THE 3 APPS YOU NEED TO WORK BETTER: EVERNOTE, DROPBOX & IFTTT

“All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else.” – Plato

Sounds pretty good! But with the increasing demands of today’s job descriptions, people are multitasking more than ever before.

Technology, used smartly, can give us a flying head start on our to-do lists. It can help us work smarter and concentrate on what’s important. It may be the ability to quickly collaborate with colleagues or programs that allow us to do creative work in completely new ways. We’re spoilt for choice, with new apps and platforms being constantly developed. But that choice can be overwhelming – which platforms should we pick?

Here are three essential apps: Evernote, Dropbox and IFTTT.

Evernote

There are whole longform blogs about how writers have set systems up to make Evernote work for them, whether it’s writing a book, or organising… everything! It’s certainly a powerful app.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Create a notebook or notebook ‘stack’ for a project and drop in everything (including images, PDFs and lists) to keep all your ideas in one place.
  • Install Evernote’s powerful Web Clipper and instantly save articles you read online to the notebook of your choice.
  • Consider upgrading to a Premium subscription and be able to access all your notes and notebooks offline, on any device – handy if you are a fan of working on the plane.

Dropbox

For most people working in the cloud, Dropbox is a lifesaver. Its file-sharing and storage facilities are powerful and easy-to-use and its free account may well provide all the features you need.

Apart from storing and sharing, one of its handiest uses for people on-the-go is the ability to preview files – whether on computer or mobile. Say you’re emailed a Photoshop file to preview, but you don’t have the right program to open it. No problems – preview it in Dropbox. The same goes if you’re on a mobile device and you need to open a PDF or Word file.

Check out some of Dropbox’s other hidden features here.

Automate, automate, automate: IFTTT

When discussing the future of how we work, automation is a hot topic. From robots to simple formulas, everyone from Fortune-500 companies right through to freelance writers are looking for ways to maximise efficiency and cut time spent on simple tasks. And the time saved can be significant. McKinsey estimates that 10 – 15 per cent of a marketing executive’s time could be automated by adapting current technology.

Robots aside, who doesn’t want to shift some of the more repetitive, manual tasks off their plate and leave time for the more important, creative tasks?

Introducing, IFTTT. Wondering about the acronym? It’s an abbreviation of ‘If This Then That’. The free platform connects to hundreds of services to let you create conditional statements, or ‘recipes’, to automate tasks for you. You can use it in your browser, or in one of their apps.

For example, you might employ the powerful Evernote/IFTTT combo to automate publishing some of your blog posts. IFTTT syncs with several online publishing platforms – here are some examples:

Or maybe you want to keep track of your writing ideas? No problem – use IFTTT to automatically generate your very own content repository.

Dropbox also fares well with IFTTT. A favourite hack is being able to sync files between Dropbox and Evernote – handy if you prefer to work in your Evernote notebooks, but also need files in Dropbox to share with clients or an agency. Here are some other recipes worth checking out:

Evernote and Dropbox are powerful platforms. Using IFTTT to bring them together makes them even greater. And, used cleverly, they can help you escape from meddling with your to-do list when you need to focus on your occupation – taking a little inspiration from Plato.

 

There is no doubt that blog writing done properly can be great for business. However, it’s pointless putting in the time and effort if you are bereft of readers. In this post, The Copy Collective’s Andrew Healey explains three simple steps for building your blog audience.

1. Know your audience

Blogging is an integral part of content marketing. And like any marketing, it pays to know whom you are marketing to.

The founder of Copyblogger, Brian Clark, says this about blogging:

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.”

He’s right on the money, so be clear about who your audience is.

  • What do they want to know about your products/services?
  • What problems do they face?
  • What kind of language do they use?
  • How well-educated are they?

This kind of information will guide the content and style of your blog writing.

2. Call to action

Blog posts shouldn’t be ‘salesy’. However, there’s no harm in including a call to action. What do you want your readers to do?

Types of calls to action

  • Subscribe — ask readers to subscribe to your blog. This way they’ll receive an email notification every time you publish a post. Another way to gain subscribers is by offering free giveaways, like e-books and white papers.
  • Share — ask readers to share on social media if they like your post. There are plenty of plugins available. A personal favourite is Social Warfare, which enables you to include social icons throughout your post.
  • Comments — asking for comments encourages engagement and demonstrates to visitors that you have a real audience. Social media maven Mark Schaefer says comments let you know what people think within your community, rather than other places on the internet. Make sure comments add to the conversation. There are still lots of spammers out there.

3. Promote on social media

Creating a post tailored to your audience is just the beginning. The next step for building your blog audience is the promotion.

Social media

For most bloggers, social media is highly effective for promoting their posts. Be sure to use the right sites. There are a multitude to choose from, so you can waste a lot of time. Does your audience use LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook? Do they avoid social media altogether? If you know your audience, this should be easy to figure out.

How to use social media

Social media is not a forum to ‘blow your trumpet’. Rather, it’s about sharing and adding value. Don’t be that person at a party who talks only about themselves and never listens. Social media is about a conversation.

Simple steps

  • Promote your blog post — on LinkedIn, for example – you can do this by copying your post’s URL and pasting it in ‘update status’. LinkedIn, and Google+ also enable you to publish on their platforms. However, to build your blog audience and your website’s search engine authority, I recommend publishing on your website and using social media as a tool to drive people there. When you get to managing several social media assets to promote your blog, you may need to use a tool like HootSuite or Buffer.
  • Read, share and comment — read posts by your connections that are relevant to your business. Then, share and comment. This enables you to start a conversation and encourages your connections to reciprocate with your posts.
  • Reply to comments — as I’ve already said, social media is about a conversation. If someone posts a comment or question on something you’ve posted, make sure you reply.
  • Make connections — this could be with potential clients. However, connecting with businesses that deal with the same people you are targeting is an effective way to generate referrals.

Keep it up

Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics, says this about blog writing:

“If you want to continually grow your blog, you need to learn to blog on a consistent basis.”

So, on a final note, remember that building a blog audience takes time and determination. Keep it up.

 

August, it seems, is the Month of Romance Awareness. The furthest it can get from February and Valentine’s Day, August is now the month of love. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but maybe it isn’t.

Either way should we be letting calendars dictate when we allow romance into our lives?

Jim Butcher – co-author and owner of the blog MrAndMrsRomance.com – writes about travel, food and lifestyle and is all about bringing romance to your everyday.

The site has taken Jim and his wife Christina all over the world, writing with romance along the way.

Here are some insights from Jim into what it takes to blog.

Why do you write MrAndMrsRomance.com?

My wife Christina and I started this site initially because we travel quite a lot, and we wanted to have a record of our adventures together.

We also wanted to start a kind of ‘he said, she said’ platform to start discussions. The travel, food and lifestyle areas online are quite saturated, but there aren’t many publications written by couples for couples.

We’ve developed our site to be a resource for people looking for inspiration on ways to fill their stomachs or their passports.

Most of all, we do it because we love it. Creating new stories to share with people that will help or inspire them is a great gig.

 

What do you focus on?

Our focus is on bringing romance to your every day, so August being the Month of Romance Awareness is right on brand for us.

Romance doesn’t have to be about the big or traditional gestures. It’s more about the small things; giving each other time, doing simple things with one another, living life together and enjoying each other’s company.

Most of all, we try to avoid the cheesiness that’s synonymous with the word romance. We try to evoke an ‘ah!’ and a nod rather than an ‘aw!’ and a shrug.

 

What goes into writing a blog post?

All articles – wherever they’re published – need to be at least one of three things: entertaining, educational or empowering. If they’re more than one of these, that’s great.

The key to engaging people quickly online is with pictures. As much as we can, we use our own images and edit them to look as good as possible.

We mostly use Snapseed to edit photos and Wordswag for text. Wordswag also has a great selection of free images from Pixabay. These are both phone and tablet apps and are much easier to use than Photoshop.

Images exemplify, but they also break-up text too. With so many people reading from their phones and tablets these days, we try to steer clear of writing blocks of text. A four-sentence chunk of text is too much for people to take in, so we keep our paragraphs to three sentences max.

We only ever write about things we’ve done or seen or tasted. Our readers come back to us because of the relationship we’ve built with them.

We like to occupy the positive part of the internet. If we don’t like something, we just don’t write about it. We give constructive criticism and realistic reviews, but we’re not in the business of slating things or people.

We always finish a post with a question or two, inviting our readers to share their experiences. It’s a great way to make readers feel active in the relationship we’re developing.

Jim also wrote 5 Tips for Creating Content to Make Your Website Win.

 

Who is your target audience?

Although our content is aimed at couples between the ages of 28-40 with a reasonable income, we have a much wider readership. We don’t give relationship or dating advice, and we don’t write to exclude.

We talk about the places we go and the things we eat, and we usually mention what dynamic would best suit the destination or venue. However, we don’t see why romance should be limited to a holding hands moment at sunset with your life partner. I mean we’ve all heard the term ‘bro-mance’, right?

The love you feel for your friends is still love after all.

 

How do you measure success?

There are a few ways to measure success in online journalism.

Google Analytics, social media reach data, brand interest, receiving awards, being listed and media attention all suggest success to some degree.

Being known as an authority in the field you write about would probably be the ultimate success for a blog. Our friends Caz and Craig Makepeace have been writing Y-Travel Blog for many years now. They were recently invited to the Whitehouse to meet the President, which is just amazing.

Success is a tough one to measure though. I think all the time we’re providing useful, entertaining information to people, we’re winning a bit more every day.

 

As every parent knows, traveling with children has its delights and its obstacles. But as The Copy Collective contributor Ursula Dwyer discovers, it can be your fellow travelers – not your children – who make or break the experience.

Shrieking children on a long-haul flight seldom engender generosity of spirit in fellow travelers.

So with understandable resignation I dragged aboard my overtired two-year-old, who was screaming blue murder for no discernible reason, and prepared to endure the usual serving of surly glances and unconcealed displeasure.

But this time my neighbour was a truly gorgeous creature.

She nudged my near-hysterical daughter conspiratorially, pointed to a mouth-watering cake in her magazine, and with great deliberation pretended to extract it from the page and cram it greedily into her mouth.

My daughter froze mid-tantrum, fascinated, as she proceeded to chew enthusiastically, swallow convincingly, and smack her lips contentedly.

Blessed silence!

Casually, she continued flicking through her magazine, gasping loudly when she spied an enormous platter of tropical fruit. She grinned excitedly at my spellbound (still silent!) daughter and pretend-shoveled every last morsel into her mouth, slurping and gulping delightedly.

A giggle! From my daughter! Her little arm tentatively emerged to secure a handful of imaginary grapes and shyly pretend to eat them.

The game continued until, sated with make-believe food and very real fun, my daughter finally slept.

I mouthed a heartfelt “thank you” and pondered the rarity of such simple kindness.

Blogging can be more challenging than you realise – especially if you haven’t set yourself up right first. Mr Romance at The Copy Collective, Jim Butcher, dishes out some useful tips, tricks and trade secrets to guide you through the early stages of running a blog.

 Scrolling through glamorous photos of laptops and macarons on Instagram you could think that blogging was easy. What you don’t see in those perfectly styled images is the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
Blogging can be a lonely profession too as you’re working on your own the majority of the time. Once you reach out and find your tribe online you really start to reap the rewards of blogging. Not only does blogging develop your writing skills, it can be cathartic, a creative outlet and bring new friendships and community.

With that in mind, here are the top 25 things I wish I’d known before I started blogging:

    1. Don’t wait for ‘the perfect moment’ to start blogging. Just write.
    2. Get to know other bloggers online – or in person if you can. Look for local meet-ups.
    3. Write from personal experience, not from press releases or regurgitated news items.
    4. You don’t have to write 1,000 word essays. Short is sweet in ‘the bloggersphere’!
    5. Try to keep paragraphs to three sentences max. The way people read online is different to hard copy.
    6. Start an editorial calendar so you can plan your content.
    7. Write offline then upload into your blog. Internet connections can fail so keep a backup.
    8. Carry a notepad. You never know when blogging ideas will strike.
    9. Write your ‘about’ page first. Make it interesting and include a photo.
    10. Don’t over-complicate the design of your site. Don’t use too much colour, don’t centre-align your text and images, and don’t use light text on dark background.
    11. Use at least two images per post. 
    12. Create your own images as much as possible.
    13. Format your images so they’re all the same width – match the image size to the width of your paragraphs. I use 600pxl across.
    14. Watermark your images, but keep the watermark small, in a corner and transparent.
    15. If you’re using other people’s photos, always check copyright restrictions and credit them.
    16. Picmonkey and Polyvore are your best friends for image editing. Picmonkey is a free online ‘photoshop’ suite, Polyvore lets you create flatlay collages of images.
    17. Embed Instagram videos into your site (go to Instagram, click on the three dots next to your video and select ‘Embed’. Copy and paste the code into your blog!)
    18. If you’re not sure which social media platform to focus on, go where your audience is.
    19. Don’t try and use all social media platforms – there are too many. Choose two or three, and focus on getting your voice out on them. I focus on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Though Twitter and Google+ are also becoming quite useful.
    20. Treat each social media platform like a mini blog that’s part of your main blog.
    21. Own your own domain: buy the .com of your blog name.
  • There are lots of blogging platforms but WordPress offers the most flexibility – especially if you think (or hope) that your site will grow.
  • Comment on other people’s blogs. They’re likely to comment back, and that starts a relationship.
  • Go to blogging conferences and talks. The community is one of the best bits of blogging.
  • Don’t expect oodles of traffic coming to your site on the first day. Or even the second! Just keep going – write it and they will come!

The most important thing to remember is to have fun! Blogging can be incredibly enjoyable, so don’t sweat the small stuff. You’re bound to make mistakes; just treat them as a learning curve and you’ll get so much more out of it.
Good luck and happy blogging!

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