9 Questions Before You Become A Blogging Statistic

'Blog', courtesy of cortege9, Wikimedia Commons

‘Blog’, courtesy of cortege9, Wikimedia Commons

Are you tired of blogging?

I am.

I know that’s sacrilege to admit on your own blog. The stress of moving, illness, and the fact I haven’t posted consistently has me questioning my commitment to blogging.

Am I really getting a return on investment of the time I put into blogging?

Shouldn’t I be focusing on ‘real’ writing?

My blogging journey started almost three years ago. I researched for three months before taking the plunge, thinking about my goals for my blog. I didn’t want to start something new and shiny, to later run out of steam. (I have a tendency to do that.)

I liked sharing and meeting new people. Researching and writing about creativity, blogging, and social media fascinated me. And I loved sharing my write anywhere adventures.

But lately blogging has felt like a burden, a deadline that looms over me and highlights my penchant for procrastination. I’m considering taking a break, or a complete reboot. Should I start over? Will anyone care?

Continue reading

The Dumb Google Mistake I Made That Cost Me All My Blog Friends – Can You Help?

Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel, by Henry Vidal in Tuileries, Paris, France courtesy Alex E. Proimos, Creative Commons

Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel, by Henry Vidal in Tuileries, Paris, France courtesy Alex E. Proimos, Creative Commons

I was sad when Google announced they were discontinuing Google Reader RSS content aggregator on July 1st 2013. I had only recently discovered Google Reader in the last year, and it was a beautifully streamlined way to keep track of all the great blogs I was connecting with through blogging. Being able to catch up and comment on posts, favorite special ones that particularly spoke to me, and easily categorize groups of blogs was a win-win.

What was I going to do without Google Reader?

Throughout the blogosphere many offered comparable RSS content aggregator suggestions. Feedly had the most accolades. It’s structure is very similar to Google Reader, and made moving your Google Reader data into Feedly easy with a click of a button. Sign me up!

I’ve been reading my blogs on Feedly since May and it’s been great. When I took a break from blogging for carpal tunnel symptoms I also took a vacation from reading blogs. When I returned and pulled up Feedly, it was empty! Where were all my blog subscriptions?

Well, Feedly’s easy click of a button lulled me into a sense of security. I failed to read the fine print on making sure my Google Reader info stayed there once Google pulled the plug. What I should have done? Saved all my data by getting my OPML file, zipping, unzipping, and all sorts of things I didn’t do.

Thus Google Reader gone, Kristin’s blog subscriptions gone.

Lesson: read instructions carefully.

So now I am left with an empty Feedly account and all my blog subscriptions somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle.

And here’s where you, Dear Bloggy Friends, can help.

In honor of my dumb mistake, I’d love it if you could give me some blog recommendations. I love blogs about writing, book reviews, blogging, social media, photography, creativity, mom blogs, grandma blogs, humor blogs, pop culture blogs, history blogs, current events blogs, basically if a blog is well-written, I’m going to check it out.

Post a list of your favorites, and don’t leave out your own. Let your blog friends know so they can give a shout-out selfie here on Ye Olde Blog. Feel free to scroll through and snag some good ones for yourself.

Let the shameless plugging commence.

 

Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: The Golden Rule For Bloggers

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you receive but by the seeds that you plant." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Thanks so much for all the feedback for our blogging habits series featured this month. I hope we are all giving little tweaks to our blogging vision to make what we do with our blogs the best ever for 2012. If this is your first time popping in, here’s the series line-up so you can get on the same page:

Part 1 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 4 Ways To Define Your Audience

Part 2 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 7 Keys To Blogging On A Consistent Basis

Part 3 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 14 Actions To Take To Amplify Your Blog’s Voice

There’s a local health foods store I frequent to buy my vitamins. It’s a little mom-pop operation. Actually a mom-daughter-niece operation where ‘everybody knows your name’. One day I noticed a blurb in their newspaper ad about the store’s blog. I checked it out. It was a ‘just-beginning-to-bud-and-dying-from-the-frost-of-being-unread’ blog. Only one post made a couple months earlier with no comments on it. The post was well-written and happened to mention a new natural face soap the store had begun carrying. It’s a wonderful goat’s milk soap made locally that up until that time had only been sold during the farmer’s market season.

Excited to be able to get my beloved soap in the winter, I ran by the health foods store to snatch up all the bars I could. When I paid for my purchase, I shared my excitement with the owner and thanked her for posting about it in her blog. Her mouth kind of fell open, then she smiled and said, “I didn’t know anyone was reading it. I guess I’m going to have to put some more things on there.” She didn’t think anyone was reading or getting value out of her blog until someone told her.

Blog Habit #4: Encourage Other Bloggers

Whether you call it sowing seeds, karma, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, or good vibrations, when you take the time to encourage others it will pay big dividends in your personal attitude as well as your blogging mojo.

Sometimes we’re so caught up in building our own blog, we forget it really does ‘take a village’ to create a strong blog presence. Readers are the lifeblood of a blog, and a large portion of readers are fellow bloggers. If you happen to have a niche blog, bloggers in that niche are even more important to help you gain a readership by spreading the news about your blog in that niche community.

Interaction in social media usually comes in the form of participating in the community conversation in some way. Sounds simple enough, right? So why aren’t readers naturally interacting on blogs? Why do we have to ‘work’ for their involvement?

A 2006 study by Jakob Nielsen cites that 90% of online community users are lurkers who never contribute or interact, 9% contribute a little and only 1% are vocally active. This is a fact of life that many ministries and non-profit groups have always dealt with. The 20/80 rule, as in, 20% of the same volunteers do 80% of the volunteer work. While we’re not going to make a major societal impact, we can put a tiny dent in whether people stand on the sidelines of our blog or become more interactive by modeling interactive encouragement to others.

How can you be an encouragement to other bloggers without draining your already precious social media time? Here are a few simple ways:

  • Make a comment on someone else’s blog.

Did you enjoy a post you read? Learn something? Completely disagree? Stumbled on the post during a search? Take the time to make a comment to let the blogger know. You don’t have to write a dissertation, but you can also do better than ‘Great post!’ One sentence can make the difference to a writer who’s feeling like their words are floating into the internet ether without notice.

  • Click a social media sharing button.

Are you skimming blogs while on your coffee break or between toddler duties at home? Don’t have time to think about and write out a comment? It only takes a second to click a ‘like’ button on WordPress blogs and about the same amount of time to click a Google 1+, Facebook, Twitter, or social bookmarking button like StumbleUpon or Reddit and you’ve done double duty by letting the blogger know their post has not only been read but shared with others.

  • Tweet or retweet blog links on Twitter.

Become known for showcasing valuable information by taking the time to tweet and retweet post links on Twitter. Folks will appreciate it and be more likely to check out your blog posts when you tweet your own links.

  • Make a Pinterest board for your favorite blog posts.

Once you are on Pinterest, it’s easy to add a photo from one of your favorite blog posts with a simple click of the  ‘Pin it!’ button. The ‘pin’ will link back to the blog to help get more traffic to your fellow bloggers’ sites.

  • Have a blog round-up or showcase.

Some people enjoy writing a post highlighting a weekly round-up of quality blog post links. This has the double benefit of helping others while you get readers who show up just for your great lists!  It doesn’t have to be a long list. Here are some examples:

Read The 12 Best Blogs You May (Almost) Have Never Heard Of

Read Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing’s ‘This Week For Writers

  • Ask someone to write a guest post for your blog.

Be discriminating about this, but if you see a quality blogger who hasn’t built a large readership yet and may need encouragement, nothing helps like a request for their writing skills! You have the mutual benefit of being exposed to the other blogger’s readership.

  • Stay positive in your online interaction.

If something someone says on their blog rubs you the wrong way, think twice before you rattle off that rant that accuses them of being a no-talent hack. Some people support getting as controversial as you can to stir up buzz so people will come check out your blog.

That’s also what they do with reality shows, Jerry Springer and 24/7 news channels. Think about it.

When you are posting something negative, ask yourself these questions: Is this negativity really necessary? Can I make my point without tearing another person down? Of course, life is not a box of fuzzy kittens (if only!) and stuff happens and we like to talk about it. It’s fine to disagree, but be cautious about being disagreeable and attacking others’ personally. It’s bad karma and may come back to haunt you.

  • Answer the question posed in a blog post.

If the specific post asks a question, try to answer it. If you go on and on about your mother’s cat or some other rabbit trail, the blog writer may be frustrated thinking their post/question was poorly written or unclear. That can be discouraging. Answer the question, even if it’s “I don’t know” then tell everyone about your mother’s cat.

If you read a lot of blogs  it’s usually not possible to devote time to commenting on every one. However, you can give yourself a goal. For example: ‘I’ll comment on 3 blogs per day’, or’ I’ll ‘like’ 5 blogs today’, or ‘I’ll write one thoughtful comment per week’. Again, don’t overload yourself with added pressures. But you need to look at encouraging others as an investment. Interacting and sharing in the blogging community not only gives out good vibes, it teaches you to step out of yourself. When you do that, the seeds you plant will come back as a good harvest.

Question: What makes you want to take the time to comment on a blog post?

Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 14 Actions to Take to Amplify Your Blog’s Voice

What are you doing to amplify your blog’s voice?

Today is part 3 in this month’s series on sharpening your blogging habits. Have you been following along? If not, you can catch up here:

Part 1- Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 4 Ways To Define Your Audience

Part 2- Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 7 Keys to Blogging on a Consistent Basis

I love a summer day when I can open the windows. Especially at dusk I enjoy the sounds:  the squeals of children playing, the rustle of leaves in the warm breeze or the orchestra of crickets. I can sit on my patio and listen to some smooth jazz as it drifts out the window from my sound system. Sometimes I’ll hear the exotic music of my Colombian neighbors as they enjoy the songs of their homeland. Once in a while the idyllic twilight is invaded by a passionate music lover driving through the neighborhood. The militant beat of mega woofers infiltrates the area until the offending car drives out of earshot. My ears readjust and go back to partaking of the sounds of the season.

Blog Habit #3: Broadcast Your Blog Post

If you are new to blogging, you may have the ‘Field of Dreams’ mindset I used to have: if you write it, they will come. You’ve crafted a wonderful blog post and now readers will line up to read your genius. Considering there are 200,000,000+ active blogs in the blogosphere, you need to give your blog baby a little help in letting your audience find you. Broadcasting your blog post on social media sets the stage for more interaction. The more people who know that your blog exists and that you offer valuable content means the more people who will potentially read and comment on your blog. Successful use of social media for broadcasting is two-fold: 1) making proper use of the social media tools available and 2) avoiding the mistake of becoming irritating noise that is filling social media today like the aforementioned car.

14 Actions To Amplify Your Blog’s Voice

The list of broadcast methods I’ve compiled are only some of the actions we can take to amplify our blog voice. Start with ones you are familiar with and establish a broadcast habit. After you are broadcasting with one or two consistently you can experiment with some of the other suggestions and expand your repertoire.

  1. Craft headlines for maximum effect. A well-crafted title draws a reader to check out what you’ve got to say. Short, snappy and on topic are best. If you want to learn to write good headlines, do a Google search on writing good headlines – there is lots of help out there. Let’s start off with some simple tips from the folks at WordPress: Are You Writing Rockin’ Blog Post Titles?
  2. Post a link to your blog with a well-crafted teaser once a day on Facebook and Google+. Multiple status posts all day long with the same ‘advertisement’ can get annoying to those reading it and they will eventually tune it out.
  3. Post a link 3-5x a day spaced throughout the day on Twitter. You can post a few times more on Twitter because its information stream moves faster than Facebook and Google+. Focus on those who might be interested in your blog subject with hashtags. Don’t know what hashtags are? Here’s a great post from social media guru Kristen Lamb to get you on track: Be A Tweep, Not A Tool-How Hashtags Can Win Friends and Influence Enemies (Note how Ms. Lamb rocks her headlines)
  4. Start an email newsletter for your subscribers. You can give a weekly round-up with links or offer exclusive content. Writer Jeff Goins has a good example of a successful blog newsletter. Check out Jeff Goins post How To Get Your Message Heard Without Adding To The Noise
  5. Create a YouTube channel for a change of pace to disseminate your information. Author  K.M. Weiland has been doing this successfully for about two years.
  6. Pin a Pinterest board with photos from your blog posts. Pinterest automatically links them back to your blog so people can follow the trail there.
  7. Join Triberr. Triberr is one of the newer social media platforms especially for bloggers. Jenny Hansen gives us the basics in her post My New Time-Saving Social Media BFF:Triberr
  8. Share posts with social bookmarking. Social bookmarking such as Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit have been around for a while, yet many don’t quite get the benefits to using it. Read Problogger’s post Social Bookmarking – Getting Your Blog Noticed for some do’s and don’ts.
  9. Write a guest post. Guest posting is simply that: writing a post of original content for another blog. You expand your blog’s exposure by guest posting. How do you guest post? Connect with other bloggers in your niche and trade posts or find groups that encourage guest posts among its members. That’s part of the ‘social’ in social networking. Check out Blogger Linkup for a site that offers guest post opportunities.
  10. Create an email signature. You should have a link to your blog in your email and social media signatures, but don’t overdo it. Email signatures that are a mile long with every one of your social media addresses and links to all your book products are one of those irritating noisemakers that people end up tuning out because of overexposure. Be concise and choose your email signature information wisely.
  11. Practice SEO. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO is a process of using keywords that help rank your blog higher in Google and other search engine rankings. I haven’t experimented enough with SEO yet to give a personal opinion but if you’re interested I suggest this short SEO copywriting tutorial from Copyblogger.
  12. Post a link to your site from the comments section on other people’s blogs. This can raise your Google page rank but is walking the edge of blogging etiquette. Make sure the link is pertinent to the comment discussion and look for a blog comment policy to find out if the link is welcome. Multiple links in a blog comment give a spammy appearance and may get you banned from making comments on blogs. Jami Gold addresses this in her post How Tightly Do You Control Your Blog?
  13. Syndication. One of the most popular ways to syndicate your blog is through NetworkedBlogs on Facebook. This can give you more opportunity to find readers in Facebookland.
  14. Treat your blog as a ‘pay it forward’ vehicle. We’ll talk about this in detail in part 4 of this series next Monday.

Practice your consistency tips with broadcasting. Don’t think you have the time to do this? Steal the time you’re spending on unproductive social media (you know you are). You don’t think you spend any extra time doing unproductive activities? You never play Farmville, watch silly kitten trick videos on YouTube or obsessively check your Amazon stats or how many hits you’ve gotten on your blog? Hmm, you’re a stronger person than I, my friend. 🙂

Keep a use-journal for 3 days – literally write down every single social media thing you do and the time it takes to do it. You’ll get aggravated and probably throw it in the trash before the 3 days are up, but you’ll discover you do have the time for social media broadcasting to help increase your blog’s following.

If you’ve been enjoying this series, I hope you’ll consider subscribing to this blog. Click the button at the upper right corner of this page.

Question: Which of these broadcast methods work for you? Which ones haven’t? Do you use a method not listed? Tell us about it!

Start Your Week Off Write: How Do You Vet Social Media Relationships?

Library of Congress, public domain

The online writing community has been abuzz with the sad news of a plagiarist in our midst who took advantage of others by plagiarizing large portions of his blog. The writing community involved in social media is normally very supportive and protective of one another so for one of their own to do this was a shock. I won’t go into the whole issue of plagiarism besides saying ‘Hello! It’s wrong – Don’t do it!’

Jami Gold wrote in detail about how people were affected in the post “How Bad Is Plagiarism?” Many writers worried this person’s actions would reflect poorly on them and spent the week trying to erase the online evidence of any interactions they might have had with this deceiver. Jami made this statement in her post:

“… everyone who believed in him wonders if they could have prevented this.  They also wonder how they could have been so misled.  But Terrell alone deserves the blame.  The fact that he succeeded with his intention to deceive them is not a reflection on their ability to judge someone’s character.”

This is true. No one should feel guilty that they were fooled by someone whose goal it was to fool others. But it got me wondering, with all the rush to make connections, obtain followers and build a social media platform that agents and publishers are insisting writers have, how do we determine if a connection on social media is ‘friend-worthy’? How can we avoid another situation like this?

We vet political candidates, employees, even babysitters. Maybe we need to start a vetting process for social media relationships.

The dictionary defines vetting as a process of examination and evaluation, generally referring to performing a background check on someone before offering employment, conferring an award, etc. In the journalism field news articles or stories may be vetted by fact-checkers, whose job it is to check the correctness of factual assertions made in news copy.

Do we need to become our own social media fact-checkers?

Here are some ideas on how to vet a potential social media writing relationship:

  1. Google their name.
  2. Check their Twitter account. Are there more than ‘buy my book’ posts? What is the image they project? Do they respond to others? Do they retweet other writers’ posts?
  3. Check their Facebook account. Is it a fan page or a personal page? Do their posts reflect the same ‘personality’ as their Twitter account and blog?
  4. Do they have a LinkedIn account? Do they have any recommendations?
  5. Do they have a blog? Read several posts on their blog, not just the latest but several from different time frames. Same personality and ‘flavor’? Do they respond to comments frequently? How do they respond to differing opinions? Do they rant or indulge in personal attacks?
  6. Based on what you know about them through their online profile, would you spend time with this person in real life, like at a workshop or conference? At lunch? Would you be interested in this person’s opinion on a piece of your writing? Would you trust their critique based on the writing skill reflected on their blog?
  7. If they offer any paid services, are there any references to type and quality? Google that, too.
  8. What do other community members whose opinion you trust have to say about this person? Any negative interactions?
  9. Interact with the person directly by commenting on a blog post or responding to a tweet. How do they respond?
  10. Finally what does your gut or intuition tell you about this person?

This seems like a lot of trouble to go through just to add another follower to your Facebook or Twitter account. Even after taking all these steps, there is still no way to truly surmise the ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ worthiness of someone. I’m reminded of a wisdom saying from an old book:

“Those who walk with the wise grow wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

You might be able to spot a fool right away in everyday life, but what about virtually? A fool might be able to hide in plain sight for quite a while. I believe people will eventually show their true selves. Most writing folks (especially the ones I have met online) are kind and compassionate and just offering and looking for support, but there are a few who are rude, unprofessional, have ulterior motives or are just plain crazy. That’s what the delete button is for. Will someone else’s foolishness reflect on you because you are connected to them on social media? Should it? What can we do about it? 

Pop Cafe Tuesday: “Like ME Better!” Dueling Fads

image, "Battle of the Trilobites", Mantell, public domain

Are you on Google+? Do you like it better than Facebook? That seems to be the question scorching the blogosphere lately. Google+ vs. Facebook. It used to be MySpace vs. Facebook. It got me thinking how interesting it is that something or someone who’s popular always has to have some kind of nemesis. What would Superman be without Lex Luthor? Do we want our choice to be better because we want to be the cool kid, or we want to be able to say ‘my kung fu is stronger than your kung fu’? Not sure what the psychological significance is, but it got me remembering…

The Battle of the Fad Feuds

Do you remember any of these ‘versus’?

  • Donny vs. David (my cousin and I used to argue over this)
  • Marcia vs. Jan
  • Which haircut: Dorothy Hamill or Farrah Fawcett?
  • Vans vs. Topsiders
  • Scrunch socks vs. leg warmers

    Paris and Lindsey, can't you just be BFFs?

  • Adidas vs. Nike
  • Which Corey was cuter?
  • Whopper vs. Big Mac
  • Which girl for Zach? Jessie or Kelly?
  • Back Street Boys vs. N’Sync
  • Brittney vs. Christina
  •  Paris vs. Lindsey (that’s a fail-fail for me)

Okay, so this list is a little girly. For you guys, here are two I recall:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys
  • Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd (I grew up on Saturday night Wrestling at the Chase. Figure four leg lock!)

Hope you’ll share any fad feuds from back in the day that you remember!

Question: What are your thoughts on Google+ vs. Facebook? Will it become a fad feud?