How to Look Spectacular in Your Social Media Profile « Atlantic Webworks Perspectives Atlantic Webworks Perspectives

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The start of the new year is the perfect time to freshen up your social media profile for you and your business with new photos, updated information.

Emily Soares Proctor‘s insight:

Simple but significant!

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How to: Effective Website Copywriting | VR Marketing Blog

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You know the feeling. You’re staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen, trying to figure out how to get your website visitors excited about your product or service. It sounds easy. After all, who knows your product better than you do?

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Advice to First-Time Authors

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Getting published is difficult, particularly for new authors. Where do you start? In this post I tell you exactly what to do next.

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Generation Read: Millennials Buy More Books Than Everybody Else

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Born between 1979 and 1989? You like to buy books.

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Get to the Bottom of the Page

English: There are no symbols that represent s...

We’ve all had writer’s block. Sometimes it lasts for only an instant. On certain projects it can come to feel permanent.  But I’ve found a fool-proof method a of pushing yourself through the middle of a first draft or a simple blog post. It’s called “Get to the Bottom of the Page.” Nothing earth-shattering or terribly new there, but it’s had a profound impact for me. In fact, I chanted it to myself for the first two weeks of writing on a manuscript from which I’d been on a long hiatus. And what I found was that I was so busy thinking about getting to the bottom of the page that I stopped thinking too hard about what I was writing and stopped editing everything before it even had a chance to come out. After a while I didn’t have to push myself to finish the pages; I was so caught up in the story again that they simply grew, as we hope they do, one after the other.

What do you do to get through writer’s block?

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Blog What You Love

School Zone
Image by Steve Corey via Flickr

Let’s face it. Social media pressure can be formidable when you have your own business. I’ve helped others set up their own SM entities, while struggling to stay excited about my own. Why is that? Because knowing that you should do something–exercise, keep your desk clean, write  ‘thank you’ cards promptly–doesn’t mean the inspiration will materialize like that.

So why blog? Well, if you’re a writer, it’s another exercise to flex your fingers and your brain, experiment with voice and approach. And in any business, a regularly updated blog can increase your search engine visibility, your credibility and your up-to-dateness (now it’s a word). But the fact is that if you are not into what you’re writing, or, similarly, the way you’re exercising, it will be really hard to keep it up. So here’s my recommendation. Stop hyperventilating to the frantic voices of high volume. Write what you care about it and make it good. In most cases consider what your clients and colleagues would like to read. But in others, write what you think needs to be said. Maybe it’s a position that doesn’t match the prevailing wisdom of what others who blog and tweet in your industrosphere are saying. So what? If you believe it and it’s true for you, it’s worth sharing. You’ll discover there are others out there experiencing the same thing.

What do you think?

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All Hail the Yahoo Style Guide!

Image representing Yahoo! as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

If I wasn’t afraid of melting something, I’d light candles in front of my laptop to honor the recent birth of the Yahoo Style Guide’s site and book. To give a sense of how profound this effort is, consider that there hasn’t been such a resource in the history of the web. Wired had a slim, book version that held for a few years, but then there was its recant of the capped “I” in Internet and of the capital “W” for web. Its own site doesn’t comply, so the debate continues. I happen to agree that the web and the internet have now moved into common usage, so we don’t need to revere them with a capital letter, but it’s a hard habit to break. For years I argued that “Web” was short for World Wide Web, a proper noun, and so the “W” must be capped, and the Yahoo Style Guide still sees it that way.  Some days I almost agree.

Do you care? If you edit web copy you sure do. I patched together a style guide for Turner Network Television during my time there, and there were many burning issues to standardize. Do you have to ® Oscar after every usage or just the first? Did the network want franchise titles to be bolded (looks better) or italicized (correct)? And again, the etnerally unsolvable question of Website, Web site, web site or website?  Is there a comma before the last item in a series? I say a defiant “no”, (with comma outside quotes a la the Brits) as does AP, but Yahoo has ruled in favor of the serial comma. That’s okay, they’ve brought together great advice on writing for the web, social media platforms and smart phones. is a wealth of all kinds of useful information on digital writing, from SEO to basic HTML coding. Get links to online resources every writer and editor needs, a handy word list of frequently contentious items (like 3D) and editing 101 tips. You can even “Ask an Editor” and get your burning copy questions answered online.

The Yahoo Style Guide is not just remarkably useful, its existence is a plain relief. It’s good to know that someone  has seen the need for a resource to end the chaos of digital copy and worked hard to fill it. Thank you to all those behind the style guide–a beacon of order in a sea of rogue grammar and haphazard writing practices. There is hope at last!

What’s your favorite grammar gripe, digital or otherwise?

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4 Reasons Why Mind Maps Are the Ultimate Creative Tool

The Brain, an iMindMap
Image by charmainezoe via Flickr

What is mind mapping? If you’re not already an avid user, you’ve probably heard the term thrown around, but may wonder what is it and how you can use it.  Mind mapping is a way of graphically representing ideas, rather than listing them in a linear way. This basis of connected associations, which avoids ranking and encourages thought exploration in all directions, allows users to connect items in ways that are logical to them, making mind mapping the most intimate and customizable way to get your ideas down deep in one place.

Pictorial representations of ideas are nothing new and have been used since ancient times.  But modern versions of them, based on the semantic network concept of the late ‘50s and ‘60s (the beginnings of AI) are really taking hold in a mainstream way. Semantics, in this case, is about digital contextualizing—automatic linking—and if you’ve been hearing about Web 3.0 and the Internet of Things, this kind of automated deductive reasoning is a key concept in creating data that objects can read on their own. In mind mapping, you do the deductions yourself, with a lot of sophisticated tools to help.

How Mapping Works

Regardless of which application you’re using, start with the central idea in the middle of your map. From this subject, all other thoughts will grow. There will be other main topics related to this idea that are of equal importance to each other, often known in mind mapping parlance as “children”. These children will have “siblings” and from there you can create thoughts that drill down into even further detail, adding facts and all kinds of imagery and data to your subject.

In addition to the lines or branches that will connect these items, you can draw arrows between various thoughts and facts to show more detailed relationships and, depending on which app you’re using, you can add images, audio and other files. This makes your mind map a dynamic, colorful location to store all of your knowledge—much more interesting than a file folder. Then, depending on the capabilities of your program, you can export your map to another program or to presentation mode.

Now that you know something more about what mind mapping is, here are four reasons why this versatile platform is a great way to manage your social media plan, book, screenplay or plan a new business.

#1 Visual Connections Are Powerful

We all know that learning visually is a great way to engage with and remember information. Mind mapping delivers a double-whammy when it comes to creating/learning because you engage with it while you’re building and when you are using if afterward. Writing, by itself, is often not a very interactive experience. Sure you have to be conscious and make logical connections to get your thoughts to appear in a coherent stream. But mapping is a very tactile experience, requiring different types of actions—linking, writing, selecting, drawing, attaching. The more time you spend handling the material of your plan, the more alive it will become to you.

#2 Mind Mapping = Brain Storming

Sometimes all you need is a list of what to do next. But at other times, you need a thinking tool, one that generates ideas, helps you track them and inspires new ideas off of those. Sounds like a brainstorming meeting, right? In essence, that’s the real strength of mind mapping. Some of the products discussed below have “brainstorming” features that let you interact with others in real time via your mind map, but if you’re in front of your computer drilling down through your idea or plan by physically making the connections on your map, you’re already ‘storming away.

#3 Store All of the Elements of Your Project in One Place

Mind mapping allows you to create and store all the aspects of your social media empire in one location. You can develop blog posts, chart your build-out for a Facebook fan page or start on a book. Explore and link themes, the formats you want to express them in the and the social media tools that will get you there. Attach your editorial calendar and you can plan and work in a mind map every day. Want to add metrics and reports? Many applications have ways for you to connect it all.

This concept has been used by NASA, Disney, Microsoft, schools and the florist down the street. Depending on your preferences and price range, you can find the mind mapping tool that is just right for you.

#4 There Is a Mind Mapping Platform for Everyone

One of the many strengths of the applications out there is that you can mind map in a way that only you can understand, share it with others or create a map with your team. It really is one of the rare platforms that you can customize to the way your brain works or, if needed, to the way that most brains works. All of the products below have either trial or free versions in addition to pro versions with more options.

Tony Buzan is an author, educator and consultant who is credited with introducing the term “mind maps” and has software based on his original concepts.

iMindMap is a program with lots of flexibility in moving and reshaping branches and adding icons and images, of which there is an extensive built-in library. Arrows are easy to use and add text to, which provides detail about why your thoughts are connected.  The iMindMap unique pop-up menu makes changing formatting and adding items to your map, such as audio notes, hand sketches and images, remarkably simple.

XMind is a free program (paid version available) that has a lot of the robust possibilities found in more expensive programs. XMind offers floating topics that you can attach to your structure when you’re ready, intuitive shortcuts, vivid graphics and easy-to-use arrows. In the Pro version, you get a lot of the tools of iMindMap, such as brainstorming and presentation modes and audio notes.

Mind Mapping Your Social Media Plan

Plan your social media empire with a mind map.

Inspiration has a lot of the same features of the heavy hitters for a smaller price tag, and it’s just plain eye-catching. For someone who wants to sit down and start mind mapping right away, with a very friendly interface, I like this one quite a bit. There’s an extensive and searchable drag and drop icon library, big images and bold colors and quick transfers to other programs. Inspiration has a version that’s just for kids (Kidspiration), and both programs are used a lot in schools, so the interface is appropriately engaging. Am I smarter than a fifth grader? I don’t know, but I sure like pretty pictures.

Explore your book's themes, plots, characters with a mind map.

Explore your book's themes, plots and characters with a mind map.

PersonalBrain isn’t about bells and whistles; it’s about deep levels of associations. You can easily attach any kind of document; create parent, child and sibling thoughts; and search your other PersonalBrain “brains” to link the data together. You can keep track of all your contacts, projects and plans, watch them grow and connect them together. PersonalBrain strives to be a kind of literal second brain, keeping together all of your thoughts, data and plans in an encyclopedic way that is searchable, linkable and easily accessed. It comes in a free and paid version.

PersonalBrain doesn't look as pretty as some other mind mapping applications, but it's potential to link all the information you've got is staggering.

Spend enough time with PersonBrain and everything/everyone you know can be stored in one place.

There are many other great programs to try, such as  FreeMind, MindMeister, Novamind, Topicscape and MindManager.

Fun, right? Well, it’s meant to be. Mind mapping is really a chance to play with your thoughts, move them around and connect them in different combinations that just wouldn’t occur to you if you’re making a hierarchical list.

How have you been using mind maps or might you use them in the future?

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7 Ways to Make Your Writing More Interesting

The text of the Dispilio tablet
Image via Wikipedia

We could all stand to increase the power of our writing, right? You learned in early writing classes to avoid the passive voice, for instance. But while we’re at it, why not increase the interest of your writing? Whether you’re drafting a blog post or a magazine piece, here are some ideas to keep in mind, inspired by a look through Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing:

1) Make the information useful. No one has much time for casual reading these days, so write pieces on subjects that people need to know more about. The rise of “news you can use” as a best-loved format of web and popular magazines is because we’re all looking for applicable information.

2) Make it usable. Anytime you cut something out to put on the refrigerator for quick reference, you know how handy that little box of tips, dates or contact detail embedded in an article is. Boxes get attention! The kind of content that would go into a box makes great tweets or fan page status updates.

3) Go short. Yes, I’ve already said it―not much reading time out there. So take your pearls of wisdom and cut them by a third before you even send to your editor. It’s painful, but satisfying too.

4) Connect with readers. Ask them questions to get responses and make sure they have your contact information.

5) Is it news? Even history is news. Say you’re writing a travel piece. Odds are good that your readers aren’t going to know about the long ago festival, battle or celebrity sighting that happened in a particular location. Maybe there’s even a contemporary link. In every story, there is a kernel of “I didn’t know that!” Find it. If you’re intrigued, your readers will be too.

6) Is it new? We all want to discover a way of doing things we didn’t know about before. Find a unique angle to your useful subject.

7) Subheads. No one has enough―Nevermind. Make your writing quick and easy to read by guiding your reader through it. She will not only know better what to skip, but those who read all the way through will be comforted by knowing what comes next.

What’s the secret weapon that makes your writing zing?

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Everyday Magic

Movie poster for The Master Mystery with Harry...
Image via Wikipedia

I’m working on a book that involves magic, all kinds of magic, from its earliest record in ancient civilization to the great showmen like Houdini, Blackstone and the like. No offense to David Copperfield and more contemporary conjurers, but my personal fascination with the performing end of magic ends somewhere near the dawn of television.

It’s kind of all-consuming, this subject. Like once you start asking yourself, ‘what is magic, really?’ and ‘what in the modern world can still be considered magic?’ it oozes across the lines of everything else you’re doing.  What magic is ultimately, I think, is any instance that lets you see that there may be something more going on around you, behind you and before you than you originally thought. It’s anything that suggests the infinite and makes you feel that there are many mysteries in this life yet to be revealed, like an impossible coincindence that hints at a master framework. The mystery delivers hope somehow–in that night-before-Christmas kind of way, but bigger.

Sometimes clarity, the opposite of mystery, delivers the same sensation. I get that wonderful feeling of the veil being lifted often when I’m writing, whether I’m freewheeling it or drilling down to some place of precision. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what I’m writing. It could be a company profile or a poem, but when you get to the truth of something, as sublime as a mystery, the universe seems more right, more functional.

What is magic to you?

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