Birmingham Bloggers will have a workshop on March 25. I’m giving the talk, but I don’t know what blogging topic to do.
You can help.
Take the survey by March 2. It takes 2 minutes, and you could win two great prizes.
The seminar choices:
- The Absolutely Essential Twitter Workshop
- The Art of the Brand: What Your Blog Needs and Deserves
- Content Curation for Smarties: Know Everything All the Time
- How to Attend Your First Blogging / Social Media Conference
- How to Get Ahead on Google: Basics of SEO and Metadata
- How to Run Promotional Campaigns and Build Your List using WordPress
- How to Win Awards and Influence Readers in 439 Days and 668 Posts
- The Power of Digital Storytelling
- The Super Easy Guide to Video for Content Marketing
- Your Blog Is Your Business: Next Steps to Success
Everyone who submits an email address is entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card from Babalu Tacos and Tapas and a special training video from Y’all Connect! (I visited Babalu for my first time Thursday, and it was delicious!)
We’ll announce the workshop title, time and location soon.
Don’t wait — fill out the survey now.
I asked for your biggest fears in blogging, and y’all came through.
This week’s fear: “I am worried that I will never attract traffic.” — J.A.
This blog has never been a high-traffic blog. That’s OK. I want the right traffic for this blog, and I’ve been building it for 6 years.
High traffic is nice if your company depends on page views and ad clicks. Most business blogs don’t fall into this category of news and entertainment. What is your business goal? How does blogging fit into that goal? And is traffic a vital component?
First, you must build traffic by blogging consistently. If you can’t be bothered to provide updates, news and information to attract an audience, readers won’t bother to show up.
Second, you must see if you’re pulling in the right audience. The simplest way to do this is through a call to action on every post. You can ask readers to leave a comment, download a white paper, contact you for more information, use a promo code, sign up for a mailing list or buy a product. If you have great traffic but no takers, you are attracting the wrong audience.
Post items that are informative, interesting or funny. Repeat. Keep going. Stand out by being helpful and consistent.
If you’re worth following, they will indeed come.
Tell me about your biggest fear in blogging,
and I might answer it in a future post.
More in our Blogging Fears series.
I asked for your biggest fears in blogging, and y’all came through.
On Twitter, Albert Pride shared that he’s concerned about “conveying false and potentially harmful information.”
That’s a good one to start off this series. As a journalist, I always have that editor’s voice — in my head or bellowing in my ear — that reminds me that I must get it right.
Let me share a few quick ways to avoid publishing bad info.
1. Don’t rush. One reason we publish false information is that we are hasty. You may be putting pressure on yourself to go faster, especially if you trade in industry news and rumors. Even bloggers want to be the first with a scoop, and that can lead to some horrifying and embarrassing mistakes.
Journalism is a process that takes time. It takes time to have information sourced from more than one person. It takes time to have an editor review our work. It takes time to consider the fundamental questions: Do I have everything right? Do I have all the facts? Is this newsworthy, or merely click-worthy?
2. Don’t run rumors. I haven’t been in a newsroom in a decade, but I still hear rumors all the time. Gossip can be a good starting point for reporters, but it should not be the end point, too.
Reporters spend (sometimes waste) a lot of hours running down rumors, attempting to find documentation or witnesses that can verify or dispel them. Bloggers have earned a bad reputation for skipping this crucial step and publishing rumors as fact.
I am often tempted to publish hearsay, especially when I hear a rumor again and again. But I don’t. It ain’t worth it.
3. Consider carefully the ethical implications. Accurate, truthful information can still be potentially harmful. We often think our options as bloggers are limited to two choices: Publish or don’t publish.
This is a false dilemma, and even major news organizations fall prey to this lazy thinking.
Alabama Media Group recently published partial information from a sealed 2010 divorce case which implicated a public official in an extramarital affair with the wife. In a separate story explaining the reason to run the exposé, the reporter wrote:
“This is a difficult news decision as there are arguments on both sides. But there is no half-measure available to us — we either publish, or we don’t. We can be undecided, but we must decide.”
Nonsense. Just a few options include requesting to have the case unsealed … publishing online only … publishing in print only … publishing in the context of a series of cheating pols … having the pol write a first-hand account … sitting on the story till it becomes more relevant (if ever) … reducing it to a paragraph in a longer investigative piece … omitting the official’s name … leaking it to a competing news organization …
Ethics is a process, not a oversimplified question of right vs. wrong. Journalists, bloggers and citizens can learn this process quickly and practice it over and over. Take the ethics walk and discover a new world of options.
4. Correct your mistakes. I have made my share of mistakes as a journalist and a blogger. And I have corrected the ones I know about quickly and transparently.
When someone alerts me, I double-check the new info, then publish it. Having and using a corrections policy is a critical step in defending yourself in defamation suits.
5. Consult your attorney. You can ask me for legal advice, but since I’ve never been to law school, my advice will be terrible. Use an attorney for your questions about errors, libel and more.
6. Consider errors and omissions insurance. A policy can help limit the costs and the damage to your company.
Don’t let this fear of putting false or potentially harmful info stop you from blogging. Verify your info, and write with fairness and honesty. And be prepared to make corrections if needed and to stand up for your work always.
Tell me about your biggest fear in blogging,
and I might answer it in a future post.
Tell me your worst blogging fear. Whisper it in my ear.
I’ll give answers for every fear you send me. Your name is optional.
Are you worried about commenters, SEO or writer’s block? Looking stupid or not having enough time? Catching up with other bloggers and brands? How to get started? How to quit?
Tell me. We’ve all had fears, and this is your chance to get help from an expert.
(Or you can use my contact form.)
Your company may be putting on events in 2015 as part of its marketing strategy. It’s an opportunity to meet customers, share your products and services, offer hospitality and collect data about your audience.
Or your company may be sponsoring workshops, conferences, parties and open houses to reach well-established groups without the fuss of event planning.
What ensures a great event? What do you need to look for in your own events or ones you sponsor?
I’ve put on professional events for more than 10 years. It is a lot of work with no guarantees of success.
Follow these suggestions to ensure the biggest and best audience for your efforts …
• Focus on the attendees at all times. Seems simple enough, right? Have I given them enough information? Will this event make their lives better? Am I doing this for me or for them?
I have seen many events flounder because ego gets in the way. Even fancy catering sometimes gives the impression of “Look at how great we are” instead of “We want to take care of you.”
• A checklist of required information.
At the very least:
- Organizer (I hate trying to guess who is putting on an event, but sometimes it’s omitted.),
- Cost (never a fan of when organizers try to “hide” the cost on another page),
- Location, including street address, map and parking.
Including more information on this second list helps shoppers decide on buying tickets, even free ones:
- Speaker bio: Who is this person and why is he qualified to take an hour out of my busy day?
- Topic (Please, please make sure you have a tightly focused topic and that the speaker sticks to it.),
- Topic summary: What am I getting for my time and money?
- Food and drink (and if it’s free or not).
• Make it easy to register. Put the ticket form on the event page to collect the name, quantity, contact info and payment info.
I like to think I’m a bright guy, but I have been utterly defeated occasionally when trying to register for an event. Instead of getting a ticket, I walk away with frustration at the organizer.
• Show off your attendees. One of my favorite features in using the Eventbrite ticketing system is showing who has already bought tickets. Many organizers don’t know about this free option, but it gives additional encouragement for fence-sitters to go for it.
• Charge more for your tickets. You should provide true value to your attendees. And the ticket price should reflect that value. Don’t worry: Someone will complain about the cost no matter what you charge. I’ve put on events where tickets for similar events would cost 10 times more in other cities, and yet, it’s too expensive!!!
I make sure to show the value of attending and give limited opportunities for discounts and sales.
Undervaluing your event in ticket pricing shows a lack of commitment to your cause, and that can be fatal.
• Send a reminder email to your guests. First, you must nudge your busy audience to go. Not everyone keeps a calendar. Some people overbook their days. You absolutely must call attention to your event, especially if your guests bought their ticket weeks ago.
Second, you are building anticipation for your event. You want people excited about going. Just because they bought a ticket doesn’t mean they’ll use it — even Super Bowl tickets sit at home unused. Tell them what to expect and announce door prizes and last-minute additions.
Many details go into putting on great events. Proper marketing gives you a sizable advantage in a crowded marketplace.
Give your event every reason to succeed with these tips. They’ll bring the right audience and the maximum ROI for your efforts.
• • •
Learn all you can in 2015 by subscribing to
my free weekly newsletter …
The Birmingham Barons have never been more popular since moving back downtown.
Could a blog about them and other sports franchises be just as successful?
Five years ago, I suggested five topics for new blogs in Birmingham: history, classical music and opera, transportation, barbecue and hip hop.
I’ve seen a few food blogs come and go, but none focused on barbecue. My friends literally penned the book on “Alabama Barbecue” [aff. link] (though I wish they had done it independently of Alabama Media Group). And the Birmingham History Center blog ekes out eight or nine posts a year. I don’t know why it’s called 310 Pythian Place, but I’m sure a clever history joke is hiding in there somewhere.
Michael Huebner, most recently of the Alabama Media Group, started artsBham in November. Its coverage includes, but is not limited to, classical music and opera.
I believe these five topics would still make for great robust blogs, with weekly posts at a minimum. Monetization could come from sponsorship, events and other media (books, videos, television).
If you start blogging in 2015 and need a focus, allow me to suggest five more urgently needed blog topics for Birmingham …
• Let’s start with sports. A true fan and expert would have endless opportunities to write about the Barons, the Blitz (semi-pro basketball), Alabama Outlawz (minor league spring football), the Freedom (our 14th pro football team) and the Vulcans (rugby). Plus, UAB, Samford, Birmingham-Southern, Miles and Montevallo.
And the Magic City Classic, SEC Baseball Tournament, Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek, Mercedes Marathon, Labor Day Golden Classic, Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Triumph Superbike Classic, Magic City Half Marathon, Vulcan Run, high school football and basketball, college track and field championships (SWAC, Southland, Sun Belt, Conference USA, Southern), men’s and women’s college basketball championships (Conference USA, SIAC) …
No Alabama. No Auburn. Just Birmingham sports.
• I personally love causes. In featuring them in a weekly spotlight on a previous site, I had nonprofit organizations fill out questionnaires to run as blog posts. I never ran out of charities and volunteer organizations to present to readers. (I could’ve put together 6 months’ worth of posts in advance without much effort.)
• Beer is still reaching its peak popularity in Birmingham, specifically craft beer. More events and fund-raisers take place at breweries, and the multiple tastings and festivals regularly sell out. Tell me about the best beers, the newest varieties, the elements of a good brew, the brewers, the retailers, how to pair it with different foods and what to make at home. Niche market with lots of passion and disposable income.
• I have revived my love of sharing Birmingham videos on my original blog. You could post a video a day featuring those shot in or about this city. You could even simply copy videos from my site. Sources for new videos include YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, Facebook, Vine, TV and other news sites and suggestions from fans. Pair good video curation with pre-rolls and banner ads for instant monetization.
• A blog about UAB once actively existed in ILoveUAB.com. Students created and ran it, and it was a thing of beauty. After the founder graduated, the blog ground to a halt.
An independent news site about the University of Alabama at Birmingham could really grab the attention of those inside and outside the campus community. Topics could include research, jobs, events (concerts, games, talks, movies), medicine, construction, gossip, alumni, academics, students and Greek life. Plus, I hear football is a hot topic among Blazers these days …
I love these topics. I don’t love them enough to blog about them all year, but I do love them. I hope you’ll steal one of these 10 ideas and blog your way to success in 2015.
What blog ideas for Birmingham did I miss? Share in the comments!
• • •
If you need blogging help beyond the topic, let’s chat …
Facebook communities can become powerful entities. Most of the time, they exist to keep people in touch or help with a short-term goal (event planning, fund-raising).
Two Birmingham Facebook groups have received media attention for their size and their accomplishments. One group started as a trading hub, the other as a cause.
1. Mountain Brook Trading has grown to nearly 55,000 members in a little over 2 years. It’s one of those trading groups where you can buy or sell items with neighbors, or have discussions about where to get your clothes dryer repaired.
Founder Laura Greene Silsbee has taken her closed (as in privacy, not defunct) Facebook group to two new places. The first one is a new online home at VarageSale, a platform better suited for large group interactions and commerce than Facebook. It has 21,000-plus members since opening in July.
The second one is a brick-and-mortar location in partnership with Cyd Quick Ruffino, providing a storefront for consignment sales. It opened earlier this month and received coverage on al.com.
It’s amazing to see a Facebook group turn into a full-fledged business for two entrepreneurs.
2. Save UAB Football sprang into action this month as the University of Alabama at Birmingham eliminated three athletic programs: bowling, rifle and football. With nearly 11,000 members, the closed (again, as in privacy) Facebook group has been a rallying point for students, employees, alumni and residents to fight back.
The UAB football movement has been an online juggernaut, with #FreeUAB becoming a trending hashtag worldwide in the first couple of days. The campus will be quiet for the 3-week semester break, especially after the raucous protests that greeted university president Dr. Ray Watts when he announced his decision 2 weeks ago.
The members of Save UAB Football have brainstormed tactics to win attention, recruit more followers and convince decision makers to restore the cut sports and fire Watts. The New York Times mentioned the group in one of its print/online stories.
It’s impressive to see thousands of strangers band together for a common cause.
I’ve managed my fair share of online communities over 20 years, some more successfully than others. What do you need to do to manage one successfully?
- Define the rules early on, and post them prominently. New members are always showing up, and this helps put everyone on equal footing.
- Do your job as administrator. That means weeding out spam, settling squabbles, encouraging participation and a million little tasks.
- Listen more than talk.
- Accept a group’s natural evolution. Members will leave, and some groups will wither.
Companies that create and grow powerful online communities accomplish goals they can’t do on their own. They stay connected with fans and critics. They collaborate rather than overrun. They empower others.
Join a Facebook group today to see these dynamics in action. The next community to change the world could be yours.
• • •
Need help with online communities?
Put me on your team today …
Often, I am asked about blogging. Specifically, “Why should I blog? I’m no one special.”
You’re not special, but you should blog. I’m no one special, and I blog a lot.
In November, I published 75 posts on five blogs. Four were auto-generated, and two were book chapter excerpts from authors in Birmingham (and I spent time on those long posts with light copyediting).
You don’t have to be special to blog. You just have to make the time to create something and muster up the courage to hit “Publish.” Virtually no one will see your post, and you will have put a little bit of yourself out into the world.
The challenge you face isn’t that you’re an amazing person or a boring person. The challenge is that you’re trying to convert a big nebulous thing like LIFE or VIEWPOINT (or COMPANY or BRAND) into a discrete unit called a blog post.
I don’t have that problem because I’ve been writing a long time for publications. So I’ve had lots of practice converting an EVENT or an INTERVIEW or a CONCEPT into units called articles. If I wrote them quickly and accurately, I might get paid more and have better opportunities to create more interesting articles.
You will not magically write a perfect blog post for your first shot. If it takes you an hour to write one post, it make take 10,000 posts to become an expert blogger.
I’ve got maybe 6,500 posts published in 9 years. So eventually, I’ll be an expert blogger.
I blogged about weightlifting and dieting for a couple of years on Project Bulk. On Day 1, I had zero knowledge about either subject. Zero. But after the first 6 months, fans would come up to me to talk about that one site. They were interested because I was open and passionate about learning more in these two areas.
A stranger at a tailgate party this past weekend knew me from my posts on Media of Birmingham; my last post there was a year ago. But he remembered because he’s interested in local journalism and was kind enough to read my stuff. That is high praise in my book.
You can create those memorable engaging stories for your company. (And yes, your company isn’t special either.) Don’t plan it to death: Create something, hit “Publish,” repeat.
You absolutely do not have to be special to blog. But blogging again and again can actually make you special.
• • •
Don’t wait for Santa to bring you a new blog.
Contact me to get started blogging today.
I hope you’re getting ready for a day of fun and relaxation and maybe even a little reflection. And eating, of course, mustn’t forget the eating.
I’m thankful every day for good health and many opportunities. Allow me to share a few specifics from my long list of blessings.
- I’m thankful for my clients, sponsors, supporters and cheerleaders. You bring me new challenges and new ways to serve.
- I’m thankful to run my own business. It has taught me so many lessons from top to bottom and put my energy and my strategic thinking to the test.
- I’m thankful to have ideas all the time. I give most away, and make some money on the rest.
- I’m thankful for the honest and wise counsel of friends. And doubly thankful that I listen carefully when they speak.
- I’m thankful for the gift of self-doubt. It has kept me honest with myself and humble (mostly).
- I’m thankful for having traveled far and wide this year to give talks and meet people.
- I’m thankful for being able to curb my sharp tongue, but also being able to speak up when few others will.
- I’m thankful for my daily blogging, a never-ending opportunity to be creative and to improve as a writer and a communicator.
Take a moment to reflect on what you’re grateful for, and share it in the comments, please.
Video: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” a TED Talk from Amy Cuddy
Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.
That’s the surprising advice social psychologist Amy Cuddy, at left, gives in her 2012 TED Talk. She explains how “power poses” can inspire confidence before speeches, job interviews and other stressful situations.
I gave similar advice in one recent stress-inducing encounter.
Friday, I had to conduct a mock college admissions interview with a local high school junior. This was part of a high school speech class assignment. She admitted afterward that she was nervous, but I didn’t see (or hear) it during our 25-minute session.
I advised her to speak up. I could hear her OK, but I suggested that speaking in a louder, definitive tone would boost her confidence. I told her to try it out as often as possible: one on one, in groups, in class.
I’ve been working on my posture for 2 years, so I understand how this change in personal projection can affect others.
We can all do little things to both improve our communication and our presence. Cuddy’s talk goes a step beyond looking the part by explaining the science behind how these poses make us bolder. We’re not only changing others’ minds — we’re changing our own.
Watch the video, and try out the poses to see how they affect you.
You may become more powerful than you ever realized, even if you started out faking it.
• • •
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in my free weekly newsletter …
I gave the lunch keynote at the Alabama Media Professionals’ inaugural conference, Navigating Today’s Media, last week. My topic was “Why the collapse of the Birmingham media ecosystem is a good thing.”
If you missed it, check out the tweets from my standing-room-only presentation.
My thanks to the attendees and the organizers for a fine event!
Bill Ledbetter, tweeting my presentation, won a prize for his update!
• • •
Need a keynote presenter who gets people talking?
Contact me today.
Author and entrepreneur Ramit Sethi has a great system for email marketing. He sat down with Tim Ferriss for a two-part 2-hour podcast recently.
Listen to his ideas and tips on not only putting the right message in the email, but also reading every reply (in the thousands) and responding.
(That conversation starts around the 35-minute mark.)
• • •
Don’t forget to check out my free email newsletter
for more free tips and links on better communication …