Close
Close

Why Twitter Isn’t a Waste of Time

This post on using Twitter was submitted by Sheila Scarborough from Family Travel, Perceptive Travel and Fast Machines.

TwitterI’m Twitter-pated.

Admittedly, when I saw random user “tweets” projected onto a big screen at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive last year, it seemed like a mildly-amusing but rather silly new tech toy.

As a freelance writer/entrepreneur in her mid-forties, married with two kids, it’s hard to justify fitting one more thing into my life. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of the available social media options; Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, StumbleUpon, etc.

So, why Twitter?

Think of it as a stream of mini blog posts (and we all know why blogging isn’t a waste of time.) Think of it as an interesting news feed. Don’t judge it by the continuously-updated public timeline of often pointless blather. The value is in your own micro-community of followers and who you choose to follow.

You don’t want the wisdom of any crowd; you want the wisdom of a carefully-selected crowd.

Here are some other reasons to tweet:

Widen your network – As a blogger, you know the importance of the human connection, both for personal enjoyment and professional growth. I like to meet new people, and I’ve found that my Twitter group is very different than my normal writer’s network. I don’t see many of the names that I commune with on other bulletin boards or blogs, but I get to know many early tech adopters and social media experts, and they get to know me.

Learn stuff – Would you like to read some of the daily thoughts and ideas from experts and thought leaders like Gina Trapani, Ben Yoskovitz, Duncan Riley, Connie Reece, Dwight Silverman and Chris Brogan?

Me, too.

Sure, I read their blogs, but there are nuggets on their Twitter updates as well.

Teach stuff - You have expertise in some area. You know something that would interest others. Here’s another platform where you can show your stuff to an audience that you otherwise might not reach.

Showcase your stuff - Your name, your ideas and your personal brand are already out there via your blogging work. Twitter is one more way to extend your name and brand visibility. Claim your Twitter profile as a blog on Technorati and build some link juice as well.

Become conversant in rapidly-developing technology – What better way to learn about fresh tech ideas than immersion into some of that technology, amongst the biggest brains who develop it? I love my fellow freelance writers, but not all of them are into blogging and even fewer are into the details of social media, so I must go where the action is to learn about it.

The 140-character limit also forces better, more focused Web 2.0 communication — this is a situation where you gotta think INSIDE the box.

Keep up with the buzz even when you’re on the move, with text or IM – Twitter on your mobile device means that you can read and send tweets wherever you have cell phone service. I personally do not use it this way, but I know others who like the “always on and plugged in” continuous connection.

Market your work - This comes last for a reason. We are already bombarded enough by ads and marketing plans, and I do what I can to avoid them (hurray for satellite radio — I’m literally willing to pay to avoid stupid ads on my radio.) Don’t stomp into a community like Twitter and start blatantly selling your wares; we see what you’re doing and we won’t like it. Be cool.

As with any technology, there are improper Twitter uses and habits.

Think before you tweet, Part 1 – Do not answer the Twitter question, “What are you doing?” every 2.5 minutes; you’ll just annoy your followers. I saw this today from a respected tech guru: “Sorry, a Twtr for every Flickr photo you are uploading is way, way too many. Removing you from my list now.” Ouch.

Think before you tweet, Part 2 – Twitter messages are archived and searchable. Forever. Remember that.

It’s not all about you – This is not a contest to see how many you can follow or how many sign up to follow you. A real network offers mutual help, nurturing relationships and good company; it’s not a numbers game. If you treat it that way, you’ll lose most of the major benefits.

There’s still real life out there, so live it - Maybe only someone like Robert Scoble can Twitter his kid’s birth. For the rest of us, we’d like to spend some non-tech time with air-breathers. You know, humans.

Twitter is just one more communications tool, perhaps more useful than youíd think. If you check it out and donít like it, the world will not end. You can always do something really radicalÖ.like meet someone in person.

photo via mashable

Talking about Blog Design: Podcast

Yaro-DarrenOne of the things that I love about blogging is the people that you ‘meet’ through it. One of the people that I met (both virtually and then in real life on a couple of occasions) is Yaro Starak – the guy behind the Blog Mastermind. The picture is from when we first met in Melbourne (where I live).

One of the things that Yaro and I have done on a number of occasions is record our conversations as podcasts. A couple of weeks ago we did another one – this time chatting about Blog Design.

You can listen to it here (total time is 41 minutes).

How Old Are ProBlogger Readers? Poll Results

Last week I asked readers a simple demographic question – ‘how old are you?’

My reason for asking wasn’t because I’m gathering data for advertisers (although I’m sure they’d be interested) but to test a theory that I’d been hearing a number of commentators say recently – that blogging is just something that ‘young people’ do.

In constructing the original poll I messed up the categories a little by having some 5 year ranges and some 10 year ones. This made it seem that the 31-40 year old range was the biggest – however when you add the 21-25 and 26-30 groups together it shows quite convincingly that the biggest group is actually 21 to 30 year olds.

Here’s how the spread of results look:

Poll-Age

For those of you preferring to see the percentages:

  • 57% of respondents are 30 or under
  • 77% are 40 or under
  • 88% are under 50

Poll-Age-2

I guess the question of whether blogging is just for young people depends how you define ‘young’!

Don’t forget to vote in this week’s Poll which asks whether you disclose affiliate links.

Going Beyond the Blog – How to Extend Your Blog

This post was written by Aditya Mahesh of BlogOnExpo, a free digital conference for bloggers that will feature sessions about blogging and interviews with Darren Rowse from ProBlogger, RandFishkin of SEOmoz, and others. The conference kicks off on December 1st, 2007.

You have a successful blog. You post on a frequent basis, have a strong reader base, get a decent amount of comments, and earn some revenue from the blog you run? So what do you do now? Many bloggers simply continue to post and reply to comments. Hoping that their blog continues to grow and eventually earn more revenue.

There is nothing wrong with is, but the question I most often have for successful blogs (and by successful I don’t mean 1 million page views a month and 200,000 RSS subscribers with $50,000 in ad revenue, I mean a consistent steady reader base (5000+ monthly) and some ad revenue), is why they don’t go beyond just a simple blog?

Blogs aren’t the only way to make money online and there are tons of features bloggers can add to their website to improve the user experience and generate more revenue. Here are a few of the best features you can add to your blog.

1. Forums

ForumBlogs are all about discussion and what better way to generate discussion than by launching a forum (eg Darren’s Digital Photography Schools Forum). Forums keep users on your site longer and get them involved in your blog’s community. There are a number of free forum programs available like PHPBB; however, your best bet for a highly scalable, reliable, and feature-rich forum would be VBulletin, the software that runs thousands of the most popular forums on the Internet. Single licenses start at $160.

2. Job Boards

Job-BoardJob Boards are a great way to provide quality content to your users and increase revenue. Like the job board here at ProBlogger.net, companies will pay a certain amount to have their opening listed on your blog’s job board and your visitors looking for a job will have a place to find a job in an industry they are interested in. Job boards work especially well in blogs that attract students and freelancers. You can code your own job board, or use services like JobCoin.com, or SimplyHired’s Job-a-Matic.

3. PodCasts / VideoCasts

VideoMany bloggers run their own daily/weekly/monthly online radio or video shows and there is no reason why you shouldn’t either. While podcasts work well, I prefer to create videocasts like the one Darren has on the homepage. All you need is a webcam. Just sit in front of your computer and record a video post about anything that relates to your blog’s content. Videocasting has a number of advantages. It puts a face to the blog and is a great change from just a plain text post. Video ads from sponsors can monetize these video posts and submitting videos to YouTube and other video sharing websites can be a great way to reach new readers. Also, you can encourage readers to respond with “video comments” of their own, though this would require a video sharing script. vShare.in has a decent script for just $10.

4. Social Networks

Social-NetworkThis can get expensive and thus should not be attempted until you have a decent number of monthly readers (20,000+). To further engage your readers, you can create a social networking website like MySpace or Facebook specifically for your readers. Why would you want to do this? Well, it’s a great way for people with similar interests to meet or connect. A social network would be ideal for any type of blog that relates to business/entrepreneurship as communication is a major part of professional success and a blog’s social network will be a great place for people to connect with others in the same industry. Creating a social network from scratch can be very time consuming if you are familiar with programming/designing and can cost tens of thousands of dollars to get a custom script made. As a result, most blogger will have to go with a common script, but even these can be quite expensive. Your best bets would be PHPFox.com ($300) or SocialEngine.net ($250-$419) – (eg – check out Mashable’s Social Network for a great example of this type of thing extending a great blog).

Do You Have other ideas on how to extend your blog? Let us know with a comment.

b5 media to Host Bonus Day of Education at BlogWorld

Blog-WorldIf you’re heading to BlogWorld Expo next month in Las Vegas then you might be interested in getting there a day early for a whole extra day of free bonus teaching o blogging brought to you by b5media.

The day of teaching (on 7th November) has a great schedule:

9:15 – 10:00 – Brian Clark / Aaron Brazell – How to Use Digg to Assplode Your Blog
10:15 – 11:00 – Jeremy Wright / Allen Stern – Thriving as a B-List Blogger
11:15 – 11:45 – Marshall Kirkpatrick / Tris Hussey – Creating a Powerblogging Toolset
12:00 – 12:30 – Brian Layman / Mark Jaquith – Amping Up Your WordPress Blog
2:30 – 3:15 – Leora Zellman / Mary Jo Manzanares – Survival Tips for Network Bloggers
3:30 – 4:15 – Alex Hillman / Jake McKee – Creating Conversations With Your Readers
5:00 – 6:00 – Jeremy: State of the Bee’s Ass (b5media update talk) (PRIVATE FOR B5MEDIA STAFF AND BLOGGERS)

I will unfortunately not be making it to BlogWorld Expo this year but will be following on to this day and the two that follow it virtually. Both this day and the two days that follow (with over 90 speakers) look like they will really be massive – looking forward to hearing more from those blogging the event.

WidgetBucks Review

Earn $$ with WidgetBucks!It has been a bit over two weeks since the new advertising network WidgetBucks announced it’s launch (here’s where I posted my first impression review of WidgetBucks) and as promised here is my update on how it has been performing for me.

For those of you unfamiliar with WidgetBucks – here’s a sample ad unit to remind you.

I’ve been testing it in a couple of places and to this point have found it to have had mixed success. A few comments:

The Good Stuff about WidgetBucks

  • All of the testing that I’ve been doing with WidgetBucks ad units have been on product related blogs where I think they have a much greater chance of performing well than on blog with other topics.
  • I’ve been running it in a ‘split test’ with Chitika ads in one position (ie 50% of the time I display a Chitika ad unit and 50% a WidgetBucks unit) and to this point the WidgetBucks ad is earning more on a CPM basis than the Chitika unit (it’s still early days on that test though). The CTR is higher on the WidgetBucks ad but the click value is higher on the Chitika ads.
  • I’ve also done split tests with AdSense and found that WidgetBucks out performed them also.
  • As a result of all this – I’m earning more with WidgetBucks than I would have with ads in the same positions as with either Chitika and AdSense (and considering that they are my two biggest earners that’s pretty good).
  • I suspect CTR is higher because of the animation in the ads which draws the eye to them.
  • WidgetBucks have been adding new ad unit sizes and categories. They’ve also announced that they’ll be adding more options in the weeks ahead.
  • Reporting is good (although having the delay/auditing does make it difficult to test and tweak ads)

The Bad Stuff about WidgetBucks

  • Despite WidgetBucks staff commenting that their ads load fast – I still see them loading slowly on my blogs. They are generally the last thing to load on my pages (which is good in that they let other things load first) but it can take 1-3 seconds for them to load (some report it as being longer). This isn’t really good enough.
  • Contextual Targeting doesn’t seem to have worked for me very well. I tested an ad unit in the contextual mode on my blog and it gave reasonable results in that the ads were on cameras and the site was about cameras – but I’ve rarely seen more specific targeting. What I mean by this is that if I have a page about a particular model of camera I’ve never seen a WidgetBucks ad actually served that mentions that camera. I think if they were more targeted contextually the CTR would be significantly higher – the ads would probably convert better for advertisers too.
  • Ads dominate pages too much for my liking. While they do give the option to use different color schemes, even the most subtle colors make it difficult to blend ads into a page. While this probably helps with CTR it isn’t great for usability – particularly with all the animation going on. While you can easily have 2-3 ad units of AdSense or Chitika on a page to run too many WidgetBucks ads on a page would probably be quite overwhelming for readers.
  • In my first impression review I said that the affiliate program sucked – they improved it which is great – however they don’t give any indication of what those earnings are until the first week of the following month. It’d be great to have some more immediate indications of not only the total number of referrals but how it’s performing. This would also give me a clearer indication whether others are earning good money from WidgetBucks.

So on an earnings from I like WidgetBucks – but on a design and reader usability front I still have some issues which hold me back from using them more.

Again – it’s worth emphasizing that different ad options will work differently on different blogs. WidgetBucks ads work well for me on product related blogs (as do Chitika) – while AdSense seems to work better for me on non product related blogs. The key is to test test test and see what works best for you.

I should also say that it’s another couple of weeks until payments come through from WidgetBucks. I don’t have any doubt that they’ll pay as promised – but while the initial earnings from it look pretty decent I can’t really review it fully until I see some cash hit my paypal account!

What’s Your WidgetBucks Review?

Have you tried WidgetBucks yet? If not click here to sign up. If so – what do you think now that you’ve had a couple of weeks to test them?

Are 125 x 125 pixel Ads Right for Your Blog?

125-Pixel-AdsOver the past 6 to 12 months the 125 x 125 pixel advertisement has emerged onto the blogging scene as a fairly common means of advertising.

I don’t know who did it first – but there are hundreds (if not thousands) of blogs using it. Some of the more prominent ones include TechCrunch, Read/WriteWeb, CopyBlogger and John Chow – but there are many hundreds others. In fact over at b5media we have them on all of our 250+ blogs.

Why 125 Pixel Ads Are Worth Considering

125 x 125 ads are an attractive option for bloggers and advertisers on numerous fronts:

  • Bloggers tend to like them because they fit well into sidebars (either in a single vertical line or side by side)
  • They give the option to sell multiple ad units in the space often reserved for one larger ad (four 125 x 125 ads fit nicely into either the position of a skyscraper or large rectangle ad). Generally selling 4 smaller smaller ads will bring in more than selling one larger one
  • Many medium to smaller level advertisers like them because they are cheaper than a larger ad and they can have their ad appear on multiple blogs for the same price as a larger one on one blog.
  • Increasingly affiliate programs are offering publishers 125 pixel ads – these can be run in unsold ad spots so that they can be monetized even when the full stock of ads are not sold.

Should you run 125 x 125 ads on your blog? Balancing the Arguement

There are some good reasons to experiment with 125 pixel ads – however it’s not all plain sailing.

There are a number of things to consider before moving to this format:

  • They work better in some industries than others – in my limited experience of selling advertising I’ve found that each industry has it’s own preference when it comes to ad unit size. I was chatting to an advertising agency last week about them buying a banner ad on one of my blogs and when I suggested 125 pixel ads there was silence on the other end of the phone. The rep had never sold a 125 pixel ad – his industry dealt almost exclusively in large banners, skyscrapers and rectangle ads. 125 pixel ads tend to be something that tech, web 2.0 type advertisers prefer – perhaps it’s expanding to other industries – but many still operate in more traditional sizes.
  • Mainstream advertisers are still catching up – similarly, I’ve found that even in the tech web 2.0 space, many larger advertisers prefer more traditional ad sizes and some are not set up to sell anything else.
  • It takes more work to sell four ads than one – While selling four smaller ads can bring in more revenue than selling one larger one – there are more costs involved in selling four – particularly when you consider your own time in making the sale and administering the ad. This is of course if you can sell any ads at all. Selling one ad and having three empty spots can be quite disheartening.

How to Use 125 pixel Ads on Your Blog

A few pieces of advice for selling 125 pixel ads:

Have some filler ads in reserve – if you set aside four ad 125 ad units in your design then be prepared to have some unsold inventory for periods of time. There are a number of options here:

  • you could run an affiliate program (if you can find one that fits with your niche)
  • you could run an AdSense ad here (they offer 125 sized ads (although a text ad might look odd next to other image based ads)
  • you could run a Chitika ad unit (again they might look odd)
  • another option is to run an internal ad (an ad that points to different parts of your blog/site)
  • you could run an ad swap here – arrange for another blogger in your niche to run their ad there in return for you running one on their blog (to swap traffic)

Prepare an ‘advertise here’ ad - another option for a filler ad is to prepare an ad that advertisers the opportunity to advertise in that position on your blog. Point this ad to an ‘Advertise page’ on your blog which has information on the benefits of advertising on your blog. It can also be worth to have another link or small ad near these ads that points to the same page for when all ads are sold out.

Look at who is advertising elsewhere in your niche - if you’re struggling to find advertisers for your blog a good idea is to keep track of who is advertising on other blogs and websites in your niche – particularly those advertising using 125 pixel ads. If they are willing to advertise on your competitors blogs then they are likely to consider yours too.

Positioning is Everything – on my old template here at ProBlogger I was forced to have my 125 pixel ads below the fold. I did this reluctantly because there was no other room for them and was keen to get them up in a more prominent position with the redesign (in fact it was one of the main reasons I did the redesign). Having them below the fold gave a poor conversion for advertisers which resulted in being able to charge less and struggling to get advertisers to renew their ads. Moving them up the page helped significantly.

Consider your Competing Ads and Affiliate Programs – one thing to carefully consider is how many other ads and affiliate programs to include on your blog. This is worth considering on three fronts:

  1. Too many ad units on your blog can be detrimental on two fronts. Firstly it can crowd out the content and disillusion regular readers while putting off new visitors to your blog. Some blogs have so many ads that their content is pushed way down the page and effectively hidden.
  2. Too many ads on a page dilutes the conversion that advertisers get. If an ad is one of four they have a much higher chance of being noticed and clicked on than if the ad is one of ten.
  3. Some blogger miss out on being able to sell ads by running affiliate programs or AdSense on their blogs. The problem with running an affiliate program on a blog is that the program you are promoting via that program might decide that they don’t need to advertise on your blog. This might be a good thing if the affiliate program pays out more than the advertising would have – but it could also be costly. Running AdSense on a blog where you’re trying to sell ads directly can also hurt you because in some cases it’ll be much cheaper for the advertiser to advertise on your blog using AdSense. Remember AdSense takes a cut of what the advertiser pays – so you could potentially be losing out quite a bit. This all needs to be monitored and you need to do some analysis of which monetization technique is best for you.

Feature Advertisers - one way to add some value to those advertising on your blog using 125 pixel ad units (or any type of advertising) is to give them a little extra attention by periodically featuring advertisers on your blog in a post. Disclose what you’re doing so that readers know that you’re highlighting paying advertisers – but do it both to give your advertisers extra value (increasing the chances of them renewing their ad next month) and as a means of attracting new advertisers.

Have Your Say on 125 Pixel Ads

What do you think about 125 pixel ads? Do you run them on your blog? Why or Why not?

Speedlinking – 18 October 2007

A few links from the last day or three:

Do You Disclose Affiliate Links?

It’s time for another ProBlogger Poll. This week’s question is:

Do you Disclose Affiliate Links?

It is a question that I’m sure many of you will have strong opinions on and which others of you are probably grappling with on a regular basis (I know I do).

Vote here or in the sidebar:

Do you Disclose Affiliate Links?
View Results


I’d also be interested to hear your reasons why you answer as you do in comments below.

I’ll post the results of last week’s poll in the next 24 hours.