Giving your creativity a helping hand using apps & templates – Jeff Sieh
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Ask even the most creative people, and most will agree, staring at a blank canvas – be it a writer, artist, etc. – can be incredibly daunting and overwhelming. Sometimes we need to look around for inspiration before we can create our next big masterpiece.
Pinterest aficionado Jeff Sieh – Pinterest isn’t just for the ladies – living proof of that. He shares some great tips and tricks that he uses to boost his creativity. The biggest thing to remember is to always be looking for inspiration, sometimes in the most unlikely places, and curate those even if have no plans in the near future to use it. And remember – design templates and apps are your friend, it’s not cheating!
Rich: My guest today is an international speaker and visual marketing consultant specializing in Pinterest, Instagram and video. He is also head beard at Manly Pinterest Tips. He has worked with and produced visual content for various industry leaders and companies, including Guy Kawasaki, Kim Garst, Social Media Examiner and Tailwind. I’m very excited to be diving into visual marketing for non-designers with Jeff Sieh. Jeff, welcome to the show.
Jeff: Hey Rich, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here. We’ve tried to do it before and we finally connected.
Rich: I know, I feel like this has been something that has been brewing for years and now here we are.
Jeff: Well, my friend, Meredith speaks really highly of you, so.
Rich: We had a fun time actually a while back. The last time I interviewed her on this podcast, I think it was, and we actually did a video podcast where she did a tear down of the dumpster fire that is my Pinterest account.
Jeff: Yes. Yeah. She’s good at that. Yeah. She’s a good friend.
Rich: She was also sweet about it, but it was, it’s terrible. Anyway. Hey listen, just before we started recording, we were talking about your beard. So I have to start off with a question about your beard. How long, if you had to shave it off today, how long would it approximately take you to grow it back to its current length?
Jeff: Probably a week. No, it’s actually, it’s four and a half, I think it’s getting close to four and a half to five years. And there’s a story behind this if you want me to dive into it.
Rich: Yeah, let’s do this.
Jeff: Okay. So I’ve had a digital marketing agency here in Longview, Texas, where I’m from for a while. And I started doing corporate videos and stuff like that. And then when social media started taking off, I thought, well, I had to start doing this for my clients. So I started diving in that and I started you know, I wrote a blog and all that kind of stuff. And I was listening to Social Media Marketing, Mike Stelzner’s podcast, and he had this lady on there talking about Pinterest. And I’m like, “Oh, that’s it”. Because of all the traffic that it drove. And I thought, well, I’ll try and give this a try. So I did it for a while and I wrote a blog post called Mainly Pinterest Tips. And I shared a secret board with my daughter and I was getting all this traffic and everything like that.
Jeff: And this was back in the days when the Google+ Hangouts were going on and it was like the Wild West. And somebody said, “Hey, you gotta do a show on this”, because everyone thought Pinterest was for ladies and it was really a great traffic driver and good for SEO and all that. And so I did it and it took off.
And then Stelzner heard my podcast and invited me on his Summit. And then, you know, I started my own podcast called Manly Pinterest Tips. And I thought, you know what, I can’t wear a crazy suit like Jay Baer. I can’t do some of this other stuff that other people will know, before I said, I’ll just not shave and see what happens. And it took off and for like five years ago. And so now it’s part of my brand and I have to be bearded for the rest of my life.
Rich: There you go. So kids at home just start growing your beard and you will be internet famous in no time.
Jeff: Yeah, maybe hairy, but not internet famous.
Rich: So let’s break this down. Social media obviously tends to be a very visual medium, but a lot of people don’t feel that they’re creative, at least in a visual way. What do you say to those people?
Jeff: Well, I say that you know, God, I think made everybody creative. And so I think that, you know, creativity is like a muscle. The more you use it, the better you get at it. And so when I spoke recently at Social Media Marketing World, I even went to not just, you know, non-designers, but creativity in general. And there’s a lot of things you can do to just kind of help yourself be creative, just, you know, on the get go.
One of the things is that a lot of people I always like you need to be always looking for, be curious, creative to always be looking like how things are done or why is that, why did that catch my eye? And the biggest thing is to capture stuff. And I’m a big fan of Evernote and you know, one of the things I’m always doing as well, I always have my phone, everybody has their phone with them. And so I’m always either taking a picture, writing things down, something funny that Rich Brooks says. I’ll be, “Oh, I’ll steal that from him and I’ll keep a notebook of that”. And then I’ll tag it. I have special tags like jokes and like stories and stuff like, and visual stuff.
And so when I’m really struggling at being creative, I have a place to go. So you know, everybody’s well runs dry and this way I always have something that I can go to or you know, I always try to give credit, I’ll say, “Well Rich Brooks said this and it was really, really great”. But it helps me keep that creative kind of ball rolling when I’m struggling with coming up with ideas.
Rich: All right, let me just go into detail here because I’m a big fan of Evernote. In fact, I put your bio and the questions I have for you in Evernote, and I use Evernote quite a bit. I even use both on the iPad and my iPhone, but I’m not collecting creative data points like you are. So just kind of walk me through this. Like you’re out for a walk, keeping six feet away from everybody else out there, and something catches your eye. Literally walk me through what you do with your phone at that point.
Jeff: Okay. So, for example, so I just was taking a walk today and there was a guy on my block had a big trailer with big plywood, like a storage thing on it. And he spray painted on it, “not toilet paper”, which I thought was pretty funny. And so because he didn’t want people break in as is, I guess people were breaking into stuff and trying to get toilet paper. So I took a picture of that immediately and I didn’t post it on Instagram or anything like that, but I did tag it as, I have a thing called ‘funny photos’ and I tied it to that, dropped an Evernote and I’m done.
And so when I get back to the office or when I don’t have a place in my content calendar where I need something, I just go to that folder and find the stuff that I have tagged. And then as I use it, I’ll put the date that I use it so I can track where I’ve used it before. And so that’s how I use Evernote. There’s another that I would love to tell your listeners about that I use all the time, too.
Rich: I do want to get into that, but I’m literally, I’m fascinated by this. So like I just took a picture while you were talking. Totally listening to you by the way. I was multitasking. So I took a picture of my pad of paper. Because I didn’t want to walk too far connected to my computer. So then, do I start new posts in Evernote at that point, or you weren’t getting the photo from within Evernote were you?
Jeff: No, I will attach it to something and then maybe like why it’s funny. Because a lot of times one of the problems I have is I would take pictures and then I’d be like, “What in the world, why is this here? Why did I take a picture of the floor?” Because I know it was meant for something. So I really, I’ll take a picture of it on my phone, and then attach it inside of Evernote, and then do my tags. Because I have all sorts of different tags inside of Evernote that I can tag different things on.
Rich: All right. So it’s so ironic or just my luck file and under just my luck that literally my phone froze when I was trying to do this. So I’m just going to put it away. But so you start a new post or maybe you, you have already and then you just I saw that I was able to attach a photo to it or take a photo depending on what I wanted to do. So then it’s in that file and then I might hashtag it with #notepad, #penjoke #JeffC’sidea, whatever it may be. And then you somehow at some other point when you’re feeling like, hey, I need some content, or on X, Y, or Z , or I’m just looking for inspiration, you start going through that folder on your Evernote. That’s how you’re doing it, correct?
Jeff: Yes. Perfect.
Rich: I love it. Awesome. All right. So yeah, please tell us now about that other app.
Jeff: The other one is it’s a great one for going when you’re out in the wild too. It’s called Adobe Capture, it’s part of Adobe’s cloud services and it’s the app, but it’s really geared for visual designers. And so you can take pictures of like, if you see a font on a sign that really catches your eye, you can take a picture of it and Adobe will try to find that font for you.
And you can also grab a palettes. The example I use in my slides is that I have a picture of the Social Media Marketing World handout. We got it from a couple of years ago and Adobe capture will actually take a picture of that and pull all the different colors it finds and makes a palette that you can use. I really struggle with colors. I’ve always struggled with trying to figure out, I mean, I used to go to the mall and just buy what was on the mannequin because I’m just horrible at colors and matching and all that stuff. And so I would do that.
But Adobe kind of gets me started with colors that I need, colors that work well together. And it’s all in this Adobe Capture app that’s on your phone. It’s a really powerful tool.
Rich: Nice. All right, very cool. And is this what you mean by kind of curating things as you’re like living your life? Just kind of curating moments of creativity that you can either use for inspiration or maybe repurpose into other content you’re going to be sharing.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s the only way that I found out to do it. Because I’m like, “Squirrel!” You know, I can just go kind of crazy. But if I can constantly train myself to, when I look at something, wonder how did they do that. So I find a lot of visual ideas or some, like if I see a really cool like graphic on even Facebook scrolling, like how did they do that special effect to catch my eye to click on that ad, or why did that work for me in Adobe? What made me stop the scroll? My friend Kim Garst always says “thumb stopping content”, and that’s what I’m trying. Okay, how did they do that? Why did it work? And then take a picture of it and then try to reverse engineer it and all those things.
And I’m always going throughout my day, even just walking around the block, I’m trying to always ask myself, what’s catching my eye? What can I capture here? You know, nobody’s doing that all the time, but if you start training yourself to do that out in the world. Or, you know, one of the things is I was really good at capturing content, but I wasn’t very good at cataloging it until I really kind of started doing that Evernote thing and tagging.
And actually it’s The Accidental Creative, I think it’s Todd Henry. He has in his planner a day where you actually stop and curate, create everything. So usually on Saturdays I go back through that Evernote stuff and actually even go further and drop it into folders and date it and trying to figure out not just collecting it but actually taking some time to go back and catalog it and where I could use it and what’s coming up that where I could use this in. And that has been a game changer for me.
Rich: Interesting. Now that’s obviously a time commitment, but something you find to be valuable as you’re marketing your business or the companies you work with.
Jeff: Right. Since I’m pretty much just, I mean I worked for a lot of different companies. Like you mentioned at the beginning, Guy Kawasaki, Social Media Examiner, I have to be creative a lot and that can be really overwhelming for people. So being able to have a place where you can go it seems like it’s taking more time. Like, you know, spending a couple of hours on Saturday, kind of curating stuff you found for the week, but in the long term it pays off.
Rich: And just to say we’re recording this in the middle of basically everybody being locked down. This would be a great time to actually do some of this stuff. Because I know I take photos and all this sort of stuff and grab images. And I have, I won’t even call it a swipe file, it’s basically my desktop of things I’ve stolen, good or bad. But they’re not even organized and this time that we have is actually a really good time to kind of put some of this stuff to work.
So I just want to kind of make sure I understand your thinking here, Jeff. So you’re going out in the world, you’re seeing things that catch your eye and you’re capturing them and you’re organizing them. But then what’s that magic piece where you all of a sudden take the content you’ve curated and be like, this is going to be good content for Guy, or Kim, or Social Media Examiner, or any one of my other brands. And then how are you taking it from these files and actually putting it out into the world through whatever channels or whatever it is in a way that other people are going to get engaged with the content you’re sharing. What’s that step like?
Jeff: Okay, so the first one was, you know, we kind of curate creativity is kind of what it is and now it’s like, how can I take this stuff and really build something from it. And I want to circle back. It’s not just me going out in the world, but it’s actually sometimes I just sit in front of my computer. I do the same cataloging and stuff that way as well. And like one of the pieces that I use is like, here’s an example of how it’s really real.
So, if I’m looking for stuff like clip art or something from a stock photo site from Social Media Examiner and I’m going through and I’m seeing all this stuff and it’s all this great content. A lot of these tools, like let’s say Creative Market or another place where I get is Deposit Photos. They all have tools inside of where you purchase stuff where you can drop things into folders. And so a lot of times I’m doing dual-purpose. Like, I’m looking for like content for Social Media Examiner, I need to make a Facebook ad or whatever it is. Or, you know, I got to do new artwork for a show, but I’ll see something that may work for Guy Kawasaki or I may see something that may work for Tailwind. I don’t let those go by and just say, I’ll go back to them later. I take them and dump them into a specific folder inside of Creative Market or wherever I’m at, where I have stock photos. So when I go back, I have that to go from.
So for example, like if I’m doing a show for Tailwind and we need a new bumper graphic for their video, I already have a file full of ideas in Creative Market where I can grab an image that would work. And so that’s where I start. I already have that going.
And so one of the biggest time savers for people when it’s time to create is templates. I love templates. I know people like the designers are like, “Templates?!” I remember when Canva came out, there was a whole uprising of all these mad designers in the street saying that they’ll never use this anymore. But it didn’t really happen. Templates are a great place to start. And that’s why my whole life falls around templates because they save so much time.
Rich: So let’s talk about that because, some people might say, how could templates help our creativity? Wouldn’t that be saying something like fences give us more freedom? So, so speak to that a little bit about why you feel that templates can really help our creativity and what kind of templates are you talking about as well?
Jeff: So I love templates from everywhere. So I come from a Photoshop background and I’ve never been trained to be a designer. I had some really great designer mentors that showed me some things, but I never went to school to be a designer. I just took courses online and looked at stuff and learned. I love Photoshop templates. I love Canva templates.
And there’s a thing that you really have to understand about templates, is like when I go to Pinterest, I can scroll through Pinterest and go, “Oh, there’s a Canva template. Oh, there’s another Canva template. Oh, there’s another one.” And the whole thing with templates is that where people fall short is they go in and they just type their headline and the title and maybe change the background image because they don’t want to pay Canva any money.
But what you need to do is switch it up. So one of the hacks that I teach is you can add different pages to your Canva layout. So I usually scroll through and find a template that I really like that I think will work and I add that to the first page. And then the second page I go find another template that really works and I add it to the second page. Well then what I do is I just start switching things up between the two templates to make something totally creative. And it’s all my own, but it started with the base of templates. And so that’s what I do.
You want to use templates as a starting point so you don’t look at a blank screen and get vapor lock. Seeing that that big blank canvas can be really scary to a lot of people. Start with templates and work from there. I’ve been using them since the Google+ days.
Rich: Okay. All right. That makes a lot of sense. And I agree. I mean the bottom line is, I’ve seen this myself and luckily we have a Creative Director on staff. So you know, I went to him when it was time to update our slides and I’m like,”Here are some slide decks that I like. I would like you to kind of make something for flyte new media.” And he created something that was amazing based on some of the things that I liked.
But there were other times when I’m just trying to put something up quickly, I’m not going to go to him for everything. And so that’s when I’ve used certain kinds of templates as well, Canva obviously. And so if people haven’t used Canva or something similar, you might have a blog post that you want and you want to create a really Pinterest friendly vertical image piece for it. And so you can use Canva, and Canva basically is going to help you do that.
And Jeff, I believe you’re saying, just don’t stop by just changing out the text because anybody who’s been online for more than five minutes is going to be like, “Well, I see all the creativity you put into that. I can only imagine how much creativity you’ll put into working for me”.
Jeff: Right, exactly. And to be honest, a lot of designers that I know, like professional illustrators, a lot of times they’ll start with a template just because it’s easy or they’ve created one themselves and then they’ll modify it from there. It’s really rare that I see designers just go completely from scratch anymore. The really good ones and the really expensive ones probably maybe, but for me just because how quick it is starting with it, but it’s something you start with and you make it your own.
And there’s the other thing is, a lot of people they’ll open up – I talk a lot about Photoshop – and I can see people when I talk about Photoshop, their eyes glaze over and they start twitching uncontrollably. But because they open it up and there’s so many different windows and stuff. But the thing about Photoshop is you don’t have to learn how to do everything. Photoshop, you can learn for the rest of your life. I really believe that. But if you can learn the terms, like I forget more than I’ve ever learned in Photoshop almost weekly. And so, but I know what terms to Google is the thing. I could go in like how do I create a mask? Because I know what that means. And so I tell people to learn the terms of things. And then you can go buy these incredible templates.
One of my favorites is a scene generator. It’s almost like when, if you’re a kid – I’m going to date myself – but the Colorforms, which are pretty much like paper dolls that you can slap on things, a background and then you can change it out and move them around. Well, that’s what some of these scene generator/Photoshop templates lets you do. Everything’s on layers and you can move it around and you can create, I mean it’s just infinite amount of content from buying one of these scene generators for your blog post or for social media posts by buying one of these and moving things around and changing your text. And it looks incredible and it’s super easy to use.
Rich: And what are some of the places that you go to buy these Photoshop templates, for example?
Jeff: So I love Creative Market. I mentioned them already. There’s a couple other places. MightyDeals has them every once in a while. But the scene generators that I really liked are those two places, MightyDeals and Creative Market.
Rich: Awesome. So, you know it’s funny, I was just interviewing Kim Garst last week and we were talking about repurposing. I know repurposing plays a big role in what you do. Can you kind of explain how you do repurposing and how it helps with your creative visual output?
Jeff: Yeah. So the more you can repurpose, because the thing is, when you create content it takes a lot of time. And a lot of times we as marketers are like, “Oh, okay, next thing”. And we haven’t really squeezed out all the juice that we could have out of that content. I work with Kim quite a bit and you know, especially like on video content, I think what my friend Mike Alton said, with live video you can repurpose something like 55 pieces of content, or some crazy number like that. And it’s really true.
So the more I think we can squeeze out of the content we make. And we mentioned Canva, Easel is another great place for getting some templates. But most all those places let you do either a magic resize or change up the dimensions, so you can create it one time and then have it for all the different social media platforms you need, your blog posts. And yes, it can take a little bit more time and maybe there’s a little bit of learning curve to make it look exactly the way you want to. But being able to put those out specifically for those different types of platforms is really, really important.
Rich: All right. So I was looking through your slide deck from social media marketing world and there’s a big piece on condense construction. Can you just talk to me a little bit about what that is and how you do it?
Jeff: Yeah, so that’s pretty much where I go to when I’m talking about templates, because that’s where I want to condense all the constructions. And one of the parts that is a big piece of that, too, is not just templates for images like Canva and Easel, but video content, like how I create for my shows we mentioned chopping it up.
One of the best things, Adobe Rush is a really great way because it’s a cross platform thing and you can do it on your phone, you can edit on your desktop or on your iPad or whatever. And that lets you do a lot of cool repurposing of your content. And does it really fast.
The other thing that I’ve discovered kind of recently is that all my video content starts with a transcript. Once I get a transcript I can figure out little pieces that I want to take out of there. And then I can take those pieces in like a video, take them to Adobe Premier, and now they have a tool that will actually resize them. So if you have a landscape kind of video like normal people have, you can use that and then you could just click a button and it’ll make it square and it’ll actually use some magic sauce inside of the software. Like if you’re on a skateboard, it’ll follow you around inside the square video. And then you can also do the same thing with making it vertical video. So now it’s really easy with this condensing construction to take one piece use these templates and put it out all the different on all the different platforms really, really quickly.
Rich: All right, well that’s definitely helpful. And this is an ongoing theme here on the show is that it takes a lot of effort to create really valuable content but it doesn’t take that much more to repurpose it in a bunch of different ways, slice and dice it and make sure it goes out on all the appropriate channels. So that’s definitely good information.
So, and maybe this is along the same thing, but your third big section in your presentation was all about combining content. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that helps?
Jeff: Yeah, so one of the things and I’m sure Elisa may have talked about this when she was on the show, is so I’m combining different pieces in a new way. Because we all want to stand out in the feed. We all want to look, you know, that’s how things change. So one of the things that I like to do is take something that works at one place and use it somewhere else.
One of the things Alisa talked about was probably video pins, which is kind of a new thing on Pinterest. I call them Harry Potter pins, because if you ever noticed in the Harry Potter movies when you’d open up the newspaper they’d move like an animated GIF or something. Well, that’s what video pins are. Everybody on Pinterest is used to seeing static and now there’s movement and it’s like amazing and incredible.
And so one of the things I found out is all these different apps that you use to make Instagram Stories pretty much work to create video pins on Pinterest. So a lot of these things, I make something on my Instagram that stands out and it’s funny or whatever. If it makes sense, I’ll put it to Pinterest and it works just as well. And that really is a way to, you know, combine two different things and make a new piece of content.
Rich: Fantastic. So Jeff as we record this, the Coronavirus is ravaging our country, the globe, our economy. But at the same time people are spending record amounts of time on social media. What message would you share with our listeners looking to engage people on social right now?
Jeff: So this is an interesting time in our history. And you know, there’s been a lot of comparison to the flu pandemic that happened what is it, 19? I can’t remember, but a while back before any of us were around for Facebook. But one of the things I saw somebody say, and I really liked it, it says that we are apart but we’re not alone. And so back then they really, I mean, you were sequestered, you were in your cities, the flow of information didn’t happen. There’s a lot of stuff we can do right now to connect with people.
I started doing this. I’m a woodcarver and I just started carving on my Facebook live just to do something to connect with people. And it’s been amazing. So one of the things I really think, you know, everybody’s talking about this new Tiger King on Netflix and I haven’t watched it yet. It may be great. I don’t know. But my thing is I’m like, all these people are watching this and bingeing on Netflix and everything. And you had, I had even talked about before the show is like, we’re finding this time really, really productive. And so maybe instead of, you know, well, I know it’s important for us to hunker down and watch out and there’s a lot of fear and stuff going on, but this is also a great time to reach out and also to create content. Maybe try something new.
Maybe you bought a course a while back and you never really finished it. Maybe it’s time to do that. And so I really see that there’s a lot of people who are really taking time now to connect with loved ones. My mom who is not tech at all, she told me she texted some high school friends she hadn’t talked to since high school. So there is good coming out of it. So I would say during this time, think about what you can do. Don’t just consume content, but create some.
Rich: So Jeff as we were talking before we started the interview, I had to convert a live event. We were putting on our first ever Fast Forward Maine Conference into a virtual summit. And I know that a lot of people are doing similar things. You know, I subscribe to a lot of email newsletters, I follow a lot of people in the industry and a lot of people are doing this. So for all those people who are starting to do virtual summits or thinking about webinars, you’ve talked a lot about being creative and maybe pulling certain pieces of information out of something else to create even newer content, repurposing that content.
Do you have any tips for people who are putting on virtual summits to get the most out of these virtual summits? Ways that they can reach a wider audience perhaps, or do some of these things? You’ve mentioned a few, but if you can kind of just walk us through, and I know I’m putting you on the spot here, but any ideas you have so that people putting on webinars or putting on virtual summits right now can make the most of their content.
Jeff: So one of the biggest things, and I struggle with this too, is like I’ll make a great graphic and I’m like, “This is awesome. This is what I want everybody to see”. And you really need to flip it and think of like, what are they wanting?
I helped produce Kim Garst’s show yesterday and she had Celine Johnson on and she’s talking about Instagram and she says, “Quit, being in these professional photos. That’s not working anymore. People want to see real. They want to see behind the scenes.” And so I would think visually for visual content. People right now, we’re all kind of scared. We all got some time on our hands. What is going to answer the question, “What’s this conference going to do to me and do for my vision?” It probably would be a little bit more raw. I would make sure that I would talk to all of my speakers to give little testimonials and look at the camera and speak to that person. And I would take little clips of the speakers speaking directly to that audience and saying, “This is what I’m going to provide for you because I know this is something you need right now.” And that’s what I would think of visually.
And then I would tie in all my visuals to that. Helping the client mean it can be nice and polished and visual. But right now people are wanting to know, they’re scared and what they can get for themselves. And so I would really, not manipulate, but I’d really want my speakers and the whole tone of the conference to be like, here’s what you get. We’re all in this together. Here’s the message we’re giving to you. And all of my visuals, all my video clips and testimonials would be geared towards that.
Rich: Awesome advice. Jeff, this has been fantastic. I know that I am going to start making sure that I’m following you on all the platforms like Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest, where you’re creating these visuals. Can you share with us where people can find you online?
Jeff: The best place, you know, if they want to get my home base, it’s ManlyPinterestTips.com, where we’re always adding testosterone one pin at a time.
Rich: Awesome. We’ll send people there and definitely though, be sure to find Jeff Sieh online, checkout his visual stuff. Definitely a great guy to be following. And Jeff, thanks so much. I’m glad we finally made this happen.
Jeff: Yeah, thanks Rich, appreciate it.
Jeff Sieh, helping men succeed on Pinterest by adding testosterone, one pin at a time. Definitely check out his podcast and blog and of course follow him on Pinterest for great ideas and creative tips.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.