Day 2 of Problogger Training Event. Melbourne. Etihad Stadium. More great content. More stellar speakers. If you missed Day 1, check it here. Enjoy.
James wowed us with some amazing digital trends that are shaping business (and blogging). He had us inspired by his story of rapid success since launching Anthill Magazine in his parents’ house in 2004 at 26 years of age – especially the story of how the Anthill blog was built on a budget of $900 and went up against the biggest business magazines at the time and won a swag of awards…and readers. He now runs one of the world’s most successful online magazines, Anthill Online. James reminded us that he didn’t know what technology could or couldn’t do at the time he launched Anthill Online – he just knew what he wanted it to do!
- Involvement begets Commitment. Think about the language that you use and the rewards for your customers. Dropbox does this well as do Foursquare. Dropbox offers rewards via a megabyte bonus when you share the program with friends. Foursquare offer “badges” when you check in. A badge or reward for doing something excites us as humans, like getting a badge at boy scouts. Even something as simple as adding a “success page” to your e-book download can make the world of difference – and encourage them to buy something else.
- What do we all want from social media? Do we want crowds of people? No, you don’t want this! You want only the people relevant to your target audience. You want a niche.
- We are going to make mistakes all the time. Think about what tools you are using and bring it back to your target audience.
- One thing that social media does better than anything else: It empowers your readers to share your message for you. And that is what we should be getting excited about!
- Get shareable! What are the headaches of your target audience. Find someone else who can help you out, service them and solve that particular headache.
- Stop thinking about the word SOCIAL MEDIA and start thinking about the word SHAREABLE.
- Learn from failure – learn, carry on, and say “the reason we did that was for this reason, we realise the reason we did it was dumb, and we have learned from it and now we will fix it!”
- We want to be famous in our target market, and we want to use the right tool for the right job. If your target market is baby boomers maybe twitter is not the way to go….Think about the tool that is the best for reaching your audience: Ask yourself “Will this tool help me to be more shareable?”
- It is not just about businesses sharing with customers anymore. It is about customers sharing information with customers, staff sharing information with staff, and staff sharing information with customers.
- As bloggers, you “own the eyeballs”. Others want to rent the attention of your audience. The next decade is for people in this room, for bloggers. You are in the business of owning the eyeballs – you are bringing people back to your website constantly.
4 Anthill Pillars
1. Measurable: Don’t do anything on line if it is not measurable. From your popups to sign ups to unique impressions…Don’t do anything unless it is measurable.
2. Findable: Look at google analytics. Find out where your business is coming from. If 40% of your referrals are coming from google – then respect that customer: Get familiar with and learn about Google!
3. Shareable: It must be shareable. Empower your target market to do your marketing for you.
4. Manageable: It needs to be manageable. You need to be able to do this in your sleep! Set up your autoresponders. You need to be able to travel, and for your business to work while you are sleeping!
Know the Purpose vs Personality of your business, product or service. An ipod’s purpose is to be an MP3 player but Apple gives it personality! As James said, Anthill magazine is a Business magazine with an edgy personality. What is your Purpose and Personality?
Imagination is largely determined by experience. Never forget to look around the corner as shift happens. Invovement begets commitment. Get people engaged and they will be committed to you.
Darren and Chris talked about the 3 pillars of Content, Promotion and Community and why Engaged Readers are so important. In particular they discussed some ways to take readers to the next level and make them into super engaged fans – by focusing on reader engagement.
Engaged readers are more likely to:
- get something out of your blog
- make your site more useful for everyone
- help you promote your site and grow faster
- visit repeatedly and view multiple pages per session
- contribute content
- make your blog more attractive to advertisers wanting to work with you – they pay you to give their camera away!
- are attractive to potential buyers of your site – potential buyers will ask about traffic but when you say about the facebook page, the competitions and the engagement they realise it is worth more than they thought!
- are more likely to convert with genuine affiliate promotions
Darren: Don’t be afraid to answer your own questions on your blog – it helps with social proof. If you show that you are willing to go first and answer your own question, it encourages
Chris: Don’t focus on tactics (ie email software, RSS etc) instead of the bigger picture. If you get the big things right, the smaller things will fall into place. It all comes down to understanding that your blog will succeed because of the readers.
Chris: Email subscription is the most effective way to commuicate with your readers. Note: Chris started an experiment early on with his blog where he started writing a short email back to every new subscriber. People would write back and ask “is this an autoresponder?”, and he would reply saying no, it wasn’t, it was him. He did it for the first 10,000 people who subscribed.
Chris: I didn’t change the world but I believed in a collective impact and they knew they could write to me if they had a question. I was mindful of them as I thought about what to create. Big traffic is not my goal. I used to check my traffic but now I don’t check it anymore. I am focused on subscribers. I have never had a massive influx of people or a viral post. I only keep up with the daily subscribers and sales. I am solely focused on subscribers.
Chris on “Meet ups”: I would think about people I met. Someone in Fargo might read your blog! The meet ups have helped me to think about what I am trying to do and the types of people I am engaging with.
Darren: It is important to have a 50:50 balance between connecting (email, social media, meetups) and Creating (writing posts, books and creating products).
My biggest takeaway: People will always comment where they are – be that on instagram, facebook, or blog. Don’t presume to know how they will best connect with you – give them options for engagement.
Moderater: Valerie Khoo. Panel: Allison Tait and Kerri Sackville
This was a great session, focusing on how to build your brand as a paid writer – beyond just monetizing your blog. Both Allison and Kerri are published authors as well as writing regularly for magazines and publications. Valerie is the founder of the Sydney Writer’s Centre and also a published author. This session was PACKED with great content. Too much for me to cover here, so I have included some of the best quotes and advice only. If you want to hear in more detail how to write feature articles, columns, novels (both fiction and non fiction) and be paid for your work, then you can still purchase a virtual ticket.
Valerie: Make it clear on your blog – that you are available for work as a freelance writer. Bio, about page, put it in there. Don’t just say that you are a husband, golfer, love chocolate and single malt whiskey. Change your bio to show you are available for writing gigs.
Allison: A great book that comes with a platform works well. Use your blog (and social media) to connect with readers and lift your byline off the page.
Allison – starting a blog is not enough. If you are not connecting with the right people they are not going to find you. Get out of your comfort zone and start connecting. Twitter is where people are. Magazine publishers, editors are on Twitter and they are looking for people. You still have to pitch great ideas, but they will be familiar with you by then.
Allison: Your network is your networth. It is who you know in life as well as in writing. Absolutely conecting with the right people on Twitter or social media is important. Occasionally tweet about the fact that you are writing an article or doing a gig.
Kerri: Write in your voice. There is a quote I love: ”I have to be myself. Everybody else is already taken”. The biggest mistake is that people are trying to be somebody else…you have to be yourself, you can’t be anyone else.
Kerri: You have to be able to pitch and sell ideas. You need to sell the fact that you have come up with a brilliant idea and you need to have a rino hide! You need consistency and persistence. You have to start somewhere and you will probably start with a no and the next one might be a yes!
On Writing Fiction and Non-Fiction Books:
Allison: With Fiction, you have to write the book – there is no proposal. But with non fiction you can pitch the book. Most Australian publishers have a submissions day where you send one or two chapters and a synopsis. They are looking for people and they will read the proposals, so put a proposal together. Allison recently wrote a post for Styling You whereby she interviewed Australian Publishers about whether they were reading blogs.. most of them were looking at blogs for sources for Non-fiction books. The book can not be a string of blog posts. It has to be a high concept narrative that goes across the whole thing.
Kerri: Platform is what people think of when they think of you. You can’t just take your blog and shove it in your book. Your platform is what you show to a publisher (more important for nonfiction). It shows the publisher you have an audience. You don’t need to flood every kind of social media with your message. Fiction is not so important re your platform of core expertise. With Nonfiction though, people are very much looking at the your platform nowadays.
Tips for Writing a Book Proposal
The panel suggested you include the following:
- 1 page synopsis
- Who are you – write 3 paragraphs about who you are and why you can write this.
- Who is going to buy your book – be specific in your description.
- Competitive titles – go to biggest bookstore in town and work out your competitive titles
- Marketing and promotions strategy – what sort of magazines, radio shows, television or blogs will be the likely people who will write about your book
- Chapter Breakdown – a publisher will ask you for this. Provide two paragraphs on each chapter
- Write 3 chapters of your book. They don’t have to be the first 3 chapters.
Disclaimer: Sarah’s blog, Sarah Wilson was the first I ever read and subscribed to. And Nikki at Styling You was the friend that encouraged me to start blogging more regularly, and to take it seriously. Put these two lovely ladies together, and I must admit, I was all watching and listening and not much note taking. The journo banter back and forth from Nikki to Sarah made for a memorable interview. I did get some nuggets though, and here they are:
On pitching and talking to the media:
- When pitching a television show, go to the most junior person on the show – they will pitch you to their meeting as their idea. Go to them with the problem and the solution – you!
- Journalists are in lower numbers than they used to be and many fear for their jobs. They are under resourced and need content!
- Give the journalist enough info so they feel like they have the question answered. Don’t see the journalist as the enemy – play with them, and have something that you can give them. They will usually want some kind of personal information so have something to give them to keep them happy.
- Can you ask for your quotes? Sarah: Some journalists will provide them. They will however, say that “this is for FYI purposes only” ie they won’t change it. Ask politely to see your quotes, especially if it is a sensitive subject such as a medial topic. You cant rewrite your quote but if it is factually wrong you can ask them to rewrite it.
- Sarah: go into the interview with the 3 salient points that you want to get across.
- Don’t pay attention to comments and negative gossip – hold your head high. Have no respect for the negativity. Sarah suggested a great way to respond is to say something like: “I think there are some mixed messages here, let me clarify a few things”.
- Be really readily available – Have your image ready to go and your bio and also your book or ebook ready with a screen grab on your site. Make it easy for the journalist.
I know, I know, it’s a short one (for reasons outlined above). But seriously, well worth taking the time to listen to, if you were at Day 2 and you missed it, or if you buy the virtual ticket.
This was an awesome session. One where Darren made a very strong case for sticking with email marketing as a main strategy for communicating with and engaging with readers. With email still being the most familiar and used technology we have, Darren discussed how it is an amazing tool for growing and monetizing your blog.
- email is a familiar technology! People check it daily! It is not dependent upon the other person being online.
- Status updates on social media networks only last minutes. A email in an inbox is more likely to get read. You are not “interrupting” the reader.
- Email is not dependent upon a Social Media Algorithm like Facebook’s “edgerank” working in your favour
- Email is not dependent on someone opening an RSS reader. It can be used in a personal voice such as on your blog. Make it part of the mix! Darren uses email to drive to facebook, twitter etc. like a hub!
- Problogger has a spike when their emails are opened on a Friday (roughly double the traffic!).
- When releasing a product (ie ebook), test sales to social media before releasing it to your list (for social proof), and also use it to test your shopping cart.
- Use email to drive traffic, build your brand and build community engaement.
- Test different versions of the pop up form
- Problogger and Digital Photogaphy School use Aweber to send out and manage their newsletters and email. They use Aweber Broadcasts for email and Aweber Follow Up for autoresponders. They colllect email address only (no first name) to avoid the email looking odd if the first name is not provided and you address the recipient by their first name.
- Thursday works best for email (after much testing) – not too close to the weekend, so not too distracted.
- Email newsletter includes: short intro, summary of new posts, links to assignments (for digital photography school) and competitions, links to forum discussions and social media events and promotion of products.
- Keep consistent branding between your site and your email.
- Use photos of people where possible (ie on ebooks, in ads). People are wired to look at people.
- Include “from the archives” posts to get new traffic on your old posts.
- At Digital Photography School a series of autoresponder emails are sent out over the first few months after singing up – including extra tips, articles, etc. Autoresponders can be used to teach short courses as well.
- Email Sign Up Forms: The placement of the email opt-in form is very important. Place them underneath blog posts. Consider using pop up ads for email sign ups – Darren’s sign ups increased up to 600 per cent when using these effectively.
- Email tips:
- create anticipation – let readers know about what is coming up next so that they are excited.
- have a Subscribe Success Page – a place where they land after subscribing. Show people the options, showcase subscriber numbers (ie you have joined xxx number of subscribers) and set expectations (ie that they will receive a weekly newsletter and that it is free, and it contains x, y and z).
A fabulous session, chock full of takeaways…I haven’t even touched on all of the information here. Thanks Darren!
OR: SARAH WILSON: The Ten Things that Worked – the simple, small things that turned me into a full-time (ish) blogger.
A brilliant wrap up to a brilliant 2 days, Sarah Wilson provided the perfect session as she talked about her experiences as a blogger and how she has evolved to blogging full time (ish). Starting as a restaurant reviewer at the age of 24 and working her way through the ranks across many of the major media networks and publications in Australia (from Editor to Column Writer, to Blogger and now author of highly successful eBooks) Sarah shared her world of experience with us all – and what has made her successful at (and loving) blogging.
- Be kind to the copy kid – they may grow up to be your boss one day.
- 64% of Sarah’s income now comes from the sales of her e-Books with the other 36% coming from advertsising, MC/Appearances, Brand Ambassadorship and Affiliate sales.
- 80% of Sarah’s time is spent on from blogging for free, working for 8-9 charities and social media.
- She now earns approximately 3 times as much as she did working in traditional media.
Oh, and as Sarah so helpfully pointed out, this session actually consisted of 9 things that worked for her, not 10….as “people like odd numbers”. So here they are:
1. I realised I smelt. When we can start to smell that someone is being inauthentic we tune out and block them out. Blogging has meant that only good journalism can survive. Know how tell your story, getting your facts right.
2. Don’t ask for permission. Just know how to beg for forgiveness. Be maverick – enter the fray! People often say to Sarah: ”I want to do an ebook” - without any social media account. Enter the fray and make big mistakes. Sarah works with a grubbiness radar. If it feels grubby (ie “this is not right”) she gets rid of it. Sarah likes instagram because it is all about giving out – giving out without the clutter. Sarah only takes on ads for products she personally uses.
3. Are you my big sister? Sarah’s old boss in the media, would give feedback about working in a team, like “you got it right, you were like a big sister holding her hand”. When Sarah started with her blog she was not an expert on anything so she struggled with her voice. She became a guinea pig and experimented with herself.
4. Know your church from your state. In traditional media, it is drummed into you to keep advertising and editorial separate. In Australia it is just frowned upon but in the US it is not allowed. When it comes to advertising on her blog, Sarah only takes on what she uses as a product or service. She rides on her brand and readers trusting that she doesn’t write about stuff she doesn’t believe in. Sponsored ads and other “cleverer ads” are trickier. Sarah highlighted some ways to be creative with sponsored advertising such as creating an environment to showcase the advertisers products in a different way. When she was editor at Cosmo, Sarah came up with the idea of creating their own environment for advertisers – for example, an 8 page lift-out that advertisers could buy space in such as “green fashion” to promote new Green M&Ms. Eight pages of advertising into a magazine would buy her eight pages of editorial. You may have content that you can do this with on your blog. For example, Sarah’s recipes on her blog can showcase specific ingredients. She is also an ambassador for Jeep, which might seem strange seeing as she mainly rides a bicycle. But with some clever negotiation, Sarah was able to suggest that she created some travel guides for Jeep instead. Be creative!
5. Go to the Pub – Imagine telling someone at the pub about what you have been writing. It should be easy to explain. Avoid motherhood statements such as “eat a healthy diet” – instead, be more specific. Your writing must have structure and needs a beginning, middle and end. Make sure the first line of your article or ebook is interesting for every part of the post.
6. I work backwards -Think about what you will post on Twitter, your first landing page etc. Work backwards and think about every stage of developing and promoting your e-book. For her cookbooks, Sarah used some testimonials about her recipes from celebrity chefs (Maggie Beer) and celebrities (Gwyneth Paltrow).
“To pay more for an eBook you need to give more than for a pBook” Sarah Wilson
Sarah also created a click program in her ebooks, whereby you can add the 3 recipes and it will tell you the ingredient quantities you need, ie many eggs, butter etc. Create the imagery and create the story. Sarah also recommends that you work back from emotional grabbers. For example, people wanted to know if there was chocolate in her program, so she created chocolate recipes.
7. I am not a packet of Twisties. Marketing yourself is tricky. When Sarah was looking for a writer she would check what they had already written or the “as seen on” blurb. Have a few cache hooks in your about me blurb – were you the first person to invent something? What will Kochie introduce you as, crack a joke about etc? Write your About Me in the 3rd person, so that the journalist can just pull it ready to go. Eye contact is good – have a picture there ready to go or even better, a selection of picures. It is worth getting a speakers agent if you have a keynote speech. Think about getting an agent short term, just to learn the language and the tricks of the trade. When you sell an ebook, the cover is important but when they are on ibookstore or amazon the prospective customer needs to see immediately what it is.Your image needs to showcase what it is about.
8. Come Play with the circus
- When pitching to and communicating with the media do not include attachments. Put everything in the body of your email and keep it to 1-2 salient points.
- Go to Junior Editors first – they go to editorial meetings and they have to take ideas. Sarah has known writers who have sent cupcakes to all the junior staff at a publication! They are the people that will be interviewing you.
- Regional papers turn to small papers for their stories – go to the Cumberland Times, not the Sydney Morning Herald.
- When you approach media, solve their problem, don’t give them another one. By this, Sarah means to give them as much information, ready to go, as you can. Be creative – offer information for their social media or facebook page.
- Sell the Australian angle – are you the first Aussie such and such? TV needs to pivot from a news angle. Have your press release ready to go if there is a major news story that your product, brand or blog can be associated with.
- Always look for your url or screenshot of your book to be featured in the article.
- Focus on 3 soundbytes that you want to get across.
9. I create my own boundaries
How do you know when you pull back? Seth Godin has a great boundary making technique. He gives a lot of free info BUT he charges for his 1:1 time and his books. Ask yourself, am I starting to smell (see No. 1)? Am I cringing? Don’t do what doesn’t feel natural to you!
Double Phew. There it is – a lot of content, but really just a snapshot of Day 2 at Problogger. I am still watching the sessions I was not able to be in two places at once for the second stream….if you want to catch all of the great speakers and sessions, you still can by clicking here.
What if any of these great tips and ideas will you take away and apply to your blog? Leave your blog link below in the comments!