How to run effective (and shorter) meetings

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Meetings can be a real bore and, if not run properly, are guaranteed to waste a good chunk of your precious work day. We’ve all been in unfocussed meetings that go on several tangents, don’t produce any results, and only wrap up once someone starts complaining they’re hungry because the meeting has run over time….as usual.

Meetings don’t need to be this way! We’ve put together some tried and tested tips to help you run more effective meetings so you can get back to online shopping running the world.

Keep it exclusive
Keep your guest list small and only invite people who really need to be there. Sometimes you’ll find three representatives from one department present when only one was needed. The name of the game here is efficiency.

Bonus tip: if you’ve been invited to a meeting that you don’t need to attend, don’t be afraid to politely decline. If you’re not a key decision maker, skip it and do something more productive.

Always have an agenda
Concisely outline everything you need to cover in a meeting, including clear goals or outcomes that the meeting needs to achieve. This will ensure everyone is on the same page (literally) and serve as a tool to keep the meeting on track.

Write the agenda up in advance and send it out to your colleagues so they can prep and bring their ideas to the table.

Bonus tip: if you run regular meetings where you need others to contribute to the agenda, keep the document somewhere that everyone can add to it themselves rather than emailing you (you’ve got better things to do). Asana is a great tool for this.

Assign a chairperson and timekeeper
Keep the team on task with a chairperson to halt any discussion that doesn’t further the meeting goals and ensure everyone sticks to the agenda. They will also act as timekeeper to end the meeting on time (yes, it’s possible!) and recap any action points before everyone leaves the room.

Bonus tip: shorter meetings can create a sense of urgency and force everyone to focus so if you only need 20 minutes, only schedule 20 minutes, not 45mins ‘just in case’.

Tomi is a journalist, communications specialist and social media enthusiast. You can follow her at @tomiellis0.

Free tools to help you master social media

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We all need a little help now and then, and nowhere have we found this truer than in the world of social media.

There are so many online (and free!) tools to help you automate, organise, and pimp your social media content. Here are a few of our faves:

  • Hootsuite – draft and schedule social media posts in this customisable dashboard so your social media need never sleep (even if you need to!). You can also reply directly to messages from here.
  • Canva – makes it super easy to create new graphics for your social media or blog. Some images or options do have a small fee but you can easily avoid these if you’re on a tight budget.
  • PicMonkey – great for simple editing. It’s especially handy for cropping or resizing images.
  • Mailchimp – link your social media to your email marketing campaigns through Mailchimp. So easy to use and free for up to 2000 subscribers. It can even auto-tweet or Facebook post your enews.
  • Grammarly – typos are embarrassing and can potentially lead to your message getting lost. Enter, Grammarly. This free browser extension will check your posts for errors to make sure your message is loud and clear. 
  • VCOS – a user-friendly app that you can use to quickly edit your photos. You can upload to your social media directly from the app.

Have any different favourite tools you love to use? We’d love to hear from you!

Tomi is a journalist, communications specialist and social media enthusiast. You can follow her at @tomiellis0.

How to save time on your social media like a boss

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Social media is an amazing tool, letting you reach a huge number of people with the click of a button. It can, however, also be a bit of a black hole for your time. So how do you build up your presence on social media and use your time effectively?

Pick your platforms
The most important step in your businesses social media plan is choosing the right platforms. There are multiple platforms out there but there’s no need to stretch yourself thin across all of them. Pick a couple of platforms based on where your audience is ‘hanging out’ and what your social media goals are. Read our breakdown on the most popular channels here.

Establish a routine
Check your channels at certain times of the day and schedule in time to respond directly to messages (make it a meeting in your diary so you can’t put it off – quick responses are vital). It might also help to check your platforms in the same order each morning so that you don’t accidentally miss anything.

Plan your content
A content calendar is the best way to plan what you’re going to post, when you’re going to post it, and what platforms you’re going to post on. Make sure to include your image ideas and any links in your calendar – often images are one of the most time-consuming things to find!

Schedule everything
Schedule your content weekly or monthly depending on your business and you’ll have more time to curate external content and reply to messages. There are plenty of scheduling tools available to help you out here; our favourite is Hootsuite.

Measure your success not everything
If you try to record too many statistics, you might find yourself overwhelmed. Stick to monitoring the information that is useful to your goals to stop yourself from getting lost in all the numbers and pretty graphs.

Have a procedure for complaints and emergencies
To stop you wasting time panicking or figuring out what to do if something does go awry on your social media, make sure you have an action plan in place before it happens. The size and type of your business will dictate what this looks like.

Have any other tips that save you serious time on your social media game? Let us know!

Tomi is a journalist, communications specialist and social media enthusiast. You can follow her at @tomiellis0.

The social media channels you should be using

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Social media is an accessible and affordable way for you to grow your brand reputation, extend your reach, increase traffic to your website, and better your customer service, but it’s important to choose the right platforms for your audience to achieve this.

Figuring out what channels your audience are using before you start posting means you will get the most bang for your buck and not waste your time on channels that aren’t likely to work.

We’ve put together a brief overview of the most popular social media channels below to help you figure out which ones are right for you.

Facebook
Facebook is the most popular channel by far; there are over 2 billion monthly active users on Facebook and this number is still growing!

Many people are now searching for companies directly on Facebook so it’s worth having an active presence here, plus it’s a fantastic way to communicate with your customers.

Users are approximately 50/50 male and female and cover all ages over 18 years.

It’s also very affordable to advertise through Facebook to a targeted audience.

Twitter
Short and sweet is the name of the game on Twitter and, like most social media, images are key. Tweets with images receive 18% more clicks than Tweets without images.

There are 317 million users worldwide on Twitter, with 37% of users between 18 and 29 years old and 25% of users between 30 and 49 years old.

There are slightly more males than females on Twitter. 29% of internet users with college degrees are using the platform.

Instagram
Instagram is all about the perfect picture so you’ll need to be creative on this one to get some attention.

It’s most popular with younger females between 18 and 29 years old, with a total of 600 million users; 400 million of who are active daily.

Make sure you use hashtags to help your engagement. Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average almost 13% more engagement than those without.

LinkedIn 
LinkedIn is a professional networking site with more than 450 million user profiles (39% of who pay for monthly premium accounts).

The split of male and female users is quite even with slightly more male users than female.

13% of millennials (15-34 years) use LinkedIn and it’s most popular for job seeking and long-form articles.

YouTube
If video content is your thing then you should definitely be on YouTube; it’s one of the most popular websites in the world.

Male and female viewers are on par with slightly more males than females.

There are pockets within Youtube for all ages but the site is especially popular with 18 to 44-year-olds.

A good intro is vital for your videos; approximately 20% of the people who start your video will leave after the first 10 seconds (we never said social media was easy!).

Pinterest
While many people still view Pinterest as a bit of fun rather than a serious social networking site, the stats are proving Pinterest is increasingly becoming a valuable business tool.

It now has over 150 million monthly active users and some studies have shown over 90% of users use the platform to plan or make purchases.

67% of users are under 40 years old and many of these make a higher average income than non-users.

While these are the big fish in the Australian social media sea, there are plenty more social media websites. If you use different platforms, we’d love to hear from you!

Tomi is a journalist, communications specialist and social media enthusiast. You can follow her at @tomiellis0.

Getting creative with Misty from Bubba Lubba

As an early childhood teacher and mother to three-year-old daughter Tatum, Misty Bouwer is certainly busy. But it doesn’t stop her from pursuing her creative dreams on the side. Discovering a love for sewing, Misty started a handmade children’s clothing and décor company. Featuring delicate bibs and bows and everything in between, she’s now set up her business entitled Bubba Lubba online. With almost 500 friends and followers combined on Facebook, Misty is kicking it in the craft world.
We interviewed Misty to get an idea of how she turned something she loved into something even more awesome…
Can you tell us a little bit about Bubba Lubba and how it started?
Bubba Lubba Boutique came about after having my daughter. I’m an early childhood teacher so am used to being extremely busy! Once we’d settled into a routine and I was on maternity leave, I decided to pursue other creative interests. I was already a huge supporter of handmade, having found many lovely stores and even lovelier ladies running them on Instagram. I had sewn quite a lot when I was younger and continued to do small projects here and there. However, the time at home and a gorgeous baby girl renewed my interest. Having always been quite crafty, I also expanded this into custom decor such as customised plaster letters, matryoshkas and peg dolls.
What process do you undertake to make your clothing products? 
Basically I find patterns from various sources and fabrics that I like and would put my children in and go from there. I then run ideas past my extremely supportive insta-group of other handmaidens, creating all manner of things, and get their opinions and feedback. If its a new pattern I’ll also send a few samples to either reps or friends to ensure that the fit is right.  I like to do a limited number of each item as that was what drew me to handmade in the first place, the uniqueness and love put into each piece.
How long does it take and where do you source the materials from?
This depends on the item. Custom pieces generally take the longest as I spend time searching for special fabrics and trims to ensure a unique, one of a kind piece. A simple item such as a basic skirt can be done in about half an hour whilst something more complex, like a lined fitted dress with a twirl skirt takes much longer.
Do you just wing it when it comes to making them or do you go off a template?
I use patterns from several places, sometimes ‘mashing’ two together to create something a little more different.
How do you market your business? Is it mainly by word of mouth?
At present I mainly utilise Instagram and word-of-mouth locally. I am about to do a re-launch with exciting changes, so I will be utilising several different platforms in order to promote this.
For more information on Bubba Lubba, follow the Facebook page here. 

Getting your Creative Groove Back

Nowadays everyone wants to push the boundaries, think outside the box, make it to the next level and get their creative juices flowing. I won’t bore you with more overused clichés and ‘buzzwords’ – you get the picture. At work this is commonly the case. Employers push employees to come up with the ideal vision for a project in the most new, exciting, engaging and creative way possible; without stopping to think that a stroke of genius doesn’t come from good directional leadership.

The beauty of having the ability to be creative comes from a natural reservoir for curiosity and broader thinking. The same way you exercise your muscles to keep in shape, so can your creative perspective. Yet what does it mean to be creative? The standard definition describes the art of creativity to relate or involve the use of your imagination or original ideas to create something. Ah, the timeless desire to come up with the next one-of-a-kind idea.

There are multiple ways to be original and creative, and that is rooted in the being yourself and showcasing your personality in your own unique style. So how can you reign in your inner creative guru? Here are our top three pics of how to get your groove back:

  • Get disciplined; ironic as it may seem, setting aside time for yourself is the first step to getting back to a relaxed and idea-flowing mind-set
  • Say ‘ohhhmm’ and meditate; sure, it’s sounds boring at first with all that sitting still and deep breathing but finding a bit of inner peace can help you find thoughts you didn’t know you had
  • Stare and daydream; sit under a tree and look at the clouds, and simply let your mind meander
  • Get your coloured pencils; colouring books have certainly made a come-back, with cool and intricate patterns for you to fall into
  • Think inside the box; yes, you read that right – instead of thinking completely differently about something, build on those already-useful ideas in new ways
  • Pick another project; focusing all your energy on one thing may create a mental block (hello, writer’s block…) you’re bound to get stuck into – ‘distracting’ yourself with other little things on the side can effectively ease this and regain your focus

These are only some of the things that can bring back some time to get back to your creative roots.

Let us know how you get creative!

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina.

Why Email isn’t Great for Productivity

 

Mail has changed its form multiple times over the years from telegrams to handwritten notes, to our most recent invention of electronic mail. But are we reaching a point of email fatigue?

There’s no doubt that email has transformed the inner workings of today’s organisations, limiting the amount of face-to-face conversations taking place between departments and allowing for recipients to respond whenever they are able to. Email is thus great for non-time sensitive matters, and everyone knows how to use it; although not everyone knows how to use it well.

Let’s face it, email isn’t great for productivity. Ask yourself this; how many times have you stopped what you were doing to check your inbox, or your phone every time it ‘pings’ fearing it’s a time sensitive matter, only to find that it was either nothing important at all or that it was someone else’s phone? It’s a distraction that disconnects you from your work.

Think of all the emails you get per day; it’s an avalanche with your name on it, and you hoping it will get sorted before it’s ‘time to go home’ o’clock. Throughout this process it becomes more and more difficult to separate important messages from noise, and so we fall into the trap of being part of the 39% of people, who regularly check, send and receive emails outside of working hours.

However, there are ways to regain your productive self at work:

  • Create filters: this is easy to do – you just need to delve into your mailbox settings. Filters will help you get organised and stop emails from clogging up your inbox.
  • Set aside specific times throughout the day to deal with them; don’t go back to thinking to check them ‘real quick’, otherwise you’ll get sucked in again.
  • Turn off notifications: these annoying pings and distracting flashes take away your focus.
  • Keep them short and sweet: emails should get straight to the point. Don’t waffle!

One more thing – most people go overboard with the CC function ‘just to keep you in the loop’, so don’t feel like you have to be part of every conversation.

You can do this!

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina.

Mastering MailChimp

Email – it’s the glue that holds our digital communications together.  It’s part of our standard business cards and contact information, and it’s how we reach millions of people all around the world. Making international communications, and sending out various elements of information to customers easier, we left our email system as it was. That is until an email marketing company came along and made some changes to how we interact with our customer base and engage them in our businesses.

MailChimp has grown into the leader of the email pack in the concrete jungle, becoming the world’s leading email marketing platform. MailChimp’s primary functionality is its newsletters and how you can customise their templates and make your email newsletters truly personal.

Nothing beats getting to know a new program than by having the time to play around with it and figure everything out; but sometimes all we need is some tips on how to get started and then go on to mastering another skill. We’ve gone out to find the best tips and tricks to take note of the next time you want to use MailChimp to send out another awesome newsletter:

  • Segment your list for targeted marketing; Creating marketing segments is a great solution for making sure your audience is receiving the content that appeals to them. Not every user likes everything your business has to offer and you don’t want to bombard them with emails that don’t appeal to them.
  • Create and import your subscriber list; successful email marketing starts with your subscriber list. Open rates, click through rates, and most importantly – results – are all directly impacted by who is receiving and taking action on your emails.
  • Utilise the drag and drop email templates; MailChimp’s drag and drop editor is a great way to avoid code and build a nice-looking HTML email template.
  • Make use of the preview and test tool; Prior to sending your campaign, it’s crucial to use MailChimp’s Preview and Test tool to see if your email is optimised for mobile devices. This simple Preview tool has saved me many times. The last thing you want to do is send an email that can’t be read on a mobile device.
  • Set the time with the time optimisation feature; MailChimp has created a tool that analyses your subscriber click activity history to see when they’re typically the most engaged in your campaigns. MailChimp then compares that data to every other subscriber in your list. From this information, the Send Time Optimisation feature is able to calculate the time when subscribers on your list are most likely to interact with your campaigns.

Happy mailing!

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina

Snap, Crackle and Pop – What’s so Cool about Snapchat?

Technology has opened the world to new opportunities and possibilities, and given us the freedom to experiment with new ways of communicating with each other. As much as we’re trend setters, we love to follow trends and hop on the bandwagon of whatever’s ‘in-the-now’. Our favourite apps like Twitter and Instagram serve the purpose of keeping us informed in 140 characters or less, and showcasing our photography skills with filtered pictures of our daily adventures. But what about Snapchat?

The app, known by its infamous ghost icon, became our new accessory in 2011 and made taking selfies a lot more fun. Designed to establish ‘in-the-moment’ conversations, with messages that disappear and photo stories that only last for 24 hours, Snapchat has restructured the way we communicate with friends once again.

We, in the younger generations, have found a new and creative way of letting friends know what we’re up to, where we are, and (this is mostly the case) how we’re simply passing the time. With filters, such as dog ears and flower headbands, and location tags, you’d be amazed at how much faster the time flies.

Here are our top five picks for why Snapchat is cool:

  1. Custom and creative; you can take a picture of something in front of you or a selfie and write a caption to it or add some emojis to express your Snap-happy moment, which makes the process of sharing an experience even more personal
  2. Filters; take a break from the everyday look and try a filter of a dog, complete with folded ears and a button-cute nose, to brighten up your day. Businesses make use of these features too, with the likes of McDonald’s creating interactive filters – to remind you of the burger and fries they have just down the road…
  3. Location tags; wherever you might find yourself, you can check whether there’s a location tag for the city you’re in to let friends know where you’ve travelled off to – you can find these when you take a snap and swipe left
  4. Self-destruct timers; this sounds a lot more dangerous than it really is. Instead of sending someone a photo they can go back and look at whenever they want, you can set a time for how long someone can view the picture – which gives Snapchat its feeling of inconsequentiality; shared for only a fleeting moment
  5. To send, or not to send; you get to choose who you send your Snaps to from the in-app contact list – after all, you wouldn’t want to be sending those goofy pics off to the wrong person…

These are just some of the awesome things Snapchat gives you the freedom to get creative with. Let us know what you like about Snapchat; and what better way to do that than on Snapchat itself!

You can find us Wordy Birds on Snapchat with the following username or by scanning the snapcode:

wordy-bird-snapcode

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina.

What’s All the Hype about SEOs and what does it mean?

In today’s technology-focused world everything has its own term, abbreviation and jargon. There are all these new words and their associated confusion, that we barely keep track of all of them. One of the most popular ones is SEO, which stands for search engine optimisation. In its simplest terms, an SEO is a process used to increase traffic to your website through search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo (although, who still uses Bing?). This makes SEOs fine tuned to keywords or buzzwords, which are commonly searched for on the Internet. The more of these your website has, the better and easier it will be for people to find you online.

So what’s the hype about this little abbreviation? As the business world has evolved, so have ways of reaching new and existing clients. Websites are a core staple of any business model now, and so the best way to get organic traffic to your website is through SEOs, which come from your content; things such as product information, blogs and links. In a previous blog, we talked about the importance of updating your website content to keep it fresh and full of new keywords. Keeping these up to date is is what helps to use your website SEOs better.

However, it’s important to note that making the content relevant to your specific audience, and giving them plenty of new materials to read is what drives returning visitors. This is where embedded links are part of a successful SEO campaign. These links are probably the single most important factor toward ranking for competitive search terms, and they matter just as much to established websites as to brand-new ones.   

It’s all about being seen so people out there know what your business does, and how it can make their lives better. We all want to attract the right crowd, which is going to want to look at your website and follow the story through high-resolution pictures, read all the information written up, and follow the extra links to more great content. This concept adds to the hype of what SEOs are and what they’re used for. They are the building block of a business’s strategy to reach the right people who know what they’re looking for.

Wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?

Ewelina is a communications specialist and you can follow her at @marek_ewelina.