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January 2012

Ice Cream Cone Blogging

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On a hot summer day, there are few things better than a sweet, dripping ice cream cone. There’s this little old school ice cream shoppe in my neighborhood that has the best flavors and homemade sugar waffle cones. It’s so yummy and refreshing that I don’t even mind when it melts in the sun and is impossible to eat without getting as sticky as a four-year-old. That’s part of the joy of an ice cream cone in the summertime.

Today is not a hot summer day. I’m not in the middle of a blizzard or anything, but it’s January in Northern Virginia. The nights are cold, snow is a constant threat, and we have a bag of rock salt waiting by the door just in case it’s needed.

Now, I probably wouldn’t say no to an ice cream cone right now. I love ice cream! But it’s not the same. During the winter, ice cream is still good, but it’s just not the same. As you stroll down the street with your favorite flavor, your fingers and lips get cold and it just doesn’t have the same refreshing effect.

Blogging can be similar. Your content might not change, but it doesn’t always taste the same.

The “if you build it, they will come” idea of blogging is a romantic one, but the quality of your content isn’t the only things that plays a part in your overall success. One of the factors that few seem to talk about is timing. You’re the ice cream maker. It’s up to you to serve your customers the best treats for the season. Some customers might still want ice cream during the winter, but you should at least offer some hot chocolate too.

Timing is about two things: research and your gut.

Timing Research

Ever wonder why so many products launch on Tuesdays or why Sunday night Facebook posts seem to get a lot more attention? It’s not a coincidence. There are certain days and times of the day that are statistically better than others.

When I was younger, I worked in a butcher shop and deli (sexy, I know). At the end of every month, we’d see a dip in sales – people didn’t buy as much because they were waiting for their social security checks or government assistance. So, my bosses would put the more expensive items on sale. The way, people could afford these items – and the tended to buy more. It was a well-timed sale.

Think about why people do things online. If your target audience is under 18, they probably aren’t going to be online at 10 AM on a Tuesday – they’re going to by online when they get home from school. If your target audience is older, they’re probably going to be online after the kids go to bed. If your target audience is technologically-minded, they probably are going to be online during the day at work (at least a little), and will be especially hungry for content on Fridays when they’re anxiously waiting for the day to end and the weekend to begin.

Do a little research with your content. Test out your theories by releasing posts at different times and on different days and recording what happens. You can even set up split tests with your email lists to see when you get a higher open rate. The numbers don’t lie – and this could help you drive higher traffic number with little extra work.

Going with Your Gut

Sometimes, you have to throw research out the window. As much as it might make sense to announce your new book on a certain day or send out an affiliate email during a certain window or time during the day, don’t let your research cloud your good sense.

My birthday is in February. And I want ice cream. Normally, ice cream isn’t as good during the winter, but there’s an exception to this rule and if my friends didn’t bring out the ice cream just because it was “too cold,” I’d be very disappointed.

Going with your gut makes sense. When something is timely, release it while emotions are high, before people have the chance to cool off and stop caring about a topic. When your blog needs a pick-me-up, post sooner rather than later. When you’ve built up some anticipation for content, give the people what they want because if they have to continue to wait, they’ll loss interest. If you have a really innovative idea, post it!

Do research and follow the rules regarding the timing of your blog posts – but don’t be afraid to break those rules.

Personally, I’m still studying the best times to release new posts and when to follow the rules versus when to go with my gut and post immediately. Do you have a certain time you like to post on your blog? Do you think it matters?

What Does Twitter’s New Censoring Ability Mean To You?

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Like many social networks, Twitter is a very powerful platform for connecting people. While some of us might use it for nothing more than complaining about coworkers or sharing pictures of our lunch, others are using Twitter to take down governments and stop poorly-worded bills from becoming laws.

Yesterday, Twitter announced that it has refined the technology enough to censor tweets in specific areas of the world.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. We all have this knee-jerk reaction to instantly hate anything that even questions our freedom of speech concepts, but before you get mad at Twitter, think about what this could mean for us as content creators and social media users.

Misplaced Anger

I think it’s important to start by understanding that Twitter isn’t going to just start wiping out your tweets willy-nilly. What they’re talking about is being able to block tweets on a country-by-country basis in order to comply with that country’s laws. Currently, Twitter already does censor some tweets that break United States laws – in most cases, that boils down to removing tweets that contain links to child pornography sites.

Some countries have very strict laws about what you can and cannot say publicly. Freedom of speech is not a world-wide civil liberty, unfortunately. Twitter isn’t creating these laws; governments are. I think public anger is a bit misplaced. We should be angry that governments are censoring their people, not angry that Twitter is abiding by these laws.

Some Access is Better than No Access

I won’t argue that censorship is a good thing, but I will argue that Twitter’s new ability to censor on a country-by-country basis is a good thing. Let’s use China as an example, since this is a country where Twitter is currently blocked. If Twitter wants to provide access in China, the company has two options:

  • Censor everything any user from any country says to meet China’s policies.
  • Censor some tweets in China to adhere to policies while leaving these tweets untouched in other parts of the world.

The second option is much better! Could you imagine if everything we said on Twitter was censored by the Chinese government? The third choice, of course, is to simple continue denying access to China so that no one’s tweets were censored to any follower, but I think some access is better than none at all. Even if my followers in China only were able to reader one out of every hundred tweets, that’s better than the situation now. I’d love to connect to new people, even if it was in a very small way.

Now, Twitter is unlikely to actually pursue Chinese operations at the moment, given the country’s fiasco with Google a few years ago, but this is just an extreme example of how it could work in countries with different laws. And a launch in China is certainly not out of the question.

A Commitment to Human Rights

One could argue that Twitter should not censor tweets at all, that they should simply refuse to provide services in any country with strict laws that don’t provide for freedom of speech. I argue that this approach is cutting off the nose to spite the face.

First of all, I don’t think any company that provides non-essential services is going to change the mind of a government power that restricts Internet use. Government in North Korea, for example, has shown the world that it can and will isolate its people. They don’t really given a you-know-what if their people have access to Twitter or not. So by refusing to enter these countries, Twitter isn’t really doing any good in my opinion.

Second, I believe it is important to support the people of a country. They don’t always agree with government policies. Heck, I don’t always agree with my government policies (who does?), but that doesn’t mean moving to another country is a better choice – and some people don’t have this option.

Third, this isn’t always a matter of black and white. For example, I think we can all agree here that spreading links to child pornography should not be protected under “freedom of speech,” and I’m glad Twitter removes those tweets. But from there, you can slope down to lesser and lesser “evils.” Where is the line drawn? Just because something is allowed by law in the United States doesn’t mean that other governments and cultures should have to conform to our standards. For example, pornography is illegal in many countries. Should Twitter boycott these countries the same as they boycott a country that censors tweets with negative opinions about the government?

Censorship for Positive Change?

Many major online companies, including Google, already censor their content in other countries to abide by laws, so this is nothing new. Twitter is just being extremely transparent about things, which I think is commendable. They plan to release information about who and where tweet censorship is being requested.

That could actually be a really positive thing for change in the world. It brings freedom issues to the forefront in people’s minds, both in the country being censored and in countries where people have more liberty to say whatever they want. So, censorship is bad…but Twitter’s move into countries where this is an issue could be good for raising awareness.

Not Without Problems

The concept of semi-censoring tweets is not without its problems.

Will Twitter simply listen to what a government official says, or will it allow tweets that aren’t breaking the law, even if a take-down is ordered? For example, what if the U.S. government decided to censor all the SOPA tweets earlier this month? Those tweets should be protected under the constitution, but if a take-down was ordered, would Twitter simply comply? Given the fast-paced nature of Twitter, the amount of time it would take for a tweeter to challenge something like that would make it a moot point. If tweets about SOPA were reinstated after the bill became a law, for example, it wouldn’t really matter.

And I also worry about misinformation. When someone is only seeing part of the story, ideas and facts can get dangerously warped very quickly. If someone is only see some of my tweets, they might form a very wrong opinion of me. Worse, it allows a government to have a lot of control on the message. If 99% of tweets about your leader are positive, is it because 99% of people actually like this person or because almost all negative tweets were caught and removed by censorship filters.

Thinking About Our Content Differently

I think, as content creators, we should be excited about Twitter’s plans to expand into new countries, even if tweets will be censored. It means new followers, new connections, and new readers/viewers. However, it does mean that we have to think about our content a little differently.

With Twitter’s new ability to censor tweets in specific countries, our messages aren’t going to be seen in the same way by every follower. If you want to reach this new audience, it’s important to make sure that you’re tweeting in a way that allows your messages to be seen, and that might require a little research to learn about laws in other countries.

Let’s Keep Our Eyes on Things

This new power for Twitter does not come without responsibility. Whether we realize it or not, censorship on Twitter has already been happening, but now that it is easier to wipe out tweets in specific countries, I think all of us users need to band together and just…well…keep an eye on things. It’s now much easier for a government – even the United States government – for for Twitter itself to abuse these powers. It’s up to us to ask questions and keep those in charge accountable for the decisions they make.

Here are a few more posts with information and opinions on this topic, which I’ve quickly collected with the help of one of my favorite plugins of all time, Zemanta. Weigh in with your opinion or a link to your post about the topic by leaving comment below.

27 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Public Speaking

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Brilliant Bloggers is a weekly series here at BlogWorld where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Public Speaking

One of the ways you make money with a blog or podcast is to use this content as a jumping off point for public speaking. Serving as a speaker had two benefits:

  • Making money directly through paid speaking gigs
  • Raising your brand awareness so people visit your blog, buy your products, etc.

People general don’t just come out of the woodwork to offer you speaking gigs, though. So this edition of Brilliant Bloggers includes links to help you find speaking opportunities, as well as what to do if you are hired or accepted to speak. You can also check out this guest post from Barry Moltz – “How to Monetize the Content of Your Blog in Speaking Engagements” – right here on the BlogWorld blog.

Advice from Brilliant Bloggers:

Be A Better Speaker: Go Commando by Jonathan Fields

If you’ve ever been to a presentation by Jonathan Fields, you probably would never guess that he still gets nervous before a speaking! His talk at BlogWorld is one of the best I’ve ever attended, and in this post, he talks about why that’s the case – he pays close attention to the audience and is able to quickly change things up on the fly to better connect. I think the mark of a true professional is being able to improvise, rather than relying on a script. Learning how to “go commando” can definitely help you improve as a speaker. Writes Jonathan,

So, what if your observation tells you you’re missing the mark? Here’s something to explore…Abandon the script.

Just the sound of that phrase terrifies most people. Off script?! Away from the planned, standard, tested, vetted bullet points, answers and slides I’ve prepared? No way! If the script is working and people are vibing with it, go ahead and roll with it.

But, if you’re bombing sticking to the script, why not at least give yourself the chance to recover, get back on track and give your audience what they need, rather than what you planned to deliver?

After checking out the post, make sure to follow Jonathan on Twitter @jonathanfields and check out his latest book, Uncertainty.

How to Get More Speaking Gigs: Write a One-Sheet by Jorgen Sundberg

No matter how poplar you become, there are always people out there who aren’t going to know your name (as was illustrated so clearly earlier this month when Leo Laporte was denied access to a tech event). When that happens, especially if your name doesn’t carry quite as much clout as Leo’s, it is super helpful to have a one-sheet ready to go. This tells people who you are, what you have done in the past, and why they should want you to speak at their event. In this post, Jorgen writes,

How do you pitch yourself and your speaking prowess to meetups, seminars and conferences? You obviously have to find out who does the bookings of speakers. The best way to convince this person to book you is by sending over a speaker one-sheet, basically a one pager outlining what you talk about and why they should book you.

Just like a resume is screened by an employer, the speaker sheet will be reviewed by the event planner and it needs to provide this person with enough compelling information to get you booked in.

In addition to blogging at Undercover Recruiter, Jorgen can also be found on Twitter @JorgenSundberg and is the founder and director of Link Humans.

3 Presentation Skills You Can Practice Any Time by Alex Cequea

You can find tons of awesome content for speakers at The Speaker Point, but this is one of my favorite posts. In my opinion, the best way to become a better speaker is to practice, especially if it’s a talk you’ve never given before. In this post, Alex goes over three great tips to help you write better speeches and present them in a better manner, so it’s definitely worth checking out, even if you’re an experienced public speaker. Best of all, you don’t need to be standing in front of an audience to practice these skills. From the post:

According to a recent study from the book Resonate, 86% of business executives agreed that improved presentation skills would directly impact their career and income level. The trouble is that only 25% of executives practice more than two hours for high-stakes presentations. The business world tends to downplay the importance of public speaking practice, and most think that natural talent is the only factor that separates the good presenters from the mediocre. Since you probably don’t have a willing public audience ready to watch you practice every day, here are some skills you can practice as you go about your day.

Like I said, the entire site is great for improving your speaking skills. After visiting this post and peaking around the rest of the site, you can follow Alex on Twitter @AlexCequea.

BONUS: Want to speak at BlogWorld someday? Then a podcast you definitely need to check out is this interview our community manager, Deb Ng, did with BlogcastFM’s Srinivas Rao (@skooloflife).

Even More Brilliant Advice:

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about Public Speaking? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link

Next Week’s Topic: Bounce Rates

I’d love to include a link to your post next week – and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

Eight Ways to Make More Money as an Affiliate

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money under mouse

Every month, I make a few hundred dollars in affiliate sales as a blogger, and those who focus on this form of monetization make even more. When I first started selling products as an affiliate, I was lucky to make a few bucks a month with Amazon. Lots of bloggers have given brilliant advice about working as an affiliate, but today I wanted to talk about some tips that worked for me to increase affiliate sales. You can make a few changes to increase passive sales, like me, or you can really run with these tips to make a full-time income with affiliate sales.

1. Capitalize on search terms bringing people to your blog.

Stats come in handy if you’re looking to make a little more money as an affiliate. Check out the search terms that are bringing the most people to your site, and think about what those people are looking to purchase. For example, if people are coming to your food blog using the term “cupcake advice,” try linking to your favorite cupcake tins or decorating products on your sidebar through a well-placed banner.

2. Write reviews.

Lots of bloggers work with brands to review products, but you can really capitalize on these posts by includigoodng affiliate links to purchase at the end of your review. In addition, you can include links to related products, which is an especially good option if you didn’t like the product – link to other items a reader can consider instead.

3. Sweeten the pot on a new product.

This is an especially good tip for informational products, which are often launched with tons of affiliates in the same community. Why should a reader buy from you and not one of the countless other bloggers out there promoting the same new product? Sweeten the pot! For example, maybe if the sale is through you’ll site you’ll send a free copy of one of your ebooks.

4. Don’t be afraid to email you list.

If you try to sell to your list every two days, you’re probably going to see a large unsubscribe rate. However, if you never send out a sales email, you’re not making the most of a great opportunity to connect with people who want to buy what you’re selling. You can use emails to sell affiliate products just like you can use them to sell regular products. I send out a sales-related email about every other month, typically for a product that’s discounted for some reason.

5. Take advantage of buying seasons.

There are certain times of year when everyone is buying, regardless of niche – right before Christmas and Valentine’s Day, for example. In addition, specific products sell well during specific times of the year (for example, right now, weight loss products are hot since everyone’s trying to keep their resolutions). When you talk about products on your blog, using affiliate links of course, time your posts well.

6. Choose affiliate programs wisely.

Sometimes making more money as an affiliate is as easy as signing up for different programs. Some products are available from multiple companies and, thus, are available through multiple affiliate programs. Amazon has just about everything, but the percentage you’ll earn per sale is lower. Other affiliate programs may be more limited, but offer a larger percentage. Compare rates before you insert links, and consider going back through older posts that still receive a lot of traffic to replace links to better affiliate programs.

7. Compare products.

Readers love to learn about products relevant to them, but reviews aren’t your only option. You can also compare products, especially if there are two or three brands all selling similar items. Comparing them is great for search engine traffic, since lots of people look up “vs.” advice before they buy something.

8. Switch the locations of your banners and links.

It really is that simple sometimes. Affiliate links are great to place within posts and emails, but you can also make sales with banners and links on your site. Sometimes, just moving a button above the fold or to the end of a post or somewhere else makes a ton of difference. For example, I saw my sales increase when I added a product carousal to the end of posts on one of the blogs I run. Previously, I had the carousal on the sidebar and it barely got any attention at all. So do some split testing to find out what works.

Now it’s your turn: If you’re an affiliate, what changes have you made that have given you a boost in sales? Leave a comment with your best tip!

Can You Create Better Content on Google+ Under a Pen Name?

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I’ve written about blogging anonymously (under a pen name) in the past, both here at the BlogWorld blog and on the Wright Creativity blog. I’ve made it no secret that I write and manage a fairly successful blog under a different name, and I think there are great reasons for doing so (though it is definitely not the right choice for everyone).

Today, Google announced that they’d now be allowing both nicknames and pseudonyms on Google+. This makes it much easier for anonymous bloggers to use the network, which will definitely be an advantage for Google as it continue to try to attract more users. But is it doing any favors for the Internet as a whole? Will this encourage the use of pseydonyms – and is that a good thing?

Critics had told me that they feel my pen name allows a certain level of dishonesty. Because I’m not writing under my real name, I’m not as accountable for what I write on my blog, and it also makes it easier for me to deceive people.

These things are true. Blogging under a pen name is powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility.

But I would argue that, online, it’s possible to deceive people whether you use your real name or not. I don’t believe that anonymous blogging makes a blogger more likely to be dishonest, but I do believe that some people find it easier to create better content if they are able to use a pen name – and that’s a good thing for our community of content creators.

Having more opinions or ideas is rarely a bad thing, but if people aren’t allowed to anonymously express those opinions or share those ideas, they’ll often remain silent. Depending on the topic, blogging can jeopardize your job or reflect poorly on your family and friends. A pen name allows your to write without the worry that you’ll be judged. This freedom can be liberating.

Some people abuse this power and use a pseudonym to be nasty to others, share confidential information, or do other unsavory things. Don’t allow these people to form your opinion of anonymous bloggers. There are bad apples in every bunch. Most of the bloggers who write under names other than their real ones simply don’t want to be defined by a single piece of content during their daily lives. The freedom of being able to use a pen name allows us to create better content on Google+ and in general.

I believe that Google+’s decision to allow nicknames and pseudonyms is good for the online community. What do you think?

35 Brilliant Bloggers Talk about Pinterest

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Brilliant Bloggers is a weekly series here at BlogWorld where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every week, we’ll feature three of the most brilliant bloggers out there, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Pinterest

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been blogging and tweeting a lot about Pinterest. It’s my latest obsession, and one that I believe has unlimited potential for content creators and business owners. Check out Seven Cool Ways to Use Pinterest and my Pinterest Beginner’s Guide if you haven’t already; then, take some time to read the below Pinterest posts by some of the most brilliant bloggers online.

*Note* Usually, I link everyone’s Twitter handles, but this week, given the topic, I thought it would be an even better idea to link to Pinterest profiles too, when I could find them.

Also, you can find my Pinterest boards here. I pin mostly funny stuff, good blog posts, and craft ideas (plus a mish mosh of other stuff). Leave your Pinterest profile link in a comment below and tell us what you most often pin so we can all connect!

Advice from Brilliant Bloggers:

5 Pinterest Tips for Beginners by Kelby Carr at Type-A Parent

Kelby’s a power user in the world of Pinterest, and she’s currently working a new Dummies book about this network, so her post is a great place to start! If you’re new to Pinterest, this post will help you get going. Upon first glance, Pinterest can look really confusing and hard to learn, but with a little time – and Kelby’s tips – you’ll be addicted in no time!

Pinterest is great to find cool stuff and inspiration, and it’s also great for content creators hoping to drive traffic. Writes Kelby,

If you’re a blogger jumping in, it is probably because you would like to get exposure and traffic as a result. Just like other social networks, you should primarily pin content from other sources or you will look spammy. Still, you can pin your own content on occasion. What is even better, however, is to encourage others to pin your content.

Read the entire post, and then check out Kelby on Twitter (@typeamom) and on Pinterest (kelby).

Pinterest: Behind the Design of an Addictive Visual Network by Lauren Drell on Mashable

One of the best ways to learn about any network or platform is to hear information straight from the horse’s mouth. That’s what you have in this post from Lauren Drell at Mashable – a great interview with one of the co-founders of Pinterest, Evan Sharp. Along with Paul Sciarra and Ben Silbermann, Evan created this social discovery platform as a way for people to visually share things they find interesting, and today, it’s one of the fastest-growing start-ups out there. Check out this complete interview with Evan to learn more. Here’s a snippet:

I was always collecting images on the web in folders on the desktop of my computer, but it wasn’t a very good system for remembering where things came from or who made them. We wanted to create a place where you can go to upload or collect things on the web and simply organize it the way you want to [each with its associated metadata].

You can find Lauren on Twitter @drelly and on Pinterest (drelly).

18 Real-World Examples of How Brands Are Using Pinterest by Sakita Holley at SakitaHolley.com

Pinterest isn’t just for bloggers. This is also an absolutely great platform for brands who want to connect with their audience. Companies like Nordstrom and Whole Foods have been cited often for using Pinterest well, but these aren’t the only companies making awesome use of Pinterest. In this post, Sakita takes a look at 18 brands that really understand how to use Pinterest – and as you can guess, they’re doing more than just promoting their own products. From her post:

I’m always curious to see how brands use various platforms to engage with their customers and fans. So naturally I’ve been scouting for early brand adoption examples on Pinterest, a new website still in its infancy that puts a digital spin on pin boards.

After checking out Sakita’s post, you can find her on Twitter (@MissSuccess) and on Pinterest (misssuccess).

BONUS: I usually only highly three brilliant bloggers and list the rest as links below, but this week, I wanted to also highlight a fourth post, from Dave Copeland (copewrites/@copewrites) at Read Write Web – “A Guy’s Guide To Pinterest.” Most of the posts this week are written by women and the platform itself tips in favor of female users…but that doesn’t mean guy’s can’t use it too! In fact, there are a lot of really cool things guys are pinning on Pinterest, so fellas, don’t be afraid to sign up.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about Pinterest? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link

Next Week’s Topic: Public Speaking

I’d love to include a link to your post next week – and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

Why SOPA and PIPA Matter More Today Than They Did Yesterday

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Yesterday, sites like Wikipedia, Reddit, and Craigslist blacked out in protest of SOPA and PIPA, two anti-piracy bills that would cause tons of Internet censorship. Countless blogs also joined the protest, and major sites like Google and Pinterest put up notices about the bills, even though they didn’t shut down completely.

Today, the Internet is, for the most part, back to normal. I’m still seeing a few tweets here and there about SOPA and PIPA,and a few sites are still alerting users/readers, but it’s back to business as usual for most people.

I have to be honest. That scares me.

SOPA and PIPA protests are more important today than they were yesterday. I saw many reports (mostly in mainstream media, like on the news) saying that the SOPA/PIPA protest yesterday was a giant failure. While I don’t believe that’s true, I do think that getting angry on Twitter and Facebook for a day doesn’t really matter. What matters is the follow through.

BlogWorld Expo is a conference for content creators. Last night, we held a Twitter chat to talk about SOPA and PIPA and one of the points brought up by Curtis Silver is that it is our responsibility, as content creators, to make sure this issue continues to stay on people’s minds. Others made similar points and they’re absolutely right – yesterday, several members of Senate pulled their support, but PIPA could still pass next week and SOPA could as well next month. We need to continue to voice our opinions against these bills.

Have you called your state’s elected officials? Tell them that you will not vote for anyone supporting SOPA or PIPA. Even an email or hand-written letter helps get your voice heard. Believe it or not, these politicians do listen to the people they represent because – surprise surprise – they want to get reelected. By saying you won’t vote for them, you’re threatening their jobs.

If you’re a content creator online, don’t let your readers/listeners/viewers forget how important SOPA and PIPA are. And no matter who you are, continue sharing this information on social media. Yesterday was only a battle. Let’s make it our goal to win the war.

How to Get Started Blogging for Yourself or Someone Else

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Blog

The word blog was first used in 1999. When you stop and think about it, it’s still a fairly new concept. Sure, there are millions and millions of blogs in existence and it might seem like everyone you know has a blog. But believe it or not, not everyone does or even knows what one is.

Since I wrote a little about my blogging story and how I’ve turned it into a full time living, I’ve had countless people ask me through emails, social networks and in person how they can do what I do. Either they haven’t dove into the world of blogging yet and would like to, or they have one already and want to take it to the next level.

When you’ve never done something like starting a blog before, it can be extremely overwhelming. That’s why I’m getting back to the basics of blogging. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be covering everything you’ve ever wanted to know about blogging. From choosing a domain name and keyword research to coming up with post ideas and the biggest topic everyone wants to know about – monetization.

Today’s topic is for those of you starting from ground zero.

How to Get Started Blogging for Yourself

I’m going to steal Nike’s slogan for a second here and tell you to “Just Do It”. I’ve helped quite a few people with setting up their blogs. We’ve brainstormed domain name ideas together and then I took over the technical part of purchasing the domain name, installing WordPress, setting them up with a template design they like and making sure all the necessary plug-ins are installed.

After they’re good to go, I always get this question: “Now what?” and I give the same answer every time: “Start writing.”

Before you get overwhelmed with all the technical terms such as “domain name” and “installing WordPress”, let me give you some sources where you can skip that whole process and focus on the writing aspect.

Setting up a Blog Yourself

  • WordPress , Blogger or Tumblr – If you’ve never blogged before and you want to check it out, get some experience and just see what it’s like, I recommend setting up a free account on one of these blogging platforms. It’s an easy step by step process and it can get you some blogging experience under your belt.
  • Ask a Friend for Help – If you have a friend who is familiar with setting up blogs, ask for their help. They can either guide you through one of the free blogging platforms or set up your own domain name and personalized template.

Hiring Someone to Set up Your Blog

  • Pay for It – If you’re willing to invest a little bit of money, you can find someone on Fiverr.com who will set up a blog for you. My husband and I have used this service several times for jobs and have had a good experience. It’s only $5 to hire someone, plus around $10 for the purchase of a domain name.

Start Writing

Now that you have your blog set up, as I mentioned before, the best way to learn is by doing. No one knows about your blog right now. No one’s going to be reading it, so get in there and play around. Learn how to use all of the functions within your blogging platform, find your blogging voice and before you know it, you’ll be a blogging fool. (That’s what my friends call me.)

If you’re using a free blogging platform, you will eventually want to move your posts over to your own domain name. This shows companies (who you may work with in the future) and your readers that you are a professional and that blogging isn’t something you do just for fun, in your spare time. It shows this is a business and that’s important when it comes to making money blogging.

How to Get Started Blogging for Someone Else

Another question I get quite often is “How can I get hired to blog for someone?” I started blogging for a blog network in 2006. I had some experience with both blogging and website development, which helped me get hired. Blog networks aren’t what they used to be (stay tuned for a Where Are They Now? series covering this very topic) and it’s not easy to get hired to blog for a company. Here’s why.

You need experience. This is why it’s so important to “Just Do It” as I said above. If a company is going to hire you to blog for them, they want to see your past experience in the field. They’ll ask for writing samples, published articles and you need to have some to show them to even be considered for the job. I’ve been told before, when a blogging job has been posted, some people have received hundreds of submissions. You also have to realize you are going up against people who have years of blogging experience, degrees in journalism and a nice looking resume.

I am not trying to be a Debbie Downer here, but I’m also not going to paint a picture of a rainbow and a pot of blogging gold at the bottom of it. The business of blogging is not something you can start making a living from right away, so please don’t quit your day job.

Now, after harping on the fact that you need blogging experience to get a blogging job, I do need to cushion the statement with the fact experience isn’t always 100% needed. For example, let’s say someone needs a writer for a very specific topic such as knitting. If you’ve never written a blog post in your life, but know how to knit and can teach others to knit, you have a leg up on the competition (obviously). If you can provide a well written writing sample and show your knowledge in the topic, you have a good chance of being hired.

Here are a few places to look for paid blogging and writing positions:

  • Problogger Job Board – I have personally used this site to get hired for freelance work in the past. As you can see, jobs are posted every week. People are searching for someone who will write about every subject you can imagine, from cats and gardening to marketing and using Photoshop.
  • Demand Studios – This company offers writing assignments for experienced, professional writers. They pay per article, around $15 to $25, depending on the length and topic.
  • About.com – In order to write for About.com, you have to go through quite the process. First, you have to apply and get accepted and then go through a two-part online orientation and evaluation program. During the program, you are going up against several others applying for the same topic. Just realize you will have to put in quite a bit of work and in the end, you can be told no.
  • Freelance Writing Jobs – Our very own Deb Ng started this site and sold it to Splashpress Media. When you visit, you’ll see a variety of available blogging and writing gigs, as well as writing tips and business help.

What’s Better: Blogging for Yourself or Someone Else?

This is another question I’ve received and it all depends on one thing: you. Some people are wired to work for themselves and some people are wired to work for someone else. There’s some of us who do both! I write for BlogWorld, SocialMoms and I own several of my own blogs. One thing is for certain, I never get bored.

I hope I’ve answered some of your questions about blogging for yourself or someone else. Do you have tips for the blogging newbie? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

5 Ways to Know if Your Content Is Resonating with Your Audience

Author:
womancomputer

Every few months or so, I like to take a step back and analyze the content on my blog. I want to make sure I’m providing tips, news, entertainment and information that resonates well with my audience. There are both technical and non-technical ways to measure this. Some may seem obvious to you, but you haven’t taken the time to put the tip into practice, and some of these ways might be brand new to you.

Here are five ways to know if your content is resonating well with your audience.

Conduct a Poll

I really enjoy conducting polls both on my blog and on Facebook using their polls feature. I’ve found out some interesting things about what my readers are looking for that I may not be providing for them, things that they absolutely love, or even about content they don’t really care for.

Polls are super easy and quick to put together. I suggest offering no more than five answers to your question. For example, ask the simple question “Why do you enjoy visiting…?” and put the title of your blog there. I’ve done this before and provided answers such as reviews, giveaways, personal videos or deals. Not only do I ask them to participate in the poll, but I also ask if they would leave a comment explaining why they chose the answer they did. I have had great results this way and it has helped me narrow down my content.

For WordPress, I like using the WP-Polls plug-in. On Facebook, simply click on “Ask a Question” for your personal page or “Question” for your business page.

Email Your List of Subscribers

You do have subscribers right? If you answered no to that question because you haven’t added that feature to your blog, stop what you’re doing right now and visit my post “Six Things You Can Focus On Today to Increase Your Blogging Results”. I preach creating a list…yesterday.

This is also something I have personally done. Simply ask your subscribers what they like about your blog content and what they would like to see more of. Offering up a little incentive such as a free download of one of your eBooks or an Amazon gift card usually increases the number of people that will answer. Hey, we all like free stuff, right?

Check Your Social Networks

This might be a no-brainer, but if something you wrote really spoke to your audience and they absolutely loved it, don’t you think they’ll not only share it but say something about it? Don’t just check the number of Tweets and Likes you are receiving, check to see what they’re saying about your content. I would trade five tweets where no one said a thing about my article, for one where someone tweeted it but also said, “This is a must read” or “This is exactly the answer I was looking for.” This speaks loudly to your readers and potential readers.

Use the Power of Facebook Insights

This goes hand in hand with my previous tip, but it digs a little deeper. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of Facebook Insights, because we would be here all day long. You can read the Facebook Insights Guide which they call a “Product Guide for Facebook Page Owners” and get some in-depth information.

If you’re familiar with the new Facebook Insights roll-out, then you know on the left hand sidebar under “Likes” it says “People Talking About This”. This number is a great way to measure if your content is resonating with your audience because it speaks to engagement. This lets you know in a one week period how many people liked your page, posted to your page and mentioned, liked, shared or commented on a post of yours.

Just because a page has thousands of Likes, does not mean there is a good dose of interactions with the readers (engagement).

Facebook Insights is not only a great tool to measure the health of your Facebook page, but your blog content as well.

A Healthy Dose of Comments

It makes me sad when I visit a blog where they have the comments closed. (Does that make it a real blog then? Wait, that’s another discussion.) But when I visit a blog where there is a nice conversation flowing in the comments section, it makes me want to join in.

This tip may seem obvious to most of you, but I think all of us – whether we are brand new to this crazy world of blogging or if we’ve been doing it for ten years – need to take a step back and analyze the interaction. Are we interacting with our readers? Are they finding our content valuable enough to take a few minutes to leave a comment?

You can also get fantastic post ideas from comments your readers have left. Look for questions they asked or statements saying they wish you would write more of a certain type of article. If they are practically begging for more, then by all means, give them more!

How can you tell if your content is resonating well with your audience? Share some of your tips in the comment section below. Also feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you would like to see more of here on the BlogWorld blog. Are we resonating with you?

Could Facebook Shut Down? Understanding SOPA and PIPA

Author:

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our video explaining what SOPA and PIPA are and why you should care about these bills:

Pass the video on to all of your friends so we can fight SOPA/PIPA together! Even if you aren’t from the United States, these potential laws affect you; they affect every Internet user.

Please head to http://www.blogworld.com/SOPA to find out more about how you can join the fight against SOPA/PIPA and join us on Twitter this Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 at 9 PM EST for #bwechat, where we’ll be talking about these bills and what they mean to you.

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