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The Biggest Lie in Blogging and How to Disprove it

This guest post is by Ryan Biddulph of Cashwithatrueconscience.com.

You lie to yourself. Every day as a blogger.

Okay, maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t buy in.

But you probably do. If you moan about struggling to blog.

Writer’s block

The lie is writer’s block. You have no ideas. You can’t write.

So you don’t write. Lose leads. Miss creative practice. Feel comfy cozy in your excuse zone.

The worst part about the lie? You can disprove it now. And ten hours from now. Or whenever you pen your next post.

But you need to a few things to attack, disarm and disprove the lie.

Abundance

Abundance exists. Lack and limitation is a human concept. No shortage of ideas. Only an infinite flow.

You tap into that infinite flow any time you write a blog post. You choose to block the flow any time you surrender to writer’s block.

Both are choices. You choose to snag the idea or block the idea. Own this choice. You disprove the lie.

People buy in

People tend to buy in. Why? Any crutch supporting their limiting belief sounds great to them. No need to own stuff. Or succeed.

But if you can own your life you can become the master of your fate. That’s not a bad deal, I know.

Because ownership precedes acceptance, and acceptance precedes happiness. How’s that for a triple play?

You can’t buy in to writer’s block. You must reject the idea, when people note it, or use it as an excuse.

You are unlimited

You are unlimited and remain unlimited until you accept the idea you aren’t unlimited. Accept this. Where you at now, writer’s block?

Life follows your belief system. Writer’s block just made a hasty retreat. No more low energy handcuffs. You are free to write!

Practical tips

Do these things to dissolve writer’s block.

Meditate

Meditation dissolve blocks—or limiting ideas—from your being. Once the block dissolves you tap into the infinite flow of creative ideas.

Read blogs

You generate many creative ideas by reading relevant blogs. Read, take notes, write your own posts. Love that jingle.

Surround yourself with winning bloggers

Winning or successful bloggers rarely make the writer’s block excuse. So you follow their lead.

Step away from the computer

Eureka! You have experienced the moment many times, and it was likely when you were away from the laptop. Detaching opens up you to creativity.

Your turn

Do you buy into the writer’s block lie? How do you overcome this block?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Ryan Biddulph helps entrepreneurs create value and build connections to grow their home based opportunity. Please subscribe to his blog Click Here.

6 Practices to Overcome Your Fears of Playing Bigger

This guest post is by Tara Wagner of TheOrganicSister.com.

Playing bigger. Putting yourself out there. What others will think? Not being good enough.

Most bloggers have had to face those fears at same point. Dreams and goals tend to bring up our ugly stories after all.

Being a life coach who works primarily with women looking to overcome fears, blocks, beliefs, and barriers is what I do. So of course I have an opinion on why it is our fears come up one step behind our dreams.

Because they need to.

They need to seen, heard, and dealt with. They need to be examined and released. Life will hear our desire to step up to the plate as a desire to step away from the dugout. “You want to play bigger? Good! Here’s the first thing you get to examine and let go of in order to do so.”

Our fear is not meant to be our saboteur. It’s just an emotion we’ve attached to the thoughts that go swirling through our head on overtime we go to hit that Publish button, or send out a tweet.

Digging deep to overcome that fear can be both a long, mindful process, or as fast and life-changing as a simple Aha! moment that forever changes the lens through which we see the world.

But if a client were to ask me which steps they most likely needed to take, here’s what I would say.

1. Surround yourself with the right systems of support

A big reason so many of us get freaked out at the perspective of blogging is because it’s new and probably mostly unheard of in our intimate circles.

Now I’m not knocking those intimate circles. We need those like we need water. But they serve a purpose of their own, and encouraging you to do something big and in a completely new arena is not likely the role they need to serve in your life.

By surrounding yourself with other bloggers (local meetups, online groups, tele-conferences circles with accountability partners), you’ll find more encouragement to match your fear and what looks a little crazy from the outside will begin to look natural and “what-was-there-to-be-afraid-of-again?”.

Get a coach, get a group, get a friend. Get support.

2. Don’t “push through fear.” Process through it

I loathe when I hear that term. It’s not that it’s always a big thing. I pushed through fear when I went cliff jumping. But this whole “Fear of Playing Bigger” thing isn’t over as soon as you hit the water.

Pushing through fear is like pushing a car through your first marathon. Exhausting, distracting, ridiculous. Stop pushing through it. Stop and address the damn car, so you can get on without it. Yes, it might come up again, but if you keep giving it the space to be heard and the space to process through the fear, you give it the space to heal.

How do you process through it?

Here are a few beginning tips.

3. Know what it is you’re really afraid of

It’s not “playing bigger” that you’re actually afraid of. It’s what “playing bigger” will mean: what you fear will happen, what you think someone might say or do, who you think that someone might be, and what all that might mean?

Right here I’m talking about our deepest core beliefs or fears—the stories we tell ourselves about Who We (or others) Are and what we’re capable of. The stories that keep us playing small in order to play it safe.

The best way to find your deepest core fear is to start with the scenario that’s freaking you out, and question it. Ask yourself why you’re really afraid of it, what you’re afraid might happen, and what that says or means.

This can take some time, and sometimes even support, so go back to #1 if you need to. But keep processing through it, because until you understand what your fear is really trying to save you from, you won’t be able to overcome it.

4. Test the validity of your fear

This is one exercise from my ebook, Digging Deep, on overcoming our barriers and fears by testing their validity. It doesn’t work in all scenarios, but it’s a powerful one to try. Why? Because nothing rewrites fear in the mind like experience to the contrary.

You’ll need to start out by knowing what you’re really afraid of (see #3), then you’ll need to create a scenario that tests it.

For instance, maybe you find you’re really afraid of ridicule from friends. One way to test that fear is to openly and authentically share your concerns and ask for feedback from those friends.

Or if you’re afraid of looking stupid, maybe you can purposefully go out and do something that makes you look ridiculous (think: giant rooster costume) and realize that the world neither crashes down around you, nor do most people even notice.

This isn’t about being rational. Because your fear likely isn’t very rational. This is about speaking to that irrational brain of yours, in terms it can understand: hard-core experiences to the contrary.

5. See those fears (or feedback) with compassion

This one is a hard practice, and I’m not gonna tell you it’s always one to practice. There are times when we don’t need to see the other side; times when we need to ignore the other side because it’s bi-polar and toxic and it’s probably a better bet to change our phone number than to try to empathize. (I’m talking about people who might not support you, but I’m also talking about those bipolar and toxic thoughts of yours too.)

Seeing the other side is about looking with empathy at what’s happening and trying to understand with compassion how it came to be this way, and the deeper needs that are trying to be heard and validated.

For example, a fear of “not being good enough” might be just an attempt to receive acceptance, something that we all need and deserve. Or for another example, the recent criticism of a parent for your career choice might actually be a need to know you will be secure.

I recommend this practice because it can be easy to get washed up in the fear, the drama, the criticism, the he-said/she-said, the messy stories and can we just say drama again? It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really happening beneath the crazy of what we’re thinking, saying, or doing.

But any time we drop beneath that, our path becomes clearer. Pretty soon we’re not wracked with self-doubt because our best friend said she didn’t think we could hack it; we have empathy for the fear or the hurt or the self-consciousness she may be experiencing.

Remember, seeing the other side is not about psycho-analyzing the other person, or even yourself. It’s about looking for love, with love. It’s about seeking understanding, instead of stoking the inferno of self-doubt.

6. Say what you need to say

This is a modified version of an exercise in Digging Deep, to help you have that conversation you’ve been needing to have in order to finally lay to bed the fear you’ve been experiencing.

This might be a letter to a hurtful loved one, to your younger self, or even to your own fear. Imagine yourself having a peaceful but firm conversation.

This likely also means you’ll need to see those fears (or the fears of someone else, perhaps) as in the last step. Send gratitude for the the good intentions of your fear, or the attempt to care for you from a loved one, then describe how it is that you’re okay, capable, ready for this.

You may give the fear your proof in the form of what you’ve been able to do, or how you’ll handle anything that comes up. You may even answer that nagging question of “Who the hell am I?” with an answer that starts something like, “I’ll tell you who I am…”

Take your time with this. Each time I’ve done this I’ve essentially had a four- or five-page “conversation” with my fear, letting it say everything it needed to say and calmly answering it with clear and confident choices. It sounds slightly ridiculous until you really let yourself fall into the exercise. Then you experience that weight lift off your shoulders.

Again, in all these exercises you’re looking to create mindfulness and understanding through acknowledgment and compassion.

Because understanding creates clarity in your choices or next steps, and clarity creates confidence. And confidence creates a wildly authentic, wildly unique, wildly successful blogger.

Tara Wagner offers lots more tools for overcoming self-doubt, fear, and other barriers to creating your own unconventional, authentic, and thriving lifestyle. You can find her and signup for her free e-course/toolkit to start thriving in your life and family (without the fear) at TheOrganicSister.com.

Weekend Project: Take a Blogging Retreat

As bloggers, we all face challenges. They might be as big as expanding our blog beyond a five-figure income. Or they might be ongoing, like the challenges of finding post ideas, or clearly defining our niches.

Reflecting

Image courtesy stock.xchng user SSPIVAK

And we look for answers wherever we can: on our favorite blogs, in ebooks and whitepapers, at meetups, on social media, in our networks and with our contacts.

But all too rarely do we look inside ourselves for those answers.

You already have what you need to succeed

It sounds corny, but it’s true: you have what you need to succeed already. That doesn’t mean none of us ever need to learn anything, or buy any software, or do any research!

What it means is that your own drives, motivations, interests, and capabilities are what will lead you to success.

The problem is that online, things move so fast. We can spend so much energy simply trying to keep up that we don’t make time to look inside ourselves and work out what suits us—what we want as bloggers, and what we can give to those goals.

That’s what this weekend project is all about.

Take a blogging retreat

This weekend, I’m inviting you to take a blogging retreat. Today and tomorrow, we’ll tackle some of the most common blogging problems with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned introspection.

We’ll help you:

These posts will put you back in touch with yourself, and help you connect better with your blog, so it, in turn, can connect better with readers.

It should help you reconnect with your desires and goals as a blogger, and refresh your outlook on what you’re doing and where your blog’s headed.

I know how hard it can be to make time to do this kind of thing on a daily basis, so I hope you’ll join us this weekend to improve your blog in some unexpected ways, through our blogging retreat! Watch out for our first post later today.

How to Build a Dominant Google+ Presence

This guest post is by Ryan Howard of Complete Web Resources.

Google+ is the hottest game in town when it comes search engine placement gains—at least for the time being.

We’ve run multiple tests and so have a few other agencies we know, almost with unanimous consent that preferring Google+ for the hours you dedicate to social media offers the greatest ranking benefit.

In this post we’ll discuss the top 5 ways to make Google+ work for you.

When we talk about Google+ (Google Plus) there are a few different areas we need to address. That is to say, there are a few different ways that you can eke out some positive signals to aid in your search engine optimization promotion program, build your trust with Google, and move you up in SERPs. They are:

  1. Google+ shares
  2. Google +1 counter
  3. Google Circles ads
  4. Google+ company page
  5. Google authorship.

Google+ shares

This is the best way to get Google’s attention. At least, we’ve seen the greatest gains from this effort in particular.

A share means that someone shares your link on their Google+ profile by posting to their wall. Good quality content that you post to your Google circles or on your blog will do the trick.

One thing that we’ve been doing lately is to host funny images on our site and then share them on Google+. When people +1 the posts, or reshare them, we get credit, since the image is hosted on our site. In addition, if people navigate to the image itself, we’ll get more site visits.

Here’s a video I made to show exactly how to host images on your site to get traffic.

Google+ counter

This is the little widget that you add to your site so that visitors can +1 your content when they are there.

Adding this widget will let people vote your site up with +1s. When they do so, Google will give them the option to post their vote on their individual Google+ profiles, which gets you a link on their profile and also exposes your site to all of their followers. Plus 1 votes are also a ranking factor in Google’s search algorithm.

The addition of the +1 counter widget is very simple and excellent documentation on it can be found at the Google Developers site. You can alter how the button looks, change its width and annotation, and try some advanced options as well.

Pro tip: Under the Advanced options dropdown, be sure to enter your website’s URL in the “URL to +1″ box. This will make doubly sure Google properly counts all of you +1s.

Once you have the +1 tag and script written into your code, the counter widget will display on your site wherever you decide to place it. It’ll look like this:

Google plus counter

It shouldn’t be too difficult to get your friends to help you get started with +1′s. Don’t overdo it, though. Going from 0 to 100 in a day will surely send up a red flag in the Google Search algorithm.

Google circles adds

In addition to shares and +1s, you also want your personal profile to link to your website, and having a more powerful profile gives you more clout (or Klout).

You’ll want to add excellent content to your profile to keep people engaged and interested, commenting on your posts, and so on. But you’ll also need an audience to reach. Here’s how to get started.

First, add all of your gmail contacts to your circles—hopefully they’ll follow you back. That’s a great start.

After that, we want to add more shared circles, which will cause people to add you back. Here are a few recommended searches to help you find more shared circles:

  1. +CircleCount
  2. Public Shared Circles
  3. In the Google+ search bar, type “shared a circle with you” (leave the quotes) which will bring up circle that have already been shared publicly.

Having a built-out profile with a good profile image will help you get more people to add you back. No one wants to add a profile that looks empty or spammy.

Google+ company page

As a Google+ user, you can also create and manage a company page tied to your site.

From your profile, click your small profile image at top-right. The dropdown that appears will allow you to add a page. Otherwise, you’ll see the link to “View all of my pages”. Click that to go to the Page add screen.

Here are a couple screenshots of the initial setup process:

Google plus company page

Google plus company page 2

Setting up a Google+ page is very similar to setting up a personal profile. You’ll want to be sure to include your URL so that the page links back to your site. Also, you’ll want to add an icon on your website that links back to the Google+ page.

The main difference between a page and a personal profile is that you can’t follow individuals as a page unless they follow you first. You can, however, follow other pages. This will make getting page followers a bit more difficult, but the solution is quality content and regular posts. Keep the content that you post relevant to your business. We like to add snippets from our website blog, funny internet-related images, and so on.

Google authorship

Google authorship ties all of these elements together and really connects your Google profile with your website. Search results that have an individual’s image next to their blog, post, or website are all utilizing Google authorship. Google even lets you sort results by only selecting things from that author.

The technical integration of Google authorship requires an entire post of its own, and the best and most easily followed guide we’ve found is How to Set Up Rel=author.

Are you making the most of Google+?

That concludes our survey of the ways Google+ can help your site earn additional trust signals in the eyes of Google’s search algorithm, and improve your site’s visibility. We covered the following methods for promoting your Google+ presence.

  1. Google+ shares
  2. Google +1 counter
  3. Google Circles ads
  4. Google+ company page
  5. Google authorship.

These really are the top five. You should have each of them working for your Google profile, and linked to your website where possible. Following these steps will not only increase your reach into additional markets, it will also give your website a nice boost in the SERPs.

Ryan Howard is Head of Search for Complete Web Resources a WordPress digital refinery and search strategy firm.

Work With Private Advertisers to Keep them Coming Back

This guest post is by John Burnside of moneyin15minutes.co.uk.

If you have a blog or website then I’m sure that you will have looked at various ways to earn a bit of money for all your blood, sweat and tears. There are so many ways to do it.

You’ve got pay per click, affiliate programs, or advertising to emailing lists, plus dozens of other methods. But if you take a look at some developed blogs within your niche, you are likely to see an Advertise With Us page in their top menus.

This is where private advertisers will come to find out prices—and where you can start earning a more stable living online.

Let’s look at a few key things you can do to target these advertisers, and start building relationships with them.

Set up your Advertise With Us page

If you don’t have one of these on your blog, you need to build one. If no one knows you’re selling advertising space, you’re not going to get any customers.

This page should include pictures of where the adverts will be placed, explain what type of ads you’re selling (e.g. text links, banner ads etc.), and provide a contact box so that would-be advertisers can contact you straight away.

I believe that you should also include the pricing for each advert slot on this page because this can smooth the communication that follows. But if you have confidence in your blog, you could simply say, “Please contact me for details on pricing.”

If you’re happy with your site’s traffic, include those details on the page too. If an advertiser knows how many views they are going to get for the price, that will give them more confidence in purchasing.

Another tip: label the ad spaces that have already been taken up by other businesses. This will show potential advertisers that your site is in demand.

Excellent Advertise With Us pages

What does a great Advertise With Us page look like? Here are a few choice examples: clear and concise pages that will attract a lot of business.

  • Mashable: If you take a look at this page you can see where your advert is going to be placed, what sizes of banner ads are on offer, and how many visitors the site attracts. The only thing not listed is the price of the adverts. For such a large site, that information is unnecessary at this point, since all advertisers know they’d reach a massive audience by advertising with this site.
  • John Chow: The first thing that’s mentioned on this advertising page is the amount of visitors the site gets. Straight away, this gives a potential customer an idea of how much value they can expect to get for their ad placement. Then, the page clearly explains how your advert will be shown—on which articles, and so on. This is a great idea to increase revenue when you are getting a lot of business on your site. It adds advertising spots when your site has physically run out of space.
  • Shoemoney: This is much the same as the other pages, including nice guides on traffic and where your ad will be placed. But this page has a nice twist: it lists all of the popular publications that the author and the blog have been mentioned on. This shows a lot of credibility and proves that the blog is popular.

Price your ad space competitively

It can seem like the biggest decision you are going to make, to decide on your pricing. But don’t spend to long wondering where the threshold is between what advertisers will pay and what is too much.

The best way to decide is to see what other people in your niche are charging and then judge your offering against theirs.

I would recommend going to at least five blogs within your niche, and checking out their ad pricing. Then use tools like Alexa.com and the social proof (amount of comments, Facebook likes, retweets, etc.) those sites are getting to judge how much traffic they are receiving.

Then you can compare those results against yours and make a decision about how much you should be charging for your ad space.

Be prepared to negotiate on price

When advertisers contact you, they usually are happy to pay the price that you have stated on your advertising page. If you haven’t stated a price, or the customer is after a bargain, then they might try and negotiate with you.

Keep in mind from the start the price that you would like to get, and your minimum price.

If you have these figures in mind, you won’t fall into the trap of going lower than you should, and devaluing your advertising space. If this happens, the next time you deal with this person they are going to expect to get the space for the discounted price again.

As you’re negotiating, keep in mind how much work this person is either likely to send you, or has sent you in the past. This is particularly important for deals where the advertiser have already tested out your website, and want to come back to you with a longer term deal.

For example, if they have tested you previously with one or two tweets and paid the full price, and now they want a series of 15-20 tweets, you may decide this is a legitimate reason for them to expect a discount.

Attracting advertisers yourself

Sometimes you think you’ve done everything right. You’ve got plenty of traffic, set up an advertising page … and yet you’re just not getting contacted by anyone.

Well, there are things you can do to attract those elusive advertisers to your blog.

The first one is a passive way to get more advertising customers, but it can be very effective in the long term: do a bit of search engine optimization on your advertising page. If you target the proper keywords, you could get organic traffic from Google specifically comprising advertisers. Perhaps go for the keyword “advertising on a (your niche) blog.” It’s a long-tail keyword, so there probably won’t be too much competition for it, but any traffic you get from it should be advertising gold.

A more immediate approach is to directly email the types of people that you feel would be interested in buying advertising on your blog. First of all, you want to contact any advertisers that have used your blog before. They represent your best chance of immediate business: you know they’re interested in your service, and hopefully they were satisfied with it. You never know—they may be looking for a site to advertise on, but have simply forgotten about you.

If you are just getting to the stage where you think your site is ready for private advertisers, you could consider doing a bit of cold emailing to people who might be interested. Not sure who’d be interested in your ad space? Let me use my blog as an example to explain.

I am in the make money online niche, and to attract new advertisers, I would contact people who have sales pages offering make money systems for sale. Look for pages that are selling products, but products that you think your readers would be interested in.

Once you have found a few sites, and the email addresses of their webmasters, it’s time to send them some tempting emails. Remember while you’re writing the email that you are selling yourself and your site. Sometimes it’s hard to do this—it seems like you’re boasting—but keep in mind that you have a really good blog that can offer quality, targeted traffic for their product. Once you get going talking about how great your blog could be for them, you won’t be able to stop!

The final way of attracting advertisers if you don’t have the time to search out products and send out emails, is to go to a site specifically designed to sell private advertising space, like Buysellads. This website advertises to a wide audience. All you have to do is place your traffic, your advertising options, your site, and your prices into your listing.

They will take a commission on your advertising space, however, so be aware of that. Once you have attracted an advertiser from this site I would heavily recommend contacting them personally so that you can cut out the middleman, and make sure you get all of the money for your advertising space.

Offer a good service

Always keep in mind throughout the whole correspondence what it is you are doing: offering a service. So, to keep your customer satisfied, you must be quick to respond and polite at all times.

I usually start off my first response to a potential advertiser with a sentence like, “Thank you for your interest in my blog.” This shows that you are humble about your accomplishments, and appreciate the advertiser. Someone who feels appreciated will feel much more comfortable contacting you again.

If they ask a question, answer it as clearly and fully as you can, and avoid being sarcastic or patronizing. This is an instant turn-off for anyone, let alone someone who you’re hoping to convince to part with their hard-earned cash.

When they have asked about advertising, send them a list of all of the services you offer on your site, along with the prices so that if they would like to take you up on one of them, they already know what you offer. If you don’t, you’ll create the impression that you aren’t sure what to charge, or that you’re trying to hide something.

Finally, if you do get work from someone, be sure that you can complete it on time and to the standard that they expect. If you under-deliver on any of your projects for them, they will never come back to you.

Make a business partner for the long term

The final goal of any blogger who offers private advertising should be to get advertisers coming back month after month to use your advertising space. The main issue in achieving this will be how much traffic you have sent to their site, but there are some other things you can do to help keep them coming back.

If they have used your site once, email them just before their time is up and ask them if they would like to renew their contract with you. You never know when you might make a recurring customer.

You might also consider offering them a discount if they sign up for a longer term contract. Everyone likes to find a bargain, and if they know you already, and feel confident that you can deliver a good service, they could well be tempted.

The most important thing to remember is that you want to build a relationship with these people. They are the ones who are going to pay for your blogging exploits, and they may well know others who are interested in advertising on your site. If you make a friend in advertising it could open up a world of possibilities for your blog that you don’t want to miss out on.

Do you allow private advertisers on your blog? Share your tips with us in the comments.

This guest post was written by John Burnside a blogger in the make money online niche. If you want to read about earning an income online then please follow his feed.

Blogging in Brief: Engagement Tools, App Auctions, and Brutal Realism

This week has turned up some really interesting ideas for blog reader engagement using technology as well as creative content techniques…

Mini reader surveys … and more

On Eugen Oprea’s blog, we saw this handy little query form:

Query form

It’s made with LeadConverter, which you can use on a free subscription if you want to give it a try on your blog.

Eugen’s using it to survey readers about their interests, but the tool can actually be used for a range of purposes, including boosting conversions.

Taking a sponsored post one step further

The old-timey vibe on The Art of Manliness stretches even to their images. This post about equipping yourself for a whisky tasting is topped by a specially developed graphic that presents each contemporary item in an old visual style.

That’s a pretty great value-add for the sponsor—and really eye-catching for readers too. The Art of Manliness have a commissioned illustrator on the blog. What a great way to help build your brand.

Realism counts

Did you see Greg McFarlane’s recent post here on naming blog products? This is one example of a continuing trend I’m noticing around blog content, and that’s realism.

I’ve noticed realism taking over on quite a few blogs a media sites. It may be because we’re all well-trained to be skeptical of over-promising headlines these days. It may also be because brutal realism cuts through the chatter.

Here are a few examples of the kind of thing I’m talking about:

Are you using realism on your blog? If not, perhaps it’s time!

Showing off your best content

I spotted this great idea from Heather Solos this week: an attention-grabbing way to get readers to click through to your pillar content.

Here’s a screenshot from Heather’s home page:

The Home Ec 101 homepage

The Home Ec 101 homepage

I took this screencapture on a Thursday, and I have the feeling the chores list changes to reflect the day of the week. But in any case, who can resist clicking on that sticky note? It looks so real—like it’s been stuck to my fridge as a friendly reminder!

I thought the sticky would take me to a download, but it doesn’t—the content is a blog post, and it’s free, and you don’t need to sign up to get all the content. This is a great way to encourage users who hit your homepage to get right into your content, based on their needs. As a creative approach, it’s also perfectly in line with the purpose of Heather’s blog, and the needs of her readers. What a great idea.

Get appy

We’ve talked a bit about developing an app as a product for your blog. There’s an alternative, though: buy one.

Apptopia is a fairly new marketplace where developers sell their apps. While some of the prices are mind-boggling, some aren’t. Could this be a good way for you to add to your blog’s offering and help your readers? Maybe. As the Web Marketing Ninja hinted in this article, you’ll need to consider the maintenance and future development needs of the app before you buy (or develop) one.

What’s caught your eye in the blogosphere this week? Share any innovative ideas you’ve spotted with us in the comments.

The Commonsense Approach to Fresh Post Ideas

This guest post is by Ryan Shell of Fashables.

If you’re a long-time blogger, you, at some point, have inevitably looked at a blank document on a computer screen and thought to yourself, “I have no idea what I’m going to write about.”

And if you’ve never been a blogger, it’s likely you haven’t even fathomed the idea of, you know, sharing your thoughts with all of “those” people on the internet, let alone knowing what to write about.

What to write about

This is a topic I’ve addressed with a number of individuals during the past few months, and imagine it will continue to come up time and time again.

When the “What do I write about?” question comes up, I quickly start brainstorming and, within minutes, can develop a number of topics for the individual to write about.

My method isn’t rocket science.

It’s also not some wildly colorful secret that you’ve not been told.

It is one thing though, and I’d like to share it with you.

Common sense

Everyone’s an “expert” about something. What we fail to do is realize that what is easy and common sense to Person X (you) may not be common sense to Person Y.

What happens is that people inventory the knowledge floating around in their brain and eventually—due to their expertise—think, “that’s nothing special” or “everyone already knows that.” And that’s a big mistake.

I recently built a website for someone and the following exchange happened via text message.

Her: “Is my site mobile phone friendly?”

Me: “Yes. Very.”

Her: “Cool! How did you do that?”

What immediately came to mind after seeing her question was, “It really isn’t that big a deal. I simply customized a mobile responsive WordPress theme.” When I look at that short thought through a different lens, I can quickly see two blog posts develop: one about the importance of creating a mobile friendly website, and another that discusses mobile responsive WordPress themes and how they easily make mobile friendly websites.

That simple exchange, followed by what came to mind for me, is a great example of how we constantly take knowledge and our life experiences for granted.

What’s simple for you very well may not be simple for someone else.

Ryan Shell is the Senior Manager, Online Communications for a global communications firm. He is also the founder of the fashion blogFashables and recently created a t-shirt line, The Home T, that helps raise money for multiple sclerosis research. He can also be found online at RyanShell.com.

A Community Starts with 1,000 Members

This guest post is by Jeremy Miller of www.StickyBranding.com.

It’s easy to see the successes bloggers like Darren Rowse and Chris Brogan are having with social media and think, “I want that.” Darren’s ProBlogger Facebook page has over 43,000 Likes, and Chris has over 103,000 people following him on Google+.

I’m not in their league, but in less than two years my LinkedIn Group, Sticky Branding, grew to over 22,000 members.

People see these successes, and want to replicate them for their businesses.

But cruise the social media highway, and you will find countless Facebook pages and LinkedIn groups that are floundering or abandoned. They’re virtual ghost towns. They were set up with good intentions, but failed to ever get off the ground.

For example, there are over 1.3 million groups on LinkedIn, but only 3% of them have 1,000 or more members. And less than 0.017% of groups break 10,000 members.

Vibrant, engaged and growing social media communities are not the average.

The reason so many groups fail is they don’t achieve a critical mass. They don’t reach the starting point of 1,000 members to form the seed of a community.

Communities start with 1,000 members

Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus, argues that groups function best between eight and 16 people, or more than 1,000 members. He writes, “Being a participant in a midsize group often feels lousy, because you get neither the pleasures of tight interconnection nor the advantages of urban scale and diversity.”

A few hundred followers isn’t enough. You’ve got to break 1,000 members to get your group off the ground, because as Shirky explains, “Better than 99 percent of the audience members don’t participate, they just consume.”

Only 1% of an online community are active content creators, the rest are not. 90% of a community is silent. They don’t forward articles, respond to comments or even press the Like button. They simply consume.

The remaining 9% are curators. They share the community’s content through retweets, shares, and Likes, but they aren’t actively creating new comments or engaging with other members.

To carry on a group conversation, you need at least ten active content creators. They’re the kernel of your community. They keep it going, and make it a fun, vibrant place.

So without 1,000 members it’s very hard to foster and sustain conversations and engagement.

Grow your community through your network

Getting your first 1,000 members is hard! There are no silver bullets to achieve this milestone. It’s hard slogging.

The first 1,000 members will come from your network. They will be people you know, and they’ll join because you ask them. They are there because they like you, trust you, and want to support you.

I chose to build the Sticky Branding Group in LinkedIn because I was very active in the platform. At the time I had around 700 connections, and it made sense to build a group where I could invite people I was already connected to. When the group launched in May 2010, I invited all my connections, and 300 of them joined. This was a good starting point, but the next 700 members came one invitation at a time. And that was eight months of hard work.

I made a point of being an active networker. I attended conferences and events, followed up with old clients and colleagues, and reached out to people far and wide. It was a good opportunity to connect and meet people, but it was also the touch point to invite people who shared in my interests of branding, sales, and marketing. They joined because they were intrigued, and they joined because I invited them.

Avoid using promotions to grow your community

It’s easy to get frustrated with the invitation process, and try to find shortcuts like promotions and giveaways to grow your group.

Avoid this temptation.

If your goal is to grow a community—a place where like-minded people engage, share ideas, help each other, and carry on conversations—you need a specific type of member. You need members that buy into the purpose of the community, and share similar interests and values.

You need members who want to be a part of a community.

Promotions and giveaways don’t attract people seeking a community—they attract people seeking free stuff. You may get a surge of new members from a promotion, but it’s not likely they’ll stick around and become active members in your community.

Take pride in your community

People can spot a promotion-driven group from a mile away. The content is all about the group owner (the brand), and not about its members. These aren’t communities, they’re marketing platforms. The best groups have engaged group owners that love connecting with new people and sharing ideas and content.

Above all else, enjoy the experience of organizing a community. Have fun growing your group, and take pride in it. If you love your group it will be easy to ask people to join, and it will be easy to go out into the real world and talk about the exciting new group you’re building.

Your passion and excitement is infectious, and it will accelerate your group’s growth beyond anything else. It will be the most effective way to get your group past the 1,000 member mark, and enable it to grow into a community without boundaries.

Jeremy Miller is the President of www.StickyBranding.com, a sales and marketing consultancy specialized in brand-based demand generation. Jeremy recently published Nobody Likes To Dance Alone: How to grow a social media community. It is a free ebook based on his experience growing one of the largest branding groups on LinkedIn with over 22,000 members.

Why People Share … and How You Can Get Them to Share Your Work

This guest post is by Jonathan Goodman of www.viralnomics.com.

It’s Friday night. You just pulled your new shirt over your head and sprayed on some cologne. One look in the mirror is enough to remind you how awesome you look. Time to roll out.

The party doesn’t disappoint. 50 of your closest friends are here and you see the object of your affection in the corner. She’s a natural beauty, brunette and curvy with a smile that lights up the room. Feeling a little sub conscious and emotionally unstable you grab the box next to you and step on top of it. Taking in a deep gulp of air you yell, “Everbody! Stop what you’re doing. Tell me how good I look. Like me and tell your friends how good I look.”

Sounds silly doesn’t it? But this is what happens every day online.

In this post, I’m going to use research to explain this phenomenon of selective self-representation. Once you understand it, I’ll show you how to take advantage and make people want to share your blog posts material as a way of boasting.

Facebook narcissism

Research from Jonah Berger at the Wharton School of Business showed that that people with low emotional stability update their Facebook statuses more. [Reference - Eva Buechel, Jonah Berger (Under Review), Facebook Therapy? Why Do People Share Self-Relevant Content Online?] As a result, they are over-represented online. The status updates act as a form of therapy and both Likes and “atta boy” comments are medicine.

If you go back to my party example above, a person’s social network online is their trust circle. The user’s perception of how their trust circle views them is immensely important to their well-being. In fact, perceived social support has been shown to be more effective than actual received social support. [Reference – Wethington, E. and Kessler, C. (1986), “Perceived Support, Received Support, and Adjustment to Stressful Life Events,” Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 27 (March) 78-89.]

It boils down to four things. Everybody wants to show off to their network that they are intelligent, intellectual, attractive, and funny. Communication channels online are asynchronous. This means that the user has time to think both about what they are going to say and how that will make them look.

Therefore they selectively self-represent using status updates, and choosing material that will make them look intelligent, intellectual, attractive, and funny.

So how do we use this information?

No matter what your industry is, you’re here because you want to learn how to promote yourself using social media. It’s up to you which of the four traits you want to help your users self-represent with. What’s important is to appeal to the already converted, and to avoid being profound.

People who are already having success using your product or service will want to show it off. Those who haven’t discovered you yet aren’t interested in your product or service, so there’s no point in trying to get them to share it.

Instead, appeal to those who will share it—they are the ones who want to show off that they are intelligent for having already found it.

Perhaps the biggest blogging mistake I see is people trying to be profound. Unless you’re a leading researcher what you are writing about on your blog is nothing new. It has already been said a thousand times by others online, and for free, and will be said a thousand times more.

Because of this, phrasing becomes important. You must give people that are in the know a reason to share your materials. Make them feel special that they already know the subject of the article, and they will share it as an extension of their own thoughts. They do this because your article shows to their audience that they’re intelligent or intellectual (or funny or attractive).

Don’t believe me? Look at the wording people used when they shared an article from Darren Rowse’s Facebook page called “How to Get Overwhelming Things Done”. In his brief article Darren advocates setting aside 15 minutes a day on what you want to achieve. Good advice but nothing new. So what did people preface the article with when they shared it?

“Great advice for new bloggers and freelancers”

And

“Anyone has the time to blog. Very good tips from Darren Rowse”

Within the article itself some of the comments read as follows:

“You could not have said it better, I have taken this attitude and I do get things done. Great advice.”

And

“I agree … I think the biggest accomplishments we achieve in life depend on what we focus on each and every day on the journey towards it. Great advice… “

People are rarely interested in adding to the conversation

It’s a nice idea to think that people are going to want to read your blog and interact intelligently. It’s an even nicer idea to think that people will go to your blog to learn.

I consider myself much more realistic than that.

The goal of a blog or social media is to attract an audience to buy your high-value materials. This might be information or it could be a related product. Either way, your sole purpose is to create your message in a way that it spreads. A blog post is a tool, not your end game.

The way to do that is to allow your reader to take ownership of the material. If you write it in such a way that allows for them to self-represent, they will share. Everybody wants to be perceived as intelligent, intellectual, attractive, or funny. We all have our own version of a beautiful brunette that we want to impress.

Jonathan Goodman is a 2X author. His second book recently reached the #1 spot on Amazon in both the marketing and web marketing categories. Aside from consulting, he is currently writing Viralnomics: How to Create Directed Viral Marketing. The sections are being published for free online as they are produced. You can get up to date at http://www.viralnomics.com.