Monday, 3 February 2014

The Big Game's Biggest Tweets

Once again I successfully predicted the Super Bowl winner (okay I said the Seahorses would win, but you know what I mean).

As a Brit, I'm still not really too clear on how American Football works. But I do understand how social media works, so spending an evening watching Twitter drama unfold, over wings and beer, was just as entertaining. So instead of a usually Monday media post from me here, read this run down I wrote on the 8 Top Social Moments from the Big Game.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

How to be a Successful Blogger (by breaking all the rules)

Know the 'rules' of blogging before you start, they say. There are steps to successful blogging. I know these 'rules', and I follow a lot of them, just not at the same time.

Most of the time I'm breaking the rules.

And there are very good reasons for breaking the rules of blogging, both in corporate and personal/lifestyle blogging. It really depends on your goals.

I tend not to define myself as a 'blogger' because blogging is just one part of what I do, both personally and professionally. Here I am, blogging, but this blog here is not my career, it's not my business, and it's not my entire lifestyle. And yet this blog has been hugely successful - by my own terms!

So here are some 'rules' of blogging that I know I break, and why I break them:

Broken Rule # 1: (Don't) Find a Niche and Stick to it


Personally: I'm an expat, millennial, career-changing digital native, and for a long time I couldn't decide how to narrow my niche. I love the differences between American and UK cultures but I didn't want a pure expat blog. The blogs I read on a daily basis cover a broad range of interests, and rarely overlap. So for 2014 I'm picking three themes and running with them: Building (and re-building) a career as a millennial, blogging/marketing, and my expat life. They're not as distinct as they might seem and I have several blog posts planned that fit into more than one theme.

So if you can't choose a specific niche, or don't want to be pigeonholed, don't choose a niche! Try picking a few key themes that interest you, and you'll soon work out how they can tie together into one overall brand.

Broken Rule # 2: (Don't) Share your Blog Posts all over Social Media


You've written a snappy, relevant, or thought-provoking post and you want to share it with the world. But stop: Where are you going to share it, and when?

Don't feel like you should just blast it all over every social account you have. Use your social accounts wisely and mindfully. Twitter is the place to craft an irresistible headline or two and share throughout the day. Pinterest and Facebook both drive traffic with visual content, but at opposite times of the day. And sometimes more is not always better - too much can be less effective than not enough.

For every post you craft, determine the best social accounts to share on. This works equally for personal and corporate blogging, especially when you're clear on what you want to achieve - whether it's traffic, sales, or shares.

Broken Rule # 3: (Don't) Be an Expert


Sometimes the most interesting blogs are about people learning their way. Whether it's a new mom, a new blogger, a new lawyer, a new fashionista, or someone who's in a new country, sharing first-time experiences can be more genuine and engaging than advice from thought-leaders. And that goes for pictures too - photos from 'behind the scenes' give a fascinating insight. 

Unpolished: Behind the scenes. NOT what I wear professionally!
Don't forget that blogging is allowed to be immediate and a bit unpolished! That includes, writing, photography, your outfit, your baby - whatever. Some personal blogs look professional, and some professional blogs look homespun. And that's totally ok. Life's like that, so go with it. Share what you don't know, as well as what you do.

Broken Rule # 4: (Don't) Break all the Rules


Read all the 'rules' of blogging that you can find, and read all the rulebreakers (ahem). Then decide what you need to do. Knowing how and why tricks and tactics work in social media and blogging helps you to discover what works for you.

So the one rule I recommend you do follow is to set out a goal for your blog. Even if you've been blogging for ages. And when you achieve that goal or your goal eventually changes, take a step back and re-evaluate, because your tactics will alter depending on what you want to achieve.

Some people like sharing memes and pictures, some people like essays and ideas, some like a mixture of both. Some people want to sell products, others want to build an audience, and others still just want to explore and have fun whether anyone's reading or not. Catch-all rules or rule-breaking won't work for every blog the same way.

Broken Rule # 5: (Don't) Define Success According to Others


And finally, remember that everyone does have a different goal. Me? I'm not a fashion blogger, so I don't do outfit posts, even though I tried them. I'm not into giveaways or sponsorships, even though I tried them and they absolutely work. They're 'rules' I don't want to follow

I don't blog every day, I don't have a huge readership, and I feel successful

I've met some fun people, switched careers, learned and expanded skills. I get to test ideas at 'play' in my personal blogspace, on projects with no real deadline and no real purpose, then test ideas out at work. 

So here's how I'm defining my (personal) blogging success this year: I'm going to take my three themes, and try to create a cohesive personal brand. Even if my brand is millennial expat career-changing digital native!

What blogging rules do you follow? Which ones do you break? How do you define your blogging success?

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A Pennsylvania Blogger Meet-Up

This post is way overdue. Months and months ago I responded to a blog post by one of my favorite bloggers, Katherine from Of Corgis and Cocktails, inviting PA bloggers to lunch.

That's me on the left! Then Kate, Stephanie, Becky, Katherine, and Marisa! Photo courtesy of Katherine.
And so in October I borrowed my husband's car and drove down to Terrain in Glen Mills to eat lunch with some lovely girls I'd never met before. The journey down was an adventure. The car was literally falling apart due to some bad repairs carried out by a garage (which we later got fixed at no charge because the garage made so many mistakes). Scooting down the highway was a bit scary as I needed to avoid potholes and braking too hard. Plus it was the furthest I'd driven by myself since moving to the US, and I had no clue where I was going, or where I was meeting my fellow blogettes!

But it was a very nice afternoon, meeting some lovely local ladies, and poking around a gorgeous store.
From the buttery bread served in flower pots and fresh water in mason jars, to the beautiful displays and delicious aromas (check out their soaps…mmm), Terrain was a great place to meet up.

And as it was nearing Halloween (hence all the pumpkins), we gave each other little treats, most of which my husband and I snarfed immediately when I got home. Let me tell you, these bloggers have skills

When my husband saw the photo at the top of all of us, he asked how I managed to find the five girls in Pennsylvania with the same style as me. I told him it made complete sense - we all follow the blogs that attract us the most, and blog the things that interest us the most, or that we hope others like us will find interesting. People on social media, and bloggers especially, get knocked for image crafting, but to me that's entirely the point. I'm going to talk more about this in a future post, so watch out for it.

Of course I'll do my due diligence and link to Katherine's outfit post and Marisa's outfit post so you can find out where they got their cute dresses (and see more photos of Terrain). And my dress? It's from UK store Trollied Dolly. I wore it here too. Their dresses are so fabulous that I have several, and my husband even proposed to me while I was wearing one!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Snow in Pennsylvania

This winter we've had plenty of snow days, including yesterday and our last few days before Christmas in the UK.

Luckily I wear a number of professional hats, so it doesn't create too much turmoil for me. I currently work for a cute little country club in the ruralburbs, and I also do freelance work for a creative marketing agency. When I'm not doing one I'm doing the other, and a snow day gives me a chance to catch up with copywriting, reports, and walkies.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Max Ehrmann's Desiderata is one of those pieces of writing I often return to for a moment's meditation. And the holiday season (especially the week between Christmas and New Year) is a perfect time to collect and recollect, and plan for the year ahead.

Last year I did a series of photographs named 12 Days of Gladness, reflecting on the year when I up and left my job to move to be in the US with my husband.

I thought Desiderata would be the ideal way to reintroduce myself to blogging in 2014. All these photos are mine from the past year or so (except the first one which my husband took!)

I didn't learn much more in the way of photographic skills last year, but I did learn a lot about myself, the world I live in, and what I want to achieve for 2014. So I've spent most of January making considered and decided plans and goals for this year, and I'll share these ideas with you over the next few weeks.

I've also made some decisions about the kind of blog I want. I've always felt a little stuck between expat blogging, 'lifestyle' blogging, and blogging about more solid things relating to my career aspirations. I've decided that it's okay to mix all three!

I threw these photos together last night, and my husband found me at my desk as I was working on the last one. It's a photo from Camden in London, taken a few weeks ago. He'd never heard of Desiderata before, and he also didn't know that I'd taken that picture. The whole thing struck him much more profoundly than I expected - so I hope you enjoy it too!

Which poem or piece of writing inspires you? Or where do you take inspiration from? I'd love to hear. For now, I'm going to get back to reading my Bloglovin backlog…

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Queen Speech Bingo 2013

Download and Print your Bingo Cards here!


Hey guys!

I know it's been a very long time since I made an appearance in the blogging world. The last few months have been busy (in a good way) and I have a lot of wonderful posts and photos to share with you. I just need to make time to do it. I'm currently in the UK having a very British Christmas (yay!) and it's a bit of a whirlwind tour visiting loved ones.

Anyway - this was one of my most popular blog posts of the past year so of course I had to do it again for 2013. I'm sneaking it in late this year, but here goes: Queen Speech Bingo 2013!

How to Play Queen Speech Bingo

The full rules are available here but really it's very simple:


How it Works

I use a list of the most common words from previous Queen Christmas speeches, and throw in a few extras (wildcards) to reflect recent events. Extra words for 2013 include George, information, internet, and independence.

Let me know if you decide to play, and of course, who wins!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Expat Q & A - Perceptions of Expat Life in the USA

The great thing about the expat Q & A hosted by the lovely Belinda and Bailie is that it makes me realize that my expat life is, well, normal.

This month's expat Q & A is about how others perceive expat life. It's been fascinating to read the other responses because there seems to be some universally shared experiences. No matter where a blogger moved from or to it appears that their friends and family think they're living a fairytale life abroad, a constant vacation.

But really, it's just life.

Everyday, boring, normal, quotidian, mundane life. And sometimes (most of the time) that life is pretty good. So here are my answers to this month's questions, but don't forget to check out the rest too!

Question #1: How does your family and friends back home perceive your new life, and is it accurate?

Actually, I think most of my friends and family have a realistic impression of how life in the USA works now. I talk about ordinary things like my commute to work, buying a car, nights in with my husband, networking, etc.

But when I still lived in Britain and first discussed moving to America, I usually got one of two responses:

  1. Wow! That's so glamorous! America, that's cool!
  2. So, how do you really feel about moving to a country without public healthcare?

I won't go into the second response here (yet) but the first one is interesting, because it's kind of related to what I said in my guest post on A Compass Rose about the UK impression of the US. It's often one-sided, but America has so many sides.

Two very different sides of America
There is a side of America that's fast-moving, cosmopolitan, urban, and exciting. And then there is the side of America that is vast, open, rustic, and fascinating.

And I live slap bang in the middle of both. Yes, I live very close to two of the biggest cities in the country (Philadelphia and New York). But my daily commute involves all aspects of US living: driving past corn fields and cows, along multi-lane suburban pikes past shopping malls, through little towns, and even a stint on a highway for good measure.

So while my friends know that I'm not on a constant vacation, and I don't live on fast food, I'm not sure they get a whole picture of the contrasts of American living.

Murals in Philly
Hot Dogs in New York
Cabela's - the outdoor outfitters
Question #1: Do you find the need to edit your life from friends and family? 

At the beginning, I definitely did, for fear of disappointing them!

I know that's silly, but after my friends and family had been so supportive in the lead-up to my emigrating from the UK to the USA, I didn't want them to think that I wasn't living the American Dream.

The truth is, those first few months of immigration and expattery can be really hard, and after all the hype and expectation, I didn't want people to worry, or to think I'd made a mistake.

But now, now I'm settled and life is normal, and wonderfully so, I'll confide and talk about my daily frustrations. Recently I had an hour long Skype chat with a friend in Scotland because we're both looking at buying used cars, and that's a universal pain!