An Egg Sandwich and Train Hell

I’ve been lucky enough to have just spent another few days down in London, this time meeting up with several bloggy friends, experiencing a street art tour, Crystal Palace Park and slowly working my way round the awesome bakeries that the city has to offer (which of course, was breakfast). It was only a few days after The Bloke and I got back from his 50th birthday Wicked and Harry Potter extravaganza, and it felt like I had just about unpacked before I had to pack again so I could get a train back down south at ridiculous o’clock.  Continue reading

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Despondency – The Daily Blogging Battle

The last few weeks have been pretty amazing, particularly with the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that The Bloke and I have participated in for his birthday. I’ve also had quite a buzz from blogging every day over the last week, rediscovering my enjoyment of simply writing things down and interacting with the community. I spent hours putting together a large and detailed post yesterday, sent it out across my social media, replied to my comments and then settled in for the evening. I always get a huge sense of satisfaction when I’ve done large post – those are the ones that are often evergreen and bring in the most amount of views over a long period of time. Continue reading

The Romance of Ghostbusters and McDonalds…

imageI was in the staffroom this morning when my friend Steve walked in to say hello. It was his final day at work as he and his lovely wife, Kirsty, have decided to move down to the coast to live the surfing dream that they have sought after for a long time. I’ve got to know them over the last few years and they’re an absolutely adorable couple… and they love cats as much as I do. Continue reading

The One That Got Away…

The one that got away

In 2010 I was lucky enough to supervise a trip to America. With 58 students and 7 other staff, we visited three cities – New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. and as we were only there for a week our itinerary was jam packed with as many sightseeing opportunities as we could possibly could manage. (We actually ended up being stranded in D.C. for an extra week after the volcanic explosion in Iceland grounded all flights, but that’s another story).

In New York, we went to the Museum of Modern Art, which I was really excited about. During our visit we saw that there was a retrospective taking place, during which Marina Abramović, a Serbian artist performed a thought-provoking piece named ‘The Artist is Present.’ Sitting in silence, she invited viewers to sit directly opposite her at a table. Anyone and everyone could participate, but nothing would be said if they chose to do so. Intruiged, some of our students joined in and sat down for a few minutes. I noticed that after each person left the table she would close her eyes until the next sat down.

A few weeks ago, a story about the performance appeared on Facebook, and I instantly clicked on the video because of the memories I had of it. What I saw moved me very deeply… Continue reading

Priorities

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I had a nice day today. I wasn’t needed for any supply, just a small amount of freelance in the afternoon where I get the opportunity to work with some of my favourite students.

Consequently, today has been predominantly a day of doing very little. While I have always been more of a night owl sort, I am beginning to love the very early morning time that I get to myself on these days after The Bloke has gone to work. It’s quiet and peaceful and while I can hear my neighbours taking their children to school or heading for work, I can often be found wrapped in fluffy blankets and reading in my jammies, or watching make-up tutorials on YouTube. Bliss. Sometimes, it’s just nice to do nothing.

After I had finished my ensemble work (which always gives me a huge buzz), I spent some time talking to one of the older students. I’ve known her for a number of years now, and watched her grow from a squeaky teenager into an intelligent, articulate and talented young woman, and we have developed quite a rapport. She told me about a fantastic opportunity that she has been offered to spend time studying in another country, but she was torn about what she should do as she has spent the last two years preparing for university. Of course, putting off university for a year is no big deal – I took a year out myself before I started my first year – but I can see why she is a little daunted by it all… It’s certainly not something I would have had the nerve to do at her age.

However, it did get me thinking about her life in direct contrast to mine. She’s working hard and setting the foundations for her future. She has plans, goals and ambitions.

I remember when I was the same. I had a set of ideals as to what I wanted my life to be, and planned a series of medium and long term goals to reach by the time I was 30. And do you know what? I bloody well achieved them, only to realise that when I had reached the place I thought I should be, it wasn’t what I wanted at all.

I think the conversation this afternoon made me realise that I don’t really have any goals or ambitions anymore, for the first time in as long as I can remember. Instead, I’m happy to sit back, relax and do nothing. I like the idea of not having to go anywhere or plan for constant activities. I don’t mind living from day to day without a secure and permanent job. I’d rather live with less money and sleep soundly at night instead.

Odd how priorities change, isn’t it?

46 Ideas To Beat Blogger’s Block

Ideas to be Blogger's block

I’m almost half-way through #NaBloPoMo and, admittedly, I’m struggling. Blog Her have provided some fantastic prompts, but I’m one of those awkward people who only likes to write about something when I’m in the mood to do so, so I haven’t been following them as diligently as others.

Once a blog has been established and a number of posts written, it’s inevitable that most bloggers will suffer from the dreaded ‘Bloggers Block’ at some point. Indeed, it has plagued me at various points in the year, and it’s incredibly frustrating, particularly when the urge to write is there. Continue reading

10 Lessons Learned in 2015

Lessons learned in 2015

While 2015 is not yet over, one of the NaBloPoMo prompts from last week was all about lessons learned as a child. I, however, feel I have learned more in the last year than any other…

1. Life goals don’t mean anything if you aren’t prepared to work for them. Nothing usually just happens – a dream can only be fulfilled with hard-work, dedication, and often some level of sacrifice.

2. Taking the time to appreciate the little things is often more beneficial than looking at the big picture. While I’m lucky in that I have lots of things to look forward to in the future, I have learned this year to be more aware of a moment as I am living it. Hot bubble baths, cuddles with The Bloke and the cats, a great film, a well-written book or blog post, a beautiful meal, a funny conversation with a friend, a lovely view – they all add up to making an otherwise mediocre day far more special.

3. It is never usually possible to truly know and totally rely on anybody. In most instances, this is not a negative thing – everyone has their own lives and different priorities, and it is important to maintain one’s independence without putting expectations onto others. However, this year in particular I have learned not to rely on others being there, and not assume that I categorically know what someone else is really thinking and feeling. Continue reading

Duck Faces and Trifle

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It was The Bloke’s mother’s 80th birthday today, so we travelled up north to join the rest of his (rather large) family and close friends for a celebration at a lovely hotel.

The last time I met them all together was for The Bloke’s father’s funeral a few years ago, so it was nice to see everyone again in much better circumstances.

It was a really lovely afternoon – I talked and laughed lots, practiced my best ‘duck face’ with The Bloke’s cousin (during which I looked like I was having some sort of strange episode), joined in the family photographs and ate some pretty tasty trifle. It couldn’t have been any more British if they tried – awesome – and with a truly brilliant group of people. And I’ve developed my duck face technique too – apparently it’s all about the dimples at the side of the lips, which I’m getting better at. Continue reading

Some Bad News…

imageI had a completely different post prepared for today’s NaBloPoMo. However, The Bloke has had some bad news today and as the main purpose of this little blog is to be able to work through various issues in the process of writing, I decided to change my initial idea and just get back to free writing – something I haven’t done in some time.

I’m not going to go into too much detail, but The Bloke’s job security has been in a precarious position for a while. His place of work has been going through a ‘restructure,’ a word that has never been positive in my experience, and despite several opportunities to potentially stabilise this in the last month, he has placed his faith and loyalty in the words offered to him by the people that he should be able to trust. Continue reading

How To Use Twitter Hashtags to Increase Your Traffic

imageSuzie Speaks began in 2013, and was originally used as online therapy, primarily allowing me to discuss a difficult time I was having in my personal life. I knew nothing about social media – I had a personal Facebook account and a Twitter page that I hadn’t used in quite a while, and I rather naively assumed that I would receive a large amount of views simply by pressing the publish button.

It took me about six months to realise that the biggest source of traffic to a blog, without getting heavily into SEO (which I still find difficult to understand), is through different social media accounts. I created a brand new Facebook and Twitter page, separate to my personal ones, and set about building a following.

In two years, I have had nearly 44,000 views from Twitter, but only have 6,500 ‘followers.’ It’s hardly setting the blogging world on fire, but it’s certainly a large number considering the small amount of time (about 5-10 minutes) I spend on there each day.

Why?

It’s all about the hashtags.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag, put simply, is a label or category that allows others to find something within a specific theme or content and are primarily used on Twitter and Instagram. Once you have copied a URL or used the share button on a post, hashtags can be used to direct your post towards the people you want to read them. On Twitter you can use a hashtag for everything – #cats, #dogs, #football, #sandwiches – but as a blogger the main focus is to use categories that will gain interest in your content and grow your readership and traffic.

Which hashtags should I use?

My blog has no niche – I write about whatever I feel like at a particular time – and I have always found it difficult to put myself into a specific category. However, there are endless categories within the blogging world, and all have different hashtags. The most popular ones are:

#lbloggers: Lifestyle Bloggers
#bbloggers: Beauty Bloggers
#fbloggers: Fashion Bloggers
#pbloggers: Parent Bloggers
#fblbloggers: Fashion Beauty Life Bloggers

There are also hashtags for categories that are more self explanatory:

#travelbloggers
#foodbloggers
#mummybloggers
#parentbloggers

For example, if I have done a post about a place that I have visited recently, I would use the hashtags #lbloggers, #travelbloggers and perhaps #fblbloggers in my link.

However, there are weekly hashtags that can be used to promote yourself further. For each of these, the concept is the same – you tweet your post, regardless of the content, using a certain hashtag on a particular day, and then take the opportunity to see other posts that have been shared within the same hashtag, read them and then retweet. This has been my biggest way of increasing my readership and meeting other bloggers from all over the world. And by retweeting somebody else, it’s likely that they will return the favour and introduce your blog to potentially thousands of new readers in their following.

Note: experienced bloggers will know if you have retweeted something without reading it first, and are unlikely to reciprocate if you develop a reputation for doing this.

  • Monday: #MondayBlogs. This is the godfather of all weekly sharing hashtags, with thousands of bloggers participating each week.
  • Tuesday: #TuesdayShares
  • Wednesday: #wwwblogs (Women’s Writer Wednesday) and #BeWoW
  • Thursday: #ThrowbackThursday
  • Friday: #BlueSkyFriday, #FridayShares and #LinkYourLife
  • Saturday: #ArchiveDay (for older posts), #WeekendBlogHop and #WeekendCoffeeShare (for any ‘If We Were Having Coffee’ posts).
  • Sunday: #SundayBlogShare (I created this)

For example, if I wanted to share my latest travel post on a Sunday, I would add #SundayBlogShare to my hashtags.

There are also Twitter chats for bloggers that will go on for about an hour during the week using hashtags, and there are LOADS of these. However, these are not places to share links – they are purely for talking to other like-minded people, establishing connections and building a readership. For more information on this, here is a brilliant link from The Sits Girls about Twitter chats:

http://www.thesitsgirls.com/social-media/twitter-chat-made-easy-how-to-twitter/

Use trending hashtags

Trending hashtags are the most popular things on Twitter at a particular moment in time, and at several points in the last few years I have written a post about a topic while it was trending, with immediate effect on my traffic once it was posted.

Earlier in the year, the Independent published a scathing article about beauty blogger Zoella. I wrote a post about it and used the hashtag #Zoella that was trending at the time. It was viewed several thousand times on Twitter in a matter of hours.

During the summer, I saw that the hashtag #BloggerBlackmail was trending in the UK. After finding out what it was, I did a post on my opinion of the situation and tweeted it using the same hashtag. It was viewed 500 times in an hour.

Similarly, a story about a stripper named Zola went viral last week. I wrote a post about it, used the hashtag #Zola and tweeted it three or four times. It was seen nearly a thousand times that day, and a further 500 the next.

If something is trending, take the opportunity to base a post around a hashtag and tweet it out.

Note: remember that content is key – if you post out any old nonsense then you may get lots of views initially, but potential readers are guaranteed not to return again, damaging your traffic in the long term.

How often should I use hashtags?

Like every area of social media, it’s important to pace yourself and spread your tweets out so as not to spam your readers. When I have time, I tweet between 3-5 times a day at times when I know I have peak traffic. It takes just a few minutes. If I am using a weekly hashtag, I will make sure that I read and retweet at least one other post, and during #SundayBlogShare, which I host, I can read and retweet several hundred others throughout the day.

So, to put it simply:

  • Use hashtags that are relevant to the content of your post and the audience you wish to target.
  • Use weekly hashtags and take some time to read and retweet other posts in the same hashtag too.
  • Use Twitter chats to establish connections and build a readership.
  • Use trending hashtags where relevant.
  • Tweet your posts 3-5 times a day, leaving some time in between so as not to spam.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.