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The #1 Best Way to Understand Your Audience—And Why This Matters for Your Content


“The best way to understand the mind, the hopes, the fear, the dreams, the desires—everything that’s inside your clients, you’re customer’s brain—the best way to understand it is to actually be it.” – Dino Dogan

We often talk about creating a profile, an avatar of sorts, for your audience members so you understand who you’re creating content for. This is important whether you’re a blogger, podcaster, web series creator, or even business owner. If you don’t know who your audience is, it’s extremely hard to create content for them.

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At NMX 2013, Dino Dogan spoke on turning your audience into extremely loyal fans, and this is one of the topics he covered during his session. But he took a step farther. Don’t just think about who your customer is. Be your customer.

The NMX Story

If you’ve ever seen our NMX co-founder Rick Calvert speak before a keynote or if you’ve ever had a personal conversation with him, you might have heard him talk about why he decided to start NMX (previously BlogWorld). Rick was a blogger himself in the early 2000s and being someone who has always worked in the trade show and conference industry, he decided to attend whatever trade show or conference was out there for bloggers.

Except there wasn’t one.

Rick was astounded to find that there was no event out there to provide more education for bloggers and others in the new media industry. So, he decided to create one. This was the birth of BlogWorld, which has now evolved into NMX. Rick is his own customer, and this is one of the things that lends to the success of this conference.

Why Being Your Customer Matters

I use the term customer as Dino has in his presentation, but very loosely, to also not just mean people who are buying from you, but to also mean people who are doing anything you want them to do (read a blog post, listen to your podcast, etc.). You have to be this person to truly understand this person.

Creating an avatar is great, but it’s impossible to truly understand another person through research. You don’t understand what it’s like to be a mother until you’re a mother (or so I’ve been told…I am not a mother). You don’t understand how it feels to lose a loved one until you’ve experienced that loss yourself. You don’t understand the frustration of not finding clothes that fit if you’re someone who always walks into a store and finds several options.

And if you don’t understand what your customers are going through, what they truly feel, you can’t do the best possible job creating content or products for them.

Over the past two(ish) years, I’ve watching the freelance writing industry change drastically from what it was like back in 2005-2006, when I first started writing online. At that time, it was very easy to find content writing jobs. To make ends meet as a recent college grad, I wrote about everything from lawn care to oil rig jobs. Today, those jobs are nearly non-existent. Why? Because people realized that someone who doesn’t own a home with a yard can never truly write a great article about lawn care, no matter how much research she does. At least not compared to someone who is passionate about that topic.

Become your customer if you aren’t already. You’ll be amazed at what you learn and how that affects your decisions.

More from Dino

Being your own customer was just a small piece of Dino’s 2013 NMX presentation on insane loyalty. But the good news is that you can still attend the session virtually, even if you missed attending live in Las Vegas! Become an NMX University Premium Member and you’ll get access to our complete 2013 Virtual Ticket, which includes a recording of Dino’s session, along with sessions from hundreds of other speakers!

Beginner’s Guide to Email List Basics


I recommend that every content creator start an email list. So, in this beginner’s guide, I’m covering exactly what you need to know to get started with an email list. Remember, you can also find all of our other beginner’s guides here.

Email Advantages

So why use email? Can’t fans just get your content via their favorite RSS reader? Well, yes, but with RSS, you don’t have the oppotuniry to speak to your fans directly, because you don’t have a list of email addresses. All they get is what you post on your blog – and while that’s a great start, if you want to promote products, talk about what’s going on with your site, etc.

Email is also a way to get your audience’s attention, as long as you don’t abuse the power by sending too many emails (especially too many sales emails). While tweets might go unnoticed, emails stand out.

Email List Providers

You can manage an email list manually, but trust me – if you get more than twenty or thirty people signed up (and hopefully you do), manually sending emails is time-consuming. When you send emails manually, you also don’t have access to analytics like you do with a list service provider.

The three most popular email list providers are Aweber, Mail Chimp, and Constant Contact. There are other options as well, which Kevin Muldoon has pretty perfectly outlined in a guest post for Daily Blog Tips. Personally, I use Aweber, but I don’t like them any better or worse than any other services out there. The point is…subscribe to one of these services. It is well worth the money.

Ah, money. So what is this going to cost you? Each services has a difference cost, but in general, you’ll pay depending on the number of subscribers you have. It’s a great model, since as you get more subscribers you should also be making more money.

Getting People to Sign Up

There are several ways to get people to sign up for your mailing list. Start with a sign-up box on your sidebar, but also consider:

  • Writing a blog post about your new mailing list or talking about it on your next podcast or in your next video.
  • Linking to it at the end of every post/show notes
  • Tweeting about it
  • Creating a sign-up page on Facebook as one of your tabs
  • Offering something for free in exchange for people signing up for your mailing list

Once you have people signed up, you also have to make sure you keep as many of them signed up as possible. Some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Not making it clear what people are signing up for – if they receive a lot more emails than they expect to receive, they’ll unsubscribe in a hurry
  • Sending too many sales-y emails
  • Sending emails that aren’t valuable
  • Being inconsistent
  • Being too clinical (i.e. not personable enough)

What to Send

So once you start getting people signed up, what do you send?

First, you want to have a welcoming email. This email should include:

  • A personal thank you for signing up
  • What kind of email content subscribers can expect
  • Information on how to unsubscribe
  • Contact information
  • Links to your blog and social media profiles

After that, you can start sending emails on a regular basis. I recommend sending at least one email a week but no more than three per week unless there’s something special going on. There are two types of emails you can send. In Aweber, they’re called “follow-ups” and “broadcasts,” but the concepts is the same no matter what email system you use.

  • Follow-Ups: Emails that are sent to anyone who signs up, based on schedule that starts whenever the person signs up. (For example, the first one might be sent three days after the welcome message, the next three days after that, and so on.) This is evergreen material.
  • Broadcasts: Emails that are sent to everyone on your email list at the same time (future subscribers won’t see these messages). Typically, broadcasts are used to announce information like special events on your site, products sales, etc.

Follow-ups can take on several forms. Many people do newsletters, with several pieces of content. Some other ideas include:

  • Personal messages to the reader
  • Links to archived (but evergreen) posts
  • Special content only available to subscribers

Occasionally, you should also send a follow up that is more sales-like in nature, either promoting one of your own products or promoting someone else’s product (using affiliate links). I like to do a ratio of three high-value emails to every one sales email (outside of broadcasts).

More Tips

A few other tips about sending content to your list and using email services:

  • Always include a link to unsubscribe. It’s against spam policies not to do this and most newsletter service providers have it built-in…but make sure the link is noted somewhere so people can unsubscribe if they want.
  • If you include affiliate links, make sure you disclose this information using FTC guidelines.
  • Most email service providers give you the ability to split test, which allows you to see if you get a higher open rate using one headline or another or if changes in the email make a person more likely to click links included in that email. Use your ability to split test.
  • Some advertisers are willing to sponsor emails by placing ads in your newsletter. Again, make sure these relationships are disclosed.
  • Look at your stats regularly to see which follow-ups are causing the most unsubscribes. It might be worth changing it this message to prevent even more unsubscribes.
  • Also look at your stats regularly to see which follow-ups are getting the most opens and clicks. You want to replicate this success in the future.
  • Delete unsubscribed members regularly. These have no purpose, since they no longer get your emails, but some email services count them toward your total number of members, so these will bump up your number for no reason, causing you to pay more.
  • You may also want to delete members who don’t open your emails. I don’t do this personally, since they could someday decide to open one, but some people advocate this in order to keep your numbers lower and pay less.
  • Your subject line is like a headline – make sure you write something eye-catching that makes people want to open your email.

Even if you aren’t ready to start  sending email content to your list, it doesn’t hurt to at least allow people to sign up. You want to capture those leads so that someday when you do have time to maintain a list, you already have a small list to start.

Got questions about email lists? Post them below and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Facebook EdgeRank Insights: Why You DON’T Want a Large Fan Base and Who Your Quality Fans Are


… by Dennis Yu

From the lessons of our BlogWorld panel came a number of questions we didn’t have time to answer.

Is acquiring a lot of “junk” fans bad for your page? It depends.

If you are a software company, B2B company or have a super niche audience, then fans for the heck of it are bad, acquired via contests or whatever. When your “real” audience comes, they’ll not feel among peers.

If you are a fast food company, or a brand that has a diffuse base (Walmart, for example), you can target pretty much anyone. Major retail brands that get power via mass media will get power via untargeted fans for the same reasons that Super Bowl commercials work. If 60% of the population uses your shampoos and deodorants, you might as well grab as many fans as you can, so long as you’re not using creative that is off-brand (example: Spirit Airlines’ recent Weiner jokes about fares that are “hard” to resist and such).

If you are an agency, it can go either way. The pros of junk fans are that clients may be impressed by a large fan count, in the same way that they’re often deterred if they see your agency has only 58 fans. If you are posting great content before a junk audience base, however, you’re not only throwing pearls before swine, but collecting responses that clearly reveal your audience is not on-target. Puzzling responses or lack of responses are the tell-tale signs.

The hidden benefit of having fans is that you can sometimes leverage connection targeting in a big way.  Perhaps the fan himself isn’t part of your target, but one of their 310 friends is. In areas where personal relationships and word of mouth are important for conversion, (local restaurants, insurance agents, and multi-level marketing,) then you have to weigh in this effect

In other words, the value of a fan = That fan’s direct conversion value + the influence value they have on their friends.

And you could supposedly chain this value all the way down such that:

A particular fan, Jenny, might be worth $3; (what percentage of lifetime value you can trace back to Facebook marketing efforts).

Jenny has 100 friends of which 20 friends are targets. (Let’s say this is Lane Bryant, seller of plus-size women’s clothing.)

The influence value on each of these 10 friends is 5 cents (if that fan buys because Jenny did).

Jenny’s value is then $3 directly, 50 cents of influence, and then 3* 50/300 *50/300 for the third level. If you run this equation down to the 10th level, you’re at $3.60 in total value.

If you increase the number of friends Jenny has (her influence) to 300, increase the percentage of her friends that are in-target (dependent upon your industry) to 30%, and increase the value of friends-of-friends (a function of your product) to 20 cents, then the equation works out to $5.15.

Now the value of friends of fans goes from 60 cents to $2.15, which is almost as much as the fan is worth directly.

The beauty of this math is we can actually start to measure these values versus talk about them hypothetically.  Facebook has given us tools to determine who our top fans are.  Lane Bryant might have only 300,000 fans compared to the 1.8 million of JC Penney.  But their fans are 4 times more engaging, based on how actively they interact on the page. You can see the same thing in Adidas vs. Nike, Monster Energy vs. Red Bull, and so forth.

You can pull this data via their graph API for your own page or set of pages to determine if you have junk fans, how engaged your fans are, and whether fans are influencing their friends.  We happen to sell these dashboards, but you can certainly do it yourself with some clever programming.  Regardless, it’s not available in the web-based Insights, for those familiar with the tool.

Facebook has told us they are considering releasing influence tracking that will allow brands to determine who the “first click” influencer is—who initiated a purchase, for example, that is then later seen by friends who buy, and then friends of friends who buy. When that’s coming is anyone’s guess. But we do know it’s a long ways out, since they still haven’t figured out how to even share the data with us.

EdgeRank as a theoretical concept can best be thought of as influence; how many fans does your page have, which of those fans are influential, and what measurable conversion events occur because of it.  In the real world there are loyalty programs for airlines, supermarkets, and other companies.  I travel a LOT, so I get special treatment with certain travel providers—they recognize their best customers.

Are you measuring your best fans—the ones who have the most influence, are spending the most money, and are most loyal to you? Have you started to integrate your marketing efforts between email, Facebook, PPC, and your point of sale to identify Jenny when you see her?

Are you able to tell if that person of high engagement is also one of high influence?  Most brands aren’t yet able to measure engagement vs. influence vs. sentiment.

Dennis Yu is Chief Executive Officer of BlitzLocal, a Webtrends partner that builds social media dashboards to measure brand engagement and ROI, specializing in the intersection of Facebook and local advertising.   BlitzLocal is a leader in social and local advertising and analytics, creating mass micro-targeted campaigns. Mr. Yu has been featured in National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Entrepreneur Magazine, CBS Evening News, and other venues. He is an internationally sought-after speaker and author on all things Facebook. BlitzLocal serves both national brands and local service businesses.


Turning Customers Into Passionate Brand Fans


Entertainers have always known that fans long for a personal connection with them. The more an artist can provide a behind the curtain experience the more people will become passionate fans who attend movies, watch TV shows, see concerts, download music and tell their friends. The other secret artists intuitively understand is that people like to share experiences with others who have the same interests.

Social media provides unique opportunities for brands to emulate the arts. Social platforms provide ways to connect employees, who are the heart of the brand, with their audiences. It also allows for the creation of digital events and communities that bring customers together to tell their unique stories about your brands.

On the surface, social media appears fairly simple. Drop a tweet, write a status update, post a video on YouTube. How hard can that be if middle school kids are doing it? Don’t let the ease of the technology fool you into the illusion using social media as a business tactic is child’s play. Incorporating social media into your master plan requires a sophisticated approach that is integrated, monitored and flexible to respond to market opportunities.

The digital brand experience frequently opens the door to a world where our customers collide with business units that have long been silo-ed within organizations (customer service to marketing, public relations, sales and beyond). To succeed a social marketing strategy must begin with aligning the enterprise. The first step takes into account the concerns and social interaction of the people who have contact (both actively and passively) with your customers.

Experience has taught us that while a step into the social web may initially increase awareness, the challenge of consistently extending and maintaining the goodwill of an organization’s online reputation through digital conversations is based on how well the details are managed.

  • Identify your target audience/s
  • Understand your target audience’s social media expectations
  • Understand the culture of each platform where your customers participate
  • Take into consideration how social media will impact resources: people, time, money and internal processes
  • Ensure social media tactics are integrated and supportive of business goals/objectives, as well as, current marketing, branding.
  • Determine measurements of success which may be quantitative or qualitative
  • Develop an outreach initiative for each social media initiative because they will not come unless you tell them.
  • Approach all social media initiatives from the point of view of social media ethics and values: Honesty, Authenticity, Transparency and Passion.

The corporate path may be more complex than the artist’s, but when the house lights go out success remains the same .. did we turn our customers into passionate brand fans?

Toby Bloomberg is recognized for her expertise in combining social media with traditional marketing values such as strategy, customer insights, segmentation, etc. You can find her at Diva Marketing and @tobydiva.

I Don’t Like Your Stinkin’ Blog!


Fun fact: Once, an ex-roommate of mine and I got into a shouting match. It was over something stupid of course. I don’t even remember what our issue was. Some guy. What I do remember is yelling, “I don’t care about your stinkin’ relationship advice!” She was in a successful long-term relationship, and I was not, so I got earfuls from her fairly often about what I was doing wrong. Often, I didn’t agree, but I would listen anyway. After all, she had a relationship that was quickly heading to marriage. I was all over the map.

Later, when we could laugh about it, we giggled at the passion at which I yelled about her “stinkin’ advice.” Whenever we would disagree from that point forth, one of us would always say something about not liking the others’ stinkin’ attitude, and we’d devolve into giggles. Still, my message was a good one to remember.

Originally, I used Bloglines as my feed reader, so when that service announced they’ve be closing a few months ago, I switched over to Google. When I made the move, I decided to purge my feeds. That was a tougher task than I thought it would be. I realized that there were a few blogs on my list that I dreaded reading every day.

I felt like I had to read them because they were well-respected blogs in one of the niches I covered. Every post, the blogs in question would double or even triple the number of comments I’d get on my top posts. They must be doing something right. I have to learn from these bloggers. I have to figure out what they’re doing that I’m not. I have to…I have to…I have to…

No. No, I don’t have to do anything. You might be a super popular blogger, but I don’t like your stinkin’ blog.

I think we have a lot to learn from one another. I certainly have a lot to learn from bloggers that are better than me. At the same time, I think that we sometimes fall into a trap of trying to emulate bloggers who are popular in our niches, even though we don’t personally like what they are doing. We want to find the success that they’ve found, and in striving for excellence (which is a good thing), we begin to doubt our personal tastes (which is a bad thing).

You may want to learn from other bloggers, but you don’t want their readers. If you have the exact same target market as another blog out there, maybe it’s time to reconsider what you’re writing. You want your own readers. This doesn’t always mean that you have to have drastically different content. Sometimes, it’s just about having a different voice. Learn from the people who have come before you and who are people in your niche…but learning from them doesn’t mean you have to support them or be a part of their community. If you don’t like someone’s stinkin’ blog, don’t subscribe to their stinkin’ blog.

Something interesting to note: My roommate and her almost-fiance boyfriend had a horrible break up a few years later. Apparently he had never been happy with her, but had stayed with her for a bunch of bad reasons. So apparently my instincts were right, and I’m glad I trusted them. Learn to trust yours.

The Step Between Friends and Customers


When it comes to social media, we have friends whom we know personally and we have customers who we can always count on to buy our products. But how does that jump from friends to customers happen? Declan Dunn presented “How To Turn Friends Into Fans And Customers” at BlogWorld 2010, and he made some super important points about how we categorize our interactions with others. This is the new media game.

“Fans are people who raise their hands and say ‘I want more.'” – Declan Dunn

When you meet someone new using social networking, it is easy to become fast friends. “Oooo, he replied to me on Twitter!” “Wow, someone liked something I said on Facebook!” “Yay, he wants to connect on LinkedIn!”

The problem is that often, people don’t foster that relationship and instead hit people with a hard sell. Woah there, buddy. I just met you. I don’t want to buy your product yet. Relationships take time.

This is where Declan has come in with the concept that you have to move friends into the “fans” relationship level before they can become customers. Fans are people who are opting in to support you. This might mean a literal opt-in by signing up for your mailing list, but it could also be another kind of opt-in.

  • Friends who refer you to others are opting to become fans.
  • Friends who become a part of your blog community through comments, forum posts, etc. are opting to become fans.
  • Friends who promote your stuff on social media, without prompt, are opting to become fans.

That still doesn’t mean that they’ll buy something from you – but what it does mean is that you can approach them without worrying so much about offending them. Defining your fans means a lot less work to chase down those dollars. If you try to sell something to friends, few will make the purchase. They aren’t emotionally invested in supporting you or in need of the information you’re selling. They just like interacting with you. Fans, on the other hand, do want to support you, which often grows from a strong need for the information you’re selling.

The bottom line is this: If you try to sell your products to friends, you’re going to do a lot of work for little reward and possibly even offend a few people. If you try to sell to fans instead, you’ll see much better results.

Thanks, Declan, for a great BlogWorld presentation. His session covered a number of other topics, of course, and if you missed it or opted not to attend BlogWorld this year, consider picking up a virtual ticket to see his session.

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