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Protect Your Favorite Podcast from the Patent Trolls

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There are often very good reasons people and companies must defend their patents. The Patent system protects inventors. When a patent is infringed on, the holder must take action or risk losing their patent. That is how it works when the system is being used properly. Patent Trolls are not using the system as it was designed.

Patent trolls are not in the business of defending their patents. They are in the business of extortion. They purchase broad general patents and then make claims about infringement. They send out letters claiming a patent infringement and asking for “licensing” fees. It is nearly always cheaper to pay the fee than to fight it in court. Often these patent infringement claims would not likely hold up in court but few businesses are able to fund the 1.5 + million it would take to survive a legal battle.  Even Apple gave in and settled

For us non legal folks, that’s known as a shake down.

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In 2013 one of these trolls sent letters to several leading podcasters such as HowStuffWorks podcast (Discovery Channel), Marc Maron, Chris Hardwick, Adam Carolla  and more. They claim that a patent for their failed “Magazines on tape” Continue Reading

Becoming a Full-Time Blogger: An Interview with Cora Harrington from The Lingerie Addict

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Cora Harrington At NMX 2014, we were lucky to have Cora Harrington from The Lingerie Addict present a session about building your blog community. Cora sat down with me to discuss how she made that leap into blogging full time and what advice she has to new bloggers thinking about making this leap. Check out what she had to say about becoming a full-time blogger:

Allison: Thanks for the interview, Cora! How did you first become a blogger and what made you decide to start blogging about lingerie?

Cora: I started blogging about lingerie because I was dating this guy, and I wanted to buy some nice lingerie, but I had no idea how to shop for the stuff. I was also becoming more and more interested in lingerie just on my own, but my friends really didn’t want to hear about this cool new pair of stockings I found online.

While there were a few lingerie blogs around at the time I started, they mostly focused on sharing press releases and lookbooks, not on giving reviews or shopping advice. So I started just by posting reviews of things I bought and photos of items I was interested in buying. I never really expected anyone to read what I wrote; it was just a fun stress-reliever, especially since my day job was fairly intense (I used to work with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, physical assault, and family members of homicide victims).

Very, very slowly and over a long period of time, I built an organic readership based mostly on word of mouth. I’ve been blogging full-time for 2 years now and my blog is 5 years old. Unlike what a lot of people assume, I don’t actually come from a fashion, PR, marketing, or even writing background. And I don’t live in New York, the fashion capital of America. I went to school in sociology and I live in Seattle, and I definitely think of it as a privilege to be able to do something I love that’s so much fun everyday.

How did you decided to make the leap to become a full time blogger?

Honestly, there were several major developments that happened at once, both personally and professionally. A big one is that I started a serious relationship with my now-husband, and that meant I didn’t have much free time as before to spend on my blog. It’s one thing to work all night and everyday and on the weekends with your blog when you’re single and don’t have any dependents, but when I found myself in a relationship, some of my time needed to go into that as well.

My traffic and the visibility of my blog was also starting to increase dramatically. After 2 and a half years of almost no one reading me, I was abruptly getting thousands of readers per day (I’m sure it happened much more gradually than that, but looking back, it feels like no one read my blog and then all of a sudden, a LOT of people were reading my blog). That traffic increase also meant my blog took more time and energy; in short, it was becoming a very demanding hobby.

Finally, my blog started to make money. Once the revenue from my blog began to equal the take home pay from my day job (and we’re not talking an astronomical amount here, but it was enough to pay bills with), I began to seriously think about making the switch to blogging full-time.

Once you started blogging full time, did you do anything differently on your blog?

One of the biggest changes I noticed was that I started to treat my blog professionally, and I’m not necessarily talking about what I posted or how often I posted. Once I began blogging full-time, I registered as an LLC, filed for my business license, obtained my trademark, and purchased business insurance all within a few months. I also hired a team of writers, and began working with a virtual assistant. These were things that definitely could have and should have happened sooner, but it was hard to the find the time to do the legwork when my day job was taking up all of my daytime business hours. I also had more time to spend on writing content, promoting the site, and traveling to industry events (like Lingerie Market, for example, which happens in NYC twice per year).

What’s your best piece of advice for people who are considering quitting their jobs to blog full time?

I could say a lot here, but I think the most important thing is to make sure you’re surrounded with as much support from family and friends as possible. Self-employment has a lot of perks, but a definite downside is that it can be incredibly isolating. And that’s even more true when you’re self-employed as a full-time blogger. Not only is there the usual stuff like public criticism and personal insults, but a lot of people also won’t understand what you do or even think of what you do as a “real” job. And there will be times when things feel really lean and really tough, and when you’re genuinely not sure if you made the right decision or are heading in the right direction.

That’s when having a good support network is crucial. Having folks who believe in you and who believe in your ability to do this is so important, especially during those times of self-doubt. And those people also need to be honest with you when you’re heading in the wrong direction or perhaps need to come up with another solution. I’m very fortunate in that husband and my parents  and my close circle of friends, even though none of them are quite sure of what goes into running The Lingerie Addict, are very supportive of it and of me. Be deliberate about surrounding yourself with people who are invested in and hopeful for your success.

Thanks, Cora, for an awesome interview and for speaking at NMX 2014. Check out our virtual ticket if you want to get a recording of Cora’s session about building a blog community.

7 Ways to Suck at Building Relationships Online

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grave-hands-623090-m You know your  blog would take off if only Joe Schmoe the a-list blogger in your niche would have the good sense to read it and promote it. You just know it. It’s time to build that relationship. You’re going to be a rock star. You can feel it in your bones.

I hesitate to say that most people suck at building relationships online, but some days it sure feels like that, doesn’t it?

Building relationships is the key to blogging success, in my humble opinion, so if you don’t have this skill, you’re at a huge disadvantage. Let’s take a look at all the ways people are doing it wrong:

Mistake #1: Not Introducing Yourself

Several years ago, I wrote a post called, “Scott Stratten Doesn’t Know Who You Are,” which is filled with advice that I still stand behind today. The thesis was that you shouldn’t expect a-listers to just magically find your blog. If you want someone to know who you are, you have to say hello. You have to put in that work to build the initial relationship, and you have to be memorable.

Mistake #2: Playing the Tit for Tat Game

Just because you do something for someone doesn’t mean they are obligated to do something for you in return. When you do a favor for someone, like tweeting a link or giving a LinkedIn recommendation, you should do so because you want to, not because you think they’ll do the same for you.

Mistake #3: Disappearing

We’re building a great relationship with some funny banter on Twitter and then…poof…I don’t hear from you for three months. In that time, I won’t forget you, but our relationship certainly isn’t improving. I know it can be a challenge to keep up with everything and everyone, but I suggest making a list of 100 or so people and putting in the effort to continuously build your relationships with them on a weekly if not daily basis.

Mistake #4: False Flattery

There are few things worse than someone blowing smoke up your rear. Don’t flatter someone because you want to build a relationship. The best relationships are build on honesty and constructive comments. That doesn’t mean that the first contact you have with an a-lister out of the gate should be criticism (no matter how constructive), but gushing over someone’s work can come off as really fake.

Mistake #5: Building a Friendship of Convenience

Some people only contact me when they need help. It’s not even a tit-for-tat thing, which would almost be better, because at least I get something out of the deal! When you build a relationship with someone online, it’s okay to ask for help when you need it, but if you take, take, take without ever giving, people are not going to be inclined to help you.

Mistake #6: Thinking You’re a Bigger Deal than You Really Are

The “don’t you know who I am” mindset is really unattractive. No, I don’t know who you are, no matter how big your audience is. If you want to build a relationship with someone, be humble. Assume they’ve never heard of you, and if they have, it should be a pleasant surprise. Even if you are a big deal online, that kind of attitude makes it seem like you think you’re better than the other person. When building a relationship, always make the other person feel like the most important person in the room.

Mistake #7: Demanding Too Much Time

We’re all strapped for time. If you want to build a relationship with an a-lister, realize that they can’t spend three hours every day replying to your emails, tweets, Facebook messages, and phone calls. Be respectful of their time, and always say thank you for any advice or help they give you. Believe it or not, “thank you” is a phrase that never goes out of style (and is waaaaay too uncommon online).

What mistakes do you see people making when it comes to building relationships online?

Top 10 Reasons to Stop Writing Top-10 Posts

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number-ten

number-ten Lists: Bloggers love them. Readers love them. Pinterest loves them. So why not write lists all the time, right? Well, not so fast. Before you go churning out one more top-10 list on your site, consider the following reasons why you shouldn’t:

1. They’re Overdone. Everybody writes top-10 posts. You can find top-10 posts about everything from Ask Men’s Top 10 Websites to Use in 2014 to the FedEx Blog’s 10 Best Posts in 2013. Why be like everybody else? When you join the top-10 crowd, you can get lost in the sea of similar content.

2. They’re Gimmicky. In an oversaturated blog world, top-10 posts can be rather lacking. They’re gimmicky. They’re link bait. They promise something valuable but often leave readers disappointed, feeling like you’re just trying to get them to click through your site.

3. They Come Across Phony. Why are your top 10 reasons your top 10 reasons? What’s the significance? Why are they the best? Most lists won’t say this, creating a phony significance that your readers will know isn’t real.

4. You Might Annoy Your Readers. Curated content is OK, but too much curated content can annoy your readers. So when you merely repackage past posts into “top 10s,” your readers could wind up feeling cheated — and cheated readers don’t stick around.

5. They Make You Seem Stale. Everybody knows lists are a go-to tool for writers stumped for ideas, so when you post a lot of lists, you tell your audience you’re out of things to say.

6. They Take Time. Despite how they may seem to readers, lists take time to create, even if you’re just sifting through blog archives to find which posts to use. If this time isn’t yielding results, it’s wasted — why not focus on drafting original content instead?

7. They Don’t Go In-Depth. By their very nature, top-10 lists tend to be quick, shallow articles that don’t explore a topic in depth.

8. Write 10 Posts Instead. That quick top-10 list could turn into 10 informative posts if you would break it apart and explore each point further. This not only generates more content for you, but it also gives more value to your audience.

9. You Run Out of Ideas and Fill Your List with Fluff. When you’re writing a “top 10,” you may feel pressure to come up with more ideas than you have — and those fluff ideas aren’t actually helpful to your readers. Top-10 lists put you into a box.

10. Care about What You’re Saying. Here’s one of the biggest reasons not to write a top-10 list: You don’t care about it. When you’re only writing a list to write a list, everybody will know it. So rather than writing about what you think you should write about, write about what you care about instead.

Your Thoughts
Do any of the above reasons ring true to you? Do you write top-10 lists? Do you read them? Why or why not?

How to Turn Spam Emails into Blog Sponsorship Sales

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spam emails sponsorship sales

Who among us doesn’t receive a mountain of spam on a daily basis? How would you like to turn those spam emails into cold, hard cash?

No, I’m not advocating that you reply to the Prince of Nigeria who wants to send you money. What I am suggesting, however, is that you can reply to some of those spam emails in a certain way in order to flip the sender from spammer to sponsor. Blog sponsorship sales can help you take your monetization efforts to another level, so this is an opportunity you should definitely consider, depending on your niche.

When is a spammer not a spammer?

There are three main types of spam, in my experiences:

  • Spam from scam artists, which actively attempts to deceive you in some way, usually to acquire your social security number and other personal information.
  • Spam that is completely off-target, sending you ads for erectile dysfunction pills and other products you don’t want or need.
  • Spam that is sort-of on target, but sent by a PR rep or agency who clearly doesn’t understand how to best communicate with bloggers.

The third type of spam is what you can potentially turn into blog sponsorship sales.

Let’s say, for example, that you write a food blog. You might receive pitches every day from people who want you to promote their kitchen products, say a new type of spatula. Most reps don’t take the time to engage with bloggers and build relationships. Instead, they just “spray and pray”– in other words, they send emails to as many people as possible, asking them to promote their Spectacular Spatulas, and hope that even a small percentage of those people actually write a blog post or send out a tweet.

They’re spammers, but they have good intentions. They don’t mean to clog up your inbox. They just want to tell you about their product.

The Step-by-Step Process for Turning Spam Emails into Blog Sponsorships

The good news for you? If you do a little work instead of deleting these emails, you might be able to make some money! Here’s the step-by-step process:

  • Step One: Research the product.

First, you have to make sure the product (or service) the “spammer” is promoting is actually something that fits your blog well. If you promote products just for the money, you’ll find yourself making readers angry. Do a little research. Make sure the Spectacular Spatulas you’re promoting are innovative, high-quality, and priced correctly, not expensive pieces of junk. Remember, even if you label something as an ad, anything you put on your blog is an endorsement.

  • Step Two: Make sure your advertising rates are listed on your site.

If you accept advertising, have a page dedicated to listing your rates. Determine what kind of sponsorships you’ll sell. Popular options include:

  1. Sidebar banner ads
  2. End-of post banner ads
  3. Sponsored posts
  4. Sponsored podcasts and videos
  5. Text links
  6. Sponsored social updates
  7. Giveaways

You can opt to not include prices or to only include very general price ranges, but remember that the more information you make public, the less time you’ll waste. Pricing is tricky, but if you’re fair and honest, you don’t have to worry about pricing yourself out of the market. It’s older, but I still love this post about how to set your prices.

  • Step Three: Reply to the form letter with a form letter of your own.

I keep a form email on hand where I can “fill in the blanks” and use to reply to anyone who sends me the third type of spam. Here’s an example of what I might send if I were a food blogger who received an email about Spectacular Spatulas:

Dear John Doe,

Thanks for your email about Spectacular Spatulas! While I’m not able to promote every product people mention to me, I do think this would be a good fit for my readers. I have several options for sponsorships on my blog, which would allow you reach my audience.

You can find these options here: *link*

I would love to speak to you more about my traffic statistics, demographics, and editorial calendar so we can work together to promote Spectacular Spatulas. Let me know if you are interested.

Best,

Allison the Food Blogger

I get a response about 1% of the time, which might not sound like much, but when you think about the vast number of spam emails you get in a day, that number doesn’t look so bad! Not everyone who responds ends up purchasing a sponsorship, but about 25% of the ads I sell come from me responding to spam. It’s not a bad deal, and I highly encourage you to give it a try if you’re interested in selling blog sponsorships.

Image credit: Bigstock (altered)

Five ways to tell a visually compelling story online (Sponsored Post)

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3d person holding a megaphone forming the word blog.

SNAG_Program-0665 In today’s digitally focused world, it can be hard to break through all of the clutter. This makes it increasingly important to stay on top of trends. As part of the Army Marketing and Research Group, we constantly think about how we can bring our target audience the information they seek, in the best possible way. As we look to where digital and social media will go in the next few years, one thing is for sure – visual storytelling is imperative for getting your message across online.

Below are five ways you can tell a visually compelling story online that will help you reach and engage with your audience:

1. Think Mobile First
For the first time in history, people are now using the internet more through their mobile devices than through their desktop computers (Business Insider). And with more than 61 percent of mobile phone users in the United States using smartphones (Nielsen), adapting your site(s) for mobile consumption ensures a seamless user experience regardless of device and allows for more interaction online.

2. Develop a Web Content Series
Web content series are a medium still growing in popularity and open to a broad array of multimedia. The Starting Strong program is an original content series that follows young men and women as they are immersed in the U.S. Army experience for three days, ultimately making the decision on whether or not to enlist. A fully integrated marketing approach is key to not only driving viewers to watch the content, but also to keep them engaged with your digital properties.

3. Multimedia Blogging
Now more than ever it is important to include video and photo elements in traditional text blog posts to keep your audience interested and engaged. More and more, photos, videos and GIFs are driving the bulk of online engagement as you look at sites that have achieved mass popularity. Consider embeddable videos, compelling photo visuals and other free tools to easily engage your audience online.

4. Infographics
Data is important. But most times, data can be hard to digest. Infographics can add valuable context to existing stories by using visuals to represent numbers, relationships and facts that might otherwise be overlooked. For example, our signature Soldier blog, ArmyStrongStories.com, houses an incredible amount of information such as how many Soldiers contribute to the site, which countries they’ve posted blogs from and how many comments their blog posts receive. An easy way for the Army to package this information is through a robust infographic that tells our blogging story in a visually appealing way.

5. Include Paid Social to Support Your Content Syndication Program
This year, widely used social networks, namely Facebook and Twitter, made design and layout changes based on imagery. In addition, the fast adoption of Instagram, Pinterest and Vine shows just how important visual storytelling is in social media marketing strategies. Using quality visual content, as well as allocating spend to paid social, are growing in importance to reach your core audience.

 

For more information on the social/online strategic media outreach programs at Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG), check out www.goarmy.com, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

How to Build Your Brand Using Quora

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SNAG_Program-0662

SNAG_Program-0662 Quora is a digital space for users to exchange knowledge. Unlike its competitors, Yahoo! Answers and ChaCha, Quora’s user base attracts experts. From the beginning, business CEOs, Hollywood producers, and notable journalists have been answering questions.

Quora’s top answers are ones that were voted on by the users. Thus the answers that gain the most exposure are the answers that are the most useful or interesting.

How do you craft a strong answer that will get promoted?

The following Quora response made me want to buy a political book despite a minimum interest in politics.

The original question was: “What is the single most illuminating question I can ask someone?” There were plenty of interesting answers like ‘If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?’ and ‘When you die, what do you want to be remembered for?’

But the most popular answer came from New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor. It was so popular that it was ‘upvoted’ by 2,166 Quora users. As a comparison, the next highest answer had only 291 votes.

In Jodi Kantor’s response she recommends avoiding overly general and philosophical questions if you really want to get to know someone. To get honest answers you have to do your homework. She illustrates her point with an example from her interviews with the First Family:

“The most illuminating questions are simple and specific. In the fall of 2009, I interviewed [the] President and First Lady … about their marriage. My goal was to get them to avoid sound bites, to give honest, unrehearsed answers. . . . So I summoned up my nerve and asked them, “How do you have an equal marriage when one person is president?”

Her full response captivated me. And then I was hooked with this final sentence:
“Oh, and if you’re interested in the Obamas’ behind the scenes adjustment to the White House, my book has much more on the topic.”

What Makes a Good Answer?

Credibility: Kantor’s answer was started with a statement about her professional interviewing experience with the NY Times. With credentials right up front, I knew the answer came from a reliable source.

Unique perspective: Instead of giving another predictable answer, she rejected the premise of the question altogether and offered a unique perspective.

Support with storytelling: To support her point, Kantor told an insider story about Mr. and Mrs. Obama that had famous intrigue but at the same time was relatable as she discussed the interworking of marriage.

The Elements of Good Storytelling

In Kantor’s answer, she uses some basic storytelling elements to prove her point:

1. The back story/setting: Kantor explains how she came up with the question.

“I had come to understand that equality was a serious issue in the Obama marriage, and that in the White House, the president and first lady are not treated in the same way… So I … asked them, ‘How do you have an equal marriage when one person is president?’”

2. The obstacle: Kantor shows how receiving an answer to an unorthodox interview question was difficult with step-by-step action and dialogue.

3. Step-by-step action: The action keeps us reading.
“Barack Obama is normally so eloquent, but he botched his reply three times, stopping and starting over . . .”

4. Dialogue: The dialogue makes this story more relatable and personal.
“Finally on the fourth try, he half-joked that his staff was more concerned with satisfying the first lady than satisfying him.”

5. Details: The details help us feel like we’re in the room witnessing the interview.

Make Your Point Stick with Point Evidence Point (PEP)

An extremely effective way of getting your point across is the “Point, Evidence, Point” technique or PEP. To get your point to stick with your target audience you must make your point, and then give evidence to support, and then summarize your point at the end. For more on PEP, check out my previous podcast How to Make Your Point Stick.

Persuade with the “But You Are Free” Technique

The introduction must be earnest. Despite intentions, if products and services are discussed too directly, too often, or too early, your answer will feel like a sales pitch. However, if you don’t mention your products and services at all, it can be a lost opportunity. I saw a great Quora answer by a producer and blogger but because their products and services weren’t mentioned I had to Google the information.

Depending on users to go to Google is unreliable. Conclude answers with a brief line of products and services.

One effective technique for introducing your products or services is the “but you are free” method. With this technique the listener is told they are free to refuse the request being made. The idea is that you make it clear that the listener has a choice in the matter.

Jodi Kantor uses this technique in the last line of her response:

“Oh, and if you’re interested in the Obamas’ behind the scenes adjustment to the White House, my book has much more on the topic.”

Quora is different than other social media platforms because brands are built not with memorable images or one-liners but with thoughtful answers (and questions) that resonate with readers. By using the techniques in this article, you can develop Quora content that rises to the top!

Should Every Company Have a Blog?

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Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In a world where everyone from Whole Foods to Patagonia is blogging, is it safe to say that you should join the crowd? Is blogging important for every industry, or is it only good for certain ones? How do you know if it’s right for you? To help answer those questions, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of blogging, across industries and subject matters.

The Benefits of Blogging
There’s a good reason so many brands are blogging today: Blogging has a lot to offer. Simply by regularly posting to a blog, brands can increase online traffic, build connections with fans, and more. Below, consider some of the big benefits that come from regular blogging:

Search Engine Optimization: Search engines look for valuable content—and by regularly blogging, valuable content is exactly what you’re creating. The content you create in blogging allows you to establish higher authority in search rankings, and this leads to higher numbers of search traffic for your site.
Lead Generation: When you add persuasive calls to action to your blog posts, you turn your blog into a powerful lead generator. Your calls to action might be the offer of a free ebook download, a request to sign up for your newsletter, or the suggestion that they call you to learn more about your services. In every case, by telling your readers what you’d like them to do, you set yourself up to see results.
Brand Reinforcement: Blogs give brands another way to reinforce their brand messaging. Incorporate your brand’s style and messaging into every aspect of your blog—the design, the type of content, the colors, the logo, etc. By doing this, you reaffirm to followers that you are the brand they think you are—and this builds trust.
Connection with Fans: When prospects go looking for more information about you and what you offer, they often wind up at your blog. Sometimes customers who wouldn’t send you an email will comment on a blog post. What’s more, blogs give you a great format for addressing common customer questions or responding to concerns you’ve heard. Bottom line: blogs provide an approachable format for you and your followers to connect.
Humanizing Your Company: A blog allows you to tell a more personal story for your brand—you can write editorial, opinion-type pieces. You can share behind-the-scenes stories and photos. You get to round out the image that followers have of your brand.

The Costs of Blogging
There’s also a good reason so many brands are hesitant to start blogging: they know blogging takes work. Blogs don’t write themselves, and keeping up with one takes time, effort, and consistency. In fact, here’s a closer look at some of the biggest costs associated with blogging:

Initiative: For a company satisfied with things as they are and have been, jumping into the blogging world sounds tough—because it’s going to take initiative. A business must step outside the norm to conceptualize, create, and use the blog on a regular basis. And for brands content with their current workflow and sales results as well as brands set in traditional methods, this might seem unnecessary.

Time: There’s no way around it—blogging takes time. Whether you’re a small business owner blogging solo or a CEO hiring a marketing firm to blog in your place, in either case, a blog takes an investment. That’s why some businesses decide the cost is too great. They don’t want to dedicate time or resources every week to write.

Creative Energy: Most writers say the hardest part of blogging is coming up with topics—and it’s true. How many business blogs fall into lackluster blog content that does more harm than good? As Gary Fox writes at Social Media Today, “[T]hinly disguised press releases chucked into a blog do not warrant being called a blog.” Regularly generating new ideas takes creative energy that some businesses would rather invest elsewhere—so if you can’t come up with blog content, blogging might not be for you.

Discipline: Unlike a lot of business projects, blogging is ongoing. Keeping up with a blog requires regular discipline. You have to keep coming back, week after week or day after day, churning out new articles. If disciplining yourself or your team to manage a blog seems daunting, you might decide to skip it.

Principles to Help You Decide
So after looking at the benefits and costs associated with blogging, what should you do next? How do you know whether or not join in? To answer that question, here are some general principles about blogging to keep in mind, no matter what your industry:

1. Don’t Let Fear Dissuade You. Every smart businessperson knows fear comes with the territory. If it’s intimidation that’s holding you back from blogging, rethink your reasoning. Couldn’t you learn more about blogging to make it less scary?

2. Remember Short Posts Are Okay. As Rieva Lesonsky writes at Fox News, your posts don’t have to be earth shattering, and it’s okay for them to be short. Moreover, coming up with topics doesn’t have to be a pain. “To save time and stay organized,” Lesonsky recommends that you “create an editorial calendar to schedule your posts.” Take a chunk of time each month or quarter to plan out posts and then just proceed according to plan. By setting aside time to brainstorm, you save yourself the regular headache of not knowing what to write.

3. Your Clients Are Key. One of the biggest deciding factors for companies wondering if they should blog is audience. Think about your target demographic—would a blog about your industry be useful to them? Would they want to read it? Would it add value to their lives? If the answers are yes to these questions, you have good reason to move forward.

4. Consider All Your Options. Blogging is not your only opportunity to generate leads or connect with clients. You could use social media to respond to prospects’ questions. You could use newsletters to churn out helpful tips. So before you jump into blogging, look at your goals and see if they align best with what blogging achieves, or if your time would be best spent elsewhere.

Your Thoughts
Does your business have a blog? Why or why not? What other principles do you consider to be key in analyzing whether or not a brand should blog?

“DO AC” Does Social Media (Sponsored Post)

Author:
SNAG_Program-0659

Hello and greetings from Atlantic City! We’re so happy to have spent time with you at New Media Expo (and on Twitter) during the New Year. And thanks for your interest in our beautiful city! Folks loved our Twitter machine and more than 150 people came to take selfies with Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri.

We’ve been asked time and time again how social media helps influence tourism and ROI. Our role is to change the image of Atlantic City and bring new visitation. Like other brands, we have to be “social” and online to answer questions, give event advice, ideas on where to stay and pretty much develop content to help support our online reputation. Although having social accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Foursquare help…having strategy and campaigns helps out as well.

So how do we do it now?

• Get the community involved in contests that are more than enter to win! We recently launched a #ShowUsYourBling contest (using Pixlee) that asks recently engaged couples to show us your bling. A simple photo upload and catchy engagement story will enter you to with the Ultimate DO AC Bachelor/Bachelorette Party for her and him and 10 friends. In less than one week we received over 900 entries!

• Our advocates and brand ambassadors are always hard at work. During NMX Miss America took control over our @VisitAC Twitter account and answered any and all questions with #AskMissAmerica. We received over 1 million impressions during the chat. And Coming up on January 30th international-recognized DJ Nigel Richards will be discussing #DOACnightlife and chat attendees will be able to win fabulous nightlife prizes.

• A picture is worth a couple of hundred tweets. We regularly ask our social community to share and tag their photos with #DOAC. The best photos get shared across all our platforms. And since Twitter is getting more and more engagement with photos, we shared the photo/Tweet below and it increased our engagement levels 10x!

 

• Working with bloggers is important as well. That’s why we want to work with you! Take this survey so we can better assess how to work together. We’ll be sure to get back to you. Should you have any questions in advance feel free to e-mail Eric Cortes, Social Media Manager at the Atlantic City Alliance.
For more information about Atlantic City and things to do, follow our social media:

• Facebook – www.facebook.com/DOAtlanticCity
• Twitter – www.twitter.com/VisitAC
• YouTube – www.YouTube.com/DOAC
• Instagram – www.instagram.com/DOAC
• Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/DOAtlanticCity
• Foursquare – www.foursquare.com/VisitAC

We appreciate your support and are looking forward to being able to work with you!

10 Writing Tips for Advanced Bloggers

Author:

writing tips for advanced bloggers Just because you’re been doing this for a few years doesn’t mean you have nothing to learn. I’ve collected some of my best tips for advanced bloggers in this post, and I hope you’ll add your own to the end. Here’s how to continuously improve your blog:

1. Challenge yourself to cut your post down by 30% to 50% before you publish.

When it comes to pure writing tips, this one has helped me more than any other tip out there.

Long posts are fine, but only if you’re making every word count. I will gladly read a 5,000+ word post if it takes you that many words to cover the topic. I will not read a 5,000+ word post if half-way through I realize that the rambling author could have accomplished the same thing in 500 words.

Like many bloggers, I started my career as a freelancer, and at that point, most of my clients asked me to hit a certain word count every time I would take an assignment. Subconsciously, I trained myself to write for that word count, which means I’m often wordier than I need to be to get my point across. So, I now challenge myself to cut out at least 30% of my words every time I finish the first draft of a post.

Even if you end up not cutting out any words (or even if you end up adding words), re-reading your post with this kind of “cut the fat” eye will help you polish your work. It can also help you begin to learn your own writing faults and weaknesses.For example, until I started this practice, I didn’t realize how prone I was to using the word “really” unnecessarily.

2. Use the scientific method when giving advice.

I often do not often see bloggers’ advice backed up with proof or even a process of experimentation. A newbie in your field may take your word on something because you’re more experienced, but if you want to hold the attention of mid-level or advanced readers, you’re going to need more than just an opinion.

One of the ways you can do this is by using the scientific method to structure your blog posts. No need to pull out a fourth-grade text book: I covered how to do this here: How to Use the Scientific Method to Write Better Blog Posts.

3. Do some research into the psychology behind what you are teaching.

I talk about psychology a bit on my post about using the scientific method, but even if this is not your process for writing a blog post, the psychology behind what you’re teach your readers can help take your blog post to the next level. Most people are extremely interested in why not just how. So, if your blog posts lends itself to the why part, read into it a little and give your readers some links to find more information.

The king of this is Derek Halpern, so check out his blog if you want an example of someone who does it well.

4. Get out of your feed reader.

We’re all guilty of getting into routines. When is the last time you got out of your own feed reader to find new blogs to read?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that reading blogs isn’t important. Reading in general is one of the most important activities you can do if you want to become a better writer. Jon Morrow, for example, often advocates spending time reading not just blogs and business books, but also novels (His favorite is Stephen King.)

No matter what you’re reading, though, every once in a while, you have to forget about your favorites for a moment (yes, even Stephen King) and instead embrace new writers so you can continue to grow.

Check out my post about how to find new blogs to read if you’re struggling to discover great bloggers whose names you’ve never heard.

5. Before you publish your list post, write a post to support every point.

Have you noticed that every point in this post has corresponding links to go with it? Believe it or not, I actually started working on this post months ago. As I wrote, however, I realized that each point could become its own post in and of itself.

Linking to supporting content makes any list post more valuable. And if you don’t have supporting content on your own blog, you probably have peers who do. The best list posts are a springboard for readers; they give readers many new ideas so people can pick and choose those they feel are best. From there, each reader can do more research into that specific topic.

If you aren’t providing links, people will do that research on their own, which means that they might not be finding the best content out there.

6. Don’t just ask your readers about their challenges; ask your peers.

One of the best ways to come up with ideas for blog content is to ask your readers about their struggles. They’ll come up with dozens of questions for you! But if you really want to become an authority in your niche, don’t just ask your readers for advice. Ask your peers.

When you write content for beginners, you allow new readers to consistently find your blog. However, beginners often don’t know what they don’t know. You’ll blow minds if you can solve problems they didn’t even know they had! To do this, you have to brainstorm a list of more advanced questions to answer. So, ask more advanced readers about their problems.

Depending on your blog content, this might mean that you have to not only poll your readers, but also seek advice directly from peers. Don’t be afraid to contact a-listers to ask about their most common struggles. You’ll blow their minds too if you can find a way to solve a problem they have.

7. Start recording video blogs.

“I look like a total dork on camera.”

I get a lot of resistance when I suggest that people should start recording videos. Most bloggers, especially introverts, hate how they look on camera. I get it, because I feel like that too. But here’s a secret: most of the time, as long as you look presentable (i.e. you don’t have visible Pig Pen fumes radiating from you), most people will be so focused on whatever you are teaching, that ten seconds after the video ends, they won’t remember what you’re wearing. Your content is what matters!

If being on camera intimidates you, try instead doing some interviews. When you interview someone else in your niche, you’re not the focus of attention, so it can feel a little more comfortable. Check out some great tips for landing interviews here.

You can also record videos where you’re off camera, like screen capture tutorials or video scribing.

8. Use active voice when possible.

In most cases, using the active voice instead of the passive voice will make your sentences more powerful. This trick also helps with editing, since passive voice tends to be wordier.

For those of you who need a quick grammar brush-up, active voice simply means that your sentences are written with the formula “Subject – verb – object.” For example:

The blogger wrote ten blog posts.

“The blogger” is the subject of this sentence, and wrote is of course the verb. “Ten blog posts” is the object, because it is on the receiving end of the verb. If I wanted to rewrite this sentence using passive voice, I would write:

Ten blog posts were written by the blogger.

In this case, we have the same three elements – subject, verb, object – but the object of the sentence comes first and is, thus, highlighted. Sometimes passive voice makes sense, but depending on your writing patterns, you may be using it too often. Could active voice make your writing better?

9. Create a massive resource list around one of the questions you’re most commonly asked.

What is the one question you get the most?

Now imagine this: for every person who asks you this question, how many people have this question as well but have just not asked it?

Whatever that question may be, it makes a great topic for an ultimate resource guide/list about the topic. Think about everything a person needs to know about the topic. Don’t just answer their question. Go above and beyond to cover every detail. You want anyone who lands on this post to be dumbstruck at the valuable information they’ve learned.

Worried that the content is too much for a single post? Instead of creating just one post, create a series of posts, like the one I did about selling digital products (starting with this post). You can do a more formal series where you publish one post per day (or per week) or you can just slip posts in over the course of a few months then do a round-up of the posts at a later date.

As an added bonus, creating a massive resource list is good for SEO. Google has started ranking in-depth articles, but even if you don’t get picked up in this sense, common questions are often typed into search engines, and if your post is helpful, it will likely rank well for that search term.

10. Be helpful, above all.

One of the first things new bloggers learn is how important it is to be helpful. Help your readers and they will reward you ten times over. Help your peers and they will promote you. Help your customers and they’ll buy from you again and again.

But sometimes, in the long list of what we’re supposed to do as a blogger can cloud our judgment. We’re supposed to have a dynamic, clickable title. We’re supposed to use keywords to improve search engine optimization. We’re supposed to quote others in our niche or link to statistics that support our theories. We’re supposed to create pin-able images. We’re supposed to have a call to action at the end of the post. We’re supposed to…

I could go on and on. Above all, however, we’re supposed to be helpful in some way. You can be helpful in the traditional sense, where you’re actually teaching the reader how to do something, or you can be helpful in a less obvious way, by inspiring readers, helping them see the situation in a new way, or even entertaining them.

Before you hit that publish button, make sure your post is as helpful as it can possibly be about the topic you’ve covered. If it’s not, head back the drawing board.

What’s your best writing tip for advanced bloggers? Leave a comment!

Image credit: Bigstock (altered)

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