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30 Days to a Better Blog: Connect With Other Bloggers

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30 Days to a Better Blog: Connect With Other Bloggers

Blog You’re whipping your blog into shape, and now it’s time to connect with other bloggers! The blogiverse is an amazing place of camaraderie and friendship.

Most niches and industries are very open to working with their fellow bloggers to network, share links, and even guest post. The more bloggers you work with and help, the more you’ll find they are willing to reciprocate.

Remember that competitive analysis you did? Those blogs are the a great place to start, but also consider researching other intermediate and smaller blogs. They may have more time to respond to your comments and work with you further.

Once you have a list of at least 10 blogs, here’s the best way to connect with those bloggers:

  • Research the blogger. Take a look at their blog. Read their About page. Look at how they respond to comments. Once you’ve done all this, you’ll have something worthwhile to contribute.li>Research the blog’s followers. How do they interact with each other? Is there a lot of humor involved or do they keep it professional? You want to draw attention to yourself, but not in a bad way!
  • Leave a worthwhile comment. Respond to a specific post or discussion. Leave your blog link as part of your name, but don’t link back to your own blog just yet. Once you’ve gotten into a dialogue, you can suggest reading further on your blog, but not in the initial contact.
  • Follow up on your comment. Come back to the blog or subscribe to the comments so that you can continue a dialogue. Don’t ask a question and then not respond or thank the blogger for answering.
  • Email the blogger. After you’ve had a few discussions with the blogger, you can choose to contact them off their blog with any further items … do they want to join your blogroll? do they want to participate in a blogfest? the opportunities are endless.

Now make this a part of your routine. I have a list of blogs in my RSS feed that I try to browse and comment on – at least on a weekly basis. How do you connect with other bloggers?

REDU: Social Media and Corporate Outreach for a Cause

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… by Betsy Aoki

When I first joined Microsoft seven years ago, I had a long history of keeping any community activism separate from my work life. My prior career as a journalist mandated absolute silence/discretion about any political leanings, and while a post-journalistic career in tech enabled me finally to work on causes (I went on to found Webgrrls and Linuxchix chapters in Seattle for example), these activities continued to be completely separate from my work life. Work was work, and while my Internet work certainly had an impact on the world, influencing societal problems remained carefully partitioned to my non-copious “other life” time.

REDU

Then last year my boss Stefan Weitz set our team on a new trajectory by putting Bing and our team more front and center in the national education discourse with the REDU project. It was something Aya Zook and I also believed was important, but would take us out of our tech industry comfort zone and into the realm of advocacy, which again, I’d only done in my non-work life prior to this.

Doing something that unusual for Microsoft while still keeping our jobs took a bit of finessing. For us on the team, it meant a lot of internal communications work – Microsoft is a big place, there are folks already working on government/education/community issues from whom we could learn and get a sanity check on what we were doing while being “synergistic”. There was also a lot of external communications work to be done with partners and agencies who were creating the Web site and various programs around REDU. Some folks inside and outside the company got the importance of REDU right away; others were “are you sure?” skeptics we fended off all summer while we prepared to launch the site.

(Incidentally, it helps me that any time I do a v 1.0 or some weirdo community outreach project like REDU, I ask myself: would you still do it if it failed? Usually the answer is yes. After that, I find I’m much freer to do the right and more effective thing as a result. Live like the samurai, fight like you are already dead, and often oddly enough those will be the times that you will win.)

The cause behind REDU is “rethink, reform, rebuild” US education. We decided early on to go out slow and grassroots, do a few arts projects in New York (Yosi Sergant’s Reform: School, Jeff Staple’s:REDU Homeroom), build our rep with good content from Good and outside contributors like  Jacob Soboroff of School Pride and Steve Hargadon, founder of Classroom 2.0. We decided consciously to obscure the Bing brand as much as we could without losing transparency, because the social media and real-world outreach we wanted to do really wasn’t about Bing as the mainstay of the story, but as part of the story.

I can’t talk specifics (sorry), but REDU was done with the corporate equivalent of money scrounged from under the couch cushions (another reason to go slow and build grassroots – no money to burn on traditional media blitzes or dramatic Superbowl animations). People donated time and discounted fees to help us out because they believed in what we were doing. We aren’t blowing smoke thanking our partners – their support has been more critical than ever.

What’s been interesting – and again, sorry I can only give you the shape of things here, not actual numbers – is that the folks we’ve attracted to REDU show a similar level of Bing brand recognition with other more directly Bing-branded marketing campaigns. That is, when marketing programs send someone to bing.com, those customers would indicate via survey the name of the program from which they first heard of Bing. In our case, they say they’ve heard of Bing from REDU). Half of these folks, sometimes more, have opted-in for email information about Bing and other education efforts the team supports, which is separate from REDU information and info about education reform topics. Furthermore, when we do Bing-related email outreach to those REDU-recruited folks, they are more likely to be responsive.

Which if you think about it, turns traditional marketing on its ear. Traditional PR and marketing insists on consistency and ubiquitous brand mentions and logos. More impressions! More mentions! Plant both feet and stay on message! Even if you use social media means, never deviate, stay on message.

Instead let people help craft the message assigned to your brand. Don’t insert a call to action related to your project – give them options about what they can do to make it their’s and change the world. We aren’t dumb – if they want to research more Web information about education reform, they can use the Bing search box on the REDU site. But we created REDU knowing we had to work with folks on what we both thought were important issues, and meet them on their terms. We’d rather the education system got fixed than the alternative.

Numbers I CAN point to that describe this phenomenon are those in the Edelman Good Purpose study where they looked at consumer expectation of companies’ roles in making the world a better place. Sixty-four percent of those interviewed said that a company with fair prices who did good, would get their business over a deep discounter with no cause integration.  This, in the middle of a recession, fascinated me because it runs counter to my cynical expectations of human nature.

Another set of cause marketing surveys that fascinated me are the ones that came out by Cone. In 2007, just as the recession was beginning to break out Cone came out with a study (often quoted on the Internet) that showed how 87% of those surveyed  were likely to switch brands, all things being equal, if the new company was associated with a good cause. In 2010 the Cone study went on to say that in a competitive marketplace, 19% of consumers would purchase more expensive brands to support a cause, and 61% would try a brand they never heard of.

I’ll be completely honest with you guys and say: I hadn’t read any of these surveys until three months after we launched REDU, while I was trying to figure out why REDU stats were the way they were. We had agreed to instrument the REDU site and related programs as best we could, in ways similar to other marketing campaigns, so that we’d be able to justify what we spent on it.

And REDU is honestly not the full-time job of our team – it’s just a successful side project that we hope will do some good for as long as we can keep it going. But the next time you think about how to position your product, yourself, or your company, I think it makes sense to consider what you really stand for in terms of creating social good and put that marker of your product, yourself, or your company in the forefront.

Betsy Aoki is a 15-year veteran of Web technology and online community applications.  Recently Mary Jo Foley of CNET called her  a “Microsoft Woman to Watch” for her work in launching Microsoft’s corporate blogging platforms, the Live QnA consumer question-and-answer site, and the Xbox Live Indie Games platform.  Lured to the marketing side for Bing, she has devised its social media strategies and recently launched the education reform platform, http://bing.com/redu .

5 Ways to PWN the Cause Blog

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… by Jessica Kirkwood, VP Interactive Strategy & Michael Nealis, Interactive Strategy Coordinator
Points of Light Institute & HandsOn Network

Most of us have a cause that is dear to us.

We are driven to feed the hungry, or house the homeless, or just love the heck out of all of the animals that don’t have a loving home.
But sometimes it is challenging to blog about what we hold dear.

[That blinking cursor can be so intimidating!]

As curators of HandsOn Blog, we’re charged with publishing fresh content on volunteerism on a daily basis.

We compared notes and came up with a list of five strategies we share for creating cause related blog content:

  • Listen First – We’ve found that the best way to know how to contribute to the conversation about our cause is to listen first. We both use Google Reader to follow online conversations about volunteerism and stay on top of new developments, news, trends and politics. This gives us ideas and helps us add to the larger conversation via our blog posts.
  • Share a Lesson – Over the last year we’ve found that some of our most popular posts are simple “How To” posts. Like 33 Ways to Make a Difference in Schools or 4 Tips for Using Social Media to Mobilize People. Luckily, this kind of post is easy enough for us to create as we can pull and repurpose content from our organizations publications, training materials, speeches, and training toolkits.
  • Tell a Story – We love to profile an individual project, volunteer or person whose life has been changed through volunteerism. It’s easy to find the universally compelling center of each story and draw that out, letting each single story represent the larger whole of the cause itself.
  • Connect your cause to something unexpected – We’ll often link volunteering to an editorial trend – like New Year’s resolutions – which is, admittedly, expected. But we also look for connections in unlikely places. Recently a cell phone commercial inspired a post about whether or not flash mobs could change the world.
  • Use every day experiences so simplify the message– We’re always looking for more resonant ways to talk about volunteering. We try talking about program evaluation (kind of boring) as if it were like eating cookies (kind of awesome). And when we need to write about the intersection of social media and volunteer recruitment we might say, “Did you ever see that commercial for Faberge Organics Shampoo (and Wayne’s World) – where they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on… well ideally, volunteer recruitment via social media is… like THAT.”

Don’t let the cursor blinking against the blank page intimidate you.

Trust us, that cursor is a punk.

To learn more about volunteering, please follow @HandsOnNetwork and visit HandsOn Blog. You can learn more about Jessica and Michael via Twitter @HeyJK and @MikeNealis.

10 Mom Bloggers To Meet With Congress Next Week

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Amy Lupold Bair was one of our amazing speakers during the 2010 BlogWorld conference, a part of the Mom Bloggers: Blog for Money, Not Swag! session. I recently had the chance to chat with her about another topic of interest to Mom Bloggers (and any United States Citizen for that matter) – the national debt. Amy is working with Intellectual Takeout and their project, MomThink.org, which is sending ten Mom Bloggers to meet with Congress next week about this issue – the first of many the organization plans to tackle. Amy explained further:

How did MomThink.org come to exist?
MomThink.org is a project of Intellectual Takeout, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank. It came about as a public awareness campaign designed to educate mothers about important issues that will impact their children today as well as in the future. While the first topic of focus is the national debt, MomThink.org will continue to develop to cover a variety of topics ranging from education to health care reform.

What is your role in the website/organization?
I am an independent blogger who is working as a strategic advisor to Intellectual Takeout’s communications team.

How were the ambassadors chosen for the position? Was their blogging background a requirement?
The bloggers were chosen for a variety of reasons, including how they would impact the overall make-up of the group. We are proud to have engaged bloggers who bring a diverse skill set, blogging background, and audience. Some ambassadors write regularly for traditionally conservative collective blogs, while others write for sites known to lean strongly towards liberal. Some bloggers have an educational background that fits nicely with the national debt topic, while others blog about fiscal responsibility on a regular basis. Together they nicely represent the moms of this country; diverse in interest and lifestyle yet all invested in creating the best life for our children.

Why was the national debt chosen as the first issue of focus?
The national debt is on the minds of many Americans as we continue to recover from an economic crisis and watch hopefully as a new Congress is sworn into office. The debt currently stands at nearly 14 trillion dollars. That means every taxpayer would have to come up with $125,000 to pay it off. As moms, we could use that money to pay for 12 years of groceries for a family of four, 7 years of health care, or 7 years of public education. While the national debt is on the minds of many Americans, we think that it specifically should be on the minds of moms.

What will be the format for making others aware of the issues? The blog? Social networking? The media?
MomThink.org is currently sharing information through videos on the site as well as YouTube that can be shared throughout social networks and embedded on blogs. The MomThink.org bloggers have also helped to make others aware of this first issue through posts on their own sites and networks as well as through interviews with the traditional media. Outreach will expand as MomThink.org continues to develop future public awareness campaigns.

What is the goal of the upcoming trip to Washington DC?
The goal of the upcoming trip to Washington, DC is to bring awareness to the issue, allow prominent members of the online mom media to gather information from Members of Congress about the national debt, and at the same time demonstrate to Members of Congress and the traditional media that Thinking Moms are deeply concerned about the issues that affect our children’s futures.

Where can we follow the interviews and dialogues taking place?
Watch MomThink.org for updates.

What have the bloggers been doing to prepare for the trip?
The bloggers have been learning more about the national debt and what it means to each individual taxpayer both today and in the future.

What is the message you hope everyone takes away from MomThink.org?
Socrates said that “Knowledge is power.” I hope that readers visiting MomThink.org take away a deeper understanding of the issues that our nation faces. Once the audience understands the impact of public policies on them and their loved ones, they will likely want to learn more and spread the word about the resources provided by MomThink.org.

How can other bloggers (Moms and non-Moms alike!) participate and help?
Bloggers can participate and help by sharing the MomThink.org videos and key points with their own audiences as well as by signing up to learn more here.

Thanks Amy! And I look forward to seeing how the bloggers at MomThink.org interact with Congress, and learn about the future issues they plan to tackle.

Blogs Make Better Dads

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… by Brad Powell

Blogs make me a better Dad. I’m not kidding. Reading and writing about the journey of fatherhood helps me be more thoughtful about the ride. It’s much like a family dinner at the end of a long day of vacation. It’s a time to discover and process what’s important. The entire clan gathered around a table at a greasy spoon in a small town and I hear “I loved the rock candy we got from the Cracker Barrel” and “the bird that pooped on Myers’ head when we stopped on that hill was awesome” and “I want to go swimming at the hotel pool after dinner.” These tiny snippets of our day, the truly memorable ones, would be completely lost on me if we had not stopped to enjoy soggy chicken fried steak.  Rock candy and bird poop dropped with precision on an infant’s head trumps a $28 per ticket train ride through the most beautiful landscape in America? If I’m listening, I realize that it does.

The conversation time awakens my attention to what matters. That is exactly what new media offers me as a parent: a virtual conversation.

I am jolted awake by PERSPECTIVE.

Most morons I know are not bad people they just lack perspective. Myopically positioned, these folks can’t get over themselves or the way they see the world. Please don’t let me be one of these folks. Give me broadband access. Give me interesting people talking about life.

My sweet wife offers the following insight as to how new media has enhanced her life as a parent. She touts three distinct benefits: anonymity, convenience and community. The ability to anonymously (at least initially) seek out information that you might find embarrassing is key: “Thank goodness some one else’s child does that.” Then there’s the ability to interact at times conducive to a busy parent’s schedule:  “2 a.m. is a great time to discuss developmental milestones.” And lastly the greatest benefit is finding a community of like minded individuals that understand the struggles of a working parent of three; “Many of my still single girlfriends just don’t get why I’m too tired to go out syndrome“ syndrome!

Having been in the content creation business for 5 years the opportunity to look at parenting from many different angles has been rewarding. You can check out some of our work at DadLabs. And I’m not just a creator of content; I’m a consumer, too. These three dad-bloggers really make me think.

Jason Avant over at Dadcentric. He is hard nosed, no nonsense and sometimes edgy. When he thinks you are full of it he will tell you. If he does, you probably need to hear it because this dude is honest, sincere and as devoted to fatherhood as any I know.

Craig Heimbuch from Man of the House. Craig is a wonderful writer, funny and wicked smart. He is all of that and willing to talk about the insecurities of fatherhood that keep us all awake at night wondering if we are doing enough as dads.

And CC Chapman head honcho over at  Digital Dads.
C.C. is the nicest guy in the world but yet a total badass.  He is the epitome of a kind and caring father who sacrifices none of his masculinity to be so.

These are just some of the gents who make me ponder how I’m doing as a dad?

Thanks for the perspective guys.

Brad Powell is founder and Chief Operating Officer of DadLabs.com an Internet television network dedicated to all things dad.  He serves as co-host for DadLabs weekly web shows and is an avid parenting blogger and speaker. Brad is co-author of DadLabs Guide To Fatherhood, Pregnancy and Year One and can be heard weekly on the Cast of Dads pod cast on Blog Talk Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @daddybrad.

Food, Courage and Creating Content: Let the Journey Begin

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… by Beth Cochran

When I attended BlogWorld just a couple short months ago, I was working on a new venture that, at the time, was straddling the line between start-up and a viable business. I was glad to be passed the very beginning – the website creation, building an audience, struggling to get all the pieces of the puzzle together, etc. I was finally able to direct my efforts towards refining the content and finding sponsors. But things happen, partners lose interest, and I recently found myself back at the start – unwilling to let my passion die.

This journey, however, has made me realize how much passion goes into food blogging (and any content creation for that matter). So as I take an all-too-familiar trip down start-up road, I figured I would focus this blog post on the process and provide some tips and tools – and hopefully some inspiration – to keep you going.

Just Do It

As Julia Child said “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Passion is indeed the first step, and it will get you far, but knowledge and the right resources will carry you the rest of the way.

  • Navigate the space – do your research. Is there anyone else out there doing what you want to do? How can you create something different? Find your niche.
  • Establish your presence – get out there and start creating content. There are tons of free tools to get you started:
    • Blogging sites – WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous
    • Social sharing – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TubeMogul, YouTube, Flickr
  • Curating content – create an editorial calendar with dates and topics, but don’t let this become too daunting of a task that keeps you from creating!
  • Build your foundation – if you don’t have the budget to hire and SEO pro or a designer, there are several free resources to get you by until you can:
    • SEOmoz.org
    • SmashingMagazine.com

“Like Nike says, ‘Just Do It!’ There are so many things that a new blogger will need to learn to make his/her blog readable, more to make it good and even more to make it great,” said Tony Morales, owner of Desert Smoke BBQ and blog. “Nothing can happen until you take that first step so get the basics up, and start writing. Don’t worry too much about it being perfect from the start. Your blog will evolve as you learn.”

Build a Network of Foodies

Surround yourself with people of like mind, and before you know it you’ll start coming up with ideas you never thought possible. Attending conferences like BlogWorld and TECHmunch have proven invaluable. Not only do you learn tricks of the trade, but you build your network (and make several lasting friendships) and see what others are doing. It’s a great way to keep your thumb on the pulse of the foodie/content creation movement.

Don’t forget to explore the digital space too. Food is a universal language. Technology allows us to see, hear and in some cases interact live with food creators from all over. We are now able to be a part of “Chili Takedowns,” or learn how other foodies taught themselves to smoke fish or make gourmet chocolates (FoodCurated.com), swap recipes on BakeSpace.com, or see the crazy brisket tacos being served up by the Taceaux Loceaux artisan truck in New Orleans (VendrTV). Yes, it’s a lot of work, but take a cue from these fearless content creators and start living your passion…it will pay off.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

Beth Cochran (@BethCochran) is the founder of FoodTVLive.com, a live stream culinary show network, and Wired PR, a Phoenix-based public relations agency.

Raiding the Pantry for Fresh Food Content

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… by Hilary Allard

Everyone talks about content. You know you need it – but when and how to create it? For many people, the prospect of adding “content creation” to their to-do lists is overwhelming.

Luckily for people in the food business, there are a wealth of simple ways to use what you already have on hand and easy ways to turn the things you do on a daily basis into meaningful content.

Consider the following:

Recipes

It’s not enough to put a product on the shelf – you have to help consumers understand how to use it. Whether your product is a gourmet ingredient or a kitchen appliance, gather your best recipes – from employees, friends, neighbors or mom – and share them on your blog. Showing customers how to use your product will help them make it an important part of their daily lives.

Think about seasonality when posting your recipes. Do you have tried-and-true favorites that are perfect for Thanksgiving or Valentine’s Day? What about best uses for all that extra zucchini in August or ideas for a Fourth of July barbeque? Map out a calendar of occasions and slot in the recipes you already have on hand. Before you know it, you’ll have a year of content in front of you.

Check out these holiday recipes and entertaining tips on Victoria Gourmet’s blog.

Instructions and Tips

No matter what your product, you will inevitably get a broad range of consumer questions. By sharing content that addresses your most commonly asked questions, you can raise customer satisfaction and put a human face to the brand.

Posting an instruction manual isn’t exactly compelling content. But what about augmenting your existing product instructions with a series of photos that show how that pie should look in the stages of being made, or a quick Flip video of how to lock the lid on your company’s food processor?

Don’t forget the tips that your customers send you. They can often provide insights into product uses or challenges that you may not have thought of. As a courtesy, ask first before sharing online.

Wilton Cake Decorating shows their expertise through a robust YouTube channel with instructions for cake decorating from the basic to the advanced.

Testing, one, two, three

The next time you’re in the test kitchen working on a new recipe, grab a few shots and upload them to your Flickr or Facebook page. People love seeing “behind the scenes” activity. Ask consumers what they think about the recipe idea. Is this something they’d like to try? What suggestions do they have for improvement?

Are there other food-related activities you are doing that you should share? Everyone complains about those who tweet about what they had for lunch. But what about a company potluck where everyone brings a dish made with your products? This could be a source of ideas and inspiration for your customers.

And where are you eating, anyway? If customers look to you as a food expert, they will undoubtedly be interested in your latest restaurant visit. Maybe not the sandwich you had for lunch, but maybe that dinner you had at a new Chicago hotspot on a business trip.

For inspiration, look to Martha Stewart who does a great job of blogging about relevant information related to her ventures, including cooking and dining out, complete with great photos.

Hilary Allard:
A Vice President at The Castle Group, a Boston-based public relations and event management agency, Hilary has extensive experience working with CPG, housewares and multi-unit restaurant companies. She works closely with her clients to develop successful media relations strategies and social media programs. An avid homecook, she writes a personal food blog. You can find her at http://slicedanddiced.wordpress.com, http://thecastlegroup.wordpress.com, and http://twitter.com/hallard

Shoot Your Food

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Shooting your food can be a great way to draw people into your blog. The experience of eating is universal and so it is almost universally appealing. You can easily create content every day just by documenting your food. I wouldn’t completely recommend that, but it’s possible. Some blogs focus on the importance of beautifully shot dishes, or disastrous results with cake decorating.

When you’re shooting your food think of what would appeal to your audience. Do they want to know how the food was prepared? Do you want to instruct them on how to create the same meal? Or do you just want to show how the delicious your meal was? These are the questions you need to ask yourself before you shoot your food.

Kickin' Shrimp... PAD #1056

Some of my favorite food blogs give me instruction and recipes. They are very detailed and provide photos, or videos to supplement the written instructions. I think this is a great enhancement to a blog especially if you’re teaching someone how to use a recipe or to prepare a meal. So it is important that your content is accessible and appealing to your readers.

My favorite food blog is the Average Betty blog. I really love the way that Sarah (AKA Average Betty) not only shows me how to create something through video but also includes photos of the finished dish. The videos are entertaining informative clear and concise. With the written recipe there are photos of the different steps to take to create a dish as well as photos of how the dish should look in the end.

I made one of Average Betty’s Recipes the Hoffapenos.

When you are deciding what type of photo to take of your food you need to consider lighting, composition, and and how it will make your reader’s mouths water. I traveled for almost 7 years straight all across the country and into Canada and across the pond to London. In that time I took photographs of many of my meals. I got a lot of ribbing from many of my friends. Photographing your food is often the punch line to people joking about how bloggers just talk about what they ate that day. But the joke’s on them because many blogs have popped up around food. I see many photography projects based on what people ate that day. And whenever I attend a blogging convention half of the people at the table whip out their cameras to take a photo of their meal before they eat.

Havana on my Mind

Eating food, talking about food, seeing videos of food it is something that I can definitely get behind. If you are thinking of a way to create some content on your blog go to a food site look at the recipe and then try to prepare that meal yourself. Photograph the steps you make to prepare the meal, video portions of the preparation, photograph the finished product, and then interview the people eating the food. I did this with one of Average Betty’s recipes, the Hoffapenos and we be came friends when I linked to her and chatted with her. One of the highlights of Blog World Expo was actually getting to meet my friend Sarah.

BenSpark and Average Betty at BlogWorld 2010

One of the highest search terms for my blog is for that of Fry Sauce. Fry Sauce is basically a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise with additional spices or other ingredients. One day I was looking for something to photograph for my Photo-A-Day project. I was at a restaurant and took a photograph of a bottle of A1 Steak Sauce and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. I posted that to my site and asked my readers what they put on their burgers, hot dogs, french fries and so on. One reader was incredulous that I did not include Fry Sauce. I had never heard of what it was and so I did some research.

Steak Sauce, Hot Sauce, What Sauce...
The photo that started it all.

I began to experiment on my own to discover what the appeal was for Fry Sauce. Not only to discover the true deliciousness of Fry Sauce but I turned it into content for my blog. I held a contest for the Ultimate Fry Sauce. I asked for 10 people to submit recipes. I then prepared all 10 recipes. That was a lot of ketchup and mayonnaise. I do not want to see or smell fry sauce for a month. However, through this contest I generated blog posts, videos, photos and attracted a number of new readers. Resulting about from a simple day where I shot a photo of a couple bottles of sauce.

Lazy Susan was Busy Tonight...

And here is the video I made about the contest.

Can you see how food blogging can get you some great content?

Andrew Bennett has been blogging for the past seven years. During that time he’s taken over 2000+ photos on as many consecutive days and has attended every Blog World so far. When he’s not on Twitter (@BenSpark) he can be found at BenSpark.com. You can contact him at benspark@benspark.com.

Season Your Content With Your Voice

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… by Mike Dobranski

If blogging were to have a Golden Rule, I think it would be that “Content Is King.”  When it comes down to it, we can all write, but the people with the interesting content said in the voice that genuinely touches the audience will ultimately be the most successful.  Blogging is all about good touches.

When our palette is narrowed down to our palates with Food Blogging, new and original material is often times tough to come up with after a while.  For those of us that blog about restaurants, how many different ways can we talk about too much salt on the New York Strip, or for those that blog about cooking, really…how many friggin’ variations of a cupcake are there?

Many times it’s all about the angle and the light.  What angle are you going to approach the over-salted New York Strip?  Is it part of a review of the restaurant?  Is it enough to stand alone as a spotlight on the dish?  Do you want to put it as part of a list of the saltiest things you ate in 2010? Do you want to talk about the abused piece of meat on a “Versus List” such as; Steak vs. Salt Lick, Steak vs. Rim of a Margarita Glass, Steak vs. Dead Sea, etc.?  How many different approaches can you take with a common problem you’ll see over and over and over again?

However, all these different approaches don’t mean squat if they aren’t in your own voice.  The worst thing a blogger can do is try to fit them self in someone else’s mold.  Write the way you talk, not the way someone else talks.  If you think the glaze for those homemade donuts you’re blogging about looks like smegma, then say so.  If the mere thought of smegma makes you want to take a boiling hot shower and say ten Hail Mary’s, then don’t do that.  Write in your own voice.  Your followers will find you.  So will the haters…but tell the haters to kiss your ass (in your own words, of course!). Remember, for every single vocal critic out there, there’s usually a couple hundred reading silently, nodding their head in agreement with you.

Engage your audience with quality, original content.  Make them see things in a way they never saw them before…that’s when the magic happens.   Above all else, say what you need to say in your own voice.  If people wanted to read about that cupcake the way someone, perhaps, more “established” would have said it, then they can always log on to their site.  Say it like you mean it.

Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. He is the founder and writer for http://TastingLasVegas.com, a blog and podcast dedicated to news and reviews of the Las Vegas restaurant scene. You can join Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Why Changing Your Profile Photo DOES Help

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My colleague Allison Boyer recently published a post right here on the BlogWorld blog about how changing one’s profile picture to reflect the cause of the day doesn’t really do anything. Allison basically calls b.s. on arguments that group reactions, such as changing one’s profile picture in support of child abuse victims doesn’t really raise awareness, or really do anything for that matter.

And this is where I disagree.

I’m not a huge fan of memes because I think they’re silly. I don’t generally follow the pack when it comes to posting stuff in my Facebook status, but I did this time, and here’s why:

I know for a fact that several of my Facebook friends are victims of child abuse in one form or another. I changed my photo for them. I changed my photo to say, “I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to have suffered, but now you can know you have my support, however you need it. ”

Now, changing my profile photo to a cartoon isn’t going to change that fact, nor will it stop people from abusing children. It won’t bring in millions of dollars or get anyone arrested, but it tells my friends I have their backs. I liken it to a candlelight vigil. Lighting candles won’t change the fact that someone died or someone is healing or that we don’t appreciate a certain behavior but it tells victims and victims families that we’re there for them. We might not be able to afford to donate, but we can offer a safe haven or a shoulder to cry on.

This is the Facebook community’s candlelight vigil.

People sometimes feel helpless as they know they’re never going to cure the world of what ails it. However, changing to a cartoon for a couple of days makes them feel as if they’re helping in some way, so I have no problem with it. If a victim of child abuse sees my cartoon picture in my profile and knows that I care, then it’s worth the whole brouhaha.

Allison, these memes ARE a call of action because they have us thinking about issues and discussing these issues. And yes, there are people taking action by donating or blogging, even if they’re not necessarily vocal about it.

Am I changing the world? Perhaps not. Am I making someone’s day? I hope so.

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