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Adventures in blogging – Does this make sense?

With the blog site in place, the fun part of blogging had begun. What a wondrous opportunity for a writer to compose, present and collect feedback, in real time. Not yet convinced blogging was the right method of exploring my writing voice, I dove in anyway. Producing content was tougher than anticipated. Finessing the words was pure joy. When rules began interrupting the creative flow, the experience became something else entirely.

I expected the odd creative block and therefore mitigated the risk by collecting an abundance of material for one to two posts weekly. My challenge was sticking to the rules for ‘successful bloggers’ gathered through internet research and referencing social media stars. After navigating the plethora of advice, I narrowed it down to 10 key points.

10 Content Rules for Successful Bloggers

1. Specialize in one topic per blog. A clear vision of content attracts a more targeted and loyal audience.

2. Catchy titles. Have yours be the enthralling headline that drives someone to click and read.

3. Consistent post frequency. Some amount of consistency is best to keep new followers, whether posts are daily, weekly or biweekly.

4. Avoid venting. Use your power for good. Very few people can garner a faithful following of their complaints.

5. Subtitles, bullets and pictures. Organization and succinct thought presentation make for easy reading, especially for those who scan first before reading.

6. Promote comments and feedback. Creating a conversation with your followers generates three benefits: valuable feedback on content, follower retention, and new followers wanting to weigh in.

7. Make it easy to share. Provide easy ability to ‘share’ and ‘promote’ within social media sites.

8. Subscribe capability. Keep RSS feeds and email notifications ‘opt in’ prominent on the page.

9. Under 1000 words. The ‘sweet spot’ for most blog readers is between 600 – 1000 words.

10. Credibility. Display relevant credentials, awards and accreditations so readers have confidence in your content.

 

Broken Rules:

The internet offers an overwhelming amount of information about social media. I have handled the abundance of advice the same way I manage parenting tips. I read through material that interested me, and decided what made sense before drawing my own conclusions.

Without creating a number of separate blogs, I could not follow rule number one and stick with one topic. Since my blog goal was to find my writing voice, I needed the ability to explore a number of avenues that were incompatible and would attract different audiences. While the blog name “JustMomSensations” suggests impressions from a Mom, it could not be a well-targeted Mom-blog alone. It also needed to include short stories, snippets of manuscripts in development, business ideas, and favourite works of other writers. I broke blog rule number one and I moved on with a chaotic collection of topics.

Rules Followed:

With the exception of rule number one, the rules were easier to follow. My posts have not been as consistent as planned but it is balancing out over time. Since my first entry in September of 2012, I have averaged 1.5 posts weekly. I’ve managed to save my venting for journals and my husband, along with the occasional leak of steam on my personal Facebook page. The remaining rules guided me to structure the site and enable gadgets, all with the purpose of maximizing promotional opportunities to gain followers.

Results:

The inconsistency of post numbers reflects my chaotic approach to topics. The most popular post is a short story called “Picture in a Wallet” – a cautionary tale about unsuccessful child abduction. Short stories top the leader board in posts and shares, providing the feedback I was looking for.

I had fewer than 100 viewers when the blog first launched. I shared posts on my personal Facebook, and emailed family and friends. To increase my audience I needed to engage my existing marketing skills, and learn new ones with social media. Social media became my late night companion for weeks. Within a month my viewers topped 500, then 800, with consistent growth from there.

At first glance, social media appears to be free. One can use most tools without spending a dollar. The real and significant cost is human resource time to create an authentic presence in each of the tools. Each site had its own nuances, tricks and etiquette rules.

My education in going social continued as I learned how to use tools to push and pull viewers to my blog. ‘Build it and they will come’ is nice dream. Commitment and persistence is the reality of gaining blog viewers.

 

Next column: The Push and Pull of Blog Promotion

Beware: Over-sharing on social media can bring trouble

by Heather Lochner

Raise your hand if you are on Facebook or Twitter. And raise your other hand, if you make somewhat regular status updates on either site. And what about 4square? Do you check-in there and have that posted to your social media accounts?

Sure, we all like to keep friends, family, and tweeps up-to-date on what we’re doing and where we’re doing it. We post pictures, share interesting links, and broadcast our opinions and thoughts.

But step back for a moment. If you are on Facebook, is your site locked down? In other words, is your security as tight as can be or can ‘non-friends’ read and see all about you?

All too often I stumble upon a Facebook page where I can gather a ton of information on the person – their birth date, their phone number, and even they city they live in.  So imagine, if your status says “Loving life on the beach” and attached is a photo of you on holiday. Or if you are on Twitter and you say, “Family is all at the airport – we are heading out for a weeklong vacation”.

Think for a second, what did I, a total stranger, just learn about you? You just told me you are away. And yes, I may be paranoid, but I never post on Facebook or Twitter that my house is empty. I share after the fact, when I am home.

That is just a small social media tip I tend to follow.

I do use the internet and blogs for travel research. I love visiting www.tripadvisor.com to read reviews on the city I want to explore or the resort I want to stay in. I know they are people’s opinions, but so far I have not been let down by reading the comments. I also buy travel apps for my phone – ones that give me information on the destination and what’s not to be missed. And I frequently visit the site www.havebabywilltravel.com, where fabulous tips are shared on travelling with kids.

I have also used both Facebook and Twitter to find out information about destinations. Just a few months back, I asked on Twitter, “Does anyone have a recommendation on where to stay in Cuba with kids?” You would never believe the response I got. People shared and shared their favourite and not-so-favourite hot spots. I also learned that Cuba has very limited internet access (kinda nice to go black from time-to-time and not be constantly plugged in).

So, just be careful how you use social media when headed away from home. Think before you post.

So you think you can blog?

Blogs have become an important tool for personal and business development. I’ve been blogging off and on since the early days of LiveJournal, but when I decided last year that I wanted to get more serious about lifestyle blogging, I felt a little bit lost. How much of myself am I willing to share? How often do I need to be posting? Will anyone want to read it? How will I live up to the gorgeous photography and beautiful prose of my favourite bloggers? Of course, the most important step was to just get started and learn through experience, but here are a few resources that will give you the knowledge and vision you need when starting your own blog.

Blogging for Bliss by Tina Frey 

Blogging for Bliss is a beautifully laid out book with gorgeous full-colour photos and jam packed with helpful tips. Although it’s specifically geared towards crafters and artists, the information it contains is useful for anyone looking to create a beautiful and engaging blog. Using screenshots from the best-of-the-best that the blogosphere has to offer, author Tara Frey demonstrates what works in blogging and what doesn’t. Easy to follow tutorials walk you through the steps for simple photo editing and web design techniques to take your blog to the next level. Some of the most popular creative bloggers also grace its pages, sharing their wisdom on creating great posts and attracting a loyal readership.

Available from Amazon.

Bloggin tips from Problogger

Problogger is the ultimate resource for anyone looking to make money from blogging. Articles are posted daily, offering tips from the world’s greatest blogging experts. The site also offers specialized workbooks and a brand new book that you can purchase, if you’re looking for even more information.

Fairy Tales for Writers by Lawrence Schimel 

Sometimes the hardest part of blogging is finding the inspiration. If you’re trying to post everyday it can be easy to fall into a rut and start posting things that you think you should because everyone else does, but it’s not something that really inspires you. For that reason, I’ve started keeping this magical little book in my bag at all times. In this chapbook of whimsical poetry, Schimel holds up the mirror to the joys and struggles of the creative process. Somehow, these tongue-in-cheek fairytales about the publishing world and woes of writing always puts a smile on my face, and inevitably I’m scribbling down ideas again in no time. So, if you can find a pocket-sized source of inspiration, I recommend taking it with you everywhere.

Available from Amazon.

If you have any blogging tips or would like to leave a comment with a link to your blog, I’d love to read them!

The push and pull of blog promotion: Part 2

After making progress with the art of pushing blog content to readers, it was time to drag more people directly to my blog. I required readers on my blog in order to increase the odds of collecting valuable feedback about the writing content, and to build momentum for future advertising revenue opportunities. To drag readers to my blog, I employed the strategies of pull marketing, with a ’social’ flare.

Social-izing Pull Marketing

Including the post link in a communication is intended to pull viewers directly to your content. An interest-sparking headline or lead-in prompts the reader to click to follow the content. If the writing fulfills its promise, visitors might be motivated to read other posts and become dedicated followers. If there are ads on the site that entice, viewer clicks may earn income for blog ads that represent a revenue source.

Pulling readers to your blog site provides the opportunity to create more loyal followers and potential for ad clicks. Since most advertising deals pay per click, more volume equals greater revenue. Once a viewer is on your site, they may also ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘tweet’ your content so that other members of their network learn about the blog. Referrals are a great way to gain new readers. Having the credibility of the source contact increases the odds of connecting with their network audience.

The downside of pull marketing is relying on continued revisits from your readers. Since they will not be receiving an email or RSS feed notifying of the new post, their loyalty must be relied upon. This strategy requires them to make a decision to view each time they see notice of a new post through social media. To increase the odds they will continue to make an affirmative choice, quality post announcements are essential.

With pull promotion, the pitch that entices a reader to click must be enticing and succinct. For example, I recently wrote a blog post asking for opinions about telling my 8 year old how the Easter Bunny really delivers goodies to our home. The other option I have to deal with the truth is waiting until she hears something at school and decides to ask me. My actual question to readers was, “Do I tell my daughter the truth about the Easter Bunny?” My social media pitch, along with the blog link was, “Do I tell?”

Both are truthful, which is vital. A pitch that suggests something untrue about the content will make the reader feel they have been tricked into visiting your blog. The second pitch is more tempting for a wider audience of readers. If a reader is not interested in weighing in on the Easter Bunny decision, there is still the opportunity to entice them with another post on the site, since the pitch pulled them to your vast collection of content.

To push or to pull – that is the question. The answer is both. A balanced combination of both strategies will maximize the outcome. The size and quality of the promotion investment will be reflected in the results. The cost of marketing your blog content is almost entirely human resources. It takes a significant amount of time on the social media sites to organically develop relationships that are authentic.

Each site has its communication methods, language and etiquette. Social media experts debate the pros and cons of repeating content on multiple social media platforms. One point all social savvy individuals seem to agree on is the inevitable importance of these platforms for any business to compete.

 

Next column: Tweet to Compete

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

1. Going social – My epiphany

This article was originally published January 29, 2013.

How it was for me…

A few months ago, ‘Social Media’ was a foggy acronym for internet dialogue. I had used Facebook to reconnect with old classmates and distant family members. I even created a LinkedIn page, after being peppered with connect requests from business colleagues. I did not, however, blog, Tweet, Insta-anything, Pinterest or utilize any social media tools to promote my business interests. Not until I was given a little push.

My cousin was surprised to learn I was blog-less. “Who better to blog than a Mompreneur who is also a writer?” That push got me sliding towards my first blog.

The defining moment…

After decades of business writing, my creative writing skills needed refreshing. Three of my short stories had been published through traditional channels, but I needed a medium that offered full control over the topics and style. More importantly, I wanted the ability to collect valuable feedback quickly. Blogging seemed to make sense, but how did it differ from any other website content?

‘Blogging’ has a number of official definitions. The name ‘blog’ comes from the term ‘web log’, suggesting a journal of topical content on the internet. Over time, blogging has morphed into a form of business content marketing, enabling low cost promotion of a company’s products and/or services.

I began writing the blog to explore my voice as a writer, and gauge if blogging could become a new stream of revenue. In the planning process, I asked myself some key questions:

1. What do I have to say?

2. Who cares?

3. How do I reach them?

From researching other blogs, it became clear that I needed social media skills to pull readers to my content. ‘Going social’ would not only be critical in order to create a solid blog following, but an absolute requirement to return to my corporate marketing roots. I was surprised to learn about management positions called “CSO=chief social officer” and “SMM=social media manager”. These titles did not exist a decade ago when I was director of sales and marketing for a software company.

How it will be…

I began a strategy to create a social media presence. It is scary to dive into the unknown, especially on the internet, where words live forever in a cloud of privacy settings that can be particular and confusing. I’m focused on the knowledge that taking a risk can also be exhilarating and rich in rewards. Throughout my career I followed the mantra “better to make a mistake and learn than do nothing at all”. There can be no result without action.

It’s time for me to dive it and ‘get social’. My decades of sales and marketing knowhow are extremely valuable, but knowledge is stagnant without action. I take a deep breath and

…. I-go-social.

 

Next column: Adventures in Blogging

Facebook official

Recently someone told me that Boyfriend and I aren’t officially official because we haven’t declared our undying love for each other via the Facebook relationship status. They were serious.

I was shocked, because I haven’t had a relationship status since the Big Ex and I broke up; my status says nothing. I’m not single, dating or complicated and I’m okay with that. Boyfriend and I have been together nearly a year and we’re happy but we’re not the kind of people who need to shout about how much we love each other on Facebook. Neither of us feel that our bond as a couple would somehow be stronger if we had matching profile pictures and constantly updated our friends on how incredibly in love we are.

Don’t get me wrong, I gush, I talk to my friends about how happy I am, if I could write a good sonnet I would probably do that too, but Facebook is the place where I share cool shit I find on the interwebs, not the adult version of a high school locker.

I share a lot of my life with the internet, but Boyfriend and I have an agreement: he doesn’t read my column and I don’t write about anything that I wouldn’t want to talk to him about, so if I’m super mad at him I have to tell him before I tell you lovely folks. It’s a fair deal.

But blogging and writing is so much different than an obnoxious status update. Instead of declaring your everlasting love with a grammatically incorrect and socially unacceptable update, maybe you could text your darling.

It’s okay to be excited about the person you’re seeing, it’s awesome actually, but if you have to shout it out to the world do you think that maybe you’re a little insecure in your relationship? In the same way that we forget to check our phones when we’re having a really great time, when you’re really happy do you even have time to tell the world how happy you are?

There are people who are always an exception to the rule. Two of my friends were in a long distance relationship until very recently and I thought the love notes they sent each other were adorable and sweet, they needed the internet because they didn’t always have each other.

So while I don’t have a relationship status I’m very much taken, very much in love and I have no plans to change that any time soon. However, I’m also not about to change my status so that everyone else knows that my relationship is real. The people who should know him know him and the people I love have met him and like him almost as much as I do.

The next time you see a status change from me it will be engaged or married, if I get my way and we elope on an island; anything less isn’t worth the effort or the hassle from people whom I haven’t seen in years congratulating me on no longer being a sad spinster lady.

18 Vines from the #StormTO Toronto flood

Toronto was under water this evening as a fast moving storm came from the north and submerged the city. Social media was abuzz with Torontonians in different places around the city chronicling the damage around them and their often stranded situations. Here are 18 Vine videos that capture the full scope of the first half of today’s big storm.

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.