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Meet the Blogger

Nine-year-old Blogger Becomes Web Sensation


You don’t see many kids smack dab in the middle of a controversy about free speech. But nine-year-old blogger, Martha Payne, has been through a lot in the last few days. The blog she started just six weeks ago was shut down, but people across the globe rallied around her and got it reinstated. What was such a hot topic that put this little girl’s name on the lips of millions online? School lunches.

Like any successful blogger, Martha writes about what she knows. In this case, she dedicated her blog to discussing the meals that her school serves each day. She posts photos of the food and then rates it on taste, nutrition, and other factors, such stray hairs. Her blog, NeverSeconds, started as a daily writing project to share with relatives. However, it quickly exploded, securing millions of page views and dozens of comments each day. That success quickly put school officials on edge.

Although Martha had gotten permission to take photographs of her food, those images quickly illuminated the fact that those lunches weren’t always of the best quality. Frequently, showcasing small portion sizes which left Martha hungry and unable to concentrate on her studies. After posting just a few short weeks, Martha was told that she would no longer be allowed to take photos of her school lunches and she posted her final blog entry, titled “Goodbye.”

Well, nothing like a blogger done wrong to make the web come to life (remember when a PR flack dissed Jenny Lawson?). That goodbye message garnered nearly 2,400 comments of support and her traffic grew by the millions (as I’m writing this, total pageviews are six million and counting and I can actually see the counter go up a visitor each second!). Public pressure quickly convinced local officials in her hometown of Lochgilphead in Argyll, Scotland to reverse their decision and allow NeverSeconds to continue.

We caught up with blogger phenom Martha Payne today to talk about the trials and tribulations of being a blogger:

Q: When you started your blog, you incorporated a charitable angle by helping to raise money for Mary’s Meals. Why did you do this? Do you think it’s important for bloggers to raise awareness about important issues and inspire others to help?

A: Dad showed me a comment on my blog saying I was lucky to get a dinner as many children don’t. I have raised money for Mary’s Meals before and I thought of them. I think it’s important to show people looking at my blog that I care because I do.

Q: What has surprised you the most about writing a blog?

A. It’s harder some days than others. The hard days are when I am tired after school and a club.

Q: What have you learned about putting your opinions out there?

A: People you don’t know will discuss them.

Q: What advice do you have for other bloggers who may not know what to write about?

A: I chose school dinners because I have them everyday and I wanted to write everyday. I think pictures and ratings are fun.

Q: Other students have sent you photos of their school lunches and you’ve shared many of them on your blog. You could have very easily made NeverSeconds all about you. Why did you decide to let the community be part of your blog?

A: When Dad showed me the first email sent in I liked it so I thought other people would too. I have learnt a lot and can find lots of countries on the globe.

Q: Fans of your blog came to your defense when NeverSeconds was shut down last week. How does that make you feel? What would you like to say to everyone who spoke up for you?

A: I’d like to say thank you to everyone that supported the blog and Mary’s Meals. I haven’t read all the messages as there are so many but it is great that I am allowed pics again.

Q: Do you see yourself being a professional blogger when you grow up?

A: I’d like to be a journalist when I grow up because it is easier to ask questions than answer them.

Q: Your school term is ending in a few weeks, what will happen to NeverSeconds during your break from school?

A: Dad would like schools from around the world to guest blog for a week at a time. He thinks schools may be interested.

Q: Many bloggers find it difficult to make the time to write blog posts every day. What are your tips for people who want to write daily, but make excuses about why they can’t?

A: It was hard but now it’s habit. I think you get used to it.

The uptick in exposure for NeverSeconds raised so much money for Mary’s Meals that a new kitchen is being built at the Lirangwe Primary School in Blantyre, Malawi and nearly 6,000 meals can now be given to other needy children. Martha was given the opportunity to name the new kitchen and, in recognition of the community that made it happen, she chose “Friends of NeverSeconds.”

The lunches at Martha’s school have also been improving. Students are now allowed to have unlimited salad, fruit, and bread and Martha was recently asked, “Is that enough for you?” when she was given her lunch. Think a blogger can’t change the world, or his or her corner of it? Think again.

As content creators, many of us struggle from time to time. We either lack the discipline to create regularly, or come up short when it comes to ideas. But, Martha can be an inspiration to us all and her story is a good reminder to bloggers of what it takes to be successful online:

  • Write about what you know
  • Don’t be afraid to share your opinions
  • Allow your community to participate in the discussion
  • A picture always tells a story
  • Find a way to give back
  • Acknowledge those you contribute to your success and accomplishments

Even at the age of nine, Martha gets it. So, the next time you feel as though you’ve hit a wall with your blog, podcast, or Web TV episode, channel your inner Martha. We suspect this young blogger has a bright future in store.

Meet the Blogger: Miriam Gomberg, A Customer Experience Connoisseur


Meet the Blogger is a feature here at the BlogWorld blog where we introduce you to some of newest bloggers in various niches. Today, we’re talking with Miriam Gomberg, who blogs at MiriamGomberg.wordpress.com about her experiences as a “customer experience connoisseur.” Check out his interview below, as well as the full list of Meet the Blogger interviews (including instructions for participating).

Allison: Thanks for the interview, Miriam! Tell us a little about you and your blog.

Miriam: I have either owned, operated or worked in retail since I was 16 for my parents and through the years, have gained a healthy perspective of what creates a superior customer experience. In my late 30’s I closed my business of 15 years went back to school and finished a degree. Now I am working on an MBA to add to my list of accomplishments. My blog’s tagline is “a customer experience connoisseur.”

What initially attracted you to blogging and why did you choose to blog about customer service?

I started blogging when my friends took a class on personal branding in the MBA program and loved it so I decided to try it as well. I have learned tons about social media since beginning the class and I expect to continue blogging well after the class is over. I chose my topic (customer service) by really taking some time to think about what I do that makes me unique and how can I contribute knowledge and opinions about a topic that I am passionate about. I am still narrowing my niche because blogging is still new to me.
I think it’s great that you started blogging as part of a college class. Do you think blogging/social media is a topic area that colleges need to cover in more detail? Or is too much focus being taking away from more traditional branding and marketing topics?

The personal branding class (that I just finished) was my favorite class throughout my tenure as an MBA student. There is value in this class for anyone trying to set herself apart in a competitive market. During the last 3 classes, each student presented his or her brand to the class, and the talent and diversity was astounding. One girl branded herself as a vitamin expert because her family owns a vitamin production factory, and a guy in class branded himself as an expert in a very specific application for SAP. I think that more colleges and universities should offer a class like this. In an MBA program, plenty of classes are dedicated to more traditional marketing/branding topics. Dr Simmons was innovative in his approach and as a result, I plan to continue fine tuning my brand.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing as someone who’s new to blogging?

Like other bloggers, my challenges include: traffic (reaching a desired audience), topic inspiration, and time.

What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned so far as a blogger?

Be myself. Over and above any of my skills, this is what makes me  unique.

I love how you use stories from your personal life to illustrate lessons in customer service! Is this something you planned from the beginning or did it just evolve naturally as you continued to blog? Why did you chose this style over the less personable style that is common in the business niche?

Thank you for saying that you enjoy the story telling as that is how I communicate best. My communication style is very personal and It was a natural extension to write in the same manner as I speak. In reading other blogs, I am drawn in by a bloggers voice. If  he or she is too impersonal and dry, I quickly lose interest.

You mentioned that you chose to blog about customer service in part because you’re passionate about that topic. How important is it, in your opinion, for a blogger to be passionate about there topic? Do you think it is more or less important than expertise or experience in the niche?

Passion for your topic is imperative to a good blog. As an ESFJ personality, if I don’t feel the passion, it is hard to fake it. Topic expertise is important but by itself can be boring. Why are you an expert in a subject if you don’t feel anything for it? Passion has made me into an effective leader, student, etc.

What blogging topics do you hope to learn more about in the coming months?

I want to hear about how others also got started and why they continue to blog.

Thanks for the great interview, Miriam! Readers, make sure you check out her customer service blog, and you can also follow her on Twitter @miriamgomberg.

Meet the Blogger: Shane Laing, ShaneLaing.com


Meet the Blogger is a feature here at the BlogWorld blog where we introduce you to some of newest bloggers in various niches. Today, we’re talking with Shane Laing, who blogs at ShaneLaing.com. Check out his interview below, as well as the full list of Meet the Blogger interviews (including instructions for participating).

Allison: Thanks for participating, Shane! Tell us a little about you and your blog.

Shane: My blog is about Classical/Spanish style guitar music with a focus on the atmosphere and vibe that surrounded it during the 19th & 20th century.  I am also hoping I can provide a bit of escapsim for people who visit.

What initially attracted you to blogging and why did you choose to blog about guitars?

Classical/Spanish style guitar music is what I’m really passionate about,  as a classical guitarist myself, I love performing, recording and sharing this music – there’s just something truly magical about it.  The blog provides a place where I can connect with like-minded people who are interested in and who are searching for this type of music. Also, having the blog opens up all kinds of doors for me in terms of the types of people I can connect with, rather than being limited to only a small localized group in my area. I can share my interest with people from all over the world.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing as someone who’s new to blogging?

My challenges are likely very similar to anyone else trying to get their blog going:  Struggles with setup, configuration, technical issues, and of course anytime you’re learning something new like this – it can bring on some serious frustration. But, now that it’s operational, I think it was definitely worth the effort and I am more knowledgeable because of it.

What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned so far as a blogger?

Relevant and engaging content is key.

What blogging topics do you hope to learn more about in the coming months?

I want to learn more about SEO, how to fine tune the focus on my target audience and how I can improve the value I provide to my readers/visitors.

Bloggers seem to be divided into two categories – those who use their names as a URL and those who use a more general URL relating to their niche. I noticed that you use your name as a URL – what led to this decision?

Given what I do, using my name as the URL for my site seemed like the obvious and best choice from a branding/recognition standpoint.  I think that by having people identify with my name early on, it will make it stick in the mind a bit better and, at the same time, offer some flexibility down the road that a general URL might not be able to provide.

I also noticed that you have your music for sale on your blog, which I think is a really smart move given your niche! Do you you see your blog as a branding tool to help you sell your music?

Yes, most definitely!  I could have gone with the typical semi-static content type of website that a lot of bands/musicians are using.  Certainly it would have been a lot easier to have a static site that is updated every few months as opposed to every few days (like I do with the blog), but a static site just wouldn’t be able to offer the same avenue for creative output, connection and interaction that I get via my blog.  People do have an opportunity to listen to samples of my music on my site and can also purchase it if they wish, but besides that, they also get a glimpse of what is happening with me – the person – not just the brand.   I think the blog removes some of the boundaries between creator and viewer, helps with making it a bit more personal and real than just a typical website.

Thanks for an awesome interview, Shane!  Readers, to check out his blog (and listen to his music), head to ShaneLaing.com and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter @Shane_Laing.

Meet the Blogger: Michael Brandvold, Michael Brandvold Marketing


Meet the Blogger is a feature here at the BlogWorld blog where we introduce you to some of newest bloggers in various niches. Today, we’re talking with Michael Brandvold, who blogs at Michael Brandvold Marketing. Check out his interview below, as well as the full list of Meet the Blogger interviews (including instructions for participating).

Allison: Thanks for being a part of Meet the Blogger, Michael! Tell us a little about you and your blog.

Michael: I am a freelance music industry consultant based in Northern California. Having launched Michael Brandvold Marketing to leverage my years of experience (over 20) to provide direction to large and small clients in the areas of online & social marketing as well as e-commerce and customer acquisition and retention.

Gene Simmons of KISS first tapped my skills as a pioneering online marketing strategist to launch and manage all aspects of Kissonline.com‘s multi-million dollar enterprise, including their ground-breaking VIP ticket program.

I have also managed the online branding,  marketing,  and sales efforts for U2,  Motley Crüe,  Rod Stewart,  Madonna,  Ozzy Osbourne,  Madonna and Britney Spears,  as well as marketing programs for iconic entertainment corporations including Universal Music Group,  BMG/Sanctuary Records,  Rhino Records,  and Playboy,  to name only a few.

My blog is simply my outlet to provide the knowledge and insight from working with all these clients. I provide very actionable advice, tips and directions for musicians.

What initially attracted you to blogging and why did you choose to blog about music marketing?

I have always had a opinion when it came to online marketing for bands and felt it was time to fully express it. Music has been my passion since I was a kid. I have been in a band, buy I have been a fan my entire life.

I noticed that you’ve chosen to have a static page as your homepage, rather than a homepage that shows your most recent blogposts. What led to this decision?

I guess that comes from many years of building and managing websites. I like to have a static page that I can control to push and promote whatever I need. Though honestly this might change as I am working on a new site template.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing as someone who’s new to blogging?

Probably the biggest challenge was establishing myself as a authority. I know what I was talking about, and friends and clients knew as well. But nobody else knew me from the man on the moon. So I have spent six months really focused on becoming a respected authority.

Establishing authority is something I think is a challenge for a lot of new bloggers. Can you give us some tips/advice on this topic – what have you been doing that works?

I have spent the first six months focused on nothing more than blogging and providing knowledge. Before even thinking about using your blog to generate revenue you need to establish yourself. Gain trust of the community before you start looking for revenue. Blogging, Facebook and Twitter engagement needs to be consistent, and seek out other established authorities and engage with them specifically. Join the communities they are part of, follow the sites they follow. And finally, write about what you care about. Don’t worry about not having an audience initially, just keep writing. The audience will find you.

What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned so far as a blogger?

Write about what you believe in. If you are called to back up something you write that can be difficult if you don’t care about the topic. If you love what you write about you can defend and stand behind your words very easily. Oh, and maybe don’t be afraid of some controversy.

I love that you have a ton of audio content on your blog – it really fits your niche well! Can you give bloggers some tips for transitioning from text-only to producing audio content?

After a few months of blogging the transition to a podcast just felt very natural. Don’t over plan a podcast, just do it. Let it be natural and just flow. Talk about what you might normally discuss with a friend. I have also posted alot of audio clips that I have gathered over the years. Interviews I have conducted, as well as some radio clips. If you can find audio that interests your audience go for it. Be sure to do your best to credit the source.

What blogging topics do you hope to learn more about in the coming months?

Hmm, really good question. I would love to learn more about using my blogging to get speaking engagements and how to translate my blogs into ebooks.

Thanks again for the interview, Michael! Readers, make sure to check out Michael’s blog, and follow him on Twitter @michaelsb.

Meet the Blogger: Tara Wright, Cheapskate Mama


Meet the Blogger is a feature here at the BlogWorld blog where we introduce you to some of newest bloggers in various niches. Today, we’re talking with Tara Wright, who blogs at Cheapskate Mama. Check out her interview below, as well as the full list of Meet the Blogger interviews (including instructions for participating).

Allison: Thanks for talking with us, Tara! Tell us a little about you and your blog.

My name is Tara Wright and I started a deal blog in November of 2010 called Cheapskate Mama. I am a stay at home mom of two young boys with an unused elementary teaching credential, a flaming passion for writing and research, and an incredibly supportive husband and family. Cheapskate Mama is a resource for people like me. By that statement I mean people with children, financial struggles, bills up to their ears, or even just a desire to scale back without complete deprivation. I have readers who are moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, college students, and others who are none of the above. I strive to make all of my deals as simple as possible by refusing to make a reader jump through ten hoops to save 50 cents. Therefore, most of my deals are retail buys with directions for replication online or in-stores as opposed to coupon match-ups and grocery deals. I love to save at the grocery store as much as the next person, but grocery couponing is not my area of expertise and it requires more “hoops” at times. My tagline is Full Price Makes Me Angry. I am not kidding–it really ticks me off. That anger acts as fuel to help me find a solution for myself and others like me.

What initially attracted you to blogging and why did you choose to blog about coupons and deals?

I have always been a shopaholic, but having children quickly made me realize that my frivolity could have an effect on the extent to which we are able to provide for them. With a strong desire for financial stability that did not depend on how many trips to Target I took that month, I knew I needed to make some changes and reprioritize. When I started to fuse my determination with a natural online research obsession, I realized that I knew so many other moms just trying to make ends meet that could truly benefit from my deal hunting tips but could never afford to dedicate the time to do it themselves. Anyone can do what I do, there is absolutely no “secret” involved, but who the heck can afford 8 hours a day to scour the web or has the ability to drop everything and jet to the store to confirm a huge deal rumor? Not many of the people I know. So I started to do it for them. I created a Facebook Fan Page right before Thanksgiving to expose my favorite Christmas shopping deals and hot tips and within a week or so, word had spread and I had a little cult following. After hearing good feedback and some success stories, I decided to jump on it and bought the domain name CheapskateMama.net to start a blog.

Most people start a blog and then move to building social media profiles, but it sounds like you started the other way around, by sharing deals on Facebook and then building a blog. One of my biggest problems with Facebook is that I find it difficult to move people from there to a blog. Can you share some tips with us – how did you get your Facebook readers to move to your blog?

I did do that, didn’t I! To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what the potential was for Cheapskate Mama when I first started. It really was to take it away from my personal profile so I wasn’t clogging the news feeds of my FB friends on one of my really good “hunting” days. Once I created the fan page, I was actually shocked to see people get as excited as I did for 75% off diapers and whatnot, so it really made me feel like I had something there. It was tough for the first few weeks to really pull people away from the familiarity of Facebook, but I had to learn not to “give the milk away for free” so to speak. Once I started posting teasers with a link to my site and kept the details solely on my blog, it got easier. In addition, I occasionally love to use bribery– I mean incentives 😉 A deal blog is the perfect spot for a giveaway or contest, and I try to have them regularly to thank my readers for their support and loyalty. Currently I am running a 1,000th post giveaway, and they have to visit my site for the entry link, but they can score additional entries for commenting on Facebook, retweeting, or reblogging VIA Tumblr.

I do seriously love the power of Facebook for my type of blog, because a hot deal can spread like fire when people can’t help but share with friends. Because that is where I started, I will always nurture the connection with Facebook fans. My blog is my home though, and Facebook and Twitter are like my vacation homes.

What made you decide to use Tumblr rather than WordPress, Blogger, Typad, or any of the other older content management systems from bloggers?

A couple of weeks ago, one of the mom bloggers I follow on Twitter stated that she was annoyed to have to write any more than 140 characters. And so it is in our new world–people want the info, they like it to the point, and as fast as possible. Everyone is looking for clean and uncomplicated, and as a “micro-blogging” platform, in my opinion, Tumblr is just that. With Tumblr, I can get a post out with a link and a pic in under 2 minutes if necessary–if a deal is hot, I don’t want to take ten steps to post it.

When I search through Tumblr, I find the most amazing, artistic, funky, and sometimes weird content. I consider myself to be a little kooky, artistic and “out there” sometimes, so I feel right at home. I am very happy with my choice, there are some fabulous Tumblr blogs and I hope to be at the top of them someday soon.

What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned so far as a blogger?

I have to remind myself daily to stay true to my philosophy and not pay attention to what others are doing. I see the biggest coupon and deal bloggers throwing up 20 posts a day and it makes me doubt myself, my content, and whether I even belong. I am a little guppy in a wide sea! But then I remember something I learned from Gary Vaynerchuk. For it to really be your passion, you have to stay true to yourself–people can sense the BS a mile away.

What blogging topics do you hope to learn more about in the coming months?

I am currently playing around with some frugal grocery shopping with NO coupon tips and features plus budget recipes, and I would also like to start a regular “deal mission” post, where a reader can submit an idea for something they’d like to buy at a deep discount and I will exhaust my resources to help find the deal. One day soon, I will get up the courage to post a little vlog too. But it will have to be on a day that I actually get dressed and have good hair.

Thanks for the interview, Tara! Readers, make sure to check out Cheapskate Mama, like her Facebook page, and follow Tara on Twitter @cheapsk8mama.

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