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How Compendium’s Web to Post Generates Content and Community

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Business Blog Writers.

You might have read my article about a business blogging platform called Compendium. Today, I wanted to share with you a fantastic Compendium tool called, Web to Post that allows customers or clients to tell stories about your products or services.

Web to Post turns your consumer’s advocacy into web content.

Of course, as Business Blog Writers, sometimes this writes us out of the picture, but at the same time, if we are used to supplement the Web to Post content, then we can also get a lot of content ideas from what customer or clients submit.

In addition to my blog writing business, I also have a Ragdoll cat blog and all images of Compendium’s Web to Post form come from that.

How does Web to Post work?

A Call to Action is put in the sidebar of the blog. The CTA usually says something like, “Share Your Story”.

This call to action can also be put on your Facebook fan page, in your newsletter, on your YouTube Channel or in an email to an existing database.

The customer sees the CTA and decides to submit a story. They click on the link and are taken to an online form that asks them things like their story title, the story, and their first and last name. They can also choose to upload a photo to include with their story. The forms are totally customizable to fit your campaign or story needs.

Once the stories are received, the administrator of the blog is sent an email letting him or her know there is content waiting in the system. The stories can be edited, approved or declined from there, just like internal blog posts on Compendium’s system. So in other words, the story isn’t instantly on your company website the second the customer or client hits “submit”. Rather, it has to go through an administrative layer for final approval. This is awesome, because it turns your advocates into your bloggers! [Share Your Story Submission on Dashboard.jpg]

Once the administrator has checked out the post and added a keyword rich title, then the admin approves it. At that point is the Compendium algorithm automatically categorizes or tags the story to the relevant, targeted keyword pages on your blog . The admin can also choose to promote it on your company’s social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Then, the viral effect kicks in. Each story is published on your company’s blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.

The customer who submitted the story also gets an automatic email that says their story has been published on your company’s blog. Another link encourages them to share their featured story on their own social network profiles.

How Web to Post helps business blogs

Lee Jorgenson, an Account Manager at Compendium recently pointed out that Sears Outlet has generated over 5,000 posts in just three months by gathering content from five different channels.

Sears Outlet sends a great transactional email after someone purchases from their website that invites customers to share their stories. This email is timely and helps harvest stories while they are fresh in the customer’s mind. The email has a link that drives the customer to a web to post form to submit their story. They also use the Web to Post forms to capture stories from blog and website visitors. They also have one embed on their Facebook fan page tab and collect stories from Facebook fans that way.

The process is simple: Content → Exposure → Referrals → Sales

Another Compendium client, The College Network, was able to launch a contest asking nurses to share their stories. The prize? An iPad. They received nearly 100 user generated stories (that’s 100 free posts!). The stories got over 40 comments and over 1,500 Likes. They drove 3,500 unique visits to their story page and tracked an average of 35 additional Facebook fans per day from the campaign. It also increased their organic search traffic by 25%—all for the cost of an iPad.

How Web-to-Post helps smaller bloggers

As far as my site, Floppycats.com, is concerned, Web to Post has made my life incredibly easier. When I run a giveaway, I tell people that for an extra chance to win the prize, they can submit a photo of their cat as well as a description explaining why their cat needs to win the product.

This approach not only generates more activity on my site, but also creates more content for my blog. And readers love to see photos of their cats on my blog!

I also use Web to Post for Ragdoll breeders who want to advertise kittens for sale. It saves me the time involved in uploading them to the site, and entering all the information—and they’re hosted on Compendium’s server, not the one I am paying for.

I also use Web to Post to accept content from people who need to rehome their Ragdoll cats, and cat rescue groups that need to get the word out about cats available for adoption.

I give a lengthy explanation of what I want (this eliminates time-consuming emailing back and forth between the poster and me) and provide examples so readers know what information they need to submit.

So while Web to Post is great for sales and boosting social media buzz about your company, for the blogger who wants an active online community on their blog, Compendium’s Web to Post can also make your life a lot less busy. Just say “no” to too much right- and left-clicking!

What if you don’t have compendium?

If you don’t have Compendium, you can probably still put something like this together, but it would require more manpower and coordination to get it done.

Frankly, I don’t like to spend my time on the technicalities and would rather have it right from the get-go. Compendium’s business blogging platform simply takes care of the strategy, process and technology so your business can focus on the content and stories.

Jenny Dean is a 31-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Kansas City. Jenny is currently working on Business Blog Writers, a company that supplies blog content specifically for company’s blogs, Floppycats.com, an informational website about Ragdoll cats and Antioxidant-fruits.com, an informational website about the antioxidant powers of fruit. Follow Business Blog Writers on Twitter or on Facebook.

Is Shared or Dedicated Hosting Best for You?

This guest post is by Jesse of Professional Intern.

Blog owners have a lot of decisions to make if they want to be successful. What will my blogs focus be? What audience do I want to target? Should I use a formal tone or a more personal one?

One of the questions to which blog owners rarely give enough thought is what kind of web hosting solution they’ll use. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between shared and dedicated servers, as well the benefits that each can offer you and your blog.

Shared hosting

Copyright Eimantas Buzas - Fotolia.com

Shared web hosting is the lowest cost hosting option available. With this type of hosting, your server is basically one of many server programs run on a single piece of hardware. You share physical resources with other clients whose servers also inhabit the same machine.

This spreads out the cost of hardware, bandwidth and maintenance among all of the hosts clients, but it also means that each client only gets a portion of the power and speed of the server, which can significantly degrade performance if one or more of the clients starts using more resources.

If, for instance, your site is hosted on a shared server and begins attracting significantly more visitors than normal, the performance of the other sites on the server will be degraded and, eventually, your site may be temporarily deactivated to reduce the strain on the server and its impact on other clients.

Customizing a shared server

Most shared web hosting services offer simple, one-click management options for their servers. While this makes it easy to set up a basic WordPress or Drupal blog, the options are often limited to whatever the host decides to support and, often, more extensive customization is not available.

With this specialization, however, often comes better customer support. Because the host carefully chooses the programs and options available, they’re better able to serve their users.

While shared web hosting can be a great choice for blogs that are intended to be personal and small, if you want to grow your blog, host multiple blogs or begin offering additional content, like forums, you’ll need to start considering a switch to a dedicated server.

Dedicated hosting

Dedicated servers offer a wealth of benefits you can’t receive with shared servers, but they do have one major drawback: increased cost.

Even a moderately-priced dedicated hosting package can cost upwards of $99 per month. If you add on management, technical support, a firewall or upgrade to a more powerful server, the price can increase dramatically. A powerful, fully-configured, managed and serviced dedicated server will often cost over $1000 per month.

How can that kind of expense be worth it to a blog owner?

Reliability and security

The biggest advantages of dedicated hosting are increased speed, reliability, security, and control. If you’re not sharing resources with other clients, you won’t have to worry about their sites slowing down your site’s load times and degrading your site’s user experience.

Further, because the server won’t be split among multiple clients, there’s less of a chance of it experiencing a critical failure that could take your site down.

Hosting your site on its own server also results in fewer security vulnerabilities. If you share a server with someone who doesn’t practice good security measures, your site is vulnerable, too; on a dedicated server, however, your site’s security rests on your choices, not those of another user you may never meet.

With a dedicated server, you’re in control

Having a dedicated hosting plan gives you far more control than a shared plan would. After choosing your server’s operating system, you may have as much or as little control of the workings of your server as you desire. Unless you wake up every morning excited about server administration, you may want to look into either hiring someone to perform those duties for you, or look into a managed hosting plan on your server.

Many hosts will give you several levels of management options, ranging from little user intervention to full user configuration. The more control you give someone else over your dedicated server, the more you’ll end up paying, but it can definitely be in your best interest to let someone with experience in server administration handle those tasks for you.

In addition to multiple levels of control, you’ll be able to choose which features you want to include on your site. Generally speaking, the more features you want on your site, the better off you’ll be with a dedicated server.

When to switch to dedicated hosting

If you already have a shared web hosting plan, you might be wondering when it would be most beneficial to switch to a dedicated host. If you’ve noticed an increase in user complaints about slow server response times, degraded performance or an inability to access your site reliably, that’s a good indication that it’s time to start looking into alternate hosting.

Also, if you’ve been experiencing a marked increase in traffic, you might want to switch to a dedicated server to head off any capacity problems you might experience if your growth continues. As I previously mentioned, if you plan on adding more advanced features to your site, you should definitely consider a switch from shared hosting.

Who needs a dedicated server?

Basic shared web hosting is a great choice for a new or amateur blog, but if you’re planning on getting serious with your site, you’ll probably end up needing a dedicated server at some point.

Shared servers often end up slow, crowded and vulnerable, in addition to leaving you with few options for control. Dedicated servers, while the more expensive option, feature none of those drawbacks and give you as much performance as you need. You also have a wider range of options for control over your site’s server.

If you desire a faster, more reliable site or want to add many advanced features, you should seriously consider switching to a dedicated server. Your users will have a much better experience and you’ll likely end up dealing with fewer performance issues.

How’s your blog hosted? Have you transitioned from shared to dedicated hosting? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

Jesse L. is a recent college graduate who blogs at http://www.professionalintern.com and enjoys all things social media and Apple-related.

What Drama Musicals Can Teach Us About Great Blog Writing

This guest post is by Achim “Chef Keem” Thiemermann of MusicalWorkshop.org.

As the US webmaster and social media manager of Europe’s most successful musical librettist and lyricist, Dr. Michael Kunze, I am intimately familiar with his unique brand of storytelling: the drama musical. To this day, Michael’s combined works (original musicals and foreign-language adaptions) have sold 33 million tickets for a whopping $1,012,000,000! He must be doing something right. Right?

Just a few weeks ago I started thinking about the similarities between blogging and writing a musical play: in both instances we are striving to elicit emotion from our audiences, which in turn shall motivate them to take some kind of action.

Whether they are theater goers or blog visitors, it is the art of telling a good story that makes all the difference in their response to our pitch.

Michael Kunze has some intriguing insights on storytelling:

“I am a storyteller by profession, although I started out as a songwriter. When I had stories to tell that would not fit into the tiny format of a song, I became a dramatist for the musical stage. By studying the elements of successful musicals, I soon found out that they all were based on the same kind of structure.”

“And I discovered something surprising … the story is primarily told through its structure. Quite a blow for someone who believes in the power of words and sentences!”

“Over the years I’ve developed a very distinct structure for my drama musicals. So far I’ve written five original shows, and each one has become an international success. Altogether, they have reached more than 15 million people. I have no doubt that I owe this success to the fact that my musicals are better structured than most.”

Let’s take a closer look at Michael’s method of telling a good story.

The basic structure of a drama musical

  1. In the beginning we learn about the protagonist’s (hero’s) desire to achieve a certain goal.
  2. Facing powerful antagonistic forces, our hero initially descends into a “hole” with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
  3. To recover from all kinds of setbacks, and to continue on the path to fulfillment, he must overcome one or more of his character flaws.
  4. As the story unfolds, the protagonist encounters a number of dramatic turns and surprising twists, which further illustrate his or her different stages of progress.
  5. After a key experience toward the end of the story, our protagonist has learned his lessons and thus become a better person. He is now ready to complete his journey.

So, what if you applied the principles of successful musical dramas to your writing?

You are the protagonist in your blog posts!

In writing as protagonists and describing your experiences with products, travel tips, online tools, recipes, personal growth issues, or whatever topic you’re blogging about—your stories must fascinate the readers through an emotional ride from a troubled beginning to a satisfactory ending.

Help your audience identify with you—the hero of your story. Ask these questions:

  • Which obstacles had originally kept you from achieving your desired end results? Was it shyness, ignorance, pride, indecisiveness, procrastination, or lack of self-esteem?
  • What did you have to do to remedy your situation? Stand up against nay-sayers (including yourself)? Put in some extra work through research and courses? Let go of old habits? Push through your “dip”?
  • What were some of the milestones signifying your continuing progress? What motivated you to keep going in the face of adversity? Which insights confirmed that you were on the right path?
  • What major personal break-through did you experience in the end? What did you learn about yourself that took you to the desired level of success?
  • Now that you have achieved your goals, how can your readers benefit from your efforts? How can you solve their problems or make their lives better and easier? What is your extraordinary gift to your audience?

Why story structure is important

Michael’s additional words of advice:

“Most of us tend to write as we talk—unstructured. But blogging is not so different from other forms of writing. To grab the reader’s interest give him a story. A story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

“Even better: A story with one or two surprising twists that keep the reader curious and wanting to know the ending. And, make sure that you know the ending before you start writing.”

Actually quite simple, isn’t it? Do you use storytelling structure in your blog posts?

Achim “Chef Keem” Thiemermann manages MusicalWorkshop.org, Michael Kunze’s English-language website. He is also a co-founder of the new revenue-sharing writers’ platform called Wizzley.com.

The Blog of Art

This guest post is by Tricia Lawrence of trishlawrence.com.

We’ve all heard the term “writer’s block” thrown around like it’s an actual medical or mental condition, and a few have attempted to coin “blogger’s block” even though it’s essentially the same thing.

It’s what happens when you open your laptop and as the cursor is blinking, your mind goes blank. Soon, you’re sure the cursor is mocking you and you slink away from the computer to eat some junkfood, play Nintendo, think evil thoughts about your ability to keep this blog going, and pretty soon, you’ve wasted four hours and the blog post is still not written.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there and we’ll all be there again. I, however, like to “light people up,” especially with regard to blogging, so here are some ideas to blow that writer’s block to smithereens and to get those fingers tapping away on your keyboard.

Make art by thinking about how you feel and how you want your readers to feel

This is a hard one, because most of us have numbed out to how we feel, so how in the heck are we supposed to know how we want other people to feel?

Art is where that edge is. It’s where you take a feeling and you explore it by creating something that takes people somewhere. A painting is like a blog. But too often, I think blogging has taken on this sort of half-robotic feel.

Too many of us recycle what has already been said, harp on someone doing something innovative because it makes us feel uncomfortable, or we hide from our readers and use our blogs to do it! We throw up all these fancy plans, or narcissistic “look at me” posts, when in reality, isn’t the goal of blogging to connect with readers? Isn’t it to share how you actually feel? Do you really feel good today? Do you really feel in control? There are moments we do not. That is where the art comes in.

Tell it like it is. Make art. Build it into the blog.

Make art by stepping away from the blog and actually creating something tactile

Cook something, sew something, paint something, or weld something. We’ve numbed out by sitting behind our computers and forgetting what it means to do anything else. Step away from the computer!

This activity doesn’t require the same blogging brain cells that have frozen up on you, and thus, as you make something awesome, those cells will begin to thaw out and suddenly, you’ll throw down the welding torch and rush to the computer. As they say, if you run a marathon, you’re more likely to also write a book. One thing begets another. But please take care! Don’t try to write a blog post while holding the welding torch.

Make art by dreaming big

This one fires me up. I can dream up huge results from my paltry blogging. Some days I want to be on America’s Got Talent because of a blog post, I want to get a book deal from the blog, I want to meet Richard Branson.

That sounds so huge and unreachable, but then if you put those goals in print somewhere, you are focusing yourself on them. Your brain will try to figure out how to make them happen. You suddenly see Richard Branson references everywhere. America’s Got Talent automatically TiVos every time it’s on and you have time to watch it, someone shows you a book that you swear you could have written yourself and the art begins to happen.

Perhaps you’ll hire a PR consultant, or you’ll outline the roughs of a book proposal. Perhaps we’ll one day see your welding-while-juggling (or blogging!) act scaring Nick Cannon half out of his wits! That’s doable! That’s making art!

The blog of art is more about you than about the blog. And that’s where the magic happens, I promise.

Tricia Lawrence is CEO of real/brilliant, inc. and blogs about the Create Now! Revolution at http://www.trishlawrence.com.

Does Fotolia Have Photos for Your Blog?

Do you use images in your blog posts? Most bloggers like to increase their posts’—and blogs’—impact with an image, and while I’m a die-hard textophile, I can see the point. An image is certainly more eye-catching than text. Couple the right image with the right heading, and you’re on fire.

Until recently, the only image resource site I’d used was stock.xchng. While I like the site and its offerings, sometimes, there’s slim pickings for particular image types. I prefer not to use CC-licensed images myself because some CC images can be used for commercial purposes, others can’t, and the image owners may change their minds, then ask you to take the image down … to be honest, it all seems like a lot of hassle to me.

I do work with a lot of content, so maybe that has something to do with my inflexibility on this point.

Fotolia: royalty-free stock photography

Recently we were contacted by Fotolia and offered a month-long trial of the service, which boasts a library of over 13 million images. There were some images that were unavailable within the trial, but in the month, I sourced 17 images. Only once did I find that an image I wanted to use was unavailable in that subscription—and it wasn’t hard to find a replacement that was just as good.

Fotolia offers photographs, vector images, and videos. The only option I used was images. To give you an idea of what’s on offer, I ran a little search on both Fotolia and stock.xchng for the keyword “handshake”.

Fotolia returned 17,913 results, and the selection was good.

stock.xchng returned 34 results, and the selection was … not as good.

Both sites allow you to roll over the images to see an enlarged, lightbox version of the pics. Both tell you on the results page what sizes are available, and when you view a specific image, both sites tell you how you can use that image—in Fotolia’s case, you’ll also find out the cost of the image.

Costs

Fotolia uses a credit system to sell images. The cost of each image depends on:

  • the size and resolution of the image
  • the license you choose
  • the image itelf—some images simply cost more than others.

If you’re planning to buy a stack of images, subscription plans are available which can see the images cost you “as little as $0.14 per image!”

Use and application

Fotolia offers two kinds of licenses:

“The standard license (from XS to XXL and the V license)

“This license allows you to use our images to illustrate magazine ads, websites, blogs, marketing campaigns, press articles, tv video or movies, book and book covers, documents, reports, presentations, etc. on all types of media with no limit on time or copies.

“The extended licenses (X to XV)

“This license allows buyers to use the image to create derivative products intended for resale or distribution where the value of the product is derived from the image (postcards, t-shirts ect.)

“Without limitation, you’ll be able to create mugs, t-shirts, posters, greeting cards, templates or other products, and sell them to your customers.”

This is a pretty big bonus over free stock images. stock.xchng doesn’t allow the resale of images—if you want to do that, you need to contact the creator through the site. That’s (likely) no big deal, but from an ease-of-use perspective, Fotolia makes this a no-brainer.

Image quality

Anyone who works with images knows that there are good stock libraries and bad stock libraries. Even I can tell that. Those who are really into design, marketing, and visual communication can pick very fine lines between what’s deemed “usable” and what’s not.

I’ve used a lot of images from stock.xchng over the last three years or so, and it’s pretty easy to tell the dross form the diamonds. Some amateur photographers are great and I’m always able to find something really good on the site.

While Fotolia returns many more results, and more polished images, for each search, I generally found the bulk of images to be a little too … posed. Or contrived. An image of a hand reaching out of a computer monitor, in particular, made me cringe (I think I was searching for “handshake” at the time). I still shudder when I think of it.

I just can’t get that image out of my head.

Seriously.

But let’s move on. On occasion, I did use what I felt were less-than-ideal images for want of anything better (one of these days I’m going to do my own photo shoot of a branding iron, no matter what it takes).

That’s not to say there weren’t some fabulous, fabulous photos on the site. And some of the less-polished, not-designed-for-an-ad-agency shots that I feel are more natural and speak more directly to real readers.

All in all, I’d say Fotolia had a great selection of images. I always found something I liked—and found it quickly.

Finding what you want

As a text fiend, I find search functions universally poor. However, the search on Fotolia was really very good. I had no complaints, which is saying something, and was pleased with the results I got every time, which is saying even more.

If you’ve used image sites before, you’ll know that it can take some intuiting to get the kind of image you want. So when I had to find a shot for Angela’s post on humor, I expected the worst. I’d have to say that I got some pretty unusable results on Fotolia, but with them, I also got some good results, and was extremely pleased with the image I chose. It was natural, not too posed, and comparatively low-key.

Choosing images is an extremely personal thing, though, and what I think is bad, you might see as great. All I can tell you is that I had better luck searching for tough keywords on Fotolia than I ever have elsewhere.

Is Fotolia worth it?

If you’re not earning money from your blog, I wouldn’t recommend spending cash on images. You can get good free photography through so many other sources—spend your money on something that translates directly to more readers.

If you are making money through your site, Fotolia is worth a look. You don’t need to be making millions, either. The images I bought cost US$0.33 each, and I downloaded 17 images during the trial, so all up, Darren would have been looking at $5.61 for three weeks’ worth of images here at ProBlogger. Not bad!

If you:

  • deal with a lot of content
  • don’t want to have to worry about licensing and permissions
  • want to spend as little time as possible making your posts look good
  • want to finish looking for images so you can [insert other, more interesting task here]

…then Fotolia could provide the answer.

Have you used Fotolia? What about other stock photography sites? Let us know how you manage imagery on your sites through the comments.

Going Gonzo, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Blog

This guest post is by Enzo F. Cesario of Brandsplat.

“We were halfway to Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

It certainly wasn’t the line that Rolling Stone expected out of sports and political columnist Hunter S. Thompson. He’d been sent to Vegas to report on a motorcycle race, and instead sent back a manifesto on the hollow glories of Sin City, the assorted pleasures of half the psychoactive drugs common to the American vocabulary, the inadequacies of the journalistic lifestyle, and of course the death of the American dream. Hard up against (okay, somewhat past) his deadline, Thompson resorted to pulling out rambling entries from the pages of his notebook and mailing them in directly. It was unprofessional, it was sophomoric, it was gonzo—and it worked. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a hit.

Opinions vary on just why it worked. I believe it was because Thompson was writing uncensored. He wrote openly about topics that still horrified American sensibilities. In the same year that the phrase “war on drugs” would first be coined, he boldly declared the incompetence of the politicians and police who would be prosecuting it. He mused about the death of the ’60s-style revolutionary zeal, the illusion of a freewheeling town that Vegas maintains over an undercurrent of hard-won respectability and so much more. He wrote honestly and didn’t limit himself, even managing to comment that the original assignment, to cover the motorcycle race, confused and bored him.

Had he been writing the same stuff today, it would have made a series of fantastic blogs.

The world is full of dull, sterile writing. A blog’s strength lies in its ability to be personal, and its ability to update at any time. Get on, log in, pontificate, click submit and it’s there, ready for the reader. People read blogs for the style as much as for the content—they want to know how, as well as what, the blogger thinks. They may show up for the content, but they stay for the personality.

Personality is where Gonzo thrives. Asked about the format, Thompson said, “I don’t get any satisfaction out of the old traditional journalist’s view: ‘I just covered the story. I just gave it a balanced view,’” and “you can’t be objective about Nixon.”

Well, that sounds like political blogging to me. There’s nothing wrong with being fair, but sometimes you have to be able to say, “The leading candidate reminds me of the worst qualities of my math and science teachers—boring, dry, inaccessible and rambling about subjects I couldn’t care less about while ignoring the ones I was interested in.”

So put that style into your blog. You don’t have to turn it into a gin-soaked journey through your chosen topic—in fact, there are very few writers who can actually write well while inebriated (Thompson happened to be one of them). No, what I’m talking about is writing something unedited and uncensored.

Let your inner lion out to play, the writing part of you that says, “I absolutely do not care what people think about this piece,” and go to town. Write hard—present your worst opinions, the strongest way you feel about things. Don’t set out to shock, just set out to be absolutely honest in a way that people cannot mistake for soft-pedaling or going easy on the subject.

Second, don’t edit. This may sound like sacrilege to the profession of writing, but it’s a good tip when you’re writing. Get the content down, write in a stream and let your topic go where it wants to. Try the first-person narrative that makes Gonzo such a joy. Sink yourself into the story. What do you think, feel, want out of this piece? Get that feeling, those essences down on paper.

Writing honestly can be hard. “Is it brandable? Is it too different? Will it generate traffic?” I’m not going to lie: Asking “Is it safe?” is a deep-rooted part of our way of looking at the world, and there’s nothing wrong with it. We want security, and there are the legendary tales of a weird and wacky change causing someone to shoot a good career in the foot, never to be heard from again.

But far more common is the tale you never hear, of the person who writes two entries, gets discouraged and never puts down another word. Or the countless thousands who say “I want to be a writer, but” and allow whatever comes after but to keep them from ever picking up the pen and putting form to their thoughts.

So do it. Go nuts this one time, write something ecstatic or satirical. Skip the conventions for a bit and reinvent your writing, just to keep your readers on the edge of their seats. I’ve got news for you: You’re not going to write the next American manifesto, so now that you know that, you’re free to write a really fun, snappy piece of blogging content that will get your readers talking.

And maybe you can even do it on a road trip to Barstow.

Enzo F. Cesario is an expert on blogs and social media for business and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, videos and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. For the free Brandsplat Report go to Brandsplat.com or visit our blog at http://www.ibrandcasting.com.

Blogging Takes Super Human Effort vs Blogging is Easy [Misconceptions New Bloggers Have #1]

This post is the first in our series on Misconceptions New Bloggers Have. It contains this post, plus these:

At a recent conference, I presented on the topic of making money from blogging. At the end of the session, I hung around to chat with attendees, and ended up talking with about 30 people in what turned out to be an informal Q&A time.

The group was largely new to blogging and as they asked questions, I realized that there are a lot of misconceptions about blogging and (particularly about making money in this space).

Interestingly, the questions I was asked that day indicated that the misconceptions were all not of the same type. In fact, some had completely different misconceptions of blogging. The truth sometimes lies between the extremes.

Copyright Antony McAulay - Fotolia.com

Today I want to tackle two of the misconceptions that I heard at the conference from attendees. They relate to one another, but probably come from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Blogging is easy: it’s just writing!

One of the shocks that await many bloggers once they emerge after their first blog’s launch is that there’s a lot more to blogging than just stringing together a few sentences and publishing posts.

Blogging is much more about generating content.

This becomes apparent to most bloggers pretty quickly—usually within the hours after they hit publish on their first post and wonder when the readers will come and start reading and leaving comments.

The realization usually dawns around then that marketing your blog is something worth learning about.

Other realizations come thick and fast as readers do start to engage with you, and you learn that building interaction on your blog and fostering a sense of community are also core tasks that you need to learn about and do.

The list of things that a blog can benefit from is almost endless:

  • marketing
  • community management
  • editing
  • design
  • server management
  • search engine optimization
  • staying in touch with what others in your niche are doing
  • ad sales
  • affiliate management
  • bookkeeping/accounting
  • networking

The list goes on and changes as your blog grows and goes through different parts of its life cycle.

Yes blogging is about writing (and that in itself is not always easy), but there’s a lot more to it for most bloggers than that!

Blogging is too hard

Okay, so you might be looking at that list of tasks that a blogger needs to get their head around and wonder if you’re cut out for it. If that’s the way you feel, you are not alone.

Many people look at the idea of starting to blog and feel completely overwhelmed by it and unable to tackle it because it’s either beyond what they feel they are capable of, or it seems like too much work.

Others get a week or two into a new blog and give up for the same reasons—they see what’s ahead and for one reason or another feel that it’s beyond them.

The reality (at least in my experience) is that while it is a lot of work—and it’s a lot more than just writing content—it is not completely beyond most people to be able to grow into the roles needed to operate a successful blog.

I say this because I did it, and I see myself as a very ordinary person. My “credentials” for becoming a full-time blogger were not the most spectacular.

  • Before I started blogging I had had 20 jobs in ten years, none of which were in anything to do with the online space and most of which were fairly manual/physical jobs.
  • My only qualifications were half a degree in Marketing (which I failed half of the subjects in) and a Bachelor of Theology.
  • I’d received a ‘C’ in English in my final year of high school.
  • I was incapable of making text bold on my first blog for several weeks—I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to anything technical!

I don’t tell that to build a “rags to riches” story (I had a good life and was a happy chap), but rather because I didn’t have any of the skills or much of the experience that I listed above when I started out.

I either learned them or developed relationships with others who did.

On a slight tangent, a few weeks before my first son was born I was chatting with a friend and starting to get a little panicked about my abilities as a father.

I was projecting forward years ahead about whether I’d be able to raise a kid going through primary school or, worse still, if I’d be able to parent a teen. My friend’s wise words were: “You’ll have 13 years to grow into the role of a parent with teenagers.”

The same lesson is true with blogging. While a successful blog does call upon those who run it to do a lot of different things, when a blog is born there is a smaller list of tasks at hand.

There’s time to grow into your role as a blogger.

In my own experience of blogging, I feel I’ve grown up in my skill set as my blogs have evolved. At each step along the way there are challenges, but in time you learn, adapt, and discover what you need to know to overcome them.

Blogging is lots of work, but it’s not unachievable

If you’re starting out in blogging, or are considering jumping in, do so with the knowledge that there is more to it than stringing a few sentences together and hitting publish. It takes a broader focus than just writing and is a lot of work. However, do know that while you may one day need to expand your skill set and throw more time into it, you will have time to grow into your blog.

On a side note, I find it interesting that some who write about blogging (and who marketing blogging products) sometimes present blogging in one of the above ways. There are some who talk about blogging (and market their products) as if its the easiest thing in the world—like you just have to flick on a switch and a successful blog magically happens by itself.

On the other hand, I’ve also heard others speak about blogging at conferences as being beyond most normal people, building it up as something that can only be done by people with amazing skills and almost super-human dedication.

The truth is somewhere between.

What was your experience of starting out blogging? Did you have one of these misconceptions? What advice would you give new bloggers who are thinking in one of these ways?

The Blogger’s Ultimate Guide to YouTube Success

This guest post is by Hasan of MarketingTheInternet.

YouTube, the second largest search engine right after Google, in 2010 broke the record of uploading more than 24 hours of video per minute! YouTube has also shattered the millstone of over 700 billion video views.

YouTube is an excellent platform for bloggers to build a brand, connect, and provide value to millions of people at once. It can ultimately help you increase traffic to your blog while quickening the process of building loyalty and trust between you and your audience.

After knowing all the stats and the potential, why don’t bloggers use YouTube more to build our blogs and to reach out to millions of people, free? It’s because most blogger are afraid to get behind a camera and show their faces, and share their voices with such a big audience.

Overcoming the fear of rejection

Most bloggers are afraid to create videos because of the fear of rejection—the fear that people will not like your video or think its not good enough.

The nasty thing about life is that you can’t be liked by everyone. Likewise, there are people in life who bring others down just because they don’t have the guts to do something themselves.

So to find success, you have to break away from this millstone and start believing in yourself and your work. Only then will you start seeing the fruits of success. There will always be a majority of people who will find your video interesting and will benefit from and eventually spread and share your work.

But how do you create an awesome, relevant, and interesting video that people share with their social connections, friends, and family? It all starts with brainstorming ideas that provide value to your viewers and get them to spread and share.

Step 1. Brainstorm and mind-map topics

To create a successful video that people will love and benefit from, you first need to sit down and grab yourself a piece of paper and a pen to start brainstorming topics you want to create a video on in the relevant niche you’re in.

Next, decide which format style you want to record your video on. For example: if it’s a screen cast recording, PowerPoint slides presentation or you talking in front of the camera.

After figuring out what topic and which type of recording you choose to use for your first video, you need to create a mind map of all the key points you’re going to talk about in your video. To create a productive mind map, first write down your topic in the middle of the paper and show arrows pointing outwards with all the key points you’re going to talk about.

Once you’ve drawn a simple, clean mind map of your main topic with the headline and all the key points you’re going to talk about, it’s time to gather the equipment required to record your first video.

Step 2. Gather your equipment

Depending on which type of video you’re creating, whether it is a screen cast recording, PowerPoint slide presentation, or you talking in front of the camera, these are some of the basic equipment you’ll need.

A video camera

To record your video, you need a camera. Any video camera should do the job.

A web cam

If you don’t have a video camera to record with, you can use a web cam to get the job done.

A microphone that’s compatible with your computer

You need a microphone to speak into for a clear recording. Microphones help block out all the background noises in your video.

Camtasia for screen casting

For a video tutorial or PowerPoint slides presentation you need screen casting software to record your computer screen from. The best software for the job is Camtasia. This is easy-to-use software with a very friendly interface for both beginners to advanced users.

Step 3. Record your video [draft version]

After deciding on the topic and equipment you need, it’s time to record your video! When recording your video, keep these tips in mind:

Rehearse your video

It’s a good habit to rehearse the whole video before actually recording, as it will eliminate the chances of things going wrong when you actually start recording.

Focus and speak clearly

Speak clearly into the mic while recording, and don’t go too fast. Take your time and speak with confidence.

While recording any video, it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus on what you’re saying. If your viewers realize that you’re loosing your focus and attention, viewers will loose interest in your video and end up leaving. So stay focused while recording.

Don’t be a perfectionist

Don’t think your video will be perfect. Nobody’s perfect and this is definitely not a “job interview”, so keep your video simple and just provide valuable content to viewers who can benefit from it.

Step 3. Edit your video [final version]

Once you’ve recorded your video, it’s time to edit it and create the final version. For Software editing I recommend:

  • Windows Users: Windows Movie Maker, which is an excellent free tool to edit and create high quality videos on windows.
  • Mac Users: iMovie, which is the best software for editing videos on your Mac. It’s easy and simple to create professional looking videos with ease in no time!

Three quick tips for video editing

  1. Create a simple Intro to capture the attention of your audience.
  2. Tweak and fix any mispronunciations and “muck ups” in your video.
  3. Create a logo of your brand on the top left or right corner of the video to get brand recognition (optional).

Step 4. Upload your video to YouTube

The final step is to upload your awesome creation to YouTube for full exposure.

First, log into your YouTube account and click on the Upload Button on the top right.

Now, click the Upload Video button to upload your video.

As the video starts uploading, fill in the form below it, describing your video with the relevant keywords.

Choose your keywords carefully—they’ll be used to rank your video in searches on YouTube. Don’t use any spammy keywords in your video, as this can violate YouTube’s terms and conditions, which could result in your video being suspended from YouTube.

Three tips for success

  1. Call to action: In your video always ask for people to comment, rate and subscribe your video as this will help your video to rank higher in searches on YouTube.
  2. Be active: Reply to every comment you get on the video to start conversations, as this will encourage more comments and interaction on your video resulting in a higher ranking on YouTube.
  3. Connect with others: After you have uploaded your video, connect and ask your social network, friends and family to watch, comment and share your video. Also start connecting with other YouTubers and ask them to watch your video to spread and share with their friends and subscribers on YouTube.

People love videos because it shows real people and real emotions, so start creating videos that people will benefit from, and build your online presence on YouTube by reaching out to millions of people who spread and share valuable content each day. Video is by far the best way to build your brand and increase traffic to your blog.

Share your experience with video marketing in the comments below!

This guest post is written by Hasan from MarketingTheInternet, Internet Marketing and Make Money from Websites Tips Blog. You can get started with his free Email “Make Money with Websites” Series. Stay in touch with him on twitter @Hasan_tw.

How to Build a Business By Supporting Bloggers: a Case Study

This guest post is by Jeremy Delancy of passivepanda.com.

Some people get struck by lightning, some people win the lottery, and some people make good money by blogging two hours per day in their pajamas. I’ve never met any one the above-mentioned people, but the snake oil salesmen of the Internet will try to convince you that you’ll be making millions in a few months if you buy their info products and start a blog.

The truth is, profitable blogging requires hard work. An even less accepted truth is that profitable blogging will, more and more, require a collaborative effort. In his ebook Partnering Profits, John Morrow likens the early days of making money online to the early days of computer gaming. The first computer games were so basic that one person designed and produced an entire game! Think about what is needed to create Runescape or Starcraft II. The time and effort is well beyond the capability of any one person.

A similar change is taking place in blogging. Readers now want multi-media content, social media widgets, great writing, and so on. Add in the marketing and promotion of your blog and it soon becomes more than any one individual can deliver without spending 80 hours in front of a computer. The job of managing research, affiliates, guest posts—all while learning new technologies—has already begun to overwhelm some small bloggers.

In this turmoil created by the growth and development in the blogosphere, I see opportunity. The possibility exists to create an additional income not by starting your own blog, but by helping other bloggers build a loyal readership, increase blog traffic and monetize their blogs. I’m starting to do just that and I’ll analyze the steps that I’ve taken so far.

Getting started

First, some background information: I’ve worked as a full-time speech writer for the last ten years. The job entails loads of research on all sorts of topics. Previously, I was an English Literature teacher. I began reading blogs on Personal Finance, Entrepreneurship and Lifestyle Design in 2009.

Since then I’ve come across blogs that had great, well-researched content and good design. I’ve also come across many more that were quite the opposite. It’s obvious to many blog readers that some bloggers need help. The questions I wanted answered were, “Are bloggers willing to pay for assistance?” and, “Is there a market among bloggers for my particular skill set?”

The process

In retrospect, I could have begun the process of finding out who needed assistance, and what kind of assistance was needed, quite differently. One alternative would have been to subscribe to blogs on blogging (ProBlogger) and read the comments to see what were the most common challenges faced. But, that would not have been true to my nature, which is to gain first hand information through research.

Instead, I developed a questionnaire, which I emailed to bloggers who specialized in: personal finance, christian living, entrepreneurship, woodworking, and eco-friendly lifestyles, all of which are areas of personal interest. Some of the questions were informational, i.e. “How long does it take to move from new idea to blog post?” Other questions were about the bloggers’ aspirations, i.e. “Where would you like to be in terms of blogging within the next six months to two years?”

Tip: When you’re doing this kind of research do not send more than five questions unless you have developed an excellent rapport with the other person. I found that sending seven questions in an email dropped the response rate to zero.

Tip 2: For an excellent article on what to write when emailing busy people, go here.

The answers were then collated and turned into A Report on Building A Better Blog which was uploaded to Scribd.com. By using Scribd, I was able to keep track of the number of downloads and the number of positive responses I received. To get a copy of the ten page report, which details my methodology, questions and suggestions, go here.

The service offering

The process of researching and writing the report, had several very important benefits. Primarily, it gave me an insight into the some of the biggest problems faced by bloggers.

Secondly, I had made a tangible product to showcase my research and writing skills.

Finally, and most importantly, the answers allowed me to focus on providing the following services to bloggers in personal finance and entrepreneurship:

  • Guest posts—Invitations to write guest posts are common but not every blogger finds the time to do so, even when it would increase their readership. I write and the blogger who hires me, posts to the blog he/she received the invitation from.
  • Ghost writing—Surprise! Bloggers are people too! They need time to attend to their families, take vacations, etc. Due to the nature of my full-time job, I know how to replicate the vocabulary, syntax and style of others. After a few days of practice, most readers won’t be able to tell the difference between me and their beloved blogger.
  • Research—Find entrepreneurial blogs with 50, 000 RSS Feed subscribers. I’m on it. Research the benefits of credit card X, compare to credit card Y, and write a post. Not a problem. Summarize guru A’s new book and email the finer points. With pleasure.

The major benefit, that I provide bloggers? Time. By spending less time researching and writing, they have more time to work on other projects and find new ways to monetize their blogs

Finding potential clients

When the time came to begin pitching bloggers with the above-mentioned service offering, I had a good idea of their major challenges, and was able to offer solutions because of my research. To find potential clients I searched Technorati.com for personal finance blogs with high to medium authority and then focused on those that announced a soon to be released information product (indicating a very busy blogger), or those whose Compete.com numbers had tumbled sharply (indicating that the blogger had missed several posts) and e-mailed them.

Some of you reading this will think that the process is far too tedious to emulate, but there is a major benefit. By putting 80% of the work up front, your chance of rejection goes down considerably. This is because you are in your customer’s head. You will have taken the time and effort to know their goals, their pain points, their likes and dislikes, and crafted your service to meet their needs. In return they will show their appreciation by giving you their business.

How you can get started today

Finally, for those of you interested in helping bloggers, I’d suggest skipping the research and focus on the following instead:

  1. Niche down and know what topics you will specialize in.
  2. Be clear on what problems you can solve … and those you can’t.
  3. Perfect your service offering via email as it will give you a foot in the door.
  4. Constantly strive to improve your skills.

Become the support network

Helping bloggers is essentially freelance work, and the first rule of freelancing is find your niche. The blogosphere is a big place and as it grows there are more and more opportunities for you to fill in the gaps. Spend some time thinking about how you could help a blogger and you may find yourself earning more freelance income as a blog supporter than many people do as a blog owner.

Could you support a blogger? Have you considered this as an income option? I’d love to hear of your experiences in the comments.

Jeremy Delancy writes for Passive Panda. To get more tips and other proven strategies for earning more money, time, and freedom join Passive Panda’s Free Newsletter on Earning More.