Using ClickUp as a content calendar

I first began using ClickUp as a Kanban-like task manager when, due to a serious faux pas on the part of my erstwhile employer, I lost access to Trello, Jira, and Office365. ClickUp is an online productivity tool with a robust free version (I first wrote about it in Friday Goody Bag as “How Sauron runs his kingdom“).   One of the things ClickUp does really well is schedule blog posts. If you’re a marketer searching for a content calendar tool, consider ClickUp. Here’s what I did:

  • Set up a board called “Friday Goody Bag”
  • Set up one column of tasks called “To write”
  • Set up another column called “Done”
  • Every time I think of an idea for an article, I create a task. I can write the article right in the task notes or return to it later.
  • When I’m not near my PC, I can use the ClickUp app on my phone to jot down an idea.
  • When Thursday night arrives, Friday Goody Bag is already mostly written – I just pick and choose the topics that are most ready to share.

You can’t use ClickUp to automatically publish your content (for that you’ll need HootSuite, SproutSocial, or one of the freebie imitations of one of those tools), but it is really great for brainstorming content ideas and keeping them all in one place. If you want to get more involved in scheduling your content, ClickUp has a calendar view and will even integrate with Google Calendar. Happy writing!

Audit your web hosting and domain names 

If you’re responsible for maintaining one or more websites, it’s a good habit to review your hosting and domain name accounts at least once a year, and sometimes more often. Here are some issues you should be looking for:

  1. For domain names, there are three types of contacts (Admnistrative, Technical, and Billing). Many times, webmasters or IT companies use their own contact information as shortcuts when they’re setting up the domain name service. This leaves them in control of your domain, rather than you. Make sure that at least two different people with different email addresses are set up as your domain name contacts, and that they’re people you trust (pro tip: one of them should be you!)
  2. Domain name registration, web site hosting, and email hosting are three different types of services. A domain name registrar (or sometimes a broker for a domain name registrar) controls where your domain name “points to.” Your domain name might be managed by a different company than the one that hosts your website. If your domain name expires and somehow you’re not notified, you could actually lose it.
  3. Things expire and auto-renew. If your domain name service or web site hosting service expires and you don’t renew it, you could be in a world of trouble. Similarly, if you have something set to auto-renew, you could inadvertently be charged for something that you don’t really need. This especially hurts if you were “smart” and paid the lower rate for a year’s worth of service when you first set up your website (and the band broke up a week after the website went live).
  4. New “TLDs” (top-level domains) are always being invented, from “dot-family” to “dot-coffee” to a few that are probably not safe for work. If you’ve got “yourcompany.com” and someone else has “yourcompany.coffee,” would this be a problem for you? You might want to reserve a couple of extra domain names for your company even if you don’t have plans to use them right away.

Copying photos from an Instagram feed

Before you get all huffy, let me explain: There are legitimate reasons to copy photographs from someone else’s Instagram feed. Case in point: You’re a retail store and you offer a curated selection of items from different manufacturers. They don’t have time to continually send you photos, so they say “just use our Instagram feed.”

This post explains how to use your computer to photos from an Instagram feed:

  • Open the Instagram photo that you want to copy. You’ll see something that looks a bit like this. I enlarged the comments on the right so you can see where to click. Click on the three dots (marked here with a red circle), and choose “Copy link” from the menu that appears.
  • Then head over to instasave.io/ and paste the URL into the dialog box that appears. Scroll down, and you’ll be able to right-click the image and save it to your desktop.

A couple of “deep dive” issues are worth mentioning here. First of all, you used to be able to copy images from Instagram feeds without the aid of an extra website or software. It involved viewing the source code, searching for the file suffix “.jpg,” copying that URL into your browser, and then saving the picture. Recently, it appears Instagram has changed its platform so you can’t do this.

Secondly, Instasave is not the only website that allows you to do this. It is, however, the only one I’ve found that doesn’t force you to enable creepy browser extensions. I’ve been using it for several weeks now without any difficulty. If you do use it, please remember your manners (and the law) and don’t copy other people’s stuff without permission.

A simple mind-mapping tool

Whether you’re a marketer charting a customer journey, a project manager sketching out project stages, or even a department head working on a staff chart, sometimes you need a simple way to draw boxes, lines, and arrows without thinking too much about it.

Of course PowerPoint and Excel have smart graphics, org chart tools, etc. Personally, I find these so cumbersome that the tools get in the way of the thought process. Instead, I headed over to SimpleMind and downloaded the free version of their mapping tool, SimpleMind Lite.

To be sure, the free version doesn’t let you do a ton of things. (I haven’t figured out yet if you can save maps as separate files, although you can save them as separate PDFs.) But if you want a tool that lets you sketch out a bunch of connected ideas without running out of space or feeling like you’re in a death match with Microsoft, SimpleMind Lite is exactly what you need.

Marketers: Use empathy to test your email

There is no substitute for data to understand how your audience might react to an email. But sometimes you don’t have access to the right data. Your audience may be too small for a statistically significant split-test. Maybe you don’t have time or resources to run a split-test. Here’s a trick that uses your natural empathy to understand how your audience may react:

  1. Send yourself a test version of the email, but schedule it to be sent to you AFTER you’ve gone to sleep – perhaps even to a personal email account instead of your work email.
  2. If your email software allows, make sure that the subject line of your test email doesn’t contain anything like “PREVIEW” or “TEST.” Make sure that your experience receiving the email will be as much as possible like your audience’s experience.
  3. Forget you queued up the test. Schedule a time to come back to the task of finishing your email, but pay attention to other things. Go home and go to sleep.

The next day, when you receive your “test” email, it should surprise you. Pay attention to your first reaction. Does the subject line make you want to open it? Does you understand what the email is saying? Do you find it motivational?

Getting some distance from your “writer” self will put you more in touch with your own, authentic reaction to the email. This will help you revise it to better accomplish your aim.

Use “internal” email signatures to reinforce important reminders

Most email systems allow you to store more than one email signature. If you’re in a large organization, your email signature may have promotional information about upcoming trade shows, company values, etc. The email signature is an easy place to get important messages out without interrupting the flow of other communication.

Why not create an email signature that you use for internal communications? This signature can be used for all sorts of things:

  • Remind people of upcoming deadlines (open enrollment deadlines, softball tournament sign-ups, etc.) Don’t forget to take FGB’s advice and provide links for more information.
  • Provide a link to important resources (e.g. a marketing department could post a link to the company’s brand page, thereby avoiding having to email the company logo out 500 times)
  • Share social messages or success stories to reinforce morale (links to the Instagram feed of the company summer picnic, the Intranet post about a recent team win, etc.)

Before you do this, make sure that you’re complying with company policies and legal requirements for your email signature. FGB doesn’t want you to get in trouble!

Make it easy to share social media posts

The marketing industry tells us that LinkedIn posts receive more positive attention when they’re shared by a human being than when they’re posted by a company. If you’re a marketer, this means that you probably hope your colleagues will share your company posts…and you may occasionally get discouraged because they don’t do it.

Enter the “Social Media Minute,” an aid I’ve been using for years to help my colleagues share company posts on LinkedIn. The Social Media Minute makes it as easy as humanly possible for people to share your great content. How do I do this?

Old-school company email – sent to as many people as humanly possible.

Here’s some sample text:

“Social Media Minute: You can improve your presence on LinkedIn, and promote our company’s activities, by sharing our posts. Do you have one minute? Excellent. Click here and share this post to your own timeline.

[Link to post – include a brief description, e.g. ENGIE celebrates solar ground-breaking]

It adds more value and makes you look smarter if you include a brief comment, even if it’s just something simple like “Congratulations to ENGIE’s solar team!”

You’d be surprised how effective this is. People generally want to help, but you need to explain the benefits to them and make it as easy as possible – or easier, if possible. You can also improve the value you give to them by explaining basic LinkedIn concepts like the difference between “sharing” and “liking”… pretty soon, all your colleagues will be social media ninjas helping you get the word out about your company.

Use Instagram hashtags to create custom content

Hashtags on Instagram pictures (or Twitter or LinkedIn pictures, for that matter) are typically intended to attract more views or followers. But you can also use them to create a curated version of your Instagram feed. This is useful in a few different ways. But first, here’s how.

For example, my Instagram account is “naomispot.” It’s a real grab-bag – vacation photos, things I cooked… I wouldn’t be surprised if I accidentally threw a couple of meal receipts in there. Let’s say I want to only show my pictures of coffee:

  • I create a hashtag that people are unlikely to use in their own Instagram feeds: “naomispotcoffee.”
  • For each photo that I want to feature, I add a comment: #naomispotcoffee.
  • Now, I build the URL (it’s just the string “https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags” plus your hashtag, e.g.: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/naomispotcoffee/

Now I can use this link anywhere where links are used! Here are a few examples:

Obscure secrets to making your writing more relatable

Whether you’re a marketer or just someone who wants to get your point across, it helps to make sure that your writing is relatable. By this, I mean: can your audience easily relate to it? Are there hidden snags that will make the reader pause and get distracted from the main point? This post sums up a few things to watch for in your writing. Download the FGB RELATABLATOR checklist to help you remember them.

  1. Jamming unrelated and non-parallel phrases together without even a comma, as in: “Thanks for rescheduling your appointment and we’re looking forward to seeing you Tuesday.” As I read this sentence, my first thought is that the person has rescheduled two things (the appointment and something else) or is being thanked for two things (rescheduling the appointment and something else). It takes me a few beats to realize that the material following “and” is actually an entirely different clause. The best way of getting these two ideas across is in two sentences: “Thanks for rescheduling your appointment. We’re looking forward to seeing you Tuesday.” Why is this a “relatability” issue? Because you need to communicate that you care enough about the reader to make your writing clear.
  2. Skipping the “I.” Your high-school teachers probably told you to write essays without using the word “I,” and Facebook reinforced this for a few years by prompting all posts: “Naomi is…” This doesn’t mean you should write sentences like “Wanted to make sure you knew about the meeting,” “Will need to see the slides by tomorrow,” or “Happy to proofread your article.” Who is happy? It’s better to clearly state WHO is informing someone about a meeting, needs to see slides, or willing to help proofread an article. Skipping the subject (and sometimes the verb) at best introduces friction into the experience of reading; at worst it makes you sound breezy and passive-aggressive. There are a few exceptions – for instance: “Hope you’re feeling better.”
  3. Too many exclamation points. Do a search for exclamation points before sending an email or publishing a piece of writing. Last time I did this, I found the copy really didn’t need any of the exclamation points I had used. Not one!
  4. Out-of-date, fusty anecdotes. “One of the greatest salesmen of all time…” We don’t call them salesmen anymore! Extra points for “of all time,” which makes me think the writer is super old.
  5. Extra information that doesn’t add to a story. “My friend, the late Joe Argyle, told me a story about…” Now I’m wondering who Joe was, how he died, and how close a friend he was to the writer. I’ve completely lost any ability I have to pay attention to the story.
  6. Bad rhythm. Think of children’s books. Goodnight Moon‘s rhythm is musical and varied: “In the great green room there is a telephone, and a red balloon, and a cow jumping over the moon.” Compare this to any of the “Boxcar Children” books. Most of the sentences are similar in construction, giving the stories a plodding, heavy quality. There’s an easy way to check your own writing for bad rhythm – read it out loud. If you’re out of breath at the end of every sentence, you have too many long sentences. If you feel awkward and choppy, you have too many short sentences. Now I’ll write one more sentence with the exact same structure as the last two, and you’ll see what I mean by bad rhythm. You can fix it by varying the length and structure of your sentences.
  7. Meaningless nounified verbs and other pompous “businessy” constructions. “Ask” is a verb, not a noun. Using “solve” as a noun when you mean “solution” doesn’t solve anything. For that matter, non-mathematicians slinging around the phrase “solve for,” as in “solve for retention issues” (instead of, say, “solve attrition problems.”) My only solve (sorry, solution) is to think of your least pompous friend or relative and imagine them smirking as they read your brilliant copy.