Are Blogs Dying?

Two weekends ago, I spent my Saturday and Sunday in Washington, D.C. (for the first time—yeah!) at the 7th Annual Military Blogging Conference … and an interesting subject arose during one of the panels.

Are blogs dying?

DeathAnd therefore, subsequently, is the future of sustaining an online presence moving the way of social engagement on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds only?

I found this to be fascinating, because several “old school” military bloggers, who’d been around since 2004/05, mentioned they’d noticed their readership vastly deteriorating. However, some younger bloggers talked about how their Facebook engagement was growing, the conversation therefore moving away from their blog to social networks.

The Social Movement

OK, so here’s what I think: Blogs are not dying (they better not be, or else what the freak am I doing here?). Their methods of drawing website traffic are merely evolving.

Is this a bad thing? Well, that depends on YOU. How resistant are you to accepting change and implementing it? From my personal, as well as professional experience, it appears blogs are not becoming obsolete; however, it’s completely pointless to maintain one if you’re not on Facebook, or Twitter, or both.

I’ve built a readership using my blog. It’s a way for me to write and find readers. I’ve even gained a few freelance jobs through this blog (God bless it!). However, if I relied on my blog solely, would I have reached success?

Definitely not.

I relied, and still do rely, on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and other bloggers to drive traffic to my site. Without the “social platform,” my blog would not—and could not—survive.

Perhaps the bloggers at the conference had a point. Blogs, in their older forms, are dying. They are no longer the go-to hubs for conversation. Maybe it’s time to think of blogs in a different light. Let your social pages drive conversation, and let those conversations drive traffic to your blog, where visitors can delve deeper into subjects or ideas. Best of all, they can learn more about YOU.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Are you seeing less traffic to your blog? Are blogs, in their original forms, dying?

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My Secret to Finding New Readers, Followers

I’m going to let you in on a little social media secret.

It’s one I’ve picked up while working as a media strategist for both my day-job, and as my own consultant (not to mention, building MY readership, as a writer).

It’s a very simple concept, really, but a difficult one for many to grasp. Are you ready? OK … here it is:

You need to find new readers or followers where THEY live—and not expect them to find you, anymore.

The Customer-Centric Business Model

Let me take a step back for a moment. Because really, this stems from a business model.

Businesses used to develop their strategies around them. If you wanted a new Verizon phone, you had to drive to the store. If you needed help with your new laptop, you called the tech support number.

If capitalism was a solar system, then the business was the sun, while customers were the planets.

But that’s all changed now. In today’s world of social media, the customer has become the sun. And if businesses want to survive, they’d better turn into planets.

So How Can YOU Become the Planets?

Here’s a tidbit of encouragement. You already know where your customers or readers live: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress, Blogspot, etc.

  • If you’re an author, many of your target readers may live on Goodreads or Amazon.
  • If you’re a communications consultant, many potential clients probably follow ProBlogger.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

From a business perspective, if a customer has a complaint, they may no longer call the service line. Instead, they may post a “tweet.” If no one is listening and responding, then the customer may start a blog bashing the company. Which could attract OTHER upset customers, forming an angry online mob.

But that’s a whole other topic, on reputation management. My point is, if you want to build an online presence, you need to determine WHO your customer or reader is, and where they live.

Finding Your Reader

So, just how do you find this elusive goldmine? You need to start by listening. Just listening.

For example:

  • Use Twitter’s search function to type in a keyword related to your subject of interest. Are you a writer? Search “writing.” Are you a lawyer? Search “law.”
  • See what people are saying about these topics, as a collective.

Think of yourself as a CIA agent, gathering intelligence. And when you collect enough to understand what people need, you can start reaching out. @Reply to people’s questions on Twitter. Maybe write a blog post about a common concern.

And when you start understanding where your target readers live, make yourself available … there (i.e. become the planets).

About three months ago, I wrote a post for ProBlogger and linked back to my Twitter account, as well as my blog. That gained me several new blog subscribers and dozens of Twitter followers. And here’s the kicker:

They didn’t find me (even if they THINK they did). No, I found them. And you can too …

From Social Media to Hollywood Writing: True Story!

So, have you heard about James Erwin, the writer who made it famous from Des Moines, IA, because his Reddit post landed him a writing gig for Hollywood?

Mashable wrote an article about him earlier this week (which is why I didn’t wait until next Thursday to post).

In short, from the article:

During a lunch break last August, Erwin joined a Reddit thread and laid down the first installment of a sparse, noir-ish narrative addressing whether a modern American marine battalion could defeat the entire Roman Empire. Fellow Redditors were immediately hooked. They demanded more with up-votes and comments, pushing his work to the site’s front page. By day’s end, Erwin had an offer for representation from the talent management firm Madhouse Entertainment. Two weeks later, he had an offer from Warner Brothers to do a full screenplay.

Yea, tell me about it …

But the thing I wanted to emphasize here, is the power of social media for writers, if used correctly.

Erwin is no everyday Joe. Personally, I think the man is brilliant. According to Mashable, he’s written TWO encyclopedias and is a two-time Jeopardy winner. But that’s not why I think he’s Einstein.

Erwin understands the power of “the tease,” and the psychology behind using social media to peak others’ interests. Of course, you can’t count out luck … but you have to give the man SOME credit.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Was Erwin just plain lucky, or was his social media strategy planned to get some attention? How does this story make you re-think your antics to garner exposure, as a writer?

[Stay tuned! Two Thursdays from now, I’ll share the SECRET I’ve discovered to get more readers and followers, using social media! Don’t miss it; subscribe for blog updates via email, in the upper right-hand corner.]

News and New Media: Check Out this Hot Project!

I first learned about The Daily Source because they followed me on Twitter. Just another wannabe online news outlet, I initially thought.

Boy, was I wrong!

After checking out their follower count (20,000+), I decided to give them a follow-back. A day later, I received a direct message from this outlet:

“Thanks for following. Our nonprofit’s team of top journalists scours the Net 24/7 to bring you a feast of top items: http://dailysource.org,” it read.

Non-profit team of top journalists, I thought. I wonder who these people are?

So, I did what any curious, former newspaper reporter would do. I clicked on their link and began researching. Simply put, this is no wannabe online news outlet.

Here’s what I found about The Daily Source:

  • Their editors come from backgrounds at the New York Times, the BBC, NPR, and CNN, just to name a few.
  • Their mission “is to provide high quality news and information from leading sources across the Internet to help the public more effectively utilize their time, money and power to benefit themselves, our country and our world.”
  • They outline the growing problems in today’s media, including lack of public confidence, growing inaccuracies, sensationalism, and poor coverage of important stories.
  • They use new media to combat these issues, and combine today’s online tools with the traditional ethics of good reporting and journalism.

Yea, I almost had an orgasm when I read this. Think of The Daily Source as the NPR of the Internet.

Now, they don’t necessarily write the articles. They seek out the most relevant, accurate, important, and balanced articles across the Web and publish them on their site. They also use platforms like Twitter to disseminate their news.

And because their editors come from such traditional and respected backgrounds, you know you can trust their judgement.

How you can help

Besides the obvious approach (money donations), The Daily Source needs its followers to help spread the word. It also needs you to conduct your news searches through its site, www.dailysource.org.

Why? I’ll let them explain: “This will generate revenue for us, as Yahoo! donates to our nonprofit every time you search via the box on our site.”

I thought this was a cause well-worth a blog post today. Will you help with this great idea? Find The Daily Source on Twitter as well.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How have you noticed the new landscape of social media affecting the traditional realms of journalism? Is it making the mass media better, or worse?

Content Marketing: What You DIDN’T Know

It’s not just for companies. It’s not just for marketers. Content marketing can be applied to anyone or anything seeking exposure:

  • Authors/writers
  • Business owners
  • Non-profits
  • Newsrooms
  • You name it!

And, content marketing is a GREAT way to increase your audience. Writers, use it to develop a loyal readership. Business owners, use it to create customers. Editors or journalists, use it to increase the number of people reading your articles.

What is content marketing?

For those of you new to the world of marketing, here’s a brief explanation. Content marketing is … marketing your content to as many people as possible.

Content can be blog posts, videos, podcasts … anything YOU produce for people to read or view. e-Newsletters, magazine articles, and even the words on your website.

When you produce content, you want to market it through every channel available.

Here’s the key to content marketing

You want to get the most exposure out of each piece of content.  This means you’ll work smarter, not harder.

So, how do you market content, successfully?

Here’s my philosophy: Every business or entity should treat its website and accompanying social media pages, as a news outlet.

Running a law firm? Your content should relate to updates on the law you practice. A writer (like me)? What’s the latest on the publishing world and the hottest writing tips?

Adding on to that, if you want to market your content successfully, follow these tips:

  1. Get organized and plan. If you know what you’ll write next week, and the week after, you can plan where and HOW to market it.
  2. Consider posting less, but instead distributing your content to more places.
  3. Dedicate time to building a following on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin. Engage with your followers.
  4. DO NOT set your website or blog to automatically post published content to social media channels. Craft witty or interesting messages to accompany your posts, and publish at a time when you receive the most response. (TIP: Use Hootsuite to schedule individualized posts ahead of time).
  5. Have any affiliates or partners (including blogging buddies)? Ask if they’d consider promoting some of your content on THEIR channels, if you routinely emailed links of your newly published work. If they accept, pump up your promotion of their content, as a thank-you. 
  6. Use the “bit.ly” tool to shorten your links before sending to your partners and posting on social media. Bit.ly tracks the number of click-throughs and will allow you to see which posts get the most traction (TIP: The topics with the most traction show what interests your readers. Write more about those topics).
  7. Submit some content to popular professional development sites, such as Pro Blogger. If they accept your post, market that same content to your channels. You’ll get double the readership!
  8. Aim for quality, not quantity. Bottom line: no one will share your content if it’s badly written or offers poor advice.

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If you liked this post, you may also enjoy:

  1. On Pro Blogger! Build a LOYAL Blog Following
  2. How Can Hootsuite Help Busy Writers (or anyone else)?
  3. 5 Killer Twitter Tips: Expand Your Network Power!

On ProBlogger! Building a LOYAL Blog Following

I am so excited to announce that today, I was featured on the ever-popular copywriting site, ProBlogger! My post?

6 Steps to a Loyal Blog Following

Only a week ago, when Nina Badzin posted about getting more comments on your blog, several of you asked how to expand your readership. How do you reach more people?

Well, I think you’ll find some great ideas tucked away in my ProBlogger post. And I wanted to make sure to share! So, head on over and …

Read my post now.

How to Get (Many) Comments on Your Blog

The first thing I noticed about Nina Badzin was her Twitter following, which eventually led me to her blog. It’s a GREAT read, by the way.

But something extraordinary caught my eye about Nina’s blog.

On a consistent basis, Nina generates dozens of comments—on EVERY post. Her ability to draw so many comments amazed me, and that’s why I invited her to guest post for Rogue Writer today. Besides running a fun blog, Nina is a published short story writer. So after you read her post today, take a moment and check out her site!

How to Get (Many) Comments on Your Blog 

BY NINA BADZIN

Thank you, Shari, for inviting me to discuss the issue of getting and managing blog comments. I’ve found that comments are a touchy subject because many bloggers pretend they don’t care about receiving them.

I can hear the naysayers now. I truly don’t care if anyone reads my posts, they say. I just want to express myself.

I’m not buying it. Let’s face it, if we weren’t hoping for some kind of response to our posts, then we’d start each one with “Dear Diary” and hide the outcome from the world. The minute we press “publish,” we’re hoping to reach someone.

Why do comments matter anyway?

As Shari pointed out last week when discussing StumbleUpon, unless your blog is monetized, the number of views on a post matters very little and tells you even less. Are people reading the first two sentences and clicking away? Will the same readers come back? And who are these people checking you out in the first place?

And come on, what could be more thrilling for a writer than watching a discussion brew about something we wrote? Over time, we  hope people return, we hope new readers find us, and we hope a community forms. As our writing careers develop and grow, we bank on that community translating  into readers who will stay with us for years to come. Also, comments help us feel like we’re not just talking to ourselves. That’s worth something too.

So how does a blogger get people to take the extra two minutes to leave a comment?

HERE IS THE ANSWER IN 3 PARTS:

#1. You have to leave comments on other blogs. Yes, you need original, insightful, and/or amusing content on your blog. “Content is king” and all that jazz. Still, it’s nearly impossible to build a community unless you’re part of other bloggers’ communities at the same time.

#2. You ought to leave thoughtful comments and get to know other bloggers. Don’t bother with “great post.” For sure don’t say, “I wrote about this too. Come see!” Make it clear you read the post. You’re trying meet other bloggers and writers so you can form real connections. Try to find bloggers you admire. Skip the posts and blogs that don’t interest you. This isn’t about leaving your URL all over town. Be discerning. Be genuine.

#3. Think out of the box when responding to comments. It’s unnecessary to respond to every comment on your blog, especially if there’s nothing new to add. If I’m pressed for time, I’ll visit the blogs of people who left comments for me instead of responding to what they had to say about my post. I’m willing to bet my readers appreciate my avatar in the comments section of their posts more than they care about seeing my face repeatedly pop up on my blog. That’s not to say I don’t respond to comments on my blog. I generally do. But I’m aware of my comments section being about me, whereas visiting another blogger’s latest post is about that person.

BUT DOESN’T THIS ALL TAKE A TON OF TIME?

Yes. One day when we’re in the big league of bloggers and writers, nobody will expect to see us in the comments section of our blogs or their blogs. Until then, we get what we give.

Thanks again for having me, Shari!

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Nina Badzin is a published short story writer. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice listed as a finalist by Glimmer Train Stories. “Always the bridesmaid,” she likes to say. When she’s not running after her four kids or tweeting (@NinaBadzin), she blogs at Nina Badzin’s Blog.

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If you haven’t already, please check out how to share your funny story when you learned the “truth” about Santa! This will be for a special blog post running the week of Christmas, and it won’t work without YOUR contribution.

StumbleUpon: Is it Worth It?

I’ve been hearing it everywhere lately: StumbleUpon drives more traffic to your site than any other social bookmarking service.

But is the traffic GOOD traffic? By this, I mean do people stop and read your work? Do they comment on it? Do they poke around your blog and possibly follow you on Twitter?

All traffic isn’t good traffic

For the past few months, I’ve been experimenting. I signed up for Digg, as well as StumbleUpon. Both are social bookmarking sites. For those a bit newer to the social arena than myself, social bookmarking sites:

  • are like a mix between Twitter and blogs.
  • allow you to follow people, and others can follow you.
  • give you the ability to submit links to be rated higher or lower. The more people who rate them well, the more sets of eyes will see your links.
  • let you leave comments, like blogs.

OK, so back to my original point. I’ve been experimenting. Are social bookmarking sites worth my time? Digg has hardly brought me any new traffic. StumbleUpon has. Check out these page hits (from StumbleUpon only):

  1. This Year, I’m Thankful For … = 49 “Stumbles”
  2. Occupy Yada Yada Yada = 80 “Stumbles”
  3. Top 5 Posts to Develop a Solid Online Presence = 58 “Stumbles”

But I had no new subscribers, no unusually high amount of comments, and no new Facebook or Twitter followers. In essence, these people literally “stumbled” on my site and then continued “stumbling” through more. They probably read nothing other than the first line.

So, is it worth it?

Well, that depends–on YOU. What do you care about? If all you seek are traffic spikes to count in your stats, then yes! StumbleUpon is worth it.

But for me? I’m building a readership. I’m building a community. Traffic spikes mean nothing to me if visitors don’t return. So for the time being, I think I’ll stumble over StumbleUpon.

**If you’re curious about this tool, however, I’ll run a post within the next few weeks explaining how to use StumbleUpon, so it actually works for you. Stay tuned!**

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have you had any success driving traffic to your blog or website using social bookmarking sites, like StumbleUpon, Digg, and Reddit? What worked, and didn’t work, for you?

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Top 5 Posts to Develop a (Solid) Online Presence

A year ago, I hated—and I mean hated—anything social media. I’m a traditional writer, and blogs destroyed my field: journalism.

Right?

Well, only partially. In a few weeks, my story, “Death of a Dream,” will premier on the new Anthem Exposition, and you can read how I turned from hater to believer.

But until then, here’s the summary of what I learned: If you want to make it as a writer today, you need to combine your traditional values with the new strategies of social media and virtual networking.

Otherwise, kiss your hopeful writing career good-bye.

To help you get started (or further develop your current skills), below are my top 5 posts from the past year to help you develop your online presence—as a writer.

1. Three Social Marketing Lessons from a Bananagram

 

 

 

 

2. No Experts in Social Media (but …)

 

 

 

 

3. Five Killer Twitter Tips: Expand Your Network Power!

 

 

 

4. How Can Hootsuite Help Busy Writers (or anyone else)?

 

 

 

5. The 3 Questions EVERY Blogger Must Ask Themselves

 

 

 

Social media isn’t all that complicated. It’s more about learning how to connect the dots. Once it clicks, it’s easy!

Here’s my suggestion:

Bookmark this page, and over the next couple of weeks, come back and read through each post. One at a time, of course. But I think you’ll find, each one brings you another step closer to connecting those dots.

MY QUESTION TO YOU: What’s your question about social media, and how it relates to your work as a writer? Post your question to the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer (either now, or in a future post)!

6 Awesome Writers & Bloggers to Check Out!

Today I have six bloggers and writers I want you to meet. Not only were they the first six to comment on my post this Monday recognizing my 1-year blog birthday (thus the special post today), but each has a unique perspective or style to offer.

I personally visited each of their blogs, read some of their posts, and drafted the summaries below. These are some of my loyal blog followers as well, so give them some comment/subscriber love today! Please, visit their sites and see what they’re about:

1. Blake Dean’s Blog

http://blakedean.blogspot.com/

Blake never sticks to a schedule of what he’s going to post, or when. That’s because he runs things his way, and each post is different from the last. Blake’s blog is a collection of his life events, thoughts and changes.

2. Rub Hub: Tip me or Else …

http://rubhub.wordpress.com/

A fun, kinda quirky, but very real blog about the author’s massage career (don’t you just love the name?). She also writes about her life, her family, and finding herself in-between it all.

3. It’s Not My Thault

http://thault.wordpress.com/

Political, technological, economic, and … Boy Scouts? Yes, this blog is run by a student (I’ll admit, I’m not sure what grade–high school or college–but his writing reads like the analysis of a college student). He talks about everything from the Anonymous hacking group, to Egyptian rioting, and the 4G networks.

4. My Sardinian Life

http://laavventura.wordpress.com/

Jennifer Avventura is a 30-something married Canadian woman living in Italy. Wowza! If you’re into traveling and food, you’ll want to check out this blog. Find entries on everything from hunting season in Sardinia to dwellings of Babylon.

5. My First Blog of 2011

http://babyjill7.wordpress.com/

Give Marilyn Griffin a hand! This is her first blog of 2011, and according to one of her posts, she may begin another in 2012. Her theme the first time around? “My Experiences/My Special Ed Kids.” Read Marilyn’s unique style of telling stories through line breaks and pictures.

6. Wordsxo

http://www.wordsxo.com/

Julia Munroe Martin is a professional freelance writer and editor, and she blogs from the coast of Maine. Why name her blog wordsxo? In her own words, “Wordsxo stands for: loves words or word love.” And that’s exactly what Julia blogs about: writing and the writing life.