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5 Techniques to Make Your Next Post Unforgettable

This guest post is by Bamboo Forest, of Tick Tock Timer

Reading a blog post should be like sinking your teeth into an ice cream cone in the middle of August.

Or the moment just before you plummet 2,000 feet in a roller coaster.

"Canobie's Corkscrew" by flatluigi

Let’s face it: blogs posts always have been, and always will be, a diversion from the mundaneness of life. No matter what your blog’s subject.

Since that’s true, let’s give people what they want.

Here are five techniques you can use to make your posts give your readers a great experience—not just dry information, but a truly unforgettable post.

1. Be a contrarian.

“If you try to write for everyone you write for no one.” ~ Brian Clark

It’s okay to be controversial. After all, if everyone agrees on the same things, it’s boring.

While I don’t recommend you disagree just to get attention, there are bound to be times where your interpretation of certain concepts differs from that of many other bloggers. When this happens, don’t hesitate to share your opinion.

When readers come across your blog and read a different take from the usual, it’s refreshing. Allow readers to enjoy that experience by having the courage to be controversial.

2. Create the unexpected.

Here are two solid ways you can implement the unexpected in your blog.

The first is to occasionally write posts that are a little off-topic from your niche, but which your readers will enjoy.

For example, if you write a blog on personal development, you might occasionally write on subjects that veer a little outside your niche but still interest you, such as tea, or strength training. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits does this all the time, and his success speaks for itself.

The second way to create the unexpected is to include something in your post that the reader never saw coming. It can be funny, shocking, nonsensical—anything you can think of, as long as it’s something your readers can’t anticipate. Of course, you have to be tactful in how you use this technique, because ultimately it has to work.

In a post titled, 9 Greatest Mistakes of All Time, my brother wrote two sentences about the Crocs shoe craze. Notice how the second sentence is completely unexpected (which is why it’s so fun to read):

“Not that long ago in a galaxy, very, very close, plastic shoes with large holes became an international sensation. Definitely the Bush administration’s greatest mistake.”

A few other ways to implement the unexpected include:

  • Conclude your blog post with a sentence that came out of left field.
  • Set up a post giving the impression you support one position, and then swiftly move to support a contrary position.
  • Have a demon interrupt the middle of your post.

(You weren’t expecting me to give you that last bizarre example, but it made the reading more engaging, didn’t it?)

3. Use similes and analogies.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov

Whenever possible, regardless of your niche, give people something they can see in their mind’s eye.

For example, I wrote a post about people failing to capitalize on opportunities in life and how, regardless, new opportunities are always coming our way whether we take advantage of them or not.

But I didn’t use that language. That would’ve been, well, lackluster.

Instead, I used the analogy of a surfer sitting on his board who had missed a couple waves and then suddenly spots a new set of waves rolling his way, appearing in the sun like large hills laden with diamonds.

Whenever you can use an analogy that paints a picture in the minds of your readers—and also makes the concept you’re conveying clearer—do it.

4. Use humor.

When you laugh, you’re having a good time. If your blog post can elicit chuckles from readers, you’re giving them one of the most pleasant of all human experiences. Make your readers laugh even just occasionally, and you’ve added a whole new dimension to your blog that your readers will relish.

Humor turns your post from being just a bunch of words into a party where everyone’s cracking up and having a good old time.

5. Use quotes.

In my blogging career, I’ve used quotes from blogs, books, and YouTube videos. And every time I have, the quality of my post improved.

For starters, by inserting a quote from someone else, you’re allowing your blog post to house another person’s voice other than your own. That gives your writing variety.

In addition, it gives you the opportunity to share someone else’s expertise on a subject—expertise that you may not possess.

In short, including quotes can make your post more interesting.

I don’t advocate using quotes just for the sake of it, but if you recognize a time where a quote will fit with your post, give it a go. It’s like adding a little spice to a dish to give it a little something extra. And personally, I like curry.

Anyone can share simple facts in their blog posts. But the really talented bloggers, who demand attention, give their readers experiences that keep them coming back for more, through unforgettable blog posts. Do you use these techniques? How else can we make our posts unforgettable?

Bamboo Forest created an online timer that helps make bloggers ridiculously productive. He also writes for Pun Intended, a blog that’s hilarious and enlightened.

Marry Your Blog to Your Life … and Watch it Take Off

This guest post is by Tsh Oxenreider of Simple Mom.

I’ve watched in wonder how my blog has grown since it launched in early 2008. It started as a hobby blog, and has since morphed into an income-generating network of five sites, complete with a loyal community of readers, four other editors, and a family of more than 20 contributors. I got a book deal about two years into my blog’s inception, and it’ll be on bookshelves worldwide in just a few weeks. No doubt, those hours of soaking up every bit of wisdom here at ProBlogger have paid off, and then some.

I love what I do, and I love that I can earn revenue doing something I would do for free if I had to.

What’s my secret? He’s about 6’2 tall, likes his coffee black, and as I write this, is currently driving the minivan taking our daughter to school.

Yep, that’s right. It’s my husband.

There is absolutely no way my writing career would be where it is now without Kyle working right alongside me. I’m the main voice of Simple Mom, sure, but he tirelessly does many of the behind-the-scenes tasks so that the blog succeeds. Together, we work hard to make the network thrive, and as a fortuitous blessing, our marriage is strengthened.

Now, I’m not saying you have to be married, or have a partner, to have a successful blog.

But I do think a blog works better when it’s married to your real life. Let me explain how.

Just what does he do?

1. He and I tag-team with the kids and housework.

I’m blessed that Kyle also works from home. Every Sunday, we scribble out our family calendar for the upcoming week, allotting work times for the both of us. When one of us is working, the other one is the primary parent on duty, and is also in charge of the dishes in the sink and tackling Mt. Laundry.

Ultimately, I normally write several mornings a week while my oldest is in kindergarten, and my husband takes charge of our younger two. He also oversees dinner one night per week, giving me some extra time to edit posts and handle email.

This is an unbelievable help in keeping the blog running. We’re a family with little kids, and it’s a busy season of life. Being a mom is still my full-time job, and it definitely takes more of my attention, physically and emotionally, than blogging ever could. There is no way I could run a blog as large as Simple Mom without a parenting partner in crime.

2. He handles delegated tasks, such as email and accounting.

My husband is actually the first person to see the email that comes through my blog’s contact form, not me. He forwards me the emails he thinks I need to see—reader comments and questions, or PR requests worth a look. I created a set of pre-formatted emails for him to use for the mail that contains the most frequently asked questions, such as requests to do giveaways, or the occasional blogging question. The answers are still from me, but I don’t have to write them from scratch every time, and he can quickly reply to those people without having to wait until I’m free.

And I get a truckload of mail that could easily be deleted, but it still stresses me out to see them. Letting his eyeballs be the one to scan through all the fluff and mass-generated emails works well for us. They don’t bother him.

Kyle also handles all the accounting for the network. He keeps up with all our transactions, from hosting service payments to ebook purchases, by automatically transferring our Paypal account to Outright and handling things there.

These tasks take him ten to 15 minutes per day, tops, because he’s set up a system that works for him, and he tackles this housekeeping daily. If I waited to deal with it when I had time, it would take me hours where I could otherwise write. And I’d want to curl up in the fetal position and cry, because I’m horrible at these sorts of things.

3. His male perspective gives me ideas I would never think of.

Believe it or not, only 72% of the Simple Mom readership is female. Yes, that’s the majority, but it means over a quarter of our readers are male. I’d be remiss to write solely to females, and leave a sizable chunk of my readership by the wayside. The blog is much more about the ins and outs of intentional living than it is about wearing the mama hat.

Kyle helps me think of post ideas I wouldn’t have considered—not only because he’s a guy, but also because he’s a parent, too. I’m blessed to work in a blog niche that’s directly related to my everyday life as a parent. But sometimes, I’m so entrenched in the thick of it that I don’t see clearly. My husband provides an additional perspective.

He’s the one who came up with the idea of writing posts about family mission statements, and pizza Fridays, and he recently came up with the brilliant idea for my next book proposal.

4. He’s my best cheerleader and most helpful critic.

He’s there when I need to stay up late to fix some code. He lets me vent to him when I get harsh emails from readers. And his eyes teared up when I opened the envelope holding the advance copy of my book when it arrived in the mail a few weeks ago. His positive attitude and cheerful perspective keeps me going on those days when I want to walk away from the blog.

Likewise, Kyle will also let me know when an idea I have is just dumb. Or when I’m taking criticism too personally. Or when I need to say “no” to a PR request or guest posting offer. Or when I’m too focused on the blog and need to change the baby’s diaper instead. His perspective keeps me grounded and optimistic.

What can you do?

Again, I’m not saying you need to be married to have a successful blog. But I believe a blog will have a better chance of success if it’s part of your real life.

It’s easy to see a blog as a one-man-or-woman show, but there are lots of things behind the laptop screen we don’t see. Simple Mom would not be doing as well as it is without Kyle’s help, plain and simple. It’s not a one-woman show, by any stretch.

When we keep our blog aligned to our offline life, we aren’t as pulled in as many directions. It can even enhance our lives, our families, and our marriages. When Kyle helps me, we work together. We talk, we spend time together, and we focus on the same thing. Our relationship is enriched by it.

Blogging takes a lot of work, and the to-do list is never really done. Are there some tasks you can delegate to those around you? Can you tap into your spouse’s strengths and ask him or her to help out?

Maybe you’ve got a friend who’d enjoy collaborating with you. Ask her or him to run your blog’s newsletter (my friend Jenny does). Maybe get one of your friends to act as a sounding board for your post ideas. Or if the grandparents live nearby, see if they can watch your kids once or twice a month so that you can get a chunk of writing done.

Let your blog enhance your offline life, and recruit those around you to help. And watch it take off.

How do you use the help of others to run your blog?

Tsh is the main voice behind Simple Mom, is editor-in-chief of Simple Living Media, and her first book, Organized Simplicity, hits bookstores next month. Follow her on Twitter to learn how to handle cloth diapers and Silly Bandz obsessions, and to chat about why less really is more.

From Side Project to Sustainable Business … Using Social Media

This guest post is by Clare Lancaster, of WomenInBusiness.com.au.

Over the last 18 months I’ve built two profitable businesses with the help of social media. One business was a sure thing; the other was a side project. My side project was a blog: womeninbusiness.com.au. All of the important numbers (subscribers, page views and profits) are growing monthly and I’ve never paid a cent to promote it.

When I decided to drop out of corporate life, my first move was to open a consultancy. I had been working online since 2001 and by 2008 was confident I’d accumulated enough skills and experience that finding work wouldn’t be a problem.

Around about this time, Twitter was the next big thing. I realized if I wanted to offer my clients the best service I could, I’d better get to know what Twitter was, and work out it was going to be any good for business.

Little did I know that the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’—and that it would help me take my side project from an idea to a sustainable business in less than two years.

Ten steps to sustainability

1. Establish a personal blog.

I started blogging on clarelancaster.com before I launched my consultancy.

I had a clear objective for the blog—that was, to demonstrate my knowledge and start to build my online reputation. I wrote about social media case studies, the basics of online marketing, and my journey so far. I shared my knowledge with wild abandon and started to attract an audience.

Not only did this blog allow me to demonstrate my knowledge but it provided me with a home base to send people I’d connected with through social media.

2. Build a social network with purpose.

Twitter was (and still is) my social networking platform of choice. When I signed up, I spent months observing the conversations, getting to know the etiquette and slowly but surely growing my network strategically.

I sought out and connected with industry thought leaders and journalists, identified people with similar work backgrounds and ethics, and spent time chatting and sharing links not only to my blog posts but to articles that I was reading that I knew would benefit my network.

My patience and consistency paid off when I received a DM from the editor of Australia’s largest small business magazine. She’d been following my blog and invited me to write a five-page article about social media.

That article led to another DM, this time from the editor of Australia’s largest online business magazine. I was invited to write a column with the potential of becoming a monthly contributor. I’ve just filed my 14th column with them.

3. Connect with people who share your interests.

While much of my network building was strategic, I also enjoyed connecting with other people who shared my interests.

One day I was chatting with another woman involved in online business who was writing about similar topics. A few days later I woke up to find that I’d been listed on Forbes as one of 30 female entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. It turned out that contact was a writer for Forbes, and the result of that coverage was 3000 new followers in three days.

Some might say it was luck. I say, you only get lucky when you put in the ground work.

4. Connect with your readers outside of your blog.

In addition to emailing a thank you to every commenter who interacted with my blog, I’d also visit their blogs and add them to my Twitter network. If they had a LinkedIn account promoted on their blog, I’d add them there too. This strengthened the relationships I built, and made a lasting impression. I still do this occasionally today.

5. Build anticipation for the launch of your business.

We all know that at the heart of social media is authenticity and transparency. As I was building my consultancy website, and deciding on my services and pricing, I chatted about it on Twitter. I asked for feedback on taglines and navigation text, and focused on involving my network in the journey to launch.

When the time came to open for business, I had a network that helped spread the word for me. They felt invested in the process and the journey I’d taken to get to that point.

6. Develop products based on your audience needs.

One of the first strategic networks that I built was focused around my industry peers—marketing and digital types. Six months after launching my I consultancy, I’d just experienced my first nightmare client and was looking into diversifying my income streams.

My first experiment was an ebook—a guide to using Twitter for business. I sold the majority of my guides to other marketing consultants and learned a valuable lesson: know your audience, listen to what they need, and create it. Then use social networking to spread the word. Don’t hesitate. If you spot a need, jump on it.

One of the reasons my ebook sold so well was because it was one of the first on the market. The reason it spread was because it told the reader what they needed to know, they got results, and they recommended it to their networks.

7. Rinse and repeat.

After I’d been writing on my personal blog for a while, I got the opportunity to acquire the womeninbusiness.com.au domain. I snapped it up and have since used social media to build traffic to the site and foster community around its message, which is to help women create their own paths using online business.

As with any profitable blog, this site has a variety of revenue streams that are dependent on the trust, influence, and interest of my audience both on my blog and on the social networking platforms I use.

I used the same technique that I used for my consultancy to launch this business.

8. Monetize the trust you’ve earned.

I know there’s something icky about framing the idea this way, but it’s the cold hard truth. You’ve worked hard to provide (free) value on your blog and social networking platforms, and to keep the attention and trust of your audience. If you want to create a sustainable business, you’ll need to monetize their attention.

I do this by recommending affiliate products, selling my own products and services, and advertising.

I view the products I choose to be affiliated with as part of my overall product range. I only recommend products I’ve used and feel proud to associate with my name and the reputation I’ve worked hard to build.

A successful affiliate promotion should span your blog, social media platforms, and mailing list. A profitable one will perfectly match the needs of your audience. If it doesn’t, it’s better to find one that does, than to compromise that trust.

I recently launched my first premium product, a do-it-yourself online marketing ecourse. Twitter was a great platform to tell the story of this offering, and let people know about it in a natural way. In fact, the less salesy I was about the product, the more registrations I received.

9. Promote your meaningful transactions.

When you own an online publishing business there are two things you’ll be doing continuously: creating and promoting.

You’ll create content and you’ll need to promote it. Not only do you need to promote your content, you need to promote the meaningful transactions that affect your bottom line.

Meaningful transactions are the actions that turn a passive visitor or reader into an active part of your business. They’re the things that will make your business sustainable. As a blogger, an essential meaningful transaction occurs when a visitor subscribes via RSS or email. If you’re also an affiliate, a meaningful transaction would take place when a reader clicks on your affiliate link.

Write a list of your meaningful transactions and cycle through them, not forgetting the social media success ratio of one part promotion, one part sharing, one part conversation.

10. Keep a critical eye on your output.

Even though it’s important to promote your meaningful transactions, it’s more important to keep an eye on the quality of your output and the reaction that you’re getting from your social media audience.

When I first started kicking goals I would excitedly jump on Twitter and tell the world. After a while, I could tell that my excitement was coming across as self promotion. I scaled back and remembered the golden rule. In social media, it’s not about you. It’s about what you can do for others.

How are you using social media to grow your blog’s following and your business?

Clare Lancaster offers blog reviews to help improve the business performance of your blog. She is passionate about helping people make their own path in work and life and can be found on Twitter most days (@clarelancaster).

Blogger Accountability 101

This guest post is by JC of JCDFitness.

Every blogger who’s responsible for a sizeable readership knows the excitement associated with gaining new subscribers and exposure.

The process is encouraging and humbling at the same time – people are actually reading what you have to say.  They’re not only reading, but commenting and coming back every single time you hit publish.  They have your site bookmarked, and never fail to tweet about it whenever you publish something new.

Everyone has their reasons for producing content, but if we take a look around the web, it’s easy to see the reason why most of us are blogging. It’s a basic need that everyone shares: community. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to manage and nurture reader relationships through content. Every piece of content you write and present must be of superb quality—if it’s not, don’t click publish.

How can we ensure that everything we create is genuine, worthwhile, and full of awesome?

By being accountable.

Without some form of accountability and sincerity in your work, your blog will likely never make it.  Let yourself slip up too many times, and you’ll become another screech in the cacophony of blogging noise.  Your readers will figure you out and many of them will leave.

Accountability in action

Many months ago, I received a product from some fellow bloggers in my niche. They were launching their first digital download for profit and had set up an affiliate program to assist with promotions.  I was familiar with their work and enjoyed their writings on multiple subjects.

I opened the ebook within a few weeks of receiving it. I scoured most of it, but not all—and that was my biggest mistake. Thinking it looked fine, I signed up for the affiliate program.

Finally, while I was writing a post, I realized that the product fit nicely into the discussion, so I promoted the product in my post, and hit the Publish button.

And then it hit me—square in the kisser.

I received an email from a colleague I’ve garnered much respect for. He questioned my motives for promoting the product and challenged me to read it a few times over and re-examine why I was promoting it.

After my second and third looks into the product, I found myself asking the question, “Would I purchase this and if I did, would I recommend it to my friends and family?”

I wish I could have said yes, but it was impossible. I had nothing against the author or their previous writing. But their product contained a few things I disagreed with. I simply couldn’t feel good about referring it to anyone—especially my readers.

I took down the link, checked my affiliate account to ensure a refund could be processed if needed, and called it a day.  Later that evening, I made a decision.

I made up my mind that I will always seek another’s opinion before I publish something I’ve never promoted before on any site I own.

Developing an accountability system

That night, I phoned a friend and established a weekly accountability system. He, too, is a blogger in the same niche, and we now meet once a week to discuss our goals, the articles we’re working on—we even critique each other’s writing before publishing.

If we catch an affiliate product link, paragraph, or even one measly sentence that’s incongruous with our goals and ideals, we communicate this to one another immediately. It’s our goal to produce the best content with our readers’ interests in mind.

They are, after all, the only reason we write.

While most would like to go it alone, it’s fairly easy to let ourselves slip up every now and then.  No one’s perfect, and none of us can expect to make the right judgment call 100% of the time.  But, what if that one time we screw up, it costs us our entire audience?  What if it could’ve been avoided by inviting some extra accountability from someone you respect and who cares about you?

You’d be crushed if you inadvertently did something that ruined your relationship with your audience.  All your hard work would be in vain, and re-establishing your credibility would seem almost impossible—and it might be.  It would be even more frustrating if your mistake could’ve been avoided altogether had you created an accountability system to keep you on your toes.

If your audience means anything to you, I challenge you to seek out one or two people who will hold you to the standards you’d like to live by—someone who’s not afraid to call a spade a spade, and who’ll give it to you straight if they see you’re headed for trouble.

What about you? How do you hold yourself accountable and ensure your work is always your best? Let us know in the comments.

JC is the author of JCDFitness, where he shows regular people how easy it is to lose fat, build muscle and transform their body using his simple No-BS Approach to Looking Great Naked.  Follow him on Twitter.

Autoresponders on ‘Roids

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

Darren has written a lot about how he has evolved his autoresponder sequences on his blogs. But I want to take this a step further and describe how you can turn a good auto responder into a great one.

Step 1: Segment your subscribers when they give you their email addresses

When you ask users to give you their email addresses, you should keep the process as frictionless as possible. If you can, just ask for the address itself. If you really need to, ask for their name so you can personalize messages—but that’s it.

Given you’ve only got one piece of information, how can you segment your audience?

  • Segment A: Existing Customer: match the email address to your list of orders and see if the person is an existing customer or not.
  • Segment B: Blog Commenter: if you’re requesting people include their email addresses when they post comments, match against that to determine how connected they are to your blog.
  • Segment C: Community Member: if your blog includes a forum, chances are you’ll have a record of user email addresses from your forum signup process. Use this to determine if they’re already part of your community.
  • Segment D: New Subscriber: this is the bucket for anyone who doesn’t fit into the above segments. These are fresh faces to your blog.

Step 2: Tailor an autoresponder for each segment

You’ll probably follow a similar process to the one Darren created here. However, you should create a sequence that’s specific for each segment. For example, you might welcome a new subscriber by sharing with them some of your most popular posts first. Then, you might send them a copy of your latest newsletter. Finally, you might send them an offer on one of your products. Alternatively, you might simply send an existing customer the content they gave you their email for, as they’re already in your sales cross-sell and up-sell cycle.

As a starting point, try to put yourself in the segment’s shoes, and create a process you’d like to see if you were them.

Step 3: Test and refine each segment’s autoresponder

This is where it gets a little harder and, sometimes, a little confusing. It’s time to refine your autoresponder sequence to find that optimal conversion rate for each segment. Some of the considerations you need to take into your testing could include:

  • Sequence of events: e.g. free ebook –> links to popular blog posts –> latest newsletter –> paid ebook
  • Email delivery time: during business hours/outside business hours/weekday/weekend
  • Delay between emails: one month, one week, one day, one hour
  • Email format: HTML, rich text, or plain text
  • Email copy: long or short, informational or sales-focused

Warning: when you’re testing, you can easily get out of control creating variations. For example, if you had three different test cases for each of four segments, you’d have 12 tests running simulations. And if they have four emails each, that would be 48 emails you need to write! I’d start with what you think is right, and over time evolve your approach—just like Darren has.

Now unfortunately I’m not sure of any email services offering this level of depth when it comes to allocating people to certain lists based on their customer profiles (if someone knows of one, let me know). So you might need to have something custom-created for you to take an email address, decide what segment the user fits into, and assign that person to the appropriate list. However, a little investment up front can pay huge dividends in ongoing reader-to-customer conversions.

Even if you’re only getting a handful or subscribers each day, putting them through a focused autoresponder program that’s been tailored to them will, without doubt, increase your conversions.

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing more of his tips undercover here at ProBlogger over the coming weeks.

Build the Perfect Blog Audience for You

This guest post is by David Risley of DavidRisley.com.

If you could hand-pick your ideal blog reader, who would they be? What are they like? What do they look like?

Have you ever even thought about it?

See, all too often, a blogger sets up a blog and just starts posting with their fingers crossed, hoping somebody will come by. In those days, you don’t really think too much about the people you attract. It is all about those numbers and getting traffic up. After all, seeing some positive numbers in your Analytics at least means somebody is listening, right?

As somebody who has been in this blogging thing for over a decade, I’m here to tell you that numbers don’t mean that much. When it comes down to making a full-time business out of blogging, the kinds of people you attract is more important than quantity.

I’d rather have an audience of 1,000 people who I really “click” well with than 10,000 people I don’t. I’ll make more money with the smaller audience any time.

For this to enter the realm of common sense, let’s look at real life, shall we?

Oil and water; peas and carrots

I’ve said before that blogging is a people business. Understand people and you’ll understand blogging as a business model. So, with that in mind, let’s just think about things we’ve observed in that little thing called “real life”.

Have you ever had to deal with somebody who you just don’t get along with – at all? Perhaps you have a sense of humor, but this other person has none and ends up taking all your jokes seriously (or, worse, gets offended). Perhaps you’re the responsible type and this other person is just a model of irresponsibility. Perhaps you guys simply share no interests whatsoever. You guys are like oil and water.

On the flip side, other people are just really easy to get along with. Perhaps they share the same goals and you end up working together. Perhaps you both have a similar sense of humor and crack each other up. Perhaps you meet that special person and experience “love at first sight”. Call it chemistry or whatever you wish. As Forrest Gump would have said it, you guys get along like peas and carrots.

Now, to throw a fancy word at you, what I’m talking about is congruence. If you were to arbitrarily try to symbolize that person in a series of vectors, all your vectors would more or less point in the same direction. You have congruence or alignment.

Understanding reader “congruence”

It’s been said many times, but a very important part of making money as a blogger is building a solid relationship with your audience. You want them to know, like and trust you.

If we delve just a little bit deeper than that, it comes down to attracting the kinds of people who you “click” with. People you have congruence with.

Your ideal reader would be somebody who shares certain goals with you (after all, that’s what makes them part of your market to begin with). Beyond that, however, they should also share certain characteristics with you so that they “click” with your style and your personality.

These are people with congruent personalities. These are the people who will form the strongest bond with you, who will love what you produce, and who will be much more likely to buy your stuff or what you recommend. They will feel as if they know you. They will like you and trust you. They will be fans.

Now, the way you portray your online brand is very important to attracting congruent personalities. You play up the characteristics that “jive” with your audience, and play down the others. Essentially, you are creating a brand avatar for yourself. Ideally, that brand avatar should be representative of where your audience wants to be.

If you’re at all familiar with the world of Internet marketing, then perhaps you know who Frank Kern is. Kern is a master of this brand avatar. His ideal customer is interested in making money. Money usually means freedom of time and location. People often associate the beach with freedom. So, what is Frank’s brand? A surfer bum who lives on the beach in San Diego and turns everything into huge piles of money just by touching it. He openly exhibits a sense of humor.

What has Frank done? He has played up those aspects of himself which are congruent with his audience. He is a brand avatar for where they want to be.

An exercise for you

The purpose of this post is simply to get you thinking about your blog’s brand avatar.

In short, it comes down to being natural, but also strategic. Be yourself on your blog while also being somewhat strategic about the type of online brand you portray and, thus, the type of people you attract. And when somebody who simply doesn’t click with you rolls along, let them unsubscribe. Because the relationship is more important than that extra pixel on your analytics graph.

To get you started, I recommend that you write a “Wanted” ad for your ideal customer or reader. If you were to write such an ad, what would you write?

Here’s an example, if I were to write one for the ideal audience of my blog:

WANTED: Motivated blogger who wants to turn their passion into a full-time effort. Must be an action taker willing to work while having fun.

It’s short and concise, yet it spells out the kinds of qualities I want. I’m not saying you’re going to go out and post this anywhere. This is just an exercise to get you thinking about your brand avatar, and your audience.

Lastly, as you create this ad, think about how you portray yourself on your blog and what kinds of people it will attract. Do your brand avatar and your audience line up?

David Risley shows bloggers how to find the intersection between blogging and marketing, and finally start making money with your blog. You can follow is escapades on Twitter at @davidrisley.

How To Use Inception Marketing on Your Blog

This guest post is by Tommy Walker, Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name.

Have you seen Inception yet? For those who haven’t, all you need to know is that it follows a team of thieves who access dreams in order to steal information for their clients. The term “inception” refers to the notion that information can be implanted in, rather than taken from, a person. An idea can be planted so that it feels organic to the dreamer, and when he or she wakes up, the person will take certain actions without questioning his own motives.

A similar concept can be used with the advertising that supports your blog. We’re all familiar with the 10,000 hour rule, but if you had a way to skip over it, and use advertising in a way that let you wake up a week or two from now with more devoted readers than you have today, would you be willing to make the effort?

Enter: social networks

“An elegant solution for keeping track of reality.” – Adriane

For a long time, the targeting process for advertisements was limited to basic parameters: age, gender, location, and context. Now, we have social networks. What used to be the outer limits of a consumer profile now constitute the baseline of information most people consider “safe” to share online.

And, thanks to social networks, many more will share specific likes and dislikes, their employment history, educational background, and more. All of this can be pieced together into a audience profile that has real dimension to it.

Gathering information from Facebook ads

“If we are gonna perform Inception then we need imagination.” – Eames

There’s something special about Facebook ads. Before you jump ship or question whether Facebook is appropriate for your blog, consider this fact:

There are over 500 million people on Facebook.

The total of the populations of the United States, Australia, Canada and Russia combined is only slightly above that figure. How many readers would you need to consider your blog successful? I’m pretty sure you could find at least a few thousand people who are interested in what you have to say—provided you’re willing to make the investment to locate them.

In order to use the Facebook ad platform to its full potential, you need to understand the differences between Facebook ads and search ads.

The most notable difference is the targeting techniques these ads use. The strength of Facebook’s ad platform comes from its ability to target users via the “Likes & Interests” section of a user profile. Search ads are targeted to the information a user is actively searching for in a given moment.

So, for example, I see Facebook ads for the Golden Girls box set because Facebook knows from my profile that I’m a fan of the Golden Girls. (Just … don’t tell anyone, ok?) Google or Bing will show me ads for the same thing—but only if I ask for them by performing a search on those terms.

The beauty of Facebook ads lies in the quality of the information you receive in the reporting data generated when someone clicks on your Facebook ad. Unlike a search ad’s reporting data, Facebook’s reports provide access to detailed demographic data plus a Responder Profile report, which details the nitty-gritty of the common interests of the people clicking on your ad.

The end result

“Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.” – Cobb

Bloggers can create an Inception-like effect using Facebook advertising. We can use the ad reporting data to create the illusion that our blog or our website is, and always has been, beloved by its audience.

We start the process of inception by using the Responder Profile. This profile will vary from ad to ad but is typically similar to this:

The Responder Profile is your toolbox when it comes to learning how to approach your users. Review this data, learn to love it, and wring the life out of it by incorporating it into all the techniques you use on your blog.

For example, let’s imagine you have a blog about home improvement and hope to monetize it, but you need to build your readership. You have some basic audience demographic information to get you started, and you decide to target an ad that includes keywords like, “home improvement,” “decorating,” “construction,” and “home repairs.”

Your ads start running on Facebook, and two weeks later, your Responder Profile tells you that people who include those keywords in their profile, and clicked on your ad, also tend to share interests you never even thought of. Facebook’s report lets you know that 60% of the people who like “construction” also like “Uncle Fred’s Light Beer.”

Suddenly, Uncle Fred’s Light Beer has some power to it. Perhaps you can use that as a targeting parameter: if Uncle Fred’s is what connects Group A to Group B, then Group B may like your blog, too. You can study Uncle Fred’s marketing techniques and apply them to your own campaigns.

Furthermore, you might decide that Uncle Fred’s should probably be mentioned somewhere in your blog content—probably with the same level of humor, or using the same language, that your intended readership uses.

I used this technique recently on a page I was running for a client. After I saw my first Responder Profile, I realized that my initial approach to the target audience was likely bordering on offensive: it was a little too young-sounding. I also noticed that many of our users shared the Bible as their favorite book, and had a penchant for the Blue-Collar Comedy series.

As I interacted with the community over the next few days, I took on a more at-home tone. and made sure that the content I provided had a sense of humor (sometimes at the expense of usefulness). Our interaction rates went through the roof. The more I knew about these users, the easier it was to approach them on their own wavelength. This, in turn, helped me learn even more about what we needed to be offering our customer base.

Ultimately, you can use Facebook’s Responder Profiles to take on a virtual version of your own client’s personalities. The effect is that your blog’s visitors will feel at home communicating candidly with you, following your work, and buying from you, without ever questioning why they feel so comfortable.

And when people like you that much, they become brand advocates. It only takes a few of them to spread the word about your site among the people they know—and beyond.

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” – Eames

Tommy is an Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name. He is about to release Hack The Social Network, the ultimate guide to Facebook Marketing, and is currently developing a “mind hacking” course.

5 Reasons to Use Press Releases to Promote Your Blog

This guest post is by Jiyan Wei, director of product management for PRWeb.

Creating content on a blog is just one aspect of being a productive blogger—you’ve written the content, but now what? How are you going to promote your blog or specific posts within it?

Companies, businesses, and individual blog owners try out many tactics, but few consider using a press release as a promotional tactic for their blog. It’s an idea many blog owners simply forget about, underestimate, or don’t even know exists.

Why a press release?

1. Quality links

An external link to a website is like a vote of confidence—imagine how powerful those votes could become with targeted anchor text. Press releases with anchor-text links can help increase the authority of your blog in search engines, whether in the release itself, or reused in original content by an influencer. Not only are you using targeted anchor text, but you also gain domain authority from websites that your blogging competitors who aren’t using press releases may not have.

Remember not to fall into the trap of overdoing your links in press releases. Include too many links, and it’s obvious to the reader and to search engine robots what you’re trying to do. The reader will be put off by too many links and feel advertised to, while the search engine bot will recognize that the document contains way too many links and won’t value them highly. The links in press releases can be powerful, but only if they’re used when necessary. My recommendation (conventional wisdom) is one hyperlink for every 100 words.

2. Exposure to media

Press releases are still a format that’s preferred by mainstream media, so promoting your blog through press releases may grab you an inquiry from a mainstream media outlet. The media will be looking for something unique, so promote the most eye-catching or attention-getting content on your blog (or even your blog itself).  Even if media don’t write up the story from your release, if that release exposes an influential journalist to your blog and they become a subscriber, they could easily write about you later on.

3. Qualified traffic

Releases from the major wire services which have large channels of distribution will send your blog fresh, niche-specific traffic. The larger the site, the more channels and categories of distribution there will be (which is what you receive with the paid wire services vs. the free). Remember, press releases reach a community of influencers. Journalists and other bloggers from your niche could see your release and send you highly targeted traffic as a result. This is also the power of the new direct distribution model—it gives you the ability to create your own audience.

4. Influential subscribers

The days of actually visiting a site to obtain information are long behind many of us, and the best press release distribution services have kept up with the evolving demand for content. Since categories are prevalent in large distribution sites, web savvy influencers subscribe via RSS based on their interests. By promoting your blog to an audience that’s already using RSS, and sharing your feed within the release, you can increase your subscriber base of influencers significantly.

5. Search engine exposure

Press releases can rank well in major search engines, providing a great entry point for a new niche blog. Sometimes just one highly optimized press release is all it takes to get on the first page of a search engine for a competitive term, drive consistent organic traffic, and creating increased awareness about your blog.

Release resources

New to press release writing?  These resources will help you get started:

Jiyan Wei is director of product management for PRWeb, leader in online news distribution and online publicity. For more tips on using press releases, follow @PRWeb on Twitter.

How to Use Storyselling to Boost Sales

This guest post is by Johnny B. Truant, of JohnnyBTruant.com.

When I was in high school, I witnessed the most impressive sales job I have ever seen.

One afternoon, the entire student body was called to the auditorium for an assembly. Nobody knew what the assembly was about. We were just told to attend.

The presenters were two guys, dressed casually. As they began, instead of telling us why they were there, they started telling us jokes. They told us a few stories, too—funny stories involving their own families (who were as clueless as our own, since we were teenagers and knew everything), and stories that empathized with us about how ridiculous school was and made gentle fun of our principal and teachers. We liked these guys. They thought like we did. Their stories were interesting and fun. We settled in and relaxed.

We stopped caring why we’d been called to the assembly. Someone had made a mistake and had booked pure entertainment, but we weren’t about to complain.

Halfway through the presentation, the mood of the two guys up front changed. It was like a sneak attack: it was on us before we knew it was coming. Suddenly, the presenters were talking about AIDS. And abstinence. And how it was bad to drink a lot and do drugs. It was all the stuff that adults usually try to talk to teenagers about—the stuff teenagers usually roll their eyes at.

But we weren’t rolling our eyes. We were listening. We’d been transfixed.

Instead of saying AIDS was bad, they’d tell us about the girl who we’d met in one of those funny stories toward the beginning of the presentation, and how she got sick after contracting HIV and died.

Instead of telling us not to drink and drive, they told us about the kid we’d heard about earlier, but now the tale turned to him being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life after being hit by a drunk driver.

When 1200 high school kids filed out of that auditorium at the end of the assembly, nobody was jaded, skeptical, or mocking the message we’d been told. Most of the kids who streamed past me were silent or crying.

Those presenters came to our school to sell us on the idea of being careful, and making smart choices, and staying safe—all ideas that teenagers usually aren’t even a little bit interested in buying from well-meaning adults and parents.

But because they did their selling through stories, we’d bought it all.

Persuasion starts with a story

When you blog, you’re often trying to convince people to do something. You want them to start reading the post. You want them to read until the end of the post. You may want them to buy a product or a service, or sign up for a newsletter or RSS feed. You might want them to leave a comment, take a survey, or be convinced of your point of view.

To convince readers do anything at all, you have to sell them. And one of the most powerful ways to sell is through a story—I call it “storyselling.”

Stories are disarming. Stories interest people on an entertainment level first, which causes them to lower the guard they usually have in place to keep people from pushing things onto them.

Back in high school, at that assembly, we didn’t want to be told anything contrary to what we already believed to be true. We were having fun, and nobody knew better than us what we should be doing. Teenagers are the hardest people to convince of anything—the hardest sale any presenter will ever try to make.

But these guys succeeded because they entertained us first. They got us to drop our guards. They got us to like them, and relate to them. And after they’d done that, when it came time for them to “sell,” we were defenseless. We never had a chance.

Four ways to sell your ideas (and products) with stories

Want to give storyselling a try? Here are some things to keep in mind as you do so.

1. Tell a story that demonstrates a need for what you’re selling or advocating.

The goal of storyselling is to cause the reader to recognize a need for a certain course of action (or a certain product or service) through allegory. Rather than explaining rainforest destruction, tell the story of your trip to stripped plots of land. Instead of outlining features and benefits of your new workout plan, tell the story of how you used to be overweight and how you developed the workout that got you thin.

2. Show, don’t tell.

Always try to lead your reader to conclusions by demonstration rather than by beating them with brute force persuasion. You know who was great at this? The ghosts in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. They didn’t tell Scrooge about how his life would stink if he kept doing what he was doing. Instead, they took him there and let him see it for himself.

3. Keep it relevant.

A common mistake with this approach is to string out a long tale that may be a great story, but which never gets around to selling the product or idea at hand, or loses the audience before it does so. You always have to keep your main “selling point” in mind, and keep bringing the story back to it. It isn’t just a story—it’s a story that shows the reader why they should do X or buy Y.

4. Be honest.

Everyone has a real, true story, and every product or movement has a reason for existing. Somehow, you became convinced to get involved, so it’s your job to pull that desire and motivation out, and to use your own story to convince others. There’s no need to make anything up—the truth always sells better.

Give storyselling a shot the next time you’re looking to persuade. No matter what you’re selling, you may just find that telling a tale will get you past the skepticism of many more readers than a bulleted list of benefits will.

Johnny B. Truant is the creator of Storyselling 101. (He also builds websites.)