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Don’t Be An Island: Connecting and Relating Online

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Last week, I wrote about how Shane from Contently spoke about the future of content online, but he wasn’t the only speaker at BlogWorld NY to delve into this topic. Shane co-presented with Andraz from Zemanta who also had a few tips for online content creators who want to safeguard their practices for the future. Most importantly, in my opinion, is that idea that we as bloggers, podcasters, and web TV producers can no longer be islands, out there working by ourselves. A vital part of successfully creating content online is connecting with others.

“Building bridges is what content marketing is all about.” – Andraz Tori, Zemanta

This goes beyond convincing other people to like you and spread your content. In fact, this type of connection is not what the “don’t be an island” advice is all about. It’s true that you do need to connect with people in order to distribute your content well, but first, it’s about connecting with people to ensure that the content you create is good before you even start to distribute.

Citing Your Sources

Others, such as Dave Copeland, also talked about the importance of citing your sources when you’re reporting. And they are right. When you reblog and reblog and reblog of a press release, information gets lost or mixed up along the way. We also have a tendency to skip the legwork of following links all the way back to their original sources, and we instead give credit to someone else who reblogged along the way. This is not only unfair to the original source, but it is also a disservice to your readers. Link out to your sources to make your content better.

Find Inspiration

Connecting with others can also help you find inspiration for your own content. I think this is an important tip because it encourages bloggers, podcasters, and web TV producers to all open lines of communication. Remember, don’t be an island. If someone writes a blog post and you don’t agree with it, write your own post and say why. Link back to that original post and encourage others to do the same. Conversation through online content can be an awesome way to engage you followers.

Better Content

Finally, connecting your readers to more content through links simply makes your content better. Sometimes it isn’t about citing a source or providing a link to the person who inspired your content. Sometimes it is simply about connecting in order to give the reader a place to find more information about a topic. For example, you might link to the background story for a news piece you are writing. Or you might mention a topic in passing and link to a place where readers can find more since you don’t want to devote the space to it. Better content is only possible if you connect with others. We simply do not have enough hours in the day to be the one-stop resource for everything, so we have to turn to our fellow content creators and work together to create a better user experience.

Want to hear more from Andraz and all of our BlogWorld New York 2012 speakers? Consider picking up the virtual ticket to get access to all of the recordings from the show.

The BlogWorld Daily Wrap-up for Wednesday, June 6th

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Attending live events is kind of like attending a reunion every year. Each time you go, you get to see the people you’ve met in the past. But you also get to meet new people. Then the next year, you get to see all of those people again and meet a few MORE new people. Your networks and friendships grow like a snowball. I love it. There’s nothing like meeting folks from the virtual world in person.

So if you can go to live events like BlogWorld, you should go. But sometimes you can’t go to the actual live event, and that’s why BlogWorld has me working on their Virtual Ticket program, which brings the entirety of the conference’s content and a bunch of bonus footage to people who can’t be there in person.

So here I am, live from New York. Not on Saturday night, though.

Today, my Virtual Ticket partner Lisa and I caught up with a lot of cool folks. We hung out with Syed Balkhi, Jonathan Fields (who is trying to distract me from writing this post right now), Derek Halpern, Pat Flynn, and a ton of other folks. Oh, and I forgot to tell the world that yesterday, Jason Van Orden gave me his salad totally out of the blue. Thanks, Jason. I owe you a salad.

Here, as promised, are two more interviews we recorded for the Virtual Ticket, which we’re giving to you for free because we’re just that cool:

First, I talked to Syed Balkhi about growing your traffic. And yeah, I know… everyone talks about that and we all secretly think it’s impossible to actually do, right? But Syed had some actual, practical tips. Check out the audio file below:

NOTE: Last time I saw Syed in LA, he was wearing a necklace that said “AWESOME” on it. He wasn’t wearing it this time, but claims to still actually BE awesome. You be the judge. The audio is below:

Second, I talked to Mur Lafferty about distributing your books via free podcasts. I’m actually in the process of doing this myself for my book The Bialy Pimps, so this was an interview with a nefarious ulterior motive. But you’ll dig it anyway:

The only thing I’ll add as a P.S. is that today I talked to Peter Shankman about how he uses ADHD as an entrepreneurial superpower. And he mentioned that when he gets wound up, he’ll sometimes drop and do pushups to burn off steam — even if he’s on a plane. So I told him to drop and give me 10 and Peter and I did pushups in the conference hallway. Yes, we got it on video for the Virtual Ticket attendees.

Oh, yeah. I should mention that you can still get the Virtual Ticket if you haven’t already, or you can add the Virtual Ticket to your live conference registration by emailing us or stopping by the registration booth.

I’ll drop another wrap-up (and more interviews) tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Why the Virtual Ticket Will Feel “Even Closer to Being There Live” This Year

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As the guy in charge of BlogWorld’s Virtual Ticket program (which allows people who can’t make it to the live event to “attend” on their own timetable from their home or office), I’ve been given a very interesting puzzle to solve.

Here are the two questions I keep asking myself:

  1. How can we most effectively bring the content and experience of BlogWorld to people who want to go to New York to attend…but can’t?
  2. How can we make an online conference as much like being there in person as possible?

See, BlogWorld is HUGE. There are over 140 speakers, and at the live event, ten sessions will be happening at once…pretty much all the time. Even if it were feasible to live-stream the entire conference to our virtual attendees, we wouldn’t want to.

Why?

Because if we did, then virtual attendees would face the same problem that live attendees face: They’d have to choose one session to watch at a time and would, hence, be physically unable to view 90% of the conference due to most people’s pesky inability to be in ten places at once.

The content in the Virtual Ticket isn’t live. You wouldn’t want it to be live. In fact, a huge number of people who sign up for the Virtual Ticket are people who will be there at the actual event. They get the Virtual Ticket to fill the gaps in their live conference experience, so that after they come home from BlogWorld, they can watch that 90+% of the content that they missed.

(NOTE: If you already signed up to attend BlogWorld in New York and would like to add the Virtual Ticket to your registration, you can do so for only $97. Just email us and ask us to add the VT to your registration. If you haven’t yet signed up for the live event, you can add the VT during the registration process.)

But because the Virtual Ticket’s main content is 100+ hours of non-live video recordings (and the accompanying MP3 downloads), that dilemma comes right back at us. How can we best convey the BlogWorld experience? How can we make it “almost like being there live” for people who can’t be there live if most of our Virtual Ticket content is not live?

And the answer, of course, is that we can’t. But we can come close.

See, there’s nothing like attending a conference. If you’re actually there in person, you’ll get the networking and handshaking and hanging out and the strange “inspiration osmosis” that comes from being in the live atmosphere. We can’t replace that, and it’d be insulting to suggest that we could.

But I asked myself…what would be close? What would help simulate an in-person experience as much as possible?

And the solution came back loud and clear: Provide daily content.

The recordings — which you can play, pause, and replay at will for a full six months on the website (or forever if you download them) — will show up about a week after BlogWorld ends. For the Los Angeles 2011 Virtual Ticket, we did a bunch of video interviews — behind the scenes stuff, intended to give that “at the conference feel” — and we provided those about a week after the event, too. And that was cool.

But this year, in addition to all of that (and with an upgrade in video and audio quality for the bonus interviews), we’re going to give Virtual Ticketholders content every day.

There’s something different about daily updates. If you get daily updates, then you can learn about Day 1 stuff while it’s still Day 1. And if you learn about something on Day 1, then you can see what happens with it on Day 2 and follow along.

In other words, daily content gets you immersed in the experience so you don’t feel like you’re just watching from the sidelines.

So, in addition to the 100+ recorded sessions, in addition to the bonus video interviews that are exclusive to the Virtual Ticket, and in addition to our prolific social media activity and picture-sharing from the conference floor, we’re adding two things to this year’s Virtual Ticket:

  1. Every day, we’re going to record a handful of audio interviews and behind-the-scenes segments. And every evening, we’re going to post those files on the Virtual Ticket site for attendees to listen to.
  2. Every evening, we’re going to write up a daily recap. We’ll tell VT attendees who we captured on video that they’ll be able to watch later, we’ll tell them about big happenings, and we’ll tell them if we spot The Bloggess eating a burrito for lunch. (Or if she brought her giant metal chicken “Beyonce” with her.)

Will this content make the Virtual Ticket “just like being in New York”? Of course not. But will it bring Virtual Ticketholders into the fold, finally making them a PART of BlogWorld as it unfolds instead of sitting on the sidelines, waiting patiently for the event to end and for the session content to be delivered to the private Virtual Ticket website.

If you can’t make it to New York this year, check out this year’s BlogWorld Virtual Ticket if you haven’t done so already. The price is only $347, and you won’t have to book a flight or a hotel room. Good luck finding this insane amount of content for that price anywhere else.

And if you’re attending live in New York, definitely consider adding the Virtual Ticket when you register for BlogWorld so that you can go back after the event and review the huge amount of content you missed while you were there live. It’s only $97, and will be the best conference bang-for-your-buck you ever spend. (NOTE: If you’ve already registered and want to add the VT now, you can’t do that through the website. Please email us and let us know you want to add the VT and we’ll add it for you.)

How to Get the Most Out of a Live Event You Can’t Attend

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The highlights of my year are the times when I can get up early, slog to the airport, stand in the security line, have my privacy and personal space invaded, and then sit in a cramped seat next to someone who smells bad while I’m charged six dollars for half of a sandwich and pretzels.

Why? Because at the end of that rainbow are blogging and new media’s live events like BlogWorld & New Media Expo… the times when those who work on the internet all get to stop being loners behind a computer screen for a while, get together, and share ideas.

But there’s a challenge: getting to live events can sometimes be tricky.

As much as it’s worth it — as much as the knowledge and inspiration frappe at live events can improve your way of connecting and doing business — sometimes it’s just not in the cards. Sometimes you can’t get away. Sometimes your job or business won’t let you leave. Sometimes you can’t get a babysitter or a dogsitter… and sometimes, honestly, you just can’t afford it.

So the question becomes: as November approaches and you realize you won’t be able to attend BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Los Angeles, will you be left out in the cold like that meatloaf I threw into a Michigan snowbank last year?

Nope. You can “attend” anyway. You can still “be there” — without leaving home, without taking time off, without having to hire a dogsitter, and for a super-affordable price — thanks to the revamped and newly expanded BlogWorld Virtual Ticket.

But wait a minute… virtual conferences suck!

I hear you. Really I do.

In fact, when BlogWorld Rick (that’s how I think of him, to differentiate him from my high school friend Granny-makes-great-waffles Rick) called me to pitch the idea of working together to reinvent the Virtual Ticket, my first thought was that virtual conferences suck.

(My second thought, incidentally, was that I wanted some waffles.)

As we talked about it, though, I realized that virtual conferences don’t have to suck. They usually just do suck. Most virtual events have the potential to suck less or even be awesome, but fall short because producers are typically far more concerned with delivering content than providing an experience.

Let’s think for a minute about why people attend conferences. And for now, let’s look at real-deal, in-person, on-the-spot conferences.

Conference content is important. More: content is vital, seeing as “obtaining new and helpful information” is ostensibly the reason anyone signs up for a conference… but content is not enough. Think about it. You can find great content about new media tactics by Googling for it. You can locate fantastic tip-filled interviews with your favorite bloggers and personalities elsewhere. If you really, truly boil it down to content and look at nothing besides the facts that will be conveyed while you watch conference sessions, you’ll usually see that those facts are not enough to justify all of the hoops we jump through to attend live events.

So why do we attend?

Well, why do you attend a concert when you can hear all the songs you want for free on the radio?

We go to conferences because not only do we want to learn a ton of new stuff; we want to learn it in an atmosphere of mutual growth and contribution. We want to see the keynotes in front of a crowd, feeding off of their attention and engagement. We want to be around people like us. To connect. To be part of a group with access that those out there in Google-Land don’t have. To feel the energy and the vibe and the excitement that comes with big events — and with the experience of “being there.”

So if you were totally jazzed to see your favorite band in concert but realized you couldn’t swing it, I totally understand why you wouldn’t be floored if I recorded the performance and offered to sell you the tape.

As I talked with Rick and BlogWorld Dave — and as we enlisted ringleader extraordinaire Jess “Renewabelle” Commins to keep the rest of us from daydreaming and eating nachos all day — we all began the Virtual Ticket’s redesign by asking two questions.

QUESTION #1: How can we most effectively convey the content of BlogWorld Expo in the Virtual Ticket?

This one was easy, because conveying content is what virtual events do well.

There are over 100 speakers at what I think of as “BlogWorld Live” (Rick and Dave both rejected my proposal to rename the live event “BlogWorld on Ice”), and we’ll record each and every one of them. Shortly after the live conference has finished, we’ll stock the online virtual environment with these recorded sessions. Speed matters, so we’ll get them up there fast… and in no time at all, you’ll have access to over a hundred hours of some of the best, most cutting-edge material out there. That’s enough stuff — across all of BlogWorld’s diverse content tracks like monetization, content creation, and so on — to dwarf any “info product” out there. Slam dunk.

And truthfully, the Virtual Ticket has a real advantage where Question #1 is concerned. A virtual event can actually deliver the “content” part of the puzzle more effectively than the live event because when you attend live, the sheer number of presentations means that you can’t attend every one. Because multiple conference sessions are happening at once, you can’t attend all of them without rupturing the space-time continuum. But virtual delivery means that you can see all of them… multiple times if you wish.

(By the way, this is one reason that live attendees really should think about adding the virtual ticket to their registration even though they’ll be there in person. You’ll end up learning a ton more, and it’ll be at your fingertips to replay and rewind if you can’t take notes fast enough. You’ll also get a pretty steep discount over virtual-only registrants.)

So that’s content, and we felt good about that from the get-go. But to address the “most virtual events suck” issue, we also needed to ask a second question:

QUESTION #2: How can we convey as much of the experience of BlogWorld Expo as possible?

Ah, the million dollar question.

To address this, we first asked what virtual events lacked, and we went about trying to figure out how to plug those leaks. And how we did that is what I’ll walk you through in the rest of the posts in this series, coming soon.

In the meantime, you can learn more about and register for the Virtual Ticket here. (It’s awesome. We promise.)

Johnny B. Truant is the host and M.C. of the newly-redesigned BlogWorld Virtual Ticket. You can connect with him on Twitter as @JohnnyBTruant.

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