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September 2011

2 Minutes of Benny Lewis: Be Successful Without Being Aggressive


Session: How to go Viral Without Being a Virus
Speaker: Benny Lewis

At BlogWorld LA, Benny Lewis will be presenting on his topic about going viral and building his brand without being aggressive or annoying.

Benny is looking forward to attending the Los Angeles event because it’s going to be bigger and better than ever. He also hopes to make connections and share amazing ideas with other attendees.

Hear what else he has to say:

Top 5 Posts on Protecting Your Privacy on Facebook


With the announcement of the new Facebook Timeline came a lot of grunts, groans and privacy concerns.

The new Timeline is all about sharing your life story, which means having it all out there on display.

But what if you don’t want to share your life story? What if you’ve been using Facebook for a long time and you’d rather not let your new boyfriend see all of these pictures of your old boyfriend front and center in your “life story”?

Or let’s say you’re a dude and you don’t want your friends knowing you just listened to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” 5 times in a row. (Hey, I hear ya. It’s a catchy tune.)

There are ways with the slew of new Facebook features to take control of your privacy and make sure you’re not sharing things you’d rather keep to yourself, or the things you were glad to see buried within your years on Facebook.

Here are 5 posts on protecting your Facebook privacy:

1) The New Facebook: How to Take Control of Your Privacy (Mashable) – Sarah Kessler walks you through an in depth look at three of the new Facebook privacy concerns and how to opt out of them.

2) Get Started with the new Facebok Timeline (cnet) – Here are some ways to tweak your timeline to your own liking, as well as info on the new maps feature.

3) Geek Tip: Keep Spotify From Sharing Your Musical Guilty Pleasures on Facebook (PCWorld) – So, you’d rather not let all of your Facebook friends know you just jammed out to the Jonas Brothers via Spotify? There is a workaround that..for now.

4) Facebook Changes: A Complete Guide – Free Webinar September 30 (Mari Smith) – No, this isn’t a blog post but a webinar by Facebook guru Mari Smith. She’ll cover the privacy settings you need to know about and how to adjust them. Click the link to sign up.

5) 9 Critical Ways To Protect Your Privacy On The New Facebook (Business Insider) -This is a quick look at the share settings, the new friends list, the subscribe button and more.

Did you write a post on Facebook privacy or know of a good one not listed above? Please share the link in the comments section. Also, let me know your thoughts on the new Facebook privacy concerns.

Café World and Farmers Insurance Partner Up for Social Media Promotion, Includes Food Lover’s Contest


Café World and Farmers Insurance have partnered up for what looks like one very fun social media campaign.

From special features to a trip giveaway, this is one promotion you just might want to get involved in. If you like food, traveling, and hanging out with celebrity chefs that is.

Players of Zynga’s Café World will notice a promotion that includes the iconic Professor Burke from the popular Farmers TV commercials. Players can get “spoil protection” when they place a Professor Burke statue in Café World through October 2nd.

Also, on the Farmers Insurance Facebook page, they are hosting a contest (open to the public) where you could win the trip of a lifetime. One lucky foodie will win airfare for two, hotel accommodations in the heart of South Beach and $500 spending cash, plus exclusive entry into the Food Network Magazine Lounge in Miami with celebrity chefs. Enter to win by simply “liking” Farmers Insurance on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/FarmersInsurance.

It’s possible Farmers Insurance might set some social media records again this week. Earlier this year, Farmers made an appearance on FarmVille along with a sweepsakes to ride in the Farmers Airship. Farmers set a new Guinness World Record for most “likes” in a 24-hour period.

Our own Nikki Katz chatted with Ryon Harms, head of social media at Farmers Insurance about the success of their social media campaign in November of 2010.

Are you a fan of CityVille? Stay tuned for a Farmers Insurance promotion there as well, where one lucky winner could get a trip to a world-class city.

How to Write a Rant that People Want to Read


We all rant sometimes.

Some of us do it online for the world to see. Some of us do it in the privacy of our friends and family. But the fact of the matter is that everyone gets emotionally angry from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with it. If you’re compelled to blog when you’re in a rant-y mood, though, I think it is important to make sure you’re engaging your community, not driving them away as you flick them the middle finger. Rants can be awesome for traffic, but there can also be a fall out. If you’re going to rant, make sure you write something people actually want to read. Here’s how:

Actions versus People

When you write a general rant about an individual or even a group, you look like a big meanie. You don’t have to agree with every single person out there, but most rants about people come off as attacks, not lively debates. Personally, I just don’t think there are many reasons you should burn those bridges. If you wouldn’t be comfortable standing up on the BlogWorld stages and yelling,  “So-and-so is a jerk!” don’t say it online either. If you don’t agree with someone, don’t be shy about your opinions…but save the rants instead for actions.

It’s true – when you rant about actions, you typically have someone in mind. And I definitely encourage people to name names when blogging about someone. However, there’s a difference between saying that you don’t like someone’s actions and that you don’t like someone period.

When you talk about actions, it also makes it easier for your readers to relate. They probably have been annoyed by the same actions by other people, even if they don’t know the person you’re ranting about. It also makes it easier to open up the topic for debate. If you rant about a person and one of your readers disagrees with you, they might stay silent for fear of being attacked as well. When you’re ranting about an action instead, readers can more easily inject their opinion without as much worry that you (or your community) will turn on them just for disagreeing.

“Duh” Rants

Sometimes, I read what is supposed to be a passionate rant and at the end, the only thing I can think is, “Well duh…”

There are certain things everyone hates. These topics are the constant content of blog rants, but when you aren’t really adding anything new to the conversation, what is the point? It’s your blog, of course, and if you need to get something off your chest, do it. Just be cautious as to how much of your content is self-serving versus how much is actually interesting to readers. Keep the ratio in check.

Bringing Attention to a Company

The best rants, in my opinion, are those that don’t attack a person or even an action, but rather a company;s policies. As consumers, I think it is our duty to point out when a company is doing a crap job. Rants help other customers know that their experience wasn’t isolated and you get the added benefit of warning others before they spend their hard-earned dollars.

When ranting about a company, however, make sure you’re fair. If you’re going to rant about a company’s customer service, for example, talk to at least two people – one bad employee is a mistake, but two in a row is rarely a coincidence. Or, if you order a product and it arrives broken, send an email and allow the company to respond, sending you a new one or refunding your money. In other words, before you rant, allow the company to correct the problem. Everyone makes mistakes, and I don’t think it’s fair or intelligent to rant over an isolated incident that the company is happy to correct.

And always remember that there are real people behind businesses. Whatever you’re ranting about is someone’s fault, and there’s a good chance that they’ll read your blog post, especially if it gets popular. Again, it goes back to attacking actions, not people.

In-the-Moment Emotion

When something ticks you off, it’s easy to feel emotional. I call it in-the-moment emotion – fleeting feelings of frustration that are often blown way out of proportion. Now is a great time to write about something because your post will be filled with passion. It’s not such a great time to hit the publish button.

If you’ll calm down after an hour, will you regret whatever you just wrote? Remember, once something is out there online, you can’t take it back. Even if you delete the post, it is still out there. So, give it at least an hour before you publish your rant, and if the material isn’t time-sensitive, give it at least 24 hours.

Something else to consider – how angry is your post in terms of word choice? Last week at #BWEchat, we talked to Jason Falls and Marcus Sheridan about cursing in blog posts and on social media. Whether you’re for or against, I think we can all agree that when we’re mad about something, the language can sometimes be a little stronger than we otherwise have on our blog. This can be part of what makes a rant great. Can be. If you go overboard, the language you use could turn off your readers, even if they were initially interested in your rant and agree with you. When you calm down a little, you can reread your rant to make sure the language is refined. That doesn’t mean you have to take out the sailor language – it just means that you can clearly decide what words you really want to use.

Logic Rules All

Lastly, make sure that your post is logical. I hate reading rants when I don’t know the back story and can’t figure out why the person is so mad. Even though rants are emotional, they should also make sence. Give me a compelling argument so I feel as emotionally connected to the story as you do. Now is not the time to be brief. I want the full story, including details.

In most cases, I personally think that it also makes sense for you to add “solutions” as part of your rant. What could have been done differently? What can be done now to help ease your pain? How can others avoid finding themselves in the same situation? No one ever said a rant can’t be helpful.

And be prepared. Most rants drive traffic, so people are going to respond, either on your site or off. If your post is logically sound, it shouldn’t be hard to debate with your readers.

Have you ever ranted on your blog? Was the result good or bad? What’s the best rant you’ve ever read from another blogger?

1 Week of Blogging Like Never Before


… by Tara Alley

When it comes to our blog, sometimes we just hit burn out. A blog, by nature, typically encompasses just one theme, with potential for sub-categories. Lets look at BlogWorld for example. You can bet that every single post is going to be about blogging in some facet, even if there are other categories (Social Media, Photo, Mobile, etc.). However. The bottom line is that the writers of this site get to write about blogging. A lot. When burnout or fadeout or the dreaded sigh and dreary feel of “what-am-I-writing-today” starts to creep in, sometimes all it takes is a few days of something new, of a plan that allows you to break out of what can turn into the “doldrums” of blogging. If that’s you now or if you’re at all leery that someday in the future you just might start to fizzle on super witty stock market posts, here’s a revolutionary 1 week plan for you. Actually, it’s just 5 simple days. Try these ideas for five days straight and see if your brain doesn’t bounce back fresher and more rejuvenated than before.

Day 1: New Voice Day (Or: Who’s That?)

Day 1 is all about having some fun. Today is your day to explore a new voice. [Disclaimer: If your blog is a professional one in which suddenly appearing with a whole new tone/style is not appropriate, then consider posting under a guest author status.] Do you often wish you could be more sassy, witty or humorous? Or maybe that’s what you are all the time and you long to write a straightforward piece to show off your brain? Do it. Be the voice you’ve been wishing you could be. Throw your typical “you” out the window, just for the day. Let your hair down, pin it up or curl and primp the heck out of it. Whatever you feel like. Get some attitude goin! Get some brilliance shining forth. Shoot high and leap without abandon. Yes, have some fun here people! *Watch out, your readers may even like”this” you better than the other one.

Day 2: Co-Write Day (Or: Who are they?)

The thought here is that two minds are better than one. However, correlating two minds to the same page can take some serious effort. So, while yesterday may have been about reckless abandon (and today still can be too, depending on just who you’re co-writing with), today you’re going to have to combine your thoughts and ideas and tone and style and blend it seamlessly with someone else’s thoughts, ideas, tone and style(s). The upside is that posts that are jointly written (and done well) can quite frequently turn out to be masterpieces. It’ll also train your brain to leap ahead when appropriate and pull back a little when necessary. Checks and balances don’t happen all that often in the blogging/freelance world, which is often a perk, but it can also feel really good to work in tandem on occasion. Make it a lunch date and whip up some breakthrough content.

Day 3: Research Day (Or: Wow.)

You should plan to start this one in advance because it’s going to take some time. In fact, this one should take the most time of any of these days. Day 3 is your chance to really show off. I want you to research, deeply research some particular facet and niche of your subject. I’d also consider creating charts/infographs/etc. to put everything together for this one. The goal here is to dig a little deeper than you typically have time for. When doing full-time or nearly full-time blogging, you don’t typically devote hours and hours to research something for just one daily post. For this post, though, you should. You and your readers will both benefit greatly from this. It will likely re-invigorate some of your excitement and passion as you see what’s been going on under the surface or what underground ideas are starting to bubble up. Who knows, you might just find something or compile some new ideas in such a way as to be the first to show it in that light and your readers will be the chosen few who get first dibs. That establishes some serious loyalty.

Day 4: Guest Blog Day (Or: I’m over here)

Ah, bored of your blog and the whole topic? Hereís your chance to write about something completely non-related. Go blog about hiking or baking cookies or taking your son out to play a round of golf. There’s a blog out there for everything. And sometimes the ability to write about something else you’re passionate about can re-awaken your enthusiasm for writing itself. Maybe you’re not burned out when it comes to typing words on the screen, maybe you just need to write a piece that doesn’t matter if it impresses or not, if it teaches or not. Maybe no one you know will ever even know this blog exists or that you wrote it. It just is. And that will be enough.

Day 5: Reader Day (Or: I love you all)

Like Day 3, you’ll also need to start this one in advance. Day 5 is all about your readers. Phase 1of this is to ask earlier in the week what your readers most want a post on. Tally up the results and write this piece specifically for them. Focusing on your readers, your gratitude to them for sticking with you through the doldrums and the high points will hopefully power you through creating a masterpiece for them today. It might take more work than normal, maybe more research, maybe more time, or maybe half the time if they want to know something personal, like what makes you fall asleep with a smile on your face. Who knows. Today is about them. Phase 2 is to give back. Catch up on some comment love. Write some personal emails to your most dedicated readers. Go read your own reader’s blogs. Comment on their blogs. Maybe even ask a few of your favorites to write a guest post to be featured on your blog. Offer a small giveaway if possible. Just love your readers today. You won’t regret any extra effort put in, and you can be guaranteed they won’t either.

Freelancer Tara Alley is dedicated to staying passionate and enthusiastic when it comes to blogging. She’s currently writing for baseboard heaters and knows firsthand the importance of keeping it fresh, no matter what the content.

Podcasting: Added Value


People hear my podcasts, they hear about the way I’ve set myself up, and they invariably ask me how much work I put into it. I tell them that in the beginning, it wasn’t much work at all. After a while, it became a lot of work. These days, I’m back to it not being much work at all, even though I’m producing more shows than ever. In conversations that I have with clients and people interested in podcasting, one of the most common fears that prevent folks from getting started is that podcasting—the way they see me and other full-time podcasters doing it—will take up too much of their time.

And it would. It totally would.

Podcasting is my primary gig, and other interests feed into it. I’m also an affiliate marketer, so I’ve done some things in that space that feed into my podcasting efforts. If podcasting isn’t already your primary gig, though, I can see how looking at someone who spends many hours a week podcasting (along with dozens of hours of prep work, website work, marketing and all the rest) can be daunting. You have a job. You have a business to run. You have other things that keep you busy.

But. You had to know there was a “but” coming.

You do have 30 minutes a week. You can fit podcasting into your overall business plan. Your podcast will be added value; it will be something your competitors don’t do. When I was a t-shirt designer years ago, I noticed that most of the successful people selling print-on-demand t-shirts were the ones that weren’t making “selling shirts” their primary gig. It was just something they added for extra value to their existing business. Podcasting can work the same way for you.

Maybe you run a site that sells blue widgets, along with a dozen other people that sell blue widgets. You’ve all got roughly the same quality website, roughly the same prices, but you do a half hour show every week about how people can use blue widgets in their everyday lives and you give one away to a lucky listener to boot. See the potential there? You’re giving people a reason to stick around your site.

If you’ve been shying away from podcasting because you’ve thought that it requires doing a show with a heavy commitment or schedule, try thinking of it in terms of added value to an existing enterprise. You might be surprised by what you can do.

Oh, and about the part at the beginning where I said it wasn’t a lot of work, then it was a ton of work, and now it’s not again? When I began, I was one of three hosts of an informal podcast. We didn’t care if we had listeners, and I don’t think we even submitted to iTunes until we were several shows in. We were doing it more for a goof than anything else. After a year, I started to take it seriously, and seriously started learning more about the craft, experimenting with new software and tools, and spending way more time on podcasting. I started up three more shows, rebooted the first one, and launched QAQN.com. Only in the past few months has it gotten a lot easier, as I scheduled all my shows for the same day and wrote an automation script that handled 95% of my post-production.

With experience and the right tools, what seems like a daunting amount of work is actually quite… not. Something to maybe keep in mind.

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Google Brings Dynamic Views to Its Free Blogging Tool Blogger


Google announced new layouts for their free blogging tool Blogger called Dynamic Views. These look amazing! The new themes are powered by AJAX, HTML5 and CSS3.

Dynamic views reportedly load 40% faster, as well as provide their blog readers with more enjoyment and discovery of their content. Some of the new features include infinite scrolling, keyboard shortcuts for quickly flipping through posts, lightbox-style posts for easy viewing and more.

Here’s a video look into the new themes.

Here’s a list of the descriptions and examples of the different theme choices via the Blogger Buzz blog:

  • Classic (Gmail): A modern twist on a traditional template, with infinite scrolling and images that load as you go
  • Flipcard (M loves M) – Your photos are tiled across the page and flip to reveal the post title
  • Magazine (Advanced Style) – A clean, elegant editorial style layout
  • Mosaic (Crosby’s Kitchen) – A mosaic mix of different sized images and text
  • Sidebar (Blogger Buzz Blog) – An email inbox-like view with a reading page for quick scrolling and browsing
  • Snapshot (Canelle et Vanille) – An interactive pinboard of your posts
  • Timeslide (The Bleary-Eyed Father) – A horizontal view of your posts by time period

If you would like to preview your favorite Blogger blog with the new Dynamic Views, you can do so here.

So tell us – what do you think of the new Blogger Dynamic Views?

About.com Reveals “The Three Mindsets of Search” Study Findings


About.com released their findings of “The Three Mindsets of Search” study that I thought was very interesting.

As I am writing up a blog post, I do focus on keywords and a few other basic SEO principles, but am offering what the people who arrive at my blog were searching for? Am I catering to their search mindset?

The study revealed three types of search mindsets: “Answer Me”, “Educate Me” and “Inspire Me.” Here are each of the mindsets explained and the categories they apply to. Find out which mindset your blog topic falls under.

Answer Me (46% of all searches) — People in an Answer Me search want exactly what they ask for, and no more, delivered in a way that allows them to get to it as directly as possible. The top categories in Answer Me search are Entertainment, Fashion and Beauty & Style.

Educate Me (26% of all searches) — People in an Educate Me search want 360 degrees of understanding, and multiple perspectives on critical topics. They will search until their goal is achieved — which may stretch over long periods of time and through related topics. The top categories in Educate Me search are Health and Finance.

Inspire Me (28% of all searches) — The fun, “browsy” type of search, where people are looking for surprises, have open minds and want to be led. The top categories in Inspire Me search are Travel and Home & Garden.

The basics of this study show marketers how to really connect with the people who use their products. It also helps us bloggers know the types of searchers that are arriving on our site.

For example, if you write about topics in the Health and Finance realm, you really need to lay it all out there, as well as provide them with a way to get more information. For those of you who write about Entertainment or Style topics, you need to provide quick and easy ways to help them find exactly what they were looking for.

What is your blog topic and what are some ways you can improve the overall design of your blog, as well as your individual blog posts to cater to your type of searcher?

Kobo’s New App Adds Social Functions


E-book retailer Kobo announced a new feature to its app which adds a social functionality to the e-book reading experience. It’s called Kobo Pulse and it’s been integrated into the Kobo app to take your reading to a whole new level.

With Kobo Pulse, you can see who’s reading the same book you are, share ideas on passages and books with other readers. The new feature also has Facebook integration using their newly announced Open Graph.

Back in December of 2010, Kobo announced a new product called Reading Life. It collects your reading activities and displays your reading statistics in a series of graphs and charts. It also rewards users with badges when they meet new characters or reach new milestones in their reading. Kobo Pulse has been integrated into this product as well.

The new feature was announced last week at f8, Facebook’s developer conference.

Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis said, “We’re moving into an era where social eReading will change the nature of how and what we read. With Kobo Pulse, readers can get more out of reading. Books are now alive.  The end is no longer the end.  Readers get to participate, adding their voice, which actually lives within the reading experience itself through Pulse.”

Here’s a video walking you through the Kobo experience.

For those of you who are big e-book readers, what do you think of the added social features? Is this something you would find useful and fun?

Social Networking Site Zooppa Crowdsources Creativity to Make a Difference


Social networking sites can be more than just reconnecting with old friends, sharing photos and what you’re up to at the moment. In fact, they can make a difference. A huge difference and that’s exactly what Zooppa is doing.

Zooppa is a social networking site of more than 120,000 creatives and they are sponsoring a contest for MatchingDonors.com.  New Line Media, 20th Century Fox and National Lampoon execs are also lending a hand after the MatchingDonors website helped change a life of someone close to them.

National Lampoon producer Alan Donnes owes his life to MatchingDonors.com. He received a kidney from a donor which he found using the website and now he is giving back to the organization by participating on a panel of judges for the MatchingDonors.com “Everybody Can Save A Life!” video contest.

The top three videos will be recognized at the Hollywood Awards Gala at the end of October. Not only that, but the video creators will earn film or assistant production credits on a project with one of the judges and win cash. Submissions can be uploaded at Zooppa through October 1.

Here’s a video clip about the contest.

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