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How to Transform Readers Into Raving Fans

Keeping You Posted by Skellie

In this post regular contributer Skellie from Skelliewag.org explains how you can turn readers into fans.

The notion of ‘raving fans’ brings to mind a screaming crowd at a Beatles concert. For bloggers, a more accurate version of a ‘raving fan’ is someone who raves about you — recommending your stuff to anyone who will listen.

In this post I want to explain how you can use your content to create a kind of friendship between you and your readers. As much as they might love your blog, it’s almost impossible to form a meaningful connection with information and writing alone.

As humans, we connect easily and naturally with other people. Put yourself into what you write and readers will connect with you.

Why having fans of your own is important

  • Readers with a personal affection for you will consistently treat you with respect.
  • Readers who like you will stick by you when times are tough.
  • They’re more likely to speak highly of you to others.
  • They’ll be more accepting of your faults.
  • They’ll come with you when you move on to new things.
  • They’re more likely to trust your recommendations or buy from you. This can help you make money blogging.

How to help readers become fans

A useful starting point for us is to look at how we form relationships with new people in face-to-face situations. One thing you might have noticed is that we tend to like or dislike others based on how they make us feel about ourselves.

We can spend a lot of time with someone but feel very little closeness to them if they make us feel a bit stupid, or boring, or as if our views aren’t important. On the other hand, we can feel quite close to someone very quickly if they give us their undivided attention, entertain us and seem to enjoy what we have to say.

Another key in building relationships of any kind is sharing our experiences and personality: probably because both these things are completely unique to us.

These face-to-face guidelines can easily be translated to blogging.

Sign each post with your signature

Some bloggers do this literally, but I’m referring to other things that, like a signature, are unique to you: your experiences and your personality. You can inject these things into anything you write.

Some simple tips to help you do this:

  • Ask yourself: how does what I’m writing about fit in with my own experiences?
  • If you’re sharing advice, how has what you’re recommending benefited you?
  • If you’re sharing news, how does the news influence you or people you know?

If you do this consistently it won’t be long before your readers start to get a sense of who you are.

Write with humanity

Don’t let your readers forget the content on your blog is produced by a person not so different to them. You have friends, family, hobbies, work, loves and hates. You’ve made mistakes and achieved successes. You occupy a specific place in the world. You’re not just a mind plugged into a keyboard.

Let readers know about the unplugged you — who you are when you’re not online. You can maintain your privacy by using pseudonyms for friends and family and by not getting too specific.

People are good at forming relationships with people. Emphasize that you’re no different to your readers and it will be much easier for them to warm to you.

Some tips to help you do this:

  • Share how your offline life has shaped what you’re writing about.
  • Share how your family and friends have influenced what you’re writing.

Create selfless content

If it’s true that people like you based on how you make them feel about themselves, it follows that your content should always be focused on the reader. The content you produce must answer ‘yes’ to at least one of these questions.

  • Does it inform?
  • Does it entertain?
  • Does it help?
  • Does it teach?
  • Is it useful?

Use content to showcase your readers

If a reader’s comment sparks an idea for your next post, why not quote them at the beginning of the article?

If one of your readers writes a great article on their own blog, why not link to it?

If a reader shares a good tip, why not mention it in the next post you write on the topic?

These are a few simple things you can do to acknowledge and draw attention to your readers, which will make them feel good about themselves and you.

Give more than you take

Pure generosity is rare. Bloggers rarely give without expecting something in return, whether it be payment, or a link, or a review. In my experience, bucking that trend can create incredible goodwill among readers. Here are some things you can do to make a fantastic impression:

  • Hold a competition and allow readers to enter by leaving a comment, rather than blogging about it or performing some other task.
  • Offer to perform a service for your readers and expect nothing in return. I’ve done this on two occasions and both times it allowed me to connect with many readers in a very positive way.
  • Give away a free eBook or report.
  • Write a post showcasing your favorite reader comments of the month.

Points to review

The key to helping readers form an attachment to you is by emphasizing the ways you are similar to them and making them feel good about themselves, often by entertaining, informing or helping.

You can also use your posts as a platform to acknowledge and appreciate your readers. This will help communicate your respect for them and, in doing so, increase their respect for you.

There are a number of direct and indirect benefits to transforming readers into personal fans and friends: more links, more comments, more positive recommendations, more trust and an incredibly rewarding blogging experience.

Give it a try: use your next post to implement a few of these strategies and start building your fan-base.

Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. You’ll find more practical blogging advice at her own blog, Skelliewag.

AdSense Move Site Targeting to Placement Targeting and Allow Advertisers to Target Sites with CPC Ads

AdSense have announced a couple of changes. One is that they’ve replaced ‘site targeting’ with ‘placement targeting’. Now advertisers can target their ads to specific ad units on your blog (depending upon how you’ve set your channels up).

The second change is that they’re now allowing advertisers to target sites with CPC ads (cost per click) rather than just CPM ads (cost per thousand impressions).

I’m not really sure how this will impact publishers. I did hear a couple of other things from AdSense that concerned me a little though – I’m not at liberty to reveal them yet – but hopefully can in the coming week or two.

ProBlogger VideoStreaming Chat Now On

On the off chance that anyone is online right now – if you want to drop by and have a little webcam fun with a few of us Mark from 45n5 is streaming himself here.

I’m also playing with it for a little bit this afternoon here. Drop by and say g’day!

webstreaming

This will only go for an hour or so – but if it works out we’ll do it again sometime.

PS: also – David P is here

Update: this session is over. For those who missed it – we had about 70 people drop by over the hour that we did it with a maximum of 30 or so online at the same time. It lagged a little at times and at first I didn’t properly enable people to chat (sorry to those who were on early) but was a lot of fun.

I basically took questions for the hour – lots of good ones.

I’d like to do it again. This one was on a whim (thanks to Mark at 45n5) but next time I think that the way we’ll do it is promote the time ahead of time and pick a topic to explore (to try to focus the chat). I think an hour is probably long enough too.

So when will we do it again? I’m away next week but the following week we’ll try to schedule it in. Stay tuned for the time/date. Thanks to everyone for coming over – it was fun.

Would You Blog Differently If You Had Money?

Blogging-Wealth

Anne Waymen asks a question that’s got me thinking a little today – Would You Still Write If You Had A Million Dollars?

On Saturday night I was at a party and had a fascinating chat with a guy who had his own business. We were swapping stories about our businesses and out of the blue (and simultaneously) both said something to this effect:

“I’d do it even if I couldn’t earn money from it.”

We then went onto to discuss why we thought that that was probably a secret to the fact that we’d both done reasonably well with our work – it wasn’t about the money.

My new friend told me about his motivations for switching careers to start his business – his reason wasn’t because he wanted to make money but because he found it so interesting that he just couldn’t help but learn more about it. His story reminded me a lot about my own experience of blogging.

Five years ago when I started blogging (5 years this month actually) I did so on a whim to see what would happen. The thought that it’d end up being a full time job (and more) was laughable. The reason I continued blogging was that within days I was hooked. Hooked by the relationships I discovered, the community that I became a part of and the learning that I was engaging in.

The money came years later – much later.

So I guess I’d answer Anne’s question with a yes – I’d still write if I had a Million Dollars.

However – her question sparked another one for me – a question I’d like to ask readers.

Would you blog differently if you had a Million Dollars?

The reason I ask this is that a few weeks ago I was listening to a podcast (this one) by the 9Rules team over at 3by9 and it was Thyme that talked about Dave Winer who blogs differently because he is ‘financially secure’ (I am probably misquoting Thyme here as it was a couple of weeks ago that I listened to the podcast).

The gist of her comments was that the blogger could blog more freely because he wasn’t reliant upon advertisers and didn’t need to impress others etc. As a result he has a ‘different mindset’ to other bloggers.

Of course this is just Thyme’s opinion – but her idea has stayed with me this past couple of weeks and I’d love to hear whether others think that they’d blog differently if they had wealth already.

Over to you – what do you think?

Using Images to Take Your Posts to a New Level

With millions of blog posts being added to the web each day – bloggers need to consider more than just the content that they are posting and think about how they can design their posts to grab attention.

One element of this post design is adding images to posts.

Images enhance posts in any number of ways including by giving posts a visual point of interest, grabbing attention (great for making your RSS feed readers stop and read), drawing people’s eye down a post beyond the first few lines, illustrating examples, giving your blog a more personal touch, engaging the emotions and senses of readers and giving posts more authority.
[Read more...]

The Process of Going Pro as a Blogger

When To Go Pro
image by //bwr

If you’ve got a goal of Going Pro as a Blogger I highly recommend that you head over to a great post by JD who writes about the transition of Quitting his Day Job and becoming a Pro Blogger.

I get asked ‘how and when should I go Pro as a blogger’ quite a bit – and have always advised bloggers to see going Pro as a process and not an event.

JD embodies this fully. While he’s already earning $5000 a month blogging from his blog Get Rich Slowly he has decided to make the next 12 or so months a transitional process – gradually moving away from his day job with a family business to becoming a full time blogger.

The other thing that I love about JD’s post is that he gives a little insight into the two emotions that many bloggers feel as they enter into the process of going Pro – fear and excitement.

Further Reading:

WidgetBucks Release Earnings Reports

Logo-2New advertising network WidgetBucks has just updated publishers accounts with their earnings figures from the previous month of earnings.

This includes three amounts. A $25 signup bonus, the earnings that their Widgets earned for October plus earnings from their referrals (10% of the earnings of those that they referred).

While it’s only been about 6 weeks since WidgetBucks launched I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of those who’ve been trying them now that they’ve got their first month’s totals.

My own feelings have not really changed since I first came across them.

  • I think that the system has a lot of potential
  • It’s early days and there’s lots of room for improvement from WB to make the service really great
  • My own earnings have been very encouraging (WB is outperforming both AdSense and Chitika on a couple of blogs for me – although is doing less on others – I find that product related blogs is where it really shines). I don’t think that I’m allowed to reveal earnings – but lets just say that they are four figures per month – and that I’ve only been using them sparingly so far).
  • Interestingly – the amount that I earned from referrals fees over the month of October was considerably less than I’d expected. In fact if that figure is 10% of the amount that those I’ve referred are earning I’m earning more than all of them put together (and I’ve referred hundreds of bloggers). Obviously not everyone who signed up is using WB and not everyone is getting the great results I have so far.
  • I have noticed a decrease in click values in the last week or two. I’m presuming that WB are tweaking the back end to get the balance right between publishers and advertisers right. I hope it doesn’t decrease too much further though as it’ll bring it back to a par with other networks for me in terms of profitability
  • I’ve noticed some improvements in the loading speed of Widgets. Its still not super fast but a lot better than it was for me

They are my initial reports – I’d be interested to hear what others are finding.

How You Can Fine-Tune Your Blogger Personality Perception

How do your blog’s readers perceive you and your personality? Joel Falconer from Blog News Watch explores….

Perception and personality play an important role in our friendships and relationships with the people around us – and in our relationship with readers.

Bloggers’ perception is all about two things: design and voice.

Your design is important. If it’s attractive, usable, and the navigation is clear, then you win points on having a good perception. The aesthetics of that design start to determine what type of perception that is: is your blog academic? Fun? Are you an instructor, a friend, or some kind of guru at the end of the pilgrimage?

Simple cues in the design will let your reader know.

Blogger-Personality-Perception-1
If this is what your readers look like, you
might not be meeting their expectations!

Your Voice Is Your Most Valuable Asset

More important is voice. Your voice is the way you write each word of each post. It’s the difference between how John and Mary write essentially the same content in a completely different way.

John’s article gets read, and Mary’s doesn’t.

Or Mary becomes well known for her down-to-earth instructional style while John is seen as a bit of a negative creep.

It’s all in the voice.

You can say anything you want to say and completely change the way its perceived, taken in and absorbed by readers, just by the way you say it.

“The iPod touch is just a scam to rip money away from those who can’t afford a phone contract.”

Or…

“Does the iPod touch really offer any value over the iPod classic? It certainly is an iPod classic in an iPhone’s clothing.”

The first phrase will put a lot of people – iPod users and Mac fanboys – off your blog forever. The second will get even the biggest fanboy agreeing with you.

I lied. Very few Mac fanboys will take any kind of criticism for their religion! But in niches of the internet where members tend to have a great deal more mental stability (before you flame me for that one, I’m a Mac user!), the second kind of voice will gain you interested readers who come from both sides of the story, whereas the first will polarize the readership and drive away a large section of it.

Maintain Authority, But Write Conversationally

It may even drive away some of the readers who agree with your statement, but find your tone too smarmy-like the compulsion to switch Seinfeld off when he starts whining.

A tried and true voice technique is removing uncertainty. Be certain, know what you’re talking about, and use find & replace at every turn. Remove “I think” and all variants that make it look like you don’t know what you’re talking about. Develop a voice of authority.

Perception is branding. Branding is marketing. Marketing builds readership.

Every reader you have ever had, have now, or will have comes from your marketing efforts, even if you haven’t actually made any.

Because perception is branding, branding is marketing and marketing builds readership. The second someone visits your blog, they’re building first impressions based on the perception your design and voice are giving them. Content is also a factor in those first impressions, but it falls under a slightly different category than perception.

How To Pick Out Perception Busters

Have an honest friend review your website-reminding them to be openly critical-and ask them what their first impressions are. These are obviously tainted by their previous impressions of you, but if you can’t afford focus groups or professional reviews, this is the method you’ll end up using. You should also refrain from telling them it’s your blog if you’re using a pen name or it’s not plastered everywhere.

The friend you choose should preferably be a member of the target market you’re seeking, or their responses won’t be as relevant as they need to be and any changes you make based on their advice may actually hurt your perception-and hence your subscriber base.

What they say is important, but what is more important is their instant reaction; the minutiae of their facial twitches and body language. If you watch this carefully, you’ll know whether they’re sugarcoating any negative responses later.

You can then question them: how do you perceive the writer of these articles? Is it good? Bad? What kind of personality does he or she have?

And then you can determine which elements of their first impression perception are informed by the voice and which are informed by the design.

Compare your friend’s answers and reactions with the perception you’re working toward. How big is the gap between the reality and the desired result? Have I missed the mark or made it?

Then you need to divide both the friend’s perceptions and the desired perception into two categories, based on your discussion with the reviewer: Design and Voice.

Tweak, optimize, rinse and repeat

If the navigation was difficult to use and put the reader off, you need to fix it.

If it was the tone and voice of your writing, you’ve got a longer journey ahead of you, but a worthwhile one. It takes time to change your voice because it embodies the way you have learned to communicate over years.

There are simple rules that you can work with. The tried and tested rules for writers apply to bloggers: remove adjectives and especially adverbs where possible, write in active voice-never passive-and use conversational tone.

Harder still is working on the personality that your voice puts across, and you can learn to change this through comparing your own work with the work of writers who you admire and employing the technique of ‘practice, practice, practice’ until you’re coming across the way you need to.

The review technique is a simple technique, but by putting it into action you can reap significant benefits. By listening to advice and implementing changes you’ll notice a huge difference in the way people communicate with you and the respect they have for you-and that means more subscribers for the long run.

Joel Falconer brings insight and experience to readers through his blogs about blog news and musician career development, and uses blogging as a tool to promote his own music. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Free Articulator.

Self Branding – Moving Beyond the Niche to Generate Income as a Blogger

Branding

image by mleak

This guest post on blog branding is by Mark Hayward who blogs over at MyTropicalEscape and Culebra Blog. You can learn more about him in the footer of this post.

Are you currently blogging to generate income, or have you recently thought about monetizing your site?

As I prepare to leave my steady job with a guaranteed paycheck and (hopefully) move on to blogging or working online full time I have looked at and analyzed a tremendous amount of blogs and the top money earners all share one common characteristic.

Without a doubt, all of the major, financially successful sites out there, including ProBlogger, have one similar component and that is their mastery of branding, or more specifically, self-branding.

Branding can be described as the symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a particular product or company.

Effective branding serves to create assumptions, excitement, associations, and expectations that are ingrained in consumers and generated with the mere mention of a company and its goods or services (think GOOGLE, NIKE, Jet Blue).

What is self-branding?

Just like with any company such as, Microsoft, or a product like the IPOD, which attempt to emote certain feelings within the consumer in order to get them to purchase their goods, bloggers need to establish on their site who they are and what they embody. Essentially, every one of your blog readers, (whether it’s a first time visitor or a frequent active comment poster) are your consumers. Therefore “self branding” as it pertains to an individual’s blog should quickly allow readers to know what you stand for, what you are trying to portray, and most importantly, the message you are trying to convey.

How you choose to brand yourself will determine if you will capture loyal readers.

We must try to remember that blog readers are not on any given site because of the ads, or products that are placed there. First time visitors to your site are there to read your content and to hopefully learn something that they might not otherwise know.

I do not know the specific statistics but I believe people decide within the first minute if they are going to return to any given site that they have visited. Therefore, you have a limited amount of time to market yourself and you must keep in mind that you are your brand and the topic that you write about is your niche.

Blog visitors will return if you can create an emotional connection with them particularly if they feel that they have something in common with you.

Additionally, people will continue to visit a blog if they trust you and feel they stand to gain something through your well written site content. However, in order to get them to click on your ads, or purchase your products they have to believe in you and what you are trying to sell. Whatever you are selling, or promoting through your writing, there has to be some sort of fundamental emotional value in it for the end user.

Typically, blogs about making money from blogging recommend that you “need to find a niche” if you want to be successful and actually earning a living via personal publishing.

While I strongly agree that a solid niche is needed I feel that the concept actually goes well beyond just having a niche if you are going to have long-term, sustainable, financial success online. For a blog to be successful in this day and age sites need to have a well-planned three tiered approach, which includes:

  1. a well-defined niche
  2. well written quality content
  3. effective self-branding

Moreover, each of these varying aspects must seamlessly support and feed into the other. Are there exceptions to the tiered approach? Of course there are. However, people who blog can be successful within their niche and can produce good posts but they are missing out on sales, or ad click throughs if they are lacking successful self-branding.

Problogger-Logo-PFor example, let’s take a look at ProBlogger. Recently, Darren has been writing about and helping to promote the Teaching Sells “Step-by-Step Training Courses.” If I had noticed this endorsement on 99.99% of the other blog sites out there I would have given it absolutely no attention at all. However, because Darren has successfully self-branded himself as one who provides practical, useful, and readily applicable tips at ProBlogger, he has an inherent and well-earned trust with his visitors (myself included). So, the end result being that there is a very good chance I will pay for the Teaching Sells course.

This is exactly where self-branding and how your blog readers view you is SO important. Die hard skeptics, myself included, will click through ads, support your promotional items, or even make a direct purchase from you if they believe in you (your brand).

Selfbranding DoshdoshAnother blogger that has mastered self-branding is Maki over at DoshDosh. Personally, I am not a huge fan of anime and before I discovered his blog the Japanese cartoons used to represent (in my mind) typical Saturday morning television for children. However, because Maki makes it a point to include a cartoon with all of his posts the way that I associate and perceive anime, and the feelings it emotes, has completely changed. These days, if I find myself flipping through a magazine, or catch a snippet of anime on television I begin to think of the blog DoshDosh, the niche it represents, and the tagline, “helping you make money online.” The reason for the change is Maki’s successful self-branding.

Of course, you can place all the ads you would like on your site but if people don’t trust you then they will not click to your sponsors or purchase your products and you will lose money. If you are interested in earning money from blogging, or would like to generate more revenue, here are five simple tips that you can use to help you begin your self-branding:

  • Before setting up your income generating blog create a plan and write down how you would like to be perceived by your readers (e.g. practical, humorous, sarcastic, authoritarian, combative, etc).
  • Review the sites that you go back to again and again. Have you purchased anything from them, or clicked on their ads? Analyze specifically what it is about those blogs and the emotions they evoke that have you coming back.
  • Create an effective tagline. Sounds simple but it will set your site’s tone immediately.
  • Know your readers (your consumers).
  • If you expect site visitors to spend money or click on ads then be approachable. If you reply to a readers query about an ad on your site not only will you establish a personal connection with them, additionally, for the skeptics out there it can help to create trust in you.

If you are blogging for money always try to keep in mind that self-branding and how you choose to present yourself and your content will determine if you will capture loyal readers, which in turn can lead to into increased ad revenues.

This is a guest post by Mark Hayward who blogs over at MyTropicalEscape and Culebra Blog. He and his wife recently purchased the Palmetto Guesthouse on the island of Culebra located in the Caribbean. Mark’s fulltime job ends next week so he is looking to blog or work online fulltime. If you would like to discuss business opportunities, or hire him to write for you he can be contacted directly at mark_w_hayward[at]yahoo.com.