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March 2012

Jennifer Wilson Shares Niche Membership Site Secrets

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Yesterday, I wrote a bit about some questions to ask yourself before becoming a full-time niche blogger. One of the things you have to consider is whether or not you can develop your own products to sell as part of your blog, which is often a more profitable choice than affiliate sales or advertising alone. Recent, Jennifer Wilson from Simple Scrapper sat down with me to answer some questions about a type of product that she’s developed for her niche site – a scrapbooking membership community.

Allison: For those who may not know you, tell us a little about yourself and Simple Scrapper.

Jennifer: I am a water scientist by training, but I’ve always loved writing and creative hobbies. I started my first online publication in 1996, an e-zine on AOL, when I was still in high school. Fast forward to 2008, where I was recently married, relocating to a new city and starting a new full-time position in my industry. I worked full time for 3.5 years while launching my business. I’m now home with my new baby, working 75% time for myself and 25% for the local University. I’m the type of person who needs to keep a foot in both the scientific and creative worlds to be happy.

Scrapbooking seems like a small but crowded niche. How did you initially differentiate your site to find readers and build an audience?

In the beginning (2008), I set out to develop a site that was entirely about digital scrapbooking. At that time there were very few sites in this niche, but I sensed it was about to explode. (It did.) Over the first year, I spent a lot of time further defining my unique offering and looking for specific customer challenges I would address. What I figured out was that people struggle with finding time to scrapbook, with getting over their hangups when it comes to their photos and their memories. I wanted to help those people and thus focus on productivity in scrapbooking. Scrapbooking with your computer (i.e. digitally) became just one of the skills and shortcuts we recommend at Simple Scrapper. Broadening our market to scrapbookers of all styles and approaches was an important decision for the growth of the business.

Why did you decide to build a membership site rather than running a traditional blog?

I didn’t, at first. Simple Scrapper began as just a blog. I knew I wanted to monetize it though, so I focused the first six months on building a readership. Then I added advertising, directly sold to other businesses in my niche. After nearly two years, I saw that this model was not going to take me to the next level (particularly as businesses were cutting back on advertising with this economy). I would need to begin developing my own products.

I launched my first class in August 2010. At the beginning of 2011, I launched a product line that was available individually or by subscription. I also developed a few more classes in 2011. However by the end of summer 2011, I was struggling to keep up with the administration of running a shop with a growing number of products and self-paced classes (not to mention in my third trimester of pregnancy). I didn’t feel my business model (or my lifestyle) was in keeping with my own mission statement of simplicity. I began making plans to convert to the membership model we have now. It was launched in November 2011, just 10 weeks after the birth of my baby girl.

The bottom line here is that I no longer consider a blog to be a viable business model. A blog is an excellent marketing vehicle for building a customer base, a community around a particular niche. However, it is very hard for a blog in “soft” niches to be sustainable on advertising alone.

One of the things a lot of bloggers have trouble with is making money from their readers. How do you build a community when you’re also making money from that community?

It is important to set the expectation that you are a business owner, not a hobby blogger. If you own that title, refuse to apologize for it and accept the responsibility that comes with it, you should have no trouble making money. There is nothing that says businesses can’t fill a market need while being friendly and community-focused. I would even argue that is the best way!

If you could go back and do things differently, what are some of the things you would change?

I wouldn’t have waited so long to begin introducing my readers to the idea of becoming my customers (no longer than six months). I could definitely see some resistance in the beginning, because they had been getting so much for free over the previous two years. I think it is important to have a solid business model in mind before starting your blog, even if it is part of your marketing plan to not launch your membership (or other product offering) until later in your first year.

I also would have signed up for an email service provider from day one.

Thanks for all of your awesome advice, Jennifer! As a way to wrap this up for our readers, can you give us your top three tips for growing a niche membership site?

1. Plan out how all the parts to your program (and your site) integrate, then try to make it simpler. You don’t want users to get lost or frustrated by the experience.
2. Know from the start the content and marketing mechanisms you will use to keep your members renewing.
3. Emphasize (and support) the “community” benefits of your membership, rather than treating this as an add-on.

Head to Simple Scrapper to see Jennifer’s membership site in action!

Five Questions to Ask Before Becoming a Full Time Niche Blogger

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Blogging is a pretty flexible career field. You can do it in the evenings before you go to bed or on weekends while you maintain a typical 9-to-5 job. You can also work on your blog full time, giving up working for other people to instead focus on making money online. Both are viable options.

Of course, the more time you devote to your blogging efforts, the more money you can make with it, no matter what your niche. There are only so many hours in the day, and if you don’t work another job, you’ll have more of those hours to devote to keyword research, social media promotion, community building, and all the other things it takes to make a blog profitable and successful.

But before you hand in your two-week notice, here are five questions to ask yourself. You don’t want to be lining up at the local soup kitchen three months from now because you don’t have a source of income.

1. Is this a good niche for monetization?

Some niches are just better than others when it comes to making money. Choosing the right niche is tricky because you want to be passionate about the topic, but you also want to stay away from niches that:

  • are too crowded.
  • have too small of an audience.
  • have an audience unwilling to spend much money.

It’s a balancing act. Check out your competition. Competition is good because it shows that there is money to be made in the niche, but you also want to be able to stand apart. Are you already making a little money as a part-time or hobby blogger? This is an indication that a little more effort could unlock the floodgates of cash.

2. Do I have a back up plan?

What if your blog doesn’t make enough money to support you (or what if it takes some time to get there)? Do you have a back up plan? Do you have a significant amount of money in your savings? Do you have a spouse that could support the family, even if money is tighter than normal? Do you have other blog ideas if your current blog or first blog idea doesn’t pan out? Do you have the ability to get your old job back or a similar job if you decide blogging isn’t for you? Okay, I’m cheating because these are several questions within one question…but they’re all worth thinking about. Don’t let fear paralyze you, but don’t jump into this with no plans.

3. Am I passionate and knowledgeable enough about my niche to work on it full time?

Working on a blog full time makes it feel like…well…work. While you might love your niche now, are you prepared to devote so much time and effort to it? A few years ago, I ran a video game blog with some of my friends, and part of the reason we ultimately closed it is that one of our co-founders grew to dislike how video games became work for him, rather than just being something fun to enjoy with friends. Beyond the work aspect, though, are you also knowledgeable enough to blog full-time about the topic at hand? You don’t want to run out of stuff to say a few months into it.

4. Can I create my own products?

One of the best ways to monetize is to create your own products to sell, whether these are real, physical products, books (digital or print), membership sites, or classes. If you can’t create products of your own and rely solely on advertising and affiliate promotions, you may want to take a second look at the niche you’re choosing. This alone doesn’t mean you can’t make a full time income, but your own products definitely allow you to make more of a passive income.

5. Do I have a strong base of support?

Lastly, if you don’t have a strong support system in place, finding success as a full-time blogger is a lot harder. Support is needed on two levels: perrsonal (from family and friends) and professional (from the start of your blog’s community). Of course, you want that support to grow as you continue blogging, but if you start from zero, it’s go to be a lot harder to make a full-time income. So find your tribe and find it early!

Invisible Children’s Co-Founder Naked and Detained: Was the Viral Success Too Much?

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It’s been a whirl-wind few weeks for co-founder of Invisible Children and Kony 2012 creator Jason Russell (pictured at left). As of writing this post, the Kony 2012 video has over 79.9 million views and over 1.3 million likes on YouTube. Along with viral success, however, comes extreme scrutiny, and Invisible Children has been both attacked and defended since the release of the video.

I can’t imagine how that kind of pressure feels, and it seems like Russell, 33, found his breaking point. Last night, he was  detained by San Diego police for “being drunk in public and masturbating,” according to a San Diego affiliate. Police say they received calls about a man running through the streets in his underwear, vandalizing cars, and screaming. Apparently he was totally naked and pounding his fists on the pavement at one point, as this video shows (warning, you totally see tushie if you go to that link, albeit from afar).

Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey released a statement today, saying:

Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.

Russell wasn’t actually arrested, only detained and sent to a medical facility for treatment. Police have said that he appeared to be under the influence of something, but there are no reports yet about what actually happened. Was he drunk? Was he on drugs? And if so, was he under the influence due to his own choices or was he drugged? It’s all speculation right now.

I think the question this raises for all of us, however, is this: just how prepared are we for success?

We talk a lot about failure. No blogger, podcaster, or other online content creator is a stranger to failure, and even the most successful among us don’t always make winning decisions. We talk about how important it is to pick up and move on, to learn from our mistakes, to be better next time. We’re ready to deal with failures.

But what about dealing with success? And not just from a technical standpoint. I’ve seen people talk about how important it is to be prepared for server overloads, dozens of emails every minute, and other growing pain problems that happen when you have a viral hit. What I think it even more important, though, it to be mentally ready for it.

  • Are you ready to be under an intense magnifying glass, with every mistake in your past brought to light?
  • Are you ready for your every move to be watched in case you make more mistakes?
  • Are you ready for the people in your life to be sucked into the Internet celebrity tornado?
  • Are you ready to deal with the trolls, who are jerks even when you’re not making mistakes?
  • Are you ready to question yourself even more than normal?
  • Are you ready be under intense pressure to replicate your success?
  • Are you ready for people to treat you like a hero or expert?

Success is not an easy thing. It doesn’t matter what your industry. Once, when I was working for institutional advancement at a college, we were awarded a million-dollar grant through a state programs – the largest in our school’s history. Our lead grant writer, who headed up the project, ended up having to take some time off because she was overwhelmed by the pressure. And I don’t blame her – even as a lowly student worker who did little more than proofreading on the project, it was overwhelming to fight for something and then suddenly have that level of success.

So what I hope you take from Russell’s story is not that Invisible Children or Kony 2012 is worthless or a joke, but rather that success is difficult and when unprepared for it, even the strongest people break. This is something that we all need to understand as online content creators with the ability for our work to go viral.

Picture by Jane Rahman, used under the Creative Commons attribution license.

Glenn Beck Proves Content Creators Can Earn Huge Dollars On The Web

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Love him or hate him Glenn Beck is proving just how huge the possibilities are for Internet TV.

GBTV, which jumped on the scene in September, is expected to bring in at least $40 million in revenue this year,

That $40 million dollar figure was originally reported in the Wall Street Journal. The full story is behind the pay wall.

Yes he has a national talk radio program to build off of. Yes he has the huge advantage of having had a prime time cable news program for a decade but this is significant:

More than 300,000 subscribers have already signed up, a number that, as WSJ notes, already exceeds the average audience of many cable channels, including CNBC and Fox Business Network.

The fact that Beck has more subscribers than the 4th largest cable news network in the United States (CNBC) shows that Web TV can be every bit as big and lucrative as cable.  If Beck can build 300,000 subscribers paying $9.95 a month in less than two years, what does that mean for other talented TV broadcasters even if they lack his huge promotional advantages?

It also attracts new advertisers to the space. Again love him or hate him Beck’s success is very good news for digital content creators. Do you agree?

How to Write Tweets that Instantly Lead to More Traffic

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Whenever I write a new post, whether it is for BlogWorld or for one of my own sites, I automatically tweet out the link. Literally, it is automatic. I use a service called TwitterFeed to make sure every new link is tweeted, along with the title. I know some people are against Twitter automation, but I think in this case, the pros outweigh the cons. Many of my followers like the announcement when I write something new.

But I also tweet other links throughout the day, including some to my own sites – either the newest post I’ve written or a post from the archives that I love. These aren’t automated, and I’ve learned that just how I craft the tweet can instantly lead to more traffic…or it can lead to my tweet being ignored by 99% of my followers.

So here’s how I write tweets that get people to read my content:

  • I get away from the title/link/via formula.

When TwitterFeed tweets my link or I use a share button to tweet the link on a blog post I like, the automatic formula is Post Title – Link – via @whoeverwroteit. That can get you some clicks if it’s brand new content, especially if the title is compelling, but it’s not the best way to get a ton of traffic when tweeting older links or tweeting links for the second or third time. Mix things up so that you don’t become white noise to your followers.

  • Invite people to comment by asking a question.

People like to give their opinion on a topic. Unless your title asks a question, you aren’t really inviting them to answer anything when you tweet your link with the generic Title-Link-Via formula. One way you can instantly get more clicks is by leading with a question. For example, if I wanted to promote this post on Twitter, I could write: “What makes you most likely to click on Twitter links? Answer here: *link*.” People need to be invited to your blog sometimes.

  • Be a proud mama.

People want to read the best of the best. If you’re a prolific link tweeter (guilty!), taking the time to mark an occasional post as special in some way can entice people to click. For example, I might write, “I’m super proud of my latest post. I think it’s the best on my blog!” or “I just finished writing a post that means a lot to me. Would be honored if you guys checked it out.” Of course, include the link with your tweets and make sure that your claim of something special doesn’t fall short – use this technique sparingly and only when you do write something that you’re especially proud of posting on your blog.

  • Time your tweets well.

You’re going to get more clicks at 3 in the afternoon than you are at 3 in the morning, no matter what your tweet says. Beyond that, though, do a little testing and find specific times that work for your audience. For example, I find that bloggers tend to read more in the morning, so I tweet BlogWorld links in the AM, while I find that college kids are night owls, so I tweet After Graduation links at night.

  • Write short tweets.

People are more likely to click on shorter tweets for some reason. It also makes it easier for retweeting purposes. So even though you have 140 characters to promote what you write, try to use under 100 whenever possible.

  • Tweet about how you’re solving a problem.

Sometimes the title doesn’t do the best job of describing just how the post will help people. Even the title of this post, for example, might be straight-forward, but it isn’t quite as enticing as a tweet that reads, “Having trouble getting people to click your links on Twitter? This is a good post for you: *link*.” Titles should be enticing, but sometimes when you tweet about the problem you’re solving in a more conversational way, you get more clicks.

  • Write responses to things others have written – and tweet about it.

This post isn’t in response to another post I’ve read, but let’s say it was. I might still want to title it “How to Write Tweets that Instantly Lead to More Traffic,” but when I tweet about it, instead of using the title, I might say, “I wrote a response to @someonesname’s post about Tweeting. Do you guys agree with me or him?” or “I liked @someonesname’s Twitter post so much, I had to write my own. Here’s my take on the topic.” (include links of course). Not only is it enticing to read two disagreeing opinions on something (or opinions that don’t necessary disagree but build on one another), but you’ll also attract the attention of the other blogger and they might retweet your link or at least click in themselves to see what you have to say.

Above all, remember that Twitter is most valuable in terms of traffic when you keep two things in mind:

  1. You should be conversational, doing more than just tweeting your own links.
  2. You can’t be afraid of tweeting links completely. You can be conversational, but it’s okay to promote your work too.

So those are my Twitter traffic tips. What makes you most likely to click a link? Or what techniques have you noticed work with your blog when you want Twitter traffic?

 

Beginner’s Guide to Review Writing Basics

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As a blogger, you might get the chance to review items, services, digital publication, tools, and other things from time to time. Sometimes, brands, authors, or publicists will send stuff for free. Other times, you’ll just happen upon something awesome (or not so awesome) that you bought yourself and want to describe to your readers. Either way, adding reviews to your blog occasionally can definitely be valuable for your audience.

So let’s go over the basics of writing reviews on your blog. These tips can be also be used to create a video review or even a spoken review on a podcast as well. (And remember, this post is part of an entire beginner’s guide series, which can help you if you’re new to blogging or social media).

Using the Product

When you plan to review a product, your first step is to actually use/read/whatever it! That seems like common sense, but I can’t tell you how many review posts I’ve seen where the blogger says, “I haven’t tried this feature yet, but…” Don’t do that! Read every page, try every feature, use it in every way that you can. The best reviews are comprehensive.

And whatever you’re reviewing, put it through its paces no matter what your initial impression. When trying something for the first time, we often have an idea in our minds what it will be like, which clouds our opinion. If we expected something bad and the result was good, it might seem really good – and vice versa. It’s relative. So try to get rid of those impressions as much as possible by spending a lot of time using whatever you’re reviewing before you even begin writing.

Writing the Review

Every review should have at least four parts:

  • unbiased information about the product (like who makes it, specs, price etc.)
  • pros/advantages
  • cons/disadvantages
  • a final opinion or recommendation

You don’t have to write your review in that order, nor do you have to make those things formal headings. It can be more stream-of-conscious. But your review needs those four element. Even if you absolutely love a product, there’s something bad about it. Maybe it’s bad for certain people. Or maybe it’s a bit expensive. Or maybe it’s great, but a new version is coming out soon so it’s worth waiting. Find the bad point and talk about them, even if they’re a small part of your review. Nothing is perfect. The opposite is true too – no matter how much you hate a product, there’s something good about it. Nothing is perfectly bad.

When writing your view, it’s also extremely important to disclose any kind of relationship you have with the product’s manufacture (or the author or whatever). FTC rules require that you tell readers about anything that could potentially affect your review. Even if you aren’t paid, getting something for free could make you more willing to write a positive review. So make sure you are very clear to state your relationships, and I also like to make a note that my reviews are 100% honest so there’s no question in the reader’s mind that I’m not writing good things because I get something out of it.

Getting Review Products

Even if you haven’t been blogging long, you’ll likely get requests from companies to review items (most commonly books in my experience, but I guess it depends on your niche). So if you want to get items for free, the best thing you can do is make sure the contact information on your site is extremely clear.

Don’t be afraid to ask for products to review as well, especially once you start building traffic to your blog. If there’s a benefit to the brand, they’ll probably say yes, and even if they aren’t willing to send you anything right now, you’ll at least be on their radar for future promotions. Companies are often more receptive to sending you products or sponsoring reviews if you are a member of their affiliate programs or have talked about their products in the past.

I’ve also been given items (again mostly books but also other informational products and services) from friends, so building your only networks and meeting people in person at conferences such as BlogWorld is definitely important if you want review items. Some conferences will help you work with brands better than others. All of them are good for networking, but at conferences where a lot of consumer brands are present (like BlogHer for example), you’ll find more review opportunities.

There are also some services and online forums/networks where you can connect with companies offering items for review. Personally, I’ve never found much value with these services, and I definitely don’t recommend anywhere you have to pay to become a member, but again it depends on your niche.

Lastly, don’t forget that you don’t have to receive an item for free to review it. Often, I’ve reviewed items that I’ve purchased myself, especially when it’s something I love and use on a daily basis. If it’s beneficial for a reader to know about it, write up the review!

Building Long-Term Brand Relationships

When someone gives you something to review – or even when you review something you’ve purchased yourself – you can build momentum with your initial post to form a long-term relationship with a brand (or individual). First, send them the link to the post, especially if they didn’t send you the item for free. Companies and individuals LOVE to read about it when a blogger writes about them. You can also follow up later that day or week if there are any extremely interesting comments on the post or social media shares.

Be polite, professional, and friendly, even if you don’t like a product. If you completely slam a company, ignoring any of the advantages or being unnecessarily rude and snarky, they probably aren’t going to want to work with you again. So be true to your own personal brand…but choose your words wisely. Even a negative review can be the start of a relationship with a company as long as you are fair. Of course, occasionally, you may run into companies who don’t handle criticism well, but that’s the exception to the rule. From there, you can hopefully review more products, maybe even products that haven’t been released yet!

And remember, you can work with a brand or individual beyond doing a review for them – use the review as your foot in the door. From there you can work on a sponsorship or project together in a way that’s beneficial to both of you.

The 7 Biggest Lies About Blogging

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Lately I’m seeing a new trend in blogging. It’s not necessarily disturbing, but it’s definitely interesting.

Just when we think we are starting to figure out this whole blogging thing, people come in and change all the rules. Particularly, it seems, the tried and true ones. An epidemic of bloggers telling us we’ve been doing it all wrong.

Why is this happening?

We could believe that these “thought leaders”  have been inspired by a meditation-induced a-ha moment. And now, they suddenly realize the error of their ways.

Or, here’s another take. Maybe some of these bloggers have decided that they must be contrary, go against conventional wisdom—even be sensational—in order to be heard above all the noise. It’s how they stir up conversation and attract more readers: disagreeing for the sheer sake of being different.

 

My 7 Untruths About Blogging

Whether the bloggers are giving bad advice to shake up the status quo and get noticed, or they really believe what they are preaching, bad advice can confuse both the beginners and the more experienced. Because bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, with different goals and needs, and making blanket statements can be dangerous. So, here they are, my seven untruths about blogging.

1. Every business needs a blog.

Well, no, not necessarily. There are just too many variables to consider. A blog is just one of many marketing tools at our disposal. And making sure we are using the right tools, the ones that fit our business, is key. So if your social media coach has dropped a blog into your new plan for growing your business, and the thought of it makes you nauseous, you might want to map out the pro’s and con’s before deciding.

2. Blogging is easy.

It’s all over in our culture: the ‘quick and easy’ thing. And who wouldn’t want to try something if we are promised that it’s easy.  Some say, just create a simple blog, and start writing. It’s easy, don’t worry about it, just do it. Anyone who has started blogging knows there is a little more to it than that.

It can be mastered, with some effort. What’s wrong with saying that?  Chances are if you are reading this and you are a blogger, you know damn well that it’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s well worth it in the end.

3. Write for yourself and your readers will show up.

This topic comes up in my workshops all the time. Writing about what interests us makes blogging more fun. And yes, you may be passionate about red wines or old black and white films, but in the end, who do you want to please, your readers or yourself?

Nowhere, in any other form of communication but blogging, would someone be advised to forget about their audience. Writing about the things our readers are interested in, the things they want to know, is a way to build our community. Why would we not want to do that, especially if we are marketing our business with our blog?

In the end, it’s your readers you want to please, not yourself. If you do this, they will come. And, most important of all, they will stay.

4. Long posts are the kiss of death.

This is another piece of advice floating around out there. But if you have something to say, say it.  If you google how long a post should be, you will find tons of different advice. Again, this boils down to what you are writing about, what you have to say, and whether you can keep the reader engaged. Don’t destroy what could have been an amazing post by being a compulsive word counter.

5. Consistency doesn’t matter; post whenever the mood strikes you.

I’m seeing this advice crop up more and more. We want to believe it because it takes the pressure off. We don’t have to have a schedule anymore. We can post whenever a new topic lands in our brains.

But, for the sake of Google (who gets trained to look for fresh stuff from you at certain times) and for your readers, who might actually look forward to Tuesdays because they can expect another engaging, thought-provoking post from you, you might still want to aim for a regular posting schedule.

6. You must be on fire with passion every time you sit down to write a blog post.

Passion is highly overrated. If I waited for it, I wouldn’t get a lot of blogging done. The novelist Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Yes, we should be passionate about our topics. Because if we are not interested, how can we expect our readers to be? But the notion that we must be shaking with excitement every time we sit down to blog is a surefire way to burn out.

Let’s get real here, folks. Passion is a good thing, but showing up at the computer and writing regularly, whether we feel like it or not will take us much, much further. And sometimes being passionate can merely be writing about the things we care about.

7. Your blog does not need to be interesting and engaging.

This is another new one I saw just this week. After I got beyond the provocative title, the point was that it’s more important to be helpful than interesting. But the fact is, there are millions and millions of “helpful” blogs out there. And it is very hard to get noticed and read—unless you are also interesting.

Interesting still matters because it is how we both attract readers and keep them. It is the extra ingredient, the secret sauce, that adds a new dimension to our blogs. And we become interesting by giving our readers fresh takes on topics that have been done to death. By telling engaging stories. By letting our voice and personality shine through.

How about you?  Have you run across advice lately that went against everything you have found to be true in your blogging?

 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, is Blogging a Fairy Tale After All?

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Today, I spoke at Marywood University about using social media to find a job. The topic is one that I’m passionate about, and it was cool to get my first speaking gig. Standing in front of these students who have their entire careers ahead of them made me reflect upon my own career as a freelance writer, which has really evolved into working as a blogger, both for myself and for other people. I started blogging in 2006, so it’s been over five years now.

And yes, the blogging lifestyle is still a fairy tale. All the time, things happen to me because I’m a blogger that make me want to pinch myself. I’ve met the most amazing people, had the most amazing opportunities, and seen the most amazing things, all because I’m a blogger. I’ve gotten to travel, try new products, and connect with people I never would have met without blogging. Blogging has been good to me.

But there’s a flip side. Every fairy tale has a dark part, the evil queen or the horrible curse or the crooked witch that lures you to her house with candy. Blogging is a fairy tale…but don’t make the mistake in thinking that it’s all about the happily ever after. If you’re thinking about starting a blog, there are a few challenges you need to be prepared to face.

It takes a while for Prince Charming to find you.

Prince Charming is a recurring character in most fairy tales, and let me tell ya – that man needs a freaking GPS. It takes the entire story for him to find and/or rescue the Princess. In blogging, “Prince Charming” is that elusive level of success where people, especially other bloggers in your industry, begin to recognize your name. Work hard, be patient, and most importantly, be persistent. You will get there if you do good work. Prince Charming just needs some time.

Without some sidekicks, you won’t get anywhere.

One of the biggest challenges as a new blogger is to find others who share your beliefs and want to get to know you. But it’s necessary. Find these people. Connect with them. Build a tribe together and help one another. Just like Snow White had the dwarves and Cinderella had her fairy god mother, you need people on your side to help you succeed. When you have people in your corner, becoming a successful blogger is much easier.

Evil is sometimes disguised as good.

Who knew an apple could be so dangerous? Who would ever think the a rose help the secret of a cursed beast? In a fairy tale, seemingly innocent items and people are often very evil – and the same thing is true in blogging. On any blog about blogging (including this one) you’ll read tons of advice about how to be a better blogger, but you need to question everything. Sometimes well-meaning people give horrible advice, but what is even more common is that the advice is great for some, but awful for you. Always question whether or not a piece of advice is right for your blog and your situation. Not everything applies to every person.

Lastly, the final point of advice is this: Happily ever after is rarely the end of the story. Lots of fairy tales have sequels or epilogues that tell you about how the perfect life of the princess and her prince wasn’t that great after all. Blogging is kind of like that. You can get your happily ever after, but things will never be perfect. It’s like a marriage – you have to constant work on it to stay on your a-game. Complacency has killed great blogs in the past, and you definitely don’t want to join that graveyard after all the hard work you put into building your blog.

Is Your Small Business Missing Out on the Mobile Crowd?

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As much as I hate to admit it, if you see me, there’s a good chance you can also see my cell phone. Or at least hear it if it rings. I was a late bloomer, not getting my first cell phone until I was in college and only getting my first smart phone about two years ago. I’m still a little resistant. I like a phone that makes calls and allows me to send text messages from time to time.

But even as a new media lover but a cell phone hater…well, I have to admit that my cell phone comes in super handy when I’m not at home. I can use it to set alarms. To check Twitter and Facebook. To take pictures. To send quick emails. To look up product prices to see if I’m getting the best deal. If you have a small business in a physical location (or locations), cashing in on utilitarian cell phone users like me can boost your profits more than you think. Let’s face it – you might be cutting edge, but most smart phone users are still pretty new to the whole new media thing. So how can you grab their mobile attention?

  • Create some kind of very useful free app. 
The likelihood that I’m going to pay for any app is slim to none. Seriously, I think to date I’ve purchased three apps…and I’ve had my phone for over two years. Of course, other users may be more likely to shell out a few bucks for an app, but if you create something useful and FREE? I’m there. Maybe you’re a restaurant that creates an app allowing me to order online. Or maybe you’re a bakery that creates a simple game I can use to win free cupcakes. Whatever. Be creative and get people downloading!
  • Give me a mobile version of your site.
Nothing annoys me more when using a cell phone than trying to look up something on a business’ website on my cell phone and there is no mobile version of the site. Half the time, some ad pops up on the screen making it impossible to click on anything. Yuck. Creating a mobile site is actually extremely easy (WordPress users have their choice of plugins that create it automatically for example). So no excuses!
  • Reward loyalty. 
People are still kind of figuring out location based mobile apps, but there are already likely thousands of Foursqaure and Gowalla users in your area. Reward their loyalty when they check in to your business’ location. An easy way to do this is to give a free item or discount to anyone who shows a waiter/clerk/etc. that they’ve checked in. You can also give a bigger reward to the person who is the mayor on the first of every month – it encourages coming in often to compete with other users.
With more and more people embracing their smartphones every day, your small business will really miss out if it is ignoring mobile altogether. This crowd will only continue to grow and it doesn’t take much time or money to reach out to these consumers and get them spending more money with your business.

Is this Little-Known Content Mistake Costing You Subscribers?

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When I was five years old, I loved candy. Okay, who are we kidding? I still love candy. But this story is about me as a five-year-old so bear with me.

Halloween was of course one of my most favorite times of the year, and after a particularly good “haul” one year, my dad decided to give me permission to do the unthinkable – eat as much of my candy as I wanted. I felt like Scrooge McDuck diving into his pool of gold coins every time I reached into my pumpkin-themed bucket for another handful of candy.

You might be able to guess what happened next. That’s right, I ate so many Snickers and Twizzlers and whatnot that I got very sick. It was several weeks before I could even look at candy again.

The lesson my dad was trying to teach me was that moderation is key in whatever you do. At five years old, I was happy to eat candy until I was sick, but I wasn’t ready to pay those consequences. It never crossed my mind that I could have too much of something so amazingly good. I didn’t understand that more isn’t always better.

Your blog or podcast content is like candy. (Well, hopefully!) In other words, it’s really good, and people want it. Readers come to your site for their virtual sugar fix, like five year olds on Halloween flock to the house giving out the full-sized Hershey bars. At least, that’s the goal, right? You want your readers to love your content.

Only, too much content can give your readers a stomach ache.

Okay, maybe not a stomach ache, but if you’re posting too much content and your readers can’t keep up, it’s like eating too much candy. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. I know you have a lot of ideas. I do too. But if you give people more content than they can handle, they’re going to unsubscribe.

How much is too much? That depends on your niche. Someone coming to a blog for news is probably going to want updates several times every day. That’s why a site like Mashable can get away with posting so often. In other niches, posting that often is obnoxious. People don’t have the time to read that much! For example, Social Media Examiner posts about once per day. They have a huge pool of writers, so several posts a day might be doable from a production standpoint, but their posts are so in-depth that it would overwhelm readers in a hurry.

You run the risk of getting boring too. For example, Jenny at The Bloggess posts a few times per week, but rarely more than once per day. Her blog is about her life – so she writes when interesting things happen. If she forced herself to post three times a day, half of those posts might be nothing more than, “Uh…so I had a chicken salad sandwich for lunch…”

It also depends on what your readers are used to. If you post once a week and then suddenly amp it up to post every day, people are going to step back in a very surprised way. This is especially true of your email subscribers. No one likes an inbox full of stuff they weren’t expecting, even if that stuff is really good content. So, if you want to start posting more content, slowly increase you post rate. Let people dip their feet in the pool and get in slowly rather than pushing them in when their backs are turned.

The bottom line: When thinking about post rate, the question isn’t always, “Am I posting enough?” Sometimes the question is, “Am I posting too much?” No matter how tasty your content may be, you need to practice moderation to keep subscribers around and interested.

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