• How to Use Pinterest to Promote Your Blog

    I never used to pay much attention to Pinterest. Sure, I pinned a few things here and there—recipes,  hairstyles, and such—but that was about it. I gave little thought to the network when drafting blog posts and creating images to go along with them.

    Then, I learned a few things about Pinterest that changed my perspective on it:

    • It boasts an impressive 70 million users at publish date
    • In the U.S., 30% of all social media users utilize Pinterest
    • Total users in the United States is expected to reach 47.1 million in 2015
    • 85% of its users are female, with a rapidly growing male population
    • The number of people who see your pins is greater than your number of followers
    • It is the top network referral source for most bloggers, ranking higher than Facebook and Twitter combined

    With these stats in mind, I decided to learn how to promote my blog using Pinterest. Now, it’s become my top source for traffic—yes, it surpasses even Twitter! If you want to replicate my social success, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

    • You need to create pinnable image. You should have at least one image per blog post, created with Pinterest optimization in mind. Choose high-quality photos and text (pins with text get more engagement than those without), and make sure your image is at least 400 pixels wide. Also, remember that vertical images perform better on Pinterest. If you want free tools to help you create images, I recommend Canva (what I use), iPiccy, and Picmonkey.
    • Be active on Pinterest. If you want to get traffic from Pinterest, you need to participate. Make several different boards, including one for your blog or niche. Follow people and spend a set amount of time each week repinning other people’s stuff, as well as your own. You won’t get much out of the network if you don’t engage.
    • Make it easy for people to pin your content. In addition to ensuring each post has a pinnable image, you should include social media links and/or a Pin It button. That way, people can add your stuff to Pinterest without hassle, even if they don’t have the Pinterest bookmarklet.

    Like any other social media network, Pinterest takes some time to get used to. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all this information, focus on spending a few minutes each day learning the network. Once you start using it to promote your blog posts, you won’t believe what a difference it makes. Whatever you do, try not to get addicted!

    Are you on Pinterest? Follow me and I would love to follow back! We can even repin each other’s blog posts. 🙂

    What do you think of Pinterest? How do you promote your blog posts?

    Tweet tweet:

    How do you feel about @Pinterest? @brianawrites explains how you can use it to drive traffic to your blog. (Click to tweet)

  • How to Come Up With Blog Post Ideas

    One of the biggest struggles of blogging involves coming up with blog post ideas. Because I blog three times a week (minimum), I often finding myself plunging the depths of the idea well. I know how hard it can be to come up with topics. In order to make the blogging process easier for you, I’m sharing some of my tips on how to come up with blog post ideas.

    Scuba Diver in the Middle of the Ocean











    I’ve tried these techniques over and over again and have gotten good results. Of course, what works for me might not work for you. Don’t feel like these are the only methods for brainstorming blog topics. In blogging as in life, you should do what works for you. Here are a few techniques I use for generating blog topics.

    • Personal experience. This is my most reliable source of blog topic inspiration. I’ve written about my own processes and routines as well as topics I’ve researched out of curiosity. I’ve noticed these posts also tend to be the most popular around here.
    • Questions. Sometimes on social media, usually on Twitter, people come to me with questions. If I have a fairly detailed answer, I’ll discuss it in a blog post. If no one comes to me with questions, I’ll ask everyone what I should write about. With that being said, if you have any questions you’d like me to answer, just let me know in the comments or on Twitter! 🙂
    • Trends in literature and popular culture. My recent vlog about FIFTY SHADES OF GREY proves that I like to write about buzzworthy topics and current events. If there’s something exciting going on with the media or literature, I might want to write a post about it.

    This is a short post, but you get the idea. When it comes to generating blog topics, try not to overthink it. The next time you’re looking for something to write about, give some of the techniques in this post a try!

    How do you come up with blog post ideas? Leave your thoughts and answers in the comments below.

    Tweet tweet:

    Struggling to come up with blog topics? @brianawrites wants to help. (Click to tweet)

  • From the Archives: Interview with Molly Ford, SP&A


    I’ve been following Molly Ford’s blog, Smart, Pretty, and Awkwardfor a few years now. I’ve loved every minute of it. The concept of the blog is simple: each post contains three bits of advice on how to be smarter, prettier, and (less) awkward. Since the simple things in life are often the most captivating, it is no wonder that Molly Ford is as successful as she is. Recently, I set up a couple of interview questions for Molly to answer. She was gracious enough to oblige. Here’s how it went:

    1. In your guest post on The Future Buzz, you talk a little bit about starting a blog. What are some tips you can give about blogging?

    Great question. My best advice that I often give is the Three Month Rule: blog for three months without telling anyone. This gives you time to find your voice in private and confirm that you really like blogging, and it also gives your readers a back log of posts to read and fall in love with for when you do start going public and promoting your blog.

    I would emphasize the importance, especially in the beginning while you are growing your audience, of writing consistently. Everything else—the layout of the site, social media promotion, press outreach, etc. can come later.

    2. In that same article, you say, “I honestly thought the blog would just be a flash in the pan, just something else I would try, but after a month or so I realized how much I was liking it and just kept writing.” What about blogging appeals to you the most?

    I think what appeals to me most about blogging is the ability to share something from my heart to an audience that I hope benefits from my writing. I never write a tip that I don’t do myself or wish I had done, so everything I write feels very personal. I like that.

    3. Also in the Future Buzz post, you discuss coming up with the idea for SP&A. Where did you get such a unique blog concept?

    I honestly wish I had a better answer for this! I knew I wanted to write an advice blog because I don’t want to put super-personal information online, and because I enjoy reading self-help books. Just focusing on “How to be Prettier,” with beauty/fashion tips, was my first thought, but that type of advice wasn’t enough to cover all the topics I was interested in, so I added How to be Smarter. Then I wanted a third topic so the site name would flow well, so I added How to be (less) Awkward to round out the set. I was originally planning for the third section to be called How to be Awkward and have the tips be tongue-in-check and the opposite of what to do, but adding in the (less) made more sense in the long run.

    4. Each post on your blog contains three pieces of advice and an inspirational quote. How do you usually discover these items?

    I write down ideas for tips all day long. I keep a super long chain of notes in my phone, as well as in a physical notebook I carry around in my bag. I also usually keep a running draft email in gmail of links I’d like to use.

    For the quotes, I usually search around for a quote either by a specific author or about a specific topic. Since the quotes are usually the most last-minute thing I include in the post, they are usually the most up-to-the-minute personal: for example, if at that moment I’m feeling happy about a good date or reading a book that references Eleanor Roosevelt, the quote will either be about happiness or relationships, or by Eleanor Roosevelt.

    5. After reading the SP&A Press page, it’s clear you’ve developed a following. How has your Internet presence affected your life?

    I think about this a lot. I think having an Internet presence has probably affected how new people interact with me, but not the people I’ve known forever. Everyone googles everyone before first dates or job interviews now, so new people probably relate to me differently based on what they have seen online, but not the friends or people I’ve met in real life first or had pre-blog.

    6.Based on your blog, you must be a very dedicated individual. How do you stay motivated?

    Probably my best tip for staying focused is: no fluff. It it doesn’t add value or make me happy, I don’t do it. There’s just not time.

    Probably the best example of no fluff in my life is that I also don’t watch (hardly any) TV. I don’t even own a TV or Netflix account or anything. I know it’s not a popular opinion to say that you don’t watch television, but I really think that not having that in my life leaves me with more free time, which I try to then use wisely.

    7. Your About page says that you live in New York City. What are your favorite and least favorite things about living in the Big Apple?

    I will cross the four-year mark of living in New York City this year, and I think I love it more than when I first moved here, which is saying a lot because I cried from happiness on my move-in day post-college. New York City is everything, the good and the bad. And there is probably nothing I could say that would be terribly unique to my experience about living here: it’s wonderful, it’s cultured, it’s full of events, it’s expensive, it’s loud, I live in a shoebox. But to paraphrase an email I sent in 2009 to a friend justifying my decision to live in NYC, “I might have anxiety from living in New York, but I would have much worse anxiety about not living here.” New York City is just the place for me. But I also want to be careful about over-romancing NYC, though: it’s not for everyone.

    But I would wish for everyone a place they love as much as I love New York. You have to find your New York.

    8. Most of your quotes come from famous individuals. Who are your personal role models?

    I love Becky Quick from Squawk Box, Bethenny Frankel, and especially Nora Ephron, who has always been my main role model. I also closely follow Sheryl Sandberg’s career and Lori Gottlieb’s writings.

    9. It’s also clear that you enjoy reading. What are some of your favorite books?

    I read mostly non-fiction, with a focus on business, pop psychology, and narrative non-fiction (memoirs, etc). Nora Ephron’s books have probably had the biggest impact on my life in my college and post-college years, but Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers was also a huge influence to me when I read it. I saw Malcolm working in a coffee shop on the east side once, that was awesome. And of course I love Gretchen Rubin…

    10. Finally, since you and I both enjoy The Happiness Project, what habits or practices have you created after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book?

    The Happiness Project was another total life-changing book for me, and I try not to use clichés like “life-changing” lightly. I just love the idea of small tweaks to make life better—that’s the sort of formula my blog is built around. One of my favorite quotes of the author’s, Gretchen Rubin, is that one of the Secrets to Adulthood is to “Be Gretchen.” I love that phrase: “Be Gretchen!”. She’s talking about it in the context of herself, obviously, but I love the idea of just doing you. There are many things I do that others probably would not enjoy, and vice versa. That’s okay. I just have to Be Molly. That’s really the only person that I can be realistically be 100% of the time anyway.

    Molly Ford is such an inspiring woman. She’s creative, kind, and self-reliant. As a role model and a person, I consider her to be someone worth admiring. If you’ve never read Smart, Pretty, and Awkwardgo check it out right now. Thanks, Molly!

    What do you think of Smart, Pretty, and Awkward? What writers or bloggers should I interview next?

    Click to tweet: Read @thecollegenov’s interview with blogger @SmartPrettyAwk! http://wp.me/p2FPLe-EM

  • From Daily Writing Tips: 34 Writing Tips That Will Make You a Better Writer

    Today’s post comes from Daniel Scocco at Daily Writing Tips. You can find the article in context here. I highly recommend that everyone have a look at this awesome resource.

    writingtipstobecomeabetterwriter.jpgA couple of weeks ago we asked our readers to share their writing tips. The response was far beyond the initial expectations, and the quality of the tips included was amazing. Thanks for everyone who contributed.

    Now, without further delay, the 34 writing tips that will make you a better writer!

    1. Daniel
    Pay attention to punctuation, especially to the correct use of commas and periods. These two punctuation marks regulate the flow of your thoughts, and they can make your text confusing even if the words are clear.

    2. Thomas
    Participate in NaNoWriMo, which challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I noticed that my writing has definitely improved over the course of the book — and it’s not even finished yet.

    3. Bill Harper
    Try not to edit while you’re creating your first draft. Creating and editing are two separate processes using different sides of the brain, and if you try doing both at once you’ll lose. Make a deal with your internal editor that it will get the chance to rip your piece to shreds; it will just need to wait some time.

    A really nice trick is to switch off your monitor when you’re typing. You can’t edit what you can’t see.

    4. Jacinta 
    In a sentence: write daily for 30 minutes minimum! It’s easy to notice the difference in a short time. Suddenly, ideas come to you and you think of other things to write. You experiment with styles and voices and words and the language becomes more familiar…

    5. Ane Mulligan 
    Learn the rules of good writing… then learn when and how to break them.

    6. Pete Bollini
    I sometimes write out 8 to 10 pages from the book of my favorite writer… in longhand. This helps me to get started and swing into the style I wish to write in.

    7. Nilima Bhadbhade 
    Be a good reader first.

    8. Douglas Davis
    While spell-checking programs serve as a good tool, they should not be relied
    upon to detect all mistakes. Regardless of the length of the article, always read and review what you have written.

    9. Kukusha
    Learn to take criticism and seek it out at every opportunity. Don’t get upset even if you think the criticism is harsh, don’t be offended even if you think it’s wrong, and always thank those who take the time to offer it.

    10. John England 
    Right click on a word to use the thesaurus. Do it again on the new word and make the best use of your vocabulary.

    11. Lillie Ammann
    After editing the work on screen or in print, I like to read the text aloud. Awkward sentences and errors that slipped through earlier edits show up readily when reading out loud.

    12. H Devaraja Rao
    Avoid wordiness. Professor Strunk put it well: “a sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

    13. David
    Write as if you’re on deadline and have 500 words to make your point. Then do it again. And again.

    14. Yvette
    Sometimes I type in a large font to have the words and sentences bold before me.

    Sometimes, in the middle of a document I will start a new topic on a fresh sheet to have that clean feeling. Then, I’ll cut and insert it into the larger document.

    I wait until my paper is done before I examine my word usage and vocabulary choices. (And reading this column it has reminded me that no two words are ever exactly alike.) So at the end, I take time to examine my choice of words. I have a lot of fun selecting the exact words to pinpoint my thoughts or points.

    15. Amit Goyal
    To be a good writer is to start writing everyday. As Mark Twain said, “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

    Try using new words. i.e avoid repeating words. this way we learn the usage of different words.
    Do edit your previous articles.

    Start with small paragraphs like writing an article for a Newspaper, and proceed from there.

    16. John Dodds 
    Remove as many adjectives as possible. Read Jack Finney’s tale, Cousin Len’s Wonderful Adjective Cellar for a fantastical tale about how a hack becomes a successful author with the help of a magical salt cellar that removes adjectives from his work.

    17. John Ireland
    I set my writing aside and edit a day or two later with the aim of making it terse. It has trained me to be more conscious of brevity when writing for immediate distribution.

    18. Jai 
    Try to write in simple way. Express your views with most appropriate words.

    19. Mark 
    Read great writers for inspiration. If you read them enough, their excellent writing style will rub off onto your dazzling blog.

    YOU ARE what you read (and write!).

    20. Caroline
    I watch my action tense and wordiness in sentences when I am writing my technical diddley.

    For example, in a sentence where you say …”you will have to…” I replace it with “…you must…”, or “Click on the Go button to…” can be replaced with “Click Go to…”.

    Think of words such as “enables”, instead of “allows you to” or “helps you to”.

    If one word will work where three are, replace it! I always find these, where I slip into conversational as I am writing quickly, then go back and purge, purge, purge.

    21. Akhil Tandulwadikar
    Don’t shy away from adopting the good habits that other writers use.

    Do not worry about the length of the article as long as it conveys the point. Of course, the fewer words you use, the better.

    Start the article with a short sentence, not more than 8 words.

    22. Julie Martinenza
    Instead of adding tags (he said/she said) to every bit of dialogue, learn to identify the speaker by showing him/her in action. Example: “Pass that sweet-smelling turkey this way.” With knife in one hand and fork in the other, Sam looked eager to pounce.

    23. Aaron Stroud 
    Write often and to completion by following a realistic writing schedule.

    24. Joanna Young
    One that works for me every time is to focus on the positive intention behind my writing. What is it that I want to communicate, express, convey? By focusing on that, by getting into the state that I’m trying to express, I find that I stop worrying about the words – just let them tumble out of their own accord.

    It’s a great strategy for beating writer’s block, or overcoming anxiety about a particular piece of writing, whether that’s composing a formal business letter, writing a piece from the heart, or guest blogging somewhere ‘big’…

    25. Shelley Rodrigo
    Use others writer’s sentences and paragraphs as models and then emulate the syntactic structure with your own content. I’ve learned more about grammar and punctuation that way.

    26. Sylvia
    Avoid long sentences.

    27. Mike Feeney 
    Learn the difference between me, myself and I. For example: “Contact Bob or myself if you have any questions.” I hear this very often!

    28. Richard Scott 
    When doing a long project, a novel, for instance, shut off your internal editor and just write.

    Think of your first draft as a complex outline waiting to be expanded upon, and let the words flow.

    29. David
    Careful with unnecessary expressions. “At this point in time” came along during the Nixon congressional hearings. Too bad it didn’t go out with him. What about “on a daily basis?”

    30. E. I. Sanchez 
    For large documents, I use Word’s Speech feature to have the computer read the article back. This allows me to catch errors I have missed – especially missing words or words that ’sort of sound the same’ but are spelled differently (e.g. Front me instead of ‘From me’).

    31. Cat
    Either read the book “Writing Tools 50 Strategies for Every Writer”, by Roy Peter Clark, or read the Fifty Writing Tools: Quick List on his blog. Then join a writing group, or hire a writing coach.

    32. Suemagoo 
    Write the first draft spontaneously. Switch off your internal editor until it is time to review your first draft.

    33. Lydia
    If you’re writing fiction, it’s a great idea to have a plot. It will coordinate your thoughts and add consistency to the text.

    34. Pedro
    Edit your older articles and pieces. You will notice that great part of it will be crap, and it will allow you to refine your style and avoid mistakes that you used to make.

    After reading this article, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of many of these tips. I plan to implement Bill Harper, Jacinta, Pete Bollini, Lillie Ammann, and Caroline’s suggestions.

    What do you think about these tips?