How on earth did we ever survive without e-bay and it’s amazingly efficient small business community?


I was telling a clever friend how my child was having trouble sleeping (sorry to go on about this, but lack of sleep is a subject that’s hard to move on from ) and she suggested I buy a story time CD to help him go into ‘the zone’. Within seconds I had jumped on e-bay and found what looked like to be a gorgeous CD called Little White Cloud by Tania Rose. It was being sold by a small business called Artscope Music in NSW. Perfect. Order placed. Payment made.

Within a few hours I received a lovely customer service mail telling me that payment had been received and the order would be dispatched ASAP. Here’s what they said: It’s our job now to get your package to you speedily. We take this part of our job very seriously and do our utmost to whisk it out the door and get it you ASAP. Yeah, we think it’s important to because we get excited about our own online purchases, so we understand how you feel.

That’s exactly how I felt! Sleep was coming!!!

THEN I got another mail telling me it had been posted. THEN within 48 hours it arrived in my letter box. Hooray!


The final package cleverly had a short newsletter-style welcome letter telling me a bit about the company (they are a small music company run by musicians for musicians), and a couple of flyers promoting the artist which looked great. There was also some cool (not in your face) information about how they’re doing their bit for the planet including printing in grey to reduce toner and packaging in jiffy bags that can be reused. The final touch was a handwritten sticky note  saying smiles to you, Tania. 

Because it looked interesting, brief and genuine I READ IT ALL!

Now, if only all the sales and marketing experiences I had with some of the bigger players were that simple…  I really engaged with this content because the information I received targeted my exact needs, turned me into a fan, and delivered an excellent product with pride and no fuss.

Their website by the way is and yes, my little guy slept.


Is there anyone there?

March 17, 2009

A sick child and 7 nights of zero sleep left me feeling a bit shattered last week. So shattered, that as I limped to my desk each morning to attend urgent-only work, the thought of updating my blog and miscellaneous social networking pages had absolutely no appeal.

Please note I am not a social networking addict…

Well, I thought I wasn’t anyway.

Even though I pretty much use these tools as business only (okay, my Facebook page might be more personal) my absence left me feeling strangely disconnected from the online world.  Indeed the world. Who was doing what on Twitter? Had anything interesting happened on Linked in? Would anyone notice my out-dated blog entry? When would my child sleep? (Sorry, loop thought there.)

This really surprised me!

So now I’m thinking that perhaps I do have some sort of addiction – a mild one, probably the same one that compels me to check my e-mails when I’ve told myself I’ve finished work for the day, or take my mobile to the pool when I’m doing laps.

I suspect, being a fellow citizen of the 21st century, you might know it too.

Facing the truth

March 6, 2009

If you’ve been to one of my workshops you may have heard me harping on about websites that have meaningless About Us pages. You know, the kind that you read and walk away having learned nothing about the people who work at that organisation. Sometimes not even a single name is mentioned. What are they hiding?

One thing I always remind people to do is to have a really nice photo of their key team on show to the world. Why? Because we like to see what people look like and it helps our users make a connection. Especially if they are sussing us out and thinking of picking up the phone and calling, ordering etc. Humans like looking at humans (especially  baby-faced CEOs apparently-  large eyes, small nose, high forehead, and small chin – according to  the Journal of Consumer Research).

Anyway, I took my own photo down a while ago because it was looking very outdated. Then, things got busy, a passion project got let loose, life got in the way, and despite being married to a photographer (!) my own professsional shot was never taken. Until now.

So, here it is. Up close and personal. Nothing to hide (that I can remember anyway).


Blogging grows by 68%

February 23, 2009

In my efforts to convince my clients that having a professional blog is a good thing, I’ve been trying to find some compelling stats that indicate the state of play out there. At last I’ve found them!

Here are some worldwide and US figures to chew on (if you have any Australian ones I’d love to see them!).

  • Blogging grew 68% in 2008
  • 346 million people worldwide read blogs
  • 77% of active web users read blogs
  • 184 million people say they’ve started a blog

The average blogger in the US:

  • 51% male (which means there are a lot of female bloggers too – yay)
  • Aged 35+ (58%)
  • Aged 18-34 (42%)
  • College educated, 74%






Make it real

February 17, 2009

I’m sitting here reading over my notes from the Fairfax X-Media Lab conference I attended last week which was for the most part, really interesting. Highlights included speakers Meg Pickard (Head of Communities & User Experience, The Guardian) and Ben Self (Program Director Blue State Digital, Washington) who was the mastermind behind Obama’s online campaign.

One of the things that really struck me was that the most successful social networking stories were the ones that managed to capture a rapport that was created online and bring it into the real world to create actual events and in the case of Obama, change history.

A couple of gems:

* Understand why people want to be involved with your website.
* Be a good parent: reward them and create user value.
* Accept the fact there will always be dissent (we’re humans after all)
* Don’t make it complicated.
* Provide communal nourishment. Give something back.

Have you ever organised or attended an event that was born in cyberspace? I’d love to know.

My next public web writing workshop is coming up and we’d love it if you could join us. It will be held at Editor Group in Sydney’s CBD. Full details here.

Things to get excited about include:

  • Your chance to work on your own online project with the advice of an expert (that’s me)
  • The chance to understand and feel inspired by Web 2 and all its gorgeous offerings.
  • An opportunity to learn how to take web writing shortcuts that will ultimately save you time and heartache.
  • The really nice lunch that Editor Group always serves.
  • Full course outline here.

When: Friday February 20, 2009. 9am-5pm

Where: Editor Group, Level 5, 249 Pitt Street, Sydney

Cost: $550 per person.

Book online now.

Just came across the most impressive collection of Web 2 articles and tips courtesy of the Interactive Insights Group that I just have to share! Perfect for anyone wanting to execute a smart social media strategy – and those who are wondering what the hell it’s all about.

Must-read Social Media Links

I had a flurry of meetings with new clients last week and as part of my follow-up process I sent them all a Linked In invitation. If you haven’t heard, Linked In is the social network for professionals.  Free to set up, it is a wonderful way to stay in touch with people you’ve worked with, people you’d like to, and people you’ve met along the way who are great contacts or just downright interesting.

So anyway, I met 4 clients last week but only half were on Linked In which always really surprises me. Perhaps the word is still getting out but I can’t stress how important it is for you to spend the time setting up a great profile – especially in these fickle times when being in the right place in the right time is going to be extra important.

Here’s 5 things I love about Linked In

  • It brings me in work. I continue to get a number of calls from big clients who’ve found me by searching for an online copywriter on Linked In.
  • It helps me stay in touch with past clients. So instead of vanishing into the abyss, they know where to find me and I know where to find them!
  • It’s better than the Yellow Pages! Need an online marketing consultant? Video production company? Social Media expert? Linked In let’s you find them in a second and gives you a full squiz at their CV.
  •  It keeps me updated. Every week I get a round-up email that gives me the latest news on everyone who’s in my network. For example, who’s changed roles, who’s working on what project, who knows who, who had a haircut (well, almost). It keeps me right in the loop without leaving home!
  • It’s better than Facebook.  I’m the first to admit that I have a Facebook account but it’s private. I keep it as a playspace for my close friends who like to like to stay in touch and do the occasional crazy thing (not me, them). I’m quite fond of the personal/public division, so for me Linked In is the most professional way to stay in touch. You won’t see any pictures of me in my nurse’s gear there (sorry about that).

My Linked In profile:

Libby Varcoe on Linked In

Libby Varcoe on Linked In

Love to Link? Let me know how you make it work for you. Hate to Link? I’d love to know why.

Hot Summer Web Links

January 6, 2009

A new year usually means one of two critical things: a new website or a good scrub of last year’s content replacing the old with the new… especially in these wobbly economic times. What better time to reinvent ourselves!

Do some mental laps

Do some mental laps


Here are a few interesting links to get you thinking and help your brain make the transition back from the beach to business (if it really must).

8 No-Nos of Web Design

30 Web Trends for 2009

How Web is Different from Print

3 Sales Tips to Surviving an Economic Downturn

 Got any inspiring 2009 links to share? I’d love to hear from you.

100 words per page!

December 7, 2008

Web usability guru, Jakob Neilsen, is stirring the pot again – this time recommending that we aim for no more than 100 words per web page. Based on his 2008 research, he states that Web users have time to read only about 28% of the words on a page during an average visit, with 20% more likely. Yikes!

Personally, I think he’s onto something (think about your own behaviour… do you really read those 600+ word pages on other people’s sites?). However in reality I can see that it’s the kind of goal that many of my clients would struggle with – especially those dealing with complex information.  I think it comes down to what kind of information you’re writing about. Marketing info? Keep it short. Fascinating article? Tell me more. But stick to basic web writing principles because your readers are still going to scan, not read.

I also think that with the swelling tide of webvideo that will be hitting our shores in 2009 and 2010, we’re going to be doing a whole lot less of reading and whole lot more of watching.

What do you think?

PS: This post is 180 words. Writing 100 words is HARD!