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31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook On Sale (Now Over)

Update: This special sale is now over – thanks to everyone who purchased the workbook but unfortunately the sale had to end.

If you’re interested in getting a copy of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook it’s still only $19.95 – check it out here.

Pre-Written and Scheduled Posts vs Timely Posts

“How do you balance having pre-written posts with timely content – what’s a good balance to strike?” question submitted to me using #pbquestions by @crystalsquest

Using pre-written and scheduled posts is a strategy that many bloggers use to help them keep fresh content appearing on their blogs while maintaining a life that is not dominated 24/7 by their blogs.

Here’s how I do it:

Monday mornings are traditionally my ‘writing mornings’. I set aside 4-5 hours and give myself the goal of writing at least 5 (sometimes as many as 6-7) posts for my blogs. The goal is to have 5 fairly meaty posts (original, helpful and of a reasonable length) by the end of the morning that I can use on my blog over the coming week.

Over the coming week I use these 5 posts – one per day. I usually schedule them using WordPress’s time stamp feature so that they go off just after midnight my time here in Australia (around the time most people are getting to work in the US).

I find that using this strategy means that I can get in a writing groove Monday mornings – this generally leads to a higher quality post as I’m offline, not distracted by email, Twitter and instant messaging. It also means that for the rest of the week I’m freed up to concentrate on other blogging related tasks.

Other Types of Posts

Of course I post more content on my blogs than just the pre-written and pre-scheduled posts. These are supplemented with posts during the week including:

  • breaking news
  • answering reader questions
  • linking to what others are writing
  • polls/reader discussion starters

In most cases these other posts are more time relevant posts and not the kind that you can write in advance or pre-schedule.

What is the Best Mix of Pre-Written and Timely Content?

My take on this is that it really depends upon the type of blog you’re trying to develop.

Some blogs have much more time sensitive content than others.

Examples:

Here at ProBlogger I focus mainly upon ‘how to’ content – most of which is relevant whether it is posted today, tomorrow or in a month’s time. Quite often posts will sit in my draft folder for weeks before I schedule it.

On my photography blog while the main focus of the site is ‘tips’ and ‘how to’ related content there are times of the year (when big photography shows are on and manufacturers are announcing new cameras) where we switch more into ‘news’ mode and are posting on a more timely basis.

Over at b5media many of our entertainment blogs are a lot more time sensitive. Many times our bloggers on these blogs are live blogging while TV shows are on and reporting news relevant to TV shows and the actors in them as the news is breaking.

In the end there’s no rule that fits all blogs. It will largely depend upon what you’re trying to do on your blog. If you’re breaking news, you’ll probably major on posts that are more spontaneous. If you’re producing a tutorial blog or writing opinion pieces the timing of your posts might not be quite as relevant and you’ll be more able to pre-write and schedule posts.

Speedlinking – Discount Deal, Jobs, Blogger Group, Free Reports and Interview

Time for a little speed-linking. This time there’s a deal, reports, some jobs, an interview and a new group for professional bloggers.

13 Tips for Marketing Your Business With Your Blog

While much of the content here on ProBlogger is about the ‘Business of Blogging’ I’m regularly asked to speak at conferences and receive emails from readers with questions about how Businesses can use Blogs to grow themselves – particularly in their marketing efforts.

Below are a 13 tips that I usually try to share with Businesses wanting to use blogging in their marketing mix.

business-blog-marketing.png

1. Listen First, Blog Later

Perhaps the most useful thing a company can do before they start blogging is to monitor the blogosphere. There are some wonderful tools around for listening to what bloggers are writing about your industry, your company and your products. Many of these tools are free (Google News Alerts for example). Plug in some keywords relevant to you and your industry and see what is being talked about.

You’ll also find that as you ‘listen’ that you’ll begin to learn the culture of blogging and how those in your industry are already using it. This will teach you a lot both about what is acceptable and what the etiquette is but it also could give you some clues on how to differentiate your blog from what others in your niche are doing with their blogs.

Lastly – watching and listening will help you identify key bloggers and influencers in your niche – these are people who can teach you a lot, introduce you to the niche blogging network and perhaps help you get started .

2. Know what you want to achieve

What objective of your business is your blog helping you to meet? Don’t just start a blog because it is the ‘thing to do’. Consider what channel/s of your business your blog is going to help strengthen, what goals you want to achieve with it and what it will and won’t aim to do.

You might find as you ponder this that you have quite a diverse set of goals for your blog. This can work – but you should also probably consider multiple blogs if your objectives are wide and varied. There’s nothing wrong with multiple blogs, each with their own focus and purpose.

3. Be Useful

Good blogs meet needs, solve problems and help those who read them in some way. This doesn’t mean your blog has to be full of ‘tips’ (although tips related to how to use your products could work) but you should consider who will be reading your blog and what sort of needs they’ll have.

Will they be looking for information about your company and products? Are they looking to find information on your staff members? Do they need news from your industry? Do they have specific problems that you might be able to help them solve?

While being ‘useful’ might not sound like something that will convert to sales directly it can have a profound impact upon those reading your blog and your business in the long term. Solve a problem for someone and when they next are looking to make a purchase they might just come knocking on your door. Meet a need for someone and they might just tell their network about you.

4. Be Personal and Professional

There’s no single way to build a blog and no one style to have to write them in. Ultimately it’s your blog and you can develop your own approach…. BUT…. blogs do lend themselves to a personal style of communication. Your company probably already has a more static site which conveys content in the third person – use your blog (or blogs) to do something different.

Give your company a face, voice and personal touch by writing in a more personal voice, using pictures (of the author and other staff members), by showing some of the behind the scenes of your company etc. Be Human!

Try using different mediums (video, image, audio) as well as text to show your company is not just a logo and mission statement but a place where real people are at its heart.

This doesn’t mean professionalism goes out the door – always keep in mind that everything that goes up on your blog either potentially adds value to your company or takes away from it – keep your standards high and remember that everything you publish is effectively on the web for ever (even when you delete it it’ll usually be indexed in an internet archive somewhere).

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Sell, but Don’t be too Salesy

It’s OK to use a blog to promote products or run sales oriented campaigns. I’ve seen some people argue that blogs shouldn’t be used to sell – but I think as long as you’re transparent and keep your posts useful ‘sales’ related posts can work. The key is to make the post more useful than just going with a ‘sell at all costs’ attitude.

Why not run a blog special where you offer those who read your blog a special discount that can’t be had anywhere else? Perhaps offer blog readers coupons or bonuses when they buy? If you are providing people with value they won’t mind a promotion from time to time. The key is to keep everything you do on your blog of a high value and usefulness and avoid getting into hyped spin sales talk.

6. Link, Link, Link

Many businesses are afraid to send people away from their blogs and end up being very insular. This ignores one of the key things that blogging has been built upon – the link. Blogging is a medium that has grown so quickly because traditionally people have been very generous with their links to other sites and blogs.

While this might seem a little counter-intuitive (sending people away from your blog) if you provide value to your readers by sending them to high quality and useful information they’ll thank you for it and be back for more. Helping people learn something, be entertained, make a great new connection, stay up to date with the latest news etc can grow your own profile and perceived expertise. It can also help you to make in-roads with others in your niche when you send them traffic and could lead to links coming back at you and fruitful partnerships.

7. Establish a Rhythm of Posting

A blog doesn’t need to have new content on it every day to be successful. What is just as important as lots of posts is regular posts. In my experience readers like to know that they’ll get a regular stream of content and not sudden bursts of lots of posts and then extended periods of silence.

My advice for a new blog is to aim for 2-3 posts a week when you’re starting out. In time you might be able to lift this rate to 3-4 and then move towards 4-5 in time. This way you’re not biting off more than you can chew too early and providing your readers with a steady stream of useful content.

8. Avoid Ads

If your main objective as a business starting a blog is to grow your own profile and add to your own Marketing messages then you should avoid running ads on your blog. I’ve seen a number of businesses fall for the temptation of making a few dollars by selling ads on their blog – but all this really does is distract your reader from the one company you should be advertising – yours.

At the worst end of things you could be highlighting your own competitors by running ads on your blog with a system like AdSense which allows any company to target ads on your own blog. Instead of making some loose change with advertising – develop internal banner ads for your products and services and put them at key points on your blog so drive readers to buy from you.

9. Determine your Comment Moderation Policy

One of the biggest fears of many companies getting into blogging is about what will happen in their comments section. What happens if a customer with a vendetta starts doing damage there? What if a competitor sees an opportunity to stir up trouble or promote themselves?

Different companies have different approaches to moderating comments on their blog and while some bloggers can get a little rigid with their views on this – there’s really no one single rule that should be applied to all blogs. Ultimately it’s your blog and you determine how people should interact there.

My personal preference on blogs is to keep them as easy as possible to comment upon and to allow all comments unless defamatory, spammy or containing obscene language – however your comments policy might be a little more closed than this. The key is to know what you will and won’t allow ahead of time and to make that policy available somewhere for your readers.

Also have in place a system for enforcing your policy and moderating comments. This will probably include giving a person (or a team of people) the task of regular monitoring of comments.

10. Be Interactive

Blogging is often at its best when it’s an interactive thing. Encourage comments by asking questions in post, run polls and surveys, encourage your readers with blogs to write their own posts that extend ideas in yours, run competitions, offer special discounts for readers etc.

11. Integrate Your Blog with your Website

In most cases you should think carefully about how to integrate your blog with your company’s existing website. Again there are no rules here and it’ll partly depend upon your objectives but it’d be normal to link to your blog from your main company website and link from your blog to your website. In most cases you’ll probably also want to make sure your blog is on your main company domain (yoursite.com/blog will work well in helping both areas of the site to build your SEO authority) and that design elements are consistent between areas.

12. Finding Readers by Leveraging Your Existing Profile and Network

One of the challenges facing new blogs whether they be tied to a business or not is how to get people reading them. One of the starting points in this is to think about what existing profile or network you already have developed. Most companies have customers, staff, industry associations etc that they can notify (without being spammy) of their new blog.

If your company has other places of online presence (your company site, social network profiles etc) you should also link to your blog from these. Other marketing materials such as letterhead, business cards, email signatures etc can all also help get the word out about your blog.

13. Mix it Up

If you decide just to go with one blog instead of multiple blogs for multiple channels of your company it can be worthwhile to mix up the type of content that appears on your blog. There are so many types of posts that a company could run depending upon their objectives including:

  • highlighting key staff members
  • message from the CEO
  • state of the industry posts
  • linking to breaking news in the industry
  • polls
  • announcements of new products
  • highlighting key clients/customers
  • tips on how to use products
  • FAQs
  • live blogging from industry events

The sky is the limit on both the topics of posts as well as the mediums you can use to deliver them. Keep your blog fresh by mixing them up.

What tips would you give businesses wanting to use blogs as part of their marketing mix or in some other aspect of their blogging?

5 Ways to ‘Systemize’ your Blogging

Guest Post by Nick Thacker

If you’re anything like me, you struggle with self-discipline every now and then—especially when it comes to your business. I run two businesses, and am trying to build a successful blog. My businesses, luckily, are getting to be more and more self-sustaining every day, though they constantly need work and updating to maintain their “edge.” My blog, on the other hand, has been a terrible headache for me to grow and manage.

Until I realized it, too, was a business.

I never planned to sell anything on my blog, and may never want to. I knew that other popular businesspeople, “gurus,” and professionals had started blogging, some for pleasure and some for money. For a long time, I was under the impression that these people only found their success through hard work, determination, and a bunch of luck. I assumed that starting my own blog was going to need that luck as well.

When I began writing and blogging, however, I quickly realized that the workload and planning that my blog needed resembled the time commitment my companies required in their infant stages. Recently, I began thinking of my blog as a business, and that has made all the difference.

If you are starting a blog for any reason, it will greatly benefit you to begin viewing it not just as your own personal journal, but a living, growing business. Businesses need nurture, dedication, and planning, and one of the best ways to grow a business and “make your own luck,” is to look for ways to “systemize” it. Here are five great ways to begin systemizing your own blog to take advantage of processes, time management, and growth control:

1. Post schedule

There are already numerous articles on ProBlogger.net that discuss ways to schedule your posting frequency, but understand the importance a set schedule can have, psychologically. By writing out a physical schedule, I’ve been able to maintain a steady stream of fresh content for my own blog, and having the schedule on my desk has provided a great deal of “accountability” for me—if I miss a post day, my calendar will be there to remind me! A post calendar or schedule is also a great place to manage post topics and ideas, as is the Post Ideas WordPress widget.

2. Daily schedule

Going hand-in-hand with the first tip, planning out the time you spend in front of your computer can pay huge dividends in the long run. Before I had a plan, I would sporadically check email, write a bit, browse the web, read favorite blogs, and a plethora of other things. Now, I sit down around midnight every day (I’m a night owl) and spend 15-20 minutes checking emails. I spend about half an hour checking my RSS reader and commenting on insightful posts, and then work for about two hours on client work. For a break, I write—sometimes a blog post, sometimes just a rant. I finish up any client work, and then I spend about 1-2 hours researching and writing a post for my blog. This schedule is not perfect, but it keeps me active and ensures that whenever I’m working, I’m in “the zone” and not bouncing back and forth between numerous tasks.

3. Communication filtering

Part of promoting a blog, as you know, is reaching out to fellow bloggers and authors and becoming an active part of their communities. Commenting, posting on forums, and emailing are great ways to do this, but you can get carried away “following up” in so many different capacities that you forget to “follow through.” I used to comment on blogs and forums so often that I wouldn’t remember where I’d commented, and my efforts would go to waste. Eventually, I decided to set up a “system” for my communications to keep me in line. For example: whenever I comment on a blog or forum topic, I immediately drag the page to a bookmarks folder called “Threads.” At the beginning of my workday (night), I click “Open all in tabs” to see what changes, if any, have taken place on the sites. In addition, I always subscribe to “comment updates,” if available, to ensure that I’m contacted immediately after someone else has left a comment or post.

4. Staying in the game

I mentioned earlier the importance for my businesses to maintain their “edge,” and now my blog (about entrepreneurship in college) needs to be on top of current events and trending topics in my arena of business. Being a professional in your own industry may be enough for you to stay aware of what’s going on in your community, but if you want a little extra support, consider using services like Google Alerts and Twitter “hashtags.” Another great way to stay ahead of the curve is to become active in popular social media communities (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). While being able to drive referral traffic to your blog, being a Web 2.0 socialite has the added benefit of letting you build these social systems into your blogging schedule (dedicate a specific amount of time to developing relationships, communities, and followers every day).

5. Building habits

My schedule is not ideal for many people, but remember—I’m not married, not (currently) taking classes, and don’t have a day job. I maintain a midnight-7am schedule for blogging because that’s when I’m able to focus without being distracted—no matter what. I may be able to work undisturbed during the day every once in a while, but by choosing a time to work that is consistent has led to my building a habit around this time. My body now knows at midnight that it’s time to focus, crack down, and produce. Habits are a great “system” to have in place because they can help force efficiency and effectiveness in everything. Get in the habit of writing at least once a day, and start building good habits around your blogging “business” as soon as possible.

The ultimate goal of systematization is not necessarily automation—though when executed deliberately and correctly, automation can be a welcome hand in your business’ operation. By systemizing your blog, you are able to begin working “on” your blog, not “in” your blog—to borrow from a popular business expression. Sure, you need to provide great, original content, but understand that there’s more to blogging than what you type (unless, of course, the blog is for your eyes only!)

Systemize whatever processes you can that will free your mind and time for “business building” tasks, and you’ll find that your writing quality will actually improve rather than suffer!

I hope I’ve started the ball rolling for you to begin examining your current habits and systems, and I hope you’ll consider working out your own “systems” for maximizing your effectiveness blogging. If you have any thoughts or advice I’ve left out—please comment to let us all know!

How to Build Credibility as a Young Blogger/Entrepreneur

Aditya.jpgThis post was written by Aditya Mahesh, founder of AMBeat.com, a complete resource for entrepreneurs complete with advice articles, start-up profiles, interviews, news analysis, and more. Note: I (Darren) have added a few thoughts below Aditya’s post.

When it comes to the blogosphere it may be all about the content, but when it comes to content, credibility is king. Credibility can make or break a blog. Take a look at the successful blogs out there; TechCrunch, ProBlogger, Shoemoney, Huffington Post, Mashable, and the list goes on. What do all these blogs have in common? They are written by credible sources people trust as experts in their niche.

Building credibility is a crucial part of any business or blog. It is a process that requires tireless effort and can take months or years to build. In my opinion, your credibility is by far the greatest asset you have as a blogger, regardless of your monthly page views, RSS subscriber count, or even ad revenues.

While building credibility is difficult for anyone, it is especially difficult for young entrepreneurs who may still be completing college or even high school. Society seems to have this misconception that credibility and wisdom come with age and the older one is the more credible they are. Young entrepreneurs and bloggers definitely have to work harder to build their credibility, but speaking as the founder of a successful public relations firm I started as a freshman in high school at the age of 14, it is by no stretch of the imagination impossible for student entrepreneurs to brand themselves as credible resources.

Here are a four ways I built up my credibility:

1. Always Provide Quality

The best thing you can do regardless of age to build credibility is to always deliver a quality product. When I ran my public relations firm I did the best job possible for all clients. Hence, they provided my service with positive reviews and recommended me to their peers. This word-of-mouth marketing was crucial to the success of the firm. In the blogosphere, focus on the quality of your posts and the content you provide. Over time, if you consistently provide quality output, no one will care how old you are.

2. Associate yourself with Industry Leaders

One of the best ways to build credibility is to associate yourself with leaders in your industry. In the blogosphere this can be done through guest posts on larger blogs, inviting industry leaders to exclusive interviews on your blogs, and networking at industry events. While these leaders may be hesitant to work with young entrepreneurs at first, if you showcase the skills you possess, either by writing a quality guest post or asking for an interview with fresh unique questions, any doubts over age will disappear. In addition, this is a great way to build a network of mentors. Everyone likes it when someone else looks up to them. I have used my age to build a network of mentors for my personal success and my blogs.

3. Use your Age to your Advantage

While there are a decent amount of young entrepreneurs, your age still makes you unique and you can use this to your advantage. How many times have you seen large Tier-1 newspapers or magazine such as the New York Times, Business Week, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc Magazine, Fast Company, and countless others feature pieces on young entrepreneurs? Business Week’s 25 under 25 which showcases 25 successful entrepreneur sunder the age of 25 or Inc’s 30 Under 30 which does the same for 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30. When you pitch your business or blog to Tier 1 media for news coverage, your age makes your pitch unique and increases the chances of someone picking up the story.

Getting coverage in Tier 1 media is one of the best ways to become a credible source and using your age as a differentiation point can help you get coverage.

4. Lead you Peers

One of the most effective ways I have built up my credibility is to work in leadership positions with my peers and make them loyal followers of my blog or business. I am currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley and am teaching a course on entrepreneurship to other Berkeley undergraduates.

Teaching this course has helped me garner the attention of students on campus, entrepreneurs in the Berkeley community, and media outlets all which help my credibility as a blogger and entrepreneur.

In addition I am using promoting content from my blog in the course in effect building up a devoted reader base in my students.

Final Words

Overall, building credibility does not happen overnight. It will take a lot of time and dedication. If you are a young entrepreneur it can be especially difficult. However, if you follow the tips above it should put you on the right path to branding yourself as a credible resource.

A Note from Darren: I think that Aditya is right on the money with his advice here. I’ve watched a number of young bloggers do quite well for themselves over the years by taking the above approach. To reiterate what Aditya has said:

1. Quality Matters – if you help someone or provide them with something that enhances their lives in some way then you’ll win respect with most people no matter what your situation is.

2. Associate with Industry Leaders – I think this one is particularly useful. It might take a little time to get on their radar but if you can position yourself near and even get endorsement and support from them you will not only learn a lot but others will take note. I’ve seen a number of young bloggers break into their niches by doing this.

3. Use Your Age to Your Advantage – don’t just do this in main stream media – if you’re young and pitching other blogs with guest posts, take the ‘young person’s view’ or the ‘a 15 year olds advice on….’ type approach with your articles. Again – this is something that I’ve seen get young bloggers standing out form the crowd.

4. Leading Your Peers – another useful point. Become an industry leader in your own peer group and in time as you all grow older you’ll still be positioned as one.

My last two pieces of advice are:

A) to persist and not get bogged down by those who look down on you because you’re young. You will find that some people will be reluctant to put their trust in you because you’re young. Don’t get bogged down in this or let it slow you down – move on, keep being useful and building what you’ve set out to build.

B) to have youthful exuberance and enthusiasm but to lose the youthful arrogance – by no means do all young people suffer with this problem but I have vivid memories of a few that do. Yes you’re young, yes you may know what you’re talking about – but don’t feel that if someone says ‘no’ to you that they’re doing it just because you’re young – other factors could be at play. By all means be enthusiastic and follow your dreams – but keep in mind that humility counts for a lot and those ‘older folk’ around you might actually know a thing or two that you’re yet to discover. There’s a fine line somewhere there – try to find it and walk on it!

How to Improve Your Blog When You Have No Internet Access

internetdown.jpgHere I am – sitting in my local cafe where I’d come to spend the morning working on my blog using my mobile broadband modem…. which today decides not to work.

Arrrghhh!

I spent 15 minutes trying to connect…. 5 minutes complaining about it on Twitter…. another 10 minutes trying to get it working…. 3 minutes grumbling to the waitress….

And then I decided that I had better do something productive.

But what can you do to improve your blog when you don’t have internet access? Here’s a few ideas:

  1. Brainstorm Post Ideas – one of the things I enjoy doing in these moments is coming up with ideas for new posts. I usually do it with a little mind mapping on a notebook that I usually have with me.
  2. Design an Editorial Calendar – Once you have your list of possible ideas to write posts about – slot some of the best ones into a calendar for your next week (or month) of posting. Add to it some other tasks that you want to achieve in the coming days and weeks (promotional activities etc).
  3. Write Posts – while it can be handy to have access to the web while writing posts to help you with research writing posts while offline forces you to have more original thoughts and not rely upon things you’ve previously written or the ideas of others. I particularly find setting myself the challenge to start writing a ‘series’ of posts a good idea in times where I know I’ll be without internet for an extended period of time.
  4. Strategic Thinking and Review – spend some time doing a little strategic thinking about your blog. How has it been going? Who’s been reading it lately? What types of reactions are you getting from readers? How are your energy levels as a blogger? What opportunities are their in your niche at present? Don’t just ‘review’ and ‘reflect’ – as part of this construct a ‘to do list’ of things you need to achieve once you get back online.
  5. Write a Guest Post – guest posting on someone else’s blog in your niche is a great way to grow your profile and find new readers. So take some time out while you’re offline to write a post for someone else’s blog. Alternatively write a helpful tutorial or opinion piece for a forum in your niche so you can post it when you’re back online.
  6. Clear your Inbox – depending upon your email system you may be able to spend some time clearing up your inbox. I use Gmail and can work in offline mode get a lot done in that mode.
  7. Write a ‘Report’ for your Readers – why not take a little time to write some kind of a free report or bonus article for your readers. One great way to incentivize people to signup for your RSS feed or newsletter is to give them something for free for doing so. Choose a topic that you get a lot of questions about or that is a good beginner topic in your niche and write an extended and helpful article on the topic. Put it into a pdf so when you can get back online you can add it to your blog.
  8. Record a Podcast or Video – one of the main reasons that people resist creating video or podcasts for their blogs is a lack of time. Recording or editing these kinds of media can take time and effort. So now that you’ve got some time on your hands get going, video and audio can add new depth to your blog and add a personal touch.
  9. Come Up with Poll Topics – coming up with new polls are another thing that I find myself putting off on my blog. I’m not sure why but it’s a task that often slips my mind or that I struggle with coming up with questions for. Put aside 15 minutes and come up with as many questions for future polls as you can. Save them somewhere so you’ll have a ready supply over the coming weeks and months.
  10. Design a Competition – Competitions are a great way of creating buzz on and around your blog. They can deepen reader engagement and help find new readers for your blog – but they take time to come up with. Take some time to plan one for your blog. It need not be a big one with a massive prize, even a simple competition with a cheap prize and a low requirement for entry (like leaving a comment on a post) can work well.
  11. Write up some Interview Questions – interviewing someone in your niche is something that takes a fair bit of work – spend some time identifying someone that you’d like to interview on your blog and construct a list of questions that you’d ask them.
  12. Take a Break – perhaps the universe is trying to tell you something by conspiring to bring your internet down. Why not go with the offline thing and go for a walk, play with your kids, take your better half out for a coffee, have a sleep, read a book….. your blog will still be there when your internet is working again.

Of course the above activities can all be done whether you have internet access or not – however many of them are things we put off for ‘one day’ and never get around to.

While having your internet go down can be frustrating – the key is to snap yourself out of the frustration and to do something productive and worthwhile with the time. Don’t just sit there trying to connect for hour after hour – get something done.

What activities do you do when you don’t have access to the internet?

PS: My internet is still down but I’ve managed to be productive. I’ve written 3 posts (including this one), planned 4 more, edited a post from one of my writers on DPS, answered 30 or so emails and am now going for a walk.

PS2: Spookily, just as I was about to shutdown my computer…. the internet came back!

Run a Town Hall Meeting on Your Blog and Increase Reader Engagement

Town_Hall.jpgHere’s a quick tip that I think a lot of bloggers could learn from – run a ‘town hall’ meeting on your blog.

The inspiration from this comes from Digg who are periodically run a ‘Town Hall’ webcast for their members.

The idea is simple – Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson from Digg periodically do a webcast for their members that gives information on the latest news at Digg as well as answering questions from their members. They’ve been running these on a quarterly basis at Digg for over a year now – you can see them all here.

OK – so what’s this got to do with your blog?

Here’s the thing – while Digg are obviously a lot bigger than your average blog and they have more resources to throw at creating these types of Town Hall webcasts – I think bloggers can learn from the idea.

While I’ve never used the term ‘town hall’ meeting on my blogs I have periodically done similar types of things for readers where I product updates on how the blogs are going, talk about new directions and take questions.

Benefits of Town Hall Type Meetings with Blog Readers

What I’ve found is that when you communicate these types of things it can have a real impact upon your reader community in a variety of ways:

  • Reader Morale – every time I do this type of exercise I see signs of reader morale lifting.
  • Reader Involvement – perhaps tied to the morale of your readers is that when you communicate with them about how your blog is going I’ve noticed that they often will get more involved with it.
  • Gives Your Blog a ‘Face’ – one of the main benefits that I’ve noticed about these sorts of sessions when I’ve done them on video using Ustream is that it gives your blog a more personal edge. Readers get to see and hear what you’re like and come away feeling a different kind of connection than they get just reading your content.
  • Clearing up Misconceptions – giving readers a chance to tell you what they think of your blog and to listen to your response can help clear up misconceptions that they might have about you or your site.
  • Reader Involvement – getting readers involved in your blog in any way (even if it’s just asking a question or watching a video/web cast) means that they’re investing something of themselves into your blog. What comes out of these interactions can be all kinds of great ideas that they can give you – not to mention the things you might ask them to DO in promoting your community to their own network.
  • Readers Using Your Blog Better – these sorts of ‘town hall’ meetings give you an opportunity to point out features of your blog that readers might not be aware of to help them to use it better. For example, pointing out the social media bookmarking buttons on your blog, explaining how to subscribe via RSS, showing off a newsletter you produce – all of these things can deepen reader engagement/satisfaction and help you grow your blog.

While not all of your readers will be interested on the behind the scenes goings on of your blog – some will.

How do you run a TownHall meeting?

There will be many variations on doing this type of thing and I encourage bloggers to find a medium and method that works best for them. Some that come straight to mind include:

  • Live Video Web Cast – a live video streaming session like the guys at Digg do. They have a pretty professional set up that will be beyond most of us but it’s pretty easy to set up a video streaming session with a site like Ustream – then all you need to do is publicize it.
  • Recorded Video Session – feeling nervous about a live call? Why not ask readers to submit questions ahead of time and then record your answers on video at your own time. Edit it up and put the video on YouTube (or your favorite video hosting site) and embed it on your blog.
  • Live or Recorded Audio Sessions – the same two things can be done via audio. This is perhaps a little more accessible for your audience if they don’t have bandwidth for video – or is good for those who don’t like to see themselves on camera.
  • Q&A Posts – a simpler option is to call for questions in a blog post and then to write another one with your answers.
  • Chat Sessions – I know a few bloggers who have weekly times that they tell their readers they’ll be in a chat room attached to their blog. These sessions are for general chat but often have a Q&A section where readers ask about the topic of the blog as well as questions about the site.

Have you ever run a town hall type meeting for the readers of your blog? How did you do it? What were the challenges and benefits?

How To Land Big Interviews When Your Blog Is Still Small

A Guest post by Josh Hanagarne – World’s Strongest Librarian

interviews.jpgIn this article I outline:

  • Why I was scared to ask for big interviews
  • How I got over the fear
  • The results of my efforts, which I couldn’t be happier with

Seven weeks ago, my blog was one day old and I was staring at the keyboard thinking “Oh man…what now?” World’s Strongest Librarian was live on the web and I was faced with the same blank screen and choices every blogger faces when it’s writing time.

I started plugging away, reading Problogger and gaining momentum. A much bigger blog noticed me and I accepted an offer to be mentored by someone who had achieved what I wanted to in my own niche.

I followed his advice and all was well—until I ran into some advice that scared me.

“Interviews can be a great source of traffic. Do some.”

I believed it, but you have to be an established expert to get someone’s attention. Everyone knows that. Right?

Wrong

Questions to ask yourself if you are scared to ask for interviews

  • What exactly am I afraid of?
  • What if they say no?
  • What is the worst case scenario?

What am I afraid of?

In discussions with bloggers, the following reasons pop up frequently:

  • My material isn’t good enough yet and they’ll say no
  • I don’t have enough traffic yet and they’ll say no
  • They’ll say no…

For your own sanity, choose to believe this right now, today: 1) It’s never going to be the perfect time so stop wringing your hands; 2) Assume they’ll say yes.

What if they say no?

What if they do? Go on like before. Focus on what is working.

What is the worst case scenario if you are rejected?

Will your bed wash out to sea in the night? Will your family be sucked into a black hole? Will Google delete your blog and put you on their list of losers who got turned down for interviews by big names?

NO!

Life goes on. If your blog is progressing, you’ve lost nothing.

That’s one of the great things about cyberspace: I handle rejections by email much better than in person. I’d rather delete an email that says “No thanks” than have someone look me in the eye and shake their head. Then you have to gracefully avoid sobbing and getting defensive while you stumble out of their office.

My interview project

Last week I decided to compile an e-book of strength-related interviews for release later this year. The book spans many fitness disciplines: the goal is to interview people who are champions in their own niche while simultaneously showing that we all train for similar reasons, no matter how different the methods.

But who? Who to interview? I ignored my racing heart, opened a Google document, and made a list. Five minutes later I was looking at that list thinking: “You fool. Who do you think you are?”

The list included the following names and target areas

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (foreword for the book)
  • Dave Draper:bodybuilder, former Mr. Universe)
  • Peter Nestler: 7 time Jump rope champion
  • Dennis Rogers: grandmaster strongman
  • Jim Smith: Strength coach extraordinaire, founder of the Diesel Crew
  • Jedd Johnson: American grip strength champion
  • Dance Dance Revolution champion
  • Pull-up world record holder
  • Dan John: Track and field God, prolific strength coach and author, kettlebell expert
  • Various parkour aces
  • Winner of the Great Divide Bicycle Race
  • Mike Tyson: former boxing champion
  • Randy Couture: former UFC heavyweight champion
  • An upcoming trapeze artist I admire

The list went on and on. I sat there quivering, trying not to have a seizure.

But I had committed to this one thing: I will not shoot small…yet

That was four days ago.

Results to date, surprising connections

Yesterday I got an email back from Laree Draper, Dave Draper’s wife. Dan John and some other experts are going to be in Salt Lake City this very weekend. She invited me to come to dinner with them all and committed them all to interviews.

Assuming they are as willing as she says, I will knock several interviews off my list. I also get to go work out with these guys and pick their brains. Remember this point.

Peter Nestler and Jim Smith committed later that day. Dave Draper committed this morning. Jedd Johnson should later today.

Peter Nestler is a friend of Dennis Rogers (I had no idea). That may open doors.

When I opened that invitation from Laree, I screamed out loud in my office. I’m not sorry. It was worth screaming about.

Why I believe this has worked so far

  • I am a genuine fan of the people I’ve contacted. I aspire to the results they’ve achieved and can gush sincerely. Every email was a fan letter.

Here is one of the emails I sent: (I’ve taken the names out because I want to maintain surprise later)

Hi Mr_____. Thanks for taking the time to read a brief message from a fan.
I’m sure you’re even busier than I think you are. This means a lot to me.

My name is Josh Hanagarne. I’m a librarian in Salt Lake City, UT. I write
a humble little blog called World’s Strongest Librarian, focusing on
kettlebells and knowledge.

I’ve partnered with______, a massive strength website, to
create an e-book of brief interviews with various strength experts and
champions. Currently I have completed interviews with a prominent old-time
strongman and an upcoming Trapeze artist.

I would be honored to add your expertise as a ____ ace to the mix. If
you are interested, here’s how it could work:

Interviews will be between 1-10 questions. You can choose how much or
little you want to share.

Interviews can take place by phone or email, whichever you prefer.

Questions to ask in the interviews will be chosen from fans of World’s
Strongest Librarian on Twitter. You could of course add any questions
you like, and I will add my own if the fan’s questions do not cover everything beneficial.

If all goes well, the e-book will be released in December across a variety
of sites. This will be a great chance to get valuable strength and fitness
information out there to hundreds of thousands of readers.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. If you
can’t participate for any reason, I would be very grateful if you could
suggest anyone else in your field I might contact–but I asked you first. I
only want the best:)

I personalized each email to fit the person.

The email contains:

  • No false flattery
  • Humility, but not begging—it says “I’m confident and my project is going to happen one way or another”
  • Tasteful name dropping
  • It obviously is not a message begging for links

Lessons and suggestions

  • Find a mentor. A little encouragement goes a long way. Whether you’re writing about making money, sewing quilts, or starting the first underwater manatee rodeo, somebody knows more than you and can guide you.
  • Fight that fear. Remember: the worst case scenario is not terrible
  • Have someone proofread your interview requests
  • Be a fan! If you’re sincerely interested and not motivated by links/gain/popularity, it shows.
  • Treat it like a game. This stuff is fun.
  • While you’re waiting for a response, get some work done.

No reward without risk

I’ll admit it—I was nervous to even pitch this post to Darren. I don’t feel especially worthy to be writing for you all. Yet, here we are, on Problogger. This is the purest distillation of the 80/20 principle in action.

Maybe I don’t have any business being here. It doesn’t matter what I think about this. If someone agrees to let you ride their coattails for a while, don’t argue with them. Don’t second guess yourself. Just enjoy it and thank them profusely.

Did I worry about how I would feel if Darren rejected me? Of course. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

Just ask.

PS: as the experiment unfolds, I’ll provide more updates assuming I stay in Grandmaster. Rowse’s good graces.

Good luck!

You can visit Josh Hanagarne at World’s Strongest Librarian, flailing away at the universe, one post at a time. The as yet e-book mentioned in this article will be released later this year as a partnership between World’s Strongest Librarian and Straight To The Bar.