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Winners of the Flip Video Camera and ProBlogger Books

Earlier in the week I offered ProBlogger readers signing up for the BlogMastermind Blog Mentoring program the chance to win a Flip video camera and 5 ProBlogger books. The 48 hour window to win is up and the winners (selected randomly) are:

  • Winner of Flip Video Camera (I just bought one for myself too) – Becky Carroll
  • Winners of the ProBlogger books – Rebecca Jones, Michael Singer, Paul Ermisc, Karyn Fleeting and Thomas J Stacey.

A special thanks to Marcus Chavers who won the book but asked for me to share the love and for it to be given to another person as he already had a copy (Thomas, you owe Marcus a beer).

Congratulations to the winners – I will be in contact with each of you via email shortly.

Bonus One Hour Session of Personal Coaching From Me Still Valid

I’m still offering all readers who sign up for six months to BlogMastermind through links here at ProBlogger the opportunity to have an hour of my time for me to do a session of personal coaching with you.

I’ll keep this bonus offer open for anyone who signs up until the end of August. Read more about this offer in my original announcement of BlogMastermind.

For those already signed up for 6 months – I’ll be in touch in the coming week or so to give you more details of how we’ll do the sessions.

UPDATE: All of my bonuses are now closed. You can still enroll for Blog Mastermind – but the bonuses that I mention above are no longer valid.

How Social Media Helped Me Get Unbanned from a Social Media Site in 1 Hour and 44 Minutes

stumbleupon-unbanned.pngIn my last post I wrote that I’d just discovered that StumbleUpon had banned me.

I’m happy to announce that 1 hour and 44 minutes after posting that – I was unbanned.

How did it happen? I put it down to Social Media. Here’s the story:

  1. I had a number of people Tweet me 30 or so minutes before I posted my last post telling me that I was banned. I can only presume it happened around that times they all came at once.
  2. I reacted quickly by first emailing StumbleUpon using their contact form.
  3. I then posted my last post here at ProBlogger
  4. This post appeared moments later in my Twitter stream (this happens automatically)
  5. I plurked a link to the post.
  6. A few minutes later it was submitted to Digg (something I didn’t even consider doing)
  7. I received a heap of Twitter responses and the story was re-tweeted by quite a few of my followers
  8. I received a Direct Message tweet within moments fro a follower who gave me the email address of the community manager at StumbleUpon – I emailed him
  9. The post on Digg was at 90 Diggs within about half an hour
  10. Twitter was alive with the story (see this screen grab of Twitscoop which shows the tag cloud of what people were talking about on Twitter).
  11. Many readers emailed Stumbleupon
  12. I received an email and a comment on ProBlogger from the community manager at StumbleUpon an hour and a quarter after the post went live. He said that it could be resolved and that he’d like us to blog about the situation both here on ProBlogger and the SU blog. I emailed back that I would be happy to do so.
  13. ProBlogger was unbanned 1 hour and 44 minutes later.
  14. A few minutes later a story appeared on Digg about how I had been unbanned from StumbleUpon – linking to my Tweet about it.
  15. Now that I’m unbanned from SU the post saying that I’m banned is getting heaps of bookmarks…. ironically on StumbleUpon.

Here’s that Tag Cloud from Twitscoop

twitscoop.png

So what did I learn today?

  1. ProBlogger readers and Twitter followers are amazing. Between putting me in touch with the right person at SU and all your tweets, plurks and diggs you got this fixed really quick.
  2. StumbleUpon are responsive – or at least Walter their Community Manager is
  3. Social Media his powerful – while I knew this I don’t think I really had experienced it working so quickly on something that was personal to me
  4. When you’ve got a problem it can help to involve your friends, not completely lose it and blog a rant (while I was angry in my post I didn’t completely lose it – I tried to reach out to SU) and lastly – sometimes there is opportunity in when bad stuff happens. The buzz and traffic around this whole story has been quite amazing today. I think tomorrow I’ll get banned by Digg :-)

Thanks to everyone for your support, ideas, feedback and offers to help today. Thanks also to StumbleUpon for responding quickly. I look forward to hearing why all this happened and what we as bloggers can learn about it from your end. I’ll post more about this as Walter gets back to me.

The one thing that I do hope StumbleUpon will learn from and change is their ‘banned’ page. It has the potential to unfairly hurt reputations and tarnish sites that have not deserved that. I’m no lawyer but I suspect it could even border on some kind of defamation.

ProBlogger is Banned from StumbleUpon

banned-stumbleuponThis story has been updated at the bottom of this post.

This morning a number of readers have emailed or tweeted me to let me know that when they try to bookmark a post on ProBlogger that it leads them to a page saying that ProBlogger has been banned from StumbleUpon (thaks to @Fussypants on Twitter who was first).

You can see a screen capture of the page here – subtle isn’t it!?:

Picture 2.png

The page says that we’ve either been banned for abusing the service or have been asked for the site not to be included.

I can tell you that it was not the 2nd option (and if it had of been I would be pretty upset to see it presented as ‘banned’).

I’ve sent off an email using Stumbleupon’s contact form to ask for more information on this – but to be honest I’m pretty shocked and a little angry at this.

I can’t think of any way that I’ve abused StumbleUpon and if I had I would have thought that they’d have banned me as a user of it as well or instead of banning my URL.

I’ve got two theories as to why I may have been banned

1. ProBlogger does get a reasonable amount of traffic from StumbleUpon and perhaps the powers at be at SU think I’ve manipulated the system to get it. This is not the case and I’d suggest that perhaps I get more traffic from SU than some other sites because:

  • I’ve written about StumbleUpon many times. Writing about any bookmarking site tends to get people who use that site to bookmark those posts
  • I write to an audience who use social media a lot – ProBlogger readers are a very social media savvy lot and probably bookmark more than the general web user.

2. My recent social media love-in and list of bloggers who use StumbleUpon might have been interpreted abuse.

Perhaps I should have checked with SU before running that social media love-in but my motivations for doing it were not abusive. All I was hoping to do was to build community here on ProBlogger and give readers an opportunity to connect with one another in mediums other than here on this blog.

If anything I thought it would promote and build traffic on the social media sites that we developed lists for. If SU don’t want bloggers to use their service and don’t want sub communities within their user-base then this is their prerogative – but I’m a little put out that as someone who has actively promoted and used their service and even encouraged my readers to advertise on them that they simply banned me.


Some articles I’ve published on StumbleUpon for bloggers include:


I’m also a little angry that people voting for my posts get led to a page that accuses me as the owner of this site of abusing their service. If that’s not a slur against my character then I’m not sure what is. If this upsets you I’d encourage you to Stumble a ProBlogger page, click the ‘contact us’ link and let them know what you think (that’s what they’ve asked for on the page anyway).

Dear StumbleUpon

I am obviously feeling a little put out by you banning my blog from your service.

I do love StumbleUpon and hope that you’ll reconsider your decision and I’d love to hear from you with how I can remedy any actions that I might have inadvertently taken that don’t fit with your terms and conditions.

update – just heard from StumbleUpon’s Community Manager (who I emailed) – he’s also commented his email in comments below. We’re going to work on sorting this out and then I’ll post about the results in the coming days so we can all learn a thing or two about why this happened and how we can avoid it happening to others. Fingers crossed that this is resolved soon.

update 2 – 1 hour and 44 minutes after I posted this post I’m no longer banned from StumbleUpon. I put this down to you – my amazing readership who reacted with emails, Diggs, Tweets and more. I’ve never seen first hand what a blog community can achieve like this so quickly. Now if only we could pull ourselves together and work so hard to do something that REALLY matters like doing something about poverty or the environment…. :-)

update 3 – Check out this post that I’ve written the full story of how I got banned and unbanned from StumbleUpon in under two hours.

Talking Blog Networks

There has been ALOT of talk around the blogosphere about blog networks lately – ALOT!

Some of it is as a result of the closing of the Know More Media blog network, some of it as a result of AOL and Gawker making changes to the way their networks pay bloggers and some of it is…. well…. just because every six or so months there seems to be talk about blog networks.

Today one of my co-founders in b5media (and our CEO) Jeremy Wright put together a post that I think picks up a lot of the themes and casts some light on what it’s like to run a blog network. Effectively Jeremy has written 6 posts in one (I really have to teach this guy about writing a series of posts :-) )and covers:

  1. A summary of some of the talk going on around the blogosphere on the topic with some great links
  2. 10 Reasons Managing Bloggers (and Blog Ads) Is Harder Than Your Grandma’s Corns
  3. 3 Simple Tips for Starting a Blog Network
  4. Thoughts on Starting a Blog Alliance
  5. 3 Tips for Starting a Blog Ad Network
  6. Final Tip(s) for Success for Everyone

Depending upon where you’re at in your own development of blogging I think there’s something in this post for everyone. Read it here.

Jeremy’s reasons why managing bloggers and blog ads is hard will be particularly insightful for those starting out with networks because I often come across bloggers who think blog networks an easy way to make money – you simply just hire extra writers and slap more ads on the blogs right? Ummm…. time for a reality check – my experience of blog networks is that while you can potentially multiple your income with more blogs you also multiple the headaches, challenges, problems and risks.

Jeremy’s tips for those starting out are also useful.

Further Reading

A few posts from my archives that might be useful for bloggers wanting to start or join blog networks:

8 Useful Tips for Building Your Mommy Blog Into a Business

Mommy-Blog-Business.png

Today Vered DeLeeuw from MomGrind suggests ways for turning a mommy blog into a business. These tips are not limited to mommy blogs: they can be applied to personal blogs in general. Image by KellyandApril.

MomGrind is a personal blog. It chronicles my thoughts and struggles. It is where I share a laugh with my readers, ask for their advice, post an occasional feminist rant, and wonder about the meaning of it all.

MomGrind is also a business.

Unlike marketing and business blogs, or even self-improvement and productivity blogs, mommy blogs are highly personal. They tell the story of an individual, the story of a family. “Making your blog more personal” is typically not an issue for mommy bloggers. It happens naturally.

When you talk with mommy bloggers, many of them will tell you that they are not blogging for money. Blogging is an outlet for their daily struggles and frustrations. They blog to document the joys and the frustrations that come with raising children. But mommy bloggers are powerful. They have the power to help big corporations reach an important audience. The big companies know it. Do the moms know it?

If you author a mom blog – or any other personal blog – and would like to turn your blog into a business and earn money doing something that you love, these tips will help you get started:

1. Acknowledge that your blog is a business

This is a crucial first step. Start taking yourself seriously and others will take you seriously too. If you have an opportunity to use direct advertising on your blog, go for it, and sell it for what it’s really worth: don’t leave money on the table. If a company emails you with questions, charge a consulting fee for answering them. Queen of Spain received a consulting fee of $6000 from Disney “for what essentially amounted to a few emails, a survey, and a meeting”. Needless to say, you should set up a Paypal account.

2. Decide how much you are willing to share with your readers

It’s impossible to write a post about mommy blogs without mentioning the queen of mommy blogging, Heather Armstrong. Ms. Armstrong has a very particular style that includes great writing, frequent use of profanity, lots of personal charm, and the ability to make fun of herself and her husband. Her definition of privacy is lax – she readily shares highly private family moments with her readers.

But does one have to use profanity or expose her family affairs on the Internet in order to turn her blog into a lucrative business? I don’t have the answer to this question, although I will venture a guess that if you want to REALLY make it as a mommy blogger, you must be willing to share A LOT. This is a very personal choice, of course. Define your limits, and once you have – be ready to defend them, to others and to yourself.

3. Subscribe to ProBlogger

I am a subscriber and a regular reader. Sure, the posts here are geared toward professional bloggers. But many of them are very relevant to me. For example, Darren’s recent post on 21 Ways To Make Your Blog Sticky was very helpful in improving MomGrind. I implemented several of Darren’s suggestions, including highlighting my best content and creating an engaging “About” page.

4. Educate yourself about advertising

You need to determine when to start using ads on your blog; where to place them to optimize revenue; how many ads to display; and how to handle direct advertising.

5. Start networking

If you want to earn decent money from your blog, you need to have enough daily unique visitors and page views to attract direct advertisers. Even if your content is great, this kind of traffic to your blog will not happen without networking.

A good place to start is visiting other blogs and making comments on them. You should also approach bloggers who run blogs that are approximately the size of your blog or bigger, and offer to write guest posts for them. This will expose you to new readers, and some of them will end up as new subscribers.

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do to build a community around your blog, is to participate in social media sites. Many prominent mommy bloggers, including Dooce, Sweetney and Her Bad Mother, use Twitter.

6. Keep writing about things that are interesting to you

While you should keep your growing audience in mind to some extent, it’s important that you stay true to yourself. Writing content that evokes emotions in your readers (Her Bad Mother excels at that), or content that has a high entertainment value (Dooce is highly entertaining), is fine. In fact, it’s more than fine. Don’t worry about other blogs providing information and advice. You are giving your readers something that is just as valuable: you are making other moms feel like they’re not alone, and in many cases, you are making them laugh.

7. Never apologize for those ad checks

Making money or wanting to make money from your blog is your prerogative. Get over the “good girl” mentality and be proud of your talent, of your networking abilities, of the wonderful, thriving business that you have started from scratch and are building with your own hands. I enjoyed reading another prominent mommy blogger – Don Mills Diva’s – recent post “Show Me The Money”. Don Mills Diva does NOT apologize for aspiring to make money from her blog. I couldn’t agree with her more.

8. Pace yourself

Creating a successful blog takes a lot of work. If you want to do this for the long haul and avoid burnout, it’s important to slow down. Darren recently said that it’s very easy to work 12 hours per day on a blog, if you don’t set limits. My advice: don’t. This is true for every blogger, and it’s especially true for you, because you have children to take care of and to enjoy. Don’t allow the Internet to rob you of enjoying the fleeting moments of your kids’ childhood.

Photo credit: R. Motti (link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/motti/298650667/)