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.

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.

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.


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

Business blogging; the difference between ‘how’ and ‘how can’

16 September

The more I learn about writing and communication, the more excited I get by the power of words. But lately I’ve become fascinated by how the words we choose to talk to ourselves have a massive impact on the actions we take. If you’re thinking about starting a business blog, you’re probably asking yourself lots of how questions. How will I know what to write about? How will people find my blog? How will I find the time in my busy day?

Stop and ask yourself some ‘how can‘ questions instead; you might surprise yourself with what happens next.

How you look at things

‘How can’ questions immediately encourage you to find solutions! For example, ‘How can I find time in my busy day?’ might help you look at how you actually spend your day. How can I spend that time more wisely? How can I get someone to help me with other aspects of my work that I don’t enjoy doing?

If you’re a business owner, you’re already a genius problem solver! That’s why your clients are happy to pay you money. You can help yourself to perform better by asking yourself better questions. I’m encouraging you to start them with ‘How can’.

Small shifts in thinking can lead to better habits! I’ve written posts on topics that relate to this one.

How to set yourself sane, humane and reasonable goals.
This one idea from Alexandra Franzen had a huge impact on how I work. Let’s start by being kinder to ourselves.

Let’s make friends with blogging first; simplifying your decision to blog into 5 simple steps.
I de-mystify what is involved in starting a business blog.

How do you feel about learning a new skill?
Blogging is a new skill – how do you feel about learning new things? I share my own experience!

How to make time to blog
We all have the same amount of hours in the day. That’s why it’s important to question our perception of time.

What keeps you from sharing your work?
Whether you are a creator or art or ideas, how do you feel about openly sharing your work?

Has the ‘How can‘ question captured your imagination today? I really hope so! Please share any ideas on this word debate below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Image credit
Free stock image from Pexels.com – graphic inspired by a 1970’s image taken in LA!

It’s perfectly OK to disengage from the web sometimes

29 July

This Friday, I’m swapping thinking and analysing for physical exertion in some German hills! I’ve enjoyed telling my friends (and more significantly, myself) just how much I need space to tune out and unplug. So, this is a vacation notice with a difference; I want to share some ideas on how to slow down and disengage. Not just for two weeks, but with regular intention. This is a positive post about being mindful and strategic about how we spend our time online.

It is perfectly OK to disengage from the web sometimes

Sometimes we need a break from catchy headlines and quote-covered photos. I say this as a creator of both! I’m realising how essential it is to find ways to hit the pause button. I’m going to share some of the movements and thought leaders that have grabbed my attention lately.

I wish I could remember where I heard this quote; ‘With the internet, we now have the ability to outsource our internal ramblings’. This is such a mind-boggling and funny thought – as if we don’t have enough chatter going on inside our heads! Every day, I discover radically amazing ideas and people online but I need to find ways to filter through the constant distraction.

Here are three concepts that are aligning with my new ways of thinking; minimalism, physical movement and slowing down.


I came across The Minimalists at a time when I was seeking to simplify my life in general. As with all new life habits, they have a way of trickling into every area of life. I found that the minimalist mindset helped me re-structure my way of working too. Minimalism leads to clarity. Best of all, it cuts through the noise and clutter and helps us make better decisions.

Thought provokers –

  • I wrote a post on how minimalism can help you simplify your life and your business.
  • The No Sidebar website – A collection of articles on minimalism, productivity and simple living.

    Exercise and movement

    My work involves a mix of training and writing and I have become hyper conscious of my static, seated position. My body is yelling at me to move and I’m listening now! I regularly do Yoga and hill walking and set alarms for movement and stretch breaks. Physical movement throughout the day allows your ideas to peculate too.

    Thought provokers –

  • Alastair Humphreys is an outdoor adventurer and thrill seeker! I am fairly obsessed by his concept of MicroAdventures
  • Marcus John Henry Brown takes clients on creative walks so that they can come up with better ideas.
  • You might also choose to move and work from a new pop-up office occasionally.

    Slowing down

    I think it’s the nature of streaming online content that can makes us feel overwhelmed. ‘Fear of missing out’ syndrome is real but manageable! Becoming more mindful of how we consume and post content takes practice. Here are some thought-provoking articles on slowing down;

  • A Ted talk by Carl Honoré: In praise of slowness
  • Paulina Lenoir created a pair of excessively long shoes that force wearers to reconsider their daily routes and pace!

    Sometimes our best ideas come from the spaces in between focussed activity, when we pause for a moment. I want to assure you that effective social media marketing is not about spending every waking minute scrolling and typing. With some effort and planning, you can market your business mindfully. I’m always up for a chat if you need help with that.

    In the meantime, the business will be closed until Monday 17th August. I’m hoping for limited WiFi access as I trek near the Black Forest mountains!

    Image credit:
    Free stock image by Lianne Trevarthen via Magdeleine.co

  • Does your brand spark my imagination?

    6 May

    Some business owners are flinging content out into space, hoping that it will stick. Formulas are being followed and readers, like you and I, are getting bored and exhausted. These two words have been hitting me hard lately – It’s making me question the value of much of what is being shared. The web provides an endless stream of answers but maybe we’re missing out on something much more valuable – the power and joy of triggering the imagination.

    Great stories or communication leave room for the imagination. They don’t tell us everything. We come online to learn new things and to be inspired but we also want to be entertained. Without emotion, our experience of the world is very flat.

    Here are three examples of ‘moving’ content that surprise and totally engage me. They happen to be video content but there are plenty of ways to inspire readers with written word too.

    Dame Media
    When I first landed on the Dame Media website, I had a ‘laughing alone with my laptop’ moment. What did their silent (almost) black and white video say to me? We do things differently, we’re confident and we’re not stuffy. If you’re looking for bland corporate videos, we’re not for you. And there’s a second giggle in store if you scroll to the bottom of their homepage.

    Dame Media Dublin

    Airbnb attract surprise and adventure seekers. They remind us of those beautiful human encounters that happen when we leave our regular routine behind. That’s why their silent stream of host and traveller tales on the homepage is so effective. No narrative is needed. We simply imagine acting out our own movie snippet! Silence gives us that space to interpret what we see. Like I mentioned above; it leaves room for our imagination.


    And finally, ‘A wedding in reverse’ is a different twist on moving images. This short film combines two clever elements; slow motion and reverse action.

    In just 3 minutes and 17 seconds, an incredible story is shared. We see flickers of facial expressions that are normally overlooked. It reminds us how fast our everyday world is. Of how important human connection is. The musical soundtrack gives us the space to interpret what we are seeing. This quote from Velare sums up what they do differently –

    We decided early on that we wanted to take large risks of potential failure by making films we felt had true meaning and emotion – even if it meant going against the tide of the wedding industry and the status quo for wedding cinematography.

    tim // amy – denver, co from VELARE on Vimeo.

    These three examples surprised me in different ways. They may not have the same effect on you – we all respond to different things! But I’m asking you to consider new ways of making your content come alive. It’s easier to follow formulas but what’s the point in that? I want to tell you that choosing and creating content can be fun – and it’s something that I can help you with.

    Links to explore:
    Dame Media

    Why unsubscribe is my favourite new word

    9 September

    Yesterday my email inbox almost pushed me over the edge. Do you ever get that feeling? All the urgent messages had been dealt with, but there was still a huge group of emails that I needed to take action on. I’m reading lots about minimalism lately and it appeals to me on so many levels. The internet is a fantastic resource but it can also make us feel overwhelmed. Well, it’s been having that effect on me lately! I want to tell you why ‘unsubscribe’ is my new favourite word.

    As I sifted through those 400+ emails, I noticed that many were newsletters that I had subscribed to. Obviously, they all interested me at the time I signed up. But when do we get the time to read all of them? I made a brave decision…


    I ruthlessly culled my list! I found that each time I hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button that I felt happier. It was like doing a spring-clean on a room in my house. Having fewer things to think about makes us feel calmer. And if you’re running a business, that’s really important.

    I’m not saying that newsletters are not valuable – I still subscribe to the ones that entertain me and teach me interesting stuff. But I’m exploring the idea of reducing distractions and noise.

    When I train businesses how to write a business blog, one of the major concerns people have is about the time it will take. I totally understand this. But can you honestly account for all of your working day? You’d probably be surprised (or not!) by how much time is lost through checking email or aimlessly chatting on facebook or Twitter. That’s time that could be spent more wisely!

    Here are some articles that have influenced me recently. They’ve made me think about how we need to carefully choose how we spend our time.

    Claire Burge – the productivity coach and life without email champion!
    How I Gave up Email and Reclaimed 3 Hours a Day I’m not brave enough to do this yet but I’m finding ways to reduce the amount of emails that land in my inbox!

    mnmlist: blog advice on living a minimalist life by Leo Babauta
    The art of brief emails and What twitter needs to add next. Nothing. These articles remind me of the power of simplicity.

    Melanie Biehle – an editorial and brand content creator

    You’re My Obsession: “Slow” Blogging + Mindful Social Media Melanie shares an honest post about her struggle with social media. She sums it up perfectly when she says ‘You don’t have to do it all’.

    Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by social media and the time it takes? Here are some tips that work for me:

    Realise that all of us are juggling our time too! Chat with others and find out what works for them. Get out and have more coffee dates!

  • Look at how you spend your day. Try the Pomodoro method (found in this post) to measure your results!
  • Reduce noise – cull your email subscription list or the people you ‘follow’ online. Only read content that is relevant and excites you. Be aware of how much time you spend/lose on social sites during the day.
  • Make time to for social media in the same way you plan the rest of your business. I recommend putting aside a couple of hours each week to write a blog post. Make it a regular habit.
  • My biggest piece of advice is to slow down and make a conscious decision about what content you consume and share. Two great blog posts a month is better than 10 bland ones. Let’s edit ourselves every day too!

    What do you think?

    Business humour and unexpected Ebay chuckles

    10 April

    You laugh in real life with your customers, so let’s bring some humour into your online brand! Your business doesn’t have to be serious all the time. How often does a brand make you smile? We click through websites with corporate sounding messages that make our eyes glaze over. Ebay gave me a chuckle yesterday when they pointed something out to me…”Your shopping cart is empty, but it doesn’t have to be.”

    I had one of those smiling by yourself moments! The Ebay team made me {pause} for a moment. I didn’t rush off and fill my cart up with random stuff but this message made a connection with me. My previous feelings about Ebay ranged somewhere between a slot-machine and a junk shop! Trust is such a huge part of business transactions and we’ve become distrustful of sites that sound like robots.

    ebay entertains customers

    It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Ebay site and I was also surprised to see their new Pinterest style format. In a world of web text, image surfing is a soothing and addictive alternative. It’s also a proven format to increase sales. A growing section on Pinterest is the gift section. Pins that include a product price are included in this section and can be purchased online. Businesses who can market themselves visually are increasing their brand awareness and turnover.

    The Ebay model encourages us to buy something that we’re not currently looking for. It’s a lucky-dip of sorts. Some people like to stumble across things without having to go searching for them. This random visual mix excites our senses. It’s not as random as it looks though – the images that are presented to you are based on your previous interactions or purchases.

    ebay pinterest

    When I signed in using my husband’s account, I was in a world of power kites and outdoor gear.
    That is Ben’s passion and there was lots there to tempt him to buy! Some people dislike the idea that they’re only being presented with things that fall within their tracked history. What happens it you want to be introduced to new ideas and things? It’s interesting to follow this debate and see differing viewpoints on it! Personally, I like to be surprised with new things… but I appreciate a bit of filtering.

    ebay pinterest mens interest

    In my next post I’ll share a Youtube video that shows you how to have your products included in the Pinterest gift section. Wouldn’t it be great to have a worldwide audience for your products? The video will talk you through the simple steps.

    These articles support my workshops on how to write an authentic business blog. My next group workshop will be on 25th April. I also give one-to-one sessions. All the details are here on the website. You might be just thinking about blogging – give me a call, I’d love to hear what you need help with!

    What does it take to get to the top? Online video for business

    7 February

    Online video for business is where it’s at. Words have a powerful effect on how we think. Combine those words with pictures and you strengthen your message. But watching moving images with words invites us into a whole different world. We get to think and feel like the people in the film. Businesses are coming up with really clever ways to move us. Here are two of my current favourites. Both are on the theme of cycling; the first one will get your heartbeat rocketing and the second will wind you down!

    I absolutely love this motivational cycling video because it screams about the skill and endurance that are required to succeed in the world of competitive cycling. The jerky jump-cuts and stop-motion photography bring the pain alive. The audio chops up exaggerated breathing sounds with army major roars. We feel the pain and we can imagine the rewards! It’s impossible to watch this film and not feel a strong connection with the subjects. The motivation coach is right when he says that getting to the top doesn’t happen overnight.

    Mountivation Cycling Development Academy – Boot Camp. from Henry Iddon on Vimeo.

    Is your adrenalin still pumping? Let’s slow the pace down a bit with this gem of a business story. The Inverted Bike Shop is the story of a bike enthusiast, who loved bikes so much he made his own and then wanted to share them with others. 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn was born. He understands his customers inside out and he offers an intuitive service based on what his customers really need. It’s told in simple language by people who love what they do. It’s not a fast paced like the one above; the power lies in how the story is slowly revealed.

    This whole business is built around bikes and people. When someone comes in the door, we sit down with them and ask them, ‘What do you see yourself doing with this bike?’ We’re almost like a therapist in a lot of ways; we get to the heart of what they’re really looking for in a bike.

    The Inverted Bike Shop from Show Love on Vimeo.

    What do you feel when you watch these two films? They both trigger different emotions don’t they? I’ll admit that the first one makes me want to sit in a cosy cafe with a large coffee and cake. But maybe that’s ok; I’m not their target audience and being a competitive cyclist is not high on my list. But I could imagine having that coffee while chatting about my dream bike in Brooklyn!

    I’ve gathered some more great business stories for you to read too. If you need help getting clear on your business story, I’d love to help you. I’m always up for a coffee and my classes are ongoing.

    For more info on the businesses above:
    Mountivation Performance Matters – Film by Henry Iddon
    718c bicycle shop, Brooklyn – Film by Show Love

    Blogging tip #1 Blasting writer’s block

    31 January

    Writer’s block is real and yesterday it enveloped me in a fog. Time ticked by. I brewed a giant mug of tea and mentally sifted through a stream of ideas. Nothing happened; I wasn’t inspired. Have you ever had one of these days when writing becomes a chore? Yesterday I tried something different which really worked; I went somewhere new to write.

    I left my laptop at home and headed to the Phoenix Park. Instead of walking (which probably would have helped too), I headed to the cafe ‘Among the trees‘. Up on the second floor, I sat by the giant window. On the table, I lay my large coffee and notebook. After a couple of gulps and a gaze at the trees, words tumbled out of my head in a steady stream! It’s also worth noting that the lack of WiFi here was a bonus; it kept me focussed on writing and gathering ideas.

    This is a habit that I am going to experiment with regularly! In order to be inspired to write creatively, we should stimulate all of our senses. Think along the lines of a pop-up office; one with very low rent too.

    creative writing tip escape your usual workspace
    ‘Among the trees’ cafe, Phoenix Park, Dublin.

    Three Thought Bubbles Tip #1 – Blasting writer’s block

    Escape your usual work space and look at a different view… even for an hour or two.

    Cost: €2 to €3 for a cuppa

    Result: a fired up imagination

    Do you get bored with your ‘office’ or work desk at home? Here’s a great article I found with Ten great places to have tea in Dublin. Thankfully the internet is  much bigger than Dublin though -  I’d love to hear about your favourite hangout!

    You’ll find more simple and effective tips in my blog archives. I really welcome suggestions for topics to write about – do get in touch and say hello.