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Software Versus Physical: Why Go to Conferences?

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Networking, Not in the IT Sense

Networking, Not in the IT Sense

By Guest contributor Chris Garrett

With all the buzz and hype around social media, you might wonder why someone would go to a physical rather than virtual conference. What are the advantages of a conference over staying at home?

As someone who is an advocate of all things digital, and also someone who has been involved in his own fair share of webinars, teleconferences and online summits, it might seem strange that I am coming to you singing the praises of meeting in “meatspace”.

Yes, software is coming on leaps and bounds, there are actual usable video conferencing tools that anyone can use like Skype, there are Webinars that allow hundreds of participants, and even three dimensional virtual reality environments, but in fact there are some things that online can not yet offer.

I have mentioned before how even geeks like me prefer to meet in real life given the chance over at the Cogniview blog, but I should explain now my thoughts in detail.

Five Reasons I Go to Live Conferences

  1. Authority – If you know anything about me then you might know that one of my “things” is Authority, that is, using blogs to gather an audience that knows, likes and trusts you. Speaking at conferences and meeting people in the flesh is a great way to build this authority without attempting to convince people that you are an expert. By being seen and networking at these gatherings you build a personal brand, especially if you give a talk.
  2. Human connection – Meeting in person builds and deepens relationships much faster than online. Many people say the good stuff at conferences happens in the halls, and this is true very often. Connections I made in the early 2000’s are still surprisingly paying off today. At the time I thought I had done myself a disservice and that I had wasted an opportunity not being more forward, being as I am a complete introvert. In fact I must have made a small impression as opportunities came out of that nobody would have predicted. It’s not just me either, one of the fellow shy friends I already kind of knew but really enjoyed talking to in a quiet corner is now super successful in the SEO space. Don’t get me wrong, online offers cool things – after all I have still yet to meet in person my friend and Problogger book co-author but putting faces and voices to names makes you and the people you meet much more memorable and you feel a much stronger bond.
  3. Knowledge and ideas – When you immerse yourself in learning your mind seems to open up and absorb much more. Your ideas are sparked in a way that I just haven’t found from books and the web. Each person you talk to is a potential mine of new facts, thoughts and ideas. Choose the sessions you attend well and you can come away with a ton of new business boosting action items.
  4. Experience – One of the things I love about my “job” is attending conferences. They really are like a working holiday for me. Yeah, I complain about travel, getting up early, and did I mention how shy I am? But I always come back buzzing and loving the experience of meeting new people in new places, and catching up with friends who I rarely get to see. Blogworld is going to be crammed with people who I want to connect with in a city I have never been to before. And my business is paying! How cool is that?
  5. Escape – Following from the previous thought, sometimes it is good for our brains and our health to get away from the desk and expand our horizons. I love my family to bits, and I try to bring them along whenever I can, but even when I can’t I think it is good for me to go and do things outside of my comfort zone, to get away from the daily stresses, and to dedicate my mind to something other than my ever-growing to-do list!

What do you think? Why do you (or not) go to live events and conferences? Please let me know in the comments …

Turning a Blog Into a Network: One Year Down the Road

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blog

Almost a year ago, my blog Freelance Writing Jobs grew from a standalone blog with several bloggers to a network of seven blogs. As you can imagine, it’s been a challenging experience, one in which I continue to learn and grow.

There were several reasons I decided to grow my blog into a small network. The biggest reason, I think, was because I had several writers, plus several job listings daily, and it was getting a bit noisy and busy. I thought by having several different nichey blogs,  it would make life a little less noisy and content would be easier to find. I also felt that since the blog was doing terrific, revenue wise, seven blogs would do even better. To say it’s all been interesting is an understatement.

Now, I won’t claim to be as big as b5Media, Sparkplugging or Splash Press Media, but I am continuing to grow – and it’s been an uphill climb.

If you’re considering turning your blog into a network, you might want to take note. Things won’t be rosy and there will be plenty of growing pains, but hopefully it will all turn out in the end.

Folks Won’t Get it At First

Anyone who has ever changed a blog design knows that readers will complain for a while. No one likes disruption in their routine. Changing my standalone blog into a network meant more than a design tweak. I had to change the blog’s homepage to become a portal leading to the various blogs. This threw the entire community into an uproar. My community was very comfortable with the “old FWJ” and many wanted to know why I would fix it when it wasn’t broke. I’m happy to report most have come around to the dark side and are enjoying all that we have offer.

Murphy’s Law Will Prevail

After having been responsible for two server crashes in as many weeks, I can tell you things can, and will, go wrong. The thing about having managing so many blogs and bloggers is that calamity will ensue. As traffic grows so will the need for better hosting — it’s best to learn that before it’s too late.

Seven Blogs Won’t Necessarily Mean Seven Similar Revenue Streams

The biggest challenge has been in monetizing FWJ. So far the new blogs haven’t come close to matching the original blog’s revenue stream. There are plenty of reasons for this. Mostly it’s because the other blogs aren’t getting the traffic the original blog and home page are receiving. The team really isn’t as into the promotion and traffic building as I am. (See the section below regarding bloggers sharing your vision).  Though the blogs are earning, it’s not as I expected but we are showing a slow steady rise. FWJ as a network is quite profitable, so it’s just a matter of getting those blogs going.

You Will Spend More Money Than You Planned

There will always be tweaks and upgrades. There will be coding issues to fix. There will be new hosting fees. Contests. Promotions. You will want this bell and that whistle. You will need to advertise. And yes, it will cost you.

Your Bloggers Won’t (Necessarily) Share Your Vision

To me, FWJ is a passion, to my bloggers it’s a job. If Iwant them to go on and beyond I’ll either have to pay them handsomely or bribe them with bonuses or contests. Now, I don’t expect anyone to put in extra work on my behalf, especially if they’re not getting paid for it. Just keep in mind you get what you pay for. Passion costs extra.

There are No Regrets

So, almost a year later, do I have any regrets? No siree, Bob. This has been a wonderful experiment. My community, filled with thousands of amazing writers, has grown by leaps and bounds. I employ the best freelance writing bloggers in the world. Advertisers are starting to come to me, instead of the other way around. We have a wonderful, sharing and giving community. I learned so much about growing a blog network, traffic, monetization and more it’s been so worth it. I’m still taking babysteps and we have to move to a better equipped host, but it’s all good.

How are you going to take your blogging to the next level?

Who is Reading Your Blog? The Importance of Knowing Your Community

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blog

Knowing who visits your blog on a regular basis is more important than you think. Looking at your community as a network of individuals rather than numbers or comments will help you build traffic and better enable you to monetize your blog. While blogs are a personal thing, if you’re not meeting the needs of the people who come to you for guidance, wisdom, or humor, you won’t succeed.

Here’s why it’s important to know who is reading your blog:

  • You’re better able to tailor the content to your community’s needs
  • You can find the affiliate products and services your community is most likely to buy
  • Better enable you to lead discussions
  • You’ll know how and where to promote your content

How can you learn more about your readers?

  • Comments: The comments provide a goldmine of information. It’s where many bloggers get their posting inspiration. In the comments your readers will let you know what they thought of your post, their own points of view, and also, ask any questions on the chosen topic. Use this information to your advantage.
  • Stats: Analytics are one of a blogger’s most important tools. Depending on your program or package, you’ll learn what search terms are bringing in readers, what blogs are linking to you, what people are saying about you, which posts do the best – and the worst, the times of day when you get the most traffic, and more.
  • Social networks: Bloggers can gauge many posts by their tweetability factor. Notice how some of your blog posts go viral on twitter, while others receive nary a mention? This is a great way to gauge community reaction.
  • Polls & surveys: Periodic polls and surveys will tell you everything you need to know about your community. By using a website such as Survey Monkey and offering readers the ability to comment in an anonymous manner, you’re sure to receive candid, truthful remarks.
  • Email: If you wrote something your readers don’t like, they’ll be sure to tell you about it. They’ll also write to tell you what they love. Don’t delete email from your readers, it gives out imporant information about why they consider you an important resource.

Now that you know who makes up your community, you can take your traffic to higher levels by socializing in the forums and social networks your readers are most likely to visit. By networking with other like-minded people you’re sure to bring in new traffic.

You can also use your new-found information to properly monetize your blog. Knowing your community’s median income and spending habits will help you know what types of products and affiliate programs are most likely to do well. You’ll also be able to gauge if your readers are clickers or buyers. Many blogs don’t earn because the blogger isn’t taking too much to to gauge what will best work out among the reader base. The best part of knowing where your traffic comes from is that you can write the content they’ll want to see the most. This can lead to better discussions and more comment fun.

A little research is never a bad thing. Take some time to learn about the people who support you, their loyalty is sure to shine through.

What are you doing to learn about your readers?

What are People Saying About You Online?

Author:

community-outreach1

There’s a lot more to blogging than just writing a post. Successful blogging also means meeting the needs of your community. Yes, your blog is there so you can say what you want, whenever you want, but if you turn off your regular visitors or don’t give them what they want, you can lose  a lot of readers.

That’s why it’s a good idea to know what people are saying about you – and your blog. It can help you gauge whether or not you’re on the right track or if you need a little work on your delivery. It will also allow for you to see when other blogs are talking about you, allowing a good, old-fashioned, friendly, cross blog debate.

How to tell what is being said about you online

  • Twitter– One way to learn what is being said about you on the interwebs is to monitor Twitter by using Twitter search. Another way is to set up your Tweetdeck to display Tweets using certain keywords or Twitter handles.
  • Google  Alerts – With Google Alerts you can enter a keyword such as your name or the name of your blog, and receive updates every time that word or name is mentioned online.
  • Google Blog Search – By using a Google Blog Search you can find what other bloggers are saying about your or if anyone is linking to you.
  • Analytics – What type of traffic is coming your way from other blogs and websites – and why? Use a metrics package such as Google Analytics to track what is being said about you online, enabling you to say thanks or do the necessary damage control.
  • Comments – Be very mindful of what is being said about you in your blogs comments. Don’t pay attention to the obvious trolls but if there are concerns or accolades being offered, you’ll find them in the comments. Do take time to response to them in a kind manner as well.
  • Vanity searches -Use your favorite search engine find out where your name is showing up lately.

What do you use to learn what is being said about you or your blog online? One of the above -or do you have a different method to share?

Put a Little Thought into Your Link Exchange Requests

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links-via-stockxchnge

I receive requests every day for link exchanges. Many newer bloggers especially feel a link exchange from a more established blog or blogger is a good way to get traffic and create buzz. Backlinks are always good, but people, can we put a little more thought into this?

Yesterday I received a link exchange request from someone who felt my blog would be perfect for his readers, and vice versa and we should have a link exchange. “Your blog is about watches? It’s a sales tool filled with affiliate links,” I told him. “I have a blog network geared towards freelance writers. How is that perfect?”

“Easy,” he responded. “Everyone needs to tell time.”

Know your audience

You know what annoys me so much about Viagra and a lot of other spam? I mean besides that it’s so spammy? It’s because I’m a woman. I don’t use Viagra. I don’t have male bodyparts to enlarge. I’m not into cheerleaders. I’m sure there’s a market for all of this, however, it doesn’t include me. What happened to knowing one’s audience?

This same logic applies to the folks seeking out link exchanges. Sure, everyone wants to be linked to by a major blog, but there has to be a relevance. Take some time, do a little research, and maybe you’ll find the right target for your requests.

Stop asking for links and write link-worthy content instead

I’m not huge into link exchanges, to be honest. Instead, I prefer to link to interesting content. Others must feel the same way because my blog has received link love from Mashable, ProBlogger and many others. Not because I asked, but because I wrote blog posts that made them take notice.

If you want backlinks, write backlink worthy content. Put some thought into what you’re writing instead of Googling someone else’s work. Don’t write linkbait, instead, write timeless, information-filled blog posts that folks will find useful in years to come.

Blogging: You Get What You Give

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In May, my blog network had it’s highest ever payout in terms of revenue. We’re talking more than two thousand dollars for the month. For some serious probloggers this may seem like chump change, but for someone who has watched a slow steady rise over the past four years, yesterday’s tallies were a celebratory occasion.

Over the past year I sort of stepped back from micromanaging the network in order to put my all into my full time job community manager job. My neglect showed and I was getting disheartened. Would this blog ever do more than break even? In my busyness however, I never really sat down during that time to figure out the problem.

Circumstances changed over the past few months and I decided to dedicate more time to my blogging. My first step was to sit down and analyze the situation. I realized my issues had nothing to do with the blog and it had nothing to do with the folks who blogged for me. It was all my fault. My promotional efforts were lackluster and I didn’t really pursue the big advertisers. I even blogged half heartedly. No wonder things weren’t going my way.  What happened to my passion?

I eagerly threw myself back into my blogging. I began writing more and became relentless with the promotional efforts. I researched ideas for interesting content so I wasn’t only writing about the same old thing and I started an accompanying social network. Soon, my numbers began to rise, folks began taking notice again. Advertisers were contacting me, instead of the other way around. It was proof positive that I can’t sit back and expect a blog to grow, I have to give it a wholehearted effort. Once I renewed my passion, the rest was easy.

Circumstances have further changed and I find myself with even more time on my hands, and I’m using it to my advantage. My love for my own blogs has returned with a vengeance. With blogging, you truly do get what you give. If you think blogging is nothing more than slapping up a post and hoping someone will comment, don’t expect much. If you put your heart into it and give it the love and respect it deserves, it will pay off in more ways then one.

Are you passionate about your blogs? Does it show?

Has Blogging Jumped the Shark?

Author:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDthMGtZKa4[/youtube]

I live to blog. If I’m not blogging, I’m forming posts in my head. Everything is an idea. I suppose you can call me an old school blogger, but I’m not close minded. I like to consider new ideas and technologies, even if I don’t always get them. That’s why I was kind of taken aback the other day when I was asked if I felt blogging has jumped the shark.

A Whole New Blogosphere

The blogosphere is a lot different than it was five years ago. It even feels different. It’s not the different bloggers, but rather the different ways folks use blogs. I remember when I started out, blogging was more about sharing than it was making money. Now, it’s the other way around. Still that doesn’t constitute shark-jumping, does it?

Let’s examine some of the evidence presented to me…

Blogging is now an entry level writing position

Blogging jobs for very little or no money abound. Many people are seeing blogging as a low cost way to stock a website with content. It’s one of my pet peeves, as blogging is a skill deserving of a lot more pay.

Shark Jump Factor: 5. Now that social media is the big job for 2009, bloggers are treated with a lot more respect. Sure, there are plenty of low payers but smart bloggers know where the money is and how to get the blogging jobs that pay.

Everyone Has a Blog Now

Blogging isn’t relegated to a select few. There are millions of bloggers blogging about this and that. Everyone is an expert and everyone has to weigh in. Even celebrities have blogs now.

Shark Jump Factor: 2 The more the merrier. The blogosphere is a big space and there’s room for everyone, so what if there are more people blogging. We were all “new bloggers” at one time or another. The good news is that bloggers are still helpful and supportive and newbies benefit from the wisdom that comes from the old school.

There are A Lot of Spam Bloggers Out There

More unsavory bloggers are using their blogs to sell products or  steal another bloggers content in order to earn advertising revenue. While it’s not as bad as it used to be, there’s plenty of splogging going on still.  Since there’s really no way to regulate this sort of thing, spam blogging will happen for years to come.

Shark Jump Factor: 8. Spam is like cockroaches. We can fight it using various methods, but we can’t get rid of them for good.

Blogging Has Become More Mainstream

News agencies have blogs. Businesses have blogs. Celebrities have blogs. Teachers have blogs. Doctors have blogs. People who know nothing about blogging have blogs. Where does it all end? For many, blogging has lost its appeal now that everyone is doing it.

Shark Jump Factor: 4. Get over it, son. Blogging is a terrific form of expression. Visit the blogs you enjoy and stay away from the blogs that don’t appeal to you.

Has Blogging Jumped the Shark?

No. Not even close. Blogging has changed. It’s evolved, but there’s no jumpage here. I liken it to a band that did well locally for a couple of years before having a breakout album with several top ten hits. The purists will always say, “I liked the old stuff better.” Things change, it’s a way of life. We can gripe or we can embrace. I choose the latter.

Learning WordPress

Author:

wp This is my third try at writing this post as I have lost my draft three times.  Isn’t that just the way when you want to talk about a technology?  I am writing this in the dashboard of WordPress.  There are many choices when wanting to use a blogging platform, like Blogger, Moveable Type, Squarespace and others.  I like to stay up to date on what all of them are doing.  I was able to see what was new in the world of WordPress and learn some cool stuff and meet some new friends yesterday.

I had an opportunity to attend an event this weekend in Reno, Nevada, called Reno-Tahoe Wordcamp.  I had a chance to see again for the fourth time many users and evangelists of the blogging platform.  I was one of the presenters and wanted to thank the organizers for allowing me to talk about “Blogging For A Living.”  This is my fourth Wordcamp this year attending Vegas, Miami, Denver previous, and I will be speaking at the Chicago Wordcamp coming up in June. If you are going, I would love to see you there.  Next month the main event in the world of Wordcamps is happening in San Francisco. Matt Mullenweg the founder of WordPress will be talking about the company more in depth at that event and everyone should attend.

I wanted to thank the organizers of the Reno-Tahoe Wordcamp for allowing me to be a part of their exciting event.  The event was held in a journalism school in Reno at the local college.  That to me was a bit of an irony as we are just now being taken serious by the world of journalism so it was also fun to think about how far we have come. If you have a local Wordcamp make you get signed up to attend it will allow you to learn from some of the best and the brightest using this application.  I have had an opportunity to walk away always with a new nugget of information or a trick or tip to make my use of WordPress a little better.

How To Monetize Your Blog; A Gary V Post You Must See!

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I just had a great conversation with @Jason Falls from Social Media Explorer and had to write this post.   We were just talking about how some smallish (1,500 to 2,000 readers a day) but high quality niche blogs kept trying to pitch him to get a world wide brand to advertise on their blogs.

Jason finally explained that while the blog may be high quality and a perfectly targeted niche, his client was not going to spend $5,000 to advertise on their site. His client spends $500,000 or more on media buys. It simply doesn’t work logistically for them to spend that small amount of money on a media buy.  Jason advised them to start a network with other blogs in their niche, combine their demographics and then pitch the client.

While he was telling me this story (which is great advice for any niche market blog btw) he mentioned a video that Gary V posted a couple months back where Gary actually came up with a concept for a blog, did a search on Google for advertisers in that space and actually called the first advertiser on the list live on the video. What transpires next is an incredible real life example of what a sales person does and what you as an independent blogger need to do if you want to monetize your blog.

This is one of the best videos I have ever seen on how to monetize a blog in particular and good advice on how to sell in general.

I have loved Gary’s energy and enthusiasm ever since I first met him at the first BlogWorld in 2007 but as a salesmen I have a whole new respect for him.

You see creating great content is not enough. You need to be able to sell it.  If you are a great writer and you have built a community around your site you can make money but you need to be able to sell like Gary just demonstrated if you ever have a hope of making a dime.

If you can’t sell then you better find someone who can sell your blog for you. The truth is most of us will never have hundreds of thousands of readers but you don’t need that big of an audience to monetize your content.

If you have 2,000 regular readers on your site and they are engaged with you and you aren’t making money, then you need to learn how to sell and who to sell to.

Gary just gave some great advice on how to do that but Jason mentioned something else that was very important. Think locally. Again a national brand is not going to write you a check for $5 or $10k but a local retailer or distributor will.

I compare blogs to traditional media; newspapers, magazines, television and radio all the time.

If your blog has more than 1,500 readers a day you need to think of your blog as a local radio station, or a local newspaper and sell it that way. If you can sell like Gary or can find someone who can sell like that, then there is no reason you can’t make a nice income from your blog.

You can check out Gary’s 2008 Keynote at BlogWorld here.

Shaq Tweets At Halftime

Author:

Shaq In a word:  Wow.  We’ve been talking a lot lately about just how big social networking is getting, how huge Facebook and Twitter have become over the last few months and how they are more than likely going to continue to do so.  In case you were still a non-believer (didn’t the simple fact that the QUEEN of ENGLAND has an account convince you?!) I think the events that transpired on Shaquille O’Neal’s Twitter account Saturday should have convinced you.

Just how big has the service gotten?  Try this on for size:  Leading up to his game on Saturday, Shaq was promising his Twitter followers that he would, in fact, Tweet DURING the game or during halftime.  Did he hold to his word?  Yes, Yes he did.  At halftime of his game against Washington, Shaq simply tweeted:  “Shhhhhhh.”

Here’s the even crazier thing, Shaq wasn’t the first one to Tweet during a big event, like a professional sporting event.  Last Sunday, Charlie Villanueva of Milwaukee actually got in trouble with his coach for sending out a Tweet during the game.  Did Shaq suffer the same consequences for his “Shhhhhhh?”  Nope.  Here is what his coach, Alvin Gentry, had to say:

“As long as he gets 25 [points] and 11 [rebounds], he can do whatever he wants. He can Twitter, Facebook, MySpace…”

That, coming from a coach that also has a Twitter account.  All this leads to the question:  What’s next?  Are we going to see Tweets coming in between rounds at boxing matches or MMA fights?  Are we going to to have the President sending out updates during Oval Office meetings?  Pitchers updating their Status while their team is batting during the World Series?

The short answer…Probably.

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