7 Ways Authors Can Avoid Being Scammed By Online Book Promotion

book-signing

Online marketing can be very useful, but when does it become a time suck? Are there industries where online marketing is more likely to fail? Or are any potential failures just the result of bungled efforts?

I recently read this article about an author's problems marketing her novel online: One Author Speaks Out About The Bad Side Of Online Promotions. It was interesting to read a post that contained both missed opportunities on the part of the author as well as justified limitations to her online marketing efforts.

The author in the blog post felt as though she had largely wasted her hours of online promotion for a recently published book. I would like to offer the following advice both as a humble rebuttal as well as in hopes of helping other authors think about their online promotions.

Lessons To Be Learned

There are a lot of lessons illustrated in the author's blog post. Here are a few that jumped out at me, along with corresponding quotes from her interview:

"I blogged, guest blogged, blogged at Amazon, podcasted, was interviewed by books bloggers and book review websites, joined Facebook, and Twittered. I also joined several networking sites and writers organizations associated with my genre."

Lesson #1: Don't spread yourself too thin. I'd recommend only participating in the number of social networks where you can provide value. It sounds like the author was spreading herself across the entire internet, rather than focusing on a targeted community and fulfilling a need they had.

"I concentrated all of this effort in the month my book released and the two immediately following."

Lesson #2: Don't wait until the book is out to build community. This is possibly the biggest mistake for any author. Waiting until your book is published before starting your online community building is like waiting to buy flood insurance until after the waters recede - you should have thought of it before the big event. Work in advance to build an audience so you can all start promoting the book once it hits shelves.

"For three months, all the time I normally spent online and more was focused on Internet promotion: 3 to 8 hours a day...This interview, for example, took me 9 hours to write."

Lesson #3: Need to manage expectations and time. Authors should plan to spend a good deal of time with promotion, depending on their motivation, size of potential audience, and other factors. (Good) online promotion takes a real investment of time. That said, 9 hours on a 6 page interview seems way too long to me. If that's a regular occurrence, you should consider honing your verbal skills and complete other interviews orally.

"...I was able to track the outcomes of individual interviews. The results were shocking. After an interview posted on a website claiming thousands of unique visitors per day, exactly one person followed the link to my website."

Lesson #4: Clarify your goals. Earlier, the author stated that the goal of her online promotion was to increase name and book title recognition. If so, then don't judge your success on CTR or web traffic. Determine what you want, figure out success metrics (ask "How do I envision success"), and then execute.

"I know some will say I'm missing the point; that the objective of all this activity is to build the author's long-term [i]nternet presence and establish a brand. But to a newly published author, 'online promotion' is synonymous with 'sales.' It has to be."

Lesson #5: Community leads to sales, not necessarily vice versa. If you only go online for the sale, you will fail; if you go online to provide value/access, you will make the sale. Consider David Meerman Scott - he is active in the community and gives most of his content away for free. Crazy? Nope. He knows that he attracts fans through the free content and he makes his money selling books to this targeted, pre-engaged audience and by speaking to them at conferences. A short-sighted attitude toward sales will kill you online.

"Once content is posted, it doesn't go anywhere. It just sits for awhile, then disappears. By contrast, articles and blog posts made at the major online magazines and newspapers show up at dozens of other websites within minutes."

Lesson #6: All traffic is not the same. Besides showing a somewhat alarming naivety regarding search, this quote implies that all online traffic has roughly the same worth. For most authors, a targeted focus on niche audiences is far more likely to yield interest, buzz, and sales.

"[N]o one even knows if Twittering and social network sites sell books."

Lesson #7: Social networking sites don't sell books. You sell books. Read that sentence again and really take it in. It might be the most important thing you find in this post.

With that in mind, consider that Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff compares the traditional sales function to "energizing" in their fantastic book, Groundswell. Instead of hard-line sales tactics, social networking "[m]akes it possible for your enthusiastic customers to help sell each other" (page 69).

Or, if you're still pessimistic about the power of your online connections, consider this excellent article by David Alston called "Social Media ROI - What's the 'Return on Ignoring'?" Alston makes the convincing, even simplistic, case that doing nothing will result in...nothing.

"But what does "return on investment" really stand for in a business? Roughly translated, it means the value we expect to get out of all the effort we put into something. It's the definition of the output (return) from an input (investment).

But here's the trick: ignoring the input, or doing nothing in social media, will surely guarantee no return at all."

The Right Attitude

I don't want it to sound as though the author was clueless; that's certainly not the case. Throughout the blog post, I marked sections where I thought her concept of social networking and online marketing were correct.

For instance, as an unschooled professional, she taught herself a lot about the importance of search. Despite one or two missteps, she does present search accurately and astutely as a marketing tool. In fact, she may not give herself enough credit for the results she had (which were fairly fantastic).

Readers could also tell that the author had a long history of being online, even if she wasn't marketing herself this whole time. Familiarity with the online channel greatly decreases the learning curve for online marketing.

And finally, she seems to have a good understanding (more than me, certainly) of the relationship between author and publicist regarding online promotion. If she's to be believe - and I have no reason not to - the book publishing promotion world still seems centered on in-store and other offline promotions. On the flip side, she also understands that relying on a publicist for online connections would be a mistake.

Worth A Read

In general, I enjoyed this post because it gave me a lot to think about and showed insight into a field I know less about, though am interested in.

The point of this post is to help other authors avoid the pitfalls she went through. Was this helpful? Or did I skip over an essential lesson? Please leave your comments and suggestions for other authors below.

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of Pathfinder Linden via Flickr)

Humbugs And Hammers And Twitters - Oh My!

hammer

I would like to tell you a story about a craft fair and I hope it will teach you something about Twitter and other new media. Do you think I can do it? Let's see.

OK, imagine you're at a craft fair. Make it something out in the woods where everything smells like pine and cider. You are walking along, looking at the different crafts laid upon rows and rows of tables by the sellers.

All of a sudden, you find yourself at one craftman's table at the end of a row. He looks dour...no, make that downright angry. His brows are knotted up and his lips are pursed. He looks like he's about to burst. And, perhaps against your better judgement, you ask him what's bothering him.

And does he ever let loose! It turns out this craftman has been a carpenter for decades - he calls himself an expert at least. And his problem is with the hammer. Not one in particular - all hammers. Every single one. He thinks they're stupid. He thinks they are useless. This carpenter has got no problem with screwdrivers and wrenches and levels. But hammers - he can't stand 'em.

The Twitter Connection

That's how I feel when I read posts like 6 Thoughts About Twitter by The Ad Contrarian (who also goes by Bob). Like I'm reading a post by an angry carpenter who hates hammers.

I'm not saying that guys like Bob are totally incorrect. I'll be the first to agree that some of the things Biz and others have said about Twitter are kinda...out there.

But I'm still at that craft show thinking, "So, who cares?" I mean, you can yell and scream all you want about how a hardback book is the best thing to pound nails into walls. You can really believe that and I won't begrudge you. (Heck, I'll even watch you bang a Shakespeare tome against the wall without saying a word.) But me, I'm still going to use a hammer.

No More Metaphors

Maybe I'm still relying on metaphor. My point is this: tools are secondary and it doesn't make a lot of sense arguing against (or even for) any particular one.

You can pound nails into your wall with a hammer or with a hardback book, but if the wall is flimsy, the whole thing is going to collapse.

In the same sense, you can tweet about your brand, but if your brand or product sucks, Twitter ain't gonna save it.

Twitter is a tool. I like it. I've seen a lot of people do a lot of good with it (and a few people embarrass themselves with it too). But it's  just a tool. If your message is off-target or you don't excite your audience or your product explodes into flames (and it's not insta-logs), then Twitter is beside the point.

Not A Tool, But A Business

Maybe you can glimpse the value of a tool like Twitter, like this New York Magazine writer did, but are more interested in it as a business. OK, fair enough - this is a different conversation.

He saw the value, being in the Twitter offices when US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson river a few weeks ago. He also touched upon the successful venture capitalists who have invested money in Twitter, despite the lack of a public business model. So in a sense, he does mention the product and the business in the story. But really, who cares about that, right?

Instead, the author focuses on the really important stuff. You know, like the fact they stock the office with organic cereal and have a vintage Atari console and a television tuned to the fireplace channel and have meetings about "open-source mumbo jumbo" (actual quote).

Does that tell us about Twitter or its business? Not really. But it does tell us that the author likes to sound like a condescending douchebag.

Two Wrongs Don't Make It Right

So what's the connection? In both instances, there was a bunch of negative ink thrown at a new media tool; at the equivalent of a hammer. A HAMMER!

Both articles denigrated a new tool without offering real reasons nor a better alternative. The authors take potshots at the people who use the new tool, but don't take much time actually, um, using it themselves. Plus, going beyond Twitter as a tool, the New York Mag article was supposed to be about the business, but instead it was a hodge-podge of vapid commentary, atmospheric details, and anxiety of the new.

Think about the hammer metaphor again: imagine articles that insult the instrument itself, the people who use it, and the people who made it - without focusing on how people use the hammer in the first place.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on these guys? Or do I go too easy on them? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

(Oh, and how did I hear about these two articles in the first place? Twitter, natch.)

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of Del Far via Flickr)

The OnlineMarketerBlog Audience Speaks

familyfeud

A few weeks ago, I asked the readership of this blog to give me their opinions and ideas in the first OnlineMarketerBlog survey. Thankfully, 51 of you took a moment to fill it out.

If you have a similar blog, or if you'd like to know more about the audience of this one, I am summarizing the survey below. I hope you find it useful.

1) What kind of articles interest you the most?

picture-1

64% of you enjoy instructional articles the most, followed by 30% interested in news and informational posts.

2) What general topics interest you most - social media, marketing, or copywriting?

Respondents could pick more than one answer for this question and many did. 38 enjoyed marketing and 35 enjoyed social media posts. Copywriting had a modest but still substantial 17 supporters.

3) What content changes would you like to see on this blog?

picture-2More posts about marketing and social media led the pack with 24 and 23 votes, respectively. I thought it was interesting that the next two highest vote getters were request to include more up and coming bloggers in my posts, but also more rebuttals to A-list bloggers. As a medium sized blog, perhaps that is one place for me to make a niche - a blog where emerging bloggers are noticed and their collective ideas used to speak to the biggest bloggers?

4) What is going well with the blog and where do I need to improve?

I was prepared for some harsh criticism, but it was refreshing that respondents were honest while still offering constructive criticism. Among the ideas of what's going right:

  • "I liked your coverage of the super bowl"
  • "Provides unique insights and is ahead of the curve"
  • "it's quick, informative and frequent"

And a few comments about improvements I need to make:

  • "there are a few 'me too' posts that don't add to the category of content"
  • "Design of the page"
  • "The blog usually doesn't offer anticipation. In other words, it usually focuses on changing the "now" instead of predicting the future."

In all, it sounded like readers generally enjoyed my posts and that I shouldn't worry that I only post once or twice per week. However, the design of the blog needs work and I should work on more original, forward-looking content. Fair enough!

5) How much do you agree that the ads on the blog are too intrusive?

picture-3Honestly, I expected nearly everyone to say the ads were too intrusive. Instead, almost no one minded the ads. However, instead of being too intrusive, the ads were mostly ignored. Hmm, how to fight banner blindness without splashing advertising on everything...subject for a future post.

6) Have you ever purchased anything from the ads on the blog?

80% said no, but 1 had already bought something and the rest said they might in the future. The MarketingSherpa ads have a tiny audience, but a great commission; almost the opposite for books from Amazon. But any purchases help, that's for sure.

7) There weren't any suggestions for other ads I should feature here, so I'll skip this question...

8 ) Which of these blogs do you read at least once per month?

picture-4If I had to guess the order in which I link to these authors, it would probably go Joseph Jaffe, Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Brian at Copyblogger, and Rick at eyecube. As you can see in the above graphic, however, my personal linking had little to do with my reader's habits.

I supposed everyone really does read Seth Godin. I think Seth is good. He's solid. In a sense, that's what I'm going for. But on a "wow your socks off" scale, I'm surprised he's so high.

It's no surprise that Brogan is so high, but I am surprised that Copyblogger is, considering the tepid reaction to copywriting throughout the rest of the survey. And very few readers of Armano and Joel - that was surprising to me.

9) How often do you visit the blog?

Thankfully, most respondents visit either when they're prompted to (meaning subscribe) or about once per week (which fits my posting schedule nicely). 45% visit when they receive RSS or email notification that I have posted and 25% about once per week. Almost 20% said they visited once a month and an eager 7.5% said they visit once per day (doubtful, but appreciated).

10) There wasn't a significant response to my question regarding blog mentors, so I'm tossing that idea. (Everyone who answered was a mentee anyway, which is telling.)

Thanks To All

I sincerely appreciate the time it took for respondents to answer these question. Thanks so much! I will use this survey to provide you with more targeted content - more of what you're looking for, more often. I hope that's alright and I hope you join us back here soon. Thanks!

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of dno1967 via Flickr)

How To Use A Blog Hiatus Effectively

cold-blue-bean

I have been taking a short break from my regular blogging schedule, but I've been very busy all the same. I wanted to share what I've been working on with you.

This is how I've used my short blog hiatus effectively:

  • Healthy body, healthy mind: First, I resumed my gym workout schedule. I stopped staying up for Colbert and ate better before bed. I even read my first fiction book since I started the blog. This helped me refresh my focus and renew my body so that I was primed for future tasks.
  • Get organized: My desk was strewn with papers and I trashed most of them. I removed virtual clutter as well, erasing all new Twitter followers notifications. I stopped anything that was close to overflowing and I erased anything that had already overflowed. That done, I wrote out two lists: Goals for my blog and a to-do list. Of course, these work in tandem. The goals page is an on-going list of high-level hopes for the blog and rough strategies for reaching them. The to-do list is a much more immediate list of tactics I can accomplish quickly.
  • Preparation is half the battle: During my blog hiatus I created two new Google documents: one to log new blog post ideas and another to record a blog reading list. The new ideas doc serves as my virtual notepad - I can save any ideas there for later when I have more time to write. The reading list represents a fundamental change in my reading habits. I intend to focus on marketing/business/social media bloggers who have roughly my audience and posting frequency. Keeping up with the Brogans and Godins of the world is simply too time-consuming and my odds of actually interacting with them or creating a dialogue is slim to nil.
  • Cleaner layout: As you may know, I use the center column of the blog for ads and the right column for connection opportunities (mostly other ways to find me online). I cleaned out the ad column, eliminating two large Google ad spaces. They earned only pennies, added confusion to the page, and were the least relevant ads. Now, I only feature MarketingSherpa reports (of which I'm a fan) and my personal Amazon book recommendations. In addition, I simplified the right-hand column, prioritizing the more important interactions (subscriptions, Twitter) and de-emphasizing the less important ones (Facebook, Odiogo).
  • Saving e-books: I also opened up a Slideshare account. This saves all of my e-books in one place - convenient for both this blog's readers and me.
  • Getting to know you: Arguably the most important task I've completed thus far is releasing the first OnlineMarketerBlog survey. I will be sharing the results with you hopefully later this week. I say this has been the most important because 1) this blog wouldn't be anything without its readers and 2) getting your input has been invaluable. Thanks to everyone who completed this survey! (There's still time to complete it - jump straight to the survey by clicking here. But take it by Wednesday if you want your answers to be included in the blog post announcing the results.)

I intend for these changes to make this blog more helpful to you. But is there anything I've missed? What other things would you recommend bloggers do during periodic breaks?

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on Twitter (using http://bit.ly/2YhI), StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of --Mike-- via Flickr)

The New Secrets Of Blogging - Pragmatic Or Cynical?

blogging

I read a lot about how to create a successful blog, but I need to tell you - things have changed and we need to clear up some fallacies.

Normally, I am a social media cheerleader and tomorrow, I will continue to do so. However, it ain't 2004. The secrets to a successful blog are very different now. Same pond, but a lot more water and a hell of a lot more fish.

So here are some ways I believe blogging has changed, especially in the year and a half I've been active in the space. How do you think the blogosphere has changed? Are my points below pragmatic or the ravings of a cynic.

Here are new guidelines for a successful blog these days:

  • Abandon "good" for "controversial": A lot of people write very good, very intriguing blog posts. And every day, most of these are ignored, relegated to the bottom of a search engine, and forgotten. Sure, "good" and "controversial" aren't mutually exclusive, but it's tough to be both. And out of the two, at least controversial posts get read. Don't just spend your time thinking about what to say; consider also how to say it. Once you have some subscriber eyeballs, you can afford to write brilliant think pieces, but until then, go for something that grabs attention. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, it is better to be talked about than not talked about.
  • Forget commenting: The conventional wisdom used to go like this - leave worthwhile comments on the blogs of A-listers and eventually they will notice and link to you (hell, I wrote a post to this effect one year ago). This simply isn't the case anymore. With the proliferation of people interacting on blogs, A-listers can now get over 100 comments per post - what's their motivation for noticing you in the crowd? (The exception to this rule being Chris Brogan, but that guy is like Superman.) From my experience, change the ratio to devoting a lot of time to writing and reading, and spend very little time commenting on only deserving blog posts. Personally, of the testimonials from A-listers you can find in the right-hand column of my blog, none of those came because of comments I left. They were all pretty damn random.
  • Don't blog, period: Blogging used to be the shiny, new object, but it's not 2004 anymore. Blogging, especially if it is for a business, may well be a waste of your time. There are a lot of considerations to consider before starting a blog (here are 21 to start with), but the most common mistake is not considering this: does your product suck? If so, reinvest that blogging money back into your product. Think about what Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell (one of my favorite books of 2008 - you do own it, right?), said on the Mediablather podcast with Paul Gillin and David Strom:

"I think there's a novelty factor in some of these new technologies and there are a lot of people saying blogging is dead - no blogging is not dead - the level of consumer interest in it continues to rise. But, as far as corporations go, the idea of a company doing a blog has become pretty ordinary at this point. So unless your blog is really interesting, it has some twist to it...you're only going to be effective with it if it actually accomplishes a corporate goal."

What do you think? Am I a cynic or just a pragmatist?

These points do make some assumptions about blogging, of course. It assumes that success equals traffic, that all traffic is the same, and the goal is higher volume. This may or may not be true in your case.

But I think it does accurately reflect the blogosphere as it is today. I will go back to promoting social media for business tomorrow, but for today, I needed to vent about the changes I see in reactions to my own blog and on blogs that I read.

What do you think: pragmatic or cynical?

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on Twitter using http://bit.ly/kggX, StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr)

What A Handful Of Pepper Has To Do With Your Social Media Strategy

ground-pepper

Let me tell you a story about what a handful of pepper has to do with your social media strategy:

BG has two nieces who I absolutely adore, aged 2 years and 8 months. I know everyone says this, but my future nieces are really just about the smartest and most cherubic children I've ever seen.

BG and I were over for dinner last week and BG's sister was preparing the meal. The 2-year old (TYO) was standing on a chair helping her Mommy in the kitchen. This is when things got interesting.

BG and I look over and TYO was standing on the chair agog but motionless. Is she choking? Is anything wrong? "TYO, what's wrong?"

It turns out that TYO had seen the ground pepper contain on the counter and gotten a particular thought in her head. I imagine it went something like, "Things I put in my mouth around BG and Mommy and Uncle DJ are usually tasty - how bad could a big handful of this black, flakey stuff be?"  So she palmed a large handful of ground pepper and sent it down the hatch!

What Does This Have To Do With My Social Media Strategy?

It's early 2009 and many of you are planning your social media strategy for the year. Maybe you've planned out a blog or started a Twitter account. You have subscriptions to Chris Brogan and Joseph Jaffe, and you think everything is gonna go great.

It occurred to me last week that you are, in a way, similar to TYP contemplating her clenched fist. You are about to embark on a new and exciting journey, venture into unknown territory. What's in your hand? Is it ground pepper or M&Ms?

Personally, I hope to grit your teeth and swallow whatever it is wholeheartedly. I've said it before: Social media is not for cowards. I hope you go for the gusto with your social media strategy.

But Wait, It Was Freakin' Pepper!

Sure, for TYO, it was a handful of pepper, but that's not important. Maybe you'll get M&Ms, who knows? But you're looking down at your closed fist of social media and thinking, "This is going down my gullet right now."

Hey, you know what? You might fail. Like, really fail. Like, face-plant at the skatepark, fail. Like suck down ground pepper like hot coals, holy hell, I cannot believe that just happened, I think I'm gonna die, damn that hurts pain.

And you won't be alone. A lot of people will fail at social media this year. Honestly, that's not terribly important.

What is important is that you learn from it. In fact, I think you'll learn more if it turns out to be pepper in your hand.

I've said before that failure is not fatal and it's true. If you would have looked into the eyes of TYO the moment after it happened, you'd know that more important lessons were being learned - lessons about avoiding future missteps, about learning from mistakes, about what it means to not only learn from a bad experience but to change your behavior in a positive way because of it.

Like Nike Says...

With this new year still fresh, I hope you're contemplating bold moves. And while I hope you succeed, I hope that you learn from any failure you may experience. The weak will give up. They will swallow the pepper and run the other direction. My hope for your 2009 social media plan is that, if you should find yourself chewing back a mouthful of blisteringly hot pepper, that you take it and learn from the experience.

Anyone can experience pain, but if you want to succeed, you will learn from it. Maybe your pepper is a scathing article. Maybe it's a demoralized boss. Maybe it'll be your own stupid actions (I've been there, believe me).

Take it from TYO: everyone takes down their share of ground pepper. It's what you do with it that's important. I hope you turn your pepper into M&Ms. I know it's possible - I see it everyday.

Epilogue:

After TYO swallowed the pepper, an emergency glass of water and many kisses were deployed. I'm thankful to say no one was harmed in the incident and I think everyone learned something from the experience. That said, it was a pleasure to see TYO indulge her curiousity. I wonder what a handful of ground pepper would taste like to me...

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of Duncan Rawlinson via Flickr)

My 2009 Blogging Resolution: More Providing, Less Promoting

I disappointed myself last week.

It was as simple as a reminder in my Outlook: "Check this out and do the usual." I was referring to The Shorty Awards, another vaguely worded contest to feature the world's "Top Twitterers." It was just one more made up PR stunt where I hoped to get some traction and gain a few eyeballs for this blog.

Luckily, local Chicago folks offered a reality check. @Tankboy and @me3dia weighed in, but @BlahGeeTsa put it best by questioning whether Twitter had turned into a high school popularity contest with The Shorty Awards as a prominent culprit.

It's Not The Shorties, It's Me

So why was I disappointed in myself?

It wasn't really about The Shorty Awards, but rather my reaction to them. I didn't question them, didn't investigate, didn't consider why my blog readers would care - I simply went into promotion mode.

That's a tough mindset to break out of. Marketing your marketing blog is de rigueur. You're required to demonstrate your theories while you talk about them. It's akin to giving juggling lessons while keeping all of your own balls in the air.

The danger, of course, is if you start to do these things without thinking. The way I'd begun to flock to every promotional opportunity was similar to the way other people artificially increase their friend count on social networks. It's like an insulation against obscurity.

And of course, this is dangerous and unnecessary. From Scott Brown in November's WIRED: "We squirrel away Friends the way our grand-parents used to save nickels - obsessively, desperately, as if we'll run out of them some day." For me, running blindly toward every marketing opportunity to show off my web 2.0 chops actually hurts the case I'm trying to make about new marketing!

My Resolution

I'm not bad-mouthing The Shorty Awards. If that's your thing, knock yourself out.

Even those who seek to build "Friends" lists as a means to have a bigger audience to pray 'n' spray their marketing message - I find it inane, but I won't say much.

Rather, I'm going to focus on providing better content, helping more people, and showing true leadership. In 2009, I will worry less about my stats or my rank on Technorati and the Power 150.

I would love to see us move more toward Intimacy 2.0, as defined by Mitch Joel:

"Maybe true success in these online social circles will not involve metrics like amount of connections or how many times something happened, but rather how powerful and poignant something is to the specific target market."

And my target market is you, the readers I appreciate so, so much. Here what you can do for me in return: keep me honest. If you see me veering into hubris or promoting without providing, I want you to call me on it. Immediately.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you back here soon.

*

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for free updates via email or RSS. Otherwise, I hope you share it on StumbleUpon, Mixx, or the other social media tools found below.

(Image courtesy of re_birf via Flickr)

Finding Your Passion And Preparing For Success

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr I recently wrote about the necessity of passion in your blog writing, and got some really positive feedback. It's been great to hear about what you are passionate about.

There are no value judgments when it comes to your passion. A lot of folks consider it strange that I get so excited about online marketing tools and how businesses can act more human. But, that's what I love!

Maybe your focus is model trains or investment theory or green civil engineering - it doesn't matter what it is as long as you are passionate about the topic and want to share that excitement.

But how do you get to that point? What if you haven't identified your passion?

In this post, I will explain some of the tactics I found helpful when I was struggling with these questions. After all, before you can start sharing your expertise, you've got to figure out exactly what your passion is and equip yourself with skills to facilitate sharing it.

How Do You Find Your Passion?

It's easy to talk about ways to share your passion if you've already identified it. But how do you figure that out in the first place?

Here's a secret about your hidden passion: it's likely that you are already doing it. But, a lot of folks discount aspects of their lives. For a long time I didn't realize that my curiosity about the online channel or my belief in social media marketing tools was anything special.

Here are some ways I identified my passion. See if they work for you:

  • First and Last: What do you think about the instant you wake up and right before you drift off to sleep? Real priorities tend to emerge before all the stresses of the day begin and after they are resolved. Your mental guard is down when you're in bed - what aspirations come to mind then?
  • Voice Volume: When you are out with friend, what subjects do you discuss in the loudest tones? An increase in your volume indicates excitement - an important element of passion.
  • Passion's Office: What comes to mind while you're in the shower? For me, lot of these drifting thoughts identified integral aspects of my passion. When I found myself thinking about online marketing in the shower every day, I knew I'd hit upon something.
  • The Millionaire Exercise: How would you fill your days if you had all the money in the world? This is an old goal-identifying exercise, but it does work. I'm one of the lucky fellows who would be doing exactly what I do now, even if I had no money concerns.

It's no surprise that finding a subject you care about is Kurt Vonnegut's #1 tip on how to write with style. Consider this advice from a prolific and endlessly creative author:

"Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style."

Use these suggestions to determine your passion. Be sure to comment below with other suggestions that have helped you in this process.

Preparing For Success

Passion isn't enough. It's tough to accept, but it's true. No one will ever care about your passion if you can't communicate its importance.

Once you've identified your passion and committed to sharing it, there are universal things that will facilitate your success. Here are three that worked for me from both a practical and emotional standpoint (and believe me, I continue to work on these every day):

Practical:

  1. Read Critically: Consider everything you read in a deliberate and critical manner. (Bonus tip: Only read quality materials. If you put garbage in, then garbage will come out.)
  2. Think Logically: Prepare for inevitable challenges with this mental discipline.
  3. Write persuasively: Figure out your passion, share it, but the next element is getting others passionate about it as well. Consider arguments that run counter to your beliefs and practice rebuttals in your writing.

Emotional:

  1. Become Curious: An insatiable appetite for information about your topic will fuel your work. Curiosity has the added benefit of keeping your mind open, as well.
  2. Develop Empathy: The only way to convince others of your passion is to understand their perspective. Genuine caring is a big step in that direction.
  3. Accept Love: Whether you chose to write a blog or use another method to share your passion, it's going to be a lot of work. You must be willing to accept praise - it will get you through the difficult times when you aren't feeling as passionate.

I hope this two-part series has been helpful. I will get back to the usual marketing and social media business blogging now, but I hoped it would be useful to share how I do what I do. The goal is that it will help you find your life's passion and then share it with the world.

*

If you liked this post, feel free to show some love:

Subscribe to OnlineMarketerBlog.com via email or RSS

Share it on Twitter

Stumble it

Mixx it

Passion: The Missing Ingredient In Your Blog Soup

Courtesy of tastesasgoodasitlooks You remember the story of the stone soup, right? A stranger comes to a very poor village, but no one has enough food to spare for his dinner. So he gathers everyone in the town circle with a tale of his magic stone, capable of making the most delicious soup.

Of course, he eventually persuades the villagers to add little bits of their own. Someone adds a little celery, another some potatoes, another some pasta. Soon, a delicious soup is bubbling in the middle of the town. The stone that started it all may not have produced the soup, but it was surely the catalyst.

Blog Soup

People look at their various talents in the same way. Many just see one or two and think they could never make a delicious blog soup out of those tasty talents. But occasionally, an intrepid soul will get a large pot and toss in their expertise, experience, and skills to create blog soup.

Sometimes it tastes good. A lot of times, it doesn't.

Some blog soup is just too concentrated - it's got all the right soup parts, but nothing to help it go down your throat. Some blog soup is watery, a tasteless brine that is easily forgotten. Some blog soup assaults your senses until you think it must be the best blog soup ever, but either you run out or end up starving from malnutrition.

I think the reason a lot of blog soup doesn't work is because it's missing the magic stone of passion. Passion won't fill your belly, but it does make a lot of yummy things happen.

Passion By Any Other Name...

Call it what you will - energy, love, joie de vivre (OK, you don't have to call it that) - whatever it is, passion is what draws others to us. Passion has an addicting power of attraction. It's the reason most of us know Robert Scoble, Guy Vaynerchuk, and Chris Brogan. Their love for what they do compels us.

But passion is difficult to harness. It requires loosening your tight grip on the status quo - something that most people are uncomfortable with.

You must let yourself go, take risks, go down uncharted paths, tell others about your missteps, and you have to do all this with a vigor, salivating for more. Be ready to embrace your inner dork. Per Sonia Simone of Remarkable Communication:

“When you write with passion, you’ll grab your reader’s attention and persuade her that you’ve got something worth getting excited about… The key to enthusiastic writing is to be an unabashed dork about what you’re promoting.”

So, dorks make the best soup? Sorta, yeah! But being a dork isn't bad. What's a dork besides a passionate individual who is obsessed with whatever it is they love?

Heck, some of most passionate social media/marketing folks are also rock musicians, motorcycle riders, and sky divers. If Jay, David, and Peter are any indication, being a dork can be pretty bad-ass, man.

What's Cookin'?

Passion is inextricably linked to the self. Some would say that it's passion that makes us who we are. So, what makes you passionate? What kind of blog soup do you have cooking?

In his recently published e-book, Chris Brogan talks about passion driving one's personal brand:

"...Passion is what fuels the best of what we do. It's that tireless drive to do something that we feel matter that will bring us forward in so many ways...A key to your success in life is to find and enhance this same passion."

Chris speaks to the importance of passion. But if you read this post or his e-book and don't turn that into action, then it's wasted passion.

Later this week, I will give you a few tips for figuring out what exactly your passion is, along with practical ways to translate it into success. If this sounds interesting, I recommend subscribing so that you don't miss it. (It's free, you can cancel whenever you like, and I'll never spam you. Pinky swear.)

Passion Into Action

I know the importance of passion and that these suggestions will work if you work at them. That's why I devoted my 100th blog post to the subject. That's a lot of blog soup to serve up, but it's been a blast. My preference for blog soup is the kind that helps people in a practical way, that translates business into something more human.

But more importantly, I want to see what kind of blog soup you serve up. Are you a dork for something you love, as Sonia would say? Or like Chris, does it bring out the best in you?

Most people have some blog soup simmering inside them. But you know the funny thing about the stone soup story I told you at the beginning of this post? Stone soup requires that you share it. Blog soup works the same way.

Don't let your blog soup scald the pot or go cold. Share it with others. Ignite it with your passion. Start today.

*

If you liked this post, feel free to show some love:

Subscribe to OnlineMarketerBlog.com via email or RSS

Share it on Twitter

Stumble it

Mixx it

5 Reasons I Blog Plus 9 Reasons Why Blogs Are Unstoppable

Courtesy of Scott Beale / Laughing Squid You may have noticed a different layout on the blog. Late last week, I began changing everything around, creating a fresh look for OnlineMarketerBlog. (And of course, feel free to let me know what you think of the re-design!)

But this process got me thinking about why I blog. I started this re-design almost 10 months to the day since I started blogging and I wanted to figure out why I blog and if it's worth it. There's a substantial investment in time, energy, and money. The URL cost $15, a year's hosting about $100, plus all early mornings, late nights, and weekend hours when I could be sleeping or hanging out with BG and the dogs. So why do it?

In this blog post, I will outline the reasons I blog and give some reasons why I think the medium will be around for a long, long time. It will be from a personal perspective - I hope this post helps those of you already blogging or thinking about starting a blog.

What Has Blogging Done For Me Lately?

Here are some quick reasons why blogging has been beneficial to me. If you'd like to hear more about any particular topic listed below, just let me know.

  • Developed my writing skills - Writing for at least two hours per day must have helped my chops.
  • Made connections to other bloggers - I've connected with amazing bloggers, authors, thinkers, and doers through this blog. (This may be the most surprising and rewarding result of blogging.)
  • Discipline of thought and action - Forcing myself to get up earlier, think about complex matters, and produce content on a regular basis has forged great discipline that has crossed over into other aspects of my life as well.
  • Developed personal/professional brand - Like Chris Brogan and others have said, a personal and professional brand is a new essential.
  • Helped other folks - I really get a kick out of it when people tell me a particular blog post really helped them. 'Nuff said.

Of course, these are just a few of the ways that blogging has helped me. These benefits are possible for anyone thinking about blogging, if they're willing to work for it. So is blogging hurting anything? Maybe journalism?

How Could Anyone Complain About This?

In a particularly inane newspaper column, Christie Blatchford of Canada's Globe and Mail bemoans the current state of journalism due to all the blogger types hovering around at the Olympics. In a sense, there are too many kids in the pool and the crotchety Ms. Blatchford can't do her laps.

The always-on-point Mitch Joel responds on his blog and in his podcast, Six Pixels of Separation. His argument is cogent and spot-on (why aren't you subscribed, anyway?). He lays out his six reasons why blogs are unstoppable (listen to the podcast for details on each):

  • Power of the individuals
  • Speed to publish
  • Cost to publish
  • People want to share their stories
  • There’s an audience for it
  • It’s different from other media

I would like to go a little further, if I may be so bold. This re-design and reflection time got me thinking about three other reasons why blogging is unstoppable. I hope Mitch doesn't mind if I add my personal reasons:

  • Blogging is not a zero-sum game. You aren't going to "use up" your life's blog posts. Unlike the Ms. Blatchfords of the world, I believe that writers become better writers by...writing (crazy, right?). I know that I've become a stronger writer by pumping out a couple thousands words every week. It is illogical to think bloggers might somehow write less due to the output required by their blogs.
  • Blogging allows me to practice no-fear. We live in a world of constant change unlike anything seen before. Newspapers are folding after centuries of dominance. White towers of journalism are falling to citizen reporting. News is constant, but the sources are ever-changing. I know why people like Ms. Blatchford fear this change. It takes her out of the driver's seat. Heck, every time I sit down to write a post, it is terrifying to know that my good name is attached to whatever I produce. But nothing good ever came from a system of fear. Blogging strikes against fear and that is an aspect that will allow it to thrive.
  • Blogging is a meritocracy. Everyday, my blog is being judged by the content on it. If I don't post, less people come. If I attack someone needlessly, they will likely come calling. If I write a bad post, I deserve negative comments. Unlike many things, blogging is a meritocracy. The good rise and the bad fall. I understand Ms. Blatchford's trepidation with this system (salaries and tenure sometimes do that) but that's no reason to strike out at bloggers as though they have nothing to say. If your audience is leaving, you have only yourself to blame.

Ms. Blatchford begins her screed with this: "The unofficial end to journalism as I know it may have come earlier this week..." Well, if exclusivity, mediocrity, and bourgeoisie-ity is her idea of journalism, then by golly I hope she's correct.

People like to thumb their noses at bloggers and that's fine. Let 'em. But if you see blogging, writing, thinking, reporting, and connecting as a means to an end (rather than an end in itself), you cannot go wrong. Even if your blog fails, the skills you developed and the rewards that come through being a blogger (like the five I mentioned at the beginning of this post), will always be with you.

But for now, are you bloggers learning more, developing your skills, and leading by example? Why else do you blog? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below, even (or especially) if you think I'm totally off base.

*

If you liked this post, feel free to show some love:

Subscribe to OnlineMarketerBlog.com via email or RSS

Stumble it

Share it on Twitter

Sphinn it

Mixx it

5 Ways To Succeed On StumbleUpon

Let's talk blog promotion.

I was really glad when Chris Brogan posted this post last week regarding StumbleUpon because I've been meaning to write something similar. If you check out the image at the top of this post, you will see a list of top referring sites that have led back to my blog since I began. StumbleUpon is not only at the top of the list, but mentioned several times throughout the list.

(Background: StumbleUpon is a social voting/referral tool. After joining for free, you download the SU toolbar. As you go about your daily business, you have the option of giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down to any page. Likewise, you can connect with friends and "stumble" across sites they have liked.)

Like Chris, I have had lots of traffic thanks to StumbleUpon and highly recommend it. In this blog post, I will give you some helpful advice about using StumbleUpon and then list some other similar sites and why they didn't work as well for me.

Best Practices For StumbleUpon

You can find some great online resources with SU advice, but here are my personal recommendations:

  • Don't just vote for your stuff. When I started, I was thumbing up my own work only. This must be a big no-no because I received almost no traffic with this method.
  • Get involved in the community. Duh, I should have known this one. The more friends I made, the better recommended pages were for me and the more eyeballs who would see my posts.
  • At high tide, all ships rise. Like all good web 2.0 tools, this is an "and" economy. Your posts don't suffer because you thumb up someone else's. Give thumbs up to authors you trust and SU seems to give you more props for knowing good content.
  • Don't be a pimp. I don't stumble all of my posts. I wait until someone else does (which seems to give more stumble-juice) or I only thumb up my best material. This seems to give more "weight" to the ones I do choose.
  • The more you give, you more you get. SU has given me another opportunity to connect with some of the brightest folks I've ever met. Don't try to game the system - you will receive as much or more than you invest into it.

Notice what's not on that list of referrals at the top? Most of the other social voting/referral sites. Here is my run-down on some of the more prominent ones in this space. (This is just what I have personally observed. If you've had success with these, more power to ya.)

Digg

I have only had a few articles go into the double digits of diggs. But even with those, I never garnered much traffic at all. Granted, I also have not put in the time to become a top digger, either.

Tech stories, great headlines, and lad humor seem to do well on digg; the blogging, writing, social media, marketing space...not so much. That's why I don't bother with digg.

Sphinn

Have you ever had a cat who vomited randomly in a hidden corner of the house and then, days afterwards, you are searching down the smell, trying to figure out where it's coming from? This is how I feel about Sphinn.

I do not have anything against the site or the folks on it. But it's strange that the articles that do the best are often of the questionable, SEO nature. Or that people who "sphinn" my stuff are those who have just published (indicating to me that they want a return sphinn). Or the lack of useful conversation. It just doesn't feel right, you know?

I have had a little success pulling traffic from Sphinn postings (always less than 10 people on any given day), so I have not abandoned the method, but I decided to put my efforts elsewhere.

Mixx, PlugIM, BizSugar

The returns simply have not matched the effort. I have to go to the site to participate (rather than through a toolbar like SU) and I just don't have the time. My initial efforts did not make a ripple in my traffic and I don't visit much.

That said, you will notice Mixx.com on the list above. A friend recommended one of my articles and he must have had some referral power because I got some traffic on that day. However, on my own, I just don't have the friends, juice, or time.

So, StumbleUpon It Is?

Well, it is for me. My main piece of advice, however, would be to choose a network and commit to it. Joining a half-dozen social voting sites will dilute your efforts. I guarantee you will get more traffic by working through just one or two voting networks.

And SU is not perfect. As I mentioned on Chris' post, I think the quality of traffic is much lower. People tend to bounce from one site to another. (I can tell because I convert a much lower percentage to subscribers and they generally do not click around the site to other posts.)

However, the truth remains that higher traffic is better than lower traffic, of course. With more visitors comes more chance of being linked to from another blog, getting a mention on Twitter, or of getting another thumbs up on SU.

Does This Help?

I hope you found this post useful. (If so, stumbling this article is appreciated.) If you would like to connect to me on StumbleUpon, you can find me at http://onlinemarketer.stumbleupon.com/.

Or, tell me if I'm wrong. Maybe I missed a memo on Mixx or I don't deserve to be dugg (or you're annoyed by the alarming alliteration). Share your success stories or suggestions with everyone in the comments section below.

*

If you liked this post, feel free to show some love:

Subscribe to OnlineMarketerBlog.com via email or RSS

Stumble it

Share it on Twitter

Sphinn it

Mixx it

What Is Twitter? A Beginners Guide

Courtesy of aaardvaark via Flickr You may have heard of Twitter and be a little confused. Early adopters have been playing around with it for a couple of years, but Twitter finally seems to be making it into the mainstream.

This is a brief users guide for those curious about how it works, wondering about its value, and wanting to get the most from the experience.

What Is Twitter?

Twitter is commonly referred to as "micro-blogging." While this is an accurate description, I've found that it confuses some people (non-bloggers especially).

Imagine it is a post-it note. You don't have a lot of space (140 characters) so brevity is required. When you jot something down on your post-it note, it gets stuck to your refrigerator door, much like you might do at home. However, in this scenario, anyone can see the notes posted on your frig. And you can see anyone else's.

How Does It Work?

Like most web 2.0 applications, the best advice is to just try it out. (You can't do it wrong and you won't break it - just give it a whirl.)

You sign up with a name of your choice. After that, find people you know or are interested in following. Twitter can pull from your email contacts to see if your friends and family already have Twitter accounts.

Twitter accounts are identified with an "at" symbol in front. So when discussing your Twitter account, you would say @YourName. Events use a hash mark. For instance, you can search for all Olympic tweets using #080808.

You can view anyone's notes (or "tweets") and anyone can sign up to view yours. Don't worry - you will get an email letting you know every time someone follows you.

And of course, all of this is free.

Avoid These Common Pitfalls

  • No blatant marketing!: Some marketers will try to market their product over Twitter. Let me save you some time: It doesn't work. If all of your tweets are about your wonderful, fantabulous product which I can BUY NOW, I will know you're full of it. People aren't stupid.
  • Needy: At the risk of offending folks, avoid looking needy. If you follow 1,000+ people and only 2 follow you, I'm going to wonder why.
  • Friends before tweets: Play around with Twitter before you go introducing yourself. Sure, follow people you know at first, but focus on actually tweeting. Get a couple dozen tweets up before you attempt to make friends you don't actually know in real life. It gives them a sense of who you are and what you're interested in.

What Are The Positives?

  • It's fun - you instantly have access to very interesting people
  • It's a good PR tool (after you build a community)
  • It's an ultra-specific source of news

What Are The Negatives?

  • It's extremely addictive
  • Sometimes it can verge on minutiae
  • Frequent downtime

Separation Of Church And State

If you get really into Twitter, you may want to opt for multiple accounts. There's no restriction on this - you just need separate email addresses to link to them. This is common for small business owners who want a distinct account for their business as well as their personal accounts.

For instance, my personal tweets are at @DJFrancis but all marketing/advertising/communications tweets can be found at my blogs account, @MarketerBlog. Feel free to follow whichever account best applies to you. (If you are reading this blog, I imagine the latter.)

I find this an easy separation to make and better for my readers. I recommend only setting up multiple accounts once you are comfortable with Twitter. Also, you may want to consider Netvibes or a similar solution to managing your discrete accounts.

Was This Helpful?

Please feel free to comment below if I missed anything. I hope you found this helpful.

If you try Twitter and like it, here are some other suggestions for those in the marketing and social media world: @chrisbrogan, @copyblogger, @jowyang, @jaffejuice, @mitchjoel, @shannonpaul, @jasonfalls, @drewmclellan, @MyCreativeTeam, and @armano.

For more basic information, check out these articles from Newsweek, PC World, and Fortune magazine.

Please consider subscribing to this blog if you want to know more about marketing in a web 2.0 world (free, natch). I offer both email and RSS options. Also, if you like learning about social media, tune in tomorrow when I tackle StumbleUpon and a few of the other social voting/news sites with a special emphasis on marketing and business.

And please feel free to make one of your first tweets a link to this article, but only if you found it useful. Thanks!

*

If you liked this post, feel free to show some love:

Subscribe to OnlineMarketerBlog.com via email or RSS

Stumble it

Share it on Twitter

Sphinn it

Mixx it

Sometimes Breasts Aren't Enough, Julia Allison

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr I have been trying to figure out why WIRED's cover story on Julia Allison incensed me so much.

You won't find me bashing Paris Hilton or her ilk on this blog. As someone who barely watches TV, her brand of reality-show insta-celebs barely register on my consciousness. However, I do dwell in the PR world, the internet world, the social media world...and when you screw around in that world, I consider you fair game.

I don't normally do hit pieces. I am usually positive about how marketing/PR/advertising can make the world a better place (no small task, believe me). But the Julia Allison story deserves some response on this blog because it illustrates:

1. How not to do PR

2. How not to use web 2.0 social media tools

3. How not to run a magazine

Here's a quick recap of the article: WIRED portrays the piece as a "how-to," giving advice on the art of online self-promotion. It details how a woman in her mid-20s weaseled into the digital pages of Gawker, Valleywag, and (now) WIRED.

On the splash page before the article, WIRED writes, "She can't act. She can't sing. She's not rich...[S]he's an internet celebrity." In case you missed the underlying message, it's that WIRED just gave a cover story to someone devoid of talent. Here is why Julia Allison is a terrible example of self-promotion, a warning of the missteps of public relations, and why WIRED ought to be ashamed.

How NOT to do PR

There an old quote from PR that any news is good news. But this adage rings hollow in the web 2.0 world, where the relationships we create and the trust we build determines who we do business with.

Here's a tip, Ms. Allison: Page views are temporary. People may show up to see what you do next, but a long-term strategy this is not. You see, one of the words in "PR" is "relations."

Take this quote after Julia visited the west coast:

"'We are all in awe,' one blogger wrote, 'and quite honestly left scratching our heads over how someone, in such a short period of time, could make an incredibly controversial impact - with an entire community breathing a sigh of relief at her departure.'" (Emphasis mine.)

Does this sound like relationship building? Sure, it might get you a mention on a blog, but come on. You are making PR professionals look worse and that's tough to do.

There are no "relations" when it's all one-sided. And when I look at her sites and her persona, I can't hear anything over the shouting and it reeks of the self-obsession that turns off the vast majority of people.

And yet, WIRED claims that Julia's talent - using the term broadly - is self-promotion. Well, if that's her gift, all the shouting must be a great way to garner PR. However, via Shannon Paul's Very Official Blog:

"According to [AdWeek's] Brian [Morrissey], the best thing PR people can do is 'Recognize that media organizations are shrinking while PR is growing.' If you’re in PR and that estimate doesn’t strike fear in your heart, well, it should. What that means is that the old, impersonal methods of pitching won’t work anymore."

How does this relate to Julia? There are more people than ever in PR, promoting themselves or others, and the number of venues is decreasing. Julia's response is to shout louder. That will be one of her un-doings.

How NOT to use social media

WIRED claims that "Allison's trick is to think of herself as the subject of a magazine profile, with every blog post or Twitter update adding dimension to her as a character."

Anyone who has every used a blog or Twitter (or any other social media tool) knows that you will fail if you only discuss yourself. No one is endlessly interesting (especially Julia). Her shtick of constant self-promotion gets old really quick and this is the first rule of social media etiquette.

The way to succeed with social media is to give it all away. The people who succeed (I'm talking about people like Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel, Christopher Penn, and Jeremiah Owyang, to name just a few) are popular because they built a community on quality and promote their network.

Julia employs the folly usually reserved for business people decades her senior: using web 2.0 technology in a web 1.0 way. She might be blogging, but where's the conversation? You can't expect to succeed (especially in PR, if that is your chosen field) in this new era by only talking about yourself. Believe me, no one else wants to gaze at your navel.

How NOT to run a magazine

WIRED, we need to talk.

Listen, man, I get it; I'm down. I was a marketing manager for a magazine. I can rap all day with you about the need to sell these things.

But giving your cover story to this chick? Don't get me wrong, I understand the pressure to make newsstand sales. A cover featuring a pretty girl with her breasts hanging out does affect sales. But if your beat is tech, doing that makes it cheap and hurts your street cred.

Have you read the comments to the story? Your readers think this story is a load of stinking garbage. And again, I know August is the toughest month with everyone away on vacation, but come on. Anything else would have attracted more attention while you retained your self respect. (I mean, there was E3, The Dark Knight premiere, Comic-Con...pick your nerd-fest!)

The Gist

If you garner anything from the WIRED cover story or this blog post, it should be that Julia uses PR as a bludgeon, misuses social media tools completely, and, by associating with her, some of the stench wafted over onto WIRED.

Then again, maybe I'm just jealous. Unlike Julia, I'm not "internet famous" and probably won't become so. Instead of gossipy pre-teen fans, I only have a good job, years of experience, and, there was something else... Oh yeah, my dignity.

*

If you liked this post, feel free to show some love:

Subscribe to OnlineMarketerBlog.com via email or RSS

Stumble it

Sphinn it

Mixx it

Or share it on Twitter

Make Money Writing A Blog - Guaranteed!

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr Please forgive the link-bait title. But I do have a guaranteed way for you to make money from your blog. (Do I sound like a huckster yet? Stay with me.)

Gather 'round, kiddies, because this could change your life. And this secret is free.

The secret to making money through your blog is: Be Amazing.

Surprised? The inconvenient truth of the internet is that it works the same way as the real world. In order to make money, you have to work hard and be good at what you do. The pyramid schemes are bunk and no one gets rich quick.

Believe me? You should. And if you do, I have just freed you from the shackles of mediocrity. Can I hear an AMEN?!

Mitch Joel runs a blog and a weekly podcast, both entitled Six Pixels of Separation. Here's what he says in SPOS #108:

"Everybody wants to know: How do you make money in this stuff [roughly, the online channel]? ...It was really cool to see David [Usher] and Michael McCardy [from EMI] really take a different stance. And they were like, 'You know what, guys? If you create something really amazing, whether its music...or products or services, people are gonna notice. These channels are gonna enable you to spread these messages far and wide. And because they will, you're going to get more sales than you could ever imagine possible.'"

In other words, don't blame the microphone if you have nothing to say. Mitch goes on to explain his reaction:

"And I sort of sat there and smiled and thought okay. ...I really had that moment where I was like, it's true. Everybody who's going into these networks, everybody who's getting online, everybody's trying this next generation of word-of-mouth marketing and is trying to slam it down people's throats...and are complaining 'How come it doesn't work?' don't realize the power in actually creating something that's so compelling that these channels only amplify and push the volume of it out there...It's so simple, right? Be amazing. Be awesome."

The old way of marketing is dead. If you try to do old marketing through new marketing channels, you will fail. Screaming louder than the next guy does not get you noticed anymore - it gets you hoarse (and disliked, frankly).

So I can't make money writing a blog?

Woah, I didn't say that. But there is only one guaranteed way. Whether you sell ad space on your site, use a subscription model, or just want to show expertise so you can be hired as a consultant, you still must be amazing at what you do.

Um, so how do I become amazing?

That's your responsibility. But here's some good news: there is enough room on the internet for everyone. Someone else out there wants to read your thoughts on hentai, Guatemalan coffee, Persian rugs, or religious texts. And they might actually pay for it.

My advice is to get writing and start promoting yourself (hey, reading this blog helps!). If you are awesome, people will find you; if you aren't awesome, you would not want people finding you anyway.

Why write a post like this?

Is it necessary? My short answer is yes, definitely. Why?

I get a dozen followers on my Twitter page every day who only post about their product. Comments show up on my blog touting the next big thing that has nothing to do with the subject of the post. People buy books and read blogs and join affiliate programs every single day in hopes of striking it rich.

It ain't gonna happen. You're no Zuckerberg, baby. (And even he had to work really, really hard.)

Yet, the collective whine from marketers is deafening. "Why didn't social networking solve all my problems?" Because you were never social on your networks. "Why didn't these so-called friends buy my product?" Because you didn't take time to build an actual network (or your product sucks, either way).

The Gist

Be a hedgehog. Figure out what you can be the best at and go be amazing. Then write a blog about it.

Business blogs are usually a cure for insomnia, but you've read all the way to the end of this post. If I can do it, you surely can too. Do what you are good at and love, and there is an audience out there for you. I guarantee it.

If you enjoyed this post, then please stumble it or choose an option below.

Pitching To Bloggers Done Wrong

Last week, I gave an example of the correct way to pitch to bloggers. In this post, I will show the wrong way to pitch to bloggers - learn from this person's mistakes and do not repeat them. Bees and Honey

I believe in positive posting - attracting more bees with honey and all that. Anyone can be smarmy and abusive, but if you are going to do a hit piece, I think you need to have a good reason and do your research.

The thing that really grinds my gears is that I laid out a perfect plan for pitching on Thursday. So when I got this email - not 24 hours later - I was shocked at how poorly virtually every element was handled. Click the picture to the right to read the email.

I thought I was clear the first time at the way to successfully pitch bloggers. But I guess some folks can only learn from "Do Not" instructions.

  • No introduction: If she was able to get my email address, she certainly could have gotten my name.
  • Wrong information: My "Clearcast Digital Media blog"? Does she mean "Comcast" or was she referring to these guys? Who knows? But clearly she does not know me.
  • Marketese: If she'd read my white paper, she would have known that marketese is death. But I'm given a full serving in this email, from start to finish.
  • Bad writing: In addition to the marketese, she's inconsistent with her italics, occasionally writes the authors name's in capital letters FOR NO APPARENT REASON, and also capitalizes words haphazardly. Here's a tip: If you are writing to a blogger who writes about writing, know how to write. 'Nuff said.
  • No seduction: What is my incentive to go to the book's website? I'm promised "great free content and commentary" but why would I believe that based on this email? Weak.
  • Zero relationship: In this email, she had the opportunity to create a connection. Relating the book's content to something I had written about would have been perfect. It would have made the email more relevant, explained why she wrote me in the first place, and showed me that she cared about my work. Instead, epic fail.
  • Too general: The authors are supposedly leading experts, but who says so? Their strategies have resulted in $12B in sales, but for whom and how can I make it work for my business? What about: "Conoco Philips made one change based on these strategies and it saved them $156,723 in one quarter." Isn't that more intriguing?

These are bad mistakes to make in any email, much less one where you are writing a marketing/writing blogger. But to receive this one day after I lay out instructions for how to impress me - wow, way to demonstrate that you could not care less.

Learn the Ways of the Force

While I hate picking on this person who may be a well-intentioned junior staffer or intern, there is someone up that food chain who approved this email copy. Shame on them for not explaining the blogosphere to the sender.

I hope these examples help the rest of you to craft considerate, professional emails to bloggers you want to reach. In my mind, it is really not that difficult. But looking over this email, I guess I might be wrong.

If you enjoyed this post, then please subscribe.

Pitching To Bloggers Done Right

There's been a lot of hubbub around pitching to bloggers. The Chris Andersons and Gina Trapanis of the world don't want to be solicited to by PR companies. They have some good points - including explicit warnings not to email them - and I don't fault them for their actions. However, PR does serve a valuable purpose in business and it's certainly not going to disappear in the new media landscape. In this post, I will describe essential elements of a stellar PR pitch to a blogger.

The Right Pitch

I received a great email yesterday from Christina at The Advance Guard for Coke's new Facebook widget. Here are the good things about it that too many journalists and PR folks forget:

  • Short: The total email was 130 words long. Already, this sends the message that she respects my time.
  • Introduction: In one sentence, she explains who she is, who the client is, and why she's writing to me.
  • Description: Again in one sentence, she sums up the product with a minimum of the adjectives that decrease believability ("best," "great," "unique," etc).
  • Seduction: I would have made the mistake of describing at least one feature or benefit. Instead, Christina piques my interest just enough and then leaves me two links from which to garner the specs. I had clicked these links before I even finished reading the email.
  • Help: Another one-sentence reminder that I can contact her with any questions.
  • Thanks: She ends by acknowledging my limited time and thanking me for reading. Even if it sounds heavy handed (which it doesn't), the blogger is getting his/her ego stroked and that never hurts.
  • Transparency: The postscript is not only transparent by again mentioning the client, but also encourages transparency if I write about it. This mentality builds trust.
  • Tone: The tone is helpful, but reserved (not one exclamation point!).

If your copywriting follows these simple rules, you cannot help but improve your response from bloggers. In the end, it comes down to being respectful, professional, and sounding like a human being. (It turns out people prefer other people rather than PR robots. Who knew?)

Postscript For PR People

Personally, I love being pitched, especially if there's free stuff or advanced notice involved.

I'm sure this will change as the blog picks up pace, but considering how much media I consume to write this blog (and how much that costs), I certainly do not mind someone sending me a free book or whatnot. (And considering the amount of books alone I mention positively, your chances are pretty good I'll find something I like.)

But please follow these rules when you make contact. We bloggers are people too.

If you enjoyed this post, then please subscribe:

What Would You Do With An Extra 15 Hours Per Week?

Just like Ringo, I get by with a little help from my friends. I am happy to be featured as a guest blogger on Drew's Marketing Minute. Please visit Drew's blog and read my post.

I recently suggested quite a few media outlets to cover if you hope to be an A-list blogger. In my guest post, I explain how you can create time to do so.

I guarantee that if you follow the guidelines, you will create a minimum of 15 extra hours per week. Imagine using all of this time to research your dream profession, write a blog about it, promote that blog, and achieve the success you want. Heck, maybe that means finally being able to quit your day job.

Don't expect it to be easy. These are life-changing suggestions and they require effort. But I know they work - I've been living by these guidelines myself for almost 8 months. Read more at the guest post: Could you find an extra 15 hours?

You Might Be A Marketing Blogger If...

I find that marketers and bloggers are usually funny people and I was thinking about all of the ways we're just a tad different than other folks. So, without any delay, and in a Jeff Foxworthy-esque voice, I present: "You might be a marketing blogger if..."

  • You go through life wishing you could A/B test your own conversation. At the singles bar: "If I would have said 'Hey babe' instead of 'Hello,' could I have improved the response..."
  • You can decipher this sentence: FYI - I'll get the ROI on the KOLs before COB.
  • You save all of the direct mail that comes to the house "just to see what the old guys are up to."
  • Your wife asks if this dress makes her look fat and your first thought is "I'm gonna need some market research before I say anything."
  • You can sound off on the pros and cons of FriendFeed versus Netvibes for hours, but when someone asks your opinion of the weather, you are at a loss for words.
  • You go to a party and overhear a couple talking about who will win - the stodgy, decades-older scrapper versus the shiny, new kid on the block. You suspect they are discussing Microsoft and Google and are let down when you realize it is a Hillary-Obama conversation
  • You've honestly considered a Wordpress tattoo.
  • Your cousins used to ask you to come over to program their VCR. Now they need your help setting up an RSS feed.

Did I miss any? Feel free to leave additional replies to "You might be a marketing blogger if..." in the comments section. (And feel free to Stumble this article if you like it.)

How To Be An A-List Blogger - Study, Study, Study (Part 4)

Update: Welcome Stumblers! If you like this article, please show your love via StumbleUpon. Thanks! In this installment of the series, I will cover all of the books, magazine, websites, and podcasts that you need to become an A-List Blogger. These resources will give you the ammo to be the very best in your field. (And if you think this amount of reading, watching, researching, and learning is impossible, visit tomorrow when I will share the secrets of how to carve out at least 10 hours per week to study.)

Marketing has a funny relationship with education, research, and good, ol' fashioned studying. Maybe it's because the communicative aspect of marketing comes naturally to us that we forget there's a lot of hard work that needs to happen, too. In short, you cannot be a good blogger or marketer without studying your craft.

You Can Study Communication?

From David Ogilvy: "This willful refusal to learn the rudiments of the craft is all too common. I cannot think of any other profession which gets by on such a small corpus of knowledge. (page 21)" Sometimes the flashy new tools or the expense accounts or the pursuit of new clients can all distract us from our responsibility to constantly improve our game.

And while the world around is may be shifting from books to blogs, an A-list blogger or marketer perhaps should think in terms of content or research or media, regardless of the medium. Read, watch, and listen to as much as possible, and think critically about whether the message has value.

Help Me Help You Help Me

Of course, I can only speak from my own experience. But I thought it might be helpful to outline the books, blogs, podcasts, and other forms of blogging/marketing research in which I've partaken during the last year.

This isn't meant to come off as boastful. My main goal is to impress upon you the importance of continual professional education, then see you buy or subscribe to these resources and suggest new resources to me.

Books Read

  • On Advertising, David Ogilvy - Great to see how much (and how little) has changed over the years
  • The Long Tail, Chris Anderson - Required reading, but I just got to it this year
  • Join The Conversation, Joseph Jaffe - Again, required reading; may be my favorite book of the year
  • Niche Envy, Joseph Turow - A terrible screed against marketers; if you must read it, do so at the library so he doesn't make any extra cash
  • Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath - Also a contender for favorite book of the year
  • Meatball Sundae, Seth Godin - Not worth the hype, but good for beginners or to brush up
  • Blink, Malcolm Gladwell - Not a lot on marketing per se, but a quick read
  • The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb - Rarely have I read a book where the author was so omni-present, and rarely have I found that author so pompous
  • Why Beauty Is Truth: A History Of Symmetry, Ian Stewart - Not a lot on marketing, but very interesting for former science fair kids

Websites

Your best bet is to consult the lists in the right column of the blog. Here is a highly subjective list of my favorites:

  • First, check out the bloggers in the Wordpress Marketing Bloggers Network (WMBN) - this is a new group that I am honored to be a part of (above blogroll on right side)
  • Copyblogger - THE copywriting blog
  • Marketing.AllTop - Like RSS for people who don't want to know about RSS
  • Drew's Marketing Minute - Solid marketing advice from the heartland
  • Logic+Emotion - Fellow Chicagoan puts us all to shame at the intersections of marketing, design, and UX
  • QualityWriter - Phil Dunn spreads the good word(s)
  • THINKing - Harry Hoover and team cover marketing, social media, PR, and advertising
  • Web Strategy with Jeremiah Owyang - The prolific Forrester researcher would risk overkill if it weren't all so damn interesting

Magazines

Podcasts

I've listened to more than my share of marketing podcasts and these are the ones I turn to week after week. (Either use the link for more info or search for these names in iTunes.)

  • Jaffe Juice by Joseph Jaffe - Simply the best
  • Managing the Gray by C.C. Chapman - A little spotty - not surprising considering how much content C.C. produces - but still tops
  • Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel - Like a Canadian James Brown, Mitch is the hardest working man in podbusiness
  • Media Driving by Jay Moonah - Another Northerly neighbor who just started podcasting but is doing it all right
  • Marketing Over Coffee by John Wall and Christopher Penn - Despite sounding a little like the 2 Craigs from the Meth Minute (Channel Frederator podcast), these guys are great too (and their website features time segments marking when they discuss certain topics for easier reference)

Tech

No one is allowed to get by without some understanding of the technology out there. Here are some resources this English major finds helpful:

  • WIRED magazine - The best for the layman, the blogger, and the marketer without a doubt
  • This Week in Tech (TWiT) - By far the best tech audio podcast, and funny to boot (be sure to catch an episode when both John C. Dvorak and Jason Calacanis are both on)
  • Video podcasts: GeekBrief.TV, Webb Alert, CNET videos, and Loaded from CNET (select it from the "tech shows" pull-down menu)

Did you read this far? You deserve a cookie.

What resources did I miss for the up-and-coming blogger/marketer? Are there any sources or mediums I neglected? Please leave a comment with your suggestion.

I hope the items I've listed here help you as much as they have helped me. I'm a believer that whenever you stop learnin', you start atrophyin'. Here's to living and learning together!

(Interested in other ways to be an A-list blogger? Try commenting, optimizing for search, and curiosity. And if you like these articles, please use StumbleUpon to recommend them.)

How To Be an A-List Blogger - Commenting (Part 1 In a Series)

"How to become an A-list blogger," indeed. I may be going out on a limb with this series because I am not, in fact, an A-list blogger. However, I do contend that you don't need a Ferrari to know how to get to the grocery store. I'm perfectly happy being the Honda Accord of your marketing strategy. I got this idea from mega-blogger/Web 2.0 pioneer Jason Calacanis. If you've never heard of him, you may have heard of his companies. He started Silicon Alley Reporter, co-founded Weblogs.Inc, then became general manager at Netscape (when they were good), joined up with Sequoia Investments, and founded Mahalo.com. Needless to say, I can't hold a candle to this man.

However, while I was at the gym, I was listening to a months-old edition of the CalacanisCast, in which Jason off-handedly offered two simple ways to become an A-list blogger: show up (fairly obvious) and comment on other (respected) blogs. Here's the quote:

"Well I think there’s this hard working component: like showing up every day. And it’s very hard to do that right? So, you have to basically show up every day, that’s the baseline. And then you have to continually improve and you can’t just sort of phone it in, you know? ...

I mean I could tell you exactly how to become a quote-–un-quote A list Blogger. All you do is camp on TechMeme right? Whatever interesting stories come out, go to each of those places and write an intelligent comment on those peoples Blogs. Then every maybe three days write a really intelligent response to whatever the top stories are. If you do that for thirty or sixty days you’ll be in the A-List. It will absolutely happen."

While I don't do this enough, I can verify that this is a good tactic. Surprisingly, this innocent little comment has been my second all-time referrer of traffic with 48 people being driven to my site because of it (I'm currently on page two of the comments).

And I've had good success with the tech crowd, despite not being an expert. This quote is third on my all-time list of referrer (38 people) and this one on Engadget a bit further down on the list with 7 people. Both of these directed people to my search-engine friendly entry, "Steve Jobs Sucks."

The important thing is that Jason's advice works, at least to some extent. Plus, I didn't stop after writing my post. I commented on other blogs drawing people to the entry, I posted it on Facebook, recommended it on StumbleUpon - there are near infinite ways to promote your blog. And often the promotion takes as much or more time as the actual writing (and that's OK).

More Than Just Eyeballs

Commenting has two other results besides traffic generation:

  1. You get read by the other blog's readers who are in your field and interested in your topic
  2. You can make contact with that particular blogger if your post is especially good and continues a conversation

In my short time blogging, I have made contact with Phil Dunn, Avinash Kaushik, Chip Heath, Rob Walker, Joe Pulizzi, and many others. They can subscribe (potentially linking to your future posts), add you to their blogroll, offer advice, provide content, give comments, etc.

It Takes Time, Precious Time

Remember what Jason said about just showing up? That deserves repeating, especially in the context of all this commenting. I generally spend at least 6 hours per week working on this blog (often more). And I might post 3 times per week? The amount of reading, research, commenting, chatting, searching, and writing is mind-blowing. Not impossible, but if you really want an A-list blog, you must put in the time.

Write What You Know

Finally, I would be remiss without adding a final quote from that CalacanisCast.

"I think it’s your ability to create these conversations, I mean some people define it on the number of links you have coming in you’re Technorati ranking. It’s not really the most important thing. I think your ability to put ideas out there and then have people discuss them and ideas that sort of move the needle."

While you're doing all this writing and commenting, don't forget that your ability to generate conversations - writing about stuff people care about - is your most important responsibility as a blogger. But there are a lot of things involved in becoming an A-list blogger. Because there is so much to cover about being an A-list blogger, I've decided to make this a series. Feel free to comment about topics you think I should cover and subscribe so you won't miss further posts on the subject.