Copywriters: Killers, Poets, Nerds, Or Something Else?

joshcarnival

I was figuratively punched in the gut by one part of Joshua Ferris' And Then We Came To The End, a book I highly recommend to anyone already in or considering a job in advertising or marketing.

Several characters in the book are copywriters, a title that has been present on my business cards, from time to time. Copywriters aren't just characters in the book, they're often characters, themselves.

Copywriters are often an interesting group. Well-read, imaginative, delightful at cocktail parties - it's practically written into the job description.

Baby, You're A Killer

And maybe it's imagination that allows us to create personas about ourselves. We are people who sit in offices, but frequently imagine ourselves as much, much more.

Consider this excerpt from Ferris' novel:

"'What's your idea?' asked Joe.

Her idea? We'll tell you her idea, Joe. To slaughter. Nobody talks about it, nobody says a word, but the real engine running the [advertising agency] is the primal desire to kill. To be the best ad person in the building, to inspire jealousy, to defeat all the rest. The threat of layoffs just made it a more efficient machine [page 109]."

Writers as killers? It might seem like a stretch, but consider this from On Advertising by David Ogilvy, father of one of the most successful advertising agencies ever and constant advocate of good copywriters:

"'Most good copywriters' says William Maynard of the Bates agency, 'fall into two categories. Poets. And killers. Poets see an ad as an end. Killers as a means to an end.' If you are both killer and poet, you get rich [page 32]."

Now, we're killers and poets? And we still wear ties?

Or Really Just Nerds?

And yet, something struck me about this quote from Almost Famous in which two writers are discussing their place in the world:

Lester Bangs: They make you feel cool. And hey. I met you. You are not cool.

William Miller: I know. Even when I thought I was, I knew I wasn't.

Lester Bangs: That's because we're uncool. And while women will always be a problem for us, most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter. ...The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool.

So Which Is It?

Personally, I can see all of them. Advertising and marketing agencies are highly creative, highly political, highly charged environments. So it's understandable to put yourself in any of these roles (sometimes all of them in a single day!).

What do you think? Which is most accurate metaphor for copywriters? Is it killer, poet, nerd, or something else? I anticipate your answers in the comments section below.

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Avoid 3 Copywriting Mistakes That Make You Look Stupid

wamu

I've got to get something off my chest. Well, three things, actually.

Grammar mistakes are one of the easiest ways to show you're a careless writer. Of course, no one's perfect - I'm sure I have made a lot of errors over the years. But there are at least three that get stuck in my craw each and every time.

1. Literally vs. Figuratively

On the corner of Division and Ashland on Chicago's northside, there's a billboard above a Washington Mutual Bank. You can find a picture of it above. It drives me crazy everyday.

I'm not going to venture that shoddy grammar is the reason that WaMu went out of business, but it can't help that your bank's ads show your lack of sophistication with the English language. Personally, I only trust my money to someone that can handle high school English.

In our modern parlance, the use of "literally" is almost always incorrect. It's been so flogged and abused that you likely think you are using the correct word. Read the definition. If "monkeys are literally flying out of your butt" or "you literally choked on your words" or "your friend is literally the devil" - it's likely you have bigger problems to worry about.

So, let that be your red flag. If you feel the word coming out of your mouth, consider that you are probably making a mistake.

2. It's vs. Its

At the risk of sounding like an asshole, I'm not sure why this is such a tripping point. Here's the thing: an apostrophe means that something has been taken away. When we say "Danny's gone to the bodega for a slice o' pie," the apostrophes stand in for "Danny has" and "of pie."

The thing that might be confusing is possession. For instance, when I say "Danny's pie," I mean that the pie belongs to Danny, not that "Danny has pie."

But in the case of "it's" and "its," things are even simpler. All you need to know is that if you can substitute "it is" or "it has" then the correct word is "it's" (using the apostrophe = missing letters logic explained above).

If you can't make this substitution, then use "its." This might be confusing. To show possession, you would say "Danny's pie." But in this case, there would be no apostrophe showing possession (its).

If you can replace the word with "it is" or "it has" - use "it's." If not, use "its."

And if you get confused, check Its Not It's.

3. Yours vs. Your's

This problem originates from an errant apostrophe, but it's even easier than it's vs. its.

Normally, when showing possession, you use an apostrophe (i.e. "Danny's pie"). But simply put, this is never the case for the possessive "yours."

There is no such thing as "your's." Never was. Never will be. Erase it from your head.

"Yours" is the correct possessive. eLearnEnglish explains it well.

You could say about the Your's rule: Its as easy as pie, literally. Ha!

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(Hat tip to Copyblogger for the form of this post. Though, admittedly, these annoyance are neither new nor unique.)

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.

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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?

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3 Secrets For A Successful E-Book

My recently released e-book, Writing Holiday Donation Emails, has gotten some traction and I wanted to pass along a few secrets for success when writing an e-book. This was my second e-book (the first being about writing in a web 2.0 world) and I learned a lot.

I assume that you are already knowledgeable about your topic and have decent writing skills. However, there are several things you can do to increase the readership of your e-book outside of this expertise. Here are three secrets for writing your successful e-book.

1. Use e-books as collections of your best work

Last year, I worked on three posts about holiday solicitation emails, focusing on design, content, and strategy. The content was largely still relevant, so I packaged it into an e-book. It allowed me to add some material and correct other ideas.

Because I had already done the hard part (idea generation, writing) and received comments and suggestions from other marketers, it was comparatively easy to put together the new e-book. Plus, it gives me another post in the search engines and reaches readers who subscribed to my blog since those original posts went up last year.

2. Think SEO

There are millions of e-books, but only a few are read by more than 100 people. Why? 

One common reason is due to a writer's inability to think about key words as they effect search engine optimization (SEO). If your e-book doesn't get good search engine results rankings, it might as well not exist.

For instance, last year I used the term "solicitation." This year, however, I compared "solicitation" and "donation." You can see in the image to the right that "donation" had a much higher frequency in Google. Therefore, though "solicitation" is a more accurate description, I opted for the more popular term.

Likewise, I debated between "holiday" and "Christmas." As you can see in the second image on the right, Christmas ranked higher during the fourth quarter of recent years. However, I also realized that people searching for the word "Christmas" are less likely to be searching for information about solicitation emails, and I risked limiting my audience if I confined the e-book to "Christmas." Since the e-book was about year-end donations, rather than any particular holiday, I used the word "holiday."

3. Recycle and Reuse

Now that the e-book is written, I can slice up the chapters into short posts are reuse them. This gives yet another chance at a good Google ranking and the ability to add to your e-book.

I asked my buddy Andrew, a development expert in Washington, DC, for synonyms of my topic. He gave me plenty: "year end appeal," "appeal letter," "support letter," "fund proposal," "end of year giving," and "holiday appeal." You can bet I will be using these terms in future posts taken from the larger e-book.

Plus, this interaction allowed Andrew to pass on additional insight. He recommends thanking the donor in the first sentence (or at least the first paragraph). This has the effect of making the potential donor feel appreciated and invested in your cause. Andrew, thanks for this great tip!

Recycle your content and reuse it liberally after you've posted your e-book. Readers do not approach your blog as they would a book, reading from the first post to the last. You are allowed encouraged to reuse themes and parts of content, as long as it's relevant and not a mere duplication.

The Gist

An e-book can be a useful way to package your content and illustrate your expertise in a given subject. But don't waste your time. Use these three tips to get the most value out of every word.

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Writing Holiday Donation Emails E-Book

Most membership organizations use the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to raise money for the coming year. Many use email to ask their members to donate to the cause. And many organizations do this very, very badly.

I have written an e-book about writing holiday donation emails. These are the emails where organizations, especially non-profits, solicit money from their members. It is often the life's blood of a membership organization.

I invite you to download the e-book:

Writing Holiday Donation Emails

In the e-book, I outline best practices and ideas on design, content, and strategy. If you follow the principle outlined therein, I strongly believe your total donations will increase substantially and that you will lay the foundations of trust and engagement that ensure future donation drives will be all the more successful.

There is no cost for the e-book and no strings attached. I have purposefully left it without a firewall, free to anyone.

If the e-book is useful to you, however, please consider subscribing to this blog. You can subscribe using email or RSS and you will never receive spam from me. Subscribing is the only way you can be sure never to miss a post from OnlineMarketerBlog.

I hope you enjoy the e-book, Writing Holiday Donation Emails. It will be helpful to all web writers, but it is a must-read if you work in marketing or development, especially with a non-profit or other membership organization.

Feel free to leave your success stories in the comments section below. Or leave your own holiday donation email suggestions for the rest of the community to share.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5 Copywriter Lessons From AC/DC

Courtesy of t.klick via Flickr For many of us, AC/DC evokes memories of homecoming dance soundtracks and warm summer nights in a teenager's Camaro. However, the bad schoolboys of rock have some valuable lessons to impart to copywriters as well.

1: "I'm just making my play. Don't try to push your luck, just get out of my way…I'm back, back in black"

"A degree in English means you’ll be a high school teacher the rest of your life." "I guess you don’t ever want to earn enough money to support your family."

These very statements were told to me as I was contemplating a writing career. And they are bold-faced lies.

If your guidance counselor or girl/boyfriend or parents are trying to dissuade you from the career in writing you want, it is your responsibility to prove them wrong. Make your play in the world and then go back and tell them all about it.

2: "She wanted no applause, just another course…the earth was quaking, my mind was aching…and you shook me all night long"

There are generally two types of writers portrayed on television. You either have the Ginsberg-esque beatnik or the Mad Men type of highball swilling hack.

Like so many other things, the real world is not like that. Being a copywriter is fun, but plan to be on the roller coaster.

Copywriting is not a 9 to 5 job. It takes a lot of effort. You might actually sweat. It is mental activity that takes a physical toll. And it is truly spectacular. But be prepared to work all night long if you have to.

3: "I shoot from the hip. I was born with a stiff, a stiff upper lip"

You don't want to go off half-cocked (groan), but as with any creative endeavor, you are going to face criticism of your work. Sometimes you will agree with the subjective assessment, and sometimes you won't.

The best copywriters absorb the critique, compartmentalize it into the professional (not personal) part of their brains, and use it next time if it has any value. (Hint: it usually does.)

However, do not let any evaluation to permanently scar your confidence. Besides a good brain, a stiff upper lip is the most useful part of a writer's anatomy.

4: "Come on, come on, listen to the money talk"

Creatives tend to fear selling out. That fear has its uses. You won't find me writing ads for Philip Morris or BP any time soon.

On the other hand, remember that employers will only pay you what they must, not necessarily what you deserve. There is nothing honorable in allowing your family to starve. Sometimes that entails changing companies to get the money (and respect) you deserve.

5: "One of these days see me driving round town, in my rock 'n' Rolls Royce with the sun roof down…Ain't no fun waiting round to be a millionaire"

There are professions where instant stardom seems bestowed in a flash. NBA basketball players. Hollywood actors. Good for them.

Copywriting is not one of those professions. Most often, it takes a long time to build your writing career. But don't let that get you down.

In the meantime, enjoy the perks that other folks don't have. Writers are more likely to work at home, which makes childcare a whole lot easier. If you have to go to an office, it's more likely in jeans than a suit. It's no Rolls Royce, but it's still damn good.

Bonus: "It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll"

Writing is a craft, not a destination. This continual process can be one of the most rewarding of your life, but must be approached with rigor. Just as lawyers say "I practice law," I recommended getting in the habit of saying "I practice writing."

Your path to the top may be difficult to see at times. There are all sorts of venues in business for your writing – direct mail, internal communication, advertising copy, etc. – so pursue what you love and excel at.

A career as a writer can seem daunting. While it is a challenge, it can also be the most fun you ever have. It can even be a little rock 'n' roll.

So, for those of you about to write, I salute you.

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Writing Content In A Web 2.0 World

You've heard all the hype about Web 2.0, but what does it all mean? How will it affect your business? How do you communicate with potential readers and customers in this new era?

My free white paper, Writing Content in a Web 2.0 World, answers these questions and:

  • What exactly is Web 2.0?
  • How should your writing style change?
  • How has online interaction changed and what will this mean for the future of business?
  • What is the secret new currency in this market?

Download the white paper here: Writing Content in a Web 2.0 World

(The white paper is in PDF format. Download the latest version from Adobe here.)

And of course, please join the conversation! Leave comments here with your thoughts and suggestions for this or future white papers.

I considered requiring you to subscribe to my enewsletter to download the white paper. After all, if you were interested in this subject, it's a sure bet you will be interested in my other content.

However, I've decided that this requirement does not fit well with my overall strategy or the community environment found in a Web 2.0 world.

Rather, I would just ask that you consider subscribing via email or RSS. Thanks!

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.)