Sunday, 10 December 2017

Manchester Bloggers Meet

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Blogs engross me,” says Steph Ledigo, from Ledigo PR. “If I feel engrossed I feel like I know the person.”

It's the last day of November and I'm in a conference room in Manchester's stunning Radisson Hotel for the first Manchester Bloggers Meet.

The very personable Ryan Thompson, Commercial Manager of the hotel's Manchester Branch, oversees the discussion, which features a panel of social media experts: Jo Booth,  from Social Media Gurus, Steph, Keeley, who looks after the Manchester Bloggers social media accounts, Charlie Houston-Sykes (Lady Sybil) who writes for I Love Manchester and Jo, AKA Dr Pond. Sorry that I couldn't pin down everyone's names!

The event is sponsored by local brand Thomas Deakin Gin (free samples are appreciated and taken full advantage of throughout the evening). There's also a delicious supply of pies, cakes, bread rolls, jam and pork sandwiches.

There are quite a few bloggers who I recognised from their online personas- mostly Twitter and I think from chats like #lbloggers - but I'm not sure exactly who they are. It seems others have the same problem!

A polite suggestion: I reckon name badges with Twitter @ handles underneath would be a huge help for the next bloggers meet.

The discussion and Q&A session unveils a range of advice for those wanting to take full advantage of social media platforms. As Baz Luhrmann once said, 'I will dispense this advice now.'

  • You may be a writer, but remember to use multimedia. Social media has seen a 148% increase in use of video. Pictures, however, can still tell more of a story than video.

  • Stick to stills on Twitter and Instagram, but use video on Facebook. (I'm not sure about this, though: if you're looking for particular content in video form, Youtube is the easiest to search but I find Facebook to be the hardest. People also tend to keep their Facebook video content private, whereas their Youtube / Twitter content is usually public.)

  • Be individual at events. Stand out. People will find you on Twitter, one way or another. Grab every opportunity to get known.

  • If you're taking pictures for your blog, explain to people who you are and what you're doing.

  • If you become popular, various businesses will approach you to ask you to write about them. In these circumstances, learn to say no once in a while. Don't burn yourself out.

  • When gauging who to collaborate with, don't just go off their Twitter followers. Look a the engagement stats on their recent tweets, which will tell you more than their follower count will. Jo mentioned she had to explain this to Clothes site ASOS, who approached her because of, she says, her Twitter followers.

  • Tag people in blog post tweets. Pick people who you think would particularly like it, to get more engagement.

  • You may get free stuff for your blogging, but donors will still want words. It's still hard work!

  • Suggestion from the audience: if you get free stuff, go back and buy from them afterwards. Show them you've invested, and they'll probably offer you more.

  • Let places know if you're planning to go and write about them. It could lead to further deals or opportunities.

  • Guest post for other blogs. Get your name around.

  • Ryan asks, what's next for social media? Jo suggests it depends on the platform: Stories on Instagram are growing in popularity (I personally think this will lead to the demise of Snapchat); Facebook is being left to the older generations as the younger ones move on.

  • Be an 'early adopter'- get onto social media sites before others.

  • On social media posts, stick to 2 or 3 hashtags. Any more will lose engagement.

  • Emojis give 30% more engagement. Imagine tweeting the phrase, 'What a day!' This could mean many things. Stick an emoji with a facial expression on, and It will indicate so much more.

  • Put your country of residence in your SM biography. No everyone will assume you're British!

  • If you're invited to an event, let organisers know if you can't go. You might get another invite for another night if you engage.

  • Be polite, and you may get other opportunities from companies.

  • If you're planning to go to a place or event, drop them a tweet telling them you're excited for it. 'Can't wait for @whateverbar to open!' for example.

A very beneficial evening for bloggers like me, and I can't complain about being one of only two men in a full room. I'm looking forward to another meet in the new year!

Monday, 4 December 2017

Don't Miss the Lazy Lizard Launch with Erick Morillo

Book off Thursday ASAP! Legendary house music producer Erick Morillo drops into Manchester Wednesday for the launch of Lazy Lizard in the Printworks. Manchester has a new house music venue! After years of regurgitated RnB, a new house joint finally refreshes the city's nightlife scene. Or so we hope!

We'll find out on Wednesday night. Manchester Cool Bars are headed out to see him, for a cheeky midweek party. There are still tickets available!

Oh, and prediction: Georgia 'Toff' Toffolo will win #ImACeleb.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Saddleworth Santa Dash 2017

Saturday: Local DJ Elliot Eastwick, from Revolution radio station, sounds the horn. A hundred-or-so identically-dressed Santas start a steady jog down Uppermill's High Street and on towards the surrounding countryside villages. It's Saturday 2nd December, and the annual Santa Dash has begun.

There's a blockade of Father Christmases, male and female, taking over the road, breaking into a run, heading out down unnamed bridlepaths. By the time I get back to my car, they've already taken routes that I can't reach. I look online, but it dawns on me that I can't read maps anyway.

I might give competing a shot next year.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

This Week's Psychology-Related Strains

There have been a few issues this week relating to Psychology.

First, I finished NaBloPoMo and Excess Month: Practical, meaning the pressure to upload every day is off my shoulders. I managed it, though, so I'm proud I accomplished something.

Second, you may have heard that Universal Credit is being rolled out against the wishes of many people in the country. As a result of this, my Working Tax Credits have been stopped and are 'under review,' which I had forgotten (due to the memory difficulties which lead to me applying for these benefits in the first place). As mentioned last week, I didn't realise this and am now likely to have to pay this ridiculous £100 fine. Adding to the strain, ATOS only awarded me one component of Personal Independence Payment, when I was previously (and legitimately, I might add) on both components of Disability Living Allowance. And who do I ask for assistance?

No social worker (I'm too 'capable'), no therapist (my sessions have finished)... Parents? They're trying. But they shouldn't have to. They've done more than enough. I'm 35. They're in their 60s. My employer? They've suggested an employee assistance scheme. I'm trying to get in touch, but the details I have don't seem accurate. Andy's Man Club? Maybe one of them might know how to advise me, but it's certainly not anyone's forte, and if it was, haven't they got enough to deal with? It's a depression support group, not Citizen's Advice. Well, I guess I could ask Citizen's Advice. So who helps, and what do I do?

It seems I'm not the only person to be caught out with this problem. Universal Credit is causing havoc for many. Of course, with no practical support, none of this makes a great deal of sense to me.

There is one positive to this, though: the Universal Credit Helpline is now free, after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn put Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke under some pressure. Progress.

To be continued.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Excess Month Practical / NaBloPoMo Review

The world can only be grasped by action, not contemplation... The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.
-Jacob Bronowski, Polish mathematician and humanist

Well, I did it. 30 posts in 30 days, throughout November, for National Blog Posting Month. I enjoyed searching out content and hammering out text as quickly as I could.

I got nearly 4000 hits in the month, which is a little more than other recent months, but nowhere near the inexplicable successes of 2014 where I was getting a 500-1000 hits a day for most of the year. God knows what I was doing right at that time. Weirdly, my most popular post in the past month was this one about Bowlers' car boot sale. (119 views at the time of writing.) I still haven't tried the recipe book I bought there.

On the 5th, I decided that I'd up my drinking, in accordance with the theme of 'excess,' to see if that would suppress my appetite and help me to lose weight. A few people suggested that it wouldn't work. They were right: I went from 84kg (13'3) to 82.9kg (13'), not as much as I'd hoped, but it's still the equivalent of 4 pieces of crockery. I still have a bit of a gut, but I'm still skipping breakfast, so we'll see how that affects weight.

In the month of November I got no personal bests in the gym.

I drank, this month. I finished the remnants of bottles of Aberlour, Highland Park, (my favourite), Wild Turkey, and downed a sample bottle of The Arran Malt, and threw out some Baileys chocolates which were about 4 years out of date (typically, I only noticed once I'd bitten into one). There was so little left in each one that I've not really drank that much at all, but it's more than I normally have. And it's cold.

I'm making gains on social media, if not with weights: I passed the 1300 follower mark on Twitter. Speaking of Twitter followers, Stanley Johnson (Boris' dad) is currently in the Australian jungle for I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. I was his 4,999th follower.

So, hardly the Thompson-esque rollercoaster of drug-fuelled manic reportage I had in mind, but then, of course it wasn't. Fun though.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

#tbt Beermats: Week 8

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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

You've changed

Writing warmup exercise from Writers Connect with the above phrase as a prompt. 10 minutes on the clock. I produced this:

“You went to Avici White without us?!”

“Well, yeah.”

“Where was my invite?!” Hudson throws his arms out slightly, like this admission has stung him in both his armpits.

“Well, would you have come if I'd have asked?”

“Yeah,” he blurts, as if it was the most obvious answer.

“Last time I asked you you didn't wanna go; you were out in Oldham,” I stress, “again.”

“But it doesn't matter where you go,” he says, jamming his thumbs into his jeans pockets.

“Hudson,” I say, rolling my eyes, “Come on. That's just a bullshit phrase people use to, uh, to get people to do something they don't wanna do.” I stun myself with how confident I can be since the last time I saw him, and remember that it was that phrase, his group's mantra, that pushed me away from his group in the first place.

“Matt, you've changed,” he says.

“Yeah, Ferro said that on Facebook,” I remind him. “Because I won't go to Yorkshire Street. I don't go to Oldham.”

“But we're your mates,” he says, “and that's where we go.”

My blood runs cold as I stare into those black pupils, and remember the discomfort I felt when I first met him- my instincts telling me, I now realise, not to get involved.

“Hudson, Oldham's a shit night out. The only change is I won't put up with it.” I walk off.