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Try a new way to connect with your followers

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Are you listening?

One of the mantras you hear over and over again when building a business is listening to your customers and getting their feedback. That’s also true of the online world. There are multiple ways to do that:

Comments: Nearly every blog has the ability to accept comments, but this can be a good and bad thing. On the positive side, if you can build a thriving, engaged community, you’ll gain tremendous advantage by connecting with your readers and opening up a two-way conversation. Readers will give you valuable feedback, story ideas, and even react with other readers.



How do you come up with new ideas?

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From Vision to Venture

Creativity. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. Heck, I even include it in my company name: Hopkinson Creative Media. I must think I’m a creative guy or something.

Brainstorming. Just the very word brings me to a soulless conference room, with a facilitator holding up a fragrant, colorful marker to a blank flip chart, urging under-caffeinated employees that “there are no wrong answers!”

But what does creativity and brainstorming mean in the current workplace? I’m super excited to be on a panel at the new SXSW V2V (Vision to Venture) in Las Vegas on August 14 with Helen Todd, Adam Marelli, and Jey Van-Sharp. If you’re going to be at the conference, but all means stop by and say hi.


Coming up with new ideas

Some people ask me, how the heck have you been able to come up with a new idea to write about every single week for 5 years? Well, for some weeks, ideas just come to me, and others it is much, much harder. I don’t recall the source, but there’s a comedian or a writer or someone that replied “It’s easy… at least once a week something ticks me off.”

Here are my tips for coming up with continuous new ideas on different subjects:
1) Keep a Google Doc or other online list so that you can continually add article ideas to it at any time. You can also include links.
2) Go for a run. If I’ve done it once, I’ve done it 100 times… what works for me is going for a run to clear my head. While it helps to have a general topic to build from, I’ve also gone out with a blank slate and come back with a fully formed post.
3) Build off of other topics that intrigue you. For example, last week I was inspired by a video Gary Vaynerchuk did about digital legacy, so I put my own spin on it, expanded the topic, and turned it into a blog post and podcast of my own
4) Interview other people. When you’re low on ideas or energy, feed off of others. Find someone that is doing something cool, ask good questions, and tap into their energy for a change.


Fostering creativity on the same idea

While coming up with a new topic each week is tough, what’s even harder is writing about the same topic again and again. I do this with my ongoing contributions to Salary.com. Twice per month I need to come up with a new angle on the same exact topic.

Here’s how I do it:
1) Get that Google Doc going. As with my blog, I keep a continual list of ideas to build from. Some weeks I look back at an idea and it springs to life, but honestly, most times when I go back to a topic I’ve jotted down, I hate it and need to start from scratch.
2) Avoid clichés. The easy fallback is to do a clichéd list post, such as “Top 10 Salary Negotiation Myths.” I have to admit I go to these on occasion, especially since that audience loves easy to digest slideshows. But even when I do, I try to pepper the story with pop culture references and items the average person might have missed.
3) Go to real life. By far the best source of material are real life case studies. While I can go on for weeks about what SHOULD happen during a negotiation, every situation is different and there’s no way to predict what will happen. This makes for great stories. Fortunately, I offer 1:1 salary negotiation consulting, and get a steady stream of clients. I’m able to use their stories – always with their permission and always changing names and details to keep things anonymous – and build advice off of that.

Go to the crowd

When working on an important idea, sometimes it is necessary, or imperative, to get another opinion. Take the example of a tagline for my new website. I have a bunch of ideas, but I want to make sure they are good.

Here are some of the sources I’m looking at:
Personal ideas: Ones that I had personally brainstormed during the writing of my book
Social media outreach: Offer 4-5 options and then asking friends on Twitter and Facebook which one they like best
Trusted inner circle: I have a mastermind group of savvy entrepreneurs and internet marketers that I respect and trust, and can run ideas by them
Fiverr.com: For $5 you can have a copywriter come up several ideas. I actually hired two of them, which gives me a completely outsider opinion of my site
Hire a pro: I have a friend that is a professional copywriter, and I’m considering hiring her to work through some options
FeedbackArmy.com: This is a new site that I’m loving, where for $20 you get 10 immediate, unbiased pieces of feedback


Don’t combine create mode with edit mode

This was a tip I received from Tess Vigeland while at the World Domination Summit: Don’t try and write and edit at the same time, because…

It’s like hitting the gas and the brake simultaneously.


Step 1: Put yourself in creative mode, writing and brainstorming and getting into the flow. Find the best time of day for this, whether it is first thing in the morning, late afternoon once you’ve warmed up, or late at night over a glass of wine.

Step 2: Pick a completely different time to be in edit mode. Again, right after morning coffee, or when you feel most alert, when you can edit ruthlessly and spot typos with abandon. As one famous saying goes, write drunk, edit sober.

When I’m doing a major speech, I’m famous for creating epic presentations, adding in various story lines, trying new jokes, bringing in new photos, and just experimenting with the best way to deliver the content.

I’ll then practice the speech out loud with a timer, only to find out I have a 53 minute presentation to deliver in a 30 minute limit. However, when I switch to edit mode, this forces me to go back and see what flows, what works, continually improve, and cut cut cut. I know I have to be relentless, hone those jokes, hit those beats.

Ride the wave

My final tip is from Helen, who is in the same boat as me in terms of working from home, juggling multiple projects, and trying to optimize business hours. On more than one occasion, we’ve been chatting on the phone about business between 8-10pm at night. She’ll say ask what I’m up to, and I’ll have just eaten dinner, be sitting at the computer, and have a project to-do list staring me in the face. More often than not, I’ll reply with the following:

“I’m trying to decide what to do. Should I work from 10pm-1am and just crank out this project, get it out of the way, and then sleep in tomorrow? Or should I relax, shut down the computer, have a glass of wine, watch an episode of International House Hunters, go to bed early, and then get up super early, hit the gym, and crank out a few hours of work in the morning?”


Her response: RIDE THE WAVE

What that simply means is going with whatever flow seems most natural. What I’ll usually do is sit down and write a few paragraphs of build a few web pages and see how I feel. If I get in a groove, and email is quiet, and I’m on a roll, I ride the wave… staying in the zone and working as long as I can until I crash.

If I find my brain skipping gears, my concentration lagging, or the flow of ideas at a crawl, I know it’s time to shut down the computer and crash.

That’s how I approach things, and I’m excited to share more ideas as we discuss them on the panel. How do you approach it? Hit me up on Twitter.

Check out my free online salary negotiation course, “How to Negotiate Salary: The Negotiation Mindset.”

Sponsor Message: Freshbooks Fresh Take of the Week: Being creative

Today’s topic is creativity, and what’s interesting is the term ‘creative accounting’ symbolizes a bad thing – working numbers and cooking the books in your favor. Not with Freshbooks. They get creative by putting everything in the cloud and letting you access your account from anywhere. This week I literally invoiced a client from the beach.

Switch to cloud accounting and join over 5 million people using FreshBooks to make billing painless at Freshbooks.com.


When your grandkids surf the web for you, what will they find?

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Gary Vaynerchuk talks digital legacy

Either there’s a lot of bad content out there on the internet, or the good stuff is just exceptionally hard to find. Think about all of the stories you’ve read this month… the fluff pieces that pop up on Twitter or are shared on your Facebook feed:

– Could THESE photos be of the new iPhone 5 case?
– It’s a boy! The royal family celebrates.
– Hey, have you heard about this new sharing economy? People are actually renting out their apartments, their services, even their cars! (Yes, we heard about this 2 years ago)
– You won’t believe the FAIL this news reporter did on the air.
– Yet another story about “The 5 types of people on Facebook.”

That’s why I try to work incredibly hard to rise above that and deliver something of value. It isn’t easy.



An embarrassing story can serve as a lesson learned.

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Well, this is embarrassing

I’ve got a fun but embarrassing story to share with you. Last week I was honored to be invited to a private event, which turned out to be awesome on three levels:


1. One of my mentors, Mitch Joel, was having an event in New York City to promote the launch of his new book, Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends On It.

For those that haven’t heard me mention Mitch in the past, I was introduced to him by a mutual friend several years ago, and he agreed to come onto the podcast back in October 2009, where he gave some great advice about public speaking.

We hit it off right away and it turned out to be a life-changing meeting, as about six months later we’d meet for lunch in Montreal, where he set up an introductory meeting with his book agent, which started the ball rolling and ended up landing me a book deal.

Mitch is president of digital ad agency Twist Image and one of the top thought leaders in the game today.

2. For this event, he was being interviewed by Seth Godin, one of the most successful marketers and authors of all time. How successful? He has written 17 books. All of them are best-sellers. All of them.

I got to see Seth speak in person for the first time just six weeks beforehand, and it was a great event and left me with actionable items that I put into use just days later.



You can’t always interact with people in person… give them a social media high five instead.

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The glorious activity that is the high five

A very strong analogy hit me this week, and I think it’s a good one to share.

Any true sports fan can identify with the following scenario. You’re in a sports bar watching your favorite team in a big game. There’s a buzz in the air, the beers are flowing, and people are really into it. Along the way, you might be cheering wildly, talking to your friends standing next to you, and everyone is either in a good mood… or incredibly stressed out over the unknown outcome. I’ve been there too many times to count.

And then the moment happens… it could be a game-winning, walk-off home run, an interception returned for a touchdown that seals the game, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in basketball, or a game-winning goal in sudden death overtime.

The entire crowd erupts in unison. Everyone is on the same page and going crazy. Now it’s not just enough to yell or scream, or to celebrate with your best friend – everyone needs to get into the action.

[The video below shows *exactly* what I mean. I was at a sports bar at this moment as well, and it was surreal, especially due to the delayed reaction. Note: You gotta watch the kid at 3:23; the scene at 4:00 is 3 blocks from my apartment. Enjoy]

Suddenly high-fives are being handed out like free newspapers on the subway. In the moment of delirium, EVERYONE in the bar gets a high five. This includes the bartenders, the server who may or may not know who actually won (they’re just glad people are drinking more), and everyone else within a 20 foot radius – the drunk guy that almost spilled a beer on you 15 minutes earlier, the obnoxious frat boys off to your left, the old timer with the team jersey from 1979, the guy that kept yelling out stats just to show off. Anyone.