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Blogosphere Trends + Effectively Using Quotes

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

Each week, we use Regator’s trends algorithm to bring you a list of the ten most blogged-about stories. This week’s list is, admittedly, a bit of a bummer, with the Gulf of Mexico’s oil spill spending its sixth straight week in the top ten, accompanied by a number of celebrity deaths and the unstable situation in Israel.

But instead of getting down about the state of the world, let’s focus on how a few bloggers used quotes to add to the coverage of these important stories. Careful use of quotations is something many bloggers overlook, but well-chosen quotes can support your argument, increase your credibility, provide an alternate viewpoint, create emotional impact, provide a voice of expertise, add humor, and increase the quality of your post. As you select quotes for your posts, remember that a good quote is not filler and will always make your post more intriguing or useful to your reader. Quotes are one of Darren’s “13 Ways to Add New Dimensions to Your Next Post.” Let’s look at some examples along with this week’s top trends:

  1. Gulf of Mexico ­– A particularly impactful (and short) quote can make a great headline. The Daily Dish employed this technique by using Obama’s “Plug The Damn Hole” as the title for a recent post. The quote is an efficient way of providing a voice of authority and conveying the president’s frustration with the situation.
  2. Dennis Hopper – Roger Ebert’s “Dennis Hopper: In memory” uses quotes from the recently deceased actor to add depth to the post. Hopper’s own words, such as, “There’s always this fear of not being able to make the films, not being able to do the work…” personified the icon in a way that few descriptions could.
  3. Gary ColemanThe Inquisitr’s “911 call before Gary Coleman’s death, wife says ‘blood everywhere’” features multiple quotes designed to take readers inside a very personal experience.
  4. Memorial DayArmy of Dude uses a quote to set a scene and add detail in “Metal Memorials,” a touching, well-written post on the bracelet this veteran wears to commemorate his fallen friend. The quote, “Hey man, just so you know, I’m going to set this thing off” is real and conversational and puts the reader into the security line at the airport with the author, who has to repeatedly explain why he does not remove his memorial bracelet at the metal detector.
  5. Israel – Quotes can add intrigue and spur curiosity, particularly if they are featured in the headline as “Says One Israeli General: ‘Everybody Thinks We’re Bananas’” from Jeffery Goldberg’s blog on The Atlantic.
  6. World Cup – In “2010 FIFA World Cup’s Biggest Quote: ‘God Willing, I’m Ready,’ Says TorresThe Bleacher Report begins by stating, “This could be the single most important pre-World Cup statement made so far,” proving that the right quote can be a jumping off point and/or inspiration for an entire post. As you read, keep an eye out for quotes that may inspire you to explore a topic further.
  7. Rue McClanahan – Sometimes, a quote is the most succinct way to answer a question. When it was revealed that Golden Girl Rue McClanahan had passed away, many wondered how the one remaining Golden Girl was coping with the loss. Zap2It’s “Betty White: Rue McClanahan ‘was a close and dear friend’ provided the answer in Betty White’s own words: “… It hurts more than I ever thought it would, if that’s possible.”
  8. DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) – Quotes may be in the form of videos, as in Queerty’s “Is Dan Choi’s Hunger Strike Coach Planning On His Death?” The advantage of video is that the speaker’s emotional state and body language add to the quote’s impact.
  9. Tipper GoreThe Kicker (Columbia Journalism Review’s daily blog) gathered quotes from a number of sources to illustrate a trend and support a point in “Fineman on Gores: ‘Finally.’
  10. AT&T – Quotes need not be in textual format to provide value. The Consumerist’s “Listen to AT&T Ask Customer to Stop Sending Them E-mails” lends credibility to a rather unbelievable story by providing audio proof: “I want to first thank you for the feedback and going forward need to warn you that if you continue to send emails to Randall Stephenson, a cease and desist letter may be sent to you.”

How often and why do you use quotes on your blog? Please share your experiences in the comments. Have a great weekend and see you next week!

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.

How to Stay Focused and Avoid Distraction as a Blogger

Ever sat down at your computer to blog for an hour only to find that when you get to the end of that hour you’ve done anything BUT what you sat down to achieve?

If so – you’re not alone. This video talks through some of the distractions that bloggers face as well as my simple 3 point strategy for staying focused. It’s not rocket science but as bloggers we need to be reminded of this type of thing from time to time.
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Your Blog: Time to Play

a guest post from Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com

With apologies to the character named Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies, who uttered that line as he was about to slowly fillet a helpless victim just for grins…

… maybe you’re taking yourself too seriously.  I know I was.

My blog is an oh-so-serious venue for fiction writers, offering tips and techniques and instruction from all perspectives on the craft.  Intense stuff for people with aspirations to publish their work.

And it seems to be working fine.  My subscribers and, to a lesser extent, my traffic have grown continuously after one year online, and to the point where the site has actually landed me a book deal.

But that’s not my point today. 

My point today is the realization that my most clicked-on, pingbacked and commented-upon posts were those that were, in effect, a break in the action.

Posts that, in the midst of all that literary pretention, were just for laughs.

Everybody enjoys a good grin. 

Even writers and bloggers who, like me, take themselves oh-so-seriously.

To add a little scale to this declaration, here are some numbers.   Five times I’ve posted articles that had nothing at all to do with the primary focus of my site, other than a thin relevance to words themselves.  And all five times, my traffic tripled.

Tripled.

And as a result, my subscription based nudged upward, even as I went back to the drudgery of mentoring people on how to write novels and screenplays. 

And interestingly enough, while trending upward as a result of this, traffic went back to where it was the very next day.  It was like a restaurant having “Free Drinks” day. 

Which told me I needed to do this more often.

The first time was a timeout from pontificating on dramatic narrative to tell some funny stories (mostly on me) from book signings gone wrong.  Of which there are plenty.  I was three months into blogging at the time, and my reader Comments (which were admittedly thin) tripled overnight.  People loved laughing at me, it seemed.

A while later I posted a puzzle – literally – and, under the guise of another writing post, challenged readers to do the seemingly impossible.   Puzzles are fun, so once again, traffic on that day increased threefold.

Then I just went straight at it – I offered up a joke that writers would find funny even if nobody else would.  Best response to any post I’d had to date. 

And then, just to test this comedic water, I tried yet another joke with even better response this time, possibly because it was a better joke. 

There were a couple months and forty or so posts separating these little smile breaks. 

Which means I wasn’t remotely watering down my brand.  Rather, I was fertilizing reader relationships (take that particular analogy any way you wish…)

I’m motivated to share this with you today because I’ve just finished yet another Time to Play type of diversion that garnered me a positively Probloggeresque number of responses.  I threw a little contest out there, using a clever wordplay concept, and the result exceeded my expectations.

Wordplay games for writers is like beer pong for college students.

Over 70 people joined in, with over 300 “entries” to the contest.  Every one of them is a punchline, by the way, so if you’re looking for a few grins, click here to check them out.  

So for now it’s back to hooks, sub-plots, character arc and how to land agent.  But my readers know a few laughs are in the near future, and like friends sharing a project, we all look forward to a little break now and then.

Especially when it’s as strategically-sound as it is appreciated.

Larry Brooks is the creator of Storyfix.com, a site for writers seeking to publish their work.  He is the author of five novels, including his latest, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, which isn’t remotely funny.  More like something Pinhead would appreciate.

What I’m Learning from the Launch of My New eBook

Travel book book graphic1-1.jpgThis is completely off topic…. but then again it’s not….

An hour ago I just launched a new eBook on my photography blog – it’s called Transcending Travel and is a guide to Travel Photography.

Every time I mention my eBooks I am asked for tips on how to put them together. I’ve written a few times before on the topic but thought I’d share a few of the lessons I’ve learned while launching this particular eBook.

  1. Partner with good People – collaboration is a powerful thing. While I know a thing or two about photography – I’m no travel photography expert. So when thinking about this book I decided that the best way to produce it would be to find someone with expertise in the field to author it. I chose to work with Mitchell Kanashkevich for two reasons – firstly he’s a travel photographer who knows what he’s doing and secondly, he’d already produced his own eBooks – this showed he was able to stick with a project and also gave me something to look at to judge the quality of his work.
  2. The Front Cover is Important – Test it! - in the last week one of the biggest things we’ve had to decide upon is the front cover – in particularly the image on it. We considered 6-7 of them and while I thought I knew which one would work best – I found with a few quick tests that I was wrong. I drew together 3 groups of people to test it and found that the one we’ve gone with works a lot better.
  3. Pre Buzz Helps – previously when I’ve launched eBooks on dPS I’ve been in such a frenzy getting them together that I’ve not put a lot of time into pre-launching them. I could still do better on this front with Transcending Travel – however I’ve worked harder at doing some pre launch activities in newsletters, on social media, with some guest posts from Mitchell introducing the topic etc. It seems to have paid off with qutie a few readers eagerly anticipating this launch.
  4. Get Help – not only have I involved another author in this eBook but there has been a number of people who’ve helped pull it together. A great Designer, proof reader and a cast of at least another 10 people who’ve bounced ideas around with me for everything from titles to sales pages to sales emails. I pay for designers/proof reader services but the rest is collaboration and friend helping friends – a network is so good to have at a time like this.
  5. Bonuses - this launch I’m going for a twin barrel bonus strategy. We’re offering a 25% off discount during launch week but also have partnered with two companies to give readers discounts on products and a third company to offer some prizes. It’ll be interesting to see how they pay off!
  6. It’s fun – one of the things I’ve found every time I’ve launched something is that it is a lot of fun. It is great to have a project on the go that you’re working towards and the anticipation in the lead up to a launch as well as finally putting it out there can be a lot of fun. It’s also a little frightening and scary – but overall it’s something I really enjoy doing!

I still have a lot to learn about launching products but am loving the process again.

PS: For more tips and strategies on launching eBooks don’t forget to check out How to Launch the *** out of your eBook as well as The Sticky eBook Formula (both books that have helped me through this process immensely).

4 Reasons to Add a Podcast to Your Blog

A Guest Post by Bradford Shimp from All Business Answers

A few months ago, I started a podcast on my blog. It was a bit of a counter-intuitive move for me, since I am generally the shy guy in the room. It has turned out to be great for me personally and for my blog. It may just be the perfect next step for your blog as well.

1. A Podcast Opens Doors

Darren often mentions meeting other people in your niche to grow your influence. For a shy guy like me, that is often easier said than done. I don’t generally just start talking to someone out of the blue. A podcast gives me a reason to reach out to people. My blog focuses on providing advice to small business owners. With a podcast, I have been able to talk to authors, business coaches, and business owners about all sorts of interesting and helpful topics.

I am not some famous blogger or personality. That doesn’t matter. People are happy to share their thoughts. In fact, they usually look forward to it. If you start a podcast and seek to interview experts in your area of focus, you will likely find that it is pretty easy to get guests (unless your niche is mimes or monks who have taken a vow of silence). By offering to interview people, you are playing on both their desire to promote their work and their desire to help others.

When you have a platform, you don’t need to reach out to the people you respect feeling like you are asking for a handout. You can give them something useful in the form of a nice interview, and benefit yourself as well.

2. You Can Expand Your Own Knowledge Base Quickly

One thing that I love about my podcast is that I get to talk to really intelligent people about things that I often know nothing about. Recently, I have spoken to an identity theft expert, a lawyer who helps sell businesses, and a guy with a dream for a new type of conference. Being able to ask people questions on a regular basis has increased my own knowledge, making me a better blogger.

If you ever struggle with what you should write on your blog, doing regular interviews could solve that issue. Even if you always have something to write, a podcast can add a new flavor to your blog and help you explore new directions.

Some of the people I have spoken to would charge hundreds of dollars for an hour of time. I get that advice for free and am able to share it with my readers. Talk about adding value to your blog.

3. A Podcast Gets You Noticed

A side benefit that I didn’t really consider when I started podcasting is that it really gets you noticed. I have been working on building engagement at my blog, and the podcast has given me a boost there. First of all, my readers enjoy the interviews and the change of pace. Secondly, the people I interview are grateful and the interview is often the start of a great relationship. At the very least, the people you interview will now be aware of your blog. If you are working to build relationships with some key movers in your niche, this is a great way to get started.

The people I interview often post a link to the interview on their site. They also promote the interview to their networks, which gives a boost to site visitors. A podcast is a great opportunity to gain new readers. Since I started podcasting, the interviews have become some of the most popular articles on my site and have contributed to an increase in readers.

4. Podcasting is Inexpensive

I wouldn’t suggest any of this to you if it was going to take a big hit out of your budget. If you read this site, you are probably trying to figure out how to make money from your blog, not how to spend more money on it. The great thing about podcasting is that it is incredibly inexpensive. Sure, you can spend a lot on equipment, but you don’t have to. I bought a $40 headset and spent some money on a program to record Skype calls. I have also recorded calls for free using my cell phone and Google Voice. I edit everything with a free program called Audacity.

You don’t have to be a special person to start podcasting. I’m not. I am an inveterate mumbler, excessively shy, and I get nervous before every interview. At the same, I learn a lot, meet great people, and have increased the readership of my blog thanks to podcasting. A podcast could be just the thing you need to breathe new life into your blog.

Bradford Shimp writes advice for small business owners at his blog All Business Answers

Turn Annoying Pitches into Opportunities

Earlier in the week I wrote some advice for those wanting to pitch bloggers by making your pitch a win/win/win one. Not only do you need to get something out of it but so should the readers of the blog and the blogger.

Today I want to flip this over a little and share some advice for bloggers who are on the receiving end of bad pitches from companies or individuals.

In the past – most of the bad email pitches that I received from companies tended to get immediately deleted. A few I’d angrily respond to – pointing out how one sided the pitch was – but in most cases I simply deleted them.

The problem with this is that it ignored quite a few opportunities to actually develop a relationship with the company pitching me. While their pitch was one sided, unrelational, greedy and perhaps even an attempt at manipulation – by not responding or by responding in anger I was effectively closing the door to further communication and opportunity to work together.

My Advice to Bloggers Getting Bad Pitches

Don’t be afraid to push back a little when you’re being pitched in a one sided way.

If you don’t feel like a pitch is a win/win/win pitch don’t just delete the email or reply with a quick ‘not interested’ – see it as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity on two fronts:

  1. 1. to educate the person or company pitching you. Show them that you take this seriously, that you treat your blog as a business and that bloggers deserve to be respected. I think many times companies just don’t think of us bloggers in this way and see social media as just something to get them free publicity. We need to take some ownership of fixing this and educate them.

    I think it’s also a little ironic that as bloggers and social media types we celebrate our ‘relational’ approach yet don’t reach out and help to educate those who don’t yet get it. Sure, when a company should know better I think it’s fair enough for us to push back harder – but many companies are still finding their feet and need a little education on how to do things.

  2. it’s an opportunity for business and fruitful partnerships. If you don’t respond at all or push back too aggressively you could be ending any chance of the relationship with the company progressing into win/win/win territory. But if you’re clever enough you might just land yourself a sponsor, affiliate partnership or get some other fruitful interaction.

I generally try to reply with an email that:

  • attempts to show the ‘pitcher’ that I’d love to work with them
  • that sells my blog/community to them (pointing out readership stats, what our readers are like etc)
  • that shows I treat my blog like a business and am looking for partnership and win/win/win interactions
  • that suggests some ways we could move forward – I usually start out by pointing out some advertising and affiliate opportunities and share a few things we’ve done before that have delivered value to everyone

The reality is that not everyone will respond – some companies are just looking to manipulate the blogosphere and want free traffic/exposure – but you’ll find in time that some companies will respond and that opportunities which benefit everyone will arise.