Beyond Inspiration: 5 Ideas for a Successful Blog

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I started blogging haphazardly last year in Blogger simply because I thought it was something I needed to experience hands-on. I wanted to capture my thoughts on merging content development and online marketing for a previous employer, and realized blogging was one way to do it. This was something completely new and intimidating for me (while I have no trouble speaking in front of a large audience blogging seems overwhelming – I think it’s the permanence and competition out there). I haven’t blogged as much as I hoped, but did manage to put my domain to use and gather some rudimentary WordPress skills (with help). Not a bad start.

Since then I have come across many inspiring bloggers that I try to regularly follow. After some news about SEO Smarty becoming an SEO Mom hit Twitter, I came across her blog post on advice that helped her when starting out.

1. Turn your weak points into the strong ones. Ann Smarty blogs in a foreign language, so as a result, she writes short posts, provides lists and specific action items. This has become her selling point, and as a result has been published in many newsletters. I struggle with finding a) time and b) the challenge of providing something useful in the realm of experts. Because of this I am diligent to learn, and have overcome the anxiety of asking questions in fear of losing face. Through networking and organizing myself, I can provide insight and resources that can give back. Which transitions well to the next thought …

2. Organize yourself, your work process and your resources. I use delicious to organize posts, tools and resources to refer to on a regular basis. I certainly could improve my blogging process, become more diligent, post to Sphinn and YouMoz, outline steps to syndicate my own content (in other words, take my own advice). But for me, this is a work in progress. I have a creative background, and if the process gets to rigid, it’s likely I’d lose interest. Ann has her own method of organization. Find what works for you, and stick with it. It could be a combination of methods, but it needs to fit your work-style.

3. Openly share all your knowledge. As SEO Smarty states, “It is dumb to think that once you share some piece of knowledge, someone can turn it against you or become your competitor.” There’s a good chance it won’t happen. The blogging, SEO and internet marketing communities are a generous bunch. They will share what they know, provide help when they can, and hold you accountable. I have learned more from networking and hands-on experience in the past 6 months than I could have sitting at a trade show conference. It is only fair to give back, and provide feedback when you can. I’m actually a believer in this method, and it has been successful for me.

I’ve also added a few more ideas to added to SEO Smarty’s list:

4. Be transparent. Nobody wants to read about how awesome you are, or how you never say or do the wrong thing. Share what you can, be honest, and ask for help when you need it. I’ve mentioned this before, and have admitted openly that my CSS skills are lacking. In fact, if it weren’t for Dan Freeman, another Mainer who I only know through Twitter, this blog would still look like a mess of code.

5. Participate and comment in other blog discussions. I try to find one blog post or article to comment on each day. Just one. Obviously this builds links back to your blog, but it also forces me to think constructively on a topic or theme that I may not know much about. It also provides another way to give back when I can contribute a tool or resource to add to the conversation.

I would like to hear more how people are inspired and motivated to blog. What drives you to start writing?

Social Media as a Marketing Service

Dave Snyder asked me to post a topic to the Search and Social study group, but thought it may be a good idea to post my same question here and see what you all think.

Last week we did a quick local SEO 101 presentation/training session where a highly-regarded PR firm attended. We were happy to see them, and had an engaging conversation on the impact of SEO and social media in the PR landscape.

But this in itself presents a challenge for anyone who works for a search marketing firm. With the growing comfort level for search marketing and social media at agencies and internal marketing departments, how does an SEO firm work with a client who already uses an advertising agency or PR firm that offer the same services? Do you “consult” on the projects that are already “optimized” by other agencies? Do you start offering these other services, expanding solely from search (such as social media efforts)? If so, how do you introduce social media as part of a search strategy? Do you provide the content development and syndication service as part of social media plans?

Of course, the folks in this arena are well-versed in social and the impact on search, but once presented with a potential client who has enough understanding to be dangerous (yet still confused), the challenge of _not_ sounding obtuse and buzz-wordy is a big one.

I’ve done a little research on social media specifics that you can actually offer as a service, but most service descriptions I’ve found (mostly from agencies) have been very broad, with lots of marketing-speak that just make my eyes roll.

As you can imagine, this could go in many different directions, and would love to hear your thoughts, or if you’ve come across the same challenges. I’ll be happy to compile the results and share the feedback.

How to Be Creative and the Social Objects That Get People Talking

Many folks know I come from a creative background, I studied painting in college, and first got into marketing via graphic design (back when it was called “desktop publishing”). So when I came across this blog post by Hugh MacLeod on how to be creative, of course I stopped and pondered a bit. First, I thought there was a bit of irony that there’s an organized list on how to be creative. But I liked the list, so I’m posting it here. But take a look at the last item when you get to the end of the list:

So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years:

1. Ignore everybody.

2. The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be yours.

3. Put the hours in.

4. If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.

5. You are responsible for your own experience.

6. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.

7. Keep your day job.

8. Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.

9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.

10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.

11. Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

12. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.

13. Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.

14. Dying young is overrated.

15. The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do, and what you are not.

16. The world is changing.

17. Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.

18. Avoid the Watercooler Gang.

19. Sing in your own voice.

20. The choice of media is irrelevant.

21. Selling out is harder than it looks.

22. Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.

23. Worrying about “Commercial vs. Artistic” is a complete waste of time.

24. Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.

25. You have to find your own schtick.

26. Write from the heart.

27. The best way to get approval is not to need it.

28. Power is never given. Power is taken.

29. Whatever choice you make, The Devil gets his due eventually.

30. The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.

31. Remain frugal.

32. Allow your work to age with you.

33. Being Poor Sucks.

34. Beware of turning hobbies into jobs.

35. Savor obscurity while it lasts.

36. Start blogging.

Uh, start blogging?

Well, his point is that blogs help make things happen indirectly. In a world driven by statistics and ROI, blogging can be a creative marketing tool, you just need the time. And eventually, if done well, your blog, or product, will become the “Social Object” – the reason people talk to each other in the first place. And then – voila – the “Social Object” becomes a “node” of your social network.

I think what I like the most is his approach: blog for yourself. I’ve found blogging a daunting task, although I really want to keep up with it. Why? It’s because I think people care, and so it has to be perfectly informative and useful. I don’t want to embarrass myself. But if I remember these tips on How to Be Creative, it really shouldn’t matter, right?

Anyway, it’s heady stuff, and I find it fascinating, and intend to keep plowing through.

Another conversation on the way

Drew McLean and Gavin Heaton are doing it again – there’s a call out for contributors a new collaborative project as a follow up on the Age of Conversation. The clever minds behind this new breakthrough project is also asking for input on themes for this next book. My personal favorite is “Why don’t people get it?” This way there’s an opportunity to demonstrate some actionable steps that help us get out of a rut. But you can vote for yourself!