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Blogosphere Trends – What Are Bloggers Writing About This Week

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

What were bloggers writing about last week? We used Regator’s trending topics to generate a top ten list that shows you exactly that (click any trend to see posts on that story). In the first installment of this column, we looked at how a few bloggers had used unique approaches to cover the week’s hot topics in ways that added to the conversation and created more interesting, worthwhile content.

This week, I was inspired by Darren’s recent post “Here’s What You Should Do to Improve Your Blog Today.” In it, he suggests that you “identify a reader’s problem (or that of a potential reader) and produce a post that will solve it.” (ProBlogger’s The 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook also focuses on this topic on day 16.) Another way of putting it would be to fulfill a need or want that your readers have. So in addition to the trending topics for the week, we’ll also take a look at how a few specific posts covered these stories while simultaneously solving a problem for their readers. If you’ve written a post on one of this week’s trends that fulfilled a need for your readers, please share it in the comments.

  1. Justice John Paul Stevens – Darren presents the problems to be solved as statements such as “I am bored,” “I want to improve…” or “I need a review of…” In this case, a reader might say, “I want to share my opinion on something I feel strongly about.” And Slate‘s Jurisprudence blog post “Who Should Replace Justice Stevens?” gives them the opportunity to do so in addition to providing opinions, speculation, and commentary from a variety of legal professionals. (Comedy Central’s Indecision Blog filled my need for humor with the headline “Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Forces Lazy Indecision Blogger to Come Up With Second Angle on Retirement in One Day.”)
  2. Tiger Woods – “I’d like to advance my career.” This is a common desire but not one you’d expect Tiger Woods to be able to help with. Above the Law managed to find a way with its post “Is There a Tiger Woods Effect in Law Firms?”
  3. iPhone OS/Steve Jobs/Apple iPad – The blogosphere has Apple fever! I’m grouping these three related terms (all of which appeared in this week’s top ten) together to avoid Apple overload. The most common reader need when it comes to new gadgets is “I want a review of…” or “I want advice about buying…” In the case of the iPad, Business Insider fulfills the second need by answering the question “Should You Wait for iPad 2.0?” in a thoughtful video post.
  4. Star Wars – Sometimes your readers’ wants might be as simple as “I want the latest news about…” or “I want to have interesting tidbits to drop into cocktail party discussions.” For this, Cinematical’s post “Will ‘Star Wars’ Work as a TV Comedy?” is ideal. Like the Justice Stevens post above, it allows readers to express their opinions on something.
  5. Polish President Lech Kaczynski – After a tragic event such as this week’s plane crash, there is a desire to provide as much information as possible but other reactions might be “I don’t want to feel alone” or “I want to know how others are feeling.” The post “Poland: R.I.P. Black Saturday” from GlobalVoices solves these problems by gathering a wide range of feedback, emotional reactions, and opinions from Facebook, Twitter, news sources, forums, and blogs.
  6. Net Neutrality – Complex issues such as these often leave readers thinking, “I want to know what effects this will have on my life.” WSJ blog Digits solves this problem with “Winners and Losers in the Net-Neutrality Ruling.”
  7. Easter – “I want to find a new/better way to…” Finish this sentence with something you know the readers in your niche are interested in, then write a great post about it. That’s what Serious Eats did in their beautifully presented and very useful post “How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally, Without a Store-Bought Kit.”
  8. Malcolm McLaren – When a well-known individual passes away, many react with, “I want to remember…” Rolling Stone‘s Rock&RollDaily blog solved this problem by providing videos of punk icon Malcolm McLaren’s most notable work in “Flashback: Remembering Malcolm McLaren, The Musician.” Posts that solve the “I want to remember…” problem can work in other circumstances as well. Don’t underestimate the draw of nostalgia when considering posts that look back on a time period, individual’s career, or trend.
  9. Upper Big Branch – After tragedy, people often respond with “I want to understand why this happened.” BoingBoing‘s “Of Coal Mines and Methane” and Footnoted.org‘s “Few Hints of Trouble in Massey Energy’s Filings” take two very different approaches to solving the “I want to understand…” problem.
  10. Oprah Winfrey – “I want to be in the know” is one of our readers’ most common desires. They come to you each day (or week) to stay informed. The Frisky‘s “What We Know About The Oprah Winfrey Network So Far” condenses the basic information on the story into a quick-to-scan bulleted list, filling its readers’ need to be quickly informed.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

Do You Plan Your Blog Posts?

Time for a little reader discussion – this one inspired by a Tweet by @JessVanDen who asked:

“do you have a regular posting structure, or just post things as you think of them/find them. i.e. regular features or not?”

I’d like to widen the topic slightly and see if readers do any kind of planning of blog posts ahead of time – or whether they just blog as they sit down each day to blog?

My Answer – I try to do a bit of both each week – I look at the week ahead most Mondays and put together a bit of a plan of attack for the week – but I also tend to swap things around during the week as inspiration hits. Sometimes I’ll add extra posts into the schedule and on other occasions I might swap the plan around and post things in a different order.

What about you – do you plan your blog posts ahead of time?

How to Choose a Niche to Blog About [and Other Blog Tips]

At ‘South by South West’ this year I had the pleasure of catching up with Web Pro New’s Abby Johnson (who everyone I talked to at SXSW agrees is one of the nicest people going around).

Abby and I chatted for 5 or so minutes on a range of topics to do with making money blogging – in particular we talked about choosing a good niche to blog about.

Read more on how to choose a niche to blog about.

Here’s What You Should Do to Improve Your Blog Today

Earlier in the week I was asked this question – what is one thing that I can do tomorrow morning when I sit down at my desk that will improve my blog?

My answer was this:

Identify a reader’s problem (or that of a potential reader) and produce a post that will solve it.

I’ve covered some of how to identify readers problems in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook (day 16) but this has been such an important part of my own blogging that I want to emphasise it again here.

Ultimately if you are solving someone’s problem you’re doing something that creates an impression and when you do that you do a number of things including:

  • increasing the chances that they’ll come back and become a loyal reader
  • increasing their trust in you – which helps build authority, credibility and influence
  • increasing the chances that they’ll tell someone else about you

I attempt to solve problems for readers on two main levels

Big Picture – What Problem is your BLOG solving?

I find it helpful to have a ‘big’ and overarching problem in mind as I start and then develop a blog. It helps keep me on track and is great for attracting new readers if you communicate it well.

For me on my photography blog the problem that I’m attempting to solve is that most people who own a camera are not using it to its potential. They take pictures that could be improve greatly with a little knowledge and so I want to give them more control over their cameras.

Small Picture – What Problem is your new POST solving?

With your big picture problem in mind you can now begin to break it down into smaller and more specific problems that your readers may have.

For me this means tackling problems like – taking blurry photos, not knowing how to take a decent social media profile picture, not knowing which DSLR to buy and not knowing the basic settings that most cameras have.

Some of these problems are more basic, common and general while others are more specific or advanced – but they all aim to help those who face the problems leave the blog better informed and equipped to solve the problem.

Ultimately this is all about being Useful. Of course being useful takes many forms and the problems that your readers might have could include a large list of things including some like:

  • “I’m bored”
  • “I want the latest news about….”
  • “I want to learn how to….”
  • “I want a laugh”
  • “I am lonely”
  • “I want to improve….”
  • “I need a review of….”
  • “I need advice about….”
  • “I think I’m the only one with the problem of….”

The list goes on and on.

Here’s what to do Today

If you’re looking to improve your blog and you have a few minutes right now – start making a list of the types of problems your readers (or potential readers) have. (if you need help on identifying these problems check out the 31DBBB workbook (day 16) if you have a copy).

Once you’ve got your list of problems – select one and produce something (a blog post, a video, a podcast, a PDF report or even a tweet if its a small problem) and publish it.

The Day I Was Flamed At My Blog (And 7 Steps To Handle Flames With Grace)

A Guest Post by Celestine Chua from The Personal Excellence Blog.

It’s been over a year since I started The Personal Excellence Blog. As my blog grew, I received many feedback, many of which are positive. Occasionally I get negative feedback which I do my best to learn from. Flames are a rare occurrence and even then, they are usually short and unsubstantial.

That changed 3 weeks ago, when I received a flame the length of an essay. It was a reply to my latest 5-part article series on moving on from relationships, sharing my story of how I moved on from a heartbreak and how others can do the same too.

The anonymous commenter described my series as “incredibly self-centered and biased”. She had somehow concluded from the articles that I was “ridiculous”, “delusional”, was pursuing personal development with “superficiality”, among other points.

After reading it, I was filled with bewilderment. The comment bordered more as an attack than constructive criticism.

How I Handled the Flame & Why You Shouldn’t Act Like I Did

Even though the comment wasn’t entirely constructive, I approved it as I wanted to be transparent with the different comments my blog was getting. I thought there were interesting points worth sharing. Some readers replied. One reader wrote a comment which I thought was pretty constructive.

To be honest, at this stage I didn’t feel negative or angry at the flamer. Overall, I thought most of her points were irrelevant, some were out of the line, a couple were interesting and worth thinking more deeply about, but nothing that would make me angry.

My sentiments quickly changed when the flamer posted a 2nd comment – this time, a curt reply to one of my readers. I got annoyed. What was that for? It was okay if she wanted to flame me for whatever reasons, but to extend it to a reader who was trying to be constructive?

Ticked off, I replied to the flamer with a reply that started off neutral but ended off quite defensive and pissed. I remember it was 3am when I was writing the reply to the flamer, and I had an interview scheduled for 4:30am (I live in Singapore, whereas the interviewer was 13 hours ahead). It didn’t help that I had a particularly hectic week then. Earlier in the week, I slept only a total of 5 hours over 4 days, preparing for a workshop at my personal excellence school. I was not in my best state of mind. This was where things went wrong.

Repercussions

I thought that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t. The flamer replied with a third comment that was the length of an essay. It was equally aggressive as her first comment, if not more.

On top of that, a lurking reader now joined in the discussion. She questioned my defensiveness in my reply and my approach in handling criticisms. Not only that, she also raised questions separate from the article and the flames. She asked about my intentions behind my endeavor and what I was trying to achieve. She also questioned the validity of my credentials and achievements in my About section.

To be honest with you, I felt quite depressed after reading the comment. Fighting off flames was one, but to have a reader doubt my intentions and credibility was like questioning the very values I stood for. One of my values is authenticity (truth) and I’ve always took pride in being upfront in all my communications. Many things I do at my blog are for my readers and it was upsetting to be questioned about my intentions.

In retrospect, it was more of all the different real life and online events that had culminated together and weighed me down, rather than just the comment itself. As her concerns were more specific to her rather than general reader concerns, I wanted to email her directly. However, she didn’t leave her real email. I thought whether to ignore the comment or reply.

In the end, I thought if this reader has this concern, it’s possible there would be others with similar thoughts. I chose to reply and take the opportunity to remedy the situation.

Remedying the situation

Since the flamer’s follow-up reply had the same hostile tone and aggression, I did not approve it. It was clear she was not here to constructively discuss, so I disengaged from further discussion.

With regards to the reader, I thought over my reply to the flamer and recognized it was indeed defensive. I wrote a long follow-up reply to the reader’s comment, also addressed it to my readers. In my comment,

  • I acknowledged I was harsh with the flamer and apologized to those who may have been taken aback by it. I explained the reason for my defensiveness so others could understand why I acted the way I did.
  • I wrote detailed responses to the reader’s concerns, regarding my intentions behind my endeavor.
  • I provided detailed proof for my credentials and achievements.
  • In the whole reply, I wrote it with heartfelt intentions, with the hope that it would be received in the same manner.

After writing this, I felt lighter, like a burden was lifted off me. While before I was wondering whether to reply or not, after writing it I immediately felt it was the right decision. Explaining the situation earnestly helped to clear the air and any possible concerns lurking in readers’ minds. Later on, I received positive feedback from my readers later for the reply.

From this episode, I’ve learned 7 key steps on how to handle flamers which I want to share with you. These will be critical in your blogging journey, especially if you run a prominent blog or if you plan to really grow your blog :

7 Key Steps To Handle Flamers With Grace

1. Keep your cool

When you receive a flame, you’re probably itching to fire up and give the flamer a good lashing out. While you might not think twice about being defensive elsewhere, the situation is different here since you are the blog owner. People are going to look towards you to conduct yourself appropriately and in a manner consistent with how you normally present yourself at your blog.

Even though your readers and you have not met in person before, many of them form mental images of you and conclude they know you based on what you share. You probably have good reasons to be defensive, but they wouldn’t know since they don’t know the complete picture.

For example, how would you feel if the normally composed Darren lashes out violently to a flamer at Problogger? You’d be thinking “What happened to Darren?! Is this the Darren I know?” This was what happened at my blog. I am normally calm, reflective, positive and upbeat, but in my reply to the flamer, I was angry and defensive. This probably surprised some readers.

Furthermore, defensiveness prevents you from thinking coherently. You might end up saying things or doing things you regret later on, like what happened in my case. Not only that, you will be trapped in the defensive stance as you keep defending yourself from whoever replies. Defensiveness is like a trap that locks you in further every step of the way.

Be the bigger person and keep your cool. Go air your head if you feel you are bogged down by this. Take a walk, do some other work, watch a movie and come back to it later. You need to be clear headed to proceed to the next step.

2. Assess the flame objectively

Whatever the flame is, it didn’t erupt out of nowhere. Take an objective stance as you read the flame. Is there any nugget of truth behind what was written? Any points worth noting? Anything worth looking into?

For every one person who has such concerns, it’s possible there are more out there. The flamer may not have presented himself/herself appropriately, but don’t let that fault the message he/she is trying to convey. Read the flame and cross examine yourself. I did that with the flame I received and took away some learning points. In comparison, if I kept thinking this person was just out to get me, I wouldn’t be able to take away anything.

One tip that helps me maintain objectivity is to get opinions from friends. More heads is always better than one. Since they are your friends, they might be inclined to react in your favor, so let them know that you want to improve and you just want their honest, objective opinions.

Some questions you can ask:

  • Is this person being unreasonable?
  • What do you think is his/her concern?
  • Is there any validity behind the comment?

3. Decide if you want to deal with the flame

It’s up to you to decide how you want to handle this. I’m open to different views and opinions, hence I approved the 1st flame. If you find there are notable points in the flamer’s comment and the flamer isn’t being too out of the line, I recommend to share with your readers. It’s always good to hear an alternate point of view. People prefer blogs over traditional news channels because the former offers a fresh perspective while the latter is usually censored and one sided. You don’t want to turn your blog into a censored information stream.

4. Reply fairly if you decide to approve the flame

As I was writing this guest post, I asked my readers on my Twitter and Facebook to share how they would respond to flames, and had many interesting replies. Some of them are:

Make it clear that everyone’s opinions will be heard, but anger and hate will be disallowed. – Ravi

Your blog is your domain. Treat it like it’s yours. Be polite in your response to the flame, but be stern. Show other commenters that you can keep your cool under pressure, but do not back down from your position. Agree to disagree, and move on to the next comment. If flaming by the same person persists, politely ask him to cease. If not, ban him/her from commenting. They’ve been warned :) – John

Learn from the good, discard the offensive, be respectful to all. – Lionel

If you decide to approve the flame, your readers may respond to it, but ultimately everyone will look towards you to give your stand. The following will help in your reply:

  • Lay down commenting guidelines. Generally: (1) While everyone is encouraged to share his/her opinion, please do so with civility. Anger, hate and attacks towards anyone will not tolerated. (2) Any further behavior like this will not be entertained.
  • Be assertive. You are the blog owner and your readers will look to you for direction on what to do.
  • Don’t fan the flames. Fanning the flames means to react defensively or attack back. Like I mentioned in Step 1, keep your cool. Flamers thrive in negativity and anger, so you are only helping the flames to grow into a fire. As you have seen from my example, my defensiveness resulted in another flame being thrown back. There’s no end to it when you fight fire with fire.
  • Be emotionally generous with the flamer. To be emotionally generous means to be generous with your love and kindness. When I was young, I used to be selfish and judgmental. I was emotionally stingy and honestly it was an ugly persona which I wasn’t proud of. The flamer may have been rude and it’d be the easier way to react to him/her rudely, but it’s more rewarding to react in kindness. One of my favorite quotes is from Peaceful Warrior – ìThe people who are the hardest to love are the ones who need it the most.î. You’ve experienced how nasty it is to be on the receiving end of an assault. Don’t act in the same way towards him/her.
  • Address the flamer’s concerns. Be earnest in addressing the flamer’s concerns. If there are areas where you are wrong, be ready to own up. (next step).

Related articles on responding to criticisms:

5. Be open to possibility that you can be wrong too

We can’t always be right all the time. And you know what? It’s entirely okay. It is through our wrong actions that we learn.

If you have indeed made a mistake, own up. If your readers are truly supportive of you, they will be more than willing to forgive you. Not only that, it will also help you build your credibility. I believe the real reason why your readers regularly read your blog isn’t because you are a know-it-all in your niche. They come to your blog because they see you as a real person who is sincere with valuable thoughts to share. This is the same for my blog readers.

6. If the same behavior continues, disengage and drop the person

If the flamer at your blog does not change his/her tone, draw the line and cut him/her off (appropriately). Your blog is a medium for your readers too, so you have a responsibility to maintain a positive reading experience. They don’t want to be surfing your blog and reading bitter spats that’s just between 2 to 3 people. It’s not their business and you shouldn’t make it their business.

If you want to resolve the flamer’s issues but you don’t think it’s reflective of general reader concerns, take it offline. Ask for him/her to email you, where both of you can talk it out. If he/she doesn’t email you, then it’s probably not worth your time to bother.

7. Learn and improve from this experience

There is always something to learn, something to take away from every experience. I had learned many things from this experience, some of which I had shared with you guys through this article.

For example:

  • I learned defensiveness isn’t a solution and it will only fan the flames. (Step #1) Fanning the flames = Fire that gets out of hand.
  • I also learned it’s okay to be wrong and it’s more important to own up if you are indeed wrong than insist on your stance. (Step #5)
  • While there was no resolution between the flamer and I, I did note down several points from her comments which might reflect blind spots about myself. These are areas I’ll look into further as I continue writing at my blog.

Getting Flames Has Its Positive Sides

This might seem counter-intuitive, but at the end of the day, this experience helped me realize receiving flames has its positive sides.

1. You and your blog have achieved a certain mark

If you are just running a small blog with a readership of 2 a day (of you and your mom/dad), chances are no one is going to flame you. People aren’t going to bother to reading and criticize you with long messages. It’s only when your blog grows to a certain size when flames start coming in. Clearly, flamers regard your blog and you in some manner, and that’s why they make the effort to flame you.

Thus, as your blog grows bigger and bigger, you will receive more flames. As my blog grew in the past year, I have gotten more negative criticisms which I see as a positive sign. That’s because it means (1) my blog is growing and reaching out to more people and (2) these criticisms help me to improve. I’m prepared for more negative criticisms and more flames as I grow my blog. It’s part and parcel of growth.

2. It lets you know the readers who care

If you have readers who care for you, they will step up to defend you. This was what happened for me. After I approved the comment, several readers stepped in to defend me. I didn’t know some of them, so it was definitely very encouraging and heartwarming to witness their support. I also received more encouragement messages via email and private messages, which made me feel there were people out there who really cared for me.

3. Shows you your blind spots

Blind spots are parts of us which we are unaware of. All of us, no matter whether we are a problogger or a new blogger, have our own blind spots. These blind spots prevent us from growing our blog to the next level.

While flames may not be pleasant to receive, they give you a perspective different from the one you have been using. Even the inability to deal with the flames appropriately reveals your blind spots. This recent experience dealing with this flame has helped me uncover more blind spots which will be important in my growth.

4. How you reply can help you win trust among your readers

If you reply the flame in a graceful and constructive manner, it will help you win trust among your readers. This helps to establish stronger credibility. My 1st reply to the flamer wasn’t one I was proud of, but I worked to address it through a follow-up reply, where I explained my situation earnestly to my readers. My readers followed up with supportive messages and it was great to get the affirmation on their support.

Final Words

At the end of the day, everyone will have different opinions. You can account for them as much as possible, but if someone chooses to interpret what you have written in a different manner, it is that person’s choice. You don’t have a choice over whether people want to flame you or not, but you do have a choice over is how you react and what you learn from the situation. The key is to react appropriately and fairly (Steps 1-6) and get the maximum learning out of the situation (Step 7).

Check out my other guest post at Problogger How To Get Featured By The Press (Repeatedly) Even If Your Blog Is New, which shares how you can get your blog featured by in press and media.

Celes writes at The Personal Excellence Blog, where she shares her personal stories and insights on how to live your best life. Some of her top reader favorites are 101 Things To Do Before You Die and Are You Sleepwalking Your Life Away?. Add her on Twitter @celestinechua.

Did You Read These 13 Popular Blog Tips? [+5 Retro Posts]

The first quarter of 2010 is over and I’m currently doing my quarterly business reports for the tax office – so thought I’d also take a look back on the Quarter here on ProBlogger and produce a list of the most popular posts on the blog so far this year.

Hopefully it’ll help you identify some posts that you might have missed earlier in the year!

  1. How to Optimize a Single Post on Your Blog for SEO
  2. The Power of Uniqueness [19 Starting Points for Being a Unique Blogger]
  3. Top 10 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Blog Using LinkedIn
  4. Your First Week of Blogging – Write Compelling Content
  5. 52 Blog Tips to Kick Start Your Blog in 2010
  6. The BEST Way to Generate Lots of Comments on Your Next Blog Post
  7. 30 Valuable Lessons Learned Using Social Media for Small Business
  8. Dear FaceBook Friends, I’m Defriending Most of You [It's Not You, It's Me]
  9. The Best Writing Advice Ever
  10. Top 10 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Small Business Blog Using Twitter
  11. 30 Bloggers to Watch in 2010
  12. How to Blog: How to Choose a Niche for Your Blog [Why Niches are Important]
  13. 7 Considerations on Generating Traffic to Your Blog  

And for those in a nostalgic kind of mood… here are the top blog tips of Quarter 1 in the last few years:

Blogosphere Trends – What Are Bloggers Writing About

kim.jpgToday we’re starting a new type of post here at ProBlogger – Blogosphere Trends – something we hope will become a regular feature of ProBlogger and a way for bloggers to keep up with the latest trends in the Blogosphere.

This column is written by Kimberly Turner (pictured right) from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts) – Darren

What were bloggers writing about last week? We used Regator’s trending topics for the week to generate a top ten list that shows you exactly that (click any trend to see posts on that story). But as Darren pointed out in his video post “11 Ways to Add to the Conversation of the Blogosphere and Stand Out from the Crowd,” it’s not enough to cover the stories that everyone else is covering: “Successful bloggers have something of their own to say.” So in addition to the trending topics for the week, we’ll take a look at some specific posts that managed to truly add to the conversation around these stories. Did you cover one of these stories in an innovative way that broke out of the echo chamber? Tell us about it in the comments.

  1. Sarah Palin – For “What Does the Future Hold for Sarah Palin? (Besides LL Cool J)”, Jezebel heeded Darren’s sixth piece of advice by considering the implications of the current story on future events.
  2. Hot Tub Time Machine – Though the post does contain spoilers, io9’s “Open Letter to the Writers and Director of ‘Hot Tub Time Machine,’ From a Physics Professor” is a refreshing take on a story that many bloggers covered with a simple review. Interviewing experts for posts is a great way to create original content—bonus points when you do it in such an unexpected way.
  3. Apple iPad – Like the Sarah Palin post, iPhoneCTO’s “iPad Misunderstood: 5 Ways Apple’s Uber Tablet Will Transform Business” looks into the future but, just as importantly, also takes a broad story and focuses it for the blog’s specific readership. Knowing your readers and shaping stories to meet their needs can help you craft unique content.
  4. Earth Hour – Earth Hour elicits its fair share of debate. Many bloggers approached the topic as devil’s advocates (more of Darren’s advice). Lifehacker’s “Forget Earth Hour and Do Something Useful Instead” not only argued against the effectiveness of the event but also provided alternate ways its readers could save energy.
  5. Ricky MartinAutostraddle’s “Cracking the Coming Out Code With Clues From Gay Ricky Martin, Infographics” analysed the star’s decision by putting it in the context of other gay celebrities and their experiences. Putting a specific story within a broader context is another way of adding to the conversation. The nifty infographics don’t hurt either. The good news is that, while they are eye-catching, they aren’t so elaborate that you’d require an art director do something similar for a story you’d like to explore in this way.
  6. Kids’ Choice Awards – While most posts covering this Nickelodeon event were pretty predictable, Videogum managed to elicit a giggle from me with its humorous presentation of the winners list in “Old People React to the Winners of the 2010 Kids’ Choice Awards.” A bit of well-placed humour can take a post on a story that everyone’s covering to the next level.
  7. Sandra Bullock – Rather than echoing the countless stories on the subject, “David Brooks + Sandra Bullock = Matrimania” from Living Single uses a New York Times opinion piece as a jumping off point to provide an alternate viewpoint and to look at the institution of marriage as a whole.
  8. Michael Steele – Another of Darren’s tips is to aggregate various opinions on a story. The Moderate Voice does this well in its post “How Long Will Michael Steele Last at the RNC?” The author gathers snippets of coverage from a number of major sources then goes a step further by adding his own opinion/analysis of each.
  9. Catholic Church“Are the Media Picking on the Catholic Church?” at Blogging Religiously uses a few bits of Darren’s advice. The author indicates what aspect of the story grabbed his attention—in this case the angle and nature of the media coverage—and then provides what he sees as missing information and answers to questions. Although he does quote from other sources, these techniques help him avoid the echo chamber.
  10. Large Hadron Collider – We’ve seen (iPad example) that taking a broad story and focusing it in for your audience can be very effective, but sometimes—particularly if you’re dealing with a complex subject such as the LHC—taking a very specific story and broadening it to provide background or additional explanation is an even better option. Ars Technica/Nobel Intent’s “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Particle Smashers (But Were Afraid to Ask)” illustrates this well.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

Blogging Frustration! 10 Simple Tips to Keep You From RIPPING Your Hair Out

In this post Mark Hayward shares some great tips on how small business owners can combat blogging frustration.

frustration
image by: Speshul Ted

Is this you?

  • You have your small business blog up and running.
  • You have a dedicated time during the week that you draft posts.
  • You consistently publish content on a daily or weekly basis.

To be certain, in your quest to promote your entrepreneurial venture you’ve been going great guns, even reading the recent ProBlogger small business blog posts for inspiration.

Unexpectedly, three weeks, a month, or two months into your blogging life, after doing everything right, frustration has set in.

Strange, you had tons of ideas just yesterday, but now you’re currently staring at the computer screen and the cursor is blindly staring back at you.

In fact, you’ve stared at the computer for so long that your eyes feel like they are going to bleed, and you’d really like to pull your hair out. However, as a means to keep your mind occupied, you set about doing busy work because that will make you feel like you’re accomplishing something.

  • You check email. Nothing new.
  • You scramble over to your FaceBook updates. Nothing important.
  • You peruse your Twitter stream. Nothing interesting.

But, you sure are busy, aren’t you?

Suddenly, you snap out of the busy work induced, glassy eyed haze and look back at your word document to see how far that blog post has gotten…

Nothing.

Armed with the palpable realization that you’re getting nowhere, you suddenly feel the unwelcome blanket of frustration circling you like a school of ravenous sharks. To be sure, just like how you feel now, we have all been there. Do not give in and quit. You can overcome this feeling and live to blog another day.

Ten Simple Tips for Dealing With Blogging Frustration

Below are ten tips that have helped me with frustration in the past. Some of the tips are for generating new ideas and some are for relaxation. Hopefully they will keep you from actually ripping your hair out.

1. Close ALL distractions – sometimes you would think that I’m waiting for a message from the President of the United States himself the way I compulsively check email while trying to avoid doing any work. If you have the same problem, shut down all of your browsers and anything else that is not related to your goal of completing that blog post.

2. Don’t panic – blogging frustration happens to everyone at some point. I consider myself a non-creative creative and I run out of ideas on a daily basis. If this happens to you, remember to breath consciously and try not to let panic set in or it can paralyze you.

3. Walk away – yes, a consistent small business blogging approach is key for your success. But sometimes you need a break for a week or two. With respect to my small business blog, I always try to remember that nobody is out there waiting with baited breath and finding it difficult to live because I have not written about Culebra’s beaches. Chances are, your small business blog is much the same.

4. Peruse some magazines – when it comes to drafting small business blog posts, headlines are key. Magazines are like having your own open source headline producing factory. I gleaned these starter headlines from just one magazine in less than two minutes:

  • Must Read X, Y, and Z
  • Instant Classic…
  • Ultimate Guide To
  • Top Trends For
  • The Secret About “X” That’s Too Good To Be True

5. Look at blogs completely unrelated to your business niche – if you do this properly, and NOT as a form of busy work, you should come out of this little trick with some new ideas. You might also want to venture into some forums that are unrelated to your niche.

6. Exercise – this is perhaps my most favorite secret weapon in the war against small business blogging frustration. Even if you hate to exercise, at the very least, take the family dog for a walk and get some fresh air. Hopefully, you’ll come back recharged and with a renewed sense of focus.

8. Have a cup of coffee or tea – caffeine can make you more alert and help to stimulate the thought process.

9. Put on music – if I have a particular song that inspires me or has a calming nature, a lot of times I’ll set it to loop and just start writing down ideas. If you have a particular song that, ahem, puts you in the (creative) mood, then by all means use it to your advantage.

10. Talk with your customers – talking with customers is great because it can help you to remember why you are blogging in the first place. Additionally, on a daily basis my customers have a question that could easily be turned into a blog post. Get out from behind your computer and go speak with your customers.

Have you ever dealt with blogging frustration? I could go on and list another twenty suggestions, but I would rather hear your solutions and how you cope.

What are your tips for dealing with small business blogging frustration?

Want more frustration crushing, hair saving small business social media tips from Mark Hayward? Then subscribe to his RSS Feed and follow him on Twiter @mark_hayward.

How to Blog – Submit Your Blog Tips Videos

Today I want to start a little group project to help us identify some cool blog tips. It involves readers recording their best blog tips on video and sharing them with our wider community.

  • Record a short video (under 2 minutes if you can) that contains your best blog tip.
  • Upload it to your Youtube account (you’re welcome to use other video sites – but it needs to be embeddable for me to feature it).
  • Tag your video ‘howtoblog’
  • Leave a link to the video in comments below
  • I’ll feature some (maybe all – depending how many there are) in the coming weeks here on ProBlogger

Try to record a blog tip that might be a bit different from others to make it a little unique. Also feel free in the video to share your blog’s URL so we can check it out.

My hope is that this project will do a number of things:

  1. It’ll get YOU thinking about something that has helped you in your blogging
  2. It will help others to learn something that will help them improve their blog
  3. It will help us to get to know each other a little more as we see and hear each others voices

I’m really looking forward to seeing what you come up with on this – please submit your videos in the next 7 days and I’ll pull something together to feature posts next week here on ProBlogger.