Should I Stop Blogging? 20 Questions to Ask Yourself

“When Should You Give Up On a Blog?” – question from the Q&A sidebar widget.

While they won’t all apply to every blog – here’s a list of questions to consider when working out whether you should give up on a blog.

  1. What goals do I have for this blog? Are they being met? Am I getting closer to meeting them?
  2. Am I Interested in the Topic?
  3. Am I getting personal satisfaction from posting?
  4. How Many Posts Did I write in the Last Month?
  5. Do I have time to keep the blog running?
  6. Is anyone reading my blog?
  7. Have I given it enough time?
  8. Do I still see myself writing on this blog in 18 months time?
  9. Is the niche growing or dying?
  10. Is the blog earning anything?
  11. Is the blog growing my profile and perceived expertise?
  12. Are there any other benefits from this blog?
  13. Is the blog giving energy to or taking energy away from me?
  14. Is the Blog’s traffic and income growing or shrinking?
  15. Are readers engaging with the content?
  16. If readers are commenting – what are they saying?
  17. What are other bloggers writing about my blog?
  18. Do I have anything original and useful to say on my topic?
  19. What else could I do with the time that I spend on this blog
  20. What would the impact be of me not blogging? (on readers and me)

How to Respond to Individual Requests for Help From Blog Readers

Today Lisa sent in this question which I thought might make an interesting post topic:

“I would love if you’d do a post on how you handle emails from people who ask for one on one help.

As my site and blog grows, I continue to get more and more emails for one on one assistance. I often feel guilty about saying “no” but I have to setup boundaries in order to remain sane.

Thanks for the question Lisa – it’s a good one and one that many bloggers grapple with as their blogs grow.

It is actually a good sign that people are approaching you for assistance in this way as it shows that people see you as an authority in your niche and someone that they want trust to help them apply the principles that you talk about on your blog. That is worth celebrating!

OK, so it’s a positive sign, but the problem still remains. How do you respond to these types of approaches? As I see it there are a number of responses – all of them are valid (although I’d avoid #2) and some will appeal to different people depending upon the life stage of their blog and time commitments.

Here’s a few options for you:

1. Respond to each request for help

At one end of the spectrum is the option of freely helping each person that asks for help. This one is doable for those with either a small blog with few requests or someone with a lot of time on their hands but isn’t really sustainable once those circumstances change – unless you’re willing to lose that sanity that you talk about in your question.

I should say before I give you any other options that this would be my personal preference in an ideal world – but like you say there’s a need to have boundaries.

2. Ignore all such requests for help

At the opposite end of the spectrum we have a fairly harsh approach – while this might help your workload it’s probably not going to help your reputation that much.

3. Work on Reader Expectations

One technique that has helped me a little is to add information to my contact form to help filter some of the approaches that I get. I include on that form that I read all emails but can’t respond to everyone. I also note on my contact form that I’m not available for consulting and link to my FAQ page.

All of this is to help readers to get their expectations aligned with what I can offer. People are still able to contact me but I don’t promise to respond with help for everyone. In having this information on my contact form I found the emails I get asking for help dropped.

4. Develop a Draft Response

Of course no matter what you say on your contact form I still get a lot of emails asking for help. This is something that I enjoy and while I can’t respond to everyone I’ve developed an email response to those asking for help that is an attempt at helping readers find the information that they need as well as decreasing my own workload.

The email is fairly simple and explains that I am not able to help everyone and that I’m not taking on new consulting work. It then goes on to suggest a number of strategies for readers to help themselves. It points readers to my Blogging for Beginners page, my book and some other key pages on my blog. It also says that while I don’t do consulting at the moment that I would be happy to recommend others that do so on a paid basis.

While I’d prefer to be able to help everyone that asks for assistance it’s just not possible and I find that this draft email response has helped a lot. For many readers I try to personalize it a little more. If they ask a question about something I’ve written about I often add a link to the email or make a very quick suggestions. The draft therefor acts as a head start to a response.

5. Public Answers

Another technique that I use is to reply to those asking the questions asking if they’d mind if I answer the question publicly as a post (either giving them credit for the question or not – some like anonymity). You’d be familiar with this technique Lisa as this is what I’m currently doing.

These types of responses kill a few birds with one stone. Firstly the reader gets an answer, secondly other readers who didn’t verbalize the question but have the need get the answer too and thirdly, you get a new post for your blog!

6. Community Discussion

Another tactic is to take the question asked and pose it to your wider readership for them to answer. ProBlogger readers will be familiar with this technique (I did it a few times over the weekend just gone by). The beauty of this approach is that your reader gets an answer (or many of them) and it generates good discussion for your blog. You do need to choose the right questions for this type of thing though.

7. Convert to Paid Consulting

Lastly, you could also respond to such requests with an email that attempts to convert the questioner into a paying client for some consulting work. This won’t work with every type of question – but if what the person is asking is for you to actually help them do something or work through an issue that you can’t do in a quick response it might be reasonable to offer your services in a paid capacity. This might be something you only do in the minority of circumstances but you’ll find that in some people will have a need that they are willing to pay for an answer in.

I’m interested to hear what techniques others use to help them deal with requests for help from readers – particularly when the requests begin to get more numerous than you can actually handle?

5 Tips to Grow Your Twitter Presence in 2012

Twitter has a stronghold on the blogosphere, yet sometimes, it’s hard to be heard. If you’re struggling to grow your Twitter following, you’re not alone.

I have more than 160,000 followers now, and quite a few readers have asked how I’ve grown my following. Here are my tips.

1. Leverage your other “engagement media” profiles

Do you have an existing online profile somewhere outside of Twitter (big or small)? Use it to springboard into Twitter. If it’s a blog, mention that you’re using Twitter in a post, add Twitter sharing buttons to your home page and individual posts, and link to it from your profile and contact pages.

Tweet button

My posts all display a Tweet button

If you’re on Facebook, use one of the numerous tools or apps available to republish your tweets to Facebook. If you promote your blog on Google+, share your Tweets there. Using Pinterest? Cross-pollinate between those followers and your Twitter followers to maximize the return on the time you’re investing in social media.

It goes without saying that you should add Twitter, along with your other social media account details, to your email signature, business card, and so on. The same applies with any online (or even offline) presence that you have—link to your Twitter page and link to it often.

2. Tweet often—but leave space for engagement

The more active you are on Twitter, the more likely you are to have others find and follow you. However, tweet too frequently and you run the risk of losing followers. I try to stick to one topic at a time and create pauses between them to let others interact.

Striking the right balance takes time and experimentation. Watch who retweets your updates—and which updates they’re sharing—to get a sense of your strongest advocates.

And be sure to engage with those who share your updates and those who respond to you. Thank them, answer their questions, and ask them why they likes that tweet or this post. Consider this engagement part of your ongoing market research for your blog, and your social media strategy.

3. Get talking

The secret to building your follower list is interaction. I get most new followers on those days when I interact with other Twitter users_and over time, that’s grown to a massive number of people.

We call them @ replies but you can, of course, also use the @_name functionality to engage with people you don’t know or follow—and who don’t know or follow you.

Asking questions is perhaps the best way to get conversational on Twitter. Get ten people to answer a question you’ve tweeted and if even just one person retweets one of those ten replies (or your original question), you’ll have gained exposure to whole new rafts of potential followers.

Just as important is to participate in other people’s conversations. Reply to their questions and ideas as much as possible.

The key with Twitter really is shared interests. people will share your tweets with their followers if they think you share a common interest with them, and your tweet is relevant. So, be conversational about topics that will interest others. Be conversational in a way that encourages your followers to reach out to their own networks.

Sharable tweets

Make your tweets resonate with a broad audience

Finally, you might find your first few engagements on Twitter easiest if you’re not talking about yourself—I find I do better when I’m not talking about me! No one likes to hang around with people who just talk about themselves, so get the balance right between talking about yourself and talking about others and other topics of interest.

4. Provide optimal value

Tweeting on a personal level is fun and for many that’s as far as it goes, but if you’re interested in growing your Twitter influence, you need to provide your followers, and potential followers, with value.

It’s the same principle as growing a blog—if you help enhance people’s lives in some way they are more likely to want to track with you, read more of what you have to say, and share your ideas with others.

Make your conversations matter on some level. Sure you can throw in personal tweets and have some fun, but unless you’re providing something useful to people (information, entertainment, news, education, etc.) they probably won’t follow you for long, or share your content with their own networks.

5. Tweet in peak times

Last week I tracked when I had new Twitter followers add me, and found (as I expected) that the frequency of follows where made during business hours in the USA.

Tweeting at the times when your followers are online only increases the chances of their finding and adding you to their lists, and sharing your tweets—timing certainly affects sharing on Facebook, and if you look at your retweet stats, you’ll find it does on this network, too.

My being situated in Australia can have some positives and negatives, but one of the things I don’t enjoy about it is that I miss out on a lot of interaction with my followers who are on the other side of the world. While many social media management apps will let you schedule status updates and tweets, there’s no substitute for in-person, real-time interaction on Twitter.

Bonus tip: tweet from the heart

Don’t worry too much about how you “come across” on Twitter. Just be yourself and tweet form the heart. Don’t stress too much about the numbers—instead, use the platform to connect genuinely with the Twitter followers you already have, and let the rest take care of itself!

Top Twitter Blog Marketing Tips has more Twitter tips.

Oh, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the burden of social networks, read my post on how to beat the social media beast!

A Remedy for Blogger Inferiority Complex

Yesterday I wrote about the problem of blogger inferiority complex and how often as bloggers we can limit our potential by defining ourselves negatively.

Today I want to get a little more constructive and suggest a remedy for this common problem. In doing so I want to help those of us who struggle with a negative self view to make a mind-shift in our thinking.

How do you become more positive in the way that you think about yourself and your blog?

Today I want to suggest two starting points in tackling this problem. Tomorrow I’ll wrap up this mini-series with a third.

1. Identify What You Have:

Identify-What-You-Have.jpg There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be something that you’re not, learn something that you don’t know or achieve something that you’ve not achieved before – however sometimes when we’re focusing upon what we don’t have we lose sight of the very thing that could be the key to us going to the next level – what we do have.

When I was in my late teens and early 20’s I spent a lot of time worrying about what I didn’t have and comparing myself to others. As I look back on the way that I lived my life at this time I realized that the motivation for many of the things that I did was that I wanted to be like someone else. The result was a complete mess. I ended up spending so much of my time aspiring to be or have something that those around me were or had that I stopped being Darren.

The realization that I came to was that defining myself by what I didn’t have or by what someone else was wasn’t working. What I did find that worked however was defining myself by who actually was and starting with what I already had.

I went through a process with a small group of friends of rediscovering myself, learning what my strengths were, identifying my passions, reflecting upon the experiences that I had had and looking at what I’d learned. I found that as I began to focus more upon these positive things that I became more positive.

As bloggers I think that many of us need to make this same mind-shift and focus less upon what we don’t have and more upon what we do – and then to build from there.

Are You Focusing More Upon What You’re Not than What You Are as a Blogger?

Firstly, let me say that you’re not alone.

Secondly let me suggest a series of questions that you might like to set aside some time to reflect upon to help you rediscover who you are as a blogger:

1. What has Worked On Your Blog? – Sometimes the key to your success is something that you’ve already done that had a spark of energy to it but which still needs a little more work. Look back over the blog posts that you’ve written and identify those that ‘worked’. It might be those that got linked to by another blog or two, it might be a post that got a few extra comments or it could be something that you enjoyed more than other posts even if no one else noticed. Once you’ve identified some of these posts ask yourself why they worked. Is there a common theme or some identifiable lessons that you can learn that you might emulate again?

2. What do you know about? – A great way to answer this one is to think about the questions that people ask you and seek advice from you on. What knowledge and expertise have you gathered in your life so far?

3. What things do you love to talk about? – What topic do your conversations always turn to? Not sure? Ask a close friend what they think your ‘pet topic’ is. What do conversations keep coming back to you no matter how hard they try to change the topic? These topics are obviously things that you have some passion for – perhaps they are what you should be blogging about.

4. What formative experiences have you had? – Often the things that make us most interesting are the things we’ve done in our past. The places you’ve been, the jobs you’ve had, the study that you’ve done, the people that you’ve met etc. Don’t just think about the positive experiences but some of the hard ones too because sometimes it’s through the most painful times of life that we discover purpose and learn lessons that shape our future.

5. Who do you know? – Don’t focus upon the bloggers you don’t know – start with those you do. What have you studied formally? What have you read about? What have you gathered knowledge on in your work, recreation, friendship groups?

6. What readers do you have? – it’s easy to focus upon the thousands of readers that you don’t have, but what about those that you do? Even if you only have 3 and one of them is your Mother – you’ve got people logging into your blog every day to read what you have to say! Not only that, they each have a network of relationships that they could potentially tell about your blog.

7. What problems do you have? What problems have you overcome? – one of the most powerful things that you can do as a blogger is to help people solve problems. The problems that you are best equipped to solve are those that you have had (or have) that you’re overcoming for yourself.

8. What have you achieved? – achievements are not everything but they can certainly be helpful when you’re blogging because you can draw upon them or the lessons you learned in them in your writing. Don’t just focus on the big achievements either – sometimes the small things we’ve done are most important.

9. What sets you apart? – sometimes we focus upon our differences as negatives – but how could they be used for your own good? We operate in a medium where there are millions of others competing for attention – being different is good. It might be how you look, it might be how you live your life, it could be where you live or some other aspect of your life that you’ve been getting down on yourself about. How can you ‘flip it’ to your advantage?

10. What type of personality do you have? – you are wired a certain way – so identify how that is and learn to work to it’s strengths. If you’re a quiet, introverted and reflective person, let your blogging reflect this with posts that are a little more reflective and thoughtful. If you’re loud, brash and opinionated – go with that too! If you can make people laugh – do that in your blogging! Don’t try to be someone that you’re not – start with who you are.

11. What Resources do you have? – what do you have at your disposal that you can use in your blogging? I started out blogging on a 10 year old PC that crashed after 30 minutes of running and dial-up internet connection… and that’s a lot more than many bloggers have. I know bloggers who would answer this question with the answer that they have a membership in a local library that gives them 30 minutes internet connection every weekday. Rather than looking at what you don’t have in terms of tools and resources – start with what you do have and build from there. It might be a computer, internet connection, video or digital camera, a MP3 recorder… or it could be friendship with people who do.

Identifying some of the things that you DO have can be an uplifting experience. While we might be naturally drawn to answer the above questions with negativity – force yourself to look at the positives for a little bit and make a list of what you have. But it doesn’t end there….

2. Build upon what you have


Identifying what you do have is a very worthwhile exercise – but it’s not enough if you want to grow to your potential.

The key to the lives of many successful people that I’ve met is that they take what they do have (as meager as that may be) and turn it into something worthwhile by building it.

  • It might be taking a simple skill and doing it until they’re blue in the face
  • It might be taking a passion and hunch and following it to see where it leads
  • It might be taking a simple resource and using it for all it’s worth

For me as a blogger is was like this:

I started out with:

  • a dodgy computer and dialup internet access
  • an interest and a little knowledge in photography (I’d studied it as a 16 year old for a semester)
  • some spare time in the evenings when I wasn’t working one of my 3 part time jobs or studying
  • a little experience in communicating
  • half a degree in Marketing (I quit half way – my only other training was in Theology)
  • a little experience of blogging on a personal blog

I took that muddled collection of things and began to blog about digital cameras. I made a lot of mistakes but I became more and more determined to take what I did have and to build upon it. As a result things began to grow.

The Story Continues – But First…. Some Homework

As I said above – tomorrow I’m going to finish this series with one more tip for overcoming Blogger Inferiority Complex. I was going to include it in this post but I think that before getting to the last suggestion it’d be well worth pondering the first two steps.

While you wait for the last part in the series take a little time out today to work through them – particularly the series of 11 questions that I suggested and pondering how you can build on them. I’d love to hear what you discover!

What You Say is What You Are – The Problem of Blogger Inferiority Complex

Blogger-Inferiority-ComplexImage by JettGirl

Today I was scanning through some emails from readers and it struck me that so many of those that I hear from are suffering from a similar ailment. Let me share a few excerpts from emails I received today and see if you can spot what it is:

“Darren, I’m just a small blogger but was wondering….”
I’m no A-list blogger but I wanted to let you know…..”
“I’ve only got 70 readers a day….”
“My RSS reader counter is embarrassing….”
“I don’t know any HTML…. I feel like I have so much to learn….”
“I’m just starting out and don’t know much about blogging…..”
“In comparison to others I’m just a small fry….”
“I don’t write as well as they do….”

Notice something about all of these emails?

They all define themselves by something that they are not achieving, that they don’t know, that they don’t have….

Many of them are also based upon a comparison with others.

While I understand why they do this (many are emailing asking for advice and it’s logical to present a problem in such an instance) I wonder if it is also a little more than that.

My suspicion is that many of us as bloggers think of ourselves in similar ways and have “blogger inferiority complex“.

There’s are 3 problems with this type of thinking:

1. The impact it has on You

The main problem with defining yourself with words that describe what you are NOT is that it impacts the way that you think about yourself. I strongly believe that the words we use to talk about ourselves (spoken and thought) impact us.

No I’m not going to get you chanting positive mantras about yourself with the promise of it magically transforming your life but I do think that if you’re continually thinking of yourself in terms of what you are NOT that it has an impact and can be a limiting factor on what you ARE.

Also when your view of yourself is tied to what others do and achieve it can also be very limiting and stop you from actually be something that distracts you from your own true potential (more on this later).

My wife often encourages her friends to be more positive about themselves by using the concept of ‘self fulfilling prophecy’. Sometimes when all we can see is what we can’t do or have not achieved it’s too difficult to move past it and these things not only are our present but they become our future also.

“If we did all of the things that we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison

Edison is right – each of us has amazing potential, however unless we learn to see what we have and can do rather than focus upon what we can’t or what others are doing we’re likely to even catch a glimpse of what we can do let alone ever achieve it.

2. The impact that it has on your Readers

While most of the negative definitions of ourselves are generally kept to ourselves or are only spoken about in private – at times they do creep into our blogging and can impact our readers.

Sometimes this happens explicitly (I regularly see people apologizing to readers about the things that they don’t do well) and sometimes it happens more subtly.

I’m not arguing that we should pretend to be something that we’re not and to only talk about the positives in our lives (I think being transparent and honest with readers about our failures can actually be powerful) however when the negative self view becomes the dominating one it can’t help but impact readers.

If you can’t be positive about yourself why would your readers be?

3. The impact it has on other Bloggers

In a similar way – when you talk about yourself in terms of what you’re yet to do, achieve or become your words can impact other bloggers also. I noticed this particularly at the recent SXSW conference where there was a wonderful room set up specifically for bloggers.

As I interacted with bloggers I noticed three groups of people:

  1. Those who pumped up themselves and their blogs beyond the reality of them. The ego and arrogance of this group (a real minority of those I met I should add) was something to behold!
  2. Those who defined themselves by what they are not. Just like the email excerpts above this group quite often introduced themselves with a ‘I’m just a small blogger….’
  3. Those who seemed to have a healthy blend of positivity and humility

It was interesting to see how these three groups of bloggers were received by other bloggers that were in the room. Group one was sniggered about, Group two tended to be talked to politely but people quickly moved on and Group 3 tended to be the ones that people gravitated towards. This third group was also the ones that seemed to get a lot of links after SXSW from other bloggers who were there.

If you want to grow your profile with other bloggers in your niche then I think it’s really important to get the balance right.

How to Define Yourself More Positively

Ironically this post has become a little negative hasn’t it! I’ve just spent the last 850 words talking pointing out how many of us have the problem of pointing out the problems in our lives….

Yes I do see the irony in this, however before I offer some more positives suggestions on how to dig yourself out of a negative framework it’s important to talk about the problem itself (the purpose of this post).

So how do you turn your negativity around and become a more positive blogger in the way that you think about yourself and your blog? I’ve got a post lined up for tomorrow with some of my ideas on the question but in the mean time I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Update: Here’s the 2nd Part in this series of posts.

12 Ways to Be a More Interactive and Accessible Blogger

image by Jeff Bauche

Yesterday I wrote about being a ruthless blogger and named a number of areas that I find helpful to have more harsh boundaries in with the hope of it helping me become more productive and focused as a blogger (and as a result provide a better resource for readers).

There is a problem with ruthlessness though. It arises when you become so ruthless and focused that you end up becoming inaccessible and stop engaging with readers. Put up too many boundaries and you could end up alienating readers.

This is a problem that I hear many medium to larger sized blogs face. The bigger they grow the greater the demands on the time of bloggers and the harder it becomes to stay accessible.

Today I want to share a few tips on how to remain accessible to readers even when your blog is growing and the demands on your time become greater. By no means am I an expert in this – but here are a few things I’ve learned.

1. Set aside time to interact

make-time.jpgPerhaps one of the best tips that I can give is to be proactive in setting aside time to be accessible to readers. Almost everything else that I mention in this post will not work at all unless you DECIDE to be an accessible and engaging blogger and then put your money where your mouth is and actually set aside the time to BE accessible and engaging.

I personally find that I can have all the great intentions in the world to interact with people but that unless I block out time to do it that other ‘urgent’ things crowd out this time. Diarize time for some of the activities that I mention below – or you may never do them.

Clock Image by Mike9Alive

2. Give Readers an Appropriate Way to Contact You

respond-email.jpgThe fastest way to cut off the interaction that you might have with readers is to fail to provide them with any way to get in touch with you. Conversely – the more obvious a way you have for people to contact you the more likely they are to use it.

You’ll notice in the title of this section that I included the word ‘Appropriate’. This is important. Why you ask?

In the early days of this blog my contact page contained so many ways to contact me that it actually became a bit of a nightmare to manage. I had email address, a contact form, my cell phone number (later changed to a SkypedIn number), 4 instant messaging options, profile pages on numerous social media sites… and more. The problem is that I had so many people getting in touch with so many mediums that I spent half my day switching from one medium to another to check if people had been in touch and to respond. It totally destroyed my productivity and ended up being frustrating to those trying to get in touch.

These days my contact page attempts to funnel people into the direction of email via my contact form. It gives people the ability to connect with me via Mail and Social Media sites but makes it obvious that the contact form is the most effective method of getting in touch.

3. Interact in Comments

comments.jpgI don’t believe that you need to reply to every comment on your blog (I personally try to develop blogs where the community helps each other) but I think it’s important to have a presence in your own comments section. This is not easy when you have hundreds of posts and thousands of comments a month – but it is one way to keep yourself accessible to readers.

4. Reply to Emails

contact.jpgReaders leaving a comment on your blog is one way that they reach out to you, but when they email you they are taking an extra step towards interaction with you and wherever possible I’d encourage you to respond to these readers as a priority. Again – it’s not easy, but if you have an effective email system like I described yesterday you can drastically improve your response rate. I personally have room to improve in my comments section but am finally getting on top of replying to emails and have noticed a real impact as a result.

5. Get help to manage your communications

virtualassistant.jpgIf the above two points are too hard for you (ie replying to comments and emails) then you might need to get some help. In the last few months I’ve had Lara helping me with my own comment moderation here at ProBlogger and have found this really helpful. She’s able to answer some comment concerns herself (particularly while I’m asleep or away) and emails me important comments that I need to be aware of that she moderates. Some bloggers also have people help them with emails (something I don’t do at this point). In a sense outsourcing in these areas or hiring a virtual assistant is all about ‘triage’ – ie filtering comments and email that you don’t need to see/be aware of (for example comments that say ‘great post’ or emails that are FAQs and that can be answered with a quick link) and pulling out those that are more important.

I’d be very wary of completely outsourcing this area of your blogging as it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in your comments section and emails – however it can take some of the load off and help you become more effective.

6. Video/Streaming

streaming.pngOne of the most effective things that I’ve done in the last year in terms of becoming more accessible to readers is to do more video and to do the occasional streaming video chat session. Video adds something very powerful to a blog. It gives you a voice and personality in a way that text cannot. While it’s a strange feeling at first I’m coming to love the video component of ProBlogger. Streaming chats are particularly good as they are live, fully interactive, give you a sense of what is on the mind of readers and is much more conversational than writing a post and then interacting in comments as it’s real time.

7. Write Conversationally

conversational.jpgThe way that you write has a massive impact upon the way that you’re perceived. Some bloggers write in a very closed and ‘distant’ voice while others are incredibly engaging and conversational. Some of this is difficult to define but a few tips on becoming more conversational in your writing include:

  • asking questions of your readers – invite them to interact
  • asking questions of yourself – asking a question in your post and then proceeding to answer it
  • sharing experiences – tell your readers how you apply what you write about
  • sharing mistakes – showing you are human and fail makes you relatable
  • share questions that readers ask – this beds your posts down in reality but also shows that you interact with readers

8. Twitter

twitter.gifOne of the things I love about Twitter is that it has opened up a whole new arena for me to interact with readers. Many ProBlogger readers now follow me on Twitter and have reflected back to me that they enjoy our interactions there. Part of the reason that I love Twitter is that it’s so concise. Interactions are 140 characters long so people don’t expect too much of you but the interactions can be very conversational, personal and effective.

9. Other Social Media

social-media.jpgNot into Twitter? Have readers that don’t get into it? That’s ok, what about another social media site that is more suited to you and your niche? I was a amazed a few months back how many of the members of Digital Photography School’s Forum use Facebook. It shouldn’t have surprised me really but Facebook is a much more accessible place for non Web 2.0 savvy readers to connect with you. Why not start a group for your blog there?

10. Interviews

interview.jpgNot every blogger will have the profile to be interviewed by others but if you get the chance it can be very worthwhile. For starters it’s a good way to find new readers but it is also good at putting you in front of your current readers in a new setting where they see a different side of you. For example, you wouldn’t believe the response that I’ve had over the last few months from doing this interview on work life balance and being a Dad. The interview touches on blogging but its really on a topic that I don’t regularly write on and it opened up a different side of me that for some reason people found very engaging.

11. Conferences

conference-shoemoney-copyblogger-problogger.jpgI wish I could do more conferences and meetups than I do because it is perhaps the most effective way of engaging with readers. It is amazing way of growing relationships with readers and other bloggers in your niche.

The face to face networking interactions that you have are priceless and the opportunities that you might be able to take to speak or participate in panels or workshops put you in front of people and add to the perception that you’re ‘out there’ and interacting in your niche.

Image by Tris

12. Vanity Watch

vanity.pngOne last tip that can help you have the appearance of being much more interactive on other blogs than you actually are. Set up a vanity watchlist to monitor what people are saying about you and your blog. In this way you can be notified when someone else mentions you and can drop by their post and leave a comment either thanking them for the link, responding to a criticism or answering a question that they might have. Leaving this type of comment shows other bloggers that you care about how they view you, that you’re willing to interact not only on your own blog but theirs and it can help you sort out misconceptions or other problems that could potentially hurt your brand.

How to be a Ruthless Blogger (and Become More Productive and Focussed)

Sometimes to grow your blog you need to be ruthless – otherwise you’ll become distracted, unproductive, lazy, unfocused and or lose your passion for blogging. Here’s 7 areas that I’ve found myself becoming more and more ruthless in in my blogging:


Image by LLimllib

1. Declare war on comment spam

Letting comment spam get ahold of your blog’s comments area can really hurt your blog. It has the potential to impact your brand and even how your blog ranks in Search Engines.

2. Set yourself deadlines

At the core of every good blog is regularly posted fresh new content. Sometimes it gets hard to keep yourself motivated so setting yourself posting frequency deadlines can help keep your blog ticking over. I don’t set myself deadlines for particular posts do have a posting frequency and some general times of the day for new posts that I aim for every day.

3. Develop an effective email system

As your blog grows you’ll get a more and more cluttered inbox. As a result it’s really important to think about how you’ll deal with it ahead of time. Develop a system of filtering unimportant emails, highlighting important ones and get a system in place to keep your inbox down. I’ve outlined some of my own email system here.

4. Develop default email responses

Related to managing your email is developing a system to answer the most frequently asked questions and requests that you get. I have 7-8 draft emails stored in Gmail that I am constantly opening up to use as responses to readers. Also helpful to cut down the number of FAQs that you get asked is to develop a FAQ page and link to it from your contact page. Even if people don’t use it before contacting you it’s a useful link to point people to.

5. Develop standards for guest posts

If you choose to go the route of featuring guest posts on your blog (or hiring bloggers to write for you regularly) it’s important that you set some guidelines in place to ensure that the quality of content stays high. This is something that you need to first work out in your own mind and then to communicate to your guest posters. The more guidelines you can give them not only about quality but also how you want posts formatted the less time you’ll need to spend editing posts. I have developed a page for my Guest Posters which has been very helpful.

6. Eliminate distractions from (and protect) your ‘Golden Hours’

I find that there are certain times in my day when I am more productive than others (for me it’s mornings). These times need to be kept as ‘sacred’ times that you reserve for those activities in your life that are core to the running of your blog. I reserve these times for writing the majority of my posts. In these times I switch off Instant Messaging, Twitter, Phone, Email and often get offline and out of the house altogether so that I am able to be completely focussed on the task of writing.

7. Take time off

Being a ruthless blogger is not all about driving yourself harder or making yourself more productive – sometimes it has more to do with when to take a break from blogging. Blogger Burnout is a problem that hits many bloggers when then immerse themselves in blogging. As a result it’s important to take time off. I like to attempt to do this on a number of levels including each day (I take time off for lunch, exercise and in the evenings for family), each week (I have a much much lighter weekend and attempt to have a complete day off on Sundays) and periodically (taking a week or more off blogging every now and again is where I find myself most refreshed).

Each of the above are about developing ‘boundaries’.

Boundaries about what you’ll do (and won’t do), when you’ll do things (and when you won’t) and where you’ll allow your blog to go (and not go). The purpose of the boundaries isn’t to make you more inaccessible or insulated but to make you more productive, focussed and to serve those your blog is for more effectively.

As I write this post I realize that there are plenty of other areas that this ‘ruthlessness’ is important in. Quality of posts, responding to comments/reader questions, spelling/grammar and even the topic of your blog (and when/if you’ll go off topic…. etc

What other areas do you think bloggers need to tighten up, establish boundaries in and become more ruthless in? What rules and practices do you work with in your own blogging?

You’ve Read ProBlogger the Blog – Now Buy the Book

ProBlogger-Book.jpgI’m excited to announce today one of the worst kept secrets in my life – over the last year (longer actually) I’ve been writing a book with Chris Garrett. Today we’re Pre-Launching it as we’re just weeks from the book becoming available for purchase. The book is published by Wiley and is titled:

ProBlogger Book — Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income

I’ll speak more over the coming weeks about the writing process – but today we just wanted to let you know about the upcoming launch, to point you to a site we’ve put together for the book and to invite you to sign up for a newsletter that will give you access to a sample chapter as well as a series of weekly blogging tips for a whole year.

Pre-Order and Save

The book is available for pre-ordering already at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Amazon has an extra 5% discount currently running for it as a pre-order (for the next two weeks – it will be available on 28 April).

What’s the Book About?

Well the title really says it all – it’s about Chris and my experience as bloggers making a living from our blogging. You can read more of the outline and topics covered here.

Get on the Email List

As mentioned above – we’re offering everyone the opportunity of joining an email list that will give you access to a free taster chapter of the book as well as free weekly blog tips. You can sign up for this here.

PS: see Chris’s announcement of the book here.

The Opportunity Cost of Not Participating in Web Events

Just a quick post/tip to followup on the April Fools post update that I did yesterday. While in general I find the day to be a distraction more than anything else (I’m sure many of us spent more time filtering pranks than doing much else yesterday) it is one of those days that has an ‘opportunity cost’ associated with it.

Opportunity Cost‘ is a term I learned in my university Accounting subject and has to do with missed opportunities of not taking a certain action. When you have a choice between doing two things you forgo the benefits of the option you didn’t choose (I’m sure my accountant readers will give us a better definition of it).

The Opportunity Cost of not participating in a day like April Fools day on your blog can be significant. I just checked Technorati again this morning and the volume of blogs linking to my prank yesterday bumped up considerably over night. While there were a few link ups yesterday as the prank happened the real benefit (and opportunity cost) revolves around the April Fools Summary Posts that many bloggers write around the blogosphere. These posts that sum up the jokes that people did are done in their hundreds (if not thousands) and the link juice that they provide can’t be underestimated when it comes to SEO.

April Fools Day is just one of many web events that a blogger has the choice to participate in (or to ignore) – there are many hundreds of them out there – almost every holiday and most real world events have some sort of opportunity associated with them for bloggers. For a little more on some of this check out Seasonal Traffic and How to Capture it for Your Blog.

Note: a blogger can’t participate in every web event – it would take over their blogs. I guess the lesson is to be aware of the opportunities and to choose to participate in those that relate most strongly to your blog.