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Homeward Bound

Canary WharfThis was written about 13 years ago, when my son was about 18 months old, in Canary Wharf,  London:

Homeward Bound

My heart races as I weave in and out of the crowd.

I push to the left where I know I can squeeze onto the escalator more quickly. Instead of walking down on the left somebody stops and I drum my fingers in frustration as we all pile up behind them.

The train is in. No one moves to make more room, but I have impetus on my side and push myself on. I can’t afford delay.

I almost run to the nursery from the station and arrive dishevelled and out of breath with 10 minutes to spare before the nursery closes.

This is my three-day a week dash from work.

I collect his coat from the hook labelled “Barnaby” and pick up his daily report and worksheets from his tray.

In the playroom, Barnaby is absorbed in a puzzle and barely notices my arrival. He looks up when I call, concentrates a bit more on the puzzle, then suddenly says “Mama” and runs to me.

As we leave, the staff are distracted and he blows kisses and waves bye-bye to no one in particular.

I have forgotten his banana. The mandatory banana to greet him in the pram, so we walk home via the river and stop on the way at Cafe Brera.

The bar is full of business people enjoying post-work drinks and I look incongruous standing with my pram and a baby shouting “nana” “nana” with ever more urgency.

The staff eventually serve me and we make our way to the lift down to the riverfront.

“Mezzanine Level” says the automated voice.

“Mezzanine Level” I repeat to Barnaby and we walk out into the wind.

A ferry draws close to stop at the pier and we watch as a frantic lady runs up the gangway. The ferry waits and then we hear the lap of waves as it moves away.

Unusually, Barnaby seems full of energy, so I let him out of the pram to walk home.

He hasn’t yet learned to walk with purpose, to get caught up in life’s hectic schedule.

He has a child’s delight in the minutiae of life.

We stop and look at pebbles, we sit momentarily on a bench and listen to the recording which starts to play on contact. Barnaby runs off, thinking that there is nothing strange about music and voices emanating from an empty bench.

I feel cold and call to him to come on home. He ignores me and runs away.

An elderly gentleman is walking in our direction and laughs.

He says something to me and before I realise what is happening Barnaby is at my side. The gentleman chats about his grandson. I nod and smile, only half-hearing much of what he says.

We have reached the end of the walkway and I realise that Barnaby has walked the whole way with me, holding my hand.

I look down at him. He looks at the gentleman then looks at me and we exchange a knowing smile. He is only 18 months old but he shares my amusement and bemusement.

We say goodbye to the gentleman and make our way home.

Silently, wondrously, I realise that I have just shared something amazing with my son.

That secret smile, that complicity and understanding. He seems old beyond his years.

 

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The Storm of ’87

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The noise of the radio rudely awakened me from my sound sleep. I peered through half closed eyes at my radio alarm clock and read “1am”.

It took me a few minutes to realise that the radio had come on suddenly because the electricity had been down, and the radio automatically switched itself on when the electricity came back – everything had to be re-set.

“Strange, the walls are shaking. Oh well” and with that, I turned around and went back to sleep.

I was woken a few times like this during the night as the electricity went down and then came back on. At one point I looked out of the window to see the trees swaying madly in the wind. I had never seen them sway to far. The walls were still shaking, but very few things can keep my from my sleep and a hurricane was no exception!

I was a student at the time and lived in a one-room bedsit at the top of a 3 storey house, at the top of a hill in a beautiful market town in Sussex.

The following day, I was supposed to get the coach to London to meet my boyfriend (now husband).

That morning I listened to the radio and heard reports of fallen trees and blocked roads.

At the time we did not have mobile phones, so I had no way to contact Chris. He lived in a bedsit in London. We had arranged to meet at Victoria coach station at about midday and then travel on to see my Mum.

I made my way to the town bus station and waited expectantly.

No coach came.

Eventually they told us that the coach had decided not to stop at our town.

What to do?

The trains weren’t working.

The only thing I could do was to get a bus into Brighton and hope to get a coach from there.

I’m amazed the bus got through. Not only were there fallen trees everywhere, there was flooding all along the road.

When we got to Brighton bus station, my heart sank. There were queues all down the street leading to the coach station. How on earth was I going to get a coach to London in time?

Just as I got off the bus, I spotted a coach that said “Gatwick”.

“That’s half way to London,” I thought, and hopped on.

Luckily the driver let me pay on the coach, so I by-passed all the queues for the ticket office.

On the coach I spotted a couple who had been waiting at the first bus station with me – we all had the same idea.

On the  journey to Gatwick I stared out of the window in amazement at the massive trees which had been uprooted. We have photos of us taken some weeks following the storm, standing next to roots the size of houses.

At Gatwick, of course, the next step was to work out how to get to London. The trains still weren’t working.

A coach or taxi was the only option.

And yes, there was a massive queue for the taxis.

I was torn at that point – queue for a pay phone to let my family know where I was, or quickly get in the queue for the taxi.

Then I had a brainwave. I spotted the couple from the coach near the front of the taxi queue. I went over to them and said:

“We were on the same coach. Would you mind if I shared your taxi?”

It was a boy and a girl about my age. The boy said yes immediately, the girl gave me a black look, but I didn’t care.

So I jumped the queue for the taxi, just as I had jumped the queues at the coach station.

The girl scowled at me for the whole journey. I don’t know if it was because I had just had the most horrendous hair cut of my whole life, or whether she just didn’t like me.

The taxi ride was horrible. I was sitting with my back to the driver and felt car sick the whole way. We had to take detours to avoid blocked roads, so it took a long time.

When I eventually got to Victoria Coach station, I was three hours late, and Chris was just about to call the police to report a missing person.

What sticks in my mind after all the queue jumping and quick thinking, was my determination that I would reach my destination no matter what it took, and my unwavering trust that Chris would be there to meet me, no matter how late I was.

(image by Maggie Smith courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

There Was a Door to Which I Found No Key

9280e36c0dbeec29e0b11e35b2cfa728 “There was a Door to which I found no key:
 There was a veil past which I could not see:
 Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
 There seem’d – and then no more of Thee and Me”

One of my favourite poems – albeit a poem about death.

From an early age, when listening to my grandfather recite the poetry of Omar Khayyam, whilst  sitting around the fire on a
winter’s evening, doorways have held a symbolic meaning in my life.

It was in the doorway to our temporary home that my father fought to snatch me away when I was  just 10 years old, where we would call in the men from the fields to add their strength to the marital  battle raging on the doorstep to my grandparents’ ancient home. All the while, I stood transfixed from fear and anxiety, alone in the room, listening to  the arguments raging just  outside the door.

But those memories are transposed by the warmth of fireside tales, by the love of grandparents who provided shelter from the storms. Ghost stories whispered as shadows flickered across the walls, poetry recited in the light of the flames.  And then the more earthly sustenance of bread on a toasting fork held over the grate, then smothered in thick melting butter.

Often on these nights we would make our way upstairs by candlelight and then lie in bed watching the flames make dancing shadows on the wall, trying to convince ourselves that there were no such things as ghosts. I remember the smell – not the smell of damp from an unheated house, but the smell of centuries. Five Centuries of lives, five centuries for the walls to absorb the stories of those who had lived there before. The peeling wallpaper symbolic of the layers of life, the ancient dust motes mingling with the new.

And many years later I again am reminded of doorways, but this time through a more modern means – Pinterest.

Just as the old farmhouse has now been redeveloped, so the world has moved on into a digital age. Yet the stories are still there, perhaps no longer told by firelight, but more as a fleeting glimpse behind a picture.

On my favourite Pinterest board, each doorway or window tells a story. Some speak of far away lands, some hint at vistas we can only dream of, some tell of Arthurian tales, secret trysts or dark religion.

Each image resonates, providing a fleeting glimpse of a long-forgotten tale, or hints at half-told story, leaving us to weave our own magic.

Author: Sara Greenfield

Have You Pinned Yet?

Pinterest boards Have you “pinned” yet?

I didn’t realise I was such a visual person until I started using Pinterest. Not surprising, really, given that my father and my brother are artists.

Pinterest started off, for me, as a purely business activity. I thought I would try it out as a way to market my business.

Then it started to become a part of my life in a very personal sense.

Yes, I get business from it – I have sold at least one book via Pinterest, have cemented relationships with clients, and have promoted clients products.

But Pinterest has become something MORE.

I find it relaxing to pin images, with music playing in the background.

My boards have grown as I have started to categorise the images in different ways.

Vague thoughts slip through my head as I ponder ” What is art?” Do you include photography? Are sculptures classed as ” art”?

What do other people see as art?

What are other people’s perceptions of my eclectic ordering of images?

It also gives an insight into other people, and how they see life (“See” being the operative word with Pinterest.)

Interestingly, many people pin images of doors and windows. What does this say about the human psyche? Are pinners typical of the population in general? Is there something about looking through a window that gives you a different view of the world? Is it a wish to escape?

For me, these pins provide a doorway into other countries, other cultures; a different view of the world. They remind you that there is a huge world of different nationalities, cultures and landscapes out there. It is too easy in a county like Norfolk to become parochial, to hide away and forget that the world is a big place – a big place brought much closer through the power of social media.

I don’t want to escape – I like my life – but it is nice every so often to peek through a different window to enjoy the view, to admire beautiful scenery, to “travel” around the world from the comfort of your sofa, and to know that the world can be an exciting, vibrant, beautiful place.

Then the thought occurs to me – this is me, these boards are a history of my life, not just in the pins of favourite places, places I have lived, events we have run, books I have written, clients I have worked with, the images also reflect emotions, a visual perception of the world around me. Each person sees the world with different eyes. When you look at someone’s Pinterest page, you are seeing the world through THEIR eyes, you get fleeting glimpses of what is really important to them, whether they see things in terms of texture or colour, in terms of fashion, travel, home, tech. Everything gives you a subtle impression of the person behind the pins.

Pinterest provides a view of a beautiful world. One where there is no violence. As far as I know, you don’t get Pinterest trolls, I haven’t seen pins depicting violence. Perhaps, then, Pinterest does provide an escape – a glimpse into a utopian world.

And I wonder how long this will last.

Why Have I Been Hiding in my 14 Year Old’s Bedroom?

LinkedIn tips

I have just finished writing my book on LinkedIn and decided at the same time to create an online course, whilst the research was still fresh in my mind.

I chose to create the course through an online platform called Udemy, because they have stringent requirements as to quality. If I pass their quality control then I will feel much more confident in promoting the course, knowing that I have a quality product.

My son was away at scout camp for the week;I had purposely booked in no meetings this week, so it was the perfect opportunity to focus on my project.

And what better place for screen recording and video editing. than a 14 year old boy’s bedroom, full of gadgets and with no distracting echo.

For a week I turned into a teenager, sitting in a dark room, with curtains closed (to stop the sun reflecting on the screen),  gadgets all around me, plates and cups piling high, whilst I spent as much time as I could in front of the computer.

And what a frustrating week it was. It took me three days to get to grips with the course requirements and learn the software for video editing. I kept thinking he video wasn’t of good enough quality. So I spent Thursday preparing all the non-video aspects of the course.

At 7am Friday morning, I got an email to say that the video was fine, so I spent the rest if the day recording every single bit of video that I thought I would need, with a view to editing it once I was back at my normal desk.  I finished everything just in time to meet my son off the coach and hand him back his bedroom. Phew. Four days of learning and frustration, then a mad panic to get everything done on the last day.

It’s good to have a deadline like that, though, as t does mean that big projects get completed.

And on the topic of LinkedIn, here are some of the tips for creating a great LinkedIn profile that will help you come up in searches (both in search engines and within LinkedIn itself) and to attract the type of business people who you would like as clients.

Sara’s top 5 tips for Optimising Your LinkedIn profile

1. Add a good photo – a head shot is best

2. Make sure that your summary headline ( the wording under your name) contains key words and explains to people how you can help them. Although the box is not large, you can actually fit about two sentences in this space. If you are looking to work with local people make sure you include your local area in this wording. For example if you are an accountant who is looking for local clients, you might say one thing like “Norwich-based accountant who loves helping small business owners save money.”

3. Make sure you have completed the main summary section in full. If you have opened a LinkedIn account recently, you may have to go looking for this section and move it up the page.

4. Move sections up and down the page, so that you have the most important sections ( in terms of promoting your business) at the top of the page.  You can do this by clicking on the double arrow icon that looks like this:

LinkedIn profile tip

5. Go into Contact details and add 3 web links. Add key words into the website description.

To do this, click on the drop down arrow where it says “company website” and click “other”. This will add in an extra column, which will allow you to add a description of your web link.

Website Links on contact info

Do You Really Want to see my Double Chin??

Vsnap

As you may know from my blog, I’m a sucker for shiny new tools, so when I was waiting to meet someone for a coffee / business meeting today in Norwich I tried out Vsnap – a new way to tweet a video message to someone.

Unlike Vine – which gives you 6 seconds, Vsnap gives you 60 seconds to record a message.

I wanted to say thank you to a new Twitter follower who kindly tweeted details of my book.

I haven’t had time to look at Vsnap in depth so I just dived in and recorded a video. It took me 20 minutes to try to log in and I ended up setting up another account as I couldn’t remember if I had already set one up or not. A bit fiddly on the iphone when you’re out in the street. Most people, of course would do the sensible thing and set it up from their desk.

It will be much quicker next time I want to use it.

Once set up, I had to find somewhere to record the video where it wouldn’t be too embarrassing. I picked a corner of the square outside the Forum in Norwich (UK) and started to record. I didn’t realise I was standing next to a window display that was obviously interesting to certain people, who kept peering over my shoulder whilst I was videoing.

It is a little embarrassing talking into your phone to record a video but a few attempts later, the video was recorded and sent in a tweet. Because it was on the iphone and it was a sunny day, I couldn’t really see it properly on my screen but sent it anyway.

As most videos do, it  caught the most unglamorous, slightly skewed look as the static image for the video.

I certainly hate looking at my photo and at one point would never have bandied it about, but as a small business owner, it is part of our brand. People recognise us, so I shut my eyes, cross my fingers and add my photo everywhere.

On getting back to my desk, I watched the video again with trepidation, peeking through my hands as I watched  a double chin wobbling around as I talked  (must hold phone up higher when recording) and my eyes wandering all over the place as I got distracted by things going on in the square (not very trust-inspiring), but at least I gave it a go.

Next time I will record from my desk or in the peace of the garden.

I think this is a great concept – a fantastic way to connect with people on Twitter, although of course it could backfire if they take one look and hate you at first sight.

It also means that I have to pick a day when I’m looking fairly presentable rather than lounging around in my comfy clothes working from home. I don’t know why, but the minute I get home from meetings, I get changed into my old clothes. I work better when I’m comfortable with what I am wearing. (An interesting question for those who don’t like people dressing down in the office)

It has certainly raised interesting questions of fairness for recruiters when people include photos in their LinkedIn profile or on CVs.

What do you think of the rise of video and photos in social media? Is it a good thing to see what someone looks like – double chins and all – or is it better left to the imagination?

By: Sara Greenfield

Bright Yellow Marketing

Author of  How to Tweet Your Book.

First published May 2013

Wondering How Social Media Can Help Your Business?

All About Business marquee

Social Media is such a huge part of our marketing that I tend to take the leads and sales for granted.

But for people who are struggling to understand how social media can work for their business, I thought I would give a snapshot of some of my recent sales and leads.

1. Stand sales:

We are running a networking marquee at the Royal Norfolk Show in June and had been let down by someone with one of the stands. This left us with a stand to sell before June in order to cover our costs. Although June seems a long way ahead, I was conscious that we were now in May and were likely to get caught up in other things. June will be here before we know it.

We had created a LinkedIn group for our previous exhibitions and the group has taken on a life of its own. People have been posting on it a lot, which is great. It means that the group is not all about us selling our exhibition stands, it is a useful place for the business community to share ideas.

Yesterday (1st May 2013) I decided to do something about the remaining stand and sent a LinkedIn announcement to the group. When you send an announcement LinkedIn posts it as a discussion in the group and sends everyone a LinkedIn message.

LinkedIn messages are twice as likely to be read as emails.

Within minutes someone had emailed me and taken the last stand. Three more people emailed and I now have a waiting list in case any of the other stand holders don’t pay.

So that was one problem sorted with just one post on LinkedIn.

It doesn’t always work like that. A previous post had not had the same effect.  This post  was successful because I focussed on the benefit in that the stands won’t be cramped together, and also because there was only one stand available – there was a sense of urgency.

This made a big difference.

2. Book sales -Twitter

I tweet books for some of my clients and know that there is a correlation between tweets and book sales. Having just published my own book I can get an even better handle on the stats.

One tweet last night had 4 click throughs and gave rise to two book sales.

Two sales from four clicks on a link isn’t bad going, especially if I can replicate this often.

There were a few factors to be taken into account:

  • My author twitter account is quite new and doesn’t have a huge amount of followers compared with my other accounts, so this was a good result.
  • I included links to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in the tweet and sold a book on each site.
  • Time of day has a bearing on the success of a tweet.
  • The wording of a tweet has a huge bearing on results.
  • The Amazon page has to be compelling enough to encourage a sale once people click through.
  • I have targeted my twitter followers on that account so that most of them are authors – my target market.

This can easily be translated into your business – it’s a case of knowing who your target market is, and using the tools to find them.

3. Book sales: Google Plus

I am a member of a number of Google Plus communities. Again, because my book is targeted at authors, I joined communities of authors. These communities don’t like you to promote your own books or blogs but I wrote about  the twitter results mentioned above – as a tip for other authors. There was no link to my blog or book, only my Google Plus name. A few hours later I received a message from an author to say that he loved my post and had just bought my book. So, another book sale via social media – and this wasn’t part of any planned marketing campaign – it’s just a normal working day.

4. The Best of Norwich: (promoting local businesses)

Twitter – people often send us direct messages asking how they can come on board as a client. We do very little self-promotion on Twitter. People see us promoting our clients on Twitter and want some of this promotion for their own business. With social media it is easy for them to see us in action, doing what we say we will do. It is very transparent.

I have also gained business once or twice by sending someone a direct message (DM) asking if they would like to come on board. It is usually someone who I have already met – I’m careful about not being too pushy. In one particular case I sent a DM late one Friday night, whilst the idea was in my head, thinking that they would reply on the Monday. I got a tweet back straight away and we arranged a meeting. Nothing like doing business at 9.30pm on a Friday night whilst curled up on the sofa watching TV and an ipad in my hand.

Facebook – I have used Facebook ads very effectively to make sales, especially when we have a deadline and a specific product to promote. Facebook have now introduced a fantastic tool that can tie in your facebook ads to complement an email campaign – this will be next on my list of things to try out.

LinkedIn – I have a series of messages that I send to people in various situations, all of which bring in business, whether it is in reply to someone asking to join my LinkedIn group, someone asking to connect with me, or a post that I add to one of my groups. I connect with people who I meet at networking events, as a way to keep in touch or follow up to ask for a meeting. LinkedIn brings in about 3 or 4 leads a week – more when I am particularly active on LinkedIn. Although this doesn’t sound a huge amount,  it all adds up.
All of this is focussing on sales and leads from social media, and doesn’t even cover the business that we get for our clients by tapping into our following on the various platforms, and the way we have set up various searches to listen out for online conversations.

We listen out for tweets from people needing local services and then refer our Best of Norwich clients to them.

For me, however, one of the biggest benefits of social media is the increased visibility and the connection with our clients.

Although you may have a different type of business, it is possible to translate all of the above to your own business. The key thing is to know who you are targeting and focus on the platforms where your typical client will be hanging out.

Don’t discount a platform, though, because you think it is too B2C* or too B2B*. Sometimes it is good to do the opposite to what people expect, to be seen in places where you competitors don’t go.

And don’t panic thinking that you have to do everything at once.

I built up my knowledge gradually. I started with one platform and got used to it, then moved on to another platform. Once you are used to using social media, it is easier to move to new platforms. Many of the rules around etiquette and what to post are similar.

The biggest thing that people struggle with is the divide between private and public. For me, I can’t imagine doing social media without having very public personal profiles. I would struggle with only a business facing profile, but everyone is different and you need to do what feels most comfortable for you.

So, some tips for those new to social media:

1. Be yourself, do what you feel comfortable with, rather than what you think you SHOULD be doing. It’s much better to be authentic. (unless, of course, you are grumpy or malicious – in which case I would say very little!)

2. Know your clients. Target the right people. Hootsuite is an excellent free tool for this – click here for tips on how to set up a hootsuite account.

3. Don’t try to do everything at once. Get used to one platform at a time.

4. Post a mixture of content. Often it is the “non- salesy” posts that lead to business. Just make sure that your profiles include your contact details and web address.

5. Do what works best for you. If you like structure, then great – have set times to post, but personally I post as and when the mood takes me, and then use tools to schedule any important posts to go out at peak times.

6. Use images wherever possible.

7. Be aware of the words that you use. When you post a sales message, add a deadline or call to action. Even a simple “Please RT” or “please share” can work wonders.

8. Likeability is important. Build a community of people who like, know and trust you. They are more likely to respond to a call to action or to share your posts. Don’t expect people to immediately buy from you or promote you. Don’t get disheartened if at first you get no response. You need to be out there adding content and interacting before people start to respond to you.

9. Ask questions – whether for market research, for help with something you don’t know, or fun questions. It’s great for interaction, and it’s amazing how you can get an answer in seconds to most questions. Again, don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a reply – just try again at a different time.

10.Experiment. Don’t be scared to try out different things to see what works and what doesn’t work. There isn’t always a right or wrong way to do things. Enjoy it. Have fun.

Author: Sara Greenfield
Google

Sara Greenfield owns  Bright Yellow Marketing and also works with authors helping them to promote their books using social media.

Bright Yellow Marketing provides social media training in Norwich.

Sara is the author of “How To Tweet Your Book”

 

* B2B means Business to Business – ie businesses that sell mainly to other businesses

*B2C means Business to Consumer – ie businesses that sell mainly to consumers.

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