Blog Post Inspiration: Book Review and Poll

Vilma Reading on a Sofa. painting byTavik Frantisek Simon
Small business owners are encouraged by web developers like myself to write blog posts related to their businesses. But it’s not always easy to determine what blog topic will 1) interest readers 2) be related to one’s business and 3) engage readers in a useful sort of way. How does one get inspired to write yet another blog post? One way to find some blog post inspiration is to read a book and write a book review.

In a discussion with my children, we asked each other: would you rather write a book report or watch TV? My children (who range in ages from 11 to 18) declared, of course, TV. I, on the other hand, would much rather tackle the book report. I decided to make this a poll on a blog post (I changed “book report” to “book review” as that is what one usually calls discussing a book on a blog post):

(Poll will be open until September 10th):

[poll id=”11″]

If you answered “book review,” you could read a book related to your business and write a blog post about it. Maybe if you answered TV, you should write blog posts about the shows? Then again, maybe not – most people use TV as a way to zone out at the end of a long day. I find I can’t read a business book when I’m tired. I prefer a classical novel or a history book – a topic unrelated to business.

The Referral Engine by John Jantsch

The Referral Engine John JantschRecently, I read the book The Referral Engine by John Jantsch. The rest of this post will be dedicated to what I liked and what I found less useful about Jantsch’s book. Long ago, someone taught me to pick and choose ideas from self-help books – not everything will be relevant or useful, but if you get one or two good ideas, that can be motivating. Three or four and the book is a golden prize!

At some point in The Referral Engine the author talks about hand-written notes. Aha! There’s a great one for me. I then wrote a hand-written note to one of my recent new clients. Have you used hand-written notes to say thank you to your clients?

There is quite a bit about blogging in The Referral Engine. Some of it I will save for my next blog talk, such as:

  • Create engagement by asking questions and comment on comments.
  • Use keywords: “you should focus many of your posts on the actual words and phrases that your ideal customers use”
  • Learn benefits of blogging, such as testing out new ideas and a focus on learning.

He says blog at a minimum three to four times per week. Three to four times per week? Do you know active business owners who do that? If a business owner can write one or two great posts per months, go for it. Don’t get all stressed out over the blog every day or even once per week bit.

He also stressed the importance of podcasts. Here’s another one where I hesitate. I haven’t developed any podcasts, and I don’t expect to start. Unless I end up working with others who do this sort of work already, I don’t think it will be part of my business. You have to know your strengths and what you enjoy. I’ve done some video editing for a client, but it was not high end video and my son helped with the editing (he’s quite good at video, but only in eleventh grade, and he’s not ready for the business angle. He does video to relax).

The basic idea of The Referral Engine is if you get your clients talking about your business, they will be your advertisements. I like that idea. I’ll keep looking back to the book (and talking to others) for more ideas on how this can happen.

Your Turn, Please

Have you read any business books that you have found helpful? Do you also pick and choose from self-help books? Do books inspire you to write posts? Do paintings? Do you find yourself choosing TV over blog reading, book reading, blog writing or other evening activities? Or can you not remember the last time you watched TV for any lengthy period?

About the painting: Vilma Reading on a Sofa by Tavik Frantisek Simon – circa 1912 – what do you see? Do you notice the letter on the table? Do you think if Vilma were alive today she would have a laptop on the table open to her blog? Or would the book be lying by itself on the bed, and she would be busy reading blogs on her iPad or laptop instead of perusing the old-fashioned book? The light in the painting is strange – it is dark outside the window, but the room is bathed in a glow, clearly from something other than the outdoors. Note how many books she has on the shelf above her bed.

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38 thoughts on “Blog Post Inspiration: Book Review and Poll

  1. So far I’m the only one that’s voted, so book reviewing is the winner!

    Seriously, I agree with you that business owners should use a blog to promote themselves.

    But before they start blogging they need to learn how to write. All human beings believe they can but the majority can’t. When I was an editor in chief that was driving me nuts. Nobody will admit that they can’t write. So it’s probably best that they find out the hard way – nobody reads their blog.

    Once a week is enough. Or even less. They have to concentrate on running their business.

    Reviewing a business book is a good idea. Providing they read books.

    Many business owners should think seriously about hiring someone to write their blog. It’s not a steep expense but will make a huge difference. Just looked at one company blog a few minutes ago and it was terrible. After reading a couple of sentences I lost interest. And so will all other people attempting to read it.

    By the way, I like that you wrote a hand written note to a customer. Sometimes I send letter and it’s really appreciated because it’s so rare nowadays.
    Catarina recently posted…Do you agree with Harvard about the worst mistakes leaders make?My Profile

    1. Thanks for being first. And for leaving such a long and detailed comment! I did say a lot here, and I was striving to make the varied topics cohesive.

      One company I work for does hire a group to write their posts … and they review each one before publishing. Works for them (although they have to be careful about typos and details).

      Really tiny operations that have business owners who are not good at writing may have a harder time. I would suggest to contractors, for example, to maybe post photos with short descriptions in lieu of long posts.

      Some people do know they can’t write! But that self-knowledge doesn’t always help the big picture.

  2. Leora- I would prefer reading to watching TV. In fact I watch very little TV. Writing posts has been a challenge for me as I am a salesperson not a writer.

    I agree with that it is a good idea to have someone do the writing. My only concern will be will it be authentic and really be me. At present I am getting some help from someone that does work for me. Blogging does take time away from her doing other jobs as blogging is very time consuming.

    If I hire another person, it would be someone who could answer my blogs and leave a comment on the person’s site that left one on my site. That would be a real time saver for me. It is something I will consider doing down the line.
    Arleen recently posted…How Agility Training Has Helped Me Overcome Business ObstaclesMy Profile

    1. Arleen, that would be interesting, if you had another person writing posts for your company. I suppose it would have to be in the other person’s voice, because it would be very hard to sound just like Arleen without being Arleen. But larger companies have a variety of people doing marketing, and I suppose you could figure this out as well. Good luck with it!

  3. I laughed when I read it recommended that a business owner write a blog post at least 3 to 4 posts a week… Seriously. (I struggle to post 3 times a week and blogging is my business.) Do they realize how busy these business owners are? Having someone else write their posts is a very good suggestion. The challenge is making sure you trust the writer and it’s done well.

    When it comes to reading/writing or watching TV, I do a mix of both. I select what a I watch based on my interest and program quality. I set quiet time aside to read and write. I have never been able to do them both at the same time.
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Paco Lola Albarino: WIneMy Profile

    1. Susan, that’s great that you can do a little of different things you enjoy.

      “I have never been able to do them both at the same time.”
      I can chew gum and walk down the street, but I don’t think I could also whistle Yankee Doodle and pat my head, too. Nor is that necessary, thankfully.

  4. I am a bit on the high end of crazy. Six posts a week between two blogs, and that is only part of the writing that I do on a daily basis. On occasion I do video and book reviews when it is something I see as pertanent.

    But book reviews are of low priority to me. I would rather spend time digging through animation shorts on youtube to see new stories. Then there are brewery videos and tours on youtube as well, not to mention cooking videos. All of these act as inspiration and ideas so I can see angles I might miss or gain new insights I didn’t already possess.

    I think with the direction of my business (the creative side) I need to spend as much time as possible exploring different outlets of creativity. This means viewing as well as reading.
    Jon Jefferson recently posted…Writing ChallengesMy Profile

  5. I, much to my own disappointment, am a TV addict. I do actually get some inspiration from the TV for some of my blogs, particularly if I have seen something that either sticks with me or makes me think.
    I used to read quite a lot, but since having my son, I guess the only time I read is just before bed when I am so exhausted. If I am lucky I may finish a paragraph a night, but most of the time it is only part of the paragraph or less than twice a week. I really need to improve as I miss reading.
    Becc recently posted…A very good incentiveMy Profile

    1. Becc, as I have been a mom for a while now (18 years+), I now how exhausting that can be. And if either of you have health issues (which I know are part of your struggles), that can make it all the more so. I am amazed that you can blog as much as you do! Hoping it gets a little easier for you.

  6. I prefer watching some shows rather than writing book reviews. But i do read business related books, primarily online and primarily in the morning when my mind is still fresh. So, in my case watching shows and book reviews are not excluding each other 😀

    Anyways, i too am amused how someone can say that business owners can write 3-4 posts per week minimum. Maybe if they are paying someone to do that for them – yes, they can write as many as they want LOL. I am writing 3 per week at best across 2 blogs and i find it hard to keep it up.

    To your questions in the end – i find inspiration for blog post writing primarily among my readers’ feedback and personal experience. If i encounter a difficulty – chances are others encounter it, too so as soon as i have a solution or practical tip on the topic, i put it out there on my blog to help others in my situation, too.
    Diana recently posted…Marketing Our Freelance Services on Social MediaMy Profile

    1. I like your response on finding blog post inspiration through comments. That is a great approach. I’ve done that before, but maybe I will start doing that regularly.

      I’m glad this comment finally went through, Diana. Hoping we train Mr. WordPress that we want your comments on these posts! Appreciated the thoughtful responses.

  7. I voted for TV, but only because I use it as a way to find blog inspiration. My husband and I are foodies and travel bloggers, so if there’s a travel or food show on I’m all over it … especially if it’s Anthony Bourdain, lol.

    I reserve book reading for evening. I carve out downtime by going to bed around 10 and reading for a while. My Kindle has everything from biographies to romance to how-to books about blogging and social media. I read whatever fits my mood. Unfortunately, it sometimes gives me more ideas for my blog. Gotta work on that.
    Linda Bibb recently posted…The Great Equator HoaxMy Profile

  8. I write fiction, but have read many business related books in the past when they were relevant to my business! I blog weekly so that people might take notice of my writing and be interested in purchasing my book. So my book is my business. And I have found it is an entirely different approach/reaction to my old business of selling restaurant equipment.

    1. Jacqueline, love that you combine business books and fiction in your life. I prefer history books, but in reflection, I would never want to be a historian! I’m not sure I love studying business (by reading business books – they feel like a chore), but I do enjoy when business goes well. I like to keep my clients happy.

  9. I love writing book reviews. Years ago I used to get paid a nominal fee for doing so – and in addition, have a real book for my book shelf.

    Normally I blog twice a week. Right now, it’s almost impossible because of my book writing for the publisher. That task has serious due dates!

    I like a little TV and a book review. Where is that option Leora?! LOL
    Patricia Weber recently posted…How a publisher selects your work: a publisher knocked before I thought about a bookMy Profile

  10. “I like a little TV and a book review. Where is that option Leora?! LOL”
    Ha! The poll is purposely brief so you will have to leave a lengthy comment explaining your answer. Thanks for sharing what you are up to in life – everyone I know who is writing a book seems to have those moments (or days or weeks) where they need to hide to work on the text.

  11. Leora — For the first three years I had a blog I wrote twice a week. But as I became busier with my business it just became too stressful to try to write two quality posts a week, so now I write one. It was such a relief. We all need to do what works for us. I don’t particularly like listening to podcasts (they take too long). I’d rather read the content. It’s quicker and I’m a visual learner. I voted to write a book review but I secretly think it’s because I thought I wouldn’t look serious if I said I’d rather watch TV!
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…A LinkedIn Message That I Couldn’t ResistMy Profile

    1. Jeannette, I love that you answered one way in the poll and elaborated in a different manner in a comment!

      I’m also a visual learner, but certain videos do work for me, like complicated cooking/baking techniques. And many people are auditory, doing better with a talk than written text. I do find as a visually-oriented person I do best with work that is visually-oriented.

  12. I voted for TV. I have about six amazing business books that I have read recently that I have been meaning to review for my blog, but realize that I’d rather do anything, including the laundry, rather than write a book review. No idea what that’s all about, but I’m sure I’ll do it when I’m ready. (BTW: love the image above):)

    1. Thank you so much for saying something about the image – I assume you mean the painting. I love great art – and I think this painting qualifies.

      I can understand avoidance; yup, I will do dishes sometimes instead of some work tasks. Usually, though, it’s the other way around.

  13. Great post and love the painting. I noticed the lighting too, and just assumed Vilma had one of these great, old-fashioned floor lamps. She looks so comfortable! I love to read, but don’t like reading self-help books. I rarely get much out of them, and would much rather read a beautifully written novel or piece of non-fiction. I don’t know that podcasting would work for me, but I’d like to try making short videos. All in good time!

    1. Krystyna, thanks for the idea of the old-fashioned floor lamp. I could spend hours studying a painting like this one, especially if I had a good friend to enjoy in that process.

      Interesting, your reaction to self-help books. I also prefer other sorts of books for relaxation, but as I work on my business, I’ll look to all sorts of sources, including recent books for idea. Business books can prove good conversation fodder when networking. Other business people also read them.

    1. Jeri, you do well at discovering other authors and at interviews. There probably is a market for reviewing products … maybe a joint site with several blog authors/reviewers might be a good approach to getting a critical-size/monetizing audience.

  14. I love the painting. It sets the scene I would like to imagine I’m in when I’m reading. But, nowadays, I’d be there reading on my smart phone or lap top. I am seriously reading books on. my. phone. I never thought that could happen, but ever since I got a Samsung Galaxy S4 which is just slightly larger than my old phone, I find it no trouble at all to read books.

    I skipped the poll because I couldn’t choose one or the other. I enjoy both and the lawyer part of my brain didn’t want to pick an answer that wasn’t all the way correct—-which is odd because in law school, they make us argue both sides of cases. That’s how they train us to be hired guns.

    I do use self help books, but I find that I’m usually disappointed by how little I get out of them. Now, I prefer to ask my questions on google and then read articles or blog posts, especially about how to accomplish specific tasks. (Of course, this can’t replace a dedicated web mistress like Leora! 😉
    Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) recently posted…Capture the Colour 2013 (A Photo Essay)My Profile

    1. I’m enjoying my Samsung Galaxy 4 as well! But not for reading books. I don’t even like reading them on my iPad.

      Not being able to pick a poll answer – well, the whole point of the poll was just to stimulate discussion, so that’s fine. I agree with you on self-help books – they are only a bit helpful.

      Thanks for the compliment.

    1. Good point on the example of saying “Everyone should podcast” is a rather problematic response. I think the guy likes to sell books but then get hired by companies to tailor his suggestions to each company. This book got stellar reviews, but I found it only to be so-so.

    1. Ashley, look forward to your book review. If you don’t have high expectations, then you might find quite a bit that you like about the book. It’s not a cure-all, rather, some good ideas that may work for some businesses.

  15. Leora,
    I voted for TV too. When I want to totally unwind and not have to think, I’m guilty of watching reality TV! 🙂

    One of my posts that got a decent amount of comments (73 so far) and continues to drive traffic to my blog was about American Idol. (I asked if bloggers could learn a lesson from watching it.) Inspiration can come from strange places.
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…Friday Finds: Backlinks, Social Media Profiles, Landing Page ConversionsMy Profile

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