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October 2012

28 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Adwords

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Adwords

Adwords from Google is a great solution if you want to drive more traffic to your business website or online content, since you can get started so easily. However, it’s easy to waste money on Adwords if you aren’t optimizing your campaigns. This week’s Brilliant Bloggers is all about doing just that – making the most of Google Adwords to help you reach as many new readers, viewers, or customers as possible.

Brilliant Blogger of the Week

A Simple Guide for Setting Up Your First Google AdWords Campaign by Amanda Sibley

I’m a big fan of Hubspot, and this post from Amanda Sibley is top-notch, just like everything else they publish. If you’re just getting started with Google Adwords, this is a great place to start, since Amanda reviews the process step by step. If you’ve used Adwords before though, there are still some valuable tricks and tips in there that you might not already know.

If you aren’t currently using Google Adwords, why not? Writes Amanda:

If it’s because you’re intimidated by Google’s AdWords interface, we get it. There’s a lot of options that make for better targeted campaigns — but also lead to a lot of confusion among marketers new to the paid search game. But fear no more! After reading this post, you’ll be able to execute your own paid search campaign at the drop of a hat.

After you check out Amanda’s post and the rest of the Hubspot blog, you can also follow her on Twitter at @AmandaSibley1.

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 4 AdWords Optimization Tips to Try This Week by Lisa Raehsler (@LisaRocksSEM)
  2. 5 AdWords Tips from PPC Masters by Elisa Gabbert (@egabbert)
  3. 5 Killer AdWords Tips for Converting Clicks by Aaron Charlie (@aaroncharlie)
  4. 5 Top Adwords Tips by Justin Bruce (@justinbruce1969)
  5. 6 AdWords Tips for Small Business Owners by Zach Thompson (@RYPMarketing)
  6. 6 AdWords Tips from Brad Geddes’ Advanced Training by Bethany Bey (@Bethany_Bey)
  7. 7 Ways to Improve Your Google AdWords Click-Through-Rate by Angela Stringfellow (@CODAConcepts)
  8. 10 Quick Adwords Optimizations Tips for All PPC-ers by Sarah Peduzzi (@sduzy496)
  9. 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Google AdWords by Nahid Saleem (@antsmagazine)
  10. 25 Ways to Use AdWords Data for SEO by Tom Demers (@TomDemers)
  11. AdWords Tips & Tricks: Advanced Account Structure by Eric Wortman (@Eric_A2)
  12. Getting More Quality Clicks from Google Adwords by Chris Soames (@csoames)
  13. Getting Started with Google Adwords Tips by Brenden Prazner
  14. Google AdWords Guide for Small Businesses by Hannah Smith
  15. How to Improve Google Adwords Quality Scores [Infographic] by Digital Net Agency (@digitalnetagenc)
  16. How To Use AdWords For Video by GoAnimate (@GoAnimate)
  17. How to use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool by Ryan Kettler (@boostsuite)
  18. Maximizing Your Google AdWords Using Ad Extensions by Cathy Nguyen (@eqmarketing)
  19. SEM Google Adwords Tips by Matt Ganzak (@MattGanzak)
  20. Three Basic Google Adwords Tips for Beginners! by Alok Vats (@vatsalok)
  21. Top 7 AdWords Tips and Tricks For Beginners by Josh Muskin
  22. Top 15 Tips for Managing a Google AdWords Account by Jack Martin (@jackthemartin)
  23. Top 20+ AdWords Tips by Jordan McClements (@PPCNI)
  24. Using AdWords Data for SEO: Unlocking the Ultimate Keyword Research Treasure Trove (Arrrgh!!) by Larry Kim (@larrykim)
  25. Using AdWords’ Recent Remarketing Changes To Improve Your Account by Sam Owen (@SamOwenPPC)
  26. Using Google Analytics To Collect & Benefit From AdWords Position ROI by Carrie Hill (@carriehill)
  27. Winning The Google Real Estate Game : 5 Google AdWords Tips by Tom Jelneck (@ontarget)

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about Adwords? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Blogging Apps

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

Who Swiped Photos from Your Blog? If You Care, These Tools Can Help

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You’re a savvy blogger who knows that it’s important to share not only words on your site, but photos as well. Visitors will be more likely to engage with an article that catches their eye with a great photograph, infographic, or drawing than they will with a wall of text.

Lady Against RedA wise blogger knows that you can’t just use any random photo you find online, so perhaps you’ve purchased some stock images or used Creative Commons photos on your blog.

But what about the opposite scenario? What if you’ve posted your own photos and you have this gut feeling that folks might be taking them or using them elsewhere?

Should You Care?

Before diving into how to police your images, it’s worth considering if you want to spend time doing this. Most interesting images that end up on the internet stand a good chance of being repurposed, reblogged, swiped for a personal blog post, or stolen for some other purpose. Technically most of these uses constitute copyright infringement and in theory the offender is liable for damages, but it’s also worth consideration if policing the web for unauthorized image use is the most productive use of your time. There’s no right answer to this question, but consider what you feel is the harm caused by a potential infringement versus the other work for your business that you could do in the time needed to monitor the usage.

Okay, Let’s Go Photo-Hunting

If you’ve decided it might be interesting to track some of your more interesting photos, there are a couple sites/services that I can recommend.

The leading service in this field is TinEye, which allows you to search for an image on the web from a variety of sources. In the example here, we’re curious about your photo that you originally posted to your website or photo sharing service. You can either upload the image to TinEye, or give it the source URL for your photo as a starting point. TinEye performs some analysis on the photo and then returns a list of results where it thinks it has found that same photo being used elsewhere on the internet. You can browse through the results and see which uses are legit and which might be the result of someone “borrowing” your work. In addition to ad hoc queries, TinEye offers commercial services if you’ll want to search for large amounts of your work on an ongoing basis.

Another good option for the occasional search is Google’s Search by Image feature, which allows for searching the web with the power of Google, except instead of starting with a text query, you start with an image. Much like TinEye, you can start with the image URL, a direct upload, or even use a browser extension to enable easier searching. Google then presents a Google search results page including other copies of the photo with contextual information about where it is being used.

Once you’ve found an offender, you can contact the blogger, webmaster, or even the web host and request either that the image be taken down, linked and credited, or licensed.

Do you police for your content elsewhere on the web? Do you consider the occasional image theft a cost of doing business? Do you use another service that folks should know about? Please share in a comment below.

The Ultimate Key to Easier Content Marketing for Small Business Owners

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As a small business owners, one of the biggest challenges is having time for it all. When it comes to your online marketing efforts, the latest trend is content marketing, and for good reason – it works. Content marketing is essentially giving away content like blog posts, videos, and ebooks in an effort to drive them toward an action (typically buying something from you).

So, for example, if you own a web hosting company, you might publish blog posts every week that teach people web design skills or if you own a bakery, you might give away a very short cookbook with some recipes at-home bakers can try.

Content marketing definitely takes time, though, simply because you have to actually create that content. You can pay a freelancer to do this, but if you’re a small business owner on a shoestring budget, you might not have money for a quality product. Even so, to get the best content, you have to spend time managing the project.

So what’s the key to actually making content marketing easier? Use the resources you already have.

When you’re creating content for marketing purposes, you can repurpose the resources you already have as a small business owner. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have nothing to offer. Here are some of the things most small businesses have:

  • Employees who are super knowledgeable and able to write or speak on camera about topics in your industry
  • A bank of questions your customers ask you often that could each be turned into their own blog posts (or videos or even sections of an ebook)
  • “Insider” resources relating to your product/service (for example, recipes from your restaurant)
  • A network of industry contacts who would love to be interviewed

You can also consider creating content in ways that allow you to present something super valuable to your audience without spending as much time. Consider…

  • Attending conferences, writing down speaker quotes, and compiling a list of advice
  • Creating resource lists linking to everyone writing/talking about a specific topic (like we do for Brilliant Bloggers)
  • Asking a question via social media and publishing everyone’s answers

Additionally, you can take content you’ve created and use it as a starting point to get even more use out of it. For example:

  • A single, long blog post can become a multi-part series if broken down into sections
  • A series of blog posts can become a short ebook without much additional work or a longer email if you write more content
  • A video or podcast can become written content if you include a transcription

The key is to work smarter, not harder! If you’re short on time, you need to throw your attention into the most important tasks to make your small business run, so this might mean that you “never get around” to the content marketing thing, since it seems like such a daunting task. With the right approach to it, however, you can at least start to put out great free content to attract a larger audience to your business. You’d be amazed at the amount of content you can produce even with a limited number of hours to allocate to this process.

If you’re a business owner interested in learning more about content marketing, social media, and online marketing, definite check out our BusinessNext conference, presented in conjunction with NMX (formerly BlogWorld). BusinessNext will feature three days of speakers teaching you how to take your business’ online presence to the next level.

Salty Droid: Man on a Mission or Internet Troll? Or Me and Mr. Jones

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Jason Jones, aka Salty Droid, will be writing his latest story about me and BlogWorld today. I am not exactly sure what will be in it, but it is sure to include at least parts of the email and Skype exchanges included in this post.

I’m not sure when I first read the Salty Droid blog, but I know it was a post about Naomi Dunford explaining what a horrible person she was. I thought it was really funny. It was also really mean and in my opinion 100% deserved.

Salty Droid is a blog written by Jason Jones who says he is dedicated to exposing internet frauds and scammers. It is also the name of the “fake robot” alter ego of Jones. The blog is written from the perspective of the fake robot aka Salty Droid. The blog’s tag line is “…you can’t make money online.”

Jason uses lots of strong language that is offensive to many, but hilariously funny to others. Where Jason leaves off, his commenters take it much further. His comment section can get pretty rough and as far as I can tell is not moderated.

Here are a couple excerpts from posts on Jason’s blog:

“This past March :: BlogWorld New Media Expo Cofounder & CEO Rick Calvert asked me if I’d “consider” giving a keynote at an upcoming BlogWorld event. Of course :: he didn’t ask me himself … because he’s a cowardly bitch. And he didn’t ask me a couple of years ago when it would have been hip :: and prescient :: and brave … because he’s a cowardly {not hip or prescient} bitch.”

“…because people are not feeling like now is a good time to fuck with me Chris Brogan. Yet here you are :: all fat :: and dirty :: and groganish … pasting me … the MOTHERFUCKING SALTYDROID {not to brag} … into your goddamn scam blog as a way to distance yourself from the very thing that you are.”

Most of his targets are people you have probably never heard of like Frank Kern, Perry Belcher, Ryan Deiss, James Arthur Ray, Russel Brunson and a host of others. But he also talks about
some names you might recognize; Matt Cutts (the head of Google’s Webspam team) and infomercial guy/motivational speaker Tony Robbins, for example.

At some point he started adding some very popular and respected bloggers to his list. Coincidentally, they were also speakers at our show and friends of ours like Darren Rowse, Chris Brogan, Brian Clark of CopyBlogger, Jim Kukral and others.

Occasionally I would hear from a friend or someone on our staff that Jason had mentioned our event or one of our speakers. I would drop by and see what was said, but it was usually just insults and claiming person X was a scammer or a fraud etc. I really took most of it as shtick.

Fast forward to last April when me, my partner Dave and our new conference director Shane were discussing potential topics for our June event in New York.

One of the ideas we came up with was to have a talk about what exactly are legitimate, acceptable and ethical business practices for content creators and what aren’t.

Are things like SEO, affiliate marketing, internet marketing, email marketing, pay per click, content marketing, and pay per post acceptable or not?

Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, bloggers, podcasters, Web TV creators and, yes, scammers all use these tools. All of them have their detractors and proponents.

These tools and others are always talked about in the hallways at our show and, really, any other social media or technology event. If you asked our community about it, you are likely to get a thousand different answers.

I have had numerous conversations about them with friends, attendees, speakers and sponsors and have overheard many more.

One very successful podcaster told me last year that all SEO was snake oil. I am 100% confident he is dead wrong about that, but he was just as certain he was right and refused to even listen to
any counter argument. I had the exact same experience this year at our TBEX event in Denver where a popular mainstream journalist and speaker at our show refused to attend Rand Fishkin’s
(SEOMoz) keynote because he believes anything to do with SEO must be a scam.

The internet is still in its infancy, or at the very least its adolescence, so a lot of these terms and tools are widely misunderstood and, yes, many times abused.

It was my idea to reach out to Jason to see if he would consider speaking at the show. I mean who else to start this conversation than the man who thinks anyone who makes money online is,
by definition, a crook?

Long story short, I asked Shane to contact Jason while I contacted a couple of our speakers to see what they thought about it. While we did discuss the possibility of Jason’s talk potentially being
a keynote, that’s not what Shane was supposed to ask him. It being his first month on the job, Shane jumped the gun and asked Jason if he would like to keynote our show.

When everyone I talked to said they didn’t want anything to do with the fake robot, we decided not to ask him to speak. I never contacted Jason after Shane’s email exchange with him,
Jason quickly posted an “expose” on us that included Shane’s email to him. C’est la vie.

Those of you who know me, know I am pretty stubborn. I’m also not afraid of bullies, especially on the internet. Now I was intrigued by Jason and his fake robot. Right around this time he wrote
a post on my friend Chris Brogan, accusing him of being a scammer. I read it several times and I swear I couldn’t find one actual piece of evidence that Chris had ever done anything wrong. It was just a bunch of innuendo and insults.

So I instructed our editor to find an objective journalist to write a story about the Salty Droid blog. I wanted someone to thoroughly review his posts that mentioned any BlogWorld speaker or our event. Vet any claim of wrong doing he made and report if it was accurate or not.

My instructions were clear. If there was any legitimate claim of wrong doing we are going to report it, if there was no evidence we would report that, and if it was all insults and accusations we would report that.

We hired someone to write the story, a journalist named David Copeland. David is a writer for Read Write Web, who has also written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Dow Jones News Service, the Boston Globe, Boston magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. He is a journalism professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts and is also author of Blood & Volume: Inside New York’s Israeli Mafia. In full disclosure, David has spoken about journalism and ethics at our conference.  However, after a few weeks he got back to us that no one would go on the record about Jason. He didn’t know where to go with the story. Then he heard Jason was coming after him which I had warned him about upfront.

In the end, the story wasn’t what we were looking for. There weren’t any definitive conclusions to report one way or the other, so we decided to ditch the article, hire someone new and start over.

Fast forward to September 25 and the ensuing email exchange (warning: it is long)

On Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 6:34 PM, saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com> wrote:

Rick ::

So I’m finishing up my story about your hiring Dave Copeland to write “objectively” about me and my wrongness.

I’d like to give you an opportunity to comment on the record first though …

1. Is the story still on? If not, what happened?

2. Did you know that Copeland started his research by putting in a totally daft HARO request?

3. To your knowledge, did Dave Copeland ever do a single interview? He represented to me that he had done many.

4. Did you pay him up front?

5. Will he be speaking at any of your future events?

6. Any other general comments on the matter you think I should consider?

Thanks Rick.


:: >>
SaltyDroid

Then another email from Salty the next day:

On Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 2:36 PM, saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com> wrote:

What’s wrong ChattyCathy? Cat got your tongue?

So Mr. Copeland tells me that the article is off because you weren’t going to pay him if he wrote the article with integrity {paraphrasing} … and that he has retracted his acceptance of a speaking gig at the next #NMX over these events.

True?

Sounds pretty bad for you Rick … I guess if you don’t have any comment I’ll have to assume that’s an accurate portrayal of events.

I replied on Friday the 28th:

On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 12:17 PM, Rick Calvert <rick@blogworldexpo.com> wrote:

First question, am I talking with Jason or your fictional character?

Sorry I missed your email before. I have been on-site producing an event and traveling since it ended without a good internet connection. I am back in the states Oct 6.

Your accusation if false and baseless.

Salty replied:

On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 10:39 AM, saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com> wrote:

Sure, you can talk to Jason for awhile.

How are my accusations false and baseless? I haven’t even made any yet.

Did you see this yet?

http://bjmendelson.com/2012/09/06/a-textbook-example-of-attack-and-distract-thanks-to-new-best-friend-dave-copeland/

Classy stuff.

I replied:

On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 2:16 PM, Rick Calvert <rick@blogworldexpo.com> wrote:

“So Mr. Copeland tells me that the article is off because you weren’t going to pay him if he wrote the article with integrity {paraphrasing}”

Untrue.

Then Salty:

On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 12:19 PM, saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com> wrote:

Okay … well that’s his accusation not mine. I’m asking you to comment on it.

“Untrue.”

… is not a comment. Well I guess it sort of is … but it’s not a very useful one.

My response later that day:

On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 4:50 PM, Rick Calvert <rick@blogworldexpo.com> wrote:

Sorry Jason I was writing a long email reply but its midnight here an I have to pack for a 4:30 taxi to the airport tomorrow. I will get back to you tomorrow night Munich time.

Then his:

On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 4:52 PM, saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com> wrote:

Alright Rick.

And then:

On Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 5:20 PM, saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com> wrote:

Can I get my answers now Rick?

This story needs to run before Thursday, and if you want me to give a fair hearing to your side of the story … then you need to give me time to verify and confirm whatever you tell me. Cause unlike Dave Copeland, I am very meticulous and careful.

Leading to:

On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 1:41 PM, saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com> wrote:

Well, so much for Thursday. You’re pretty bad at saying your going to do something … and then not. This is why I don’t let people talk to Jason. Nobody responds to polite pestering. The robot could have said …

“Hey Rick :: does the fucking Earth rotate slower in Munich or something …
because “tomorrow” just came and went.”

Classic stuff!

But I guess I can do Koenigs exploits ass cancer today, then Naomi Dunford’s latest bit of
bullshit … and bump this BlogWorld/Copeland thing to Monday/Tuesday. It might actually help, because the Naomi thing will probably help build traffic and interest for the BlogWorld v. SaltyDroid {Part 3} post.

It’s strange don’t you think, how all your blogging about blogging speakers promoted the crap of her … and then pushed out her fake death threat claims … but not a single one of them has ever retracted their endorsement or issued a mea culpa about death threat defamation. It’s almost like they have some big secret to hide that goes way beyond Naomi?

Jason

And then:

On Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 11:52 PM, Rick Calvert <rick@blogworldexpo.com> wrote:

sorry Jason. I am traveling (in Amsterdam this morning) I really do want to respond to you and will. I am packing and heading off to the airport to fly home now. So on a plane all day.

And more:

On Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 5:22 PM, saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com> wrote:

Rick let’s have this email chat pronto.

This story is going up Thursday because it’s basically all researched and ready to be written, and I have two other huge things I’m working on that aren’t to be written about any time soon, so this is what I’ve got … my only story this week. Thursday … final offer.

I’m going to quote people in the story, something I basically never do, as part of the joke about Copeland not doing his job. Funny right? So if you don’t want to comment then I’ll quote you standing me up again … which is fine by me because that is also quite funny.

The photo is Paul Colligan at Mike Koenigs’ scam-a-thon two weekends ago. Koenigs is one of the scamworld main men … and being his sad little sycophant is Paul’s main gig. He filmed BlogWorld promos at Mike’s “studio” … for which I’m sure you paid nothing. He was pushing “studio time” to victims at this seminar as being worth tens of thousands for a couple of hours. I’ve got pictures of that too if you want. Any event I want to snoop on, any product, any service … I’ll be able to find someone to help me out. What’s on the blog represents less than 5% of my knowledge on these matters.

Maybe it would be easier for you to respond if you admitted that you initially misread my seriousness, and seriousness of my cause?

Then, finally:

On Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 5:13 PM, saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com> wrote:

Okay then … your no comment has been noted. Who needs your comments anyway … when I have this instead?

[8/17/12 3:51:06 PM] Rick Calvert: Hey Dave you around?

[8/17/12 3:57:39 PM] Dave Copeland: on a call

[8/17/12 4:02:29 PM] Rick Calvert: np. would you mind buzzing me when you are done. wanted to chat briefly abot this salty thing. I think you can see now, we weren’t trying to micromanage you. Just stay on top of his lynch mob. This is far from personal for me. it is just a story that I believe we are responsible to cover.

[8/17/12 4:11:35 PM] Dave Copeland: As I told Amber, I’m afraid I’m done – I feel like I’m being set up as the hired gun to go after his guy and all fo your speakers are on board with it, but none of them will step up and go on the record. It’s hard for me to dfend them when they won’t defend themselves. It’s just getting very weird and I’d rather not be associated with what is already be portrayed as a hatchet job. I’m sorry it didn’t work out as I invested huge amounts of time into this but I’m not going to put my reputation on the line and stoop to his level by publishing unsourced innuendo.

[8/17/12 4:13:40 PM] Rick Calvert: we never asked you to do that Dave. I would prefer to talk on the phone if you would give me 5 mins

[8/17/12 4:13:53 PM] Rick Calvert: First of all, I don’t want you being harmed in anyway.

[8/17/12 4:14:40 PM] Rick Calvert: I think we warned you before taking this on, how this guy is and what he would do. None of our speakers are on board with this or even aware of it. No one wants us to talk to or about this guy.

[8/17/12 4:15:32 PM] Rick Calvert: they are wrong. This is a huge issue for the new media industry. it is our job to talk about issues like this. I know I also told you let the chips fall where they may. If any of our speakers are guilty of any wrong doing, we don’t want them in the show and we want the truth to come out as well

[8/17/12 4:17:28 PM] Rick Calvert: I am the one getting ripped up here. I am a big boy I can take it. Its just words on the internet. I saw your bio Dave. You have taken on guys with real guns who could really hurt you.

[8/17/12 4:18:11 PM] Rick Calvert: We never told you want to write for this story or anything else and never would.

[8/17/12 4:21:49 PM] Dave Copeland: I’m certainly not scared of this guy, Rick. But what he’s doing is opinion: if someone sues him for libel, if someone shows me where he is dead wrong, there’s something to write about. I can’t right a cut-and-dry piece saying “this guy’s opinions are wrong” when none of the people he’s targeting will step up and say just that.

[8/17/12 4:23:30 PM] Dave Copeland: Then he goes after you and now it looks like I’m coming in after the fact because he dinged you up

[8/17/12 4:23:37 PM] Rick Calvert: again I never asked you to do that. If its just opinion, then thats what the story should say.

[8/17/12 4:24:40 PM] Rick Calvert: I think we discussed this when you took the gig. We expected him to write something. Thats why we didn’t have a hard deadline but we did want it as quickly as doing the job thoroughly would allow to hopefully not be in the position we are in publishing after him.

[8/17/12 4:25:14 PM] Rick Calvert: But I dont care. We are going to do this story. I dont care if it takes a year to get it done right. I have never worked in an industry where people were afraid to talk about a big issue. its really weird to be honest

[8/17/12 4:25:21 PM] Dave Copeland: I’ll snedover what I have when I get off this call

[8/17/12 4:25:30 PM] Dave Copeland: send over

[8/17/12 4:25:58 PM] Rick Calvert: ok. Dont let me distract you from the call. again. Id appreciate a few minutes going to voice to clarify what we are trying to do

[8/17/12 4:51:23 PM] Dave Copeland: still stuck on this call but I took a quick look at what I had an emailed it to Amber.

[8/17/12 4:51:29 PM] Rick Calvert: ok

[8/17/12 4:51:54 PM] Dave Copeland: sending file to Rick Calvert

SaltyDroid.doc
43.5 KB

[8/17/12 6:12:41 PM] Rick Calvert: thanks Dave. I think this is fine. I realize this was a tough assignment. I really did try to warn you about how vindictive this guy is. It’s one of the many reasons why we need to cover the story.

[8/17/12 6:13:17 PM] Rick Calvert: More than anything I want you to be clear about my intentions here. I want the truth no matter what that is and where it leads.

[8/30/12 11:07:55 AM] Dave Copeland: Hey there…just wanted to get a status update on what else you need/want me to do on that post. I’d like to try to close that out.

1. Got something to say now?

2. Alison Navarro requested that you send her info about the LAPD investigation into Naomi’s fake death threats. Do so with fucking alacrity, or I’m going to call you liar on that very sensitive subject.

Jason out.

And my reply to Jason last night after writing this blog post:

Sorry for not responding Jason. It wasn’t out of a lack of respect for you or lack of interest. I was working our event in Spain, took some time off afterwards and then got sick when I came home.

Obviously I have my job to do and a lot of work to catch up on. You can see by the Skype
exchange you have shared that addressing your claims particularly when they are about our event is important to me but it’s not my number one priority.

I am still committed to having an objective journalist vet your posts about our event and our speakers. All I want is for a neutral party to report if you have posted any factual evidence of wrong doing or not. If all you post is “rick is a liar; rick is fat; rick didn’t comment on something I asked him to comment on” then that’s what I want reported. I would love to get people to go on the record responding about your posts but I can’t force them and I can’t be the one to ask the questions. That wouldn’t be objective.

I am happy for you to print this entire exchange. It says pretty much what I would have told you anyway.

As you can see, I wasn’t telling Dave anything different in private than I was saying to you in public.

Call me whatever you like. My responsibility was and is to the safety of our attendees when someone publicly claims harm might come to them. I fulfilled that responsibility by reporting it to the authorities. They assured us there was nothing to worry about. I have no interest in being involved in someone else’s drama.

As I have said in comments on your blog and other places, I support you or anyone else exposing real wrong doing, real scams etc. I just disagree with you when you claim people like Matt Cutts at Google and other people who I happen to know are scammers.

I still don’t know what your story is. Are you just overzealous? Are you crazy? Is this just a big game to you? Or am I the one that’s crazy and Matt Cutts really is a scammer?

Is my friend Chris Brogan who I have seen do so many generous things actually a bad guy in disguise?

*** UPDATE AS OF 10:30am ET today

Salty responded this morning:

From: saltydroid <saltydroid@gmail.com>

Subject: Re: where’s my hit piece?

Chris Brogan isn’t wearing a disguise. I refuse to believe that you’re this naive. If you’re so naive … if your conscious is without guilt … then why did you totally overreact like you did to scamworld? don’t bother answering now because it’s too late and I already know the answer. nothing tells the truth like a person’s reactions.

If you contacted the LAPD and repeated what Naomi said … they would have contacted me because those were very serious allegations. They didn’t. Name the officer … or the incident number … both of which would have been given to you. You are lying.

It’s funny you think you come out okay in that chat. You want him to have something ready for when I write about you {which I wasn’t planning on doing by the way} … and yet you keep saying it’s going to be “objective”. That’s oxymoronic and moronic. Then you don’t print it when it doesn’t say what you want.

I don’t give a fuck about your respect or interest Rick … I’m fighting for hundreds of thousands of harmed parties who have almost no voice or advocates. Am I crazy? I don’t know … but I’m going to get change for them I can promise you that.If you don’t want to see change … better make your next hire a hitman because nothing short of that is going to slow me down.

My response:

You have probably seen my blog post from this morning but just in case:
https://www.blogworld.com/2012/10/11/salty-droid-man-on-a-mission-or-internet-troll-or-me-and-mr-jones/

I assume everything I say to you is on the record and will be posted on your blog Jason. So I went ahead and posted our entire email exchange. I will update the post with this exchange as well.

So anyone who doesn’t agree with everything you say must be a guilty of something?

You know that sounds crazy right?

You are talking about some people who I have known for several years. While I’m not best friends with any of them, I think I have spent enough time with them and have seen enough of their character to tell they aren’t the scam artists you are accusing them of being.

Which by the way you have never met any of them personally right? You have never seen how they treat people. How they act, and what they say. You just judge them as guilty due to some association however small it may be with some other nefarious person.

Again it sounds like the logic of a zealot.

You keep saying things like this “Rick … I’m fighting for hundreds of thousands of harmed parties who have almost no voice or advocates. Am I crazy? I don’t know … but I’m going to get change for them I can promise you that.”

I am on board with you 100% in that mission. I just see you dragging some good people down who in my opinion don’t deserve it.

So that’s the latest email exchange with me and Jason. Jason seems to think my Skype exchange
with Dave Copeland is incriminating in some way. I just don’t see it.

I need to mention that everyone on our staff including my partner Dave Cynkin wants me to just
ignore him. I have had many friends say there is no benefit to having this conversation.

But as I said above I am stubborn. It’s the political blogger in me. I love a good argument even
when and if I am proven wrong.

I just do not understand why people are unwilling to comment on Jason’s accusations. Maybe
you can tell me what I am missing.

Is this story interesting?

Most importantly I would love to hear what our community thinks. Is Jason’s blog telling hard
truths in an irreverent off beat style or is he just a troll with a blog?

One last housekeeping note for Jason’s fans who are sure to comment. Feel free to make your
arguments, but be respectful. Insults, slurs and unsupported accusations will be deleted.

Photo Credit: Bigstock

Recording Professional Voice Overs for Your Videos

Author:

Sound is arguably the most important part of video production. People are willing to put up with a fuzzy image or shaky camera if they really want the information, but if they can’t hear you well, they won’t give you the time of day.

In this video from Videomaker, video production expert Jeremy Votava goes over the ins and outs of recording great voice overs. You can record a voice over yourself if you’re going to try some video scribing or doing a simple screen capture, or you can work with vocal talent to do a voice over. In either case, following Jeremy’s tips will help set you up for sound success.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zosxH76_5Fc[/youtube]

If you want to learn more about creating, distributing, and monetizing professional videos, check out the web TV and video track at NMX this January!

 

9 Questions To Improve Your Podcast

Author:

In sports, they watch game film. Corporations use the annual review. Science incorporates the theory evaluation. In the world of podcasting and radio, we call it the aircheck show critique (an aircheck is simply when you record your show so you can listen to it yourself later).

Review your work. It is the best way to improve your show. Listening to the podcast like a member of the audience will reveal things you don’t hear while you’re recording the show. Your review will expose areas that need attention and focus.

There are a few ways to critique your show. One way is to review it yourself. The other is to have a coach review your podcast for you. Both can be very effective if used correctly.

An experienced coach can be very powerful for your show.  Solid coaches have usually mentored many shows. That professional has been exposed to many elements that have effectively attracted and entertained an audience as well as those tactics that haven’t. You will also received unbiased feedback from a coach, because they aren’t as personally close to the content as you may be.

You must be brutally honest with yourself if you hope to effectively review and critique your show on your own. (To help you review your podcast, I’ve created a free series of Podcast Talent Worksheets that you may find helpful.)

It is not easy to separate yourself from your podcast. Becoming an unbiased onlooker to something you’ve worked hard to create is tricky. You will often find yourself justifying things you do on your show because it is personal.

To effectively critique your show, you need to ask yourself if the audience truly understands and is entertained by the content. Then, you need to honestly answer the question and be willing to change if necessary. Force yourself to be honest about every piece of content.

Not everything works. There will be times you fail. That’s ok. That is how you learn.

In order to properly critique the show, you need to listen to it in real time like an average listener. A few days after you’ve recorded the show, when the excitement of the new show has dimmed, go back and listen to your podcast. Play it in real time while taking notes.

Waiting a few days will remove many of the justifications you would normally use to explain away things that need to be adjusted. The content won’t be so fresh to you. The excuses will fade. You will find it much easier to be unbiased.

Actually listening to the audio rather than just remembering it in your head will make your critique more authentic. You never remember a show exactly as it happened. By listening to the audio, you will hear the exact words you used. It will be much easier to honestly review what really happened.

Listening to your own voice won’t be easy at first. That is alright. Most people do not enjoy the sound of their own voice. That is natural. Listen anyway. You will get more comfortable with it the more you listen.

When you critique your own show, you need to know where to look to find areas that will make a difference. If you understand and find the content that will engage your audience, you will begin making strides to add more of that content. Determine the goal for the show. Know what content will make a connection with your audience. Then, create a plan to add more of that powerful content.

Here are 9 questions you can ask as you critique your show.

1. Did you accomplish your goal for the show?

Every show should have a goal. You should have an idea of what you hope to accomplish before you even open the mic. Be specific.  Create a purpose.

What do you hope to make your audience feel? Is there something they should better understand? Are you incorporating a call-to-action?

Write down your goal before the show begins. A written goal makes the show critique easier and more effective when you return to the audio for the critique. As you review the show, find the areas that did and did not help you accomplish your goal.

2. What did you like about the show?

What parts of the show really jumped out at you as you were reviewing your podcast? Jot those parts down on a sheet of paper. If you can find ways to recreate similar experiences in future shows, you will be well on your way to creating a podcast that is consistently entertaining.

3. What was memorable about the show?

Your listener needs to remember your podcast, so they can return and listen again. That is the way to build a following. If each show has a few more listeners than the previous episode, you eventually build a solid audience.

It really doesn’t matter how many people listen today. What builds a strong podcast is the number of listeners that come back the next time, and the next time, and the time after that. You build your audience slowly with more listeners this week than you had last week.

Get your listener to remember to return. Most people will remember one or two things about any particular show. Find the big parts of your podcast episode that are memorable.

4. How did you make the audience care about your topic?

Nobody wants to watch our home movies unless they are in them. People will only care about your topic if it affects them. How does your topic relate to your audience?

The best way to make people care is to first care about them. Show your audience that you have their best interest at heart. They will come back again and again. Start in the world of your listener.

If you truly want to engage your listener, put her in your story. This doesn’t mean create a fictitious part of your story where she becomes a fake character. Include details that are so vivid that your listener feels like she is right there in the moment.

Stir the passion within your listener with great emotion. You create strong engagement with emotion. Find the parts of your show where you made a connection and made your audience care.

5. Where did you surprise your audience?

You will delight your audience when you surprise them. When the show is predictable, your audience will get bored. Find ways to make them say “oh wow.”

This doesn’t mean your show shouldn’t be consistent. You can use benchmarks and bits that regularly appear on every show. You should simply find ways to keep them fresh with unique content.

Great comedians delight their audience, because the punchlines of their jokes aren’t expected. The material takes turns you don’t see coming. Great movies do the same thing with their plots. That is what makes movies and comedians entertaining.

Find the great surprises in your podcast. Make your audience say, “Oh, wow.” Add that same movie experience to your podcast more often.

6. What did you reveal about yourself?

When you tell stories during your podcast, you reveal things about yourself. Self-revelation is the beginning of great friendships. Friends will support you every chance they can.

People like to do business with people they like. Find those little nuggets that reveal wonderful details about you. That content will make you more approachable and human to your audience.

7. Where were the powerful words?

Storytelling is an important step to revealing details about yourself. Vivid details are a vital part of great stories. Your listener will enjoy your podcast stories more when you include very vivid details.

The more vivid the details, the more your listener will enjoy the story. Make your audience see the story in their mind. Draw the mental picture for them. Details help your listener experience the story rather than just hearing it.

Details are powerful words. Find those words in your podcast. Learn to recognize them. Then, add powerful words more often.

8. What could have been better?

There are always part of your show that could be better. You need to find those parts. Become aware of your weaknesses. That will be the only way to improve.

Your shortcomings could be the introduction of the show. It might be the way you transition from one topic to another. You may find yourself using jargon and cliches most people do not use in natural conversation. Find the areas of your podcast that do not fully support the goal for the show. Those are typically the areas that need work.

9. What is your plan to make the next show better?

To improve, you need to develop a plan. Discovering the areas that need adjustment is only half the battle. You then need to figure out how to improve those areas. Put it in a plan.

The improvement plan is where a coach can be incredibly effective. A good coach has worked with successful shows. They know what works and what doesn’t when trying to attract and engage an audience. A solid coach can review your show and provide you an unbiased opinion. Sometimes that tough love is just the prescription necessary to break through to true improvement.

If you hope to improve your podcast, you need to review your show on a consistent basis.  Listen like a listener.  Be brutally honest with yourself.  Find the areas that need improvement.

It is possible to critique and improve your podcast yourself. You should learn from others who have done it successfully. You will also need the ability to be extremely honest with yourself.

If you have studied successful shows to the point where you can consistently recognize quality content, you may be able to effectively critique your show.

Let me know how I can help.

Photo Credit: Bigstock

How to Make Your Free Ebook More Valuable

Author:

The problem with free ebooks is that everybody has one. Even when you create high-quality content that you could easily sell, it can be hard to entice readers to download it if they already have ten other recently downloaded ebooks just waiting to be read. So, while it’s important to write an ebook that people want to read, you can also go one step further and make your ebook even more valuable with supplemental content and special features.

I’ve written several ebooks, including The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Your Blog, Podcast, and Videos with Pinterest and The Ultimate Guide to Blog and Podcast Sponsorship for NMX and numerous other ebooks for my own websites and for clients. Let’s take a look at what I’ve learned about making free ebooks more valuable.

Video is Hot

Not everyone has the time (or makes the time) to read a 100-page ebook, even if the information is extremely valuable. Some people instead prefer video (or audio), and since fewer people are creating video resources, you can really stand out from the crowd by creating them. A good example is this video series about podcast sponsorship we created in conjunction with our ebook about sponsorship.

If you aren’t comfortable being on camera, consider creating a video using this scribing technique or even a simple voice over. You can also make use of video others have put online by finding videos related to your topic and compiling them into one playlist. You have less content control this way, but it’s an option that allows you to present video without actually creating video yourself.

Check It Off Your List

People like to be able to take action after reading an ebook or guide, so giving your readers a way to easily do that is a great added resource to your ebook. This can be in the form of a checklist or workbook. You’ll want to make them easily printable, leaving space for your readers to write if they’d like to do so.

The point is to give your readers guidance with really actionable steps that they can check off their lists so they’re implementing what you talked about in your ebook. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a printable. Another example is this five-part Pinterest series that outlines specific steps to take over the course of five days.

Follow Up with GOOD Paid Products

The point of any free product for your readers is to follow it up with something that benefits you, like a paid product. However, if you’re going to follow up the gift with a hard sell, make sure your paid product makes sense. I don’t want to download your ebook about email marketing and then have you try to sell me an ebook about editing podcasts. Those two things aren’t really related. Instead, if you get me to download your ebook about email marketing, follow it up with a paid e-course that goes into further detail about the topic. That’s something that I’ll be more willing to buy if I enjoyed your free ebook.

Five Ways to Make More Money Blogging for Other People

Author:

When I first started blogging, I did so on a freelance basis, providing content for clients rather than running my own blogs. Today, I have a foot in both camps, but the majority of income has always been from my freelance work.

Initially, I was paid pennies for my work, but eventually I learned how to make an actual living in this industry. Zac Johnson wrote a great post about how to create content that clients will reward, but it takes more than killer content to be an in-demand freelance blogger. Here are five skills to master if you want to make more money blogging for others:

1. Reliability

As someone who has hired freelancers as well as being a freelancer herself, I can confirm that reliability is at least as important as actual writing talent. At one point, I had anywhere from eight to twelve people working under me, and there were always at least ten unreliable people who would disappear without a word for every one legitimate worker.

Do your job. Do it on time, and do it well. Stay in close communication with your client, and don’t leave them hanging. Most clients reward freelancers who they don’t have to chase. It sounds simple enough, but you’d be amazed how rare this is in the freelance world.

2. Availability

Flexibility is a trait admired in most industries, but clients respond best to this trait when paired with availability. In other words, it’s not enough to be flexible with the content you’re writing so you fit the client’s needs, but you also need to have a flexible schedule to finish changes quickly or take on extra projects. Sometimes, bloggers have to burn the midnight oil, so if you’re a 9-to-5-only type of person, it will be hard to command the big bucks. Clients want to know that when there’s a breaking story, you’re on it.

3. Networking

You might be hired for your skills as a writer, but clients will pay you more if you’re also a savvy networker. Building your social media followings means that posts you share reach a wider audience, and while it may not be in your contract that you have to tweet about new clients post, doing this at least occasionally is a smart professional move. Not only does this allow you to showcase your work, but it also helps you drive traffic to your clients’ blogs – which means you’re a more valuable commodity.

Networking skills go beyond getting others to like your Facebook posts, though. Clients also like to work with freelancers who can make connections. When they’re looking for a new editor, do you know someone perfect for the job? Can you connect your client with a new investor? Can you bring business into the company not only in your content marketing efforts, but also by introducing your clients to potential customers? If you bring in more money for a client, there will be a trickle-down effect to you.

4.Traffic Consulting

As Zac mentioned in his post, clients will pay more for content that really brings in the big numbers. However, the “if you build it, they will come” approach doesn’t always work. In other words, it takes more than killer content to drive traffic to your blog (or in this case, your clients’ blogs).

So, you have two options: you can put your nose to the grindstone and set them up for success with the best content possible, leaving the rest of the work to them, or you can tell your clients when you see ways for them to improve. I’m a fan of speaking up, since it means more money in your pocket!

If your clients truly need a consultant, you need to work out a contract with them so you’re paid fairly, but offering simple tips for free is a great way to become more valuable as a writer. Can you recommend a great plugin that will help them attract more readers? Is there something about their blog design that is a little off and causing high bounce rates? Would a different blogging schedule give them more bang for their buck? Speak up, and as their traffic increases due to your advice, you can ask for a higher pay rate per post.

5. Independence

Lastly, almost all clients want freelancers who can work independently. You will come across the occasionally obsessive micro-manager, but most of the time, your job as a blogger is just a very small cog in the machine of a business. They don’t have time to answer 17 emails a day from you. Be careful not to overstep your boundaries by making decisions without asking the client, but take the initiative to solve your own problems whenever possible. If you’re an independent worker who is (going back to point #1) extremely reliable, the client will trust you, and in the freelance world, trust equals money.

I don’t want this post to downplay the importance of providing quality content for your clients, which should always be your biggest goal. These are just five ways to go even further with the service you’re providing. Definitely check out the blog track at NMX this January, paying special attention to sessions about content production. The skills these speakers will teach you about creating content for your own blog can, and should, be applied to creating content for your clients’ blogs as well.

How to Optimize your Site and its Local Listings for Mobile Use

Author:
Google Mobile Search April Fool

Photo Credit: Mac Morrison

Imagine your average Joe Schmoe. Joe is driving to work, and he realizes that he wants some donuts. He doesn’t want the drugstore kind, though; he wants to get donuts without getting out of his car.

Until recently, Joe would have to rack his brain to remember the nearest drive-through donut place. Chances are that he doesn’t have any donut coupons with him, and he may not even remember how to get to the place he’s thinking of. In today’s technology-centered culture, however, Joe’s donut finding experience is a lot simpler. He just pulls out his smart phone and searches for “Donuts.” Within seconds, his phone pulls up three options, all within five miles of his location. The first option has four stars, it’s a drive-through, and it offers a 25% off coupon offer for an order of jelly donuts.

Joe clicks on that result, and he’s able to see the company’s list of donuts. He taps their phone number to call them, and he places an order with an employee so that it’s ready by the time he gets there. When he hangs up, his GPS-enabled phone guides him to the store, and he’s able to get his donuts without being late for work.

This all happens in less than 10 minutes. Joe doesn’t have to remember where he’s seen donut ads, where donuts stores are, or how to get to the few donut stores he remembers. He doesn’t bother asking friends, and he doesn’t need to worry about remembering recommendations. He lets his phone do the work, right up to telling him where to turn. Considering how simple this process is, it’s no surprise that mobile local searches are taking over in the search world. Mobile search is fast. It’s easy. And anyone with a smart phone can do it.

Experts predict that by 2014, internet browsing done with mobile devices will outnumber internet browsing done with PCs. Even right now, more than half of all local searches done are done on a mobile device with internet capabilities. That’s big.

Considering the huge number of searches being done on mobile devices, businesses can’t afford not to optimize their site and their content for mobile searches. It may not be 2014 yet, but getting yourself optimized for mobile local searches and mobile applications can put you way ahead of the curve.

So how do you optimize your content for mobile searches?

Optimizing your Listing

Most mobile searches use Google Places to provide listings of businesses near the searcher’s current location. Just as a normal Google search provides only so many listings per page, a mobile search will provide the searcher with a limited number of local businesses from which to choose. That being said, it’s possible that the searcher will never even see your business unless you optimize your listing.

Both Google and mobile searchers value listings with a lot of information. If you’re a mobile searcher, you are more likely to select a business with a lot of positive user ratings over a business with just a couple of reviews. Depending on your situation, you may opt to favor a business that lists their store hours over a business that doesn’t list this information. Google understands that businesses with a great deal of information and positive user feedback are more likely to be useful to searchers, so Google lists those businesses higher on mobile searches.

In short, the best way to optimize your mobile listing is to provide as much information as possible. Make sure that your business is listed on Google Maps, as many mobile applications use this tool to find relevant results for the searcher. Provide your address, site information, store hours, and phone number. In a mobile search, the mobile search application may create easy-to-use buttons with this information, allowing the searcher to call you with just a click. The easier it is for the searcher to find relevant information and contact details for your business, the more likely it is that they will choose to patronize your business.

Positive user reviews are vital to creating a healthy, optimized mobile listing. If a searcher is on the fence about selecting your business, having even one positive review can tip the scale in your favor. You may want to ask current customers to leave good reviews and comments on your listing. You may even want to include the positive testimonies of former clients. Just make sure that your positive comments and reviews are genuine. Google and other search engines can tell if you are creating spammy, disingenuous reviews for yourself. This practice could hurt more than it helps, and it may even get your site de-indexed altogether.

Finally, remember that some mobile search applications bypass Google and other search engines by using specialized directory listings. Proactively submitting your business to relevant directories whenever possible will ensure that your business is listed in these and other mobile “answer engines.”

Optimizing Your Site for Viewers

Mobile searchers are less attentive than desktop searchers. Their focus is usually divided between their search and the other things they happen to be doing—shopping, talking, running, babysitting, driving. It’s crucial that your site be easy for a mobile searcher to read, navigate, and understand. Google has recently come out with a set of guidelines and recommendations that serve as a great guide for content writers and webmasters who are trying to make their sites more mobile-friendly. To convert searchers into customers, however, you should also consider the overall impression of your listing and your site.

Here are a couple of guiding principles that will help convert customers:

1. Offer coupons, promotions, and deals on the landing page of your site. When using a mobile device, searchers are more likely to select a company that will give them a bargain. In fact, studies show that customers are ten times more likely to redeem mobile coupons than traditional printed coupons.

 

2. Make sure that your site’s font is legible and visible (no grey text on black background). Making sure that viewers can access important information as quickly as possible will help to ensure that your customers follow through and buy, rather than simply giving up and going elsewhere.

 

3. Get to the point. Make sure that your customers see the most relevant information first. What questions do you get most often? Make sure that the answers are displayed prominently on your mobile site.

 

4. Format your site so that it is easily navigated. A lot of mobile devices have small, touch-sensitive screens. Make sure that links and buttons are easy to tap, as this will drastically improve your visitors’ experience and increase the possibility that visitors convert into customers.

 

For more info, check out Angie Schottmuller’s great SEO advice on other ways to streamline your mobile site.

Mobile marketing is already a huge, multi-million dollar industry, and it’s only getting bigger. Getting on board with and optimizing for this growing trend will help to secure your local business’ success not only now, but in the future as well!

What do you think about mobile optimization? What mobile optimization techniques have been effective for you?

 

How to Work with Brand Bloggers

Author:

This post will help businesses, both large and small, understand brand blogs–sites written by consumers that exist for the sole purpose of talking about a company and/or its products. Do you know how to engage with brand bloggers and the opportunities that exist? Read on to learn more!

 

A topic near and dear to my heart is blogs that are created by customers which are all about well-known brands.  This is a phenomenon that is now down-right common.  It’s amazing how many customers have created blogs about well-known brands!

First, a few examples of the kinds of blogs that I’m talking about:

I’m sure there are many more brand fan blogs out there.  Those were just a few that were very easy to find with a few Google searches. The list of customer-created fan blogs is stunningly long.

For the large brand (or even a smaller brand), all of this can equal surprise and uncertainty. If you’re Lululemon, or any other brand where a customer has created a fan blog, you don’t know what they’re going to say next. You don’t know which products they’ll love. And, you never know if the fan blog will turn on the brand. There is a complete loss of control. Even worse, the brand may worry that the fan site will become so large that it will be confused with a corporate-created website. The brand’s voice then competes with the fan’s voice.

Since September 2009, I have been writing about Starbucks. There’s no doubt, they know I exist. I’m in the unusual position that I’m blogging about a brand close to home. I live not too far from the Starbucks headquarters and the first Starbucks in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. I am so close, I can actually easily go to Starbucks events that would only happen in Seattle. Because of this, I’ve met a number of corporate headquarters Starbucks employees.

My blog, as I write this, receives over 30,000 absolute unique visitors each month. It’s slowly grown over time. A year from now, I might be saying it has 35,000 or 40,000 uniques. It certainly didn’t start out at that level of readership – and that’s still fairly small. And obviously, I am not CNN or a major news source. However, it is possible that at an ordinary customer can have a real voice about a brand. For example, if you look at the Trader Joe’s blog mentioned above, you’ll see that its hit-counter lists well over 2 million hits so far! That’s one very popular blog!

There is no doubt that through Facebook and Twitter, it’s possible that a customer with a big brand fan blog might be able to have direct contact with other fans, possibly brand detractors, company employees, and even possibly corporate executives. All of this comes down to one thing: Each individual customer now has the possibility to have a much larger voice than ever before. Anyone can start a blog. The choice of the brand is to either engage or ignore. That’s it: either engage or ignore. My position is that engagement is the best option.

It’s been cited that a brand advocate is worth much more than an average customer.  Zuberance, a California-based company designed to energize brand advocates, writes “Brand Advocates are worth at least 5x more than average customers. This is because they spend more and their recommendations drive sales.”

The customer-created brand blog is not a mysterious unicorn. It’s real. Any brand could end up with customers writing about them. And honest reviews, unfiltered, and unsolicited, are the most genuine.

4 Tips for Working with Brand Bloggers: 

Recognize that a brand fan blog is fueled by passion for the brand

There is no doubt, for a customer to write for years consistently about a brand, he or she has to be filled with passion for the brand. Probably there are no “wet noodle” personalities with big successful brand fan blogs. Susan Martin’s IKEA fan blog is still going strong seven years into blogging. She started blogging in 2005 about IKEA. One doesn’t blog for seven years about IKEA without really having some passion for the brand.

Your customers who create long-term fan blogs love you. They passionately love you. And expect them to truly characterize the kind of personality that gets very passionate about a topic.

You can expect that one with a big, vocal passionate personality might have fixed convictions that he or she won’t budge on, or may come on strongly when engaged. Despite all this, passions fuels this.

Reach out to dedicated fan bloggers; do not ignore them

It takes a tremendous amount of work to keep a fan blog going. There isn’t a monetary incentive for the overwhelming majority of brand fan blogs. (I couldn’t find any evidence of any monetary compensation in any of the listed fan blogs above.)

A little reaching out goes a long way to keep inspiration alive.

And for many people, the more emotionally invested he or she feels in a brand, the less likely he or she is going to write negative commentary about it. Reaching out to brand bloggers can help lock in that emotional attachment to a brand. A brand can never control everything that is going to be said about it. And often times, honest feedback couched in a true vision of making the brand better is nothing to be scoffed at. Customers have great insights.

And so once again, since the fan brand blogger is not motivated by a paycheck, a little reaching out to the brand goes a long way.

For example, in 2010, IKEA reached out to their fans, hosting a IKEA brand evangelists event in New York City, and giving those fans a bag of gifts, and the latest IKEA catalogue two weeks early. Not every brand is going to host trips to New York City for their biggest fans, but it is definitely an example of a large brand truly recognizing and responding to brand evangelists.

In January 2012, I went to a nicely organized coffee tasting at the Olive Way Starbucks as part of the Starbucks PR department’s blogger outreach. I wrote about it here.  I love events that have a true element of exclusivity to them.  I enjoyed being able to see the Starbucks concept store, Roy Street, shortly before it opened to the public and being able to write about that before the store’s grand opening.

As yet another example of incredible blogger outreach, Anthropologie sent a number of bloggers on a trip to Philadelphia for the opening of a wedding-themed Anthropologie store. I have heard that Anthropologie did reach out to at least one blogger who writes specifically an Anthroplogie brand blog. The trip to Philadelphia is mentioned in an article by a wedding blogger.

Consider the bloggers who are dedicated to your brand. If the brand passes over a very passionate blogger, it may truly come off as if the blog is not appreciated.

I think even small gestures mean a lot. I was reading through Nathan Aaron’s “Method Lust” blog and noticed that now and then he mentions that Method will send him sneak previews of new products. It could be as simple as sending the brand advocate a bottle of Fig Aroma Spray.

Read the comments

The value of a brand blog doesn’t end at the author’s article. Read the comments. That’s so important, I feel like I should say it twice. Read the comments.

A blog that is getting even a dozen comments per article provides a lot of insight about customer response to a specific product or concept.

Remember the authenticity of the voice is priceless. As a great example of this, earlier this year I wrote an article about the Pink Lime Frozt and the Coconut Lime Frozt at Starbucks. You might be thinking that you’ve never heard of these beverages. In the spring of this year, Starbucks did a large test of these beverages, mostly in Southern states, though to date, there has never been a nationwide launch. But my article on the Pink Lime Frozt has over 50 comments. That’s a tremendous amount of feedback on a test product. The same thing happened when I wrote about the test product, the “Apple Crumble Frappuccino.” Don’t miss the chance to get valuable feedback.

On top of it all, the blog comments may have replies by the blog owner – one more chance to get to know the personality of the brand’s customer with a fan blog.

Be transparent at all times

There is nothing worse than having a brand-blogger customer reaching out to a corporate headquarters, and having him or her sent in circles, and/or being told that someone will get back to them, and no one does. Even worse, completely ignored emails.  It can equally leave a bad taste in one’s mouth if a brand PR person says (hypothetically), “We’d like you to try a new product  …” and then there is no follow up to arrange a trial of the new product.

If someone is passionate enough to dedicate years to blogging about your specific brand, he or she should not be left hanging in conversations with the corporation, whether in person or in an electronic form.

Good business manners are good business manners, whether dealing with people internally or externally.

At the end of the day, some of this is common sense. Develop a positive relationship with bloggers. They’re valuable for the brand due to their reach. A blogger who is reaching even 1,000 unique visitors a day, in some ways, has a megaphone in his or her hands. That person is akin to media in some ways. The positive relationship with the blogger can help ignite a positive outlook about the brand on that blog.

It’s likely that no brand is immune to the possibility of having a customer start an entire blog just to talk about that brand. Be ready and willing to reach and be transparent with that blogger.

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