Three Thought Bubbles hits the stop button

23 December

I’m hitting the stop button on Three Thought Bubbles. It’s time for me to stretch upwards. I’ve committed to learning new skills. One of the triggers for this move is a business trend that worries me today; we want to distill everything down to a 5 step process. Social media obliges and rehashes the formulas daily. I want to do some deep learning which involves messy exploration with no set objectives. I want to learn through doing the work myself.

A video posted by Min Liu (@bloodydairy) on

 

I’m taking six months out to do some deep learning in a distraction free zone!

I continue to be open to collaborations and side projects. One of these is ARTzheimer’s – a social enterprise that uses art to provoke bold and honest conversations about Alzheimer’s. My work here is as a written and visual brand storyteller.

I stand by the two reasons I set up Three Thought Bubbles; to help businesses to be more human on the web and to help them to communicate with meaning and clarity. I still believe that human and marketing are two words that can co-exist – if we choose to communicate with intention.

This creative learning break was greatly inspired by Stefan Sagmeister. One day he questioned how we spend our lives learning, working and dreaming about retirement –

Right now we spend about the first 25 years of our lives learning, then there is another 40 years that’s really reserved for working. And then tacked on at the end of it are about 15 years for retirement. And I thought it might be helpful to basically cut off five of those retirement years and intersperse them in between those working years. That’s clearly enjoyable for myself. But probably even more important is that the work that comes out of these years flows back into the company and into society at large, rather than just benefiting a grandchild or two.

Here are some of my articles about key ideas I learned as a mentor and trainer over the last three years:

  • The concept and results of doing micro work are powerful.
  • Best Practice’ is a jargon phrase used by lazy people who want to follow formulas and not exercise their brains.
  • “We’re on social media.” Really? What is your intention?
  • Learn to chop your words – the power of editing.
  • Ultimately, what do you want to be known for?
  • Why blogging is not about finding your voice.
  • I encourage you to be part of an encouragement network.Develop your brand voice

    That’s it for now – no trumpet fanfares or lengthy speeches. I have thoroughly enjoyed working in this field. I trained a diverse group of clients and got to collaborate with inspiring colleagues. Two colleagues I’d like to mention in particular are Siodhna McGowan from Inspired Thinking and Gillian Horan from The Pudding Brand. Like myself, they strive to make marketing human and meaningful.

    Who knows what the next chapter will hold! I’d love to stay in touch with you – Twitter is my platform of choice.

    .

Animated GIF credit:
Min Liu Animator NYC / Taiwan
Website: min-liu.com
Instagram: @bloodydairy

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The encouragement network – be part of one

8 September

The Do Lectures offers encouragement to entrepreneurs

A business tagline yelled at me in a friendly way today. It got me thinking about the successful business owners I train. But if we forget the job titles and business structures – what do humans need most of all? From my experience, entrepreneurs need encouragement.

This is a short post to plant an idea in your head. Who regularly encourages you to push and succeed? Have you an accountability coach or a mentor you respect? And how often do you encourage others? We never know how our words can impact other people.

The Do Lectures is a Welsh company that runs an unconference The aim – to invite exciting Doers to share their stories and inspire others.

We do it for the look on someone’s face when a speaker’s words hit them. Right between the eyes. And their focus alters, just enough to show them the path they’re supposed to follow from that point on.

There’s another benefit to encouragement. We get an outside-in view of where we are right now. Someone offer insights we would never see ourselves. It’s a form of collaboration that we can offer and receive! It’s a life skill worth practicing.

Read more about The Do Lectures
And watch some of their great talks

Let me know if you need some help communicating your ideas publicly or getting clear before you start. I am a very encouraging trainer!

 

What ‘Amuse Bouche’ taught me about microblogging!

26 July

First of all… ‘Amuse bouche’ are tiny starters designed to amuse your mouth! I was invited to a dinner party where each guest was asked to create one. The only rule was that it should fit on a spoon. This post is about my obsession with the word micro and how it equates with blogging. I’ll show you how to start small when it comes to sharing your ideas.

Micro food and micro blogging

First though, I want to talk about the joy of creating small things…

We all live in a world that can feel overwhelming.
Too much noise
way too much choice
and an obsession with how quickly time passes.

As a business owner, I know that you feel this too! “How can I run a business and still find time to write a blog?” This is a question that I am constantly asked as a trainer.
What if I showed you a way that allowed you to experiment on a smaller scale?

Doing things on a small scale gives us time to breathe. And it allows us to have fun. If writing a blog becomes a chore, why would you keep it up? And what sort of content will you create if you’re working to a formula?

So let’s get back to miniature cooking for a few minutes.

For this delicious project, I could choose any mix of flavours, colours and textures. That’s what made it exciting and tricky. If was going to be one mouthful, it had to have impact. I had to simplify, yet magnify the experience, because that is exactly what it was! I chose a savoury panna cotta – pea and lemon. I served them in a lime with crème fraîche and individually plucked lavender flowers. I spent magical hours creating a tiny piece of food art. There was an aha moment too; the power in small, well considered things. That could be a spoonful of food or a great idea shared.

Amuse Bouche

The word that has inspired me most this year is Micro.

One man in particular has changed the way I view the world.

Allastair Humphreys is a world adventurer who goes on epic trips around the globe. He wanted to make ‘adventure’ accessible to everyone (especially those with a 9 to 5 mindset). So he coined the phrase #microadventure. He shows how it’s possible for anyone to have regular, small adventures. This idea translates perfectly to blogging. Start small. Dip your toe in and get comfortable owning and sharing your ideas!

Today I want to focus on how you can use Instagram for micro blogging.

Microblogging is the practice of posting small pieces of digital content – text, pictures, links, short videos, or other media on the Internet. Microblogging helps you to get comfortable sharing your ideas publicly.

Who is telling great business stories on instagram?

Here are three examples – Instead of using the clichéd Insta-description formula – they are using the space to publish longer form paragraphs. These are still shorter than traditional blog articles but they invite two way conversations. What stories could you tell?

 

Neil Shea – photographic journalist with National Geographic (among other things)

Neil Shea

Neil takes powerful images and helps us to understand what we’re looking at.
From Neil’s website bio – “Since 2014 Neil has been a leading voice in social media storytelling, and with National Geographic and other clients he has pioneered the use of Instagram as narrative platform. He was among the first writers to take longform narrative techniques to the new “shortform” word+picture environment of Instagram.
 

Artist, Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy artist

Patricia has taken some of my workshops and was considering starting a blog. I encouraged her to experiment with Instagram first to get used to sharing her process and inspiration. She is starting conversations about her art and she is having fun in the process. In this post, Patricia describes how the recession inspired her to focus on creating something more positive. This insight adds meaning to the artwork and helps us connect emotionally with the person behind the business.
 

School for social entrepreneurs – providing training courses to help social entrepreneurs solve complex social problems

School for social entrepreneurs
Their tagline is ‘Doing learning differently’, so it’s not surprising that they use Instagram differently! A grid photo app splits one image into a series (as seen above). As you scroll through the 3 or 6 image sequence, they share different excerpts from a blog post. This makes an interesting story series. Instagram doesn’t allow live links in your text. The way around this is to update your bio link, every time you’d like to direct people somewhere else. Just mention that the ‘link is in bio today’.

Have I got you excited?

The aim of this post (and what drives me daily) is to help people to value, own and share their own ideas. By starting small, you can learn a process that suits you. Let me know if you’d like help with that.

PS, my amuse bouche didn’t sit on a spoon in the end and didn’t taste quite as good as it looked. But I learned heaps by having constraints. We had *so* much fun that we’re having another party next month!


Links to explore:

Neil Shea – website and Instagram account.
Patricia Murphy – website and instagram account
The School for Social Entrepreneurs – website and Instagram account
Allastair Humphreys – Website and Instagram account.

What is your six word business story?

27 May

Last week, I was at a Creative Mornings Dublin talk. The worldwide theme was ‘Reality’ and the speaker was Bob Gray from Red & Grey Design. Bob talked about their design process and how they help clients to get really clear on what they actually do. He then talked about the power of writing a six word business story. I use this technique with clients too.

Six word business story

Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write the six word story above; “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” It’s amazing how much emotion this tiny story evokes. We want to know why the shoes are for sale – and more importantly, what happened to the baby. The reason this exercise is so powerful for businesses is twofold – if you are crystal clear about how you can help customers, it makes it easy for them to understand too. It’s a prerequisite to a sale!

What is your six word business story?

Some of my clients find it tricky to sum up what they do in a few words. Here are some tips that will help you:

Capture lots of words that describe what you do
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and choose words that will mean something to them
Edit it down to six words that sum up how you can make someone else’s life better

Irish company ‘Strong Roots’ say more with less words!

Strong roots - Irish frozen vegetable food company

I came across a new Irish business called Strong Roots yesterday. Their website communicates what they do in simple and meaningful language. They are on a mission ‘to revolutionise frozen food’. And they have a great six word mission statement –

“Honesty in food from underground flavours”

Here’s the truth

It’s refreshing (and surprising) to come across a business that has a clear brand message. I don’t need a dictionary to understand what ‘Strong Roots’ do. They value my time by explaining succinctly how they can help me. If I’m interested in quality, frozen sweet potatoes, I’m in the right place! If not, I’m off.

Strong Roots

Business is about people and it’s about communication. Do your customers understand what you do when they visit your website or blog? Have a go at creating your own short story. Then ask for some feedback from people who don’t know you!

I help businesses to be more human on the web. I offer a range of training and services – Check out my current offerings or give me a call on 087 635 5655.

Related posts
How minimalism can help you simplify your life and your business – I’ve discovered that less works best – less words, less goals, less obsessively reading online content!
Chop your words; the skill of editing. Language is an art – how to be selective in your word choice and word count.

I agree; ‘best practices’ are stupid.

18 April

Best practices are stupid

I love the crossovers of interest that I share with my husband; a context-driven software tester who answers the question “Is there a problem here?”. We had a great conversation one day about the term ‘Best Practice’. I’m fairly sure I was giving out about the jargon filled world of business communication. ‘Best Practice’ is a classic example of meaningless, business lingo.

We came to the conclusion that ‘Best Practice’ is a jargon phrase used by lazy people who want to follow formulas and not exercise their brains.

Let’s try and understand what the phrase means – the best solution to x problem? Surely ‘Best Practice’ has to be different to different people, at different times and in different situations? Therefore, it is required to be a fluid thing. ‘Best’ doesn’t leave much room for improvement or innovation in my mind. Your ‘Best Practice’ is not necessarily my ‘Best Practice. I can learn from you but there’s absolutely no use in me blindly copying a set of procedures which produced a positive result for you.

Appreciative Inquiry is an alternative approach
which I describe in my previous post. This technique approaches problem solving in a radically different way. There is no rule-book for this adaptive approach. If you value the best of ‘what is’, it opens the way to continually dream and design a better business.

Stephen’s book popped through our letterbox this morning. I’m excited to read it and share some of my favourite insights. The first sentence in the table of contents is ‘Innovate the way you innovate’. I’m hooked already!

Buy the book:
Best practices are stupid, by Stephen M Shapiro.

I am a human marketer who trains businesses how to engage meaningfully on the web. I offer a range of workshops and one to one tuition. Find out more.

Appreciative Inquiry – What does your business do really well?

11 April

There’s a worrying trend in online business advice right now – whatever you’re doing is not enough.

What does your business do well today?

As a trainer and mentor, I see the effect that this has on business owners. There is an exhausting stream of ‘how to’ advice. While there’s invaluable content out there, some trainers focus on fear mongering; ‘if you’re not on social media, your business doesn’t exist’, ‘if you’re not posting regular content, you are losing out to competitors. Are you a business owner? If so, I’d love to hear how this approach makes you feel. What opposite approach might work better for you?

What if you focussed on what your business does really well?

I recently did some consultation work with Think Visual. I discovered that they are huge fans of a technique called ‘Appreciative Inquiry‘ which was created in the 80s. Simply put, this technique focuses us on the positive and uses this to ‘correct’ the negative. It’s the opposite of problem-solving. Often, if we turn an idea on it’s head, we get remarkable new solutions!

“The traditional approach to change is to look for the problem, do a diagnosis, and find a solution. The primary focus is on what is wrong or broken; since we look for problems, we find them. By paying attention to problems, we emphasize and amplify them. …Appreciative Inquiry suggests that we look for what works in an organisation. The tangible result of the inquiry process is a series of statements that describe where the organization wants to be, based on the high moments of where they have been. Because the statements are grounded in real experience and history, people know how to repeat their success.”

Hammond, Sue. The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, 1998.

So, What is Appreciative Inquiry and how might it help you and your business?

Appreciative inquiry asks you to explore what is already working well.

If we continue to search for problems, we will continue to find problems. If we look for what is best and learn from it, we can magnify our success.

The technique is based on asking powerful questions. These questions are:

    • Thought provoking and invite you to reflect
    • Question your assumptions
    • Stimulate your curiosity and creativity
    • Help move you forward

 

I know that this mental shift has a huge impact on business and the people who run them. Knowing what you and your team do best is essential. It’s the reason you are in business. If you value ‘the best of what is’, it opens the way to continually dream and design a better business.

 

I’ve been using some of these techniques in training before coming across Appreciative Inquiry. I train business owners to humanise their brand on the web – I can help you communicate your story in a number of ways. If you’d like to find out more – let’s have a chat.

 

Suggested reading
You might also enjoy my post – Invest in Mattering.

Image credit:
Image by Burak Kebapci via Pexel

Stress free ways to value and share your great ideas

11 March

This is a ‘what if’ post.

What if you valued and owned your ideas and shared them with more people?

What if you found a way to share your ideas that felt easier and more fun?

Last week I gave a talk at the Limerick Women’s Networking Event – the topic was ‘How to humanise your business with a blog’. We talked about the fears and concerns that most business owners have around using social media. Here are my suggestions to help you share your great ideas.

Simple ways to value and share your ideas

For some, the idea of starting a blog is overwhelming. Here are three ways to help you get comfortable with voicing your opinion on the web. Think of them as an in-between step to blogging – a practice run!

LinkedIn Posts

LinkedIn now allows you to write articles or posts which are posted on your profile page and seen by your connections.

LinkedIn articles

I freely admit that it’s taken me years to warm to LinkedIn. I’m still finding my way around it and discovering new ways to improve my profile. Recently though, I started sharing some of my blog posts as LinkeIn articles. The response has been great. It’s simple to format and upload an article and share it with your connections.

The benefits: You get to share your passion and expertise and build your reputation. You can post as frequently as you like without any posting schedule pressure. It can help you to attract more of the type of work you love to do. It’s a great way of re-purposing content to share with a new audience.

‘Medium’ articles

Medium.com describes themselves as a community of readers and writers offering unique perspectives on ideas large and small.

Medium

I subscribe to Medium and have yet to write an article. But I love the format and concept. Medium is a web-based service that lets anyone publish articles online; Wikipedia calls it a “blog publishing platform”. It’s also a form of social journalism. Once you open an account, you can publish articles on any topic you like. Entries can then be recommended and shared by other people, in a similar manner to Twitter.

The benefits: Medium shares all the benefits of writing a LinkedIn post. In addition, there is the potential to connect and collaborate with a eclectic mix of people. It is possible to remain anonymous if you wish.

Instagram articles

Some people describe Instagram as a micro-blogging platform. There is much more to Instagram than image and video curation and I have discovered brands who are being very innovative. There is the option to include text underneath your visual. Most people include a short description and a dizzying list of hashtags. There is another option:

Instagram allows you to include a supporting piece of text which adds meaning to the image. I’m excited by the possibilities here. You can stand out by doing something different. I believe that Instagram is a great place to experiment with sharing ideas.

The benefits: It’s a really easy to set up an account and post content. You can start off with a private account until you get the hang of it. Use it to share short form articles or sound-bites. Explore your writing style and learn from watching others. Great for discovering new ways to tell your business story. Here are some people who do this well:

Humans of New York – HONY

Humans of new York share portraits and stories about people. Sometimes they are intensely sad, other times hilarious. We are offered a supporting story to add meaning to the portrait. We feel like we understand the subject when we can empathise with their world.

Humans of New York


A M Fitness – Always Move

Andy Myers is the founder of Ireland’s Original Movement Studio. He regularly writes about his passion and process and shares stories about customer progress. As a result he gets great engagement on his Instagram account. Below he describes Reg, who is in his over 60’s class. This business is obviously more than a job for Andy. It’s through the written stories that we sense this.Always Move

This article on Instagram as a writing platform might interest you too
Can Wired make Instagram journalism mainstream?
 

This post is designed to give you simple ways to practice your idea-sharing muscles! It’s so tempting to share other people’s content – that’s what the digital world encourages us to do. I want you to develop a new habit – to own, value and share your great ideas. I’d love to hear your feedback on this one. Soon, I’ll be offering a workshop on how to use Instagram for business. Let me know if you’re interested in hearing more.

 
Featured links
My LinkedIn posts – Aisling Nelson on LinkedIn
Medium – Medium.com
Instagram – Instagram.com
Humans of New York – Instagram account
Always Move Fitness Studio – Andy Myers

Surprise me – words that wake us up

23 February

This morning an election flyer popped through the door. I lazily scanned it over breakfast. I looked past the jaded layout and connected with the message. Liam turned a familiar concept on its head while still being respectful to his audience; Me.

The magic ingredient was surprise.

How does the element of surprise help us connect with our customers?

This political manifesto has an unexpected twist! Only yesterday, I read a business vision which contained phrases like ‘best practice’ and ‘fit for purpose’. What do we mean when we use jargon words like that? What are we hiding behind? Liam takes an every day word that he’s hearing from constituents and helps us re-frame it in a positive way. This might sound like simple word play but the result is powerful. It helps us to see an alternative reality.

People focussed political candidate flyer

Liam asks us to imagine a better future

Sure, this is a familiar political cry. But we’re being asked to take some responsibility for making a better world to live in. I’m willing to give head space to this idea.

Every day I hear the word ‘if’IF I get sick, will there be a bed for me? IF I can’t afford childcare, how do I go back to work? How will I retire IF I can’t live on my pension?

I believe that in a republic, the word ‘if’ should signal our hopes and not our fears…What if we could build this republic together? Let’s not live in fear, let’s live in hope.

Asking your audience ‘What if?’ is a great way to start an interesting conversation.

Another group who are effectively rallying change with the word ‘if’ are The Irish Architecture Foundation – inspiringly named ‘What If Dublin‘ on Twitter. Here is another community building group using the word ‘if’ to get us to question our beliefs.

These use their twitter account to debate ‘simple and not so simple ideas of how we can improve Dublin City’.

“We truly believe that architecture transforms lives. It influences our everyday experience, from the interiors of our houses to our landscape, our cities and our towns. We believe that the impact of our awareness and education initiatives will create a better-built environment, and we do everything within our power to make that happen.”

Read the rest of this entry »

What might your customer be secretly hoping for?

3 February

What might your customer be secretly hoping for?

I absolutely love when I read a sentence that jolts me. This one popped off my screen yesterday. The article was about business innovation and creativity and it threw up 4 questions that can generate ‘fruitful thinking’.

I’m isolating this question and throwing it out to you.
Have you ever thought thought about what your customers might be secretly hoping for?

If you’re a photographer, your client might be secretly hoping that you’ll capture their true essence. If you’re a language teacher, your client might be secretly hoping that they’ll reinvent themselves and settle in Sicily. We never ‘just’ buy products or services. We buy how we imagine they’ll make us feel.

No matter what your business is, your customer has secret hopes. Maybe it’s a simple as making someone feel calmer.

I challenge you to sit with this idea over your lunch break. Better still, take it on a walk! Look beyond your business descriptions and climb into your customers’ shoes. I know that you’ll get some exciting insights!

I recommend you read the full articleInnovation and Creativity via The Book of Life.

The best of 2015 – the ideas I learned and shared this year

13 January

Three Thought Bubbles popular blog posts 2015

I write this blog to help you and to help myself.
I tease out ideas, I share knowledge and skills and I play with words.
I reach out to new people who excite me (mostly Tweeters!) and we have blind dates over strong coffee. There is electric energy in many of these conversations. Ideas collide and grow new limbs! Unexpected collaborations and strong friendships have developed too.

If you are in business, you must emotionally connect with people. This is something I can help you with. This blog post introduces you to the skills and values that underpin my training.

Here are the most popular posts from 2015 – they all focus on authentic ways for you to market what you do.

I tell my clients that a blog becomes a living business plan. Over time, it reveals the ideas, people and values that matter to you. It’s your choice to invest in mattering or write for SEO robots.

In 2015, I wrote about self confidence in business, telling your story and the art of writing, human marketing, visual storytelling, living your brand and face to face networking with people who excite you. What drives me most is finding ways to make business more human. Of course we need to market what we do but there are authentic and meaningful ways to do this.

Learning new skills – how to be kind to yourself

As business owners, we can be very tough on ourselves. I find this is especially true when people are learning new social media skills. My advice is to take baby steps and be kind to yourself! These posts might help you with this:

How to set ‘sane, humane and reasonable goals!
How to give yourself a break. It’s all about taking small, achievable steps.

Blogging – how do you feel about learning a new skill?
Do you expect to master new skills in an instant? Could you change that mind-set?

How minimalism can help you simplify your life and your business

I’ve discovered that less works best – less words, less goals, less obsessively reading online content!

Writing tips

When did you learn to write? Probably at school or college. Now it’s time to lose some of the formal structure and learn to write like you speak. This takes time and commitment but it’s an enjoyable journey. Here are some tips on writing skills and styles:

Chop your words; the skill of editing
Language is an art – how to be selective in your word choice and word count.

Why blogging is not about finding your voice
It’s in the doing; the magic happens as you learn.

Is the feeling of having to ‘create content’ killing your creativity?
Are you writing for SEO robots or because you have something interesting to say?

Human Marketing

When I first heard this phrase, it rang true with me. Sometimes, perceived opposites can work harmoniously together. The reason I set up Three Thought Bubbles was because I believe there are authentic ways to market a business. The second reason is that I know this technique is proven to be effective. People buy from people they like and trust. That is what human marketing is all about; understanding what people want help with. These posts will get you out of your own head and into the mind of your ideal customers:

Brand tone; what do your customers really hear?
Your brand is the conversation that your customers have when you leave the room! How do people ‘experience’ your brand?

Invest in mattering…
What if you focused on how what you do matters to other people? Would it change how you approach your business?

Stop, think, post – how to do social media with intention
Stop and ask yourself ‘what is my intention?’

Tips on how to tell your business story visually

Humans make sense of the world through images and stories. Images are powerful for reinforcing your written ideas. There are lots of ways for you to tell visual business stories:

How to use Instagram to tell your business story
Instagram is a powerful micro blogging platform – see how other businesses are effectively using it.

Visual tips to bring your business stories alive
Simple tips to tell powerful visual stories.

How can you ‘Live our brand’?

We might fight it but each of us is a brand. We’re selling ourselves on a daily basis! We now have the chance to create our online identity:

How much thought do you give to your personal brand?
What do you find when you Google your name? It’s time to own and develop your online reputation.

Connect with people on and off the web

And finally, I encourage you to connect with others and always ask for help!
Find interesting people on the web and invite them out for coffee. See what happens next!

The reason we are in business is to connect with people on an emotional level. Most of us never learned how to do this is in a business context. I can help you by offering you training, support and strategies. Give me a call on 087 635 5655 if you’d like to discuss some options.

Aisling