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June 27, 2008

Are you a Marathon Blogger or a Sprinter?

Blogging has probably matured a great deal since you started. Part of it is that it has reached critical mass, or tipping point, as it may be. The more people have blogs, the more blogs out there contending for everyone’s time and attention. Part of it is that thanks to all the great advice out there, many have learned about the ins and outs of:

- attracting readers
- getting comments
- writing better content
- having cleaner designs
- increasing subscribers
- finding post ideas
- staying the course

Social media and marketing have become so ubiquitous, that one of the things we rarely think about is the way in which we approach publishing and how that feeds back into our self esteem and brand. If you feel well conditioned and ready for a rush of activity, good for you. If instead, you feel that you are in a race that never ends, you may need to take inventory of why that is. It could be that:

You’re overextended – too much distance in too many terrains

When your creativity is being scattered over too many sites, even if you consider yourself remarkably creative, your concentration suffers. So does your writing. In addition, your brand will become diluted.

It works just like it works with products and services. You need to pick a focus, a home base site, and develop that well. If you have multiple sites, you may want to pull back some of that work and put it on your main site.

Being overextended also means being tired and tired people’s nerves fray more easily. That is when you are likely to make a bad judgment call, or react to a comment instead of responding. That’s when things rip apart.

You are getting tired of the language of social media – too crowded

The words “conversation” “anything 2.0 or social media” even “blog” are being rendered less valuable by their mass appropriation. There’s just a lot of it out there, and some folks are busy pounding the terminology flat. The general solution here is to start looking past those words as your central point of reference.

Chances are your brand and business are much more than those terms. You need to get past them and focus on where you are going next, vs. where you are now. Words are very powerful and they can change how you think about what you do – and help others do the same.

Do you need to broaden your horizons, change your pace? Maybe you need to get out of the race altogether.

You may just not enjoy what you are doing anymore – you need rest

If you’re having a hard time coming up with fresh ideas regularly and just do not look forward to writing, you may suffer from burn out. It colors everything you do. Even when you’re writing well, you’re not appreciating your own success.

It’s a sign that it’s time for a change.

Blogging is also changing – bursts of activity scattered in more places

Discussion is migrating elsewhere. A lot of the smart people are migrating to things like Friendfeed — which is an important service — Facebook, and all the other stuff like Twitter and Plurk.

You might be able to restrict your availability on these outside discussions, driving conversation back to your site. Or maybe participating in off-site stuff increases your influence and drives the site. No one knows how that will play, yet.

It may be that you have to shift your expectations of a good post or a good week at your blog. It’s a time of flux in this area — it’s tough to say now. Maybe you’ll know in a year you’ll see what evolves in this area. The technology is still changing, too.

In the future, discussion may become very portable — very decentralized. But there will be software hooks back into websites. So you’ll comment where you wish, but the comments will get hooked wherever the publisher wants them.

Friendfeed, for instance, could be hooked to your site. When people comment on FF, the discussion is a sort of trackback. Friendfeed-like services may become social networks that get anchored where you want them. All hooked together. It will be easy when it’s ready. You’ll add a widget: done.

Content will propagate through these tools, eventually. Nets on top of nets. Communities will become more like flash mobs as these tools get adopted. More like butterflies, actually. People will see a bright flower, visit, and move on. They’ll be back.

Like any activity, business can be approached with a view to the long haul or in a very focused, and temporary manner. Are you in it for the long run, or is this just a sprint to your next destination? Are you a marathon blogger or a sprinter? There is no right or wrong, just make sure it is what you want.

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June 13, 2008

How to be More Productive

It’s a common challenge we all encounter at some point or another. We are so busy getting through the basic tasks of publishing, that we become less organized – and thus less productive. The time we’d dedicate to marketing our blog and building relationships with readers vaporizes as we try to dig out from under.

If you’d like to find more time to share your ideas with others and attract a greater number of readers, you need to become more productive. You can start with five easy steps.

1. Put your bookmarks on de.licio.us. In fact, dump everything you might need later into de.licio.us. Not only can you search your links much faster than using your browser’s built in tools, your bookmarks will be available anywhere you go.

2. Find an RSS reader or web-based service you like, load the sites you visit regularly, and get familiar with the interface. This is the single most effective think you can do to optimize your online productivity. You’ll spend less time loading sites and hunting for data — and more sorting what you need. Hint: Google Reader.

3. Unsubscribe. It’s easy to get caught up in the noise of Web 2.0. Do you really need pokes and superpokes on Facebook? Did you just blow an hour of daylight on Twitter? Dump it. Decide what’s important, and stick with it.

4. Get your projects organized. One great way is Basecamp — a no-nonsense planning and management system suitable for personal or group use. Set goals, share files and information, whiteboard — in short, make it happen. There’s a free version suitable for single projects. The Basic plan is $24/month, and is as much project management as most small businesses will ever need.

5. Many hands make the job easier — or at least give you a living knowledge-base. So network — but be smart about which one you choose. Facebook has a huge user base, but may offer more distractions that your personal productivity allows. If you’re building a professional network, consider LinkedIn. It is more focused on business and you will find that members are open to helping you with marketing questions.

These are just five tools. What are some of your favorites?

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May 30, 2008

Can You Run an Online Publication?

Answer honestly. Do you have what it takes to run background research, fact check, spell check, grammar check, objectivity check. Wait a moment, wasn’t blogging supposed to be about opinion and voice? Yes it was, and so was journalism. You are allowed to feel, witness (experience), and document what you see through your human filter.

Christiane Amanpour thinks that “there are some situations that one simply cannot be neutral about. Objectivity does not mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing.” Herein lies the first lesson in running a publication for bloggers – it is about being balanced in recognizing differing points of view.

Another journalist I have tremendous respect for, John Timpane of the Editorial Board at The Philadelphia Inquirer – former Shakespearian English teacher and poet – calls it skepticism. This means requiring the official reality to explain itself. Not to be confused with another sentiment, which is often overused: cynicism. A cynic is not open to discovery, he is set in his ways. A skeptic, on the other hand, is open to receiving. In other words, they are listening while exercising critical thinking.

Now that you are listening, you can pass the biggest test.

The Biggest Test

The biggest test you can take after you honor the proper grammar and form is that of the attribution. Being objective means being honest with yourself, and with the other – both sides. Can you do that?

Then you are well on your way. All the other things – finding news, analyzing it, doing background and fact checks, even finding a sponsor or an ad network for your publication is easier.

The hardest part is always that of objectivity. Asking, even requiring reality to explain itself is harder than it seems. Yet the rewards are oh so much greater. With the recent news of Ars Technica being bought by Conde’ Nast we learned a very important piece of information: the community that forms around an online publication can be a powerful story.

Compelling at the tune of millions of dollars. The content is key to forming that, of course, as is the integrity and passion of the reporting – with objectivity. What side of the conversation are you not giving a hearing to?

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May 19, 2008

What Do You Want? One-Shot Traffic Versus Easy Conversion

A reader recently asked me how he could repeat the traffic magnet power of a post he wrote a year ago featuring the logo of a local football team. He told me that he gets continuous traffic to that post daily, and he wants to repeat it, bringing even more daily traffic into his blog.

Traffic magnets can be fleeting or consistent over time. We aren’t talking about exclusive pictures of celebrities or the Digg-effect blog post that brings in thousands of visitors in one or two days, then traffic drifts off to nothing. Traffic magnets continue to be draws to your blog over the long haul – one, two, even four or five years after publishing.

While many believe that any traffic is good traffic, traffic magnets come in two very distinctive audience groups: one-shot deals or easy conversions.
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May 16, 2008

3 Marketing Lessons from Benjamin Zander

“Waiter,” Boston Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Ben Zander exclaimed, “I have a perfect life, but I don’t have a knife.” He was having breakfast in a restaurant with a friend at the time. As he uttered those words, he heard a girl nearby giggling. They made eye contact, smiled together, and he went back to his conversation.

The next day, he happened to cross paths with the young lady again, this time they exchanged words.

“Good morning, how are you today?”

“Perfect,” she said.

As she left the room accompanied by her parents, he called out to her “Have a perfect day!”

“I will,” she replied, as if it were the easiest, most obvious choice she could make.

I paraphrased the opening of Roz and Ben Zander, The Art of Possibility. The book, is about turning life’s obstacles into possibilities. It is also about marketing – what is becoming the future of marketing.

Lesson # 1 – It’s All Invented

A person looking to start a blog on social media today may feel overwhelmed. There are so many blogs on social media, one for every flavor, literally. She may think: it’s hopeless, I could never break through. No one will read yet another blog on social media.

Another person may take stock of the situation and think: this is fantastic, there are so many people writing about social media that I will find an instant community. Then I can specialize in social media for engineers, or for lawyers, or for plumbers. Take your pick. In other words, she sees opportunity galore.

Whenever you are faced with an issue that seems to be a problem, use this simple advice. Remember that it’s all invented. Then you will have the opportunity to dismantle your own assumptions that prevent you from seeing possibilities. Instead, think how else can I look at things? What other choices does that give me?

Lesson #2 – Stop Measuring Everything

When you go down the route of constantly checking how many readers, comments, and page views you have, you find yourself stuck with thoughts and actions that reflect survival and scarcity, comparison and competition, attachment and anxiety. You stop the creative flow in favor of the judgement and evaluation. There is a place for goal setting and tracking towards your objectives.

Yet, when you constantly box yourself inside what others have established as success metrics, you forego your potential, where you could grow. Ask yourself: how are my thoughts and actions, in this moment, a reflection of the measurement world?

Over the long haul, you are more likely to create abundance in your business and life by having the attitude that there are always new readers, there are many more customers out there to engage with. When you express your skill with passion and joy, people will be attracted to you – and when your life does not depend on hitting the jackpot all the time, you will be more open to connections, which in turn create success.

Lesson #3 – Be a Contribution

When you stop obsessing constantly about progress, you lift the veil on contribution. What is it that you bring to the table that nobody else does? What project, form and shape can your ideas take? Any that you decide. The issue with best practices and following standard advice, is that everyone ends up looking and sounding the same.

Nothing could be further from your truth – you are capable of contributing and you can let anyone contribute to your success. If you let your ambition drive you, then anyone who does not think like you, who is not on your side or is on the same list with you, is a competitor.

With the thought of contribution, everything changes. All of a sudden, you can learn from anyone and be a teacher to anyone – even the most experienced blogger. How much you can make and where you stand in the business ecosystem do not disappear. Yet, it’s your attitude that changes, from how can I win, to how can I serve. Watch all sorts of good things happening to you because of that.
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Bottom line, no matter where you stand in the conventional totem pole, remember that it’s all invented, when you stop measuring all the time, you start thinking about projects as potential you can fulfill. You can make a difference, even if sometimes you may not fully appreciate how and why.

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April 22, 2008

Want to Succeed in Viral Marketing on Facebook?

Michael Arrington shares a document sent out by Facebook on how to succeed in viral marketing using Facebook Pages. Maybe that’ll help you boost those poor visitor numbers on your oh so cool blog project?

Facebook’s dead to me, but I can certainly see its uses for marketing people targeting the mainstream crowd. And other areas as well, I’d reckon, although I don’t think that Facebook is the hippest place to be anymore. Then again I’m old, so what do I know?

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April 18, 2008

Groundbreaking Blog Viral Marketing: Obsidian Blackout Event

JC Hutchins, 7th Son Obsidian podiobook anthologyJC Hutchins has been breaking rules even before he started his blog in an attempt to give away his science fiction novel, 7th Son, which publishers didn’t want, as a free podiobook, one of the first audio books published as a weekly series of podcasts. He has come up with a variety of interesting viral campaigns to promote his book, blog, podcasts, and writings, turning his unpublished book into the most popular podiobook series in history, and becoming a specialist in the true sense of social networking and marketing. His innovative online self-marketing techniques attracted St. Martin’s Press, and his book will finally be published in 2009.

Tapping the creativity of his fan-base, Hutchins is breaking rules again by asking people to become victims and make history.
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Creativity Friday: Take the Best Ad Headlines and Make them Yours

Titles and headlines work really hard. Ask any copywriter worth their salt. They need to grab the attention of the casual observer, the passerby, and the multitasker and pull it right onto the page. In a split second, your reader will decide wether to stay or go.

Give your posts the green light by leveraging the craft of brilliant headlines and advertising. Learn from some of the most persuasive and groundbreaking advertising copy, and make it yours.

“Look for it! Wait for it! See it! It is coming” P.T. Barnum

They called him the Shakespeare of advertising. When you read lines like:

“Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”

“Limited edition collector’s item at an unbelievable low special discount price”

“Going out of business, last and final liquidation closeout sale! All items must go! We’re closing our doors forever!”

You are reading pure Barnum. His style was to translate the everyday situation into a commercial via popular (or vulgar) language. It’s a skill. Words like “jumbo” are his. He single-handedly manufactured hype.

If you’re a self-promoter, Barnum blazed the trail for you. He understood one fundamental principle of advertising – and that is how important it is to gather a crowd. And he sold the exotic: the circus!

“Magic Lies in Pretty Teeth – Remove that Film” Claude Hopkins

This is the guy who understood that the goal of the advertiser is to get to the path of desire – today we call this positioning. Blame research and analytical psychology on him. One thing is for sure – he took his audience seriously.

Hopkins established the reason why you buy a product. And it has very little to do with the product itself and everything to do with what you think the product will do for you. Never compare your blog or post to that of another writer.

“People are like sheep.” he said “They cannot judge values, nor can you and I. We judge things largely by others’ impressions, by popular favor. We go with the crowd.” And indeed the most effective thing in advertising is the trend of the crowd.

How did he move people to buy? Look at that headline. Hopkins staked a claim that was obvious – you can rub just about anything on your teeth and get a sense of cleanliness. We all have a membrane on our teeth, and if you roll your tongue over them, you can feel it. That claim sold millions in Pepsodent.

“Magic lies in pretty teeth” is the precursor of “for skin you love to touch”. Akin to saying that blogging will improve your sex life. The power of magic. What magic promise is in your titles?

“How can you make two months’ salary last forever?” N. W. Ayer

I bet you know what this ad headline is selling. How would you like to write a title like that? This was the brilliant campaign started by Ayer for De Beers. The ads did their job. they intercepted and reformatted desire.

And they did not talk specifics. They just went directly to how the product would make the person it is bought for feel. Now take a look at your headline, how can you make it timeless, aspirational, and still keep it simple?
“A diamond last forever” – will your headline?

“Does she… or doesn’t she?” Foote, Cone & Belding

Maybe she’s born with it… maybe it’s marketing. Two generations, same kind of attraction. Instilling the doubt as in the famous Miss Clairol’s campaign is an old technique. It dates back to the ‘50s. If you think this is sort of cheesy, remember that the campaign propelled sales 413% higher in six years.

The secret lies in not revealing everything with the headline. In fact, if you look at the examples I listed here, they all contain powerful hooks that will prompt you to consider the product.

What kinds of headlines light you up? Have some fun and share your best headlines. Better yet, let’s craft some here together using this material as inspiration. For a limited time only! Come on in and let’s do some marketing magic.

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April 8, 2008

Determining the Worth of the Top Bloggers

The 24-7 Wall Street blog analyzed what makes a blog valuable and came up with The Twenty-Five Most Valuable Blogs, offering some insights into how to value your own blog.

I’ve written on the topic of selling your blog in Selling Your Blog: What Are Buyers Looking For, Selling Your Blog: What Goes Into the Selling Price, Can You Sell Your Blog?, and How to Buy or Sell a Blog, and my research came up with a list of things buyers look for when considering buying a blog. It’s also a good list of things you should be aware of and doing with your blog to maximize profitability.

However, the biggest challenge in determining how much a blog is worth is putting an economic and investment value on blog elements and marketing techniques. Douglas A. McIntyre admitted the same challenges, saying:
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Twittermethis Marketing Experiment

Jim Kukral, the guy behind Scratchback, among other things, is playing with Twitter. He’s doing Twittermethis, a marketing experiment, and a game where you can win $5 by answering trivia questions sent by its Twitter user. Jim explains:

Want to play? Follow @twittermethis then. And while you’re at it, do follow The Blog Herald on Twitter as well. You can’t win money, but it’s all good fun anyway!

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