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The 3 Essential Components to My Online Publishing Business: Blogging, Social, and Email

As bloggers, we’re always under time pressure to do more. Whether it’s releasing a product or engaging with users on a new social network, the blogger’s task list can seem overwhelming sometimes.

I think some of that overwhelm comes from the granularity with which we tend to look at our work. While breaking big challenges down into littler ones is a good way to tackle things, focusing on the little bits and pieces of our work can stop us seeing the bigger picture, and the natural connections between the individual things we’re doing.

Recently on #blogchat we had a discussion about where social media fits into blogging. If you look at that question on a really granular basis—”What will my next status update be about?”—then it can be difficult to see where social media might or might not work well. But if you look at the bigger picture, you’ll probably be more likely to ask, “Where doesn’t social media fit into blogging?”

Of course we need a bit more direction than that to work out how best to spend our time as bloggers, so today I thought I’d explain a bit about my approach to linking blogging, social media, and email.

Freeway cloverleaf

Image by Phillip C, licensed under Creative Commons

1. Blogging

Blogging is at the heart of what I do. My blog is my home base and is where I put most of my efforts. My blog is a place that another company like Twitter, or Facebook or G+ can’t take away from me if I break their terms of service or if they change their approach. It’s in my control and it’s where I ultimately build my brand and community.

My blog is a place where conversation and conversion certainly happens, but if I had to name my primary focus for my blog it would be that it is a place which I use to produce content that’s useful to my readers.

My hope is that every single day on my blogs, I help solve problems big and small for my readers through the content I produce there.

My blog is a place that is often the first point of contact with people. It’s a place where I hope I’m able to create an impression upon them that will drive them to connect more meaningfully in some way.

2. Social media

Social media is a place which I primarily use for conversation and community. While these things also happen on the blog in comments, I find increasingly that people want to connect and converse off my blog.

I tend to focus on Twitter primarily, but Facebook has increasingly become a place where my photography blog readers go and G+ is also growing for me in this way.

I do use social media for other purposes—I use it to drive traffic to my blog for example, I occasionally produce content on it (particularly on G+ where I often think out loud), and I even promote my ebooks on it from time to time too (although I find it doesn’t convert anywhere near as well as email—more on that in a moment).

All these things can be done on social media, but for me it is more a place for conversation and interaction.

3. Email

I’ve written about the importance of email many times on ProBlogger—it is the single most important element I’ve added to my blogging since I started out ten years ago.

Email does many things for me—it’s a great way to drive traffic, it can help with building community and driving people to points of engagement, it can even be used to deliver content. But for me its stand-out benefit has been around driving sales: conversion.

Check out this graphic which shows where sales of our ebooks come from.

Email conversions on dPS

You can see here that:

  • 87% of our sales come from email
  • 7% come from our blog posts
  • 3% come from social media
  • 3% come from our affiliates.

Since we started to publish ebooks, I’ve tried many ways to promote them, but the top-converting method every time I’ve tested has been email.

3 Kinds of media working together

Blogging, social media and email have all  become really important aspects of my business. I can’t imagine leaving one of these elements out.

Each of them is useful in a variety of ways—in fact, I often use each of the elements to promote the others, as I find they really work well to reinforce one another.

For example, when someone signs up to our newsletter on dPS they get an email shortly after that tells them about our social media accounts. From time to time on our social accounts we promote the email newsletter, and we regularly promote the blog posts we publish there, too.

In sending people back and forth to the different elements of what we do, I find they become more integrated into the community. The brand’s popularity grows among a broader audiences this way, but individuals’ connections with the brand deepen, too.

In taking this discussion a step or two further, tomorrow’s post looks at some great case examples of the ways email and blogging can be integrated to support a successful product launch, so I’ll be interested to hear what you think of those approaches.

And next week, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at how bloggers are using social media—specifically Pinterest—to support their blogging goals.

The integration of social media and email with blogging is a pretty topical dilemma for a lot of people, so let’s hear your views in the comments.

The Value of Comments to a Profit-making Blog

We’ve talked about the issues of blog comments before on Problogger.net, but never from a point of view of profit-making.

Coins

Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

But as I was looking at the stats on dPS last week, I found that this short, helpful opinion post from 2010 was still attracting a steady stream of readers—and comments. I explained on Google+ why I think that post’s still so popular, but today I wanted to look a bit more closely at how comments can help a profit-making blogger.

So let’s step through some of the ways blog comments can—directly and indirectly—add to your bottom line.

Increased ad revenue

Posts that engage readers are more likely to be shared, which draws more traffic back to those posts. Commenting is a very strong kind of engagement. That lenses post really does stimulate discussion, and at the same time it’s very helpful to those trying to work out which lenses to buy.

So if someone comments on that post, they may also be more likely to share it, which would boost traffic and ad impressions. And if your blog has a “most commented” or “most popular” list in the sidebar, an ongoing comment stream could push the post into that as well, drawing more attention to it from users on other pages of your blog.

Ongoing affiliate revenue

Imagine if this post had included affiliate links to actual products. So long as I’d kept the links up to date, I could still be making affiliate revenue from a post we’d published nearly three years ago. Not bad!

Potential sponsorship

This post obviously draws strong attention from my readers. It’s been shared on Facebook nearly 1,000 times, and pinned to Pinterest more than 17,000 times.

This could give me good reason to approach brands that make the types of lenses covered in that post, or mentioned by users in the comments themselves. I could contact them to see if they’re interested in buying paid sponsorship either for that post, or an updated version of it.

Audience research for new products

The comments on the post are really insightful. Have a read and you’ll get a feel for the experience levels of the users, what brands they prefer, what they’re shooting, how they use their equipment, and so on. They’re also tagged by date, so they provide some insight into the way my audience has evolved over time.

By spending a little time going through these comments, I might easily come up with a couple of ideas for new products to try with my readers.

Encourage first-timers to engage

There’s nothing worse than clicking through from a search result to find the article you’ve chosen is old and outdated.

Comments really do keep your evergreen content fresh and alive. This is a short post, but the scroll bar indicates there’s a lot more on the page. Any new visitor who scrolled down would likely be surprised by the number of comments, and the fact that the discussion is ongoing.

They might be encouraged to comment themselves, or at least to look around the site a bit more. Best-case scenario? They subscribe to the RSS feed or mailing list, prompted by the strong evidence of a passionate readership, as indicated by these comments!

In short, comments:

  • attract attention
  • keep the discussion growing
  • are helpful to other users
  • can solicit on-site engagement in a range of ways
  • can excite users to share, driving more traffic to the post.

But there’s a catch: not all comments are good comments—especially for those with a profit focus. So let’s look at the characteristics of comments that will help you achieve the goals we’ve just talked about.

Good comment, bad comment

The kinds of comments I want to keep on my posts are those that:

  • add to the discussion, rather than just repeating the article’s main points
  • contribute insight or personal experience
  • are clearly written
  • have a username, email address, website or avatar attached.

These are the kinds of comments that potential post-sponsors will want to see, as will any advertisers or others who are considering investing marketing budget into your blog.

The kinds of comments I try to catch before they’re published are those which:

  • criticize without contribution: I love respectful disagreements in comments, because often they’re a great way to learn. But criticism that doesn’t add value is usually pretty unhelpful.
  • aren’t clear, or don’t take the post or author seriously: Again, this doesn’t really add value to the discussion. it certainly won’t inspire potential ad-space buyers about your readership.
  • simply promote their own products: Sometimes, this can be a fine line, but if a commenter simply suggests readers look at his or her own site, and doesn’t add to the discussion in any other way, I tend to send their post to the trash.

On that basis, I don’t necessarily delete comments that:

  • include offsite links
  • talk about other (or the commenter’s own) products
  • criticize or disagree with the author
  • are short or informal.

If I did that, the comments could end up feeling fairly stilted and contrived—and that’s not going to encourage further comments over time. But also, the presence of any of those things doesn’t mean the comment’s no good. Each comment really does need to be judged on its own merits, and in the context of the post and other comments that haven been made.

Taken with the post itself, the comments should ideally provide real value that encourages sharing, bookmarking, repeat visits, and more commenting—that’s where the greatest profit potential for comments lies.

Do you treat comments as adding to the overall monetization potential of your blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Blogging in Brief: Targeting, Teasers, and Trends

The last few weeks have turned up some interesting new finds in the world of blogging. I’ve covered some of the more innovative ones here—let us know what cool ideas you’ve spotted in the comments.

…and then she called me “Cupcake”

I’m not in the target audience for Molly Maher’s Stratejoy website, and it’s clear as soon as I get to her homepage, which greets visitors with the words, “This site is for you, Cupcake.”

Molly's header

This is a simple, but effective way to target an audience. That single word (in the context of the page design) lets users work out immediately if this is the place for them. It’s a brave move, and it works—Molly’s subscriber base is 4,000-strong.

How closely are you targeting your readers? Are you this forward in your headlines and calls to action? Perhaps Molly’s example will inspire you to rethink some of them.

Australian Blogosphere Report released

Australian blog advertising network Nuffnang has released its 2012 Blogosphere Report, which provides interesting reading for anyone who’s in, or targeting, this space.

The results show a number of interesting aspects:

  • The Australian blogosphere is 92% female.
  • 73% of bloggers said personal and hobby blogs were their favourites.
  • 70% of readers say sponsored posts are useful, so long as they’re transparent and impartial.
  • 95% of respondents have considered purchasing a brand or service as a result of reading about it on a blog.

Check out the report—available for free download—for more.

Ninja engagement tactics on the Ninja’s new blog

Our own Web Marketing Ninja, Shayne Tilley, has relaunched his website. inspired by the PB Event in October, he’s done a great job with a cost-effective theme and a little basic coding—check it out at let us know what you think.

One aspect I think is particularly interesting is the large quote he’s placed just above the footer, along with a Read More CTA.

Quote

That’s a pretty clickable page element—it really inspires my curiosity. And it takes you direct to his blog. Do you provide alternative ways to entice readers through to your blog, other than simply saying “read my blog”? If not, maybe you could try this idea for yourself.

Content marketing coverage

If you’re looking for new content marketing ideas, this epic post on the value of long-form content in your content marketing efforts is one for you.

In the piece, Demian Farnworth uses The New Yorker as a benchmark for content marketing excellence. If you’re a solo blogger, keep in mind that The New Yorker probably ha a few more resources than you do to put into content marketing! That said, the post is information-packed and gives us plenty of ideas to use in our own content marketing efforts.

In the same vein, I was recently approached by Flippa for a post on using content marketing to add value to your blog. Have a look—I’d love to know what you think!

Big-block headers on blogs

A design trend that’s definitely becoming more commonplace is the big-block header, like the ones on the Fast Company subsites. Interestingly, Fast Company doesn’t use this style on its flagship blog—just on those sites that specifically target design-conscious users.

But this trend is becoming more mainstream. Some pro bloggers using it include Jaime Tardy at Eventual Millionaire … but there don’t seem to be many others.

Eventual millionaire

What do you think of this as a design trend for blogs? Have you seen others using it? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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

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

Mini reader surveys … and more

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

Query form

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

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

Taking a sponsored post one step further

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

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

Realism counts

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

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

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

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

Showing off your best content

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

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

The Home Ec 101 homepage

The Home Ec 101 homepage

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

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

Get appy

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

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

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

Disable Comments for a Better Blog

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Feedback is great, right?

Your honor, if it pleases the court, I’d like to contend that that’s a leading question. The answer to it might be “yes,” but not unequivocally. Steak is great too, but not in the middle of church. Providing a forum in which people are allowed to say nothing of consequence might be a good idea, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

Want to make your blog instantly better? Disable comments. If that sounds as blasphemous to you as rib-eye during the offertory does, keep reading.

My blog’s schedule is regular—a new 1000-word post every Wednesday, another one every Friday, a carnival every Monday, and a pithy one-liner every day of the week. Of course I link to fellow bloggers out of necessity, including dozens of times in every carnival.

In the past, whenever I did I’d usually receive a comment from the other blogger, thanking me for the link. That would be the comment in its entirety: some variation of “Thanks for linking to me.”

These comments and their brethren did nothing to propel the dialogue. Dialogue, as in people exchanging ideas and insights. As opposed to sentiments. I mean, I thank people every day—waiters, bank tellers, the woman who lets me in when I scan my membership card at the gym—and not once have I felt the need to broadcast that gratitude to the public at large. It’s a private thing between me and whoever’s extending me a courtesy. I don’t need to share my politeness credentials with the world.

The thank-yous were in addition to the comments that said “I agree with that one point you made,” and that perhaps included an anecdote that no one beyond the commenter’s family would ever be interested in. In toto, most of the comments on my blog came from fellow bloggers with an agenda, and that agenda was getting links. 98.2% of the comments were effectively meaningless. That number isn’t intended as hyperbole to prove a point, either: it’s the product (well, the quotient) of a real calculation. The remaining 1.8% were worthwhile contributions—offering data that challenged a point, or enhancing a position my blog had taken, etc.

Finally, the morass of comments became too much. I tired of seeing the same people saying the same things, which they did mostly out of obligation. (“He linked to my blog. If I make a show of gratitude, he’ll continue linking to my blog.”) So I took a deep breath, followed my head rather than my instinct, and shut comments down. And I’ve never looked back.

You call that “engagement”?!

This sounds counterintuitive. Why not engage as many people as possible?

You engage them by giving them something to read.

But why not engage them in as many ways as possible?

Because you’re the one offering the content. They’re just using it. In recent years it’s been trendy to synthesize those two fundamentally opposite roles, producer and consumer, but it doesn’t apply here. It’s tough enough to interest readers in what you have to say. Why attempt to interest themin what other readers have to say? Readers whom you have minimal control over, and who probably aren’t as erudite and certainly aren’t as committed as you are?

For a lay reader, a non-blogger who just wants to visit my site for tips and information, the familiarity with which the other bloggers referred to each other and me in the comments was intimidating. By turning off everyone’s ability to comment, I no longer have to worry about new readers feeling that they’ve stumbled into a private club by mistake.

For the commenters with blogs of their own, it’s not about the content. It’s about the form. They’re really interested in getting another link, the comment serving to improve their Alexa scores however incrementally. That’s their problem, not mine.

There are also considerable aesthetic reasons for killing comments, assuming you’re not a fan of cacophony. Do we really need more angry expressions of political opinions (The Huffington Post)? Or insults concerning each other’s sexual shortcomings (YouTube)? Or disjointed spelling and unconstrained grammar (just about everywhere)?

The comments on some popular blogs have degenerated to the point where the commenters make a game of openly mocking the author, who doesn’t even bother responding. From a third party’s perspective, it’s kind of amusing. But if it were my blog, I’d be incensed and embarrassed. Left untended, the blog I referenced has been overrun with verbal weeds that are now poking through the tile and have compromised the entire landscape. Better to just pour on a few gallons of herbicide and finish the job.

Continuing with the artless flora analogy, how many of the comments on your site count as hydrangea blossoms anyway? Is anyone really going to miss them?

On almost every blog, the comments and commenters add zero value. They might add value for the commenters, as the innate human desire to see the public presentation of one’s name and opinions is a strong one. But comments are typically an affront, an annoyance, or at least an inconvenience to the only people who should matter to you—your readers.

What do you mean? My commenters are my readers.

Yes, if someone’s commenting, then by definition they’re reading. But practically all of your readers just read and then move on to some other activity, rather than bothering to leave a memento of their visit. The commenters are a motivated and not always rational few.

This goes beyond blogs, too. Read the comments on the stories on your news site of choice. Have you even seen an astute one? And if you did, was it worth sifting through the hundreds of illiterate ones?

Put your readers—and your blogging—first

It bears repeating: your readers come first. They took the time to find you and do you the honor of absorbing what you have to say. Shouldn’t you make it as effortless as possible for them to continue to do so?

Personal development uber-blogger Steve Pavlina figured this out a while ago. He hasn’t allowed a comment in seven years, and explains why:

“A large volume of feedback gets overwhelming at times, and it has a tendency to exaggerate the importance of certain issues in my mind. Well below 1% of visitors ever post a comment.”

He adds that it also freed up lots of his time. Nothing to moderate means more time to concentrate on other, more critical aspects of your blog. Or even of the rest of your life.

It wasn’t the negative comments that convinced me to extirpate the entire species. It was all the comments. Although the negative ones were plentiful. A few years ago, no less an authority than IT publisher Tim O’Reilly outlined a prescription for reducing if not eliminating them, by creating the Bloggers’ Code of Conduct—seven commandments for being courteous online, which ought to be intuitive, but if they were then people wouldn’t choose to be uncivil in the first place. O’Reilly’s first four precepts are as follows:

  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
  4. Ignore the trolls.

If you disable comments, you can handle all four of those in an instant. If something has the potential to cause so much trouble that esteemed authors are codifying ways to combat it, why tempt fate?

I still keep trackbacks, which I love. With them, people can express their opinions of my blog without me being the one to provide the forum for it. My life has gotten far less complicated and my blog far more streamlined since I decided to go commentless. Try it yourself, and you’ll be surprised how little you miss those pesky fragments of thoughts.

(Postscript: Yes, I’m aware of the irony that you can leave comments on this post. ProBlogger is different, obviously. Let’s just say that the recommendation to disable comments doesn’t hold for globally influential blogs whose very purpose is to engage bloggers and have them exchange ideas.)

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

The 10 Rules of Social Media Engagement

This guest post is by Matthew Turner of Turndog Millionaire.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a set of universal social media rules?

The internet is full of social media wisdom, but what if we had 10 rules of engagement?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer of some kind. Whether you’re a blogger or author, social media has become a large part of our lives. The options are vast, but how do you stand out from the ever-growing crowd?

The 10 rules of social media engagement

The following tips are adapted from my ebook, How To Build An Author House.

Reading this post won’t turn you into a superhero, nor will you wake up tomorrow with 100,000 new Twitter followers. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not one of those guys.

What this post does offer is some tips to help you become a social media rock star.

1. Engage first, sell second

The clue is in the name … social media. Your first instinct might be to tweet about your book, but what good does this do?

When did you last buy a product because someone Tweeted about it?

These days, we buy from those we trust. This takes time to develop, so engage first and sell second.

2. Be consistent

If you’re a celebrity this doesn’t apply to you. You’ll be able to share a Facebook message about that muffin you just ate and receive 2,043 likes. The rest of us need to keep it relevant.

People like consistency. If they know you as that girl who shares great financial advice, keep giving them what they want. You can mix it up from time to time, but make sure you’re being consistent overall.

3. Be regular

We’re all guilty of it: we start with vigour before getting lazy.

This is social media suicide.

If you open a Youtube account, comment on 30 videos a day, and upload daily, people will begin to take notice. If, after a month you stop, guess what? People will forget who you are.

Once again, it comes down to consistency. Be regular and be consistent.

4. Look beyond your own nose

It’s not always about you. If someone follows you on Google+ they want to know what you’re doing. By all means share your stories and spread the love. Don’t, however, think you’re the centre of the universe.

Have you ever been to a networking event where someone only talks about himself? Do you want to be that guy?

5. Reply to everything

If you have 100,000 Linkedin connections, this is bad advice. Assuming you aren’t Darren Rowse, though, you should try to reply to everything you can.

If it’s spam, by all means press Delete. If it has value, make sure you reply and keep the conversation going. We’re forever sewing seeds.

6. Search, don’t wait to be found

Again, if you’re a celebrity, this doesn’t really apply. You can sit back as a million people follow you. Most of us, however, need to search, but don’t worry, it’s quite fun.

Search for conversations that interest you. These are the people you want to meet. Go find them and make some new friends!

7. Be patient

Instant social media success is hard to find. You might upload amazing images to Instagram, but don’t be surprised if it takes a few months before people take notice.

The truth is, most people are wary. They see people like you all the time disappear after a few months. Be patient and earn your stripes. It will be worth it.

8. Spend time on it

One thing I discuss often is finding the right platform for yourself. Social media is a demanding mistress. If you think you can get a way with a mere fling, think again.

Join every platform at your own peril. To get the most out of social media you need to put in the hours. Picking the right channels is key. You want time to blog, too, after all.

9. Be your brand

Chances are you’ve built a platform. This means you have a brand. This means you have responsibilities to upkeep. Represent your brand as often as you can.

Again, consistency is important. Provide a message that spreads across platforms and you’ll do just fine.

10. Remember to sell

We began this journey with the warning of selling too soon. However, don’t forget to ask the darn question. Whether it’s a book you’re selling or a blog you need people to visit, make sure you plug yourself from time to time.

It’s about finding a balance between sharing your own world, and sharing other people’s. Being social is the first step, but we all have bills to pay.

Like I say, these rules of engagement won’t guarantee you an instant hit, but they will point you down the right path. Social media can help, but only if you use it properly.

Do you follow these rules of social media engagement? Has social media propelled you in front of new readers? Share your own stories below.

Matthew Turner (aka Turndog Millionaire) is an Author of both Fiction & Non-Fiction. Part of his life includes helping fellow Writers Build an Author Platform & Brand Story. You can find out more about him by visiting his Website or downloading his Free Ebook How To Build An Author Houses.

When Building a Significant Social Media Following May Not Work

This guest post is by J. Steve Miller of Sell More Books!.

I studied the right books and attended the right seminars. I gave my strategy time. Yet, few followed my blog and I could trace scant book sales (my main reason for blogging) to my social media efforts. Could it be—dare I suggest—that building a social media following simply wasn’t the best use of my time, given my unique passions, strengths, subject matter, and goals?

Failing at social media

Image used with permission

Gathering a following works marvelously for some. But is there proof that it can work for everyone in every industry?

I think I’ve identified twelve such scenarios. Consider these three.

1. When time is limited

Like most debut authors, Danny Kofke has a day job and a family. To market his book, he wakes up early to use these precious minutes emailing media to suggest interviews. He links them to his one-page, static (no regular posts) blog, which functions as a press page, highlighting his past interviews, including USA Today and CNN. Readers and viewers can spread the word through their own social networks.

It works for Danny, given his personality, his topic (personal finance for school teachers) and his limitations. For Danny, pursuing a following would consume too much time.

J.R.R. Tolkien taught full-time and wrote after putting his children to bed. Had social media existed in his time, and if he spent that time on Facebook and Twitter, could he have written Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit?

2. When another marketing approach may work better

I know a restaurant owner who outsells all his fellow franchises. His secret? He spends hours away from the restaurant each day, building relationships with local businesses to promote his catering services. 

Imagine that his marketing time is limited to two hours. Could we tell him with any degree of certainty that he’d be better off spending those hours trying to build a following on social media? If so, based upon what evidence?

3. When your social media following will not likely be your customers

An agent urges her debut mystery writer to build a social media following with a blog. Her topic? Something to do with writing. Her competition? Thousands of writers competing for the same audience. Her challenges?

  • Who wants to follow a writer who’s not already successful?
  • Would her followers more likely be mystery readers (her target), or mystery writers?

So perhaps your dismal results don’t mean you’re a social media moron. Maybe people in your industry simply don’t want regular insights, or your target audience doesn’t tend to follow social media, or you don’t relish the research required to become a true thought leader.

Alternative social media approaches

If building a following isn’t working for you, consider a few of the principles that guide my personal book marketing strategy.

Consider quality over quantity

Sometimes I wonder if “the next big thing” just might be, well, “small.” Some gurus are cutting back, using Twitter and Facebook to connect with only their most valuable contacts—those they truly enjoy and learn from. In your case, could 150 significant Facebook friends trump 1,000 Facebook contacts who blabber incessantly about meaningless trivialities?

Let others praise you, rather than praise yourself

A Gallup study of over 17,000 social media users found that people don’t typically buy our products when we’re doing the selling. Instead, they trust independent experts and customer reviews. I find niche forums and offer free books for review, so that my Amazon pages are persuasive and the resulting fans can spread the word through their social networks.  

Go where people already gather, rather than gather a crowd around yourself

Shiv Singh, social media guru for PepsiCo, considers the holy grail of social influence marketing to be identifying and harnessing the influencers in your field. For my personal finance book, I found the top 200 personal finance blogs and offered a free book for review and another for a giveaway. My sales increased 300%, and the tactic was both cost- and time-effective.

Consider your strengths and passions, rather than assuming you can replicate any marketing scheme

A Gallup study of over two million people in the workplace suggested that we’re typically miscast in our roles. Instead, we should identify and concentrate on our strengths. If your strengths and passions incline you to blogging, Facebook and Twitter, you may do well building followings there. But if it’s a chore that you endure solely to sell your products, don’t be surprised if you make little impact. Choose methods that fit your unique passions and strengths.

Ideas? Objections? Experiences? Please interact with me below!

This is a guest post by J. Steve Miller, author of Sell More Books! and Social Media Frenzy:Consider These Alternative Social Media Strategies. He is president of Legacy Educational Resources, offering character and life skills resources to teachers and schools.

27 Awesome Ways to Get People to Listen to You

This guest post is by Nick Thacker of livehacked.com.

I’ve been creating stuff lately—blog posts, articles, tweets, videos, ebooks, etc.—and I realized something:

The biggest struggle I’ve had during it all was getting people to listen.

While blogging and submitting articles, leaving tons of comments, and submitting guest posts, can garner an initial positive result, it’s tough to keep at it. I wanted to share a few ways I’ve found to really get people to listen.

How to get people to care, listen, and take action

1. Ask

I can think of no better way, and no way that’s led to more open doors, than simply asking people to do something. Sure, it takes guts—but that’s why you’re different. You have the guts—go ask!

2. Advertise

If you want a measurable and controllable result, give advertising a shot. It may not be perfect for your niche, but chances are there’s at least something you can advertise in some way. Most pros say to give it at least six months, too, so if you don’t have the funds, this may not work. Check out Project Wonderful for dirt-cheap ads that have gotten me results in the past.

3. Guest post

We all know this one, so there’s no use recounting all of its benefits here. Suffice it to say there have been many successful blogs that have used this strategy almost exclusively to get attention.

4. Share

Almost anything can be shared—blog posts (as in guest posting), ideas, network leads, products, etc. Which leads me to:

5. Joint ventures

JVs are great for getting your message out to huge lists of people, for the price of sharing your profits with another marketer. Check out the Warrior Forum for an entire board dedicated to JV opportunities.

6. Create a video

ProBlogger.com has been writing a lot more on using video content lately, and I know I’ve done a few trailers for my own book as well—with much success.

7. Create an infographic

Neil Patel of QuickSprout has used infographics, sent to major blogs and news sites to use exclusively (for a backlink, of course!), and it’s gotten him plenty of great traffic—and lots of attention, as well. Take time to create a graphic that’s compelling and telling for your market, and see where it goes!

8. Write an ebook

Just about every blogger has, or aspires to create, an eBook. These days, having an ebook is almost expected—where’s yours?

9. Self-publish a book

Having a “real” book tends to lend credibility to our efforts—being able to have a print copy of someone’s work in hand really does “feel” different than an electronic copy. Check out Amazon’s KDP Select program, Lulu, and CreateSpace for more.

10. SEO

I like to think of SEO as one of those “slow-drip” strategies to get attention—it takes time to build, but it’s almost essential in competitive industries. I recommend Glen’s post over at ViperChill.com if you’re doing SEO on WordPress.

11. Use the 80/20 rule

Pareto’s law states, “…For many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” To use this in your own marketing, try to promote other people 80% of the time, and your own work 20%. This establishes you as a connector and sharer of helpful content, not as a spammer.

12. Build a platform

Essentially, all of these tips can help you build a platform, but if you focus on actively building a brand, slowly but surely, chances are you’ll stick around longer—and people will pay more attention to you!

13. Leave more comments

Leaving more comments on blogs you read regularly does two major things: it gives you a link back to your site (no matter what your stance on “rel=nofollow” is), and it starts a conversation with the site owner or author of the post. Trust me when I say many blog owners will recognize their repeat commenters—be one of them!

14. Leave better comments

We’ve all heard the rule: leave lots of comments, and people will visit your site! Well, yes and no—they’ll see you quite often, but unless you really make a concerted effort (read: spend more than 30 seconds) on crafting and submitting a thoughtful, value-adding comment, people won’t care about you or your cool blog.

15. Write epic content

Corbett Barr, author of ThinkTraffic, says we need to write “more epic stuff” (I’ll let you click through to his exact words…). I’ve said we need to write “more epicly” (because I love epic, made-up adverbs, I guess), and it’s true. Gone are the days of 500-word-or-less posts giving generic and thoughtless advice. Take time to craft your work, edit it, and then expound on your thoughts some more. Add in images, pictures, infographics, and more. Then edit and do it again. Then you’re ready to hit Submit.

16. Article marketing

Article marketing seems to have fallen off a bit after the infamous Google updates, but sites like E-zine Articles and GoArticles certainly are not going anywhere. Use them to further promote your work—your off-site SEO can greatly benefit from some well-crafted, useful content. Don’t go overboard, and be sure to maintain your consistently great writing style—remember: the Internet is forever!

17. Write pillar posts

The first time I’d ever heard of a “Pillar” post was right here at ProBlogger. It makes perfect sense, too—if I visit your website, right now, what articles are going to serve as my “Start Here” roadmap through your muse/meme/world? Guide me like I’m a first-time visitor to your market, and tell me—through general, broad-form Pillar Posts what I can expect to find on your site. Here’s an example of one I wrote on social media for writers.

18. Start a newsletter

If you plan to be online for an extended period of time, you should really consider growing an email list of subscribers, and sending them an enewsletter regularly. Newsletters have been proven to bring in more authority traffic and ready buyers than most other marketing methods, because you’ve already qualified them as leads.

19. Start a podcast

I’ll admit—this is one area I haven’t tried out yet. But podcasting is not something that’s going to go away anytime soon, either, and if you’re a bit more technically inclined (or if you own a Mac), you can start podcasting almost immediately. Some of my favorite authors run very successful podcasts. And I hear that ProBlogger will be running a post on the topic in the next couple of weeks…

20. Write more

This one’s simple: let your writing be its own platform. The more saturation throughout your market you have, the more opportunity there is for people to find you.

21. Blog less

Maybe getting more attention needs less of your attention? Follow blogs like ZenHabits and Lifehack.org to get your head in the game. Minimalize, simplify, and relax: those of us working 80+ hour weeks probably don’t want to! Focus your energy on those things that really matter. Remember the Pareto principle.

22. Do something ridiculous

I like to think Tim Ferriss is so well-liked because of the fact that he does things not many of us do. If you set out to do something spectacular, you’d better believe we want to hear about it! Even better: do a video blog journaling your experience.

23. Be controversial

The idea that all press is good press may not be entirely true, but there’s something to be said for being staunchly defendant of a topic. Instead of posing neutral concepts, get on one side or the other. People may hate the post, but they’ll come back for more.

24. Send follow-up emails

This is something I’ve started doing more and more, recently—almost to the point of being annoying. Follow my blog, I’ll send an email. Say yes to my guest post idea, I’ll shoot you a thanks. Buy something from me—you got it! A “thank you” email is on its way. Doing this is just giving a little bit of personal attention to your network, and they will reciprocate.

25. Add value everywhere

Forget this tip at your peril. No one likes a conceited or arrogant person, and online it seems that anonymity has made this even easier. Figure out how to help one person, in one small way, every day. Then help them.

26. Sell something

When people have something to sell, I’m usually more apt to think of them in higher esteem. Even if the product looks terrible—hey, they went through all the trouble to create it, right? (I might not ever buy it, but they do carry more authority because of it…)

27. Do something for free

And the best one of all: even though we won’t always admit it, “free” is sometimes expected. This behavior isn’t justified, but it exists. Cater to the expectations of your market by offering something to them for free. Your blog doesn’t count.

Maybe you’ve tried every single one of these ideas—in that case, I’d love for you to comment and let us know how they went! But I’m sure there are many, many other things you all can think of to add to this list. So, let’s get to it: leave a comment with more ideas, and we’ll keep the list going. Maybe one day I’ll turn it into an awesome infographic!

Nick Thacker is a blogger, writer, and author of fiction thriller novels. He likes to hack his life to be more productive, live better, and write the best he can. You can check out his site at LiveHacked.com, or subscribe to the LiveHacked.com newsletter here.

The Not-so-secret Ingredient of an Engaging Blog

If you read Lisa’s post on the Grace of Communication yesterday, I hope you felt as inspired as many of the commenters who added their thoughts to it.

Her heartfelt post really spoke volumes, and not just about social media. As I read it, it reminded me of a question that I see asked often in the blogosphere:

How can I make my blog more engaging?

What’s “engaging”?

If you’ve ever thought “I want my blog to be more engaging,” you probably had some idea in mind of what that means. It might be that you want to lower bounce rates, increase repeat visits, or encourage more comments on posts.

All of these are measures of “engagement,” but I find that the most engaging blogs I read offer something that’s intangible: a sense of rapport or personality. These blogs say something that interests me in a way I can relate to.

I think that’s something that’s close to the “grace of communication” that Lisa explored yesterday.

While the metrics are all valid, I don’t know if we can really measure this intangible value, which characterizes the most engaging blogs. While the stats do go some way to reflect engagement—and are very helpful to us as we try to grow our blogs—I don’t believe they’re the whole story.

The thing that’s got the greatest potential to engage your readers is you.

A more engaging blog

Yesterday, Lisa described the natural flow she sometimes achieves with her class. Interestingly, the way she explained it made is seem miraculous—something organic, which can’t be forced, but arises spontaneously when the conditions are right.

We can certainly work toward building engaging blogs, just as Lisa works toward building her fitness practice. But there’s an element of the spontaneous in establishing an engaging blog, too.

The key ingredient is you. I think the more of yourself you can put into your blog and your online presence, the better your chances of reaching that spontaneous communications flow, where readers read, share, and respond naturally, and almost effortlessly.

I’ve found Google Plus to be an ideal forum for creating the right conditions for a communicative flow. It allows for a rich exchange in real time, it makes it easy to follow that exchange and, perhaps most importantly, that kind of deep exposure encourages us as bloggers to be open and really “ourselves.”

And that, I think, is the pathway to greater engagement. By being yourself, you encourage others to be themselves: you create the sense of rapport that sets the scene for that spontaneous flow of communication.

Have you experienced that sense on your blog, or when you’ve been communicating with your tribe? Tell us about it in the comments.