30 Mar 2012

New Yummy Fabric and What I Made With It

As you all know I've been a busy little worker bee making lots of new stock for the Limerick Craft & Design shop that will be opening in the next month or so. Over the past few days I've been making lots of new pot pincushions. Thankfully I had a load of pots already painted from before Christmas which saved me loads of time.

Last week I got tired of scrounging through my scraps box looking for pieces big enough to make stuff with so I treated myself to a bunch of new material. I went to the Limerick Quilt Centre and bought 21 fat quarters, at that I was seriously restraining myself. They have amazing fabric out there, and I'm told that people regularly tell the staff that they hate them(just because their stuff is so nice that there is no choice but to buy it). This trip marked a vast improvement on my last one, I only spent €63, whereas last year I spent €250 on my first visit to the shop. It should come with a health warning like those on boxes of fags, 'Hoarders beware; may cause heart palpitations, bankruptcy, and eventual madness'.

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29 Mar 2012

What I'm Wearing: Retro Floral Dress

I wore this new dress out the other night for John's birthday, a little dressy for a Tuesday night but it's new so I REALLY wanted to wear it. I was sick a few weeks ago and was unable to go for lunch with my Mum while she was visiting. So instead she popped over with a voucher for The Edge and told me to buy something nice, aren't Mothers amazing? The Edge is my favourite clothes shop, it's the only place in Limerick to buy alternative clothes, the prices are great, and it's in the Milk Market so I'm there every week(which is pretty dangerous).

It's a really well structured dress so it holds and sucks in all the right places. It's a little shorter than I normally wear but the netting makes it seem longer. It was a total steal at only €29! This is the first time I've gone for this retro looking hair style, but I'll definitely do it again as it was super easy. I took this pic before putting on my red lipstick, with that the ensemble looked very retro.

Dress: The Edge at an amazing €29
Earrings: Vintage from Alexia McInerny at a vintage fair for €10
Shoes: Leavys for €10 plus red ribbon in Hickeys €2
Tights: Polka dot tights in Debenhams €6

You might also like the What I'm Wearing Series

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27 Mar 2012

Limerick You're a Lady

It's beautiful and sunny in Limerick at the moment so I've detached myself from the computer in favour of sandals and out door beers. Last year I made the mistake of ignoring the Springtime nice weather, not knowing that I was missing the yearly allocation of good weather. I will not be fooled again, I know Sunny days should be embraced whole heartedly as they are so scarce.

Look at the gorgeous park that is two minutes away from my house, who could be cooped up inside on a day like this??

Thanks to Limerick.ie for the images.

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21 Mar 2012

Shrinky Dink Bookmarks

I just finished my most recent addition to my Shrink Plastic collection. These are bookmarks, but the fancy variety that are harder to lose than a scrap of paper. I only saw these for the first time last year and I really like the shepherd hook design, it's so simple. I've only ever seen them embellished with beads before, or spiral wrap gemstones, but the first time I saw them I thought they would be perfect for my illustrated work. This week I made up 50 different designs, using the templates I had previously designed. But I think I'll expand the range to include some more bookish themed images, like characters from books or specific motifs, I already have a Harry Potter design. I thought these Olde Worlde images suited the bookmarks quite well too.

I'll be selling them in the craft shop at €6 per bookmark, and I might try a few at the stall this weekend too and see how they go. I just have to figure out how to package them nicely, and also to show what they are. Most people are not very familiar with shepherd hook bookmarks.

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20 Mar 2012

Blogging part two: 10 Steps to Design

This is Part II of my blogging series, last week I gave you 20 basic blogging tips and today's post is about blog design, stay tuned for the last part next week on promotion. It can be a little daunting when you first set up you blog to decide on a look, especially if you've been reading blogs for a while.

1.Look at other blogs/websites;
This is a good place to start, go to your favourite sites, bookmark or make a pin board of the ones you feel work the best. Judge them on functionality and aesthetics, look at things like colour, layout, and what makes them unique. Finding what appeals to you is the first step in developing your own style. After all this is going to be your blog so you want it to represent you. You also need to figure out what your blog is for, is it crafts, technical, personal, or foodie? Knowing who your audience will be will help you direct the look of the site. The style needs to be appropriate to the topic; a technical one needs to be slick and professional, a craft blog should look textural and personal.

2.Keep your look Consistent:
If you are trying to brand yourself across multiple flat forms like facebook, etsy, blogspot make sure your aesthetic is the same for all your pages. People are visual creatures, and most readers will remember images more than a name. I read so many different blogs that I remember the banner and look of the site far more than the name. If you have your logo designed already make sure it's integral to the colour theme to your site.
In the past year I went through two big design overhauls on this site, to read about them go here and here.

3. Choosing a Template:
Since I'm working on blogspot that will be the focus of this discussion, but the ideas will still hold true for other platforms. Before you do anything you should choose your template. It's in your dashboard under 'template'. There will be an option to choose template, these are basic outlines, the colours and themes can be altered afterwards, so don't be put off by the palette. What you will be looking for is the way the tabs are laid out, are the corners rounded, are there floating transparent boxes? For this blog I used the second option on Picture Window.

4.Get Editing;
Now you can start getting rid of the ugly blogger preferences. Go down to 'backgrounds' and click the picture, this gives you the options to choose one of their images or to upload one of your own. It's nicer to get one of your own as it will make your site far more individual, I generated this polka dot one in Photoshop. You can also choose from endless free ones online like Shabby Blogs or Simply Fabulous (follow the sites instructions if it needs to be installed as a widget). After that go to 'adjust widths', this decides the proportions of your main window and your sidebar. I prefer a wide window as it looks less cluttered, but it's totally up to you. This is also related to 'layout' below, you need to decide if you want a three column or two column layout. Be careful not to have your site too fussy, this is why I go for a right aligned single sidebar, so that there are some gadgets but they don't over power my content. Work through the advanced section step by step picking your font's and colours, try to keep your palette consistent with your logo and background. click apply to blog to save all your changes.

5. Making your Banner;
Your banner should represent the ethos and content of your blog. Look at it like your etsy banner, or facebook cover page. People landing on your site will decide in a couple of seconds if they are going to stay, so try to make an impression. Depending on how wide you have set your width will have determined the size of your banner,to get the pixel size just go back into 'adjust width' in templates and note down the figure. Be careful not to make it too tall, people should still be able to see the top part of your first post before scrolling down. If you are handy with Photoshop spend some time playing around with some designs. I found a great site last week that is giving away free Photoshop templates designed to be Facebook cover images, but these would work perfectly . Alternatively you can use Picasa, Pixlr, or Picnik to edit a photo you have and add some text. I found these pretty free banners that you can add your own text to. Musings of a house wife has a great step by step guide, and for some cool fonts head over to Dafont. If you reach a dead end and aren't happy with what you have done you can pay someone to do it, there are loads of very reasonably priced designers on Etsy, here is one lovely one. When you have your image finished and saved as a jpg go to 'layout', near the top you will see 'header', click this and it will open a window. Click the option for instead of title and description and also tick the box shrink to fit, then save.

6.The Importance of Pages:
Pages are the tabs at the top used for things like 'about me' and 'contact'. It's good to keep all this very important information in an obvious place that is easy to find. It also helps to clear out some unnecessary info from your sidebar. Pages are how people will navigate through your side, so if you have a cookery blog it might be an idea to have an index of recipes here to make navigation easier, same being true for craft tutorials. Try to limit it to about /76 pages so that you can keep them in just one line. If it goes over this go back into template editor and alter the font size of your tabs/pages. Pages come under posts in your dashboard, this is where you can add new pages, either as text or direct links to other websites(be careful with this second option though as you don't want to send traffic away from your site). I only recently discovered that you can publish pages that are not visible on your tabs this is a great way to have information on your blog that you want to link to, but don't want to be visible initially.

7.Make Buttons;
Design some buttons to divide up the space in your sidebar, and to add to the consistent look of your site. I really don't like the appearance of Twitter and Facebook plugins so instead I designed my own buttons in Photoshop and loaded them as a picture gadget. Go to 'layout', 'add gadget', look for the picture option, then add your image making sure to add your Facebook link. I made similar buttons to break up the rest of the space using a links, categories, and Youtube button. Here is a good tutorial on designing your own.

8.Your URL:
Changing your URL isn't essential but I felt it was a very important step to get rid of the .blogspot in my address. This can now be done very easily on blogger and it only cost €10 a year, and don't worry you won't lose all your old fans and followers the traffic is redirected. Go to settings and basic, under blog address their should be add a custom domain. It's been a while since I did mine so I can't really remember, but  I do know it brings you through step by step.

9.Add a Favicon:
This is only a little touch but I feel like it takes you another step to being more professional and not just another Blogspot blog. A favicon is the tiny image that appears at the very top tab above the website address bar, Facebook have their 'F' and Blogger their orange 'B'. Go to layout and above header on the left you will see the favicon loading option. Chose something very simple as this is going to be tiny, I picked my sun and cloud logo.

I know I've talked lots about cluttering up the sidebar, but you still need to have some stuff in their, you just need to decide what is important to you, and what is your order of preference. A search tool needs to be very near the top, it's the default place that people go if they are looking for something. If you are an Etsy seller it's important to have an Etsy Mini so people can see what you make at a glance, at the end of the day that's a large part of why you are blogging. It's also important to have an archive, it saves people trolling through 'older posts' options, and also gives a gauge of how regularly you post. Again these are all decisions you will have to make yourself, but don't worry if you are not happy with them you can just get rid of them later.

I hope these tips helped, if you have any more tips please add them in the comments section, I don't claim to know it all, so I'm sure I've missed loads!

Helpful Advanced Links:
Making an image based nav bar on blogger
How to make seamless wallpaper
Building a better blog

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16 Mar 2012

Rainy Friday Pinterest Finds

It's been a while since I did a Pinterest post of cool stuff I've stumbled upon, but a rainy Friday Morning seems like the perfect time to go digging through all my picks. By the way if you would like to follow me on Pinterest, go here, or if you would like an invite to join leave a comment and I'll send you an invitation.

I do lots of pinning for my Bazaar Tales book stall, either handmade stuff from books, infographics on grammer, quotes etc. I love the etymology of works so this list of this we say thanks to Shakespeare appealed to me immediately. There is a nice story behind the notebook image. It turns out a student scribbled down some notes in her journal at 3am in the morning, scanned it in and shared it on her Tumbler page, and since then it's gone viral. Here was I thinking some very hip graphic designer spent ages composing it to get that casual scatty look!

Who knew you could knit you own dish cloth? I certainly had never imagined such a thing. Follow this great step by step tutorial to making your own cloth. I think they would make cute gifts for people in an odd kind of way.

People who blog or sell online are always trying to get better photos, this DIY lighbox tutorial looks very do-able and inexpensive. I bought a light box last year so I have one already, but if you don't this looks like a winner.

Getting displays for your shop or market stall can be very expensive. Some shops insist that you have your own display, so if you are selling to a few/several the cost can build up very quickly. I'm always on the look out for well done DIY versions. Here is a great DIY ring display unit.

Since living with Cecily last year I kinda became obsessed with eggs, I could eat them with everything, and the became a particular favourite for dinner. If you ever have left over Indian but not enough for a meal then fry an egg and put it on top, make so toast and dig in, it's delicious! Anyhow I digress, I found this egg in an avocado recipe and I'm dying to try it. It looks like it would be so creamy and delicious, my tummy is rumbling even as I think about it. 

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15 Mar 2012

Crazy Cactus Pincushions

Here is the newest addiction to my ever growing pincushion collection. Ever since I got these little terracotta I've been wanting to make a cactus for it. Did you know it was the first plant I ever grew as a child? I even got it to flower, I was so proud of myself, it's the only green fingered achievement of my life to date, much to the chagrin of my gardening Goddess Mother.

As with any new design I did a couple of test prototypes to see what size they needed to be, and went through a bit of tweaking. Then I made out my template and got my production line rolling. I made 20 of these little fellas, but I made all the faces individual. I have a mix mustached Mexicans, eye-shadow girls,  lipstick ladies, crazy grins, sad faces, laughing loons, and crooked teeth ghouls.

It seems I have an obsession with pincushions as I have even more ideas to expand the line...watch this space!

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14 Mar 2012

What I'm Wearing: Stripes

This is a rarity, a what I'm wearing post where I have make-up on. I've only started wearing in again over the past year or so, but since my skin is so sensitive I really only do it about once every two months of so. Otherwise my skin would be even worse than it already is...darned allergies!

These are some oldies that I dug out of the closet, I vaguely remember getting the dress in Dunnes and the waistcoat in Pennies, but it's so long ago I've no idea how much I paid for them. For once I remembered to wear some of my own creations,adding a splash of red with a button ring and one of my brooches.

I wore this the other night when I went to see Wallis Bird in Dolans. Firstly I'd like to thank my friend Peter who gave me the tickets at the last minute as he couldn't make it to the gig. He works for Spin South-West and interviewed Wallis earlier that day, he said that she was incredibly friendly and down to earth.

This was absolutely fantastic, she has an amazing voice, and a really energetic band that suit the music perfectly. Her fans all seem to be uber fans, with most of the crowd knowing all the lyrics to her songs, which made for an electric atmosphere.  

You might also like the What I'm Wearing Series

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13 Mar 2012

Blogging Part One:20 Basic Blogging tips

After writing my post yesterday about my blog design I decided to write a series about blogging, it was only when I logged in did I notice that this is my 600th post, how appropriate! It will be a 3 part series dealing with basics, design(Part 2), and promotion(Part 3). Today I'll be doing the basics, I wrote an article last year on this for Etsy Ireland  ,some of the info is out of date because of the changes made this year to blogger, but there are still some helpful tips for total beginners.

Firstly you have to decide if blogging for you, lots of crafts people feel that they have to have one because everyone else does, or that it's hurting their business not to have a blog. Now that we have things like Facebook and Twitter there is really no need to start blogging if it would feel like a chore. It's just as easy to share your new creations on FB/Twitter, and there is not as much pressure to write. So if you like writing, would enjoy getting involved in the community of bloggers, and don't mind putting in lots of work for free then you have found your calling as a blogger. I've been blogging for nearly 5 years now, and I started it because I missed writing. In my day to day life there is no reason for me to write, and between the years of finishing college and starting Nice Day Designs the only things I composed were emails. I don't claim to be a great writer, but it's a hobby that makes me happy, so starting my own blog seemed like a perfect forum for my ramblings.

So now you need to choose who to go with. Most web designers and bloggers will say Wordpress , as it has more potential down the line to make it feel more like a website rather than a blog. I went through a phase of being very frustrated with Blogger, but I've stuck with it over the years. With all the developments they have made in the past 6 months it's an incredibly easy to use site, and might be preferable to beginners. I've tried Wordpress and I wasn't really a fan. but that's probably because I'm so used to Blogger. There is a handy table here to show you the comparison between the two to help you decide. Most established blogs seem to switch over at some point to Wordpress, and to be honest I'm still toying with the idea, but it can be expensive to hire someone to do it. I just found this ebook that came highly recommended to help guide you through the switch over process if it looks like your blog turns from a hobby to a more committed thing.

1. Think about your content, but don't stress over it. When starting your blog think about what you are trying to say overall and who your readers might be. This will help you come up with new posts when you are having an off day. Example this is a craft blog and I wanted to keep my own personal voice. Which means I have a mostly female readership, which in turn will be interested in things like fashion and handsome men! Hence the addition of things like my 'What I'm Wearing' series and 'Hotty but Notty'. Content is key, you will not keep readers if they feel you are writing it as a chore to help promote your business. I've seen an endless raft of blogs like this and I never go back to them.

2. Post regularly and consistently. If you are a once a week blogger then choose a particular day. Don't have 10 posts in 5 days and then nothing for a month.

3. Choosing themed days might help you with get over any writers block. We used this to great effect on the Etsy Ireland Team blog, there was how-to tuesday, and fab 5 friday. You don't need to catagorise your whole week but it's handy to have an old reliable, and it's also nice for readers too as they know what to expect. I'm a particular fan of mags Pretty Boy/Girl Friday.

4. Link as much as you can when you are talking about something. People who read blogs want information. If you are writing about crafts link to your shop, where you got your supplies, and what craft books you are reading. This is done by highlighting the word in question and clicking the link option.

4. When linking always have the option 'open this link in a new window', that means that you are not sending your reader away from your site. It's very easy for a reader to get distracted in that new site and not go back to yours, whereas if they still have your site open in a window they will most likely go back to it.

5. Refer back to old articles on your blog when you are writing, like above I mentioned yesterday's post and also the article I wrote for Etsy Ireland. This will get people interested in your back catalogue.

6. Another handy tool for this is Link Within, that's the little pictures you see at the end of each blog post show you older and related posts. As a blog reader find these really helpful and have often spent a half hour on someone's site reading their older posts. It's really easy to install with their step by step guide.

7. Please turn off the Captcha if you are on blogger! Loads of people hate them and it puts them off commenting. If you are concerned about security then moderate your comments, or what I do is moderate on comments older than 14 days. I have had spam bots post tonnes of comments, but after I made the older posts moderation I haven't had any trouble.

8. Scheduling your posts is a great way to get posts written for the week when you have spare time. Monday is usually my blogging day and i space them out over the week.

9.Interact with other blogs, when you read an interesting article, don't be silent, leave a comment. The blogger will appreciate it and other readers will click your link and go to your blog. Try to do this a much as possible.

10. Respond to comments left on your blog. I don't respond to every single one, but when a few have build up I leave one comment responding to a few people at once. If you notice a new commenter visit their site and leave a comment on their blog about something they have written, it's only polite.

11.Give credit. If you are not using your own photos, or if you found a great crafting tutorial make sure to link to the original site, otherwise you are stealing the image/how-to. Most bloggers don't mind if you link to their work without asking permission first as it will drive traffic to their site. Again it's about being polite.

12. Please don't have music on your blog, or if you really want it let it be optional. A lot of people read blogs in the office(when they meant to be working) so the last thing they want is an announcement to other satff that they are skiving off. Even though I work from home I find it annoying and distracting, most of the time I click out of the site.

13. Share your skills. Lots of my favourite blogs are informative by either doing craft how-to's, marketing tips or cookery suggestions. If you have a hidden skill people want to know about it. Do you have an amazing recipe for chili, or a genius list of uses for vinegar? Let the world know about it by writing a how-to/guide.Be careful not to spill all your business secrets though, if you teach people how to make all the products that you sell they might not buy from you. Lupin Handsmade balances this line very well.

14. Don't obsess over you visitors numbers, it can take a long time to get established. It's only in the past year that I'm getting a decent amount of hits per day, and even at that they are fairly small compared to other craft site. Remember to be patient, but also remember to enjoy it and not stress over the figures. In later articles I'll give tips on driving traffic9although I'm no expert!)

15. Use lots of photos, number one they serve to break up the text, at heart we are all children who love picture books. I like to upload my pictures as extra large and centred, this avoids tricky formatting trying to integrate them into the text.

16. Link your images where possible, most blog readers expect this(I know I do). For example when I doing an etsy finds post I link the image to the item(by highlighting the photo and clicking link) I also type in a description and price underneath, and I also link this. I tried using the add caption option and linking this but that means that when you click the image you get an error notice. I prefer to put in the extra effort and link both separately.

17. I prefer having a long list of posts rather than having to click older posts repeatedly. It's totally your preference, but I get get bored if the whole rage has to reload every time I want to read an older article. I limit mine to 15 posts.

18. Intersperse weightier more time consuming posts, like this one, with lighter quick posts like my beardy post last week. Otherwise you will be a slave to your computer and not have a life.

19. Mix things up, don't just blog about one thing. If i just blogged about the crafts that I make I would bore myself and my readers to tears. I have other interests so I share them here, it gives a more personal and fuller perspective about who i am. You never know what will appeal to readers, my most popular post of all time is how hot Dave Grohl is.

20. Don't over share. I'm all for letting people in and showing my vulnerable side, but I still treat this site as a face for my business. I don't talk about my sex life, or bitch about people I have issue with. Your blog, especially  business blog, is about putting your best foot forward.

Most importantly have fun!

Stay tuned next week for part two on the importance of design.

Useful Links:
Blogging Your Passion 
Get a more professional looking blog.
The Backlight-loads of blogging tips
Blogging Myths
50 tips to battle writers block
The Art of the Article

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12 Mar 2012

Spring Cleaning My Website

I had a bout of insomnia the other night and instead of driving myself insane tossing and turning I decided to get up at the crack of dawn and be super productive. Since my major blog overhaul a few months back I've been meaning to iron out a few wrinkles in the design, but it was something I never got around to. The wee hours of the morning seemed like stolen time and perfect for getting such a chore finally finished.

I started out this blog nearly 5 years ago on Blogspot and didn't really have a clue what I was doing. Part of me wishes that I had screen shots over the years to show you the evolution of the design. Last year I made big changes, trying to make the blog fit into a website format as much as possible, making a large amount of information easily accessible to readers. Things like the gallery and badges section continued to annoy me though. So it was a matter of rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in.

First Banner

Second Banner

Newest Banner

After reading this article on Songbird on how to make a banner for your blog I decided that this was my first port of call. I was happy enough with my buttony banner for ages but when I recently designed a cover photo for my Facebook page I knew the the old one was quite short of the mark. Also lesson number one with marketing is to have your look consistent across the board, which is something I was failing miserable at. I opened the unflattened file for my cover photo and played around with the composition until I was happy with how it looked. I like the addition of the copy book paper for my blog tagline. I also wanted my banner to include a picture of me so that it was clear that this is a personal cottage industry blog. The Polaroids of my work also give people a snapshot of my style so they can quickly decide if it's something they are interested in. I feel this look represents my business far more than the generic buttons I had before. I know that when formerly had this image a my landing page of Facebook it increased my rate of new fans exponentially, so hopefully it will have the same effect on my blog.

I wanted to cut down on the amount of tabs that I had at the top, recently it had grown to two lines of tabs, which I felt was clunky and not aesthetically pleasing. I got rid of the Facebook tab and instead made a button for it on the side. I'm well used to making my own buttons, but if you need a hand Musings of a Housewife has a great tutorial. I prefer to make my own buttons for Facebook and twitter instead of a live feed as I really hate the look of them and they clutter up the sidebar; taking away from the overall design. I continued with the polka dot buttons for my sidebar, punctuating the space with these blocks of blue making it's easier to navigate. I also go rid of some of gimmicky gadgets from this section in an effort to clean it up a bit.

I also thinned out the number of tabs by joining my two 'shop' tabs into one, and linking to my Etsy shops through a collage of images. This has the added benefit of opening the shop in a new window rather than drawing people away from my website. I did the same thing with my gallery tabs. I now have one page from which my clothes, graphics and crafts galleries link. I made collages for these galleries in Photoshop using the same polka dot background, again trying to keep the design consistent.

I added images to my Categories page, so that it's nicer to read than just a plain list of text. Another page that I had a lot of trouble with in this area was Party Badges. It was a big long list of information that I found impossible to break up. But I discovered that you can publish hidden pages, allowing me to have live information which I can link to, but that isn't listed in the tabs at the top. This allows me to have separate badge, mirror, opener and magnet pages, effectively cleaning up that whole section. I linked the pages with images, so that the options are easily identifiable, and because they open in a new window people can flick between them easily to compare prices.

These changes took the bones of a day to get through, but I'm much happier with this tidier look. Earlier last year I wanted to invest a sizable amount of money into getting a website built for me, now I'm glad I was too broke to make this investment, with a fair bit of hard graft I've gotten quite near to what I wanted, but it was for free.

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9 Mar 2012

Tackling Timeline

Those of you who run business pages on facebook will have noticed that they are phasing in Timeline for pages. You have till the end of the month until it's mandatory, so that gives you a bit of time to figure it out and play with your page design before it goes live. At this stage I'm a bit of a business page expert, for anyone looking for tips on setting up a page I wrote this article last year on 'Facebook Pages:An Idiot Guide'. Whereas today's article is a bit more advanced for those with established pages who know the basic ins and outs already.

Firstly I cannot overestimate the amount that facebook has helped my business, it may be time consuming but at the end of the day it's free, and it's a form of advertising that customers actively opt into and pay attention to, you just can't buy that kind of press. I've had my page for about 2 years and it has brought me lots of new customers, real and online sales, and helped me build a personal relationship with the people who buy from me. They get to put a face to my business and I get invaluable feedback, it's a win win situation.

In the past few months facebook have been making lots of little changes that at first seemed very limiting to pages, but now that they have unveiled Timeline most of it gels together very well. The most obvious difference with Timeline is the appearance, it's a much wider 'wall' with two columns instead of one. Older stories are now accessible by date from the panel on the right hand side, giving the lifespan of the page. They have added a new tool which means that you can bump up old posts by Pinning them, this is done by clicking the pencil icon on the right of any post and choosing the option 'pin to top'. This brings this post to the top of your timeline on the left hand column. It's a good idea to regularly pin popular posts that reflect your page so that prospective 'likers' can gauge quickly what your page is about. Once an item is pinned it remains at the top for 7 days.

Another way to make a post more noticeable is to star it(do this by clicking the star icon on the right of any post) this makes the item double width, and much more noticeable when scrolling through older posts. It's good to punctuate the timeline with a few of the favourited posts to break up the double column layout.

When I first went onto timeline I was disgusted that landing pages were made defunct as there is no longer control over what tab a new viewer arrives on. Previously I had designed a landing page that reflected my business and brought me lots of new 'likes'. Facebook have replaced this with a cover photo, a large image that sits behind your profile picture. It is fine to use an image of one of your products in this window but to get the best results it would be better to have a text and image graphic. Although be careful facebook have some rules about what text can go here, you are not allowed to point towards the like button, include sales promotions or other info that should be in the about section. The dimensions for the cover photo are 851 px wide and 315 px tall, and make your document 72 dpi.

They have also added 'milestones' to the timeline, which act like starred posts(double width), but are designed to highlight key events in your business like awards, press etc. Your chosen event date will then be marked in your timeline. You can create these in your status bar, next to ask a question, and you can upload a photo with your description, the picture dimensions are 843 px wide and 403 px tall. This new feature can be used to great effect to give the history of a business in a dynamic way, especially for older businesses as they can mark events and trivia through the past decades. There is a lovely example here at Leo Burnett Worldwide.

Facebook have added a handy admin panel at the top so all traffic and notifications are easily available. Thank goodness the days of no notifications on business pages are over, that was a nightmare! You can monitor traffic, reach, and who is talking about your page. They have also added a private message section which is really handy rather than people having to discuss sales on your wall. During my research for this article I found out that pages can directly message their 'likers', although be careful not to abuse this and alienate your readers by spamming them. But you can only message people who have already send a direct message to your business page, you can not start a new conversation with one of your fans. It would be a good idea to post an update letting your fans know that they can now send you a direct message, as most people don't know the mechanics behind a business page.

You should also note that the amount that your updates appear in peoples news feed has changed over the past few months, someone who interacts with your page is more likely to see your updates that people who don't. This means that you need to post more regularly, and at different points in the day. It is also advised that you post different types of things, not just talking about your business all the time. Use pictures, ask advice, questions, share finds from Pinterest etc (For more info on this large topic head over to this great article).

The magazine format of timeline has meant that facebook is becoming a much more visually based forum. Do things like share photos of work in progress, a yummy muffin you are eating, or materials you just purchased. There are lots of ways to vary your updates, just start thinking outside the box.  You'll soon start to notice your 'talking about' numbers increasing, and afterwards your likers. Try to post information that people will want to share, George Takai (Ensign Sulu from Star Trek) has a great business page where he posts loads of funny geek pictures, he gets hundreds of 'shares'  every day because his content is great.

All in all I'm pretty happy with it now that I've learned all the new features. At first I hated it because it meant that I had to relearn lots of things. One frustrating thing is that they don't have an attach link function anymore in status updates which leaves an ugly pasted link at the end of the update, it seems like a pointless change. But the overall benefits outweigh any clunky problems. Knowing facebook they will come up with a whole host of new changes in another 6 months just to annoy everyone!

Helpful Articles:
The Drum: 5 ways timeline will impact business pages
CMVLive: Timeline, what's it all about?
How to get more interaction on your business page

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8 Mar 2012

Respect The Beard

Just in case you've been living in a cave for the past year and didn't realise, beards are very in. We've all seen the whole hipster 'tache thing that's been going on for ages, but lets face it mustaches are not particularly sexy, unless you want to look like you are in a 70's porno movie. But I've always been rather attracted to men with beards, and now that they are in fashion they are everywhere, woohoo more eye candy for me. Above is a picture of John with a bushier version of his normal beard, apparently he has been getting lots of compliments from the ladies about the size of his facial hair. Whereas a few years ago most of his friends slagged him for looking like a caveman/homeless.

Some handsome men eye candy for you....

Alexander Skarsgard

Ray Lamontagne

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