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5 Creative Solutions for Twitter Embeds on WordPress

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When WordPress came out with the ability to embed Tweets on posts and pages, a few of us thought, “cool.” It’s so easy. Just click on “Expand”, then on “Details,” which will open up the single tweet. Then just copy and paste the URL. And there you are: a sweet, instantly embedded tweet, like this:

 

But after the excitement wore down, we struggled to find a really good use of it, and it seemed that the feature would become just another WordPress function.

With that said, let’s wrap our brains around 5 ways to get creative with embedded tweets.

1. The Rambling Testimonial Problem

Sometimes your clients’ testimonials can seem too formal, too long or lacking in authenticity while the real ones —short, to the point and fun— are ‘hidden in unexpected places.

The Solution: Mix it up by embedding a few real-time tweets on your site’s pages along with your others. If someone brags about your services, workshops or products in a tweet, be ready to capture it before it whooshes by.

2. The Boring Review Problem

Sometimes reviews of products or services feel canned to your readers, lacking in freshness, spontaneity and personality. They are just plain boring.

The Solution: I see fantastic, personal, in-the-moment tweets about restaurants, hotels and other products and services come through my stream all the time. If you see a tweet about you or your business, take it for what it is and consider using it because it’ll make a powerful statement.

3. The Dull Fact Problem

Sometimes facts you want to present in a blog post or web page are intriguing and other times they are dull.

The Solution: If someone shares a fact on Twitter,  someone with a name and a face, well, that makes it more interesting. Of course, you should verify that it is indeed true, but think about livening up your article or post with it.

4. The Self-Important About Page Problem

Let’s face it. An about page can easily become the ramblings of an egomaniac. Whether you write in the first person or third person, you are talking about yourself and attempting to show the world that you can solve their problems. It can make you feel icky, writing so much about yourself.

The Solution: Sometimes someone shares something unique about you on Twitter and in fewer than 140 characters, the have captured the essence of you. It’s great because it provides social proof. It isn’t just you saying things about yourself. A few tweets from other people on your about page offer that unique, outside perspective.

5. The I’m-Talking-to-Myself Problem

 Your blog can feel like one huge echo chamber  if it’s always just you.

The Solution: Bringing in new voices to supplement your post or story is a great way to create a conversational setting. By scattering tweets here and there from people who have something to say about your topic in real time can add an in-the-moment feel. Another benefit of embedding your tweets is that if a reader finds the per on interesting, they can click and follow them on Twitter, right from your blog.

What other ways can you see embedded tweets being used to make your content more powerful?

5 Beginner Steps to Creating a Blog that You Can Monetize

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Last week, I wrote Follow 50+ MBA-level Case Studies in Content and Inbound Marketing about a 48-hour class that is happening at a university in Silicon Valley.

In the first week, my students wrote a combined 750-ish posts of varying length and purpose – daily posts, guest posts, link bait posts. At Top 10 Content Marketing Sites in the Social Media MBA course I listed up the best performers. You’re welcome to take a look to see just how many unique visitors, total visitors and page views that much effort can produce in sites that are starting from zero.

In this post I want to articulate the 5 first steps my students and I had to take BEFORE they could think about making money with content marketing and the challenges I faced to get them there and how I, ahem, overcame those challenges just to get the students online and writing.

Step One: Get a Domain Name and Hosting

More than 2 weeks out my trusty TA (teacher’s assistant) and I started sending emails to the whole class via the school’s learning management system. No response. What do you do when you can’t get a response and the only way to contact the students is email? You spam them until they figure out they had better do something.

About half of the 60+ students showed up with a domain name and hosting.

Another one fourth showed up thinking, “What’s the difference between having a domain and hosting? Aren’t they the same?

And still others said, “You emailed us? When? You want us to do what?”

There was no easy answer. My trusty assistant, Kevin, came to class and they drove him ragged getting everyone a domain and hosting. It wasn’t pretty. But over the course of the first 2 days and 16 hours of in-class time and a ton of emails, we got everyone in the class online with a domain, hosting and WordPress installed.

If any reader here has a better solution to this problem…by all means let me know.

Step Two: Get the Right Plugins and Set Up the Back End

With a group of students who don’t even know what WordPress is, much less a plugin, there was no easy answer to this either. Throwing something up on the giant screen and having everyone follow along just wouldn’t work. Besides I had to spend a LOT of time on Steps 3-5 and couldn’t afford the time.

I nearly killed my local and overseas staff. They were spending about 1-2 hours per site setting the permalink structure I like, getting the right plugins in place – SEO, sitemap, etc. Creating webmaster accounts for each and installing Google Analytics so we can track the results. 60+ websites at various stages of coming online x 2 hours each = a LOT of time.

Again, I knew of no simple way to do this other than throw food under the door to keep my staff happy, or at least well fed, while they brought all the sites to an equal footing. Suggestions?

Step Three: Decide What to Write About

Unlike the first two steps,  at this point I finally had everyone on the same page, in the same room, doing the same thing. I could get all 60+ students to look up and follow along.

I had all students create a tagline. My specific instructions were for them to tell me what they were going to write about in 10 words (not a magic number, but definitely less than 12) or less what they planned to write about. They were NOT to use adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions or articles. They were to come up with 3 different iterations and show them to five other classmates for feedback and pick the best one. Focus for a site from the get go is critical

Other instructions:

  • Write about something you are interested in
  • Write about something you can create an interest in
  • Write about something you have a lot to say about.

In my world, if a blogger doesn’t have a 1,000 things to say about their topic they will have a hard time making money with their site.

Step Four: Use SEO to Ensure Posts are Found

What is SEO anyway? Search Engine Optimization. But what is that?

I define Search Engine Optimization as content that appeals to real people (first) and to search engines (second). But it must appeal to both.

If a blogger only considers readers they might get read but only by the people the blogger tells to go their directly. They will not be found as well by search engines. If the blogger considers only the search engines they are likely to come up with stuff that is just unreadable. There is an ideal balance for the content. Ideal balance = optimization.

I have learned that there are some 220+ parameters that can go into an ideal post/page. I have also learned that pages can be overly optimized. But what I find of particular value is that I have also learned that there are about 20 ‘things’ you can do to a blog post that will get you 90-95% of the results you want. I will write about them in a future post.

If you can’t wait, you can buy the book – Marketing with Social Media. It’s the text book, first draft, that I wrote for this course.

Step Five: – Make a Plan and Work the Plan

For every hour of classroom work, I can require 2 hours of work outside of the class.  I am requiring my students to write 600-750 words DAILY. How hard can that be? They are permitted to adapt to their own style.

Some like to write multiple short posts.

Some like to write one long post each day.

Some like to do a combination.

It doesn’t matter to me.

Additionally, the students are required to guest post weekly at my home site about their progress (you can read their posts at Bill Belew Guest Writer AND guest post at one classmate’s web site that is relevant. Lots of link love happening that will only get better and of more value as the sites mature = get more content. Lastly, they are required to write one relatively higher quality post – link bait style.

Ongoing:

All 5 of these steps were done in the first 2 days of class, each a full 9-hour day, counting lunch. The students are off and writing at this point. Some get it, some don’t. Every educator knows that just because you tell somebody something, it doesn’t mean they learned it.

In the meantime, in about 10 weeks, this class will wrap up with some 15-20,000 posts being written over a large variety of niches and at various paces and different lengths and with different intensity and interlinking. How cool is that?

What do you think I can learn from this?
What would you like to learn?

What you can do:

Step 1 – Subscribe to the Bill Belew.com/blog to get more immediate updates from me at my home site. You will also be able to read the inbound and content marketing student experiences first hand

Step 2 -Subscribe to this NMX blog to get updates when they come out here.

Thanks for reading.

Follow 50+ MBA Level Case Studies in Content and Inbound Marketing

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I, Bill Belew, wondered to myself, what if I could get a bunch of, say 50+ MBA-level students together in a classroom setting and have them take content and inbound marketing serious? Could I learn something? What would I learn?

More prone to acting than just sitting around and thinking about things, I approached a university in the Bay Area of Silicon Valley about offering a course on content and inbound marketing in their MBA program. They hopped right on it and a class called – Marketing with Social Media – was born.

On the first day of class 65, count ’em, of  74 enrolled students showed up. The other nine students missed class for one reason or the other and are playing catch up.

There were some 16 hours of instructions over two days on the first of three weekends for a full 48-hour course.

The university allows that students be given two hours of outside-the-classroom, I think that’s called homework, for every one hour in the class room

Think big smile! I gave my students 96 hours of work EACH to do on their web sites.

Calculator says – 96 hours x 74 students = 7,200 hours of dedicated effort to creating good, meaningful, original content on brand spanking new web sites.

Give or take a few dropped students and some overachievers and I am reasonably expecting at least some 5,000-6000+ hours of, ahem, quality (more on the challenges in future articles) work to be done in a variety of niches on different blogs by business-minded content creators who have a vested interest in their sites. Vested interest = they will fail the class if they don’t do what I require or they really want to launch a business idea that they have been mulling over and they are using the class to do that.

15 questions I want answered:

  1. Are short articles better than longer ones? And for whom or for what?
  2. How long should articles be?
  3. Is it better to post once a day, multiple times a day, weekly?
  4. What about linking internally to one’s own site?
  5. What about linking externally to other quality sites?
  6. What’s a good reasonable strategy for acquiring back links from other sites?
  7. Can my students get mojo if they link to each other and there is a relevance to the sites that are linked together?
  8. What about images? Captions? Descriptions?
  9. Do some niches perform better than others when starting out? When already established?
  10. What about traffic from the other social networks?
  11.  Inbound traffic – is it better coming from search, referrals, direct, paid or the social networks?
  12.  What are some of the challenges, lessons learned when going from zero to 65 people online working on creating quality content for marketing purposes?
  13.  Is content marketing a good strategy to generate revenue from impressions, for selling affiliate products, for offering services, for local, national or global traffic?
  14.  Is getting a group like this together to create a network even copacetic?
  15. And what about plugins? Are some better than others? Are there some that are more important than others? Are there some that are essential?

I expect to KNOW as oppose to guess at the answers to many of these questions above as well as to questions I haven’t even thought to ask yet, which is why I’ll end this article with some questions for the reader.

5 questions I want to ask you:

  1. What if you were me?
  2. What would you do with this class?
  3. Where would you start?
  4. What would you teach?
  5. What kinds of requirements would you make of them?

Please meet me in the comments and let me know your answers.

Consider following this series as I provide insights, lessons learned, victories and failures (if you promise not to judge) from the case studies generated in and out of this class.

3 Steps for those who want in on the content marketing discussion:

Step 1 -Subscribe to this NMX blog to get updates when they come out here.

and/or

Step 2 – Subscribe to the Bill Belew.com/blog to get more immediate updates from me at my home site.

Step 3 – Read the inbound and content marketing students experiences first hand. The students are giving weekly updates in the Guest Writer category. Oftentimes, you might read about their experiences BEFORE I do. That’s right. My editors might push them through before I see them.

PLEASE: If my students blast me in one of their posts before I see it, let me know. 😎

Why Your Blog NEEDS to be Different: Tips from Patrice Yursik at NMX

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“Strong, original, consistent content is your surest way to build a big brand from your little blog.” – Patrice Yursik

At NMX 2013, Patrice Yursik (a.k.a. Afrobella) spoke about one of the biggest challenges for bloggers: How to take your little blog to the next level where you’re actually a big brand. Patrice has serves as a spokesperson for national hair and beauty brands, has worked the red carpet, and consistently gets opportunities most niche bloggers only dream about.

And for Patrice, her success started with a single decision. Back when she started her blog, Patrice made a conscious decision to be different.

Filling the Void

Patrice has been blogging since 2006, when starting a blog about a topic no one else was covering was a much simpler task. Today, however, it seems like there’s a blog about everything. That doesn’t mean you can’t fill a void, though, because what you have that other blogs don’t have is YOU. What experiences do you bring to the table? What unique interests do you have? Think about the demographic you want for your community, and find a way to talk to these people.

Being True to Yourself

One of the decisions that Patrice says has paid off for her big time is the decision to be herself online. In the new media industry, there are lots of “rules” that top bloggers say you have to follow in order to be successful–but rules are made to be broken. Says Patrice, “Mainstream needs to embrace different. Whatever makes you different also makes you desirable.”

People respond well to an authentic voice. And brands want that too. During her session, Patrice talked about all the opportunities she’s had with brands, in part because they appreciate her authentic voice and the community she has built around it. Had she followed the “rules” and done what other bloggers told her to do, she wouldn’t have been able to build a community around her identity as a natural-haired, plus-sized, fashion-obsessed woman of color.

What Are You Offering that Others Don’t?

Every piece of content you write should be unique. Be proud of everything you write, so you can offer your readers something different than what they can get from other bloggers. That’s what will keep people coming back.

Give them weekly features to look forward to. Write content with your own twist. Remember, everyone in your niche is getting the same review products, the same PR pitches, and the same news stories to cover. Be different and you’ll stand out.

Want to learn more about what has made Patrice a successful blogger with a big brand? You can check out her entire NMX 2013 session at NMX University with premium membership, which gives you access to our complete 2013 Virtual Ticket. Learn more here and get your virtual ticket today!

Putting Pen to Paper: P H O T O G R A P H Y

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Have you ever had a challenging time coming up with a blog topic? Everyone has a different way to jumpstart their juices. I simply take notes (yes, actually take to paper, pen in hand) and jot what comes to mind. So if you’re at a complete stop, simply grab a piece of paper, then start jotting anything that comes to you. Every dot is a powerful connector.

I love photography, so I decided to jot down each letter to jumpstart this post about my inspiration for taking photographs. Perhaps one of the letters will stick-to-mind on your next jaunt into the world of photography, or in your own writing discovery.

P-H-O-T-O-G-R-A-P-H-Y

Passion: everything that gives this little planet a voice excites me. I am always present-minded aware that life is fleeting. It gives me that sense of urgency to capture unique moments of truth.

 Autumn Rainbow

 

Honesty: many people ask me if I “stage” my subject. I am a true believer in what you see in that moment is truth, and I want to snap it and share it, exactly how it presents in front of me.

Asbury Park Americana

 

Opportunity: opportunity is all around you. Look down, to the side, up. Frame a spot catching your eye. And snap the shot. Right place, right time.

Three Umbrellas

 

Timing: sometimes you’re simply in the right place at the right time. And, sometimes you’re not. So create that timing. When you anticipate that perfect moment wait, patiently… patiently.. patiently… then snap your shot!

Tent Sweet Tent

OOH!: it’s that feeling: “STOP THE CAR” ~ you just *have* to stop what you’re doing, grab your camera and take the shot. There’s nothing like the feeling that you captured a moment no one else had the chance to see, and immediate need to share it!

Sandy Moment

 

Gratitude: when I’m in the right place at the right time; when I upload my photos to my computer then discover the camera captured something I didn’t see, I say “thank you” aloud to The Universe.

Kiss

Readiness: goes without saying.  A photographer is *always* ready to take the shot. Whether it be camera-in-hand or simply cell phone with camera, anything with a lens, and memory.

Grandfather

Amazement: I truly am amazed by life. Its design, texture, color, shape, expression. Everyday is a day of wonderment and inspiration to capture that moment.

Celebration

 

Patience: admittedly, not my strongest ability, though, interestingly, if I anticipate that perfect shot, I can hold tight and still for as long as it takes.

Effervescent Rainbow

 

Happy: the moment I have the opportunity of time to grab my camera and head outdoors to shoot, I’m happy, and all in the world is good.

Serenity

 

Yay! The feeling of sharing my photos and seeing a person’s eyes light up and say “Wow! I love this!” It gives me complete joy to evoke emotion with a photograph. It gives me a true sense of accomplishment and confirmation of purpose in the art of photography.

Snowswept Beach

 

So if you find yourself at full-stop on ideas for starting your post, or you’re a budding photographer interested in looking for a way, or reason to begin, simply grab your pen, and sheet of paper. Your mind already knows the answer; it just needs the pen and paper to jot the “how to” and then, you’re on your way!

Do you have more tricks for coming up with, and moving ideas ahead?

How to Build Anticipation on Your Blog (and why you should do it)

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Today is Christmas Eve and I find myself feeling like a kid again. This happens to me every year. My family started the tradition of exchanging presents on Christmas Eve after my sister and I stopped believing in Santa simply because Christmas day is filled with the hustle and bustle of spending time with the extended family. So, starting the moment I wake up on December 24 until the moment we start exchanging gifts, I feel one thing: anticipation.

Anticipation is an extremely strong emotion. Children can’t contain themselves, but even as adults, anticipation can drive you crazy. Kids might blurt out “Are we there yet?” on a long car ride, but let’s be honest. All of us adults are thinking it too. Time seems to slow when you’re waiting for something to happen. Soon, you can’t think about anything else.

You can harness the power of anticipation on your blog, stirring up these feelings in your readers to make them constantly think about coming back to your blog. Think there’s nothing to anticipate on your blog? Think again! With a little creativity and planning you can have your readers waiting on the edge of their seats.

Teasing Your Content

The first and easiest way to create a sense of anticipation in your readers is to tease your content. Tell them what they can expect from you in the future and get them so excited to read whatever you will offer that they bookmark your site or subscribe via RSS. You can tease your content in several different ways:

  • In your blog posts themselves, hint at future related posts. (“If you liked this post about baking a chocolate cake, you don’t want to miss tomorrow’s post where I share my best frosting recipe!”)
  • Update social media while you’re preparing a post. (“I just finished an amazing interview with John Smith. You definitely don’t want to miss this one when I post it on my blog next week!”)
  • Tell your email list. (“Hope you liked this week’s posts about end-of-summer shoes. Next week on the blog, I’m talking all about fall fashion, which you definitely don’t want to miss.”)
  • Give us a sneak peak. (“I’m at a conference right now and will be writing a wrap-up post on the blog later this week. Here are some pictures in the meantime.”)

Make your “tease” as mouth-watering as possible. One way to do this is to leave out some vital information. For example, the night before we announced that Chris Hardwick was going to be keynoting at NMX 2013, staff members teased the announcement by inviting people to guess who it was, giving hints, and sharing how excited we were. No one announced who it was until our blog post went live the next morning, but people were anticipating our announcements so much that people were DMing and emailing me (and other NMXers, I’m sure) and asking for the inside scoop.

Creating a Series

Another way to make people anticipate your post is to write a series. Here on the NMX/BlogWorld blog, we’ve written a number of series on topics such as getting started with Pinterest and creating better blog pages. This creates anticipation in a less obvious, more educational way. You’re still teasing your content in a sense, since you’re telling people what they can expect in the future, but it’s less about hype and more about the actual content.

The key is to make sure that you’re creating content people really need starting on the first day. You need to “hook” people. You want anyone who reads that first post to get so much out of it that they have to come back to your blog to read the rest of it.

Great Content on a Reliable Schedule

Lastly, I know I’m not saying anything new here, but you need great content on your blog if you want people to anticipate your posts. This is true for podcasts and videos as well. If your content is just “meh,” people won’t get excited about reading them in the future.

We have an entire blogging track at NMX filled with speakers who will talk about creating better blog content, but here are a few tips to keep in mind right now:

  • Define your style and find your voice. Not everyone will like you, but it’s better to have a 100 raving fans and 100 haters than 200 people who are luke-warm and disconnected.
  • Make sure your posts are formatted to be easy to read. Use pictures, headers, bullet points, etc. to help make your content (especially long content) look less intimidating to readers.
  • Break the “rules” when it makes sense (but not because you’re lazy). People will give you tons of rules that you should follow, but the best bloggers out there make their own rules. Just make sure that you’re ignoring tips and techniques because it truly is what is best for your blog, not because you don’t feel like doing something.
  • Support what you say with links. If you’re arguing a point, link to research and statistics. If you’re reporting the news, link to what others are saying. If you’re teaching me how to do something, link to related posts and examples. Links make your posts more credible and helpful.
  • Put your own spin on topics. Just because everyone has written about a specific topic doesn’t mean you should avoid it, but what you definitely should avoid is posting the same thing others are posting, just reworded. Put your spin on the topic. Interview someone related to a news story to get some fresh quotes. Voice your opinion. Give different examples. Change up the content type and produce a video. Doing something different is harder than just rewording the same old stuff, but the reward is worth the work.

In order for people to anticipate your content, no matter how good it is, you need to blog consistently. I know some people disagree with this advice, but I truly believe that the best bloggers out there are those who are posting at least two to three times per week. If you post less often, people lose interest and forget about you. Blogging just to get your words out there? Blog as often as you like.

But if you truly want to build an audience, you need to be consistent.

Better yet, if you release content on a certain day (or days), you can build even more anticipation. A great example of this is Jenna Marbles, whose YouTube channel I love. She only adds one video per week, but you know it is coming every single Wednesday. Put out content regularly like that, and people will anticipate it.

So those are my tips. Now it’s your turn to sound off in the comments. How do you create anticipation on your own blog? Or what have you noticed other bloggers doing that really makes you anticipate their future content?

Image Credit: Bigstock

The Photography Wars Heat Up

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My entire life I’ve enjoyed taking photos. Follow me on Instagram and you’ll see that I’m constantly capturing moments from my life and sharing them with the world. This allows people to connect with me in a way that my blog, podcast or other mediums have never allowed.

Most of us leave the house every day with a camera in our pocket (aka a phone) and yet businesses big and small seem to be ignoring or not fully realizing the power of photography when they plan out their marketing efforts.

Repeat after me: Photography MUST Be Part of Your Marketing Plans.

I’ve been saying it for years and yet not everyone was listening. We even dedicated a whole chapter to photography in Content Rules because Ann and I knew that no matter what business you were in, images are important.

This week we’ve seen the battle for photography heating up online as Instagram pulled their images from Twitter, Flickr unveiled a major update and Twitter added editing capabilities to their native app.

It is easier than ever to take a photo, post it online and get reactions to it. Take one minute to look at your social network of choice and you’ll see photos throughout.

Images are the most important content you can create to get attention online.

I’m not discounting other forms of content, but I am telling you that if you are not creating and sharing images as part of your marketing mix you are in trouble.

Humans enjoy looking at photos. They stand out and get attention from even the most click happy of web surfers.

During my session at NMX I’ll be discussing the importance of photography, but I’ll also be sharing tips on how anyone can find, take and share images that people will enjoy.

While I won’t have time to teach a full photography class, I do plan on sharing my personal workflow and plan on everyone leaving thinking and taking photos in a new light compared to when they walked in.

How to Turn ONE Piece of Content into an Online Marketing Marathon — Without Lifting a Finger!

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What if you could create one piece of content, and then turn it into four completely separate pieces of fresh, original content to use all over the internet to help market and promote your online brand?

It’s doable. And way easier than most think, and it’s the topic that I’ll be covering at my presentation in Vegas this coming January, entitled “45 Things Content Creators Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants to Help Grow Their Business.”

In the meantime, and to get you thinking about the topic and what it can mean to you, as an online content creator, here’s a rundown on how it works. You’ll see a bit of a pattern developing, which I’ll cover at the end of the post.

Step 1

Sit down in front of a video camera, with a like-minded person that you know your audience will love to hear from. If you can’t be with them in person, then get them on Skype and record a split-screen chat between the two of you. We’re talking 20-minutes of content, that’s all that’s needed.

Step 2

Send that video to an AV virtual assistant to have it converted into an audio podcast. They’ll clean it up and splice together a cool sounding intro and outro, too – to make it sound super professional.

You can also have that VA cut up the original video file into 5-minute clips, creating four original videos that can be uploaded to YouTube and used for keyword marketing, individually!

Step 3

Send the audio file to a transcriptionist virtual assistant (known universally nowadays as a “VA”) and have them convert it into a Word document. They will then draft and schedule the written content into your blogging software, which can be used as blog post content.

Step 4

Send that Word document to a graphic designer virtual assistant and have them layout it all out into a snazzy looking eBook, or PDF guide of some sort, which you can then use as a giveaway – such as an opt-in offer – or just a freebie for your community – they’ll love you for it, telling all their friends to go visit your blog!

Step 5

Have that same graphic designer VA convert certain quotes from the conversation into images that you can use on your social media channels. They’ll brand the image with your logo, a cool photo and a URL for people to remember to check out later on.

BOOM!

Five different pieces of original, branded content created out of just 20-minutes of work. Did you see the pattern? Yep – you got it. Utilize the power of virtual staff to build your content creation empire.

This is Just the Tip of the Content Marketing Iceberg!

There are so many more things you can get virtual assistants to do for you as a professional content creator. Membership sites, squeeze pages, full-blown online courses, Kindle books – you name it.

They can’t, however, do any babysitting, or pick up your dry cleaning!

The list goes on and on and I’ll be going into a LOT more detail on everything at New Media Expo in January. I’ll even touch base on the different tools you can use to work with VAs to have them become super productive, and for you to get the biggest bang for your buck as a virtual boss.

See you in Vegas, baby!

The Walking Dead Guide to Better Blog Content

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Even if you’re not a fan of zombies, you have to respect The Walking Dead. This AMC original series, based on a comic book series of the same name, has won several awards, including two Emmys, and has been nominated for a whopping 43 major awards overall. 10.9 million viewers tuned in for the season three premiere, making it the most-watched basic cable drama telecast in history, and the show even has its own devoted late-night talk show, The Talking Dead, with host Chris Hardwick.

This blog post isn’t about what you can learn about blogging from zombies, though. Today, I wanted to actually look at this television show and why it is so successful (and how that relates to your content!). I truly think what sets it apart from other basic cable shows is not its geeky appeal or marketing ploys, but rather its top-notch content.

(And for those of you who haven’t seen the show yet or aren’t 100% caught up, don’t worry – this post contains no spoilers!)

The Devil’s in the Details

In the very first episode of Season One, protagonist Rick Grimes wakes up in a hospital to find that the world has gone to…well, you know where. He wanders toward his home, confused, an in one of the most iconic scenes, sees his first still-moving “walker”: a female zombie who has been ripped in half, but is still crawling toward him, trying to bite him.

This show’s special effects are nothing short of amazing. That scene is movie-quality, as is most of the show. In fact, their special effects department has won numerous awards.

Seeing as this is a zombie show, it would have been really easy to focus on the story alone and settle for campy special effects. They choose instead to spend money and time on the details to get it right. I think that’s where some bloggers fall short. Writing great content is important, but have you taken the time for the details, the finishing work. Is the post formatted well? Did you add interesting and relevant images? What about statistics, quotes, and links to back up the information?

Good content is a dime a dozen online. We like to think it’s not, but the fact of the matter is that despite all the crap you’ll find online, there are also thousands of amazing bloggers out there. If you don’t care about the details, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd.

Restraint

What I find extremely intriguing about this television series is the amount of restraint the show’s writers use when telling this story. At the end of the day, it’s a tale about the zombie apocalypse. You want to please fans? Show some us the zombies! Show us gruesome zombie kills, horrifying human deaths, and disgusting walking corpses. Granted, if you’re not a horror fan, that might not be your cup of tea, but believe me when I say that this community is hungry for the blood and guts scenes.

The show has its fair share of zombie goodness, but there’s a certain amount of restraint used as well. The writers delve deeply into character development and take time to set up the story. Some episodes actually have very few zombies at all. Fans complained loudly during season two that it was too much talking and not enough action, but this was not without purpose. The writers needed time to tell the story, in order to make the experience that much better for the audience. Too much time spent on the horror element and gross-out scenes and you begin to lose site of what the show is really about.

I see bloggers make this mistake regularly – giving fans want they want, not what they need. You have to please your audience, but don’t lose site of what your blog is really about. You’re the expert. It’s up to you to direct the ship, which means sometimes missing out on those traffic spikes in order to write content you feel your readers really need. Keep readers entertained, but never at the expense of the “storyline” – the reason you write your blog.

Shock Value, Done Right

Lastly, I want to talk a bit about shock value. The Walking Dead isn’t afraid to surprise viewers, but in the right way. Some horror movies go for the cheap scare, the moment that make you jump when you realize the killer is standing right behind the character or a monster jumps out from behind the door. Sure, it makes your scream and jump in your seat, but this kind of shock rarely has any long-term value.

The Walking Dead has very few moments like this, but is not short on shock value. Instead, the show focuses on moments that will really shock you and have a lasting impact. They aren’t afraid to kill off main characters. They aren’t afraid to put characters in horrifying situations. They aren’t afraid to do a 180 degree turn and take the plot in a direction that most people never saw coming.

On your blog, you can write content that shocks readers in some way, gets them to click through and read your post, or you can go for long-term value.  Being controversial on your blog can lead to a landslide of traffic, but the value of this kind of traffic isn’t very high if you’re being controversial for the sake of it, rather than actually trying to voice a real opinion about a topic. Write content you really believe in, rather than writing posts that bait your readers. Building your traffic is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you want to learn more about creating great blog content, definitely check out the entire Blogging Track at NMX in Las Vegas this January. And if you want to talk zombies (or blogging..or both) definitely hunt me down at the show!

10 Ways To Stand Out As a Blogger

Author:

If you want to be like everybody else, go with the flow. But if you want to stand out as a blogger, you’ve got to be different. Here are 10 good ways to differentiate yourself from the sea of other bloggers out there by bringing something unique to the table!

1. Be Generous: One of the most effective ways to get readers’ attention is by being generous. Respond to comments. Interact on other blogs. Promote others’ work. Host a giveaway at your own expense. Continually look for ways to give to the blogging community, and you not only come across as a generous blogger—you become one worth following.

2.Be Passionate: When you’re genuinely excited about something, your audience can tell. Write about topics that truly matter to you, and look for ways to communicate your passion to your audience. This could be through writing, podcasts, videos, or something else. Do what feels right to you.

3. Be Everywhere: Making your blog visible is about more than churning out regular content. You need to find ways to reach your audience even off your specific site. Engage on social networks like Twitter and Facebook by providing links to your content, related links, and interesting updates. Guest post on other sites to tap into other sites’ audiences. Do what you can to be in as many places as possible in order to build your presence online.

4. Take an Alternate View: When everyone else in your niche is saying “up,” be the guy who says “down.” An alternate viewpoint can be the thing that makes you interesting. Try this tactic with caution, however—being different just to be different rarely works. Your audience needs to sense you’re also authentic about your contrary view.

5. Try a Different Spin: Talk about business like a comedian. Write about recipes through poems. Do a photography blog wherein you only post photos taken at the same certain time every day. Do what you can to find a way to take a different spin on your subject matter, and you’re sure to stand out.

6. Go Beyond a Template: Blogging templates are great tools to start with, but to make your site more noticeable, move away from an “out-of-the-box” design. Customize your template with a professional logo/header, attractive social media buttons, and so on. It should be different from any other site, not an exact replica.

7. Showcase Original Content: Write creative content for your blog that readers can’t find anywhere else. Likewise, instead of using clipart to spice up your posts, take your own photos—and make them good.

8. Build Real Relationships: Your readers are more than numbers; they’re people. Take the time to connect and engage with these people to build real relationships—this alone sets you apart from many bloggers and also builds your audience over time.

9. Don’t Give Up: Anybody can start a blog and quit within the first year— most bloggers do. So rather than joining that statistic, take the road less traveled simply by not quitting. If you keep consistently blogging for over a year, you’re already going to be in the upper echelon of writers who don’t give up.

10. Be Yourself: The reality is that there’s no other blogger on earth who can blog like you can, with your personality and perspective and history of life experiences. Infuse your blog with who you are, and you’ll have a unique voice unlike anyone else’s.

Have you used any of these approaches? What’s worked for you? Any ideas to add to the list?

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