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Broaden Your Blog’s Reach Through Innovative Content [Case Study]

This guest post is by Tommy Walker of Inside The Mind

Back in November last year, we ran a crowd funding campaign to bring back Inside The Mind for a second season.

Even though we didn’t reach our overall campaign goals, we learned two very important things:

1. Unexpected success

Our campaign converted at 5.6%. Our goal initially was to raise $100,000 and even though we didn’t reach that, what we did learn was that the people who were watching were very happy to support the show.

When we looked at the sponsors list, we saw many names that we recognized, but there were also quite a few we didn’t. This let us know that we had broken beyond our initial reach with the show, and people who we’ve never interacted with on a one-to-one basis believed in what we were trying to do.

2. Expanding our reach

When we looked at the conversion rate for that campaign, compared to the overall traffic numbers, it started to look a lot like a basic algebra equation.

The “X” that we had to solve the equation for in this case represented broader reach.

The primary way to expand reach, I believe, is through content.

The concept

One of the things that I’ve seen work very well for others in expanding their own reach is to conduct killer interviews, so I decided to give this a try.

My concept, The Mindfire Chats, is a way to conduct multiple interviews at the same time. Here’s an example.

Our panelists come from a variety of backgrounds, yet discuss a subject that shares a core principle with online marketing. This is very intentional as I want to dig into deeper truths about online marketing principles but without the industry bias, jargon, mechanics, or politics.

My brand mission is to bring the concepts of online marketing into the mainstream. Inside The Mind does this by fusing internet-generation humor with top level online marketing advice.

And The Mindfire Chats follow on well from this—it takes that ethos a step further by taking a deeper thinking approach on core principles.

Getting inspiration for the idea

One of the things I realized about half-way through filming the first season of Inside The Mind”was that at the core of all of this, I am an artist.

Yes, I’m an online marketing strategist, but I’m also an animator, composer, on-air personality, writer, video editor, comedian, PR person, and so on.

Because Inside The Mind itself was an experiment (and one I was terrified to try at first), and it went well, I think that gave me a freedom that many bloggers in the online marketing space don’t feel.

I don’t believe my core audience follows me necessarily because of “what I know” and what I share. Rather, they watch because they want to see what I do next to push the bounds of what content is and what it means to be in this space.

That being said, I make a point to interact with most anyone who’s on my email list, so I’ve learned a great deal about who they are, and what they want.

Part of what made me think this content approach would work was that it follows a similar blueprint to what’s proven to work, but it’s different enough to make it unique to me and my brand.

Setting content goals

I have a few goals for The Mindfire Chats. Firstly, I want this content to dig into the core concepts of online marketing from as many different angles as possible.

On our second chat, we had Brian Clark of Copyblogger discuss storytelling with Emmy Award-winning documentarian, Doug Pray, and John Jacobsen, a very well known script doctor who hosts his own show with over 30 million viewers.

Really, no matter what any of these guys say on the subject, it’s not going to be wrong. How could it be, if they’ve achieved what so very few others have?

What makes it interesting though, is when their field experiences start to differ, and tell a different story. It’s even more fascinating when the panelists start asking each other questions about each other’s experiences and you can tell they’re learning from each other.

It shows our audience that even when you’ve “made it,” you’re never done learning. To be able to facilitate the kinds of connections that could potentially push the space forward in a more positive direction is very fulfilling.

Of course, from a purely selfish standpoint, my goal is to cause a ruckus, build a viewership, and get more people turned on to my brand.

We’re also using the chats as an entry point for sponsorship relations for both The Mindfire Chats and Inside The Mind.

The practicalities

I can’t take all the credit for getting this content idea off the ground. My producer Nate Wright of Small Biz Triage is the other half of this, and he’s really the one responsible for the organization of it all.

Because I’ve been active in the online marketing space for the past few years, I’ve built a pretty solid professional network. So basically, setting up the chats was really just a matter of sending out some emails.

In truth, though, getting to the position where that was possible has meant guest blogging like a professional over the years and making a good enough impression with people to the point that they at least know my name (which is important for standing out in the inbox).

When Nate approached me about getting this concept off the ground, we basically compared our rolodexes and started mashing up the panelists.

After sending out the first couple emails saying, “Hey, you interested?” Nate works out the schedule, and gets our panelists all savvy with the Google+ Hangouts. Meanwhile, I’m researching the panelists and coming up with the questions.

That way, when it’s show time, I’m not being pulled in a million different directions, and everyone gets to look as professional as possible.

Technology

The technology that we use to produce this content is pretty simple:

  • webcam
  • microphone
  • broadband connection
  • headphones
  • Google+ hangouts on air (with the Hangout toolbox plugin)
  • Gimp 2.0 for the lower thirds.

Right now I’m using the onboard webcam and the built-in microphone on my Mac for the chats—you can get by with what you have.

I imagine as our sponsorship revenue grows, we’ll invest in better versions of everything, so we can have a consistently high level of broadcast quality, but for the time being, it’s not necessary.

Everything I’m using right now is either built into my computer, or is free, open source software. At most, I might consider using my external webcam, but even that costs less than $100.

It doesn’t have to be expensive to create compelling content.

Getting the word out

When you come up with a new content idea like this, you want to get the word out to as many people as possible.

Right now, in these early stages, my promotion strategy is pretty low-key. I email the list, update the Facebook pages, Twitter, and Google+, and I send a few emails to a few key influencers I know who may be interested.

I tried doing a blitz to some of the bigger online news outlets like Mashable, TNW, RWW, and so on, but I didn’t hear anything back. So instead of trying to do that a million times over, I’d much rather keep a low profile and let this grow more organically.

That said, since I’ve shifted my focus more towards The Mindfire Chats and Inside The Mind, as I work on the guest posting portion of my outreach strategy, I’m asking host blogs permission to embed the relevant content within my posts—but even that is permission-based.

I do what I do because I love making things click for the people who interact with my stuff, not necessarily because I’m looking for manufactured fame. While the goal for the chats is to extend my brand’s reach, I would much rather that be a natural by-product of the content we’re creating than by an aggressive “hey, look at me” strategy.

Sharing the love

When bloggers develop new content ideas, they’re often tempted to keep the content on their blogs, and not to let others use it. But as I said, I’m asking other blogs I guest post on to let me embed a selected chat in the post on their blog.

I think the question of whether you share your content—as in my case, allowing it to be embedded on other sites—has a lot to do with the type of content that’s being published.

I talk about this in the content development episode of Inside The Mind where there are basically four types of content:

  1. viral: content meant to be spread and shared
  2. discussion: content that drives comments
  3. lead: content that gets people to subscribe or fill out a lead generation form
  4. sales: like lead content, but drives people to a purchase over everything else.

That said, both Inside The Mind and The Mindfire Chats are meant to be shared and start discussions. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me where that discussion is going on, as long as it’s happening.

As we saw a moment ago, I have some very specific goals for the video content, and part of that is for it to be shared, so making it easy to decouple The Mindfire Chats from my blog was very intentional.

My thought on the video content is that it’s very difficult to fake being me. My face, my energy—everything about what I do in the videos really … well, it would be really hard for someone else to try and pass that off as their own. On that same note if I point to a URL in the video, it’s much harder to replace that text on the screen, or change the annotations that link to the other videos on my Youtube channel.

So I really don’t mind if someone tries to embed the chats elsewhere—ultimately Youtube gives me more credit for simply having the content embedded.

Of course, if someone were to rip off my lead content, I would be furious. However, by design, my lead content is put in the “less sexy” parts of my website, and takes a little work to get to. I trust that people who want to work with me privately are able to navigate a website if they’re really interested in taking our relationship to the next level.

As a writer online, I believe it’s nearly impossible to avoid someone else stealing, remixing and taking credit for your work. It’s sad, but it’s also a losing battle to try and fight.

On the other hand, as I’ve started to mature as a writer, I’m learning how to allow a real vulnerability into my work and give it it’s own unique voice.

My goal now with the writing that falls into the “viral” and “discussion” categories is to be so good that people want to rip it off.

Quite honestly, when I saw my work get scraped for the first time, I felt a sense of accomplishment that what I was saying was powerful enough that someone else tried to take credit for it.

Now I just make sure I have a strong interlinking strategy so that in case that does happen, I get those links from external websites.

The progress so far

So far, we are meeting our goals with The Mindfire Chats.

We’ve already engaged a potential sponsor, and by the time this post is published, we’ll probably be well on our way with them.

Our second episode is already scheduled to be embedded on some pretty high-profile blogs, and we’ve gotten extremely positive feedback from the people who’ve attended the live sessions.

It’s still all fairly new right now, but it looks like we’re headed in a positive direction that will let us take everything to the next level.

For now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed, focusing on the next panelists, and asking questions that unearth truly valuable insight.

That’s the secret to creating truly great content—in any format.

Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist and the host of Inside The Mind and The Mindfire Chats, fresh and entertaining shows that aim to shake up online and content marketing.

20+ More Bloggers to Watch: The Readers’ Choice

It’s been nearly a month since Bloggers to Watch in 2013 was published. We had a fantastic response, including some compelling recommendations via the comments section and around the web.

Telescope

Image courtesy stock.xchng user saavem

This post presents all the bloggers that people have highlighted over the past few weeks.

Mark Richards

If you want to read a genuinely very funny Dad blogger then you can’t beat Mark Richards.  The blog has only been live for about three months but it is fast getting a strong following in the UK. It’s a mix of current posts (Mark’s kids are all teenagers now) and flashbacks to when they were younger and the only thing he had to worry about was whether they’d eat their carrots. Highly recommended to all parents.

via Charlie Plunkett

Matthew Woodward

Jacob King loved Matthew Woodward.  He said:

Guy is a beast. Teaching so much about link building some of his stuff I don’t even want to share.

What do you guys think? Have you ever come across a blog so good that you wanted to keep it a secret?

Tsh Oxenrider

I’d also include Tsh Oxenrider of Simple Mom. She’s been around a while, but I’m always eager to see where she goes next.

from Tara Ziegmont

Wellness Mama

One blogger I really enjoy is Katie from Wellness Mama. She’s a health and nutrition blogger, but does a great job of getting readers involved with her posts.

via Shea

Christopher Foster

“An older blogger who is an accomplished and wise writer. He blogs regularly at The Happy Seeker. I highly recommend checking him out!”

via Dave Rowley

Bianca Jade

She’s a fitness fashion trend expert and women’s active lifestyle blogger. Bianca is the creator of MizzFIT.com where people can find fitness fashion and health & wellness news. She’s truly inspirational and empowers women to work out, feel sexy and how to live an active, and strong life.

via Emily

More suggestions

Alison Elissa Horner had some great suggestions:

I really like Brooke Castillo’s blog. She doesn’t post super regularly, but her simple, direct posts remind me of this quote.

“In a room where
people unanimously maintain
a conspiracy of silence,
one word of truth
sounds like a pistol shot.” -Czeslaw Milosz

I’m also a fan of Jenny Shih’s blog.  She has thoughtful posts and tips for being an entrepreneur. She’s an excellent teacher because she walks you through new ideas step by step.

Mara made the following recommendation:

Three women, including myself, were asked to speak as we’ve each had great success in less than two years. We’d love for you to check us out:

Therese from the Unlost had a couple of interesting ideas:

She highlighted her move-lah concept has an idea to encourage people to take action: “All my products are payable– in full or in part– with “Move-lah,” the world’s newest form of currency, which is designed to help people move and take action on the concepts they’re learning.”

She also recommended Nicole Antoinette as a “smart, witty, and, well, funny” blogger.

Eden Riley, one of this year’s bloggers to watch, recommended we keep an eye on Karen. She said that the blog was:

one of the best and beautiful blogs ever, written by buddhist monk and mother Karen Maezen Miller. Run to her words—I did.

R Siemienowicz recommended that we check out…

…the visual diary of photographer, illustrator and author Garance Doré. He said she has “the best and most genuinely arresting voice among #fashion bloggers.”

I recommend you read her recent article where she explains the philosphy behind her blog.

More lists

There were also three useful blog posts curating interesting bloggers:

Over to you

No list post can ever cover all niches and communities. Bloggers vary widely in age, race, and gender. Having said that, there were two types of bloggers that people sought recommendations of:

  • examples of Asian bloggers
  • bloggers aged over 60.

Do you know of any interesting bloggers in the above demographics? Or do you know of a niche/community that you feel isn’t represented enough in the wider blogging community?

Let me know in the comments. It will help shape the type of bloggers that I feature here throughout this year.

The Science of Storytelling: 6 Ways to Write More Persuasive Stories

Guest post by Gregory Ciotti.

When it comes to crafting “words that sell”, the research shows us that stories are among the most persuasive forms of writing out there.

Persuasive writing is an essential part of blogging—there’s no two ways about it. So if you plan on selling anything, connecting†deeply with your readers, or going viral with a post that bares all about your life (like Jon Morrow did), you better be prepared to create stories that actually move people.

Why do stories work so well?

They work because “transportation leads to persuasion,” and as such, if you can capture your reader’s attention, you can nudge them towards being a customer or a brand advocate who supports your business at every turn.

That’s all good and fun… but how exactly can you write more persuasive stories?

Today, I’ve got some academic research that will show you how!

The six elements of better stories

According to some fascinating research by Dr. Philip Mazzocco and Melanie Green, called Narrative Persuasion in Legal Settings: What’s the Story?, stories are powerful because of their ability to affect emotional beliefs in a way that logical arguments just can’t touch.

That is to say, stories get in “under the radar” because we are so open to hearing them. We tend to block out sales pitches or “do as I say” styles of dictation, but stories are inviting, personal, and capture our imagination.

The researchers looked at persuasive aspects of stories in the court room, which is certainly one of the hardest places to craft stories, as you have another person (the other lawyer) trying to shoot down your arguments at every turn.

From their research, Mazzocco and Green found six consistent elements that are apart of startingly effective stories…

1. Audience

As a blogger, you have far more control over this aspect than a lawyer does, so pay attention!

Above, I mentioned a post by Jon Morrow than went viral here on Problogger.net. While the story was an amazing one, a key element of that post that many might miss is that Jon constructed it for a very particular audience: those looking to do what he’s done (i.e. turn blogging into a lifestyle-sustaining business).

Picking Problogger.net was perfect because he knew the audience would be receptive to such a story. He’s done it time and time again—here’s another post on Copyblogger in a similar vein that addresses fighting for your dreams.

How can you implement this critical technique in your own efforts?

The answer lies in finding your target customer (or reader) and crafting your message and content entirely around them. What are their hopes, fears, and dreams? You better know if you hope to stay with them after they leave the page.

If you can’t identify this ideal reader, then who are you really writing for? Without this information, it’s much harder, if not impossible, to tell a really persuasive story: you need to have the right audience in mind first.

If you’re going “off-site” (via a guest post) like Jon did, then you also need to be careful in choosing another blogger’s platform: be sure to write for their audience.

2. Realism

This one may seem surprising, but it’s actually not if you look into the reasoning.

Although fiction stories are popular, the best ones are always easy to relate to on some level. Although you may not be a WWII spy or a dragon-slaying knight, you can relate to the emotions, struggles, and thoughts of the characters.

Roger Dooley put this best when he said:

Even if you are painting a fictional picture with the story, its elements need to relate to the reality that the audience is familiar with, for example, basic human motivations.

Make sure your stories have something the audience can relate to on a deeper level, beyond the events that are being told.

For instance, in Joel Ryan’s article titled, An Unexpected Ass-Kicking, he relays the tale of meeting the inventor of the computer.

The story wouldn’t have gone viral without another element, though: Joel connected the tale to his readers’ own psyches by relating how it’s important to not be afraid of things that “haven’t been done before”, because if Russell Kirsch had believed that, we wouldn’t have the computer today>

3. Delivery

In the same way that a comedian’s timing is practically everything, Mazzacco and Green found that story delivery was critical to crafting a tale people could get wrapped up in.

Delivery is a mix of pacing, flow, and hitting readers with heavy lines at the perfect moment.

One of my favorite examples (in fiction) is how George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song of Fire and Ice series, ends his chapters with a surprising close or a startling realization.

This example isn’t a story, but it perfectly demonstrates my point: Brian Clark’s post called, The Writer Runs This Show is a fantastic demonstration of using dramatic pacing throughout a post.

Note how he interrupts the manifesto with “The writer runs this show,” over and over to drive his point home.

4. Imagery

Did the sun rise, or did the sun’s rays reflect rainbows off of the crisp morning dew?

Interesting research on the matter says that your stories should be describing the latter: the human mind gets swept up in stories only when the visuals are painted clearly.

Transportation (the key to story persuasion) cannot happen if you use vague details and boring language.

You have to craft the scene with startling detail to wrap your reader up in your message: they need to share in the struggle you went through, the joys you encountered, and the doubts you battled.

If you read Benny Hsu’s post on his first iPhone App store feature (and his subsequent $30,000 week), you can feel his excitement with every word; you’re not just getting the play-by-play of what happened.

Let readers see what you’re “seeing” in your tale, and they’ll be more willing to go along with the journey.

5. Structure

While some movies, like Memento, can get away with switching things up once or twice, the classics always follow this one golden rule: keep story structure simple.

People prefer stories that follow a logical manner, for example: elements of suspense are most effective when they’re established early to keep people engaged, plot twists are best saved for the climax, and having a strong ending makes a story more memorable.

This is especially true for writing in the business world. Let your creativity shine through the actual story being told, not in how you decide to structure it.

When you try to get cute with plot structure and other storytelling staples, you’ll risk losing people rather than creating something memorable.

In all of the most popular story-related blog posts I’ve come across, I’ve yet to see a story that defies the classic story structure that focuses on being enticing in the beginning, building up in the middle, and finishing with a satisfying conclusion (and a powerful message).

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

6. Context

While the study referenced the storyteller and the physical environment as important factors in how persuasive the tale was, for online storytelling we have a different set of variables…

For the storyteller, the author of the tale still matters: elements of trust established with the audience and social proof play roles in making a tale believable and easily digested.

As a blogger, you should already know about the powers of social proof, but are you utilizing it in your off-site features? A persuasive story on another site should always include a brief introduction explaining why you’re qualified to tell it, otherwise people will glaze over and block you out.

For surroundings, we now have to turn to a element that strictly applies to the web: design.

According to a fascinating research study entitled, Trust & Mistrust of Online Health Sites, it’s your blog’s design that is most likely to influence first-time visitors about the site’s trustworthiness, not the quality of your content.

A bad design makes people feel like your site isn’t trustworthy, and any storytelling efforts that you attempt will be greatly hindered, so clean up your surroundings!

Your turn

Here’s what to do next…

  1. Let me know in the comments what you thought of this research.
  2. Tell me about one of your favorite stories that you’ve read on the web, and let us know which blogger told it.

Gregory Ciotti is the content strategist for Help Scout, the invisible customer service software for solopreneurs and small-business owners. Get more from Greg on the Help Scout blog.

Don’t Let Your Brain Destroy Your Blog Business

This guest post is by Steve of thecodeofextraordinarychange.com.

The U.S. General Accounting Office has estimated that purchases of equipment by the military that feature new technology are delivered on time and on budget just 1% of the time.1

The worldwide scientific community has agreed unanimously that human activity on planet Earth is responsible for climate change, yet more than half of the people in the U.S. remain incredulous.

In 1964, the front page of The New York Times declared the detection of the afterglow of the big bang, finally settling the question of how the universe came to be.  Or so you’d think.  Even thirty years later, proponents of the “steady state” theory—the idea that the universe has always been around and didn’t start with a big bang—still believed in iterated versions of the steady state theory rather than the big bang.2

In the UK, half of the population believes in heaven, but only a quarter believes in hell.

The common thread that links each of these facts is this:

People reject evidence where it doesn’t support what they already believe to be true.

Your brain, the painter

Your brain is pretty clever.  It doesn’t know everything and it knows that it doesn’t know everything, so it’s become incredibly efficient at painting a picture of yourself and the world that’s based on limited, incomplete and inaccurate data.

It does this without you even knowing what it’s up to, presenting your conscious mind with a complete picture of “how things are” and “who you are” that’s been composited together from different visual cues, memories, and emotions, then Photoshopped to add sunshine and a lens flare.

This mechanism helps you select, filter and even create evidence to support your own beliefs.  It also inflates your own competence and feeds the belief that you’re in control and “right.”

Social psychologists call this motivated reasoning, and recent research using FMRI brain scans shows that when you make a logical, objective assessment of what’s in front of you, it is in fact anything but logical and objective.

When attempting to objectively process data that’s emotionally relevant (such as starting a business, creating a service or marketing yourself), your limbic system lights up and your brain automatically weaves in the things you want, dream, admire, crave, and desire.

When information enters your brain that favours those things you mark it with an A. “Looking good,” you say, patting yourself on the back.

And when information enters your brain that doesn’t favour the way you want to see yourself and the world, you mark it down to a D-.  ”I’m not going to listen to that nonsense,” you say, congratulating yourself for being smart enough not to be duped.

Your choices are not so much based on fact and logic as they are centred on who think you are and what you really want.

Who’s calling the shots?

This automatic deception is normally one step ahead of you, having you do things you wouldn’t do if you knew the real cost.

It’s an in-built defence mechanism that purges the uncomfortable, painful or contradictory information that threatens your core beliefs, even if those same beliefs aren’t serving you well (such as a belief that you’re not good enough, not up to scratch or less than others, for example).

It can have you making a decision about your business based on your desire to fit in.

It can have you wasting your energy on something that your brain tells you will get you lifestyle you think you want, even if you don’t really want it.

It can have you investing time and money in a new project to gain the validation your brain craves.

Letting your brain automatically call the shots is what might ultimately kill your business.

The antidotes

Luckily, there are two antidotes to the unconscious biases created by motivated reasoning.

1. Rampant curiosity

It’s hard for assumptions about yourself and your business to remain unchallenged when you’re asking the right questions.

Ask questions about what’s fun, resonant, playful, daring, meaningful, silly, and important, and be willing to explore your own undiscovered country.

2. Deliberate awareness

Asking questions can open doors that give you valuable insights, but you can only step through those doors and hear those insights when you foster a deliberate awareness and ‘fess up to what you find.

So, notice.

Notice how you’re feeling when you’re making choices.  Notice the thoughts in your head related to your circumstances, business offering, and value.  Notice the thoughts you have about how you feel about what you’re doing.

Motivated reasoning will always have you dancing to the same ol’ tune; well-worn steps that hide the truth, constrain your growth, and ultimately limit your business.

So don’t let your brain make decisions on your behalf that you wouldn’t make while keenly awake and aware.

Wake up to it. Rampant curiosity.  Deliberate awareness. That’s where your success lies in 2013 and beyond.

References

1. Ross Buehler, Dale Griffin and Michael Ross, “Inside the Planning Fallacy: The Causes and Consequences of Optimistic Time Predictions”, in “Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgement”, Cambridge University Press, 2002. Cambridge Books Online. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511808098.016

2. George Smoot and Keay Davidson, Wrinkles in Time: Witness to the Birth of the Universe (Haper Perennial, 2007) 79-86.

Steve is a confidence coach who helps you find your natural confidence so that you can put your dent in the universe – which basically means doing what really matters to you in ways that work for you.  He also likes smiling, and likes this picture of a happy horse.  See more of Steve on Twitter and Facebook.

Another Way Compassion Can Cure Writer’s Block

When I saw the title of Brandon’s post on compassion and writer’s block earlier today, I instantly had an idea of what the post was about.

But it turns out Brandon had a different take on the topic than I do! So I wanted to add to his ideas in this post, and suggest another way that compassion can cure writer’s block.

What lies at the heart of writer’s block?

I think for each of us, any of a number of issues might cause writer’s block.

There’s exhaustion or burnout, which Brandon dealt with in his post. There’s the sense that you’ve already covered every aspect of your topic. There’s the feeling that there’s nothing new to write. There’s a fear of writing something that others will criticize or disagree with. And then there are distractions—the things we’d rather be doing that sitting inside writing.

I think the variety of “versions” of writer’s block is one of the reasons that we find it so hard to overcome—it seems like there’s no single answer to the problem. I felt this way, too, until I saw Brandon’s post.

How compassion can cure it

As his post suggests, you can cure writer’s block by being kind and compassionate to yourself.

But another approach is to be compassionate to your readers.

Whatever the cause, we tend to feel writer’s block as a pressure to produce—we feel the demands of our blog, or our readers, or the expectations of our peers to create, and do it well, all the time.

But obligation is never a good motivator, and in my experience, while pressure can be a motivator, it tends to burn people out pretty quickly.

Instead of feeling blocked by expectation and demand, why not turn that concept on its head?

As bloggers, our job is to help our audience. So instead of feeling resentment toward the masses waiting on the other side of our blogs to race through our next post, we can approach our writing from a position of compassion:

What can you help your readers achieve today?

How can you show them that you understand their challenges? That you’ve been in their shoes? That you have some advice that could help?

What can you do to make their path easier and clearer? Their lives that little bit simpler or more enjoyable? What’s happened in your life that they might find interesting and relevant?

Turn the block inside out

If you start thinking like this, your reader immediately stops becoming an enemy you need to placate, and can be seen as they truly are: someone who’s looking for understanding and advice.

Instead of focusing on “coming up with answers,” you can focus on the readers themselves, and connect emotionally with them and their individual situations. You know how they feel, because you’ve been there too.

So show them some compassion! Write a post that really hits the nail on the head for them. Record a heartfelt video that explains how you overcame the issue they’re facing. Spend some time doing interpersonal research with actual audience members on social media to get a sense of what’s current for your readers, then sit down to write.

However you play it, a little compassion for your readers can go a long way in inspiring your writing, and helping you to break out of writer’s block not just with publishable content, but content that truly connects through compassion.

How Compassion Cures Writer’s Block‏

This guest post is by Brandon Yawa of BrandonYawa.com.

If you are a writer, I don’t have to tell you how a dark shadow dubbed “writer’s block” hoovers over all your projects like Casper, but in the form of a not-so-friendly ghost. However, I assure you, this phenomenon known as writer’s block is not an apparition that needs a force like Ghostbusters to be removed. In fact, this phenomenon is not a phenomenon at all.

If you were a pro athlete in any sport…

You would know that you could only push the limits of your body so far before your body would give out. In a pro athlete’s world, people call this “overtraining.”

As writers, however, the heaviest weight we lift is our laptop, and our physique is never tested beyond hauling it from café to café. For that reason, we easily forget how overworked our mental faculties can be.

Writing is a mental treadmill that never stops.

The day you set foot on the path of being a writer, you have inadvertently placed yourself on a mental treadmill that has no end. Everything that happens to you, whether it is conscious or subconscious, speeds up or slows down this neverending treadmill.

If you have been writing for ten years, you have been mentally running, jogging and walking on your mental treadmill for 3,650 days straight. That’s enough mileage to make you the new spokesperson for Nike, and definitely enough mental mileage to warrant fatigue.

You are not blocked.

You are mentally fatigued, whether it be from worrying about living up to your last creation, living up to your own expectations, or just living a writer’s life in general.

I will repeat, you are not blocked, you are tired, and rightfully so I might add.

Humans need rest.

It sounds so clichéd to say you need rest, but you do. In order to rest, you have to figure out how to take yourself off that mental treadmill. You have to learn to separate the material you need for writing from the material you need to be human.

5 steps to get off the mental treadmill

1. You have to show yourself compassion

You have to accept that you are mentally tired of the process of writing. Just like you allow yourself to go to sleep, you have to allow yourself time away from writing.

2. Forgive yourself for being unable to write

You have not done anything wrong, and you don’t suffer from a life-threatening disease.

Instead, congratulate yourself on what you have accomplished thus far. Even if it’s only that you got out of bed, opened your laptop and pressed your fingers on the keyboard. Congratulate yourself for trying, and then congratulate yourself for having the compassion to know when you are passed your limits.

3. Don’t allow the outside world to affect how you feel about yourself

You are not a machine whose sole purpose is to produce. Instead, as a human being, you decide what your purpose is. If you choose writing, remember it’s what you chose on your own terms, and that’s how it should remain.

4. Find hobbies that take you away from the writing world

Sometimes just shutting our mind off isn’t enough. We need an object or objects to assist us in shutting off that mental treadmill. See the world, travel your city, play video games, or read books that relax you (not ones that inspire you to write).

5. Learn to love yourself whether you are writing or not writing

Whether you are producing Shakespearean material, or creating child’s play, learning to love yourself totally (the good and the bad) not only gives you an immediate place of refuge, it arms you with a sensitivity that knows when too much is too much.

True compassion starts with the individual before it is shared with the world.

Brandon Yawa is the author of BrandonYawa.com. A blog built to show you new ways to tackle the same old human dilemmas.

What Studying Haikus Taught Me about Writing Blog Posts

This guest post is by Steve of Do Something Cool.

A form of Japanese poetry, haikus have been around for hundreds of years.  Blogging has been around for roughly two decades. 

On the surface, these two different forms of writing don’t have anything to do with each other.  But surprisingly, understanding haikus has taught me a lot about writing blog posts.

The key to a good haiku (and blog post)

I once read that haikus are best described as “a one breath poem that discovers connection.”  That’s about as good a description for haikus as you’re going to find. 

A well-written haiku gets the reader to discover a connection to something new and meaningful.  And the way you do that is by writing from a unique and interesting perspective no one else has seen.

That’s also what makes a good blog post.  A good blog post gets the reader to discover something in a meaningful way through a unique and interesting perspective.

Since I’ve started to study and understand haikus, I’ve taken a new approach to writing my blog posts.  Just like a Japanese haiku writer in the 1800s would have analyzed and observed every angle to find the one perspective no one had considered before, I try to write posts with a similar twist.

My blog posts have now become just as much about discovery as they are in haikus.  It’s not my goal to churn out blog posts just for the sake of publishing something.  I try to offer unique and meaningful posts for both the reader and myself in everything I write.

I’ve been told that a good haiku writer can look at a famous photo thousands of others have seen and written about, but still discover a perspective no one else had previously been able to see.  Who wouldn’t want that ability for writing blog posts?

Often it can seem as if everything has already been written before.  I’ve felt that way at times.  After scanning through thousands of blog posts online, you might ask yourself how you could possibly come up with something new.  Hasn’t everything already been written before?

Understanding haikus has taught me to see things differently.  There are endless ways to write a blog post simply because there are endless numbers of perspectives and viewpoints to write about.  There will never be a point when nothing new can be said about a subject.

Think about it this way: people have been writing haikus for hundreds of years.  There are hundreds of thousands of them that talk about nature alone.  Yet each one can be completely different.

I was in a group of students writing haikus once.  We were looking down at people crossing a busy street.  Each student observed the same scenes and wrote down several haikus each.  It was amazing how varied all the writing was.  Even those students who wrote about exactly the same things could find new and unique ways to write about it.

It comes down to perspective.  Writing haikus teaches you to notice details or angles no one else is seeing.  A dozen people watching one scene on a street could write in twelve different ways.  For the same reason a dozen bloggers could write about one topic in a dozen unique ways.

Of course, not all bloggers do that.  Many repeat what others are already saying without putting their own spin on things.

But you can train yourself to find that unique perspective.  Ask yourself:

  • What is being missed by everyone else?
  • Can something be added or subtracted from everyone else’s opinion to make it new?
  • Is there a bigger or smaller detail that others are failing to notice?
  • Could a different approach to this topic come up with something different?

It helps to think of it this way: writing a haiku is like looking through the lens of a camera.  You can zoom the lens in or out as much as you need to, as long as you eventually find details in the photo that make your perspective unique and new.  It can be a small, important detail or something much bigger.  But it has to be something your camera sees that no other camera has caught before.

Blog posts are a lot like that.  What you write is the lens and the way you approach the topic is the angle of the camera.  Put the two together in an original and interesting way and you have the beginning of a great blog post.

If you were to look back over the past two centuries and explore the millions of haikus that have been written, you would find that the number of perspectives and moments they capture are endless.  The same is also true for blog posts.  And it should be.  After all, you’re working with a lot more words.

Has poetry or literature influenced your blog post writing? Share your unique perspective in the comments.

Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, personal growth and adventure.  He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting.  Get tips on living life to the fullest through his Facebook fan page and Twitter.

3 Lessons for Bloggers, Gangnam Style

This guest post is by Ali Zia Khan of http://zedblogger.com.

The PSY Gangnam Style video: you watched it … but missed some key points about blogging.

That’s right, blogging. As bloggers, we can learn extremely useful lessons from things that are unrelated to our topic.

Yesterday, I listened to the song. Replayed it, and replayed it again. I kept listening to the song for around half an hour.

Why did I keep listening to the song? Was there a marketing trick hidden in it?

I did some research and discovered three aspects of Gangnam Style which can be applied to your blog.

1. Innovate

Innovation was a major reason for my addiction to the song.

I’d never seen anyone getting inspiration from horse-back riders, and turn it into a dance move. That move is completely new, and people love new.

Look at your blog. Look at your competition. Is there a difference between you? When you are the same as others, how can you stand out of the crowd?

Innovation takes effort, but it doesn’t need to be difficult. Focus on doing something extra that can be loved by your readers. Yes, you will have to think hard, but if your mind is caught by the right idea, you will be on fire like Gangnam style…

2. Never take anything as insignificant, even if it’s small

Another big cause of Gangnam Style’s popularity is Gangnam itself. Gangnam is a city in Korea which is not big. People never proclaim that they are from there. But now, everybody wants to be from Gangnam, and to have Gangnam Style. It’s a case of the small thing gone big.

Most of the bloggers follow the big trends that are mostly created by the top blogs in their niche. Yes, those topics might be trending, but there is problem: everyone is writing about the same topic, so it’s difficult to get attention by writing on it.

If you start writing about something else that is given little importance, you have the chance to create a new trend in your industry. This also leads back to innovation. The more innovative your idea is, the better your chances are that it will go viral.

3. Inspire the influencers

PSY was not a big pop star before. The thing that took him to that position was the fact that he inspired the influencers in the music world, who spread it all over social media.

You made an innovation. You’ve spent time thinking about it and developing it, but now you’re wasting that effort by keeping it limited to your blog only. Step outside your blog! Tell the big names in your niche. They might like it and tell their audience, too.

In a nutshell: you can learn a lot of things from the famous song Gangnam Style including the importance of innovation, never under-estimating the power of small things, and the potential to inspire the influencers in your niche.

Tell me now. Have you learned anything from Gangnam Style?

This guest post is by Ali Zia Khan who gives blogging tips on his blog. Recently, he also started a guide about starting a blog and his eBook is launching on 20th February.

Why You’re Terrified to Write a Guest Post, and How to Beat the Fear

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

I know. You are beyond terrified to publish a guest post on an authority blog. It took me years to get the gumption to submit a post to problogger.net. Yep, it took me years. To even think about submitting a post. Then, after thinking about it, I finally decided to turn out the guest post and submit it. Success!

But it took a while because I was terrified to write a guest post for one specific reason.

I feared receiving hyper-critical comments from strangers. Really, I was terrified about seeing different opinions or snide comments, or having someone take apart my post like a roast chicken at a family dinner.

This fear was very real, so real in fact, that I refused to even think about submitting a guest post for many years. Of course this held my online businesses back big time, because hey, look at the size of the ProBlogger audience.

Fear is funny. You can either be held captive by fear, or you can use the fear for your benefit, by growing from it. It’s your choice. Every time.

Getting over the fear

Getting over the fear of criticism from the comments field is not easy. It is quite uncomfortable, really, but one thing you will learn quickly is this: if you want to grow you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

If you want to submit the guest post, get it approved, attract more readers and make money with your blog, well, all of these benefits reside on the other side of your fears.

You must accept this idea to become successful.

Practical tip

Here is a neat little mantra which can help you get past the fear of criticism. Use it frequently.

“All about them, nothing to do with me.”

That is it. Repeat the mantra a few times. Embrace the idea that a commenter’s opinion is their viewpoint, which has to do entirely with them. Their viewpoint has nothing to do with you, because it is their viewpoint, not your viewpoint.

It can seem like a Herculean task, attempting to get past the fear of criticism. I know, you likely hate receiving negative comments. I do. But you need to move away from taking things personally if you plan to grow your blog readership at a quick clip.

The tendency to enter your cocoon

After reading a few negative comments from strangers who read your guest post, and disagree with it, you’ll want to run back to your lil’ comfy blog. You never want to deal with these rude, boorish commenters, who “know nothing about blogging”, so you stop submitting guest posts.

This is a mistake, entering your safety cocoon, your blog, because you will attract new readers, share your talents with the world and make money online by leveraging your presence.

Leveraging your presence means submitting guest posts to blogs with massive readerships. So, resist the urge to sprint to your comfort cocoon when you are angry at receiving criticism.

Where the big money is made

Is the criticism you receive in the comments field true? Is your ego blinding you? Are you simply angry at someone who makes a point which is true, which would put more readers in your RSS, and money in your pocket? You can dismiss people without tact but you can never dismiss the truth—at least, you can’t if you want to grow as a blogger.

The big blogging bucks are made if you can embrace all criticism, sift through the garbage, and take out the gold. Remember, a negative comment is a person’s opinion, a viewpoint. It is a suggestion. So, accept or reject the suggestion, and simply embrace the sting that might arise as you go through the sifting process.

Practice

Practice makes perfect in the fielding criticism department. Submit guest posts to authority blogs. Read the comments. Respond when you can but make sure to observe all manner of comments, and the responses or reactions which arise from within. Your blog’s RSS count will thank you for it.

Are you terrified to receive negative comments on your guest posts? Let’s talk about it in the coments.

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