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
Instagram: @bloodydairy


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.

How to use Instagram to tell your business story

19 October

Have you considered Instagram for your business? Instagram is a powerful platform for connecting with customers. Think of it as micro blogging – sharing small pieces of carefully curated content that can help you connect with your audience.

Last week I was training a group of business owners about different social platforms and how to use them. The fears we have about sharing online content usually boil down to two things: I don’t know what to say and I’m scared that no-one will be interested in listening. It makes sense to name these issues as clarity and confidence. I know that clarity is the key to social media marketing. If you know exactly what you do, it makes it much easier to share that message on the web. Take time to do that first. Your confidence naturally grows when you can communicate clearly.

I’ll share some key statistics at the end of the post. First though, lets look at examples of businesses who are using instagram well. I want to highlight the importance of combining images with brand language. The ‘voice’ of your brand is important here.

Dirty Fabulous – Living their brand

Sisters Caroline and Kathy own vintage clothing store, Dirty Fabulous. I’ve known these two for years and admire their huge passion and commitment to their business. One of the things that makes this business a success is that they live their brand every day. Vintage is their life and fancy dress is part of their everyday world! Kathy, seen on the right is “Twirling in my 50’s dress at our friends wedding in France.”

Dirthy Fabulous sisters

Balyvolane House – We are professional and personable

We tell our business story in different ways on different platforms. Ballyvolane house is a luxury, historic, Irish Country House. If you visit their website, you will get a sense of their high standards and attention to detail. On other platforms like Facebook and Instagram they show more of the human side of their business. The message is clear; ‘We are professional and personable. We understand our guests and want to make their stay with us memorable and fun.’

Ballyvolane House

Juniper Ridge – Taking you on the journey

Juniper Ridge make ‘Wilderness Perfume’ by distilling and extracting fragrance from wildflowers and plants. “Our company is built on the simple idea that nothing smells better than the forest and that the only way to bring this beauty home is to first strap on your boots and go there.” You get the sense that the business was set up to allow them to earn a living doing what they love; being out in nature. Whatever their reasons, they want to bring you on the journey. Their instagram feed takes you trekking with them. It activates your sense of smell. And it makes you feel part of a community. There is no hard sell here – if you are part of this niche market, you will want to sample their products. This account makes you feel part of the Juniper Ridge team.

Juniper Ridge, wilderness perfumes

Sugru – enabling you to fix things and have fun in the process!

I’m a big fan of Sugru because they are making the world a happier and better place. Most of us want to feel like we can do this too, even in tiny ways. Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh developed a new kind of silicone rubber to fix things. She was tired of buying stuff and wanted to improve and re-imagine the things she already had. In the process, she sparked the imagination of millions of people. Sugru uses their Instagram account to promote and inspire their worldwide community. The attention is firmly on the users of the product. Watch one of their fun videos below –

Kathryn Davey – Sharing sneak peaks into her creative world

Kathryn designs serenely beautiful, hand-crafted dolls. She has a huge following of loyal fans who are interested in getting a sneak peak into her creative world. We get glimpses into Kathryn’s indigo and linen world. Times slows down as we imagine how many tiny stitches have go into creating each piece. “I grew up in a creative household in Dublin, Ireland with very resourceful & talented parents. I came from Grandmothers who lived through wars & rations. Whites were boiled and socks were darned & if you needed a dress for a special occasion it was made from what was available. Although I am self-taught in my craft of doll making & indigo dying, I am grateful to the women of my family for the creative resourcefulness that they taught me.” Kathryn sells her products online – Instagram helps her to make an emotional connection with people who she can’t meet in person.

Kathryn Davey

Video Meals – showing you how to do something {in easy steps}

OK, I followed this guy on Instagram because he was doing something very different and he has a huge following because of that. I find him irritating but that is beside the point; I am not his target audience! This guy has found a way to solve a problem for people. He shows you how to cook recipes that are quick and simple to follow. He saves you time and inspires you to give cooking a go. ‘How to’ content is very valuable because it enables people to do things for themselves. In 15 seconds he will show you how to make chocolate and banana muffins.

Anthony Claffey – creating a memorable series that tells a story

Anthony Claffey is a movement coach and works with Andy Myers at ‘Always Move’. Part of the skill of being a coach is to inspire and motivate people to make change. Anthony gives Handstand Workshops with Andy and has used his instagram feed to illustrate a 365 day challenge he has set for himself. In addition to publicly recording his challenge, he chooses interesting historical locations, which he tells us more about. Instagram allows you to build up a sense of trust with the people behind a business. If they’re popping into your feed every day, you feel like you’ve established some sort or relationship with them.

Here are some interesting Instagram statistics:

  • Instagram’s per-follower engagement rate for top brands is 58 times higher than on Facebook and 120 times higher than on Twitter
  • Instagram is more effective for ‘business to customer’ than ‘business to business’.
  • The average engagement per Instagram post has grown by 416 percent over two years

    * Stats via a Hootesuite More information contained in the full article.

    To sum up this post – Instagram can be a great platform to build trust and engagement with your target audience. It’s not just about pretty pictures. First of all let’s find out if your target audience use this platform. Then we can create a strategy with clear goals for your business. I help businesses to get clear on what they are offering and to whom. From there, I can train you to communicate that message on the web. Let me know if you’d like some help with that!

    On a personal note, I’ve been invited to curate the ‘Picture This Dublin’ instagram account. I’m sharing images that tell the story of my city. I’d love your company over there. (I’ll be posting from 19th to 25th October).

    Instagram Links to explore:
    Dirty Fabulous
    Ballyvolane House
    Juniper Ridge
    Kathryn Davey
    Video Meals
    Anthony Claffey