From the category archives:

blogging basics

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Everybody wonders why some popular blogs are popular, when there are smaller blogs that are more interesting that stay unsuccessful. Though this is not always the case, it’s often very difficult to discern why one blog makes it and another blog doesn’t, particularly if you are prone to forgetting the reality that most people have no ability to sort quality from crap on their own. Most people do not have a highly developed sense of taste, and they rely on other people to tell them what is good and what isn’t.

There are a bunch of factors that lead to a blog being successful. Only one of these things is quality and talent — there is also longevity, the connections of the blogger to other popular bloggers, the phenomenon of the EVENT View definition in a new window, the ability of the blogger to market themselves, and the blog’s story all feed into how popular a blog is. It might seem intuitive that the best blogs seem like the best when you visit them — and sometimes this is absolutely the case — but often this is not true. Something is considered good, much of the time, because somebody influential said that it was good — people who visit the blog are operating on a recommendation from somebody else.

Here’s the thing: back in the day when there weren’t that many blogs to choose from, maybe you checked out each one carefully and decided whether you liked the blog before moving on. There were like ten blogs back then so, you know, why not?

But today, I’m not in the market for any more blogs. I already have too many to read. So when I see your blog, you need to grab me right away and tell me why I need to read you. You simply cannot rely on me to go through and figure out what makes you interesting, because I’m probably not going to do it. And if I’m not going to do it, then you can bet even fewer of the Justin Bieber adoring public is going to bother with it.

If you want to be successful as a blogger, give me a story that I cannot get anywhere else, and make it really easy to find. You have to tell me what it is, don’t count on me figuring it out. There are tons of LOLCats I could be spending my time chuckling over, after all.

Tips For Conference Newbies

by anna on February 14, 2011

There are tons of blogging conferences coming up, and because I know these can cause an unusual amount of anxiety in otherwise normal people, I thought I’d give you some more tips on how to make the most of your experience. Below are some of my tips for conference-going in the blogging arena. Please chime in in the comments if you have more that I’ve overlooked.

1. Go to lunch by yourself.

If you are going to a conference where you already know some people, it can be tempting to rely on those people and never let them leave your side. That’s one way of approaching the conference, but another way might be to force yourself outside of your confort zone and try to get to know as many people as you possibly can. As I wrote here, going to lunch alone is a great way of forcing yourself to stick your hand out and introduce yourself to people you might not otherwise meet.

2. There will be eighty million private parties, and you won’t be invited to all (or any) of them. And it doesn’t matter.

Nobody gets invited to every single brand event View definition in a new window or party. (Nobody — not even the biggies, because some brands assume they won’t show up anyway.) There is a peculiar equation that is used to determine who gets invited to what party and when, and if you base your self-worth on it, you will drive yourself crazy. It just doesn’t make sense — some of the people invited will be “bigger” than you, some will be “smaller,” and each brand has its own theory as to why they want certain people at certain parties. The good news is that nothing really happens at these parties that will help you with anything, so unless you’re desperate for a swag View definition in a new window bag full of Diva Cups and Fritos, it really doesn’t make any difference if you’re invited or not.

3. The person you are talking to is always worth your time, and you can learn something from everyone you meet.

I’ve covered this before, but for some reason, this is something that comes up at nearly every conference — there is always a story about some blogger who turned up their nose at some other blogger, or a “more important” somebody who cuts to the front of the line (this last one has happened to me on more than one occasion, in fact). Listen: the blogging world is always changing, and who is “important” one day may be insignificant the next, and vice versa. Even if you are so unfamiliar with the rules of common decency as to not find this behavior problematic from a moral perspective, I beg of you to think of your own self-interest: what are you going to do when that person you just snubbed is in charge of some project you want to be a part of?

Here’s an interesting thing: one of the most “important” and well known people in the blogosphere I have the pleasure of knowing is Jenny Lawson, and she is also probably the most welcoming person I’ve ever encountered at a blogging conference. Are these two things unrelated? I don’t think so. When in doubt, think WWJLD?, and you will probably be OK.

4. Every year it gets bigger, but it will seem smaller next time you go.

Unless you have been blogging for years and years before attending your first blogging conference, there’s a good chance that your first experience will seem overwhelming and anonymous. This is particularly true if the first conference you attend is BlogHer View definition in a new window, Blog World Expo, or SxSW. Just accept this ahead of time and don’t let it ruin your experience — you probably won’t know that many people, you probably will have to stick your hand out a million and a half times, and because some people are always acting like douchebags, you probably will come back with some kind of awful story about a snobby blogger of whom you had never heard who refused to talk to you or something equally absurd.

Listen: that is just the first time conference experience at work. We all have to deal with it. Don’t sweat it. Because the next time you go, you will know a billion more people than you did the year before, and you will be laughing about how so-and-so snubbed you. And you’ll be the one reaching out to the girl who doesn’t know anybody. Look at the first trip as reconnaissance and it won’t seem as scary, I promise.

Hey everybody, we’ve got a new featured blogger ad up and running! Please check out Katy’s ad for Thought For Food in the sidebar ASAP! If you’d like to participate in the ABDPBT View definition in a new window Featured Bloggers Program, please email me and I’ll put you on the waiting list.

It was almost a year ago that I attended the Mom 2.0 Summit View definition in a new window in Houston and listened to a keynote address from Heather Armstrong View definition in a new window (Dooce), Maggie Mason View definition in a new window (Mighty Girl), and Gabrielle Blair (Design Mom). Their keynote was excellent. In large part this is why I had been recommending the Mom 2.0 Summit to people who are looking for a more business oriented conference within the mommyblogging space. (Note: I still recommend it for people who haven’t been before, and for whom money is not an object, with some other reservations that are described here. And if you want to buy my ticket for cheap, let me know. Is that tacky? I don’t really care.)

One thing about that keynote keeps sticking in my craw in light of recent events, though. There was a moment during the Q&A in which Heather Armstrong answered a question about the future of monetizing blogs by stating that she did not believe that sponsored posts were “where things were going.” I remember this moment specifically because I had been curious about her take on that particular issue. And yet, here we are not even a year later, and everything is about content campaigns.

Well, I’m stodgy. I don’t like it, and maybe I’m sounding like a broken record, but here’s why.

1. A “content campaign” is still a sponsored post, and everybody hates sponsored posts.

Times change, and the environment changes. I get this. So it’s not 100% surprising that we are seeing more content campaigns plus advice on how best to structure them. While I admit that all sponsored content is not created equally, calling it a “content campaign” does not change what it is. People don’t like sponsored posts — they either don’t read them or they get suckered into reading them by people leaving the disclosure until the end of the post, and then they get mad. Filling up your blog — the valuable product that you own — with stuff like that is a questionable long term business plan for most bloggers.

As I have said before, different niches have different levels of comfort with sponsored content. How many readers you stand to alienate with too many sponsored posts can vary greatly. But if your only plan for monetization is to use sponsored posts, you may find yourself without any value (i.e. readers) left at the end of a busy season.

2. Advertisers do worry about overexposure.

You cannot just throw up sponsored posts all of the time willy nilly, even if this didn’t piss off your readers. Why? Because advertisers do worry about whether or not a blogger is overexposed. They will opt to go with another blogger if they feel that you have been using your space to pimp products too much. The reason they will do this is because every time you use content to sell a product, there is a tiny bit of credibility that is expended. If you use too much up without putting enough back in, you don’t have anything left to sell.

3. There is about a 4000% discrepancy in what bloggers get paid to do the very same campaign.

Now that Clever Girls Collective has partnered with Federated Media for content campaigns, the number of people getting sponsored content deals is much bigger than before. But not all of these deals are created equally — there was a recent content campaign that was advertising a rate of $75 for one post to people in Clever Girls Collective who wanted to apply to be a part of the campaign. But according to my sources, that Clever Girls Collective rate is anywhere from 10 to 60 times lower than what a blogger on Federated Media would be offered for the same campaign. THE SAME CAMPAIGN.

Now, maybe you’re thinking $75 is not such a bad deal for one post? And besides, you’re not with Federated Media, and you’re not big enough to command the rates that some of the bloggers who are represented by Federated Media can claim. This may be true, but remember, when you do a sponsored post, you are not working as a freelance writer — the $75 does not just cover your writing labor. It is the price that is attached to the eyeballs who will be reading the piece on your site. And if those eyeballs get tired of looking at sponsored content, how are you ever going to get to the point where you can command more money?

4. If you must do a sponsored post, broker the deal yourself.

The most egregious thing about the rash of content campaigns, though, is the amount of money that bloggers are leaving on the table by letting other people set up these deals for them. If you want to do a content campaign, sell it yourself and take home all of the profit. Think about what kinds of products come up organically in your blog, make a list, and then go pitch some independent businesses for these deals. Most small business owners are easier to convince on this kind of stuff because they’re looking for new ways to promote, and they often cannot afford what a placement through a big ad network would cost them. If you can come up with a good pitch, send them over a professional looking media kit, and show them how well-targeted your blog is for their product, they will sign up. You might have to email or call a few places before somebody signs up, but you’ll take home so much more money in the end that it will be worth it. Plus, you’ll get experience that you cannot get any other way.

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