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Online Marketing: Why Email is a Richer Cousin to Social Media

social plus email

This is a guest contribution from Mike Swan of Markupcloud Ltd

Let’s put it without masking – email marketing is facing challenges unbridled;  not in terms of its effectiveness as an online marketing endeavor, but in a way it is being adopted and used. While the new players on the block have more or less ignored this still-most-effective way of web-marketing , there are others whose email marketing strategy is chaotic and restlessly roaming around the pillars of spamming, non-targeted emailing and bulk-emailing.

The influx of social media into the marketing realm is just an influx, nothing more. If you are led to believe that social media has invaded the way we are supposed to advertise our products, you would end up doing a  be a great deal of disservice to your business if you begin to bank heavily on social media with that belief. Emails are still much more effective than any social media platform. They are more personalized, more relevant, and stand a greater chance of being visible. And there are reasons to claim and believe so. And then, there are questions:

“I have 300 followers on Facebook, Why Would I Need Email-Marketing?”

Let’s say you post an article on your website, which is delivered duly to folks in your email subscription list. You post URL of the same article on your social media page. What does have a better conversion rate? Well, thanks to a platform like Facebook, if you have 300 fans on your page, you won’t get more than 30 fans to see your post on your luckiest day – unless you are adopting some alternate way to promote that post. As for the email subscription, your post is delivered to the inbox of every single subscriber. While not all might go ahead and read the article, the conversion rate is apparently much higher because of the greater visibility.

It’s Easier to Miss an Update on the already-flooded News Feed Than it is in Inbox

Again, this applies to the two most popular platforms, Twitter and Facebook. Thanks to the deluge of people your fans follow on Twitter, your tweet gets lost before it’s noticed. And same goes for Facebook and other social media platforms. But, irrespective of how many emails we receive in a day, we always scan for the ones which can be relevant to us.

So, you don’t need hotshot digital marketing professionals to formulate strategies, you don’t need to post the URL a dozen times a day, you don’t need to keep coming up with different ways to promote that single post (Well, you can do email marketing AND all this as well for meatier results).

One factor that underlines the above is that you have the permission of your readers to send your site’s updates to their inbox. So, you are not prying or spamming by any means. Email marketing, however, is not all about subscribers.

Social Media is Not the Only Way People Share

Not everyone is super keen to share what they see and like on their Facebook timelines. There is a huge chunk of people who still prefer sharing their favorite bits with people through emails. Now, because these shares are not on a public platform, and are shared through emails, they aren’t visible to all. However, they are more likely to evoke response because they are sent by the sender exclusively to few contacts in his/her email. And because it gets delivered to their inbox, we go back to the point number one of it being standing a better chance of being converted into a visit.

“How Do I Extract More Email Addresses?”

Now, this is where social media can prove to be handy. You do not have to solely rely on the traditional methods of extracting the emails of your visitors. There are easier and more effective ways to do so. You can, for example, use Facebook Connect to fetch the email addresses of those who have already been visiting your site. Facebook Connect displays a pop up on your site wherein a visitor who is already logged in to their Facebook account only to click a button on the pop up and his/her email address is automatically recorded into your subscribers list.

Get Your Subscription Forms Displayed Everywhere on Your Site

You can also create a separate website on your website that is dedicated to subscribing visitors to your blog. You can promote the page and drive more traffic towards it to improve your chances of getting more and more subscribers. In addition to this, let a subscription form appear below every post. If your readers are bothered enough to read the article down to its last word, there is a good chance that they would like to keep themselves attuned to your updates.

The Call-to-Action

You don’t always have to display the text “Subscribe to our updates” on the subscribe button. Sometimes, a clever use of words gives better results. Let’s say, you can use “Download Now” to signify that any update on the site would be downloaded on your visitor’s email.

Get All the Spam Rules in Order

Spamming can do more damage than you had expected. And there are more ways that qualify as ‘spamming’ than you had evaluated.

Here is the CAN-SPAM act for your consideration. Make sure you read it thoroughly to understand how you are contributing to spamming and why you should change your approach. Your subscribers signed up with you for a free giveaway you had promised, you should not use their email for marketing purposes unless this was a condition explicitly charted out at the time of signing them up. Also, you need to include a way for people to unsubscribe form your blog

Draft Them in Words that Stand Out

for delivering even better results, you need even more people noticing your emails, for which, you need to choose your words wisely. Going with the humdrum of a language isn’t likely to bring any result. Let the subject of your emails intrigue then. If your visitors are getting the updates about the latest articles on your blog, keeping the title of the article in the subject might just do the trick for you. Irrespective of the title you chose, it is going to be unique and different than the other emails they receive.

The email marketing results ways are good enough to make you aware of all the ways email marketing is good. As it continues to march ahead in top gear,  sooner you catch the wagon, better it would serve you in the long run.

Mike Swan is a creative web designer in Markupcloud Ltd with vast experience in Research and development vertex of web design technologies. He use to write  on various Markup conversion  processes and socialize it through social media platforms. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and G+. 

Optimize Blog Content for Social Media with These 4 Effective Tactics

social media

Photo Credit: ePublicist via Flickr

This is a guest contribution from freelance blogger and writer Alicia Rades.

When you get a notification that someone tweeted or liked your latest blog post, you get excited. You can’t help but crack a smile and do a little fist pump because someone shared your content.

If you feel like the king (or queen) of the world and you do a little dance every time someone shares your blog post, get it out of your system now. Today you’re going to learn how to optimize your blog posts for social media, and when your notifications are ringing off the hook, you’re simply not going to have the energy to do a little dance every time someone shares your blog post.

Why do social shares matter? Well there’s the obvious. Social shares help spread the word of your content and brand, which helps drive more traffic. But what you should really care about is the fact that Google cares about social shares, so the more shares you can get, the better your pages will rank in search engines, which drives even more traffic to your site.

Check out these four effective tactics to help you optimize your blog content for social media to better promote your business.

1. Craft Your Headlines Wisely

Your headlines are perhaps the most important part of your social media strategy. Since your post title is the first thing your followers read on social media, you have to hook them so they’ll move on to read and share the post.

You can learn all about crafting powerful headlines for social media on Social Media Today. As this post mentions, it’s important to use emotion to grip your readers, but let’s dig deeper into optimizing your titles for social media.

First, let your readers know what the post is about so you can better connect with their interests. Someone who sees this title on Twitter isn’t likely to click on the link because they don’t know what to expect:

Trial and Error: How to Know When You’ve Got it Right

Okay: what exactly are you going to be talking about? This article could easily cover a range of topics, from learning how to parent and trying different recipes to discovering what works for you on social media. Instead, incorporate keywords that will connect with people’s interests. Some alternative titles include:

  • Trial and Error: How to Tell if Your Parenting Methods are Effective
  • How Using Trial and Error Can Help You Create Tastier Recipes
  • Discover Which Social Media Tactics Work for You with Trial and Error

Another important headline tactic is to keep it short. Most bloggers try to keep their headlines under 70 characters. Why do bloggers do this? Because any longer than that and your entire headline might not show up alongside your links. This means readers could lose valuable information that’s meant to hook them.

2. Use a Photo with Your Content

Social media websites like Facebook and Google+ usually feature a picture when you share a link to your content. But when you don’t set a photo for your post, your link doesn’t look as appealing.

Don’t think it matters that much? According to MDG Advertising, blog posts with compelling images receive a whopping 94 percent more views than those without. [Tweet That Stat!]

To make the most out of this, you have to consider a few things.

First, where can you find compelling photos? Glad you asked. You have several options:

  1. Take your own photos or hire a photographer to take photos for you.
  2. Find free photos on sites like CreativeCommons.org or Compfight.com. (Most of the time you have to attribute the image within your post.)
  3. Purchase photos on stock image sites like CanStockPhoto.com (photos starting at $2.50) or Getty Images (images starting at $25).

Once you’ve found an awesome image, you have to make sure it will show up properly when you share it on social media. In some cases, the social network won’t associate the image with your link if you simply insert the photo into your post. If you’re using WordPress, you can set a featured image, and Facebook and Google+ will usually use that photo alongside your link. To make sure, consider downloading the Facebook Open Graph Meta Tags for WordPress plugin, where you can choose which photo will show up with your link on social media.

3. Create Meaningful, Strong Quotes within the Content

When you have something interesting or meaningful to say, you can make it easy for your readers to share the quote by offering a “click to tweet” link. Since this tactic doesn’t require a lot of work for your audience and it easily draws attention to the sharing option, people are more likely to tweet your post.

A few ways to do this include:

  1. Head to ClicktoTweet.com and create your tweet. Generate and copy your link to incorporate it into your content. Easy peasy!
  2. Install the Click to Tweet by Todaymade plugin onto your WordPress site. In the CMS, click on the Twitter icon in your edit bar. Input the text you want people to tweet, and the plugin will create a box with your text in it and a “Click to Tweet” link.

Creating meaningful quotes isn’t only helpful for getting people to tweet your content. You can also use these quotes as a marketing tool to capture readers’ attention. Simply include the quote in your updates when you share the post on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn to draw readers into your words.

4. Include a Call-to-Action

If your main purpose is to increase exposure on social media, ask people to share your content.

But it’s not always effective to simply say, “Please share my post!”. You sound desperate.

Instead, connect with your readers and make them want to share the content by focusing on how they feel or have felt reading your piece. Don’t just tell them to share your post, either. Tell them exactly what to do by mentioning which social media platform to share on so you don’t leave them with too many options.

Here are some examples of good calls-to-action:

  1. Loved these ideas? Let everyone know by liking this post on Facebook.
  2. Do you share these same views? Tell the world by sharing this post on Facebook.
  3. Rise to the challenge and help spread the word by tweeting this post.

Make it easy for readers to share your content by offering easy-to-find sharing buttons (because let’s face it, no one wants to waste time copying and pasting). A few excellent plugins that offer easy-to-find buttons include:

Let’s put some of these strategies to the test. Enjoyed these tips? Do your friends a favor and let them in on these blog writing tactics by Tweeting this post with the share buttons above.

Alicia Rades is a freelance blogger and writer. She manages a blog called The Writing Realm and offers blog writing services on her website at AliciaRadesWriter.com.

Creating a Virtual Community to Build a Better Blog

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Image via Flickr user Steve.Garner32

This is a guest contribution from Sarah Loomes of licoriceandolives.com

There are many online communities available for your readers to reach out to, on all manner of topics – so how can you fill a need that isn’t already being taken care of out there?

I was stuck in a bit of plateau in my blogging and found myself re-reading the “31 Days to a  Build a Better Blog” and brainstorming about a problem that my readers might have that I could solve. It was January, and New Year’s resolutions were aplenty, so having a health and fitness blog I needed a way to help my readers achieve their goals. I am notorious for losing motivation around March (if I am lucky enough to even make it as far as March), so I figured many of my readers would be in the same boat. I had been wanting to host a fitness challenge for some time but there were hundreds of different variations already out there that were all much the same – short term.

That was where my Virtual Race Series came in. I created a series where 12 virtual races occur across the world throughout the year. A Virtual Race can be done anywhere around the globe within a fixed timeframe, and the GPS data from a sports watch or smart phone is submitted for your time.  

I found it built a wonderful community on my blog, and provided a place where readers could come together to cheer each other on and support each other. It had the added benefit of creating a sense of collaboration and real engagement – something every blogger wants. This is how I made sure I made the most of that momentum:

Interact with the Reader

Due to the engagement of everyone involved with the race series, once there is a great community environment then the interaction starts to become self-perpetuating.  Before launching the race series, I found myself spending a lot of time on sharing my content, trying to find readers and I really wasn’t seeing any significant increase in my readership. Now I can concentrate my time on those elements of the blog that will actually lead to engagement. 

Finding the Time

I am not a full-time blogger, so finding the time to develop new ideas for the blog and stick to a consistent posting schedule can be tricky. I generally post two to three times a week and schedule my posts ahead of time including automatically posting to social media. Finding the time to consistently post on the same days at the same time has definitely seen an increase in the engagement of my readers and the visitors to my site.

Dealing with Challenging Readers

This is the internet and, let’s be honest, there will always be people who don’t like what you are doing or saying and want to be vocal about it. There have been a few people not happy with the rules and requirements that I have placed on the participants of my race series. I am the first to admit that I am no expert when it comes to hosting Virtual races, in particular an entire series. So honesty is my policy, I ask for feedback from the readers and implement what seems fair and equitable.

Social Media Platforms

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have been the primary gathering place for the community of runners – platforms that are easy to use and allow easy conversation.  For the particular group that I am appealing to, I found Facebook to be the best way to create that sense of involvement. I have set up a group for all the race participants where everyone can post their run pictures and running events. There is a lot of communication and encouragement between the runners including information sharing on all running related questions.  Instagram has quickly become a gathering spot for all things health and fitness. So naturally I have a hashtag that the runners can use to share their photos of their run.

Key Points:

Know your reader – why would they come to your site and gather around it? How can you cater to that?

Take your reader into account when targeting social media – use what they already use.

Remember you are human – everything you do won’t be perfect.

Sarah Loomes blogs at Licorice and Olives about her newfound love for running, biking, and OzTag. You can join her Virtual 5k race here.

What Defines Blogging Success For You?

imageThis is a guest contribution from blogger Carly Findlay.

One day, during a ProBlogger Twitter Chat, I got into a debate with a blogger who placed all their worth on statistics. Small page views meant they did not feel successful. I tried to tell them that success is more than just page views, but it was hard to convince them in 140 characters.

One big ‘mistake’ I made with blogging was wanting to monetize and feeling left out when brands didn’t approach me or knocked me back when I asked them.

I was getting nowhere with sponsorship pitches. It seems no brand wants a chronic illness blogger. Even the brand who make products that save my life didn’t want to work with me. I’d hear bloggers talk about how easy it was to create a media kit and get flown around Australia to view product launches and receive beautiful jewellery in the mail. And I wasn’t getting those opportunities. I was despondent, measuring my worth on a lack of press releases. I’ve since learnt blogging success is so much more than monetizing. Comparison is the thief of joy and all that.

I was annoyed for a short time. But then I realised, I am successful without fully monetizing my blog and getting millions of hits. While I wasn’t being inundated with offers to review products, I was getting offers from influential people that wanted to work with me. Editors, CEOs, teachers, charities, and causes. These offers of work – both paid and unpaid – have been more related to my blog niche and personal values that solely working with brands could ever be. Occasionally I will do a sponsored post for a brand that I value, but for the most part, I created my business plan to make money away from my blog.

Since I’ve started this blog (it’s one of many I’ve had since 2001) I’ve created a freelance writing and speaking career. I have written for The Guardian, DailyLife, Mamamia, ABC Ramp Up, News.com.au, BlogHer, The Daily Dot, Essential Baby, Kidspot, and Frankie Magazine. I’ve won numerous writing awards and been selected for The Guardian’s diverse writers workshop. I’ve spoken at conferences in Australia and the UK. I have also lectured in genetics and media at the University of Melbourne. I will run a number of sessions on writing and self advocacy at the Emerging Writers Festival this month and next. I’ve also competed my Masters thesis on the way blogging has helped me form a sense of identity.

Blogging success has also come from being asked my opinion on topics around disability advocacy and being invited to participate in events such as judging film festivals for organ donation and disability awareness. I reached out to Sam Johnson when he began Love Your Sister, asking him if I could blog his journey. He said yes!

One of the biggest things that has happened to me because of my blog was being asked to speak at a university conference in the UK after the university program found my blog. They tweeted a link to my blog, I thanked them, we formed a working relationship and they invited me to speak. My hospital helped fund my trip – I was their first academic patient that they sponsored to speak at an international conference!

Lastly, I receive messages from blog readers who are struggling with their appearance, or a new parent to a baby with Ichthyosis (the same skin condition as I have), telling me that my story has made a difference to them. Occassionally I receive an email from a reader telling me they felt alone until they found my blog and can now see some hope for themselves or their child, and have been encouraged to seek medical or psychological help. Through blogging I’ve come in contact with so many people from around the world, and I’ve personally met a few other people with Ichthyosis. I have had so many people write to me saying they’re confident to tell their story about Ichthyosis to their families, friends or wider communities (or even online) now. Hearing about empowerment like that is better than huge numbers of page views.

I believe that statistics don’t necessarily equal success. Bloggers can look for other ways to reach success, form communities, and feel intrinsically rewarded through knowing their blog makes a difference to readers.

My Top Five Tips:

  1. Find your niche
  2. Don’t become focused on or despondent with page views
  3. If you want your business to be blogging, see how you can diversify to make money beyond your blog
  4. Value your readers and celebrate that you’re making a difference to them
  5. Keep at it!

Carly Findlay is a blogger based in Melbourne, Australia, writing about what it’s like to look different. She blogs at carlyfindlay.blogspot.com and tweets at @carlyfindlay

Finding Readers: From Seed to Sequoia – Growing Your Blog One Reader At a Time

From Seed to Sequoia

Today we welcome DJ from SteamFeed to our Finding Readers series. This post is chock-full of things you can do today to build your traffic – and have fun while you’re doing it! 

My guess is a portion of you won’t like this article. Growing your blog one reader at a time sounds lame, I know. We live in a world of instant gratification. It seems like any task nowadays can be completed successfully in just 15 minutes or 5 easy steps. Building a blog, a real blog, doesn’t work that way. Sorry for the hard truth but your Facebook friends weren’t going to tell you, especially Aunt Ruth.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

Yes, I pulled out that ridiculous saying because of how insanely simple, yet helpful, advice it is. Your blog will not be an overnight success. Building your blog’s foundation requires some significant work if you want it to stand the test of time.

If you implement and follow these concepts today I promise that within 12 months you’ll see the readership of your blog increase significantly. I know this because I’m writing from experience. We took SteamFeed from a brand new blog to 100,000 views/month in just one year, and we haven’t dropped below that mark since.

 SteamFeed-pageviews

In this article we’ll focus not only growing your readership but retaining them as well.

Relationships

Building your network is vital. Im not talking about your likes and followers here. I’m talking about real people who engage with you in regards to your blog on a regular basis (these could be people whom consistently share your blog posts, leave thoughtful comments, or maybe they respond to you when you ask a question in your newsletter).

These are the people you need more of. Nurture them. Ignore them, and they’ll eventually move on and your blog will stay as stagnant as the day you published your first “hello world” article.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Visit the profile page of a new reader once a day and learn something about them. Use this information to build your relationship with them. Remember that real relationships, people who will buy from you someday, are built over time when you’ve earned their trust.

Organization

When you’re first starting out finding new readers can be difficult, so when you do come across them make sure you get organized to keep track of them. Try the following:

  • Follow them on social networks. Create lists, circles, or groups.
  • Use your gmail as a CRM
  • Go old school and bust out your excel sheet

Make sure you’re checking in with them from time to time. If you learn something about them that you believe they find value in then make note of that. If they’re a blogger themselves make sure you share their content, if appropriate, and/or comment on their content. Do what you can to give value in that relationship.

note: At some point it simply won’t be possible or viable to keep track of every single reader. However, if you’ve built your foundation correctly then the organic growth will come naturally. This doesn’t mean you give up on the relationships you’ve nurtured but it may mean you need to be more picky in the future with the ones you maintain.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: The more organized you are, the easier it will be to retain your readers. Whatever system you go with keep it simple and practical.

Consistency

The truth is the more you post the faster your blog will grow. However, and this is a big however, if you post so frequently that the quality of your posts are just regurgitated boring rubbish you’ll do damage to your readership instead of growing it. Don’t post just to post. If it takes you an extra day or two to really create something of value, then hold off and do it right.

Also, posting consistently gives you a certain amount of credibility. It gives the reader a sense of security that they’re not going to start enjoying your content then all of a sudden you disappear on them. It’s sort of like when you start getting into a new TV show then it gets cancelled after the first season. Nobody likes that.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Set a schedule for yourself. Now stick to it. It won’t be easy but being disciplined about writing is important. If you flake for a week or two your readers will take notice.

Email

Email capture can be an incredibly powerful tool if used correctly (we use OptinMonster). Creating a powerful email list is one of the best ways to nurture those relationships you’ve worked so hard to gain. Whatever program you decide to use just get started on one because collecting emails from day one just makes sense. Also, add a newsletter to your once-a-month to-do list. Take the time to make the newsletter personal, but make sure it’s chock full of awesome for your readers.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: 1. Grow your email list by creating a high quality ebook and offering it for free to your subscribers. 2. If appropriate, ask questions in your newsletter and see who responds. Create separate lists for these people to better track them. From time to time you can send them a first look at a new website design, added features, contest giveaways, or a preview of your latest ebook.

Images

I can’t stress enough the importance of a great image. There is so much content on the internet right now that you need something eye-popping and vibrant to catch people’s attention. I personally love using PicMonkey, Canva, and Photoshop to help me add that little something extra to my articles.

People Love To Share Beautiful Content!

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Make sure you have the right to use someone’s image if you didn’t create it yourself, and definitely give proper credit to them. If you really like an image and you’re not sure if you’re allowed to use it, then try getting in touch with the owner of the image and tell them how much you like it and what you plan on doing with it. You never know where that connection may lead.

Guest Blogging

This is what I’m doing right now. I know that ProBlogger has a great community and a strong readership. I also know it produces high quality content that I love to read and I want my blog to be associated with that. I’m also hoping a number of people who read this article will check out SteamFeed and become a reader of my site as well. People love great content. They just don’t always know how to find it.

Magic Formula: Create a way for people to find you. Create great content so they stay. Repeat.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Don’t guest blog for just any old site. You should really focus on writing for sites that are in your niche. This is most likely where your readers will be too, and this is where your area of expertise is most likely in anyway. Also, make sure the site is credible. If they’ll just accept anyone to post on their site then you may want to think twice about associating yourself with them.

Marketing

Start with a great headline for your blog posts. It’s worth your time to put some extra thought into it.

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece. -CopyBlogger

Did you just spend hours creating the perfect blog post? Now be honest. How long did you spend marketing that blog post? If you’re going to take the time to create an amazing piece of content then get out there and let the world know about it. You don’t want it to just sit there and become irrelevant over time.

Grow Your Blog One Reader At A Time Tip: Try syndicating your content to sites like Huffington Post, Social Media Today, and Business2Community. This will help get some eyeballs to your blog.

Top 3 Takeaways

1. Focus on the quality of your content and your relationships above all else.

2. Have a plan and stay organized to effectively and efficiently grow your blog.

3. Growing your blog will take time. If you’re in it for the long run then make your decisions based on long term vision.

6 Tips for Hosting an Interview Series on Your Blog

shutterstock_125091749This is a guest contribution from Kerry Jones of CopyPress Community.

Interviews have become popular features on many blogs, and for good reason.  In addition to being fresh content, interviews can help you build relationships with other experts in your niche, provide your audience with different perspectives, and encourage influencers to promote your blog. Recently, Darren even shared a few tips on how to get high-profile bloggers to agree to be interviewed for your site.

If you’d like to start incorporating interviews into your editorial calendar, take a look at these tips for creating an interview series that benefits both your subject and audience.

Six Tips for Hosting an Interview Series

Choose the Right Format

When you think of conducting an interview, an on-screen video format probably comes to mind. Video interviews can be an intimidating place to start since there’s a need for technical skills like lighting, audio, and post-editing. You can invest in the right equipment if on-air interviews will become a regular feature on your blog or hire a video pro to help with one-off interviews.

But still, not everyone wants to appear on camera (this might include you) and geography may prevent you from conducting in-person video interviews. Fortunately, technology allows for many alternate interview formats.

Phone

This is a smart choice for busy interviewees since it’s quick, can be done while they’re on the go, and it doesn’t require a huge commitment. To record the interview, use a recording app or make your call with Skype where you’ll have plenty of  recording options. And always get someone’s consent before recording a call (it’s illegal not to in many places).

Virtual Video

Conducting a virtual video interview may be the best option if you like the thought of an on-screen interview but don’t have fancy equipment or your interview subject lives far from you. Again, Skype makes this easy since you have plenty of ways to record it. Google Hangouts are another simple way to record a video interview. Plus, you can interview several people at once this way (great for a roundtable discussion).

Email

Traditionalists may scoff at this, but using email to conduct interviews has become commonplace. You have a few options with this format. Either send a list of questions for the interviewee to fill out all at once, or ask one question at a time and respond with a new questions after receiving an answer. Keeping the questions short and few in number mean you have a better chance of getting them answered.

Face-to-face

Yes, you can still interview people the old-fashioned way. If it’s convenient to meet up with your subject, it’s worth doing since an in person chat may yield the most natural answers. Don’t forget a recording device to capture the conversation and a notepad for taking notes.

Interactive/Crowdsourced

Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can all be used as public interview forums. Use social media to crowdsource questions or host a live Q & A session with the interviewee. From there, you can turn the questions and answers into a blog post.

Do Your Homework

People who are interviewed frequently get tired of answering the same questions. Avoid regurgitating information that’s already out there — don’t ask a question if a quick Google search about the person can yield the answer (especially when interviewing someone well-known). You can always include the easy-to-find information as a blurb about the subject as an intro to the interview.

Your questions should align with the person’s background, area of expertise, and interests. You don’t need to learn their life story in advance, but gathering biographical and professional information will help you craft questions. Here are a few places to look them up:

  • LinkedIn — to see their professional background. Look for the unexpected, like an interesting career change or an unusual skill set for someone in their field. Additionally, their recommendations from others can give insight into their work ethic and personality traits.

  • Twitter — to see what interests them. What topics do they frequently talk about? What types of people do they engage with? Even a Twitter bio can provide clues about someone’s passions in 140 characters.

  • Google — to see where they’ve been mentioned or published. Also look for any previous interviews.

Consider Using an Interview Template

Believe it or not, you don’t need to ask unique questions. Rather, you should focus on asking questions that will yield unique answers. Using a list of template questions can save you time and also provide structure to your interviews. This consistency in the interview format works especially well if you’re planning on an ongoing series.

Asking everyone the same questions works best if your subjects have something in common. For example, if you will only be interviewing writers, there are enough universal questions for this group that will also result in a variety of responses.

Some of the best blog interview series use a template:

  • Copyblogger’sWriter Files” series also uses a template but since they ask questions that will get different answers for each interviewee, it works. They also write a brief introduction about each featured writer, which helps give some context to the interview.

  • Lifehacker’sThis is How I Work” series uses a mostly templated approach but the questions are so good and differ so much from person to person that every interview is unique (for example, they ask everyone to share a picture of their workspace).

workspace

Ask  Open Questions That Solicit Detailed Answers

A skilled interviewer always digs for specific examples, asks questions that will produce detailed answers, and lets the subject do most of the talking. No one wants to read an interview full of “yes” and “no” responses.

Only ask questions that solicit a specific response. Questions beginning with “how” or the 4 Ws (what, when, why, where) accomplish this. Your subject shouldn’t be able to answer with “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” or “I don’t know.”

You still may receive vague responses despite asking probing questions. When you do get a broad answer from your subject, use a follow up question, like “Can you give me examples?” to steer them into giving a more specific answer.

Lead the Subject into Sharing Anecdotes

The true gems of interviews often hide within anecdotes, which can set apart a great interview from a bland one. But getting someone to open up about their personal experiences can be one of the toughest parts of conducting an interview.

Even if your subject is open to telling personal stories, they may need you to help jog their memory. Focus on asking questions that will trigger the interviewee to remember certain events and then recall those stories.

One word that’s sure to inspire anecdotes: when.

“When did you know this was the right career path for you?”

“When did you feel you were truly a professional writer?”

But you don’t need to limit yourself to wording everything as a question. Phrases like “Tell me how…” or “Describe a time…” are also effective for leading the subject to share anecdotes.

Include Text for Video and Audio Interview Content

When doing video or audio interviews, write up some highlights or transcribe the conversation. This can “tease” your audience into tuning in and also gives the search engines some text to crawl.

In the Travel Blogger Academy interview series, they take the audio recording from an interview and turn it into a video using simple text and graphics. In the blog post, they use bulleted lists to tease readers with interview content. Any resources/tools mentioned in the interview are linked to in the post as well as links to the subject’s blog and social profiles.

Travel-Blogger-Academy

Lastly, make sure to keep in touch after the interview. Give a timeframe or exact date for when the interview will be published. If you need an answer clarified, reach out to get a more in depth explanation.

Always send them a link to the interview once it’s published. And don’t be afraid to ask them to share it on their social networks — one of the biggest benefits of hosting an interview series is the potential to attract the subjects’ audiences to your blog.

Have you had success with hosting interviews on your blog? What do you think makes a compelling interview? Let me know in the comments below.

Kerry Jones is Tampa-based blogger and the Assistant Community Manager for CopyPress Community — a networking site, training portal and job board for freelance creatives. You can connect with her on Twitter and Google+

Weigh In: Are Personal Blogs and Business Blogs Really That Different?

Image via Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Image via Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

This is a guest contribution from Sabina Stoiciu.

Do you remember how it was back in the 90s, when most of us didn’t have a clue about blogs and blogging? Today we can hardly imagine a world without them. And if the first blogs from mid-90s had a personal character and resembled an online diary, business blogging has taken quite a different track. Or have they?

What do personal and business blogging have in common?

At first, I would say it’s the need to have a blog to write for (just joking, I’m sure this is something that can’t be skipped).

Personal blogging means having your own little corner of the web, where you express everything from your personal beliefs, ideas, tips for spending free time, preferences, hobbies; to relating personal stories from your everyday life.

Business blogging works following a similar principle – the one of having an own place on the web where to present yourself as a company, to be more human, show what you’re like, and  engage with your followers, just like you do on a personal blog.

For both types of blogs you need to have a well-contoured idea of what you want to write about, although the business blog requires even higher levels of structure. You can’t (or at least shouldn’t) start a blog just for the sake of following a trend, if you don’t have any hint on what your blog’s purpose should be.

A second common point is: keeping your audience in mind when you write. For whom do write? Do you write for tech savvy people? Don’t be afraid to use some technical jargon, then. Do you write for your grandma’s generation? Use language that isn’t too tech-heavy. An useful measure for knowing for whom you are writing is to undertake audience research. Personas can help you imagine how your typical reader looks and behaves. It’s then easier to craft content for someone you already have in mind.

The whole purpose of a blog is to have a more personal touch. Hence, the writer’s personality will come to the surface through their style of writing on both types of blogs. The personal one, however, allows its owner to express their thoughts in a more intimate manner than on a business blog, where communication has to respect some basic guidelines.

Another common characteristic of both blog types is the need to engage with followers. Whether it is a personal blog or a business blog, your articles shouldn’t take the shape of a monologue. On the contrary – you should encourage readers to comment and share their ideas and thoughts. Besides developing your discussion and making it more interactive, visitors can provide you with new ideas on what they’d like to read, which then informs your content.

Now tell me what you think of blogs that don’t have a contact method. I personally tend to ignore them, because I can’t explain to myself why you wouldn’t want to get in touch with your readers. It bothers me not to have any way of sending the blog owner a message, especially because it’s very easy to include a contact form on your blog. There are plugins for WordPress that let you build and publish a contact form in no time.

One more thing you can do on both personal and business blogs is have guest posts. This can be a good way to offer some variation in content and writing style, which your readers might appreciate. Though, the topics and the most appropriate guest authors depend on your blog type. Business blogs can benefit of featuring well known industry speakers, fellow business owners, or product/service partners. Personal blogs might have a smaller chance to feature opinion leaders, but they are still useful.

Last but not least, you have to be careful what you write about and what you make public. It’s true that blogs should express honest opinions, but that doesn’t mean you can wake up one day and begin to denigrate everybody in your life.

How are personal and business blogs different?

Apart from sharing a few common points, these two types of blogs can be poles apart. Here are the main traits that distinguish one from the other:

  1. In many cases, the audience of a business blog is more specialised. It’s more of a niche audience, which at some point might be more picky than the readers of your personal blog. For example, you can choose to write today about kittens on your personal blog. Tomorrow you shift the content direction and cover diet tips. And the day after tomorrow you feel like speaking of planes. Your followers might be indulgent when it comes to your personal blog, but business articles should stay quite focused.
  2. For a business blog, I would say that it’s more difficult to write compelling content that keeps readers coming back. Your blog has to speak about your business, but be of a more general interest at the same time. As for the personal blog, you have a higher freedom in choosing what to write about.
  3. The previous point leads to mentioning one more difference: business blogs offer valuable, useful content, engage and advertise at the same time. Perhaps ‘advertise’ is not the most appropriate term, but business blogs do provide information on the product or service behind the business. Common sense asks for this information not to be overly promotional, but to present additional advice on how to make the most out of the product, how to benefit of the product’s partnerships and others.
  4. Moreover, there are several points to keep in mind when crafting your business blog content – how to write headlines, not having a clear posting strategy, being all too promotional, using images incorrectly. or being too SEO-crazy.
  5. The content on a business blog should be even more engaging than on a personal blog, meaning that it should be accompanied by strong calls-to-action that make the visitor convert. After all, the final purpose of a business blog is to convince the visitor that your product is the best choice, something that you do through presenting its extended features, advantages, use cases and so on.
  6. Besides strong calls-to-action, your business blog can benefit from including lead generation methods, such as lead generation forms. This type of form can include various sub-types like the contact form, the request a quote form, the newsletter subscription form, the freebie form and others which can fulfill the lead generation requirement.
  7. Because we’re talking of the business sector, where every resource allocation has to be justified, your business blog also needs to be analyzed. Engagement, ROI, conversions, requests for more information about your business – they all have to be tracked closely to see how your blog strategy is working out. Unlike your personal blog, the business one has to drive clear results.
  8. We’ve established before that you are responsible for what you post on the web for both personal and business blogs. Nevertheless, posting on a business blog requires you to be even more careful. How do you perceive a typo on a personal blog and how do you do it when it comes to a business blog? When writing about and for your company, you are associated with the company image. The slightest mistake you make can have a huge impact on the brand you’re representing.

Having said outlined these differences, some could argue that personal blogs, particularly personal blogs that create income and are brands unto themselves, also benefit from such “business-blogging” strategies. Where do you stand on the issue?

Sabina Stoiciu enjoys blogging, photography, traveling and finding ways of gathering and sharing relevant business knowledge. You can follow her on Twitter. She also writes for 123ContactForm, the online form and survey builder – try it for free.

5 Ways to Nail Social Media Branding

This is a guest contribution from Miranda Burford of Swiftly.

Social media marketing is one of the best ways to attract visitors to your blog. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube are among the hottest components in the modern marketer’s toolkit. But how do you make sure the branding you’ve built on your blog translates to all these other platforms? Here are five tips you can action right now to ensure you’re consistent across the board.

1. Develop a unique look and feel 

You always want to ensure that your social profiles are instantly recognizable as your own. Bring the logo, fonts, styles and imagery that define your brand (and your blog) to all of your communication outlets. Your profile pics and background images should be eye-catching and refreshed regularly — there’s really no option for staying stale on social media! If you’re not a designer, seek out some help. At Swiftly, for example, bloggers can quickly get a custom profile pic or background image for just $15.

2. Post fresh content regularly

Keep cranking out unique, engaging content on all of your social media channels by creating a varied publishing schedule and sticking to it. Posting regularly at peak times is extremely important (there are apps that can help pinpoint your audience’s best times), especially on Facebook and Twitter. Along with sharing your latest blog posts, try posting relevant news, photos, links and interviews you see around the web.

3. Be human to connect with your audience  

Blogs and social media outlets are not always the place for a hard sell. Be natural and have some fun. Create a consistent and well-defined voice that accurately reflects the tone on your blog. Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself! You’ll build a network by continually showing your personality to the world.

4. Engage with your community

Always focus on ways to develop an active online community. Encourage participation by fueling discussions, showcasing stories, sharing thoughts and running competitions. Remember to invite comments, questions, and suggestions from your audience, and be sure to reply to criticism right away. Being transparent will win over your audience.

5. Embrace your pro status

Be a top influencer in your industry by continuously sharing awesome content. It doesn’t all have to be original. Repurpose content whenever you can. Create partnerships with relevant businesses or other bloggers and work on a content sharing strategy together. Keep blogging and curating content to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Miranda Burford is the Marketing Manager for Swiftly. Swiftly, a new service by 99designs, can get your small design jobs done in under an hour for just $19.

How to Take a10-Day Vacation, a 5-Day Business Trip, Get Food Poisoning, and Still Be Able to Write 42 Posts In a Month

This is a guest contribution by Karol K of newInternetOrder.com

Just to set things straight… I’m not talking about writing 42 300-word posts. In September last year, I did write 42 web articles in total. Some of them were 2,800 words long. Some just 500. On the average, each article was about 1000 words. How do I know so precisely? Well, I keep a complete record of everything I write.

Having this little disclaimer out of the way, I can tell you the whole story of how I did it, why I’m so proud, and how you can do the same.

The story

Those 42 posts were meant for 3 clients and 2 blogs of my own. Regarding the work for my own blogs, I could just take it easy and not set any stone-written deadlines (I did anyway). On the other hand, the client work is always time-sensitive and needs to be delivered on a specific day no matter what.

There are some elements that add to the difficulty of this whole thing. You can see most of them in the title of this post, but here they are again:

  • 10-day vacation. I stayed in Barcelona for 6 weeks (whole August and half of September). And even though I did keep the normal work schedule, at some point, I decided to take a 10 day vacation and enjoy Barcelona to the fullest. In that time, I did no work whatsoever.

  • 5-day business trip to Turkey. This was another obstacle. Considering that it was a business trip, this meant that I had to take care of a lot of other things apart from writing articles. So, I needed to find a different approach to get it all done somehow.

  • Food poisoning. Oh yes, here’s what reminds me of Turkey the most. As it turns out, Turkish food isn’t good for me at all. That’s about 3-4 days (kind of) out of my schedule again. I’m saying kind of because I did manage to do some work then, but not much. Actually, even less than during my business trip.

So in total, this makes 10 days completely out of the calendar. Another 5 days of half-time working (or even 1/3), and the final 4 days of quarter-time (is that a phrase?) working. In total, 19 days.

But isn’t September just 30 days? Yes, it is.

Oh, and one more thing that’s not making my life easier, I’m a non-native English writer. This means that I have to proofread the hell out of my articles, which obviously takes a lot of additional time.

Here’s how I did it.

Plan first

Everything starts with a precise plan or at least, it should start with one. At the beginning of the month, I knew exactly how much time I will spend on vacation and on the business trip, the food poisoning was the only surprise.

I also knew how many posts I should write (roughly). Now, why is that number not exact? First of all, I had much freedom regarding my own blogs. Secondly, I told one of my clients that I will write around 20-25 posts for him.

Of course, you can’t always make that happen. But if you inform your clients that you’re going to be out on vacation, most of the time, it’s no problem as long as you can deliver the work shortly afterwards (it’s simple freelance marketing 101 if you’re into freelance blogging and not only publishing for yourself).

But let’s go back to the plan itself. So how was I able to create it and even make some room for any “unfortunate” event?

The way I do my planning when it comes to writing is something I’ve developed over time. I basically use one tool – a spreadsheet (a log) of my writing efficiency – fancy name, ain’t it? Every month, I jot down the exact number of words I’ve managed to write each day. So at the end of a given month, I have the total number of words written.

After doing this for a while, I know exactly what’s the comfortable number of words for me per month (and therefore the number of articles as well). And once I have the per month value, I can easily tell the per day value.

So, when creating my plan for September, I made an educated guess about the number of days I’d be able to work and then set the maximum number of words I was capable of writing. As a result, I estimated that 40-45 is indeed a possible total number of articles.

In short, it’s pure math, nothing else. Here’s the action plan if you want to replicate this for yourself:

  1. Start a writing log and record each article/chapter/post you write. It’s best to focus on the number of words, rather than on the number of articles.

  2. Gather data for 2-3 months.

  3. Now you have your personal writing efficiency score, which lets you estimate your performance going forward.

Get the tools and the hardware

At home, I do most of my work on a standard desktop computer. I have a standing desk, and an environment I find really great for focusing my attention and maintaining my productivity.

However, working abroad requires some additional arrangements…

As for the computer, I use a standard laptop. I find working on it way easier than on an iPad, which I also took for other purposes. (iPads are still great for some situations, more on that in a minute).

When it comes to tools, I didn’t even install anything new on the laptop. Whenever I realized that I need a specific tool, I just downloaded it, so there was no extra hassle (most of the tools I use are either free or online).

The only app I made sure I had installed was SugarSync. This really is invaluable. (When I got back home, my work was already waiting for me on my desktop computer automatically.)

The most important point here is to make your work (your posts/content) available remotely. So, double check if everything you need is inside your SugarSync (or Dropbox) account. You can be in much trouble if you’ve forgotten something and don’t have a way to get it.

You probably know this already, but using Gmail is helpful here as well. Gmail allows you to hook up any other email account (even those based on external domains), so you can have everything managed in one remotely available place.

Finally, if you’re doing active marketing while being abroad, Bidsketch is a nice way of handling client proposals (wink!). The tool will help you craft those proposals and make sure that every prospective client receives an offer.

Set the habits

Everything is under control at home. But when you’re abroad, you tend to get easily distracted by all the stuff that’s going on around you.

If you want to remain focused, you have to set some habits and dedicate yourself to keeping them in mind.

For instance, the main habit I keep mentioning in many of my publications is writing first thing in the morning. There’s really no better way to start the day off than by having your work done by 11AM. With this habit alone, you’ll make massive progress no matter what emergency the rest of the day brings.

There’s a really good reason why this approach works. Our brain or our personal processing power, if you will, runs out during the day. We simply get tired quickly. So if you want to get anything important done in a given day, you must take care of it as early as possible. In a sentence, do the important stuff first.

Not surprisingly, for a blogger or a writer, the important stuff usually revolves around writing itself. Hence, write first thing in the morning and then use the rest of the day for other tasks.

The other habit is using your NET – No Extra Time. Your NET is every moment when you’re doing a specific thing, yet you can successfully do something else at the same time.

Now, the most important distinction is that NET does not equal multitasking! Multitasking is the biggest enemy of productivity!

Multitasking is where you devote yourself to doing a number of things at the same time consciously. For instance, when you’re trying to write, answer email, and listen to a podcast all at the same time.

Utilizing your NET is when you’re doing a number of things during a time that is already lost, or time when you can harness different areas of your brain to do the work.

Let me give you two examples of NET:

  • Example #1 (time already lost): You’re on an airplane or at the airport (this obviously goes for any other mean of transportation as well). You’re there anyway, so why not do some writing? This is where an iPad comes really handy.

  • Example #2 (harnessing different areas of your brain ): At the gym. You could listen to an audiobook or an interview, either as part of your research prior to writing an article or just for fun. In essence, when you’re working out, you’re not using the creative part of your brain. You’re just using the simple impulses that tell you to exercise, so there’s still room for some intellectual activity.

And again, because I really want to emphasize this, utilizing your NET is not multitasking. Don’t. Ever. Multitask. Human beings are not meant to multitask.

Noticing your NET throughout the day, on the other hand, and using it to your benefit will allow you to get significantly more things done. I estimate that around 1/3 of my work in September was done during my NET.

Use a project management system

A system sounds like a big deal, but I actually don’t have any better way to call it.

Of course, in some cases, especially if you’re doing a lot of work collaborating with other people, and have to take care of a number of clients, getting an account at Teambox or Basecamp might be a good idea. But just to manage your own work, you don’t need much.

What I use for my own project management is Google Drive (formally Google Docs) and Remember The Milk. I find these tools easy to use, not to mention that they have all the functionalities I require. For a blogger, there’s not much you need… just a way of recording every post you write, task management, keeping up with the deadlines and with the people you’re sending those posts to (e.g. guest posts, posts for your clients).

For some of you, this sounds really basic, but you’d be amazed at how many people manage their work through an email account/software (meaning, tagging certain emails, and then going back to them at random occasions).

The main lesson here is that any system is still better than no system at all. You should at least sign up to Google Drive (available through your standard Google account).

Create the mindset of a winner

This sounds corny, but please bear with me here. When you have difficulty meeting a deadline or some other emergency strikes (like the food poisoning) then the only thing that can save you is your mindset.

And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m any better than you. A mindset is not something we’re born with. It’s something we can learn with time.

For me, the things that work best is imagining the goals that are in front of me and the things I’m set out to achieve. In comparison to all this, a puny food poisoning is simply not enough to shoot me down.

Also, by having your goal in mind, you can get the job done even if you’re not at your full abilities for 19 days in a month.

So this is how I did it. I’m positive that you can achieve similar results, or be even better, especially if you’re a native English writer.

Just to summarize the advice here in 5 simple steps:

  1. Plan first.

  2. Get the tools and software in place.

  3. Set the habits.

  4. Use a project management system.

  5. Create the mindset!

What’s your take on this? What’s your secret of remaining productive even if you know that you won’t be available for a number of days? I’m really curious to get your input on this one.

Karol K. is founder of newInternetOrder.com and a team member at Bidsketch (proposal software). Whenever he’s not working, he likes to spend time training Capoeira and enjoying life.