Saturday, May 25, 2013

Keep'em coming back - Why you should consider a blog

Published in the Maryland Nursery Landscape Association   •   "Free State Nursery & Landscape News" Spring 2013 magazine.  Page 28. I wanted to share this with all of you.

In this day and age everyone has a website. If you don't you're already 2 steps behind! It's not too late to start. With so many social media's how do you keep up with it all? What do you put your time into? Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, Myspace, Twitter, Wordpress**, Blogger, Instagram and so on... How can anyone keep up with it all?  Let alone find time running a full time business, family life and find time to manage social media! You can't?!  But you should. I like to describe the power of a blog like the "Butterfly Effect" (1963 Meteorologist Edward Lorenz). Could the flap of a butterfly's wings in Singapore affect a hurricane in North Carolina? YES. *

Why blog? Current information, A blog can be added to a website or you can just start a blog all on its on. What is a blog? Think of it like a newspaper delivered to your door as often as you choose to read it. Maybe you just want the Sunday paper nothing else. I started a blog and made it my website. The down side to a website is its a lot like a book. Once you read it do you pick it up and read it again? Not likely. Now think of a blog as the newspaper. A blog keeps you up to speed on current events, what's new, the weather, auctions, classifieds, any topic you can write about. In return, you're giving and sharing knowledge.

With my RockinWalls Blog I write about, How to, finished/project stories, tools.. with the blog I can tell a story. The benefit is that by blogging viewers have a sense of who I am without meeting me. They can see what I do and how I do it. They can follow my stories, see my photos, my work, what's my favorite tool..... The power of a blog with strong images dominates over every other social media I believe. Many would think Facebook would be a top pick but I feel that unless you understand Facebook or have an account many don't get it. Your not capturing your optimal audience like a blog will.

50% of my customers have chosen me over other stone masons which offered services for half of what I quoted. How did I win them over? I didn't. My blog did. I just told my story about what I do and how I do it. With my stories and photos they can see for themselves what services I offer. The biggest value of the blog a client has the opportunity to get to know you before you meet making it easy to connect when they reach out to you for your services. They feel like they already know you!

With a blog you have several choices to start a blog. Blogger (owned by google) Wordpress or your current website should have a blog tab or app to allow you to start today. I run all of my blog/website with Blogger = Google. Yes I did say Google. You don't even want to know what it would cost to get what I get for free. By blogging your website will continue to get higher rankings because of search engine optimization. (SEO) Anyone can start today with blogger, all you need is a Gmail account. It's free and no one needs to know if you just want to set one up. Choose the name you like then blogger will do the reset. RockinWalls = this will get you started then if you decide to make this your website, like I have, you would just have your web domain name directed to your blogger address. Kind of like snail mail being forward to a new mailing address.

You only need a few tools to get started. A computer, digital camera with HD video, time to write, time to photograph, and topics. My highest viewed blog projects have over 30 images with descriptions. I'm not sure if viewers keep coming back to read after a quick glance at the start to finish photos or that the images show a great deal. Tip:  Photos placed on a web/blog should be able to be enlarged so viewers have control to increase the viewing size for more detail. Watermarks** should also be included on all of your photos to protect your intellectual property**. (Ie people stealing your photo's to benefit themselves.)

In addition to blogging you should also consider setting up YouTube or a Video account. If you don't have a YouTube account, set one up. Use the business name if you can. I use YouTube = Google owns it. MORE Free Advertising. People don't care about some fancy production. You can use an Iphone and get great video, documenting a project, a keynote speaker, new inventory, services you offer. I have spent a great deal of time videotaping silly stuff, How to's all the way to documenting Dry Laid Stone Master Craftsman from around the world. Building a library of content for viewers BRANDING MY NAME AND LOGO. (business identity)

Some other great things with Blogger and YouTube are the back-end statistics.  Who cares?  Right? Wrong! I can tell you details from week/day/month/all time. Overview on posts, (posts, pages) traffic sources, (referring URLs, referring sites, search keywords) audience, (country, browser, operating systems). YouTube goes even further to tell you age, sex, how long they viewed... Do you get this from your current website? Does it matter- DO YOU WANT TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? YES it all matters! Keeping your finger on the pulse is easy with the right tools in hand.  Tip:  I recommend writing a blog every 7-14 days, any more is to much, any less is too little. This is just a personal feeling from other blogs I follow. Remember a blog can be as simple as just a photo and a few key

Yes anyone can do it.  Once you start you can't stop. The biggest downside I see like anything in life you have to stay committed. Many don't even make it a few months before they fall short.  You can do it yourself, involve your staff to contribute and be a part of the story you have to tell.

Rockin Wall Stats:
YouTube: 98,137 video views, 82 subscribers. (Since 2009)
Blog: 82,000 page  views. Current page views 500-600 (Since 2010)

These days, everyone has a gadget. I believe content is KING! With content your viewer can choose to read everything or nothing. With the internet, consumers in a pinch can scan an item and know everything about it. So why would you not choose to offer them the same? Start blogging.

I'm available to talk on any of the topics or services I offer. We can all learn and grow when we all share. 

I've created 3 different blogs by using one tool blogger. Take a few minutes to see for yourself the versatility of this tool. . industry . blog . web . . Francis motor scooter dealership - blog . web .

Blogs I follow:
Dan Snow Stoneworks
Hammerhead Stoneworks
Old World Stone & Garden

*Harry Beckwith, Selling The Invisible. pg 9-10

**Topics listed below can be found in more detail on this blog.
- Blogger Vs Wordpress
- Watermarks (protecting your photographs from theft)
- Intellectual property - who's stealing your images?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Round Hill Road, Frederick VS - Starburst Arch Story 2013

Round Hill Road, Frederick MD April 2013. Western Maryland Stone used for starburst - roman arch (semi circle). Colonial PA Lilac stone used for 3' high wall with flat caps. 
Wall 3' h x 9' 4" l PA Lilac /  Arch 31" w x 19" h Western Maryland

In 2009 I took an advanced workshop were me and 9 others learned to build a starburst arch with field limestone. The frame for the arch was already built. In 2 days we moved around the wall. Each working on one section at a time. 

The wall is just about finished here. Just need to finish off the remaining with a traditional vertical cap stones. 

This is the finished starburst arch. 

Related Video:

When one of my former clients requested a new build he showed me his drawling of an arch. (above) I couldn't have been more excited to take on the project. After learning the method of how to determine the size of the arch from Bill Noble. I felt confident to take on such a great opportunity to put my mind to creating something amazing. 

Related Video:

Video - How To Build A Segmental Arch for Natural Stone by Bill Noble Master Craftsman DSWA 

I started out building my first arch frame. I started with two bottom ends and one top. In order to determine the batter. I just used one of my traditional wall frames for a 3 foot high wall. The only mistakes I made was I forgot to subtract the thickness of the plywood on the outsides. The other was the fact that when you place your frame into place to build your arch. You need to install boards to help in the removal of the frame once completed. As seen this below. Frame is 15" h x 30" w.

The arch frame is sitting on two 2x4's. The arch sits on dry laid stone platform. Do you see the string line attached to the arch frame?

The wall frames in place as I'm building up the wall. The most important part of the arch frame is a string attached in the middle bottom with a screw. This string allows me to move it around the arch to see where I should be placing my stones as I go around. Its not a magic trick. Just like a clock I move the string and place the next stone.

Little by little. As you can see with the photo work in progress. Nothing to hide here. Little stone here a little stone there. Always nice to have some stones sitting right by your feet. Keeps it easy. All you have to do is look down to find the next one for the wall. ha ha

The biggest focus for the client was having the contrast of a red stone with the white. He wanted to enjoy seeing the contrast between the two. But more importantly having the star burst look like a sun beams. The other request was the direction the wall was facing so the sun would shine on it during the later afternoon as it sets over the mountains for bed time.

In front of the arch I built a bench with a local stone from the property. Now the arch is finished time to pack the stones tight. Some other tips to keep in mind as you build your arch you need to follow the same rules. Cover your joints, Pack the middle, Build to your string line (on the arch) As you place a arch stone keep them the same size as you go across from front to back.

The most important part as I build is keeping all the plates between the stone tight. Packing the insides keep the arch tight.

With the wall finished now its time to pull out the 2x4 boards under the arch forum so it can now drop down. Kind of like releasing a casting from a mold. (YouTube to Follow).

The wall without the frame. This is the back of the wall with 1' high wall and bench around the side. I originally didn't plan to used the white western Maryland stone on the back. I figured why not!  It would just give me one more chance to practices. I didn't focus on the design or pattern as much as the front.

Front of 3' high dry laid stone wall.

Side - back view.

Back view.