How to Source, Organize, and Publish Quality Social Media Content (Without Losing Sleep)

Amount of content

Don’t make your audience drink from a firehose. Focus on quality, not quantity.

What if I told you that you could publish a steady stream of quality social media content without:

a) pulling all the hair out of your head
b) quitting your “real” job
c) sharing content that you didn’t really read

You’d probably point and laugh. “Ha ha — that silly Andrea. She thinks that she can actually fit social media management into a workflow?” Well, yes — I do. And so can you.

When The Spark Mill asked me to present this topic I thought about myself circa 2006, when, as a freelancer, I was first trying to wrap my head around how to use social media and still find time for useful things like billable work. After seven years, and a whole bunch of useful apps later (I LOVE YOU BUFFER!) I finally figured out how to participate authentically in social media without being “on” 24/7.

Check out the presentation on SlideShare or Prezi. Hopefully you can learn from my frustration and set yourself on the path to social media sanity more quickly than I did.

To your success,


Flesh Out vs. Flush Out — Either way it’s disgusting

Recent conversation with co-worker:

Me: This has been a great brainstorming. I’m going to go back to my desk and flush out some of these ideas.

She: Sounds good. Wait. Did you just say ‘flush out’….that always makes me think of a toilet. Ewww…I’m pretty sure you meant ‘flesh out’.

Me: ‘Flesh out’? No. I don’t think so. That makes me think of a deer carcass that someone is skinning. I’ll take the toilet image over mangling Bambi any day.

So what’s the correct answer?

Here, here, here, here, here and here say that the correct idiomatic expression for “adding details to an idea” is….drum roll….flesh out. Looks like I was wrong on this one. (groan.)

But wait!

Here, here, and  here, indicate that flush out means to “bring something that is hidden to the surface” (search this term on Google and you’ll find all sorts of strange references from hunting to earwax.)


Here’s some rationale for using “flush out” for specific writing tasks (because I simply can’t concede that I’m wrong):

As a copywriter, my job is to go through a big thick creative brief, brainstorm 50+ ideas, and then bring the best parts to the surface so the message is no longer hidden among the rest of the unecessary details. Therefore, I “flush out” the concept.

Totally up for debate. What do you think?

Blogging lessons from Walden Pond

I think Henry David Thoreau would have made an excellent blogger. I’m currently listening to Walden, his account from an over two year sojourn of isolated living, in a cabin he built himself, along the shores of Walden Pond, in Concord, MA in the late 1800s.

Basically, the book was born of the following perspective:

– I did something quirky

– People were curious about it

– So I wrote down why I did it and what I learned from it

Blogging basically follows the same formula. When you breathe life into the facts of an account through stories and personal experiences, you form a connection with the reader. Readers enjoy feeling connected, so they read more.

Now, Thoreau does have some long-winded pontifications, and learning the art of concise communication is another important aspect of successful blogging. But the essence of your account can still be obtained.

Take for example a more modern day account of simplifying your life. Andrea Dickson over at WiseBread gives an interesting perspective on why she doesn’t own a television. It’s quirky. She explained why she did it. And she offers lessons from her experience. And the result? Over 60 comments in a week.

50 Ideas to Immediately Combat Writers Block

Help image

Writer’s block – the dreaded enemy of all authors. This post features ideas on how you can scale it, get over it, and be on your merry way in a flash.

1. Read blogs about your subject.

2. Cover your computer screen and go stream of consciousness.

3. Get some fresh air and go for a walk/run.

4. Visit a museum.

5. Browse photos at

6. Interview people regarding your topic.

7. Visit an online forum and see what others are saying.

8. Change your scenery. Move your writing to a coffee shop or park.

9. Look around your house and make associations with inanimate objects.

10. Organize your workspace. A clear desk means a clear mind.

11. Draw instead using storyboards.

12. Ask a question to your network on LinkedIn or Facebook.

13. Take a bubble bath.

14. Go to a busy place and people watch.

15. Meet with other writers using

16. Mind map your subject.

17. Browse Youtube for videos regarding your subject.

18. Go to the library and check out books.

19. Use the visual thesaurus to get ideas for new words.

20. Talk to a kid.

21. Stare out a window.

22. Record yourself talking – then transcribe your thoughts.

23. Go to itunes or napster. Type your subject into the search box & listen to those songs.

24. Paint or draw a picture of your subject.

25. Cook a meal that your character or target market would enjoy.

26. Take a nap.

27. Outline the big picture.

28. Write about your goals for this project.

29. Meditate.

30. Work backwards. Write the ending first.

31. Read inspiring quotes.

32. Listen to “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield.

32. Dance.

33. Look at a lava lamp.

34. Write a list of nouns synonymous with your subject.

35. Write a list of adjectives that describe your subject.

36. Write a list of verbs that your subject would do.

37. Lie down in a patch of grass & watch the clouds go by.

38. Call a friend or family member and get their opinion.

39. Braindump all of your “to dos” onto a piece of paper to clear your mind.

40. Eat a stalk of celery.

41. Paint your toenails a pretty pink. Not your thing? Try using a powertool to make something.

42. Sing at the top of your lungs.

43. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths.

44. Stretch.

45. Balance your chakras.

46. Visit & expand your vocabulary

47. Change your font or writing instrument.

48. Work on a different project.

49. Change the lighting in your room.

50. Add your idea in the comment section below, bookmark this page & reference it again the next time you have writers block.

Related Links

Top 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block – by Ginny Wiehardt

Overcoming Writer’s Block: 5 Writing Exercises – by Genevieve Thiers

Generating Story Ideas and Overcoming Writer’s Block – by Mignon Fogarty

Increase Brand Awareness with Clever Copy in the Nooks & Crannies

Hiding in the corners beneath the bold headlines, under the compelling benefit statements, and around the action-packed verbs are bountiful opportunities to inject your brand with personality. A recent trend is “nooks & crannies copy” as I’m calling it, because it often pops up in unexpected places. Here are three examples:

1. Yahoo Chat

Yahoo Chat Screenshot \

While it may be difficult to see in this picture, Yahoo has brilliantly introduced humor into their chat feature. Between the conversation above and the text box below is the status report indicating if the other person is typing a message. However, instead of a plain and boring “Apple123 is typing a message….”, yahoo has sprinkled clever anecdotes such as:

  • Apple123 really should learn to type with more than two fingers…
  • Apple123 is about to drop knowledge…
  • Apple123 is hammering out a wicked comeback…
  • Bate your breath, Apple123 is typing…

among a plethora of others.

While not directly selling anything, introducing conversational wit in this unexpected place allows Yahoo! to showcase their brand’s personality. It gives the user the impression that Yahoo! is a fun, easy to work with company that doesn’t take itself to seriously.

2. Verizon Wireless

Verizon Highspeed Internet Loading Icon

Located directly before a purchasing decision, this otherwise overlooked loading page has been transformed into a mini flash ad that reinforces the product’s effectiveness right before the sale. The ad shows an animated film strip loaded with a series of technological leaps. The last one, “From Dial Up…To High Speed Internet” subtly suggests “You wouldn’t live in a cave, would you? Then why on earth would you have dial up?” An effective suggestion, I would imagine.

3. You Need a Budget (YNAB)

YNAB screenshot

Jesse Mecham, the developer of YNAB, tells the story of how he and is wife needed a personal budgeting system. They developed a simple excel spreadsheet that over the years has developed into a sophisticated yet user-friendly budgeting tool. While the site has been dramatically improved on the design side, Jesse still maintains the heartfelt honesty in his conversational copy, as evidenced by the “Download Update” screen for his product. He is an accountant, and occasionally a grammatical error will pop up in his copy, but it doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to the bottom line. His conversational style is obviously effective due to the growth and endorsements of YNAB.

Related Links

Three Tips to Make Your Copy Conversational – by Mila Sidman

How to Make the Online Sales Copy for Your Website More Conversational – by Evelyn Lim

The Right Way to Write Sales Copy – by Anthony Vicenza

10 Tactics for Top-Notch Testimonials

Testimonials – the magical way to turn boasting into evangelism. Sure, they’re effective – and their use is hyped in every corner of marketing communications. But just how do you go about gathering them? Here are 10 ideas:

1. Have something worth talking about. Having a mediocre product that simply meets expectations encourages silence. People talk about something that is either 1) really awful or 2) really amazing. The closer you are to the middle, the less chatter you hear.

2. Put a feedback button on your website. Encourage your customers to send you their opinions – regardless of whether they’re “good” or “bad”. In truth, they’re all good.

3. Give to get. The networking organization BNI hypes the benefits of “givers gain”. And it’s true. Give colleagues a well-written testimonial and ask for one in return.

4. Use LinkedIn. Log in to your LinkedIn account and under the “Service Providers” tab at the top left click on “Request a Recommendation”.

5. Paraphrase & e-mail. When a client gives you a verbal testimonial, send a friendly e-mail thanking them for the conversation, paraphrasing what you heard and requesting permission to use their testimonial.

6. Give stories the spotlight. Weight Watchers encourages participants to submit success stories. Stories sell. Bragging bores.

7. Market research sweepstakes. Give respondents a prize for completing a survey about your company. Prizes encourage response rates.

8. Ask for specifics. When writing a survey, break down large, open-ended questions into bite-sized, directive questions which are more likely to receive a response.

9. Give credit. Did a great idea come from customer submitted feedback? Share the credit to entice readers to share their opinions.

10. Strength in numbers. When requesting testimonials, ask for quantitative data. For example, “After hiring Randy, my profit increased by 20%” or “Gina helped reduce my production time from 2 weeks to 3 days.”

Related Links

Fastread: How to Get Testimonials for Your Product by WorkatHomeChannel

How to Get Quality Testimonials by Mike Williams

5 Tips for Getting Freakin’ Awesome Testimonials by Brent Hodgson

10 Ways to Become a Writer (That Gets Paid)

If you’re looking to transition your love of writing from hobby to vocation, keep reading – this post is just for you.

1. Own Your Talent – You are a writer. No matter how listless and gray your cubicle is, or how many people tell you “that would never work”, your passion is the fuel that will drive your career. Whenever you are in doubt, say to yourself (out loud if possible) “I am a talented writer and am in the process of building my successful career.”

Action: Check out The Secret for an emotional jump start.

2. Pick a Niche – Trying to be everything to everyone makes you nothing to nobody. Instead of trying to be a Jill-of-all-trades, pick a passion and write about that. Do you want to be a travel writer? a food critic? a copywriter? a fashion writer? a business writer? a sports writer? Owning a niche also helps others connect you with employers more easily.

Action: Start a blog about something you’re passionate about and use it as part of your portfolio.

3. Will Write for __________. While I am not necessarily an advocate for giving your writing away (see below for pro bono work), writing for barter is an effective way to beef up your portfolio without feeling like you’ve sold out your talent. When I first started, I bartered with a nutritionist, a life coach and a couple other services so that I could get my career off the ground. (Disclaimer: there are specific tax implications for working on barter and I would suggest discussing them with your accountant.)

Action: Write a list of services that you’d use given the opportunity. Keep your eyes peeled. You never know when an opportunity will come your way.

4. Pack Your Portfolio. As a writer, your portfolio is one of the most important tools of your trade. Pack it with your best work, testimonials from clients and visuals. Organize it based on category. For example, mine is a red, leather-bound three ring binder (office store under $15) with tabs labeled: Testimonials, Direct Mail, Web Copy, Press Releases, Fliers, Advertisements, and Articles.

Action: Purchase a high quality portfolio and nice, heavy paper to print your writing.

5. A Testament to Testimonials. In addition to the testimonials in the front of my portfolio, I also have testimonials beside their respective project. It helps reinforce the success of a particular piece and is a major selling point for using my skills.

Action: Send out a request for testimonials to all of your clients. No clients? Try friends, teachers, or family.

6. Pro Bono Can Pay Off. Charities and non-profit organizations are constantly seeking volunteers. Offering your services to reputable organizations can help you make connections, bulk up your portfolio and give back to your community.

Action: Do a web search for organizations in your area. Contact two that you find interesting and inquire about opportunities to volunteer your writing.

7. Publish Yourself. With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to market yourself. Capitalize on networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Submit articles to aggregate sites like or And most importantly, have a blog and website to make your portfolio searchable.

Action: Set up an online portfolio using a simple web tool such as Yahoo! or

8. Make Business Cards. You are a writer, right? Then lend yourself some credibility with professional business cards. And don’t skimp on the quality. Nice, heavy stock paper with a clean design is an investment well worth the effort.

Action: Go to and order business cards with your new title.

9. Designers Are Your New Best Friends. Want to get lots of clients quickly? Attend a networking function for graphic designers with your new handy-dandy business cards. Clients often go straight to a designer when they need work – seldom do they seek out a writer. And designers usually hate writing and will be glad to refer the writing portion of the job to you.

Action: Find an area networking event geared to graphic designers. Attend, shake hands and make friends.

10. Stop Whining. Start Writing. Quit complaining that you could be something more. If you want to be a writer – write! Every day. No exceptions. Becoming a great writer takes hard work and dedication. Don’t waste your talent.

Action: Write something every day. No exceptions.

Related Links

A Few Words on Laziness and Responsibility by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Do You Call Yourself a Professional Writer? by Laura Spencer

How to Be a Professional Writer by L.C. Peterson

Becoming a Writer Seriously by Thomas Colvin

How Do You Become a Writer by Amanda Eyre Ward