A How-To Guide for a Robust SEO Strategy

Your website is your billboard to the world. For health and fitness companies, it’s usually the first place potential clients land when they are looking for a gym, a trainer or some stylish new workout digs. That’s why you have to put effort into your digital storefront.  Trust me — your entire company will be judged with one click.

Yes it is, Spock!

However, unless a future customer knows your exact URL, they’ll likely find you through a Google search. The fitness industry has a lot of online noise, and it’s up to your creative thinking to stand out in the conversation. That’s why you need an SEO strategy.

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How Running Boosts Creativity

ImageSo I have (now had, I suppose, since I’m all graduated) two very influential professors with two very opposing views. One believes that writer’s block is a total crock, an excuse for lazy writers who have succumbed to the dark side (watching too much television). On the flip side, I have another professor who wrote her dissertation on writer’s block and is adamant that it exists.

For me, personally, I’m not sure I’ve ever had writer’s block. I have had times where I want to write, and do, and times where I don’t want to write, so I don’t. Now, of course I’ve had stories and papers to write that I didn’t feel like doing, but that wasn’t, I don’t think, due to any blockage, I just wasn’t in the mood.

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4 Tips for Engaging Your Target Audience

Not too long ago I gave a writing presentation to a room of athletic-clothing fashion designers.  I started out asking them a seemingly simple question:

Who do you want wearing your clothes?

They looked around the room with darting eyes, sinking into their seats. One young woman bravely responded, “Everyone.”

This was the exact response I expected.

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Indeed, from a business owner’s standpoint, if everyone is engaged in your product, then you are a success. But the truth is, not everyone is going to come to your gym, love your style of yoga or be comfortable in your see-through cropped workout pants. In order to connect your product with consumers who will buy, you have to have an extra firm grip on the kinds of people who would be attracted to your gym, studio, spa or clothing line.

So, in a world of 7 billion people, how do you figure out who is your target audience? Here are 4 tips from the marketing experts at Swoll Media.

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Automation Schmatoumation

I have very few inflexible rules when it comes to marketing, but one in particular tops the list of Must-Don’ts. I don’t automate social media posts. I am anti-automation. That’s not to say that I don’t schedule posts or organize campaigns ahead of time. I even keep a posting calendar, editorial content concept files, and an extensive set of swipe files with an ongoing list of my highest performing strategies, tweets, posts and other tag lines.

But I never, ever automate.

social-media-conversation

Why? Why not save time and push out a blog post that automatically sends out a tweet and a Facebook message? In one click I can share my latest ingenuity with all of my fans and followers. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong.

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Don’t get left in the dark

As media professionals age, we face the technological equivalent of getting a face-lift in Hollywood. As the world advances, if we don’t keep up, we’ll either become dusty fossils like Clint Eastwood or, worse, deformed monsters like Joan Rivers. My coworkers talk about an era before desktop publishing, where they had to forge type out of steel, in a damp cellar by candle light. Okay, okay, while I may be exaggerating, their stories of manually cutting and pasting graphics sounds about as much fun as attending a caveman dinner party, at least to my millennial mentality.

Celebrate the past without being scared of the future.

Recently, I was able to connect with Good Morning American producer Mellen O’Keefe, who has wrangled the world of broadcast media for decades. She remembers the days when cameras were too bulky to haul out into the field. She remembers producing segments where she had to manually cut and paste film, reel by reel. However, one of the things I loved about Mellen– even though she is a great storyteller, she doesn’t live in the past. Even as she pushed up her glasses to get a better look at the tiny buttons on an iPhone, her fingers moved with the dexterity of a 14-year-old. Intrigued by technology, she never shied away from learning more. She jokingly told me she has to run twice as fast to keep up with the 20-somethings in her industry, but the way I see it, they better keep an eye on her.

See, Mellen is the perfect example of finding balance between being Clint Eastwood and Joan Rivers. In our field, you have to know the new technology. Adore it, abhor it, it doesn’t matter. I meet these die hard newspaper-o-philes who treat online journalism like it’s an annoying 80s fad, but truthfully, it’s been the catalyst for the information revolution. I meet people who hate Facebook, but they are either Hipsters playing hard-to-get or grannies who can even work a TV remote. Everyone is on Facebook, whether you, or they, like it or not.

Yes, you are doomed to be a hipster or confused granny. That's it.
Yes, you are doomed to be a hipster or confused granny. That's it.

Sure, people scoffed at the telegraph or found typewriters to be the tool of the devil, but those were the folks who didn’t want to put in the effort to learn these newfangled contraptions. Not only will you be as dexterous as those 20-somethings when you’re Mellen’s age, but I guarantee your mind will thank you for training it to enjoy lifelong learning. Once we stop indulging in the rush of learning something new, we’ll never again create something unique.

My boyfriend hates on me all the time for my Instagram obsession. I get where he’s coming from, but in my field, life is constantly documented. I love writing, but part of storytelling in the 21st century requires words, photos, videos and web design to be done instantly. Utilizing these tools in my personal life keeps me well versed for my professional life.

Let’s face it, a 2-year-old can work an iPhone better than I can. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.

Here is a list of some of the resources to get you excited about innovation:

  • Need to keep up with social media trends? Try Mashable‘s great tips and techniques for beginners, experts and everyone in between.
  • Can’t figure out how to take video with an iPhone or use magnetic lasso tool in Photoshop? Get professional training on Lynda.com or search for free video tutorials on YouTube.
  • Understand your audience’s behavior through Google Analytics.
  • Bookmark your research and contacts on Diigo, which allows you to create custom sticky notes and highlight text right on the site. Best part? You can recall these pages on any computer.

Know Your Audience: Game on Santa

This Christmas Best Buy has declared war on Santa. Their recent slew of ads, featuring women out-gifting Good Ol’ Saint Nick with show-stopping Best Buy gadgets, are stirring up a sugarplum storm across the blogosphere. It makes me wonder: Best Buy, do you know your audience?

The most hilarious, misspelled and emotionally charged sentiments can be found in the comments on the videos’ YouTube pages. To illustrate just how strongly America feels about this new spirit of Christmas competition:

Wordle of "Game on Santa" comments on YouTube

Of all the hemming and hawing, from “Christmas is about Jesus” to “I’ll never spend another dollar at Best Buy,” one statement really stood out:

“This lady used a double-negative. ‘Daddy don’t want no cologne’ is stating that daddy actually does want cologne,” corrected HipHannaRose.

Of course, as a writer, editor and all things grammar, this would be my favorite.

The most turned-off are the parents, with little ones very confused by the commercials. “If these commercials aired after 10 p.m. I wouldn’t care,” commented JLether on YouTube. Coincidentally, the very women in these advertisements are, in fact, wives and parents. Their priority isn’t holiday cheer, it’s snatching up the credit for all those presents made by “Santa’s Elves.” A few commentators agreed with that sentiment, like hylianlegends, who claimed,

“Santa is FAKE. Teach your f%^&*#@ kids that he’s fake early, and let them appreciate YOU, the parent, who actually went out and spent the money, so they can hug and thank you, and not some fictitious character. Grow up and get a sense of humor.”

Now, I didn’t count the comments one-by-one, but public opinion, at least expressed on YouTube, seems to be relatively 50/50. These comments are also the most grammatically incorrect and, in many cases, the foul language slaps you in the face like stocking filled with coal. Bloggers have been significantly more critical of the commercials, but also more coherent.

In her blog The Odd and Unmentionable, Dia Osborn rants about how this commercial offended everyone in her extended family, probably even her dog.

From "Game on Santa" commercial.

I have to admire her; I’ve never seen someone rant in such an well-organized list. She rationally mentions, however, that while she is offended in at least six different ways, she will remain a Best Buy customer. The blog inspired her commentators get into a well-articulated, respectful debate about materialism, Santa and commercialism.

I think Joyay on Wikinut describes the sentiment best in Best Buy, Game On Santa Commercial? Awkward. Awkward is exactly right. Some love the series, some detest it. Most of us in the middle, however, just feel uncomfortable, trying to hide our chuckling. This is Santa we are talking about here. He is a sacred symbol of our childhood. Someone we would never turn our backs on. But, as adults, we appreciate the humor in sacrilege and well, Santa is a well-intentioned scapegoat here.

Maybe people do need to relax and loosen the holiday noose a bit.  Maybe we are a bit mixed up in the materialism of gift-giving. Or maybe Best Buy should avoid edgy commercials that emotionally curb-stomp one of the most recognizable international holiday traditions. Does Best Buy know their audience? During the Superbowl? Yes. During Christmas? Probably not. But people are talking and the commercials are still airing. In a world where one negative tweet can turn viral and force a billion-dollar company to beg for forgiveness, you have to admire Best Buy’s commitment to their creativity.

Breaking the Block

One thing that really caught me by surprise when I entered the “paid writer” world is often I’ve come face-to-face with a bullying case of writer’s block. I always thought writer’s block was a bit of a cliché, really. Then I learned, quickly I might add, that in college you aren’t producing something every single day. You have weeks before an article is due. You can chew, mull, prob and pull until the putty of your words takes the shape you want.

Even Kurt Vonnegut dealt with writer's block.

Life at a desk job is a bit different. So far, I’ve learned that:

  • Computers aren’t inspiring.
  • The closer your deadline the more your head hurts.
  • Reading your own writing makes you sick.
  • The neurons that travel from your brain to your fingers have died horrible, ghastly deaths.

Face it: writer’s block is a leg cramp for Lance Armstrong or a sore throat for Lady Gaga. It gnaws you up, sucking the marrow and leaving you all meek and doubtful. You need to shake up your routine; find another reason for writing. Creativity doesn’t come from stagnation. Derived from illumination, the only way to break through writer’s block is inspire yourself.

  • Read something you enjoy!
  • Take a pen and a notebook and go for a walk. You’ll be surprised how blinding a computer really is.
  • Have a conversation. Tell someone (or yourself) about the story, in detail. Jot down a few of the things you say and you’ll find that the phrases you create during a conversation are way more engaging.
  • Work on something else. If, like me, you have a plethora of writing, designing and web assignments, just switch over to something different. Give your mind a break.
  • Stream it out. Forget the grammar, punctuation, AP Style… just go for straight to paper. Put your thoughts down, in their chaotic beauty. Let the rambling lead to coherence.
  • Change the scenery. Work in a different part of the office or plug-in some headphones. Do something to alter the environment and refresh your mind.

Nothing, to me, is as frustrating as writer’s block. I can see it wreaking havoc in a well-intentioned story. I gave it the good ol’ college try, but my best just isn’t in it. You can’t, however, hold on to that. You have to accept that you will write a paltry story every once in a while and that’s okay. The world didn’t end. Remember, all pages start out blank.