The sad news is that BlogWorldExpo is over. The awesome news is I had absolutely the best time over the past few days and am so happy I got to meet and reconnect with such great people. Here’s a glimpse of what went down in case you weren’t here hanging out with us. Warning: Some of my absolute favorite people are mentioned below. Enjoy. :)
7 Harsh Realities Of Blogging
Day three of BlogWorld kicked off with a killer content from three people I personally have a huge amount of respect for – Brian Clark, Sonia Simone and Darren Rowse. I also have giant crushes on them (especially Sonia), but that’s besides the point. The three were on hand to unleash seven harsh realities of blogging for bucks. Because even though combing social media and business isn’t rocket science, there are some misconceptions that people often mess up. Here’s the hot seven.
- Free is not a business model: People think that blogging means giving away lots of free content and waiting for the money to magically appear. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Yes, blogging means giving away free content but what it is, is an attraction strategy. Your content attracts people by giving them something that they want. Good content is like advertising. You need to have a business model. You don’t necessarily need to know what it is immediately, but you have to know that people are buying things related to what you’re talking about. You can develop products, develop software, give them new content or even repackage content you’ve already given them for free. It doesn’t matter. People think that others won’t buy information because so much is given away from free. That’s not true. You can tell people 90 percent of everything and they’ll pay money to get the final 10 percent.
- The push-button Internet Cash Machine is on the fritz: When Darren Rowse launched his first eBook he made 150k in seven days. It felt like the Internet was a cash machine, but then he remembered he had been blogging for seven years before that and he had been developing his photography site for 2.5 years. The Internet will make you money if you build something that is real and that matters. That’s what bloggers need to focus on.
- You are not scalable: Yeah, so this was a big one for me. According to Sonia, we should not try to model ourselves after Chris Brogan or Gary V because they have alien DNA. They’re not real people. You (probably) ARE a real person. That means you’re going to get to a point where you need to set better boundaries around yourself and how you connect with people. That’s just part of growing up. You want to have a brand about trust…but you also want to have a life. You can’t be on 24/7. You can’t be connected to your people 100 percent because then you can’t take care of yourself. Social media will take everything you give it. If it’s taking more than you can give then you have not set a boundary. Holy freakin’ amen.
- No one actually wants that much authenticity: Nobody wants to know the details of who you were with last night (srsly, please stop tweeting about this), what you had for breakfast, your bodily functions, etc. This is part of that having boundaries things. Sonia says there’s an art to being strategically fucked up. She uses Johnny B Truant and Naomi Dunford as the poster children for this. They share a lot, but they don’t share everything – they don’t share the stuff that’s boring. They maintain their authority but they’re also human and funny. Brian mentioned that you can be the real you, but what if no one likes the real you? He must have noticed me in the audience because he mentioned my Copyblogger belly dancing post where I advised not to be the real you, but to be the best you. He believes that.
- Social media hates selling…but you have to sell: What you’re selling in social media is you. Not that you’re great, but that you have value and something to offer. You have to promote your content before you build enough of an audience that they’ll promote it for you. Use social media to get people exposed to what you’re doing. People may hate to be sold, but they love to buy.
- A blog is not a business: It’s not a business until you make it one. Darren’s whole outlook on blogging changed when his wife gave him an ultimatum – he had six months to make a full-time living from blogging or he had to give it up. That’s when he started contacting advertisers, when he started analyzing his stats, and when he started everything he had always put off doing. He made his blog a business.
- No one is reading your blog: If no one is reading your blog it’s because there aren’t enough people interested in what you’re talking about OR you’re not writing about your topic in a way that’s fresh. Either way, you need to change it. You don’t need to attract every reader on the Internet; you just need a couple thousand who really like you.
Ethics and Social Media Marketing
The next session I sat in touched on something I don’t think gets highlighted enough – ethics in social media. Luckily Jeremy Wright, Jay Baer, Brandon Eley and Patrick O’Keefe were on hand to give us the lowdown. While it’s sometimes hard to iron down exactly what makes something ‘unethical’ in social media, you usually know it when you see it. We know that spam is bad, advertising without permission is bad, comment spam is bad, astroturfing is bad, random messaging on Twitter is bad, etc. Brendan noted, however, that it’s not always intentional. Companies don’t always see what they’re really doing when they run a campaign. It’s not social media marketing that’s the problem; it’s the shift to transparency that trips people up.
One of the big things the panel touched on was the issue of disclosure. Obviously, disclosure is important when we talk about ethics in social media, but how much disclosure is really required? If it’s known you’re working for a marketing agency, do you have to disclose it every time you mention a client or is it up to the customer to put that together? Jay and Brendan were of the mindset that marketers don’t have to specifically disclose it every time he mentions a client because it feels weird and it’s implied because you know what they do for a living. Jeremy took the opposite approach, saying he includes the hash [#client] any time he mentions a client because, in his eyes, you can never disclose too much. I tend to agree with Jeremy, only because if you’re found out to NOT be disclosing something your brand can find itself in a world of trouble. It’s must safer just to throw it all out there. As long as the message is relevant and valuable, people don’t really care.
Another thing touched on was the ethics of social relationship building. Relationships on the Web have a natural course – You follow someone on Twitter, then you connect on LinkedIn, then maybe you call them on the phone, and then you’re helping them move when they change towns. Where people get in trouble is when they try to jump that order. They’ll try and call someone before they’ve ever really connected. We see this a lot with blogger pitches where PR people try and call in a favor on a relationship they haven’t established yet. That’s why there are lots of posts on how to pick bloggers because bloggers and journalists are often very different animals – bloggers typically haven’t been trained so they tolerate less bullshit. They want to co-create a story, not regurgitate the press release someone has provided for them.
Before you engage in any type of community, take time to observe community norms, read community guidelines, and then ask staff for permission or clarification before you put your foot in your mouth. As long as you disclose when you have to, are honest in your message, and are respectful of the rules for the space you’re in, you’ll stay on an ethical path.
Building an Irresistible Private Membership Community
For my last true session of the day I headed over to listen to Lara Kulpa, Jeremy Wright, Chris Garrett and Patrick O’Keefe talk about what it takes to create a thriving membership community. First, what are the advantages of creating a private community compared to just making it open to the public? Pretty much all the panelists agreed that one of the biggest wins of having a private community is that it helps to eliminate spam, trolls and comment drive-bys. When there’s a barrier that people have to get over to join, members are more invested and you block out the people who are only there to cause trouble, because they’re bored or because their mother doesn’t love them.
Lara and Chris both echoed that another benefit of a private community is that is allows people to have greater discussions or to share more personal information because there’s no fear it’s going to show up in the search engines. I really like that aspect to it – making your company more of a Member’s Only group where people feel comfortable sharing more. I’d love to be able to incorporate some of that for Outspoken Media.
How big does your audience need to be to withstand a private community? Chris Garrett threw out the 150 number to ensure that conversations keep going. Patrick, on the other hand, cautioned people away from using numbers as a way to benchmark. Numbers don’t matter, engagement right. He’s right of course…but you still need bodies in the room. One fifty may be a good starting point.
You also need to have clear community guidelines and make sure they’re applied fairly and evenly. Patrick mentioned that one of the most challenging situations he deals with aren’t spammers, it’s when a veteran member suddenly feels entitled and starts acting out. You need to make sure you have guidelines in place and are documenting bad behavior in case you have to take action. You also have to make sure that veterans aren’t keeping new members away. I’ve seen some good SEO communities go bad that way. Lead from the front.
And that’s it from BlogWorldExpo. I want to thank everyone for hanging out with us and to everyone who introduced themselves and shared a beer with me. I had absolutely the best time. Thanks so much!