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The push and pull of blog promotion: Part 1

How could I grow my blog audience? Outside of the following of friends, family and colleagues, it was time to source methods of attracting new readers. I had been using Facebook for the sole purpose of social connecting. I had registered a Twitter handle months before, but had sent fewer than a dozen tweets. I was intimidated by the new language and etiquette that were quite foreign.

It was time to marry my traditional marketing experience with practical use of social media. I needed to find ways to both get the posts out to readers and bring them directly to the blog site. This stage of “going social” started to feel like I was driving in my own lane again.

I went to my marketing roots for direction. Traditional marketing defines the push and pull strategy as the seller’s push of a product or service to the consumer, compared to the pull of said commodity by that consumer. The push could be a store sending me a flyer to sell shoes, versus my pull of calling the store to inquire about a sale of shiny red pumps.

Social media adds a new layer to push and pull marketing. It drives consumers to action from the convenience of their own computer, tablet or smartphone. Books are downloaded and read without ever visiting the bookstore. Travel is arranged over the internet and via email communications. Merchants for clothing, jewelry and so much more rely on the ability to both push offers to buyers and pull buyers to their sites for instant deals to be closed.

TIP: In this era of immediate gratification, it is more critical than ever for sellers to have a succinct pitch to ignite that deal. After much trial and error, I learned to spark interest in 100 words or less.

Social-izing my push marketing

Posting a picture or details of a promotion pushes product over social media to potential buyers. One may choose to receive information from a supplier by being a Twitter follower or ‘liking’ a business page on Facebook. A seller may expect you are a partially qualified purchaser, in that you have indicated an interest by agreeing to participate.

In order for a prospect to gain qualifications, a seller needs to know if they are interested in the product or service, do they have the authority to make a purchase decision, and do they have the funds to buy. If the supplier has created a “sponsored post” on Facebook or a “promoted Tweet” on Twitter, the audience is unqualified and considered mass market, with which the deal close ratio is much smaller.

I wasn’t ready to invest cash into a sponsored promotion. Since I needed the practical experience with Facebook and Twitter, I invested many hours of my time learning the tricks of the tools. Once the skills started to develop, both sites became rather addicting. Making likeminded connections is a natural activity. Learning to authentically attract followers to push content toward took more time.

Communicating on ‘The Social’ needs to be true to its name, social communication. The conversation is friendly chitchat where people with common interests share thoughts, quotes and resources that might be of importance to the audience. The goal is motivating people to sign up for your blog without sounding like you are begging for followers or being too pushy.

The benefit of pushing content out is the consistency of reader contact. The blogger maintains control of how often content is viewed. It is critical to achieve balance between keeping the audience interested and informed, yet avoiding inundating them with an overwhelming amount of information and risking pushing them away. Empathy is a key quality in achieving that balance. Put yourself in the position of your audience. Does your content offer something beneficial or is it completely self-serving? Followers want to know that they are being put first.

The downside of push marketing is that you are playing on the purchaser’s turf, as opposed to your own. For example, pushing out an email or RSS feed sends the most current content to a reader, but it does not entice the audience with other posts or advertisements that might be seen if the reader was pulled to your own blog site.

Part two of promotion will explore how I went from “being pushy” to dragging people to my blog with pull marketing tactics. Subtlety is not my greatest strength, but I’m adjusting.

 

Next column: The Push and Pull of Blog Promotion: Part 2

GAYPOST: Toronto’s Downtown Gays vs. Toronto’s Uptown Gays

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who accused me, and not for the first time, of being a “downtown gay.”

This label wouldn’t bother me – after all, I live fairly close to the Village and am in a relationship with another man — but it seemed to be loaded with judgment.  As I thought about where this judgment was coming from, I remembered my own mindset from when I lived, for many years, in the Yonge-Lawrence neighbourhood.

  • Related: 12 reasons you know you are a Toronto gay

Living uptown, I believed (perhaps subconsciously) that somehow I was better than those who lived in and around the Village.  I had a clear image in my mind of what I thought these gays were like, a caricature of the negative stereotypes surrounding gay men.  I, on the other hand, felt I was somehow holding on to more of my masculinity than they were by choosing to be outside that world, venturing in on occasion but never truly being a part of it.

I think this notion came from a part of me that deep down inside still felt unhappy to be gay; a part that felt being gay was something that would prevent me from being a man.  Of course, years later I’d realize that there is a big difference between sexuality and masculinity.

I’m certainly not accusing my friend as being a self-loathing homo, but in my conversation with him he made it clear that he saw me as “immersed” in the Village and that he, on the other hand, doesn’t “fit in with the downtown gays” and lives in a “different world” from me.

This judgment of the entire gay populous living below Bloor saddens me.  We, as gay people, have fought hard to prove to the rest of the world that we can take many forms — masculine rugby players, lithe go-go dancers, and everything in between – and that one little part of our lives is not what defines us individually.

Yet here is my friend, categorizing an entire group of gay people as a group of people he definitely wouldn’t fit in with; a snap judgment based solely on their location.  And he’s not alone in this outlook of Uptown Gays vs. Downtown Gays.  However, as an uptown- gay-cum-downtown-gay, I can tell you what has changed for me in my venture to the dark side.

I can now walk to the Eaton Centre, I seldom have to cab it home after the bar, and yes – I do now find it a pain in the ass to meet you for a drink at Jack Astor’s on Don Mills.  Apart from that, pretty much everything else is still the same about me and I didn’t magically end up with high heels and a coke problem by moving close to the Village.

So go ahead, call me a downtown gay, because that’s what I am.  But if I hear you say it in a way that suggests you think you’re somehow better than me, I will fill a sock with all the change I’ve saved from rarely having to use the TTC and I’ll hit you with it.

 

Follow Simon on Twitter: @ScottishGuy

GAYPOST: City of Cleveland blames gay bar for hate based violence they experience

The City of Cleveland has come under fire for requesting an ‘action plan’ from a gay bar in response to frequent emergency calls to the bar costing the city money.

The bar, Cocktails Lounge, was recently the backdrop of a violence gay bashing incident where the bartender at contacted emergency services to save a man who was being savagely beaten by a group of young thugs. The bar has had 9 visits from police in the past year and is being treated as if they are responsible for preventing discrimination based violence, you know, the thing that the police exists to stop.

What dimwit Martin Flask fails to realise is that the safety and protection of human beings is worth more than the hundred odd bucks it costs to dispatch a cop car when there is imminent danger.

Read the letter sent to Cocktail’s owner Brian Lyons below:

 

Martin Flask (who casually calls himself Marty this time around) responded to the outcry last night through a statement posted on the city’s website.

Read Martin Flask’s response to Cocktails Lounge below:

As someone who has had the pleasure of visiting Cleveland’s gay scene I can say in total honesty that I have never encountered such a sweet and upbeat gay community in any other city I’ve visited or lived in.

The gay people of Cleveland deserve more from their city officials.

 

 

 

Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

Women of the week: Susan Wright

Susan Wright has helped hundreds of people stay the course over the last 15 years.

As a life coach and founder of Wright Momentum, she has worked with entrepreneurs, organizations and a handful of creative professionals enthused about making significant changes in their lives.

“It’s really cool when you get to light somebody’s fire,” says Wright. “They get that spark. They get the focus to stay steady.”

Before Wright started coaching and consulting she worked as a recreation therapist in a clinical environment, helping people to effectively cope with an illness or disease. She enjoyed working with people, but realized she wanted to focus her energy on performance, professional and personal development. She also wanted to integrate it with her health and wellness background.

“I tend to know when I’m ready for change and I knew that my career would take me only so far,” she says. “So there was a ceiling with what I was doing. I had already challenged myself in that area [and] felt fully confident and proficient at what I was doing. I knew that to take myself to the next level, to the next step, I would need to expand my horizons.”

Wright started seeking information about coaching when it was an emerging profession and information about it wasn’t easily accessible. She discovered a number of coaches and was coached herself. She then went on to be certified through the Adler School in Toronto, one of the first few students to go through the coaching program.

“For me it’s a personal philosophy,” she says. “Everybody has the potential, it’s just figuring out how do we tap into that.”

Wright’s approach is very holistic. She takes into consideration the various facets of a person’s life, discovering how they interact in their relationships and what’s important to them.

“Taking care of ourselves in all aspects of health and wellbeing is essential so we can actually bring the best of ourselves in no matter what we do,” she said. “It’s finding what that is for you as an individual.”

Pilates is another large part of Wright’s life. She is a certified Second Wind® Pilates Plus® and Integrated Movement Therapies (IMT) ® instructor. Practicing pilates improves coordination and brings awareness to the body. It can also reduce headaches, mental stress and increases energy.

To Wright, everyone has the potential to drive forward and develop. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to do it and then finding the perfect coach. Wright tends to work with high-energy creative individuals who are dedicated to improving their lives.

“If somebody has far too many excuses and no level of commitment, it’s not going to work,” she says. “You’re not ready for coaching. You really need to want something and want something to change. Whether it’s a team leader, a professional, it doesn’t matter. The commitment needs to be there.”

Wright’s book, Seven Steps To Change The Status Quo, looks at what prevents people from making change in their lives and how to go beyond the fears that prevent change from happening. Reaching goals comes with no shortage of roadblocks.

“There will be barriers when we’re making any change in life,” she says. “We’ll hit a cross barrier. Sometimes they’ll be even more mountains to climb. It’s staying the course, staying steady and strong on that course.”

The legacy of the Omni King Edward Hotel

How well do you know your Canadian history?

In 1903, Toronto’s first luxury hotel was built. Touted as fire-proof, the 17-storey hotel (an 18th storey would be added in 1922) was originally set to be named after Queen Victoria but, after her death, it was officially christened the King Edward Hotel.

Over the years, countless famous and infamous figures have walked its halls. “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford, stayed here with husband Douglas Fairbanks; Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got engaged in the Sovereign Ballroom; John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a brief bed-in for peace; and rumour has it that somewhere, hidden now under years of redecoration, there is a message scrawled on the walls by Leonard Cohen.

One of the highlights of the Omni King Edward Hotel is its traditional afternoon tea, served in the Sovereign Ballroom. Guests are served their tea–chosen from a menu which includes many favourites as well as a custom King Edward blend–along with mouth-watering finger sandwiches and an assortment of sweets. Refined and delectable, it will likely make you long for the days when the world stopped for a 2pm tea time.

Of course, the restaurant is also top-notch. At Victoria’s Restaurant, the chef, Daniel Schick, creates culinary delights from local ingredients. In the restaurant, guests are treated to a hint of the Omni King Edward Hotel’s extensive art collection.

Moving with the changing times, recent renovations have seen the rooms expanded, as well as the creation of condo units on unused floors of the building.

Coming in the near future: the reopening of the Crystal Ballroom. Located on the top floor of the hotel, it features breathtaking views of the city, as well as the crystal chandeliers that gave it its name . Once the site of weddings and other formal gatherings, as well as the 1955 announcement of the results of the polio vaccine, it was closed to the public in the 1950s. By 2015, however, visitors will be able to once again marvel at this magnificent hall.

Recently, the Omni King Edward Hotel celebrated its 110th anniversary. Once its renovations are complete, it will stand as an example of luxury living, as well as a great bit of Canadian history.

Things get worse before they get better

I’ve heard that things always get worse before they get better, but really? Just when things were starting to get better we found out that Boyfriend and I both have close family members who have been diagnosed with cancer. You’d think that after all we’ve been through the universe would give us a break, but as it turns out that isn’t in the cards yet.

So we hold each other, we love each other and we try to support our families as they deal with what comes next. But despite all the pain this summer has brought with it Boyfriend still manages to make me smile, he still manages to make time for me and he still makes me laugh in that totally embarrassing out loud knee slapping kind of way.

I wouldn’t have made it through the summer of 2013 without him; I couldn’t have picked a better partner to stand by my side and I only hope that I give the same thing to him. If I can give him half the strength he gives me we’ll be in a good place because he needs me now and I want to be the one to support him.

I know that we’ll make it through all of this drama a better couple; we’ll make it through stronger and more together than we’ve ever been. But you get to a point where you start to wonder how much more you have to deal with before life gets easy again. At least I wondered that before I remembered that life isn’t easy and that the ‘easy’ relationships I’ve been have never been good; easy isn’t good it’s just easy.

Being with Boyfriend isn’t hard, but life is. When you’re really with someone, I mean committed we’re in this for the long haul with someone, you will inevitably deal with drama, heartache and loss, but you’ll deal with it beside someone you love and that is what makes the bad nights tolerable. I’d really like it if we had a couple of weeks where all we got was good news but life doesn’t often work like that.

Even if things do continue to get worse I’m going to focus on the positive. In the words of a great friend, I’m going to choose love, because I do love him and no matter how hard things are for either of us we make each other better, happier, more sunshine-y people.

I chose Boyfriend almost a year ago. I chose to let go of my fears and commit myself to someone who was worth committing to and I’m lucky that I did because without him this summer would have been nearly impossible to get through. So life, give me whatever you’ve got because I’m walking through life hand-in-hand with my favourite person, because I’m strong and he makes me stronger but mostly because when you choose love you can do anything.

10 questions with Barbie Jo Bontemps

Barbie Jo Bontemps isn’t a name you might recognize just yet, but probably one you should jot down and put in with your takeout menus, because this bitch delivers the good stuff so regularly you’d think her name was Papa John’s.

A fiery redhead (most days) with a sassy streak and a love for island beats, she’s been making waves on Church Street with her charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.

Right now she is one of the rising stars showcased on Sunday nights as a part of this summer’s Crews and Tangos Drag Race, bumping shoulders with village favourites Heroine Marks, Daytona Bitch, and Ivory Towers.

Last night was Week 3 of the competition and Barb found herself in the bottom two up for elimination and worked her way back into the judge’s good books with a riveting rendition of Madonna’s Like a Virgin.

We caught of with Barbie Jo, or BJ as she’s known to fans and lovers, for ten questions about drag, music, dance, and style.

TRAV: What inspired you to try drag for the first time?

BJ: I used to live with a bunch of party animals and we used to have awesome theme parties (insert Mean Girls quote). For Halloween, however, my roommate Amanda and I decided to do our opposite-sex-white-trash-alter-egos. I had such a good time expressing myself from a different perspective I did it a couple more times. Then I heard about Sharon Needles and got RuPaul obsessed. I learned what professional drag make-up looked like and I became increasingly obsessed with painting my own face. It’s a slippery slope from that point on, and here I am in Crews & Tangos Drag Race — pwning n00bs.

 

TRAV: Is there any specific type of music that really gets you going?

BJ: I love most music. My favourite radio program is Dos Mundos on CIUT FM, every Wednesday at 6pm you can hear serious Latin/electronic fusion beats bumpin’ from my apartment. I really love dancehall music though — I know, you’re thinking: “This white-boy, gay, drag queen likes DANCEHALL!??!” Yes, yes I do! I just love how the riddims make my body want to move. I love anything Caribbean or Spanish related mostly. Basically, I was born in the wrong country.

 

TRAV: What song have you picked as your personal summer anthem this year?

BJ: It’s a tough call for me… I’ll pick three!
“Live it up” – J Lo feat. Pitbull
“Ooh la la” – Britney Spears
“Same Love” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis — just because this is a real conscious ting!

 

TRAV: What is your most embarrassing drag moment?

BJ: Oh my. I’ve had so many. If you know me, you know I’m a giant klutz. Probably my most embarrassing drag moment was when I hosted Gay Trivia at O’Grady’s for my darling friend and sister Gina Hamilton. I was on the microphone at the front of the bar running my jokes. I remember I made a particularly crappy joke and as I was backing up nervously I caught my heel on the cord and careened backward into the wall. I finally landed on top of the speaker. Thankfully the majority of the people in the room were my friends and we just laughed about it.

 

TRAV: You’re a redhead, why do you think there are relatively few redheaded drag queens?

BJ: I am not sure! You know, I have branched out since my earlier days. Outside of the redhead family I now own: purple, turquoise, hot pink & black, electric blue & black, etc. The list, in just six months, is so long. I guess there are such few redheaded drag queens because they can’t pull it off? Maybe they’re afraid of losing their souls? Maybe they’re just not as skanky as I am. It’s really hard to tell.

TRAV: If you could spend the night with any celebrity, living or dead, who would it be and why?

BJ: Spend the night? You mean, like, they’ll sleepover? No, I don’t do that. Get it and get out.
Totes jokes, yo. I guess I’d pick Tahmoh Penikett. He was Helo on Battlestar Galactica and he’s Canadian. Tall and a total dream boat. I could say a couple more things about him, but I’ll let the readers do some research. I bet he’s packin’ some serious heat. Meoooow.

 

TRAV: Who are your top three Toronto drag influences & idols?

BJ: Drag idols/favourite performer, hmm, it’s so hard to choose here in Toronto! There are so many talented professionals. Each drag queen, like each person or set of fingerprints is totally unique. Though I am a total softy for certain queens. I’m choosing four. Deal with it. I adore the fiery and fierce performances of Vitality Black. If you haven’t seen this queen’s tricks go see them! As for pure elegance personified — it’s Farra N Hyte all the way. Careful though, bitch has bite. If you like large-scale, supremely choreographed, audio/visual spectacles: Sofonda Cox is your girl. Don’t be givin’ her no tequila, though. And my fourth (’cause I have to) — is Devine Darlin. Beautiful, intelligent, and sickeningly talented she sets the stage ablaze.

Honourable Mentions: Tynomi Banks (Let’s have a vogue off), Scarlett Bobo (That knee slide? Shoot me.), Nancy Bocock (I love when you eat an entire Deep and Delicious cake on stage). If you weren’t mentioned #sorryboutit.

 

TRAV: How did it feel to be in the bottom set last night?

BJ: Horrendous! I did not feel that Nancy [Bocock] and I deserved to be there. We worked really hard on our numbers and we practiced our staging for 3 days in a row. We painted each other beautifully — I even painted her better than myself. I honestly wanted to cry. I put so much effort and thought into what I do, that it doesn’t feel good to be the bottom. In that case at least. But, I untucked my nuts (figuratively) and demolished the Lipsync for Your Livelihood. I definitely wasn’t going home. No way no how.

 

TRAV: What is more important to a drag queen, confidence or talent?

BJ: That’s an odd question. Talent as a queen can mean a lot of different things: comedic talent, dance talent, make-up talent, quick wit, etc. And as we all know, or hopefully know, confidence is a key to success. Ultimately, I’d have to say confidence is most important. If you can’t sell what you’re doing, ain’t nobody gonna be buyin’ it.

 

TRAV: Where do you see your drag future taking you?

BJ: No idea. I’d like to keep doing it! At least maybe get paid to do it once and a while so I can continue to afford the make-up, hair, and, costumes. It’s something I’d like to explore in different ways. I’d love for drag to become more prevalent in our city. For it to be something accepted by all communities as a legitimate form of performance. I’m definitely going to be bringing some live singing to the stage at some point – just gotta get my Toni voice back. Most importantly, I hope my relationship with drag continues to be enjoyable and fun! It’s a great sisterhood and I love being part of it.

Viva la drag! Viva la Beej!

 

Come out and support BJ and discover Toronto’s latest cohort of drag talent this summer on Sundays at 9p.m. at Crews and Tangos!

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers and find Barbie Jo on Instagram as @BJBontemps lurking under the hashtag #trannyfaggot and on Facebook as Barbie Jo Bontemps. Additional photo credit: Angelica B.