire way to promote your blog is by running a competition on it through a service such as http://www.rafflecopter.com/. You can encourage people to enter through a number of methods such as following you on Twitter, sharing your blog link, liking you on Facebook etc...I think I might try it out soon on my beauty blog, but I'm not sure what I'd give away here on The Creative Frontier hmm!

11 Become (or invite) a guest blogger
A great way to drive traffic to your blog is to write a 'guest blog' on another persons blog where you can include a link back to your own blog. You could also check out your local publications, newspapers and websites to see if you could write an article for them which could also include a link to your blog (I did this recently with lanark.co.uk)

12 Pay to advertise on other blogs
If you've got some dough to spend you could pay to advertise on other popular blogs through the form of a button or graphic. I'm not sure if there is an official process for this as from what I've seen some bloggers simply post asking 'who wants to advertise on my blog' and presumably people get in touch and pay £x per month to have a graphic or link in their sidebar.

13 Comment on other blogs and leave your link
Blogging is all about building a network so it's essential to check out other blogs within your industry - not only will you be able to see what other people are doing you'll be able to pick up some useful tips! When leaving comments on other peoples blog posts be sure to make them meaningful, not just 'hey check out my blog [link]' - by all means leave a link to your blog but try to read the blog post properly and comment sincerely. 

14 Be relevant!
Blog posts are going to get picked up and noticed if you talk about something relevant. This might be to do with current affairs, new inventions/technology, new products (especially relevant in the beauty industry) or recent events. Of course the problem is that everyone might have this view and your post about the "new Facebook layout" might get lost within a barrage of other similar ones - that's why you've got to do something to put your own twist on it and get your own opinion across. 

15 Give your post a good title
Although you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, many of us are probably guilty of judging a blog post by it's title! Try to include important keywords from your blog post in it's title as these will catch peoples eye when they see any links to the post. Human beings are naturally curious so it also helps to make post titles intriguing  to make people feel as if they are missing out if they don't read it. Some examples of title formats could be...

  • How to...
  • 4 ways to...
  • The top 10...
  • The best way...
  • The worst things about...
  • What you shouldn't be doing...

Thanks for reading, as I said I've just started blogging so am by no means an expert but I hope you found some of the tips useful! 

Please feel free to comment below...you can even leave your link ;)

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