Curate, Create, Automate — 5 Great Social Media Apps

Most of us already have the staple social media apps — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc — so this post is not really about those. This post is for anyone who wants to create great content for sharing on those social media platforms. Gone are the days when you had to bookmark everything interesting on the Internet and figure your way around the million and one features in Adobe Photoshop. If you want to curate, create, and automate your social media posts, but don’t know where to start, this post was written just for you!

Below is a handy list of the apps I’ll be sharing in this article. Please feel free to jump around:

Discover & Curate:








Discover & Curate


One of my all-time favorite apps is Pocket. Ever come across a really interesting article but you just have no time to read it? Pocket allows you to save those for later! Not only does it have a web version, there are also Android and iOS apps available. This means that you may save an article on your work computer and read it on your iPad on the commute home.

Pocket: Grid View
Pocket: List View

Recently, Pocket launched its Recommended tab, which is a pretty self-evident feature. It’s a great way to discover articles that you are likely to find interesting. As they wrote in the blog:

“Recommendations takes the absolute best content being saved across Pocket and tailors it to your own saving and reading habits. The result is a feed that’s completely unique and personalized to you, and is filled with the most interesting articles and videos you might have missed otherwise.” (emphasis mine)

The browser extension is one of my favorite Pocket tools. I’m one of those people who used to have 40 tabs open at the same time because there’s just so much to absorb! With the extension, you can save the article later (no copying and pasting of the URL) and tag it too.

Tagging is probably one of the best Pocket features for content curation. Aside from its usual use for classification, you could also hack it (by adding a specific tag, say, ‘blog this’) to sieve out the great stuff you want to share on social media. You can favorite and archive stuff you want to keep too.

Pocket also plays well with other apps and it’s unspeakably easy to send articles from your browser (mobile or desktop) to the app. You could also set up an IFTTT recipe to send articles to your blog drafts or an Evernote note.

Would you love Pocket? Sure! If you have tons of articles to read and are looking for a Read Later solution that has the tagging game down.



There are just too many blogs to follow and it’d be incredibly time-consuming if I had to manually visit them every single day, so pulling RSS feeds is one of my favorite ways to receive great content. RSS feeds basically pull all the great content from all over the internet and shove the into a place just for you. Feedly is one such magical place. It’s a great one-stop check-in for all your RSS feeds, and the interface is strangely soothing. Pulling so much information into one space can be overwhelming, but Feedly’s designers clearly know how to make your life easier in more ways than one.

Feedly: Today View

The setup of your account is probably the toughest part and it takes about 7 minutes. (Not super fast, like 5, if you’re particular like I am, but not really long, like 10.) After adding your favorite feeds and categorising them into their appropriate categories — I have ‘Business’, ‘Comics’, ‘Content & Social Media Marketing’, ‘Education’, ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Tech’ — all the recent unread articles mysteriously appear under the right topics. It’s really easy.

There’s also a Save Later function (if you aren’t saving them to Pocket) and a Shared Collections feature if you want to curate the articles right there in Feedly and share them with your friends.

One of my favorite Feedly features, that is remarkably easy to miss, is the Recently Read section. This contains a history of the articles you came across but perhaps forgot to save. (That happened to me with a Cyanide & Happiness comic strip and I was bummed for about 5 minutes till I discovered this feature.)

Would you love Feedly? I think so! If you want to organize your RSS feeds, or consolidate them in one easy-to-use space on the internet.



Gone are the days when you need to be Photoshop-savvy to produce social media-worthy graphics. Today, with drag-and-drop tools like Pablo and Canva, anyone can create great, shareable images. Best of all: both of these are free!


If you are looking for an incredibly simple tool to create simple images with text, Pablo by Buffer was created for you. (It’s free too!) Images do exceptionally well on social media so it’s really helpful to have an image or two ready for your content when you share it. (Read this Buffer blog post for more!)

Pablo: Example of image I created for a side-project

With Pablo, all you have to do is type or paste the text you want into its editing field and it automatically places it in an image for you.

Pablo interface

Customisation options include: a great selection of web fonts, font styles like bold, italics, etc, stock images that seem appropriate for a huge range of contexts, and the option to blur the background image or switch it to monochrome. You also have the option of customizing your image to different social networks with dimension options for Twitter/Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The Pablo experience is even better if you have the Buffer browser extension installed (more on Buffer later). With this, you can simply highlight text from any page you are reading and send it straight to Pablo. Its super super easy to use.

Pablo: Playing well with the Buffer extension


Would you love Pablo? Definitely, if you are looking for a super easy-to-use, no-frills image creator for text-oriented images!



If you’re looking for the ability to manage layers (like in Photoshop) but don’t want to deal with the complexity of the Photoshop interface, then Canva is probably right up your alley. It’s a powerful free tool that was created for people who want to design eye-catching graphics for any purpose — they have pre-set dimensions for any social media platform you can think of as well as any marketing collateral you may need to design, and you also have the option for setting custom dimensions.

Canva: easy starting point!

There’s a wide selection of icons, stock photos, and graphics, and incorporating them is as simple as dragging and dropping them into the canvas. Some of these elements are paid elements, which are clearly marked out. There is the option of uploading your own images if that’s what you’re up for.

Canva: Suggested designs and elements

You may also like that Canva saves your previous projects and collections for easy reference and you can copy these projects if you want to quickly replicate the settings from those. This is great for creating content marketing campaigns that are consistent with your brand.

Canva: Example of instagram graphics I created for a side-project
Canva: Example of instagram graphics I created for a side-project

Speaking of consistent brand imaging, Canva also has a wonderful resource, called Design School, where you can find blog posts, tutorials, and teaching materials to help anyone learn how to craft impactful visuals! Their instagram account is also a wonderful and quick way to pick up these tips. I love how they bring such value to the community.

With a plethora of design options and guidance on how to craft visuals, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating great graphics of social media!

Would you love Canva? If you’re looking for a powerful, free graphic design tool, then yes!

Automate posts


Now that you’ve curated all the great content for sharing and created eye-catching graphics to go with your posts, the final step in the process is sharing all this content! You probably don’t want to inundate your audience with a barrage of posts and neither is it a great state of affairs if you were tethered to your computer all day manually publishing posts at their optimal posting times on social media. You may be on the market for a social media scheduling tool.

After trying out a couple of options, Buffer is my absolute favorite tool for this purpose. It integrates with Twitter, Facebook (Pages, Profiles, Groups), Google+ Pages, LinkedIn (Profiles, Page), and Pinterest, and the great people at Buffer are always working to meet all our social media posting needs so there may be more platforms available in future!

On the Individual plan, you can link 1 profile for each social account, and there’s always the option of upgrading to the Awesome plan for up to 10 profiles. The Awesome Plan also has the option to add RSS Feeds so you can Buffer them quickly! (Find out more here.)

With user’s convenience and experience at the top of their mind always, Buffer also plays very well with several popular apps. One of my favorites is the integration with Followerwonk, which analyzes the usage patterns of your followers and/or the people you are following in order to recommend the best times for you to post. With one click, your Followerwonk recommendations can be used to update your Buffer Twitter schedule to optimize your posting times to encourage engagement! Buffer also has its own Optimal Scheduling function, if that’s what you’re up for. The Power Scheduler tool also lets you repost the same content multiple times (based on a schedule) so that your message will definitely reach your audience. With these features, you know your post will reach your followers when they’re most likely to see it!

Buffer: Making scheduling less painful

With the Analytics function in Buffer, it’s also really easy to identify your best performing posts, which you can then ‘re-buffer’ (send it back to your Buffer queue) with the simple click of a button. This is a wonderful way to maintain engagement with your popular content over time.

Buffer: One click re-buffering

The browser extensions also make it easy to send great content straight to your profiles and you can share the same content to multiple profiles simultaneously. In case you forget to select more than one profile, a simple drag-and-drop to copy the post is also possible within your Dashboard! These functions are great if you have multiple networks in your social media strategy.

Buffer: The browser extension opens up this pop-up where you can toggle between the Simple Composer and Power Scheduler

With the browser extension, you can easily pull images from the page you want to schedule into the post you’re crafting. All you need to do is hover over the image and a ‘Share Image’ option pops up. It now also possible to schedule video posts, which are even better at promoting engagement than images!

Buffer: Pull images easily into your posts!

If I may be honest, though, it’s really the user interface that made me fall in love with the Buffer product. It’s truly an experience. Every step, from crafting posts, to reordering them, is incredibly intuitive and learning how to use Buffer takes a matter of minutes. There’s a huge community of users and fans on Twitter and Slack, which is testament to how wonderful the product is.

Would you love Buffer? Absolutely. This is a versatile product that works well for social media beginners as well as experts. Moreover, Buffer (the company) has the user in mind all the time, so you know the product will just keep getting better. Beside the amazing features mentioned (that’s not all of it, by the way!), the Happiness Heroes and Community Champions also do a fantastic job of supporting users through any queries or challenges. Win, win, win!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what works for you! There are so many amazing apps out there and if you’d love another post on the other apps I have in mind, please drop me a tweet at @stephe_lee!

Community Dialogue project: fly-bottle

What I learned about building a community

It all began with a pattern. Knowing my background in philosophy, several people approached me to learn more about the subject because they didn’t know where to start. To them, philosophy was daunting. Yet each conversation was rich and exciting, and they took to philosophical inquiry like fish to water. I found myself wondering,

“What would it be like if we were all able to have a conversation? What would such a community look like?”

The first community conversation I had took place on 31 July, with a small group comprising of some friends who had approached me previously. By 3 August, the first newsletter was released and our Facebook group was created. I’m happy to report that our first community meetup took place on 1 September and the next one is currently in the works!

I am unspeakably excited about project: fly-bottle and have learned so much in the 1+ month since its launch. In retrospect, much of the process has been influenced by aspects of the Lean Startup methodology and Design Thinking — two protocols that I learned while running entrepreneurship modules in my school.

Process: Building the fly-bottle community
Process: Building the fly-bottle community

Stage 1: Observe and Analyse

“Is there need or demand for a community?”

I mentioned earlier that it all began with a pattern: individuals asking about philosophy. Some of these individuals knew each other, but were not engaging in conversations about philosophy with each other because they didn’t know of mutual interest or they believed that they needed guidance from someone who knew the subject.

Over months of observation, mostly due to the ad-hoc nature of conversations with friends and acquaintances, a few questions kept recurring:

  • This is the field that I work in… are there any relevant philosophical insights/concepts that I can learn from?
  • What’s the relevance of philosophy in real life?
  • How do I use philosophy to help me think clearly?
  • Where do I begin?

Evidently, people weren’t interested in becoming experts or philosophy professors. They just wanted something that made philosophy more accessible.

But philosophy’s value doesn’t just lie in concepts you can learn. Dialogue is invaluable in philosophical investigation regardless of expertise as alternative perspectives can really be insightful. How could I share what I knew and scale up the 1:1 conversations I was having?

Moving from 1:1 to a community conversation

Stage 2: Ideation

“Who is my community?”

“What would such a community look like”

“How do I best engage my community?”

Sustainability was a big consideration for me in building the fly-bottle community because

(i) I have a full-time job, and

(ii) building communities is a commitment — you can’t just bow out when you feel like it.

Further, my personal philosophy about education is that it should be learner-centric and progressive.

This narrowed down the suitable platforms significantly. Running classes and workshops were not feasible because I needed to manage this alone (for now). Neither were webinars because the project needed to spark conversations within the community as well as with me. A combination of a blog or newsletter and a social platform seemed best. That way, community members could learn some philosophy and see how it related to real life, and have a platform to engage. I started a group chat and went to the ‘proto-community’ with some ideas:

Checking with the ‘proto-community’
Verifying feasibility! Yes!

The feedback was amazing and very encouraging. This was 31 July.

A bit more reflection lent some direction to this project:

  • The material needed to be accessible, so as little jargon as possible and large chunks of text were to be avoided.
  • Content needed to spark conversation or (at least) reflection, so the project needed to ask more questions than it answered.
  • The community did not need to be restricted to people who wanted to learn. What about the people who have done some philosophy and wanted to just talk about stuff?

Stage 3: Build & Ship

“What’s the best community engagement platform?”

I started with a newsletter because that’s the easiest way to get the information to the community. They didn’t need to change their behaviour. They’d just receive the newsletter when they checked their inbox, which they already do!

The first newsletter was a simple affair. It comprised 3 progressive sections, each increasing in difficulty, and ended with a question of the week. It didn’t need to be fancy or flashy. I just needed to ship it. It was sent out on 3 August.

Unsolicited positive feedback is great encouragement!
Unsolicited positive feedback is great encouragement!

Simultaneously, I approached some friends from my Masters course and they were really keen to revisit the good ol’ conversations. That same day, the Facebook group was set up.  

Stage 4: Engage and Iterate

“What does the community want?”

“How can I better serve them?”

Conversations happened rather organically in the Facebook group, but were dominated by those more familiar with philosophy at first. This is not to say that those who were unfamiliar weren’t engaged. Quick checks with them revealed that they were listening and learning, but uncomfortable with sharing their ideas at first. So, some conversations occurred simultaneously in smaller chats.

Along the way, I checked in with individuals for feedback and implemented suggestions by the next newsletter.

For example, one community member said she enjoyed the use of fun images, like comics, and suggested incorporating more questions instead of having just one big question. (See Issue #3 for reference)




By the next issue, more guiding questions were added and GIFs were incorporated too!

Also, while I didn’t think that the community was large enough for a meetup, some members were very keen on the idea. So, a small group of us met up on 1 September. In the spirit of a community-driven initiative, the discussion topic was also proposed by a member 🙂 We didn’t finish the conversations, by the way, and will be continuing in the next meetup.

Lessons Learned

1. Listen, listen, listen.

Find out what your community wants and needs. It’s about them, after all. Do so passively, by observing what’s happening. And do so actively, by asking for feedback and insights and listening to it.

Through this, I learned that some members were uncomfortable with the level of expertise of other members, and felt daunted. My bad! So I stepped in to form a middle ground. Listening also led to the discovery that some people weren’t receiving the newsletter. A quick check showed that the emails were being redirected to the spam folder. The matter has since been rectified, as far as I can tell, but I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t check.

2. Empathise.

Remember what it was like to be a community member. Who is your community member? What is it like to be in that position? The meetup was intentionally kept small as I wanted the opportunity to give members a chance to speak (in addition to the Facebook group). And boy, did they engage! Conversation flowed organically and one of them even messaged me after to thank me for the opportunity to share their views.

Post-meetup text from a community member
Post-meetup text from a community member. (P.S. It was related!!)

3. Iterate and do so quickly.

The product or content or strategy does not have to be perfect. I’ve learned that it’s good to have a plan and a direction, and changes to that plan are not necessarily bad. It’s not about you, so don’t feel insulted that your work has room for improvement. It is about the community, after all. And don’t you learn through the process? Do what’s best for them and do it quickly. Then try again the next time. Why spend a month thinking about a massive overhaul when you can start making changes tomorrow? The goal is still to benefit the community.

4. Work within your own means.

Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Community engagement is a marathon, not a sprint. If you burn out quickly, it’s the community that suffers, isn’t it?

5. Want to do a meetup? Do it!

If you have a passionate and engaged community, chances are, they’ll be really excited to find kindred spirits and like minded folk. Start small if you must, but do it. Conversation between community members has picked up after the meetup, and I think it’s because excitement is infectious!

Looking forward

Building the fly-bottle community has been such an enriching experience for me, that I’d love to share more lessons I’ve learned along the way. Some ideas for posts are: the twin roles of analysis and synthesis in community management, and how to select tools and platforms for community engagement and content management. All of these will be filed under ‘Community’ so do check back if you are interested!

Finally, if any of this has piqued your curiosity about the fly-bottle community and project: fly-bottle newsletter, you can check out past issues here or subscribe here 🙂

Hope you found this useful! I’d love to hear your thoughts/comments 🙂 Drop me a message at the project: fly-bottle blog or tweet at me (@stephe_lee)!

*Names of community members have been redacted in screenshots at their request 🙂


I have these gems delivered straight into my mailbox!

Inbox zero is a fantasy for me. But I don’t really mind it because my massive inbox load is partly due to the collection of great newsletters I’m subscribed to. I used to do freelance copywriting for edms (email direct mailers) and thought I knew it all. I thought email was just sales and marketing, and personal letters and that the public sharing of great insight takes place on blogs.

Not anymore.

Now there’s a lovely in-between. Mass emails sent to lists of subscribers, much like marketing mails, only they don’t want you to buy anything. In fact, they’re giving you stuff. They’re giving you knowledge and understanding through a package of wit and creativity. It’s like personal heartfelt emails and wonderful recommendations, writ large.


I’ve discovered some wonderful newsletters along the way, and I’d like to share 5 with you.

Further by Brian Clark

This weekly newsletter receives a ‘star’ in my gmail inbox every single time. Further is a deeply intelligent and carefully crafted newsletter about health, wealth, and wisdom. Each newsletter has a ‘Feature’ in addition to the three areas and there’s a certain gravity to Brian Clark’s writing. Each feature is thought-provoking and I have personally enjoyed this one several times. It is difficult to communicate the sheer value of having this newsletter in my inbox, so I shall let the work speak for itself.

Subscribe to Further here.

Sketchplanations by Jono Hey

A hand-drawn weekly newsletter that is always a nice surprise in my inbox. Each issue is a surprise because you don’t know what idea Jono Hey has decided to sketch for the week! Also, the name is incredibly clever. I wish I’d thought of it. The latest issue introduced me to Koomey’s Law. Haven’t heard of it? Think it’s a complex concept to communicate? Clearly you need to subscribe to Sketchplanations too!

Subscribe to Sketchplanations here.

Think Clearly by Mathias Jakobsen

This is another hand-drawn newsletter that I enjoy. This one is all about creativity, reflection, and growth. Mathias Jakobsen’s emails communicate a positivity that is shown, not told, and I really like that. Check out this cute one and this helpful one.

Subscribe to Think Clearly here.

Next Draft by Dave Pell

Want something clever and ridiculously timely? This daily newsletter may be right up your alley. Dave Pell was christened The Internet’s Most Fascinating Newsletter Writer by TechCrunch, which is a really specific accolade, so you know that you have to check this newsletter out. Every day, Dave finds interesting news, says something witty about them, and send them out into the interwebs. Here’s an example for you. People love it. Maybe you would too!

Subscribe to Next Draft here.

Think Smarter by Penguin

This newsletter by Penguin is a little more heavy going than the others but it only comes once a month so you have ample time to digest it. Meant to challenge the mind, each issue of Think Smarter is packed with big questions and deep ideas. Here’s an example and another for you to have a taste.

Subscribe to Think Smarter here.


project: fly-bottle by Stephanie Lee

I started this little newsletter with the strange name because I wanted to make philosophy more accessible. (You can read about it more here.) Expect a new issue every Wednesday with bite-sized philosophy for the uninitiated. From human nature to the mind-body problem, there’s nothing under the sun that we cannot investigate. There is also a dedicated attempt to link the concepts back everyday life. Past issues have referenced Calvin & Hobbes, Sherlock Holmes (yes, the Cumberbatch one), Stewart Butterfield (CEO of Slack), and The Matrix (of course). Visit the archives for an idea!

Subscribe here.


Reinventing Organisations – Frederic Laloux

Reading Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations has taken longer than I expected thanks to the other reading I have to do for my day job. Thank goodness for these audio and video files!

I’ve compiled a Soundcloud playlist for anyone else interested in these audio gems — the podcasts sure helped me understand and appreciate his approach to organisational development very quickly! Below is also a YouTube video for you 🙂 Enjoy!


Addendum on Positive Psychology

Earlier in the week, I published a post on positivity in which Positive Psychology was mentioned extensively. Here’s a great introduction to the discipline by the man himself, Martin Seligman:

Musings Technology

3 reasons to be more positive on social media

Positivity is like the childhood best friend that we all take for granted: always there to catch us, always overlooked. It is interesting that most people easily extol the virtues of staying optimistic and upbeat, yet so much of social media is dominated by complaints and negativity. A recent article published in the MIT Technology Review sparked a reflection on this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone, especially social media influencers, needs to be more proactive in promoting more positive engagement on social media. Here’s why…

1. Negative emotions stay with us for a longer time.

I took a course in Positive Psychology a while back and another on Coursera earlier this year, and one of the key concepts that struck me was ‘negativity bias’. Negativity bias is the notion that negative encounters have a greater impact on us than positive encounters. If you were to have one positive experience and one negative experience in one day, for instance, the negative one tends to ‘stick’ with you longer. Recall the times when one bad encounter just made the day suck overall — that’s what the positive psychologists are talking about.

As Jacob Burak discusses in this Aeon article, this bias has evolutionary origins but doesn’t serve us as well now that we no longer encounter the threats we used to:

“Of all the cognitive biases, the negative bias might have the most influence over our lives. Yet times have changed. No longer are we roaming the savannah, braving the harsh retribution of nature and a life on the move. The instinct that protected us through most of the years of our evolution is now often a drag – threatening our intimate relationships and destabilising our teams at work.”

If we’re always adopting a fight-or-flight response to the experiences that we have, and if we focus so greatly on negative encounters, we can often be paralysed by them or behave reactively instead of proactively. This defensive stance can hardly be conducive for our personal growth and the growth of our relationships.

While it is clear that negativity has a role to play in ensuring a realistic and grounded approach to the problems that we face (as Burak discusses in the last few paragraphs of his article), I hardly think that we need to actively seek it out, given our default inclination towards it. In other words: Yes, we need to confront the negatives in our lives to ensure that we’re not blindly optimistic, but our nature takes care of that for us anyway. Let’s not be shackled by them, but practice the practical wisdom to balance negative and positive consciously.

2. Positive emotions support individual growth and development, and resilience.

One of the first readings that students of Dr Barbara L. Fredrickson’s Positive Psychology course on Coursera encounter is her article entitled, ‘The Value of Positive Emotions’. (I strongly recommend it to everyone.) It’s an eye-opening piece that sheds light on how positive emotions are basically life-giving.

“Instead of solving problems of immediate survival, positive emotions solve problems concerning personal growth and development. Experiencing a positive emotion leads to states of mind and to modes of behavior that indirectly prepare an individual for later hard times.” (p. 332)

Dr Fredrickson coined the ‘Broaden and Build Theory’, which basically states that positive emotions broaden a person’s mindset (and attitude) and build a person’s internal resources for future challenges (see also The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions by Dr Barbara L. Fredrickson). While focusing on negative emotions promotes convergent perspectives that lead to myopic worldviews (I’m sure we know of some complainers who are completely resistant to seeing the silver lining, and we’ve all been there at some point!), positive emotions allow us to appreciate possibilities, exercise creativity, and take a more integrative perspective. When you’re in that zone, you’ll be able to see more than one way out of a bad situation and, interestingly enough, your positive experiences may be amplified.

3. Our social networks can amplify the impact of messages. This is especially so for influencers.

The MIT Technology Review article that sparked this reflection discussed a concept called the ‘Majority Illusion’ that was discovered by Kristina Lerman and her peers from the University of Southern California (original article here). The theory basically states that our networks can give the illusion that a certain phenomenon or attribute is more common than it actually is thanks to the influence of certain better-connected peers in our networks. Since some people are more well-connected than others, any information these people disseminate will have greater reach. This greater reach translates into greater transference of the information they share and hence can “skew the view from the ground”.* Just think of how some Twitter influencers’ tweets go viral through RTs and MTs thanks to the sheer number of followers they have.

“For a start, it shows how some content can spread globally while other similar content does not—the key is to start with a small number of well-connected early adopters fooling the rest of the network into thinking it is common.”

In turn, this means that if you have a certain degree of influence, what you choose to share can have greater ramifications than you intend. As the authors of the MIT Review article wrote:

“That might seem harmless when it comes to memes on Reddit or videos on YouTube. But it can have more insidious effects too. “Under some conditions, even a minority opinion can appear to be extremely popular locally,” say Lerman and co. That might explain how extreme views can sometimes spread so easily.”

Why even bother?

If we consider the implications of the 3 reasons together, it becomes clear that it’s good to stop and think before we post on social media. I often think about how a sour encounter with someone can put a downer on my day and amplify this on social media where (i) the encounter reaches more people, and (ii) the encounter lives for a much much longer time.

Since we all are predisposed with a negativity bias, yet positive emotions tend to be more conducive for our growth, and the majority illusion implies that our social networks can skew the gravity of certain ideas, isn’t it important for us to exercise more intention when we post? This is especially so if we have influence in our circles. Let us be more proactive in shaping the content that we and our peers encounter, and promote that which is life-giving.

In the words of dear Uncle Ben:

With great power, comes great responsibility.


Further reads:

Everything You Need to Know About Facebook’s Controversial Emotion Experiment — Wired

The Science of Positivity in Social Media — Buffer

Image Credits:

‘Sunrise’ by Susanne Nilson (Flickr)

Curated Dialogue

Pinterest: Another Tool In Your Social Media Arsenal

I am a big Pinterest fan. So much so that I signed up for a Buffer Awesome plan trial just to try out scheduling for Pinterest (I always feel bad spamming my fellow pinners with a barrage of pins). If that doesn’t convince you of the extent of my fangirling, let it be known that my partner has once remarked to me that “life isn’t a pinterest board.”

During a recent #bufferchat, I was excited to discuss this platform’s potential for promoting Hangouts on Air with some twitter friends (Hi, @jacobhenenberg & @JoelRRenner). Yes, it’s a little unconventional, but Pinterest’s particular strength in promoting the longevity of its pins makes it a valuable ally to your other social media efforts. While many of the engagements with my posts occur within a day of two of (re)pinning, I’ve found that many of the pins are liked and repinned weeks and months (sometimes a year!) after I’ve posted them up on my boards. Kevan of Buffer shares some insight into this in this recent article.

The longevity of pinned material makes Pinterest a great complement to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which have a more immediate effect on engagement and conversion. A great marketing strategy that incorporates these platforms could drive interest and early engagement via the more timely platforms like the abovementioned Big 3 — articles, tweets, influencer endorsement, flashy pictures galore! — then ensure that interest doesn’t wane too much by pinning great relevant images (a little on this later), retweeting and resharing older articles, and posting images via Instagram.

Besides the longevity of pins, Pinterest is also great because:
  • It has an excellent UI that is beautiful and engaging
  • All pins and repins lead back to their sources, so credit’s (usually) given where credit’s due and you can drive traffic to your site even through repins
  • There’s a discovery-centric ethos that runs through the site, from clicking on repins to see the boards that an image has been pinned to (great for discovering likeminded folk) as well as the Related Pins and Also on These Boards features that direct you to similar boards/pins.
  • The Pinterest algorithm suggests boards that users may be interested in based on their pins and likes (look out for ‘Picked For You’ pins on the homepage)
What does this mean for you?
  • Pins (e.g. rich pins) can drive traffic and conversion if they are posted strategically. Pinterest’s considerable conversion rate means that it’s worth exploring it if you’ve already got your Facebook strategy down pat. (Read this HubSpot article for some impressive factoids.)
  • Consider pinning several engaging images that lead back to the same source. This gives a richer dimension to the content and ensures that more people can stumble upon your site through Pinterest’s wonderful discovery algorithm
  • An engaging pin can drive traffic to your site months after your article has been published!
  • A well-curated collection of boards can really set the visual tone for your brand. You can also leverage on Pinterest’s algorithm to reach out to users who are fans of similar brands
  • You can focus more on content (pins) and less on follower count since even non-followers can find your pins.

But what if you’re not trying to drive sales up for a product? As I suggested during the #bufferchat, it’s entirely possible to use this great platform for even something as unexpected as a Hangout on Air!

Here are some ways I can think of:
  • Complement the pre-Hangout promotion by pinning great images on both Instagram & Pinterest
  • Maintain post-Hangout engagement by pinning multiple relevant images that could capture the interest of audiences who didn’t manage to catch the ‘live’ Hangout on Air (direct them to the youtube video or your site)
  • Leverage on Pinterest’s collaborative feature on boards and get your Hangout guests to pin relevant material on a board. Each Hangout could have its own board!
  • Compile key insights from the Hangout on Air into an infographic. (Make it vertical for extra oomph!)
  • Share pins on your Facebook page to reach out to your Facebook fans who may not have known about your Pinterest page. Who knows, they may even click through to some older sites.

In any case, cross-check the demographics of your desired audience with these demographics from Pew Research Centre. Is your audience a little older, mostly female, and into arts and crafts? If so, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t spend a little time pinning! Also, I wouldn’t worry about Pinterest being a more female-centric platform — male users are increasing by the year, and some of the best curators of pins that I’ve come across are men.

Want more?

Here’s an interesting interview with Pinterest’s ex-Partnerships Chief, Joanne Bradford, and Twitter’s President of Global Revenue & Partnerships, Adam Bain, on the Re/code Replay podcast.

Some great articles:

The 4 Biggest Pinterest Marketing Mistakes We Made (And How You Can Learn From Them)

17 Tips, Tools and Tricks To Improve Your Pinterest Marketing Strategy

12 Most Strategic Ways To Use Pinterest For Marketing

How To Use Pinterest For Business: The Definitive Guide

Pinterest For Business: Everything You Need To Know

5 Ways To Automate Your Pinterest Marketing Strategy

Pinterest’s Evan Sharp: Guys Are On Here, Too

Community Musings

Empathy first, empathy always.

An amusing exchange happened in one of my lessons the other day and it made me think about communication, sincerity, and how to go about creating and maintaining relationships with others.

You see, I had spent most of the lesson reviewing my student’s external correspondences and was somewhat horrified that the correspondences, while well-crafted and polite, were mostly utilitarian and mechanical. It is one thing to write that you are requesting a favour but quite another to communicate your gratitude in having that person take the time to consider your request. After all, no one owed them anything. Any response was time spent giving them feedback and an opportunity for reflection, and people should be thanked for their time! So I tried guiding my students to understand that sincerity and gratitude were essential in their correspondences especially if they were asking for a favour. To my surprise, when I later dismissed them early so that they wouldn’t be late for their next lesson, some students thanked me for my kind understanding. In those terms. Yes, it was probably some cheekiness on their part and we laughed it off, but that episode made me wonder about how to encourage sincerity. After all, it’s not something you can simply tell someone to do and false sincerity is the surest way to be patronizing.

In the multiple roles I play, as a mediator, event planner, community builder, sports team manager, I’ve often find myself having to work with others. Those experiences provided wonderful springboards for this reflection.

What has gone right in those experiences and what went wrong?

When was I sincere and when did I feel that someone was being sincere towards me?

How did I react?

I realised that the sincere exchanges that I was enriched by left an impact because I felt like someone actually made the effort to think about me as a person. Not as a means to his end and not as a favour. And the ones that I know left an impact on people were able to do so because I thought about things from the other person’s perspective.

The key to sincerity is empathy. Empathy first, empathy always.

Yes, we may never truly know what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, and it’s another brand of condescension to assume that we do know. However, the empathy I refer to is an attitude and a mindset. To want to think from the other person’s perspective instead of ours. To remove ourselves from the center of the universe and think about others instead.

“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

It’s a matter of thinking about how we may have inconvenienced others, about what they could be preoccupied with, about what they may be happy or upset about at that point in time… or even to think about how much a quick note of thanks could brighten their day and taking a few minutes to convey that thanks. Why not expend a little more effort to make someone’s day a bit better? (Or at least not make it worse?)

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Leo Buscaglia

A recent New York Times article recently discussed how empathy is actually a matter of choice, and I encourage everyone to read it!

So, reflection completed, I went back to class and discussed empathy instead of sincerity with my students. The heart and effort that went into subsequent correspondences were palpable. I sure do hope that their recipients felt the same way.

Empathy, like all other virtues, isn’t an end point that we can arrive at. It is too easy to slip into complacence. But it certainly is something we can continually hone and work towards 🙂


Image source: Path by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho

Carnegie Chronicles Musings

Carnegie Chronicles: What are we doing to spread positivity?

The key lesson in Chapter 2 is one that I learned some time back — the impact of appreciation and gratitude. Carnegie includes several anecdotes about instances where being appreciative resulted in positive outcomes for the appreciator, but is insistent that his recommendation is not to flatter.

He juxtaposes flattery with appreciation and points out the fundamental difference between the two: Sincerity. What Carnegie seems to advocate in this chapter is a change in mindset and how we interact with people. It takes the lessons in Chapter 1 (recap: don’t criticize) further. I see Chapter 1 as a simpler, behavioural change — how to act — whereas Chapter 2 begins advocating a deeper, psychological change — how to think.

Indeed, he is most adamant about this:

“No! No! No! I am not suggesting flattery! Far from it. I’m talking about a new way of life. Let me repeat. I am talking about a new way of life.

“Try leaving a friendly trail of little sparks of gratitude on your daily trips.”

I’ve witnessed how powerful appreciation can be, and how the lack of it can demoralize. It’s one thing to go through life without spreading negativity and sourness, and this alone can take effort if we are used to complaining and criticizing. However, once we have that down, we need to ask ourselves:

What am I doing to spread positivity?

What have I done to show my gratitude?

It’s easy to assume that people know they’re doing a good job, but have we expressed our thanks for that? I had a mini-wakeup call in the form of a casual remark by a student who joked that I didn’t praise my students enough. I thought I did! I have made it a point to be encouraging, made provisions for them, said kind words to them… but as I wrote in my previous Carnegie Chronicles post:

“If you truly want to help the other person grow, you need to help them hear your message too.”

My student’s casual remark made me realise two things:

  1. Be sensitive to the different ways people communicate. Some people need to be told, “I appreciate you” because they are receptive to Words of Affirmation. It simply isn’t enough appropriate to perform an Act of Service for them, for instance.
  2. Be precise in your appreciation

Consider the difference between the two:


“Thanks for doing _____! It has helped me in ____ way 🙂

Which of these would you feel more encouraged by? Which of these would inspire you do better? I noticed this in a deeper way when a manager recently took the second route with me. I don’t think it was deliberate on her part, but her precision in identifying exactly what I was doing right encouraged further reflection on my part and made me feel like she wasn’t just being nice. (Although just being nice is a great starting point!)

It’s a matter of becoming ‘softer’, to some extent, in an otherwise hard and competitive world. The quote that Carnegie cites at the end of the chapter was particularly powerful:


How often has someone else’s kindness towards us spurred us to be kinder to others? What if we could make the world better (even if by just a tiny margin) just by being kinder and more appreciative? Let’s strive for that. It’s possible!

Be Well

5 ways to kickstart your fitness routine & survive zombies

1. Maximise your time (HIIT it)

Not everyone can afford 2-hour gym workouts, which may not even be as effective! Aim instead of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that alternates between work and rest to jump start your metabolism. HIIT workouts are typically really short and I’ve never done one that exceeded 30 minutes. 30 minutes workout + 30 minutes shower (that’s a luxury!) = super efficient!

Bonus: HIIT workouts also have an afterburn effect, so you continue to burn fat the day after your workout.

2. Optimise your workout (Form and function)

A lot of people currently exercise to attain a certain aesthetic, and that’s cool. But what if you could attain an aesthetic and improve your daily movement? I like functional training for this reason. Use compound, natural, functional movement like squats and deadlifts and you’ll find that carrying everyday weight like groceries and suitcases becomes easier. (You’ll also be less likely to injure yourself moving that bedframe around if you’ve learned proper lifting form!) If you really don’t have time, skip the isolation exercises like bicep curls, and bust out some rows or push-ups instead.

Bonus: If you can do a pull-up or a muscle-up, you can probably scale that wall to escape the zombie horde. Conditioning your body to be an optimal functional machine means you’re more likely to survive!

3. Minimise the effort (pre-pack everything)

When I first started on my fitness journey (and sometimes even now), one of my favorite excuses for skipping a workout was because I didn’t pack my gym bag. If you’re like me, help yourself out by pre-packing everything instead of scrambling in the morning. I always carry a set of toiletries and sets of fresh underwear (hey, super important!) in small travel cases with hooks so I don’t have to think about it in the morning.

Bonus: This is also super helpful if you find yourself having to stay over somewhere at the last minute, or if you just want a mid-day shower somewhere. Or you can also stay fresh about a week into the zombie apocalypse… in case that matters to you.

4. Be part of a community

My best fitness experiences have come from the support of a larger community that bonds over the gruelling burpees that we had to bust out. It’s always fun to work out with friends, and the encouragement and friendly badgering to do one more push-up makes the process a little less painful.

Bonus: You automatically know a bunch of people who are also more likely to survive a zombie apocalypse and you can band together a la The Walking Dead.

5. Take a hike! (Ok, a walk.)

This is the ultimate no-frills baby-steps fitness-related change you can make. It doesn’t cost anything and may even save you money. There’s no need for special attire, except maybe leaving those stilettos at the desk or at home. Taking a walk also boosts creativity. My MA supervisor advised me to take walks when I was writing my thesis and shared how he used to take these long long walks when he was a graduate student. I didn’t take his advice back then. Now I wonder how much easier the thesis-writing process could have been if I had taken his advice!

You may be busy, but how about walking just a little bit more every day?

Bonus: Mark’s Daily Apple gives you 17 reasons to start walking more. 17?!

Image credits: Finding Balance by woodleywonderworks