This week was Thanksgiving in the United States, and I know this time of year has a general theme of “thankfulness” around the world, since the holidays are fast approaching.
Side note: what the heck? Wasn’t it just July? Where has 2013 gone? Anyone else feel like it’s been a blur?
I want to write a bit about thankfulness as a blogger today, and I hope you’ll indulge me by reading…because I think a lot of people get it kind of wrong. Or at least not 100% right.
Around the holidays, from about mid-November to the beginning of January, I see a lot of bloggers thanking their readers for visiting, sharing, being part of the community. They say thank you to sponsors. They say thank you to readers who have turned into customers by making a purchase or donation. They say thank you to email subscribers and social followers.
All of these are wonderful targets of thankfulness. I don’t want to take away from how important it is to say thank you.
Only, I have to wonder, why don’t we say it during the entire year? And more importantly, why don’t we show our thankfulness year-round.
Being thankful has somehow become a feeling reserved for this time of year, when the calendar says it’s time to suddenly grow some warm fuzzies and tell people that we appreciate them.
Instead, I’d like to propose that we spend the year saying thank you. And the very best way I personally know how to do that is to pay it forward.
Think about the days when you first started to blog. Think about all of the friends who supported you, the readers who gave you a chance, and the new fans who took a moment to tell their friends. Think about your mentors, the people who spent their time teaching you and helping you succeed. Think about the people who said YES to being interviewed by you, even though you were just starting out. Think about the moments when you wanted to quit, but someone said NO! and their support helped you find the strength to endure. Think of all the brains you picked.
Often, I see bloggers turn up their noses at anyone who wants to “pick their brains.” It really, really bugs me when people rant about how they hate when people ask to “pick their brains.” I get it. I really do. Our time is limited, and we have to put food on the table.
But are you telling me that you really don’t have time to help out someone new by answering a question via email? You really can’t go to lunch with someone so they can get some advice to help them struggle through those first years of blogging? You really are so busy that you can only read the blogs in your feed reader already, rather than supporting someone new with a comment of encouragement, even though that comment isn’t going to bring any value to you?
Have you forgotten those who helped you? What if they would have instead turned their noses up at you? Would you still be where you are today?
You don’t have to give people hours of your time for free to show the world you are a thankful person. The thing is…most people won’t ask for it. If you’re too busy to have lunch, people understand and are happy for just 10 minutes over coffee. If you can’t answer an email in detail, people understand and are happy for just generalized comments. If you don’t have time for a Skype call, people understand are are happy that you just send them some favorite links where they can research some answers to their questions.
There aren’t enough hours in the day, especially as your blog grows in popularity. But you can try. You can get outside of your comfort zone circle of online friends and show others that you have a thankful spirit.
Help people. Let me say that again: HELP PEOPLE. And then remind them to pay it forward. Remind them to help people too, someday when they are rich and famous, as a way of saying thank you.
Put good out into the world and good will come back to you. Give it a try. I promise that this isn’t some kind of hippy-dippy belief system where if you really believe in something it comes true. It’s just a general way of living, with gratitude in your heart. If you can do that, you’ll be surprised at the new and amazing opportunities that come your way.
Jun 6, 2013 Community
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!”
Growing up, we had a sign in our kitchen that read, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s the same as the goose-gander message: a woman who is unhappy can make the life of her partner a living hell, so if you’re a man who wants to be happy, step one is pleasing your wife/girlfriend.
Too many bloggers consider themselves the goose in the blogger-reader relationship. In actuality, us bloggers are the gander.
In other words, just because something is good for you doesn’t mean it is good for your readers, and you should always be considering their needs first.
A great example of this is the idea of removing dates from your blog posts, which I recently wrote about on the NMX blog. Time after time, I see bloggers talking about how removing dates has increased their stats. But you know what? It’s annoying. As a reader, I am cranky when I can’t see when a post is written because I don’t know how to tell if the opinions or facts in the post are outdated or not.
Another example? Pop up advertisements. There isn’t a single person out there you likes them. Yet many bloggers use them because the conversion rates are so good.
You are not the goose. You are the gander. Your job is to keep your readers happy, even if the stats tempt you to put into place practices that your readers hate. Long-term, it’s not worth it. Remember, numbers don’t always tell you the full story. For every new click you get because your posts are dateless, what if three-long term readers stop linking to you? What if your pop up ad leads to conversions on an individual level, but those people decide not to share your post because they don’t want to annoy their followers with the ad?
Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Make them happy and you’ll be happy too in the long run.
May 12, 2013 Community
We human beings have a lot of pride.
No one likes to be wrong, especially on the Internet. Yet, the Internet culture is one of ridiculing people, complaining, and ranting. People are unnecessarily snarky and downright mean. Even when negative statements are justified, tact and manners seem to fly out the window when commenting online.
Today, I’d like to propose that we all take time to say “I’m sorry” a little more often, especially to people in our community.
Not “I’m sorry you feel that way,” which really means, “I’m right, but I want to say something that is mildly snarky while still sounding like I take the high road even though I’m fooling nobody.”
Not “I’m sorry you had issues,” which really means, “You’re at fault for this problem. No one else is having issues.”
Not “I’m sorry that I can’t help you,” which really means, “I don’t feel like taking the time or making an effort to help you, even though I feel bad you have a problem.”
Not “I’m sorry, but…” because as my friend Deb Ng has said, “Usually, things that come after a ‘but’ mean that the first half of the statement isn’t true.
I’m not even proposing that you start to take on people’s problems. Not every “I’m sorry” has to come with a solution attached. Sometimes, “I’m sorry” is just that – a notice to the other person that you want to apologize for the issue at hand, and that you’d like their forgiveness. You’ve made a mistake.
Because we’re proud, it can be hard to admit a mistake. I struggle with it every day. I am my father’s daughter; I am a stubborn person. Bull-headed, my mother is fond of saying.
“I’m sorry” can make your community stronger, though. When you acknowledge another person’s feelings of anger or sadness, you give them a gift that we don’t see often enough online. And that’s the real high road. If you can make someone feel better instead of worrying about saving your own face and hiding your mistakes, that’s when you’ve become a real community manager.
Jun 25, 2012 Community
The other day, I was thinking about how nice it is to write in niches like food and social media, where people are generally nice to one another. Sure these community have the occasional troll just like any community does, but in general, people are respectful. They disagree sometimes, but the drama is kept to a minimum. This is drastically different than a previous niche where I wrote (gaming) which seemed to be full of immature assholes who got off on ruining others’ days.
Some niches are just like that.
Or are they?
As I thought about it more, I realized that although some niches naturally have more trolls than others (you’re going to find more disrespectful comments on a game or celebrity blog than you are on a finance blog in most cases), I am the leader and ultimately the person responsible for my community.
When I wrote for the gaming blog, I would often pen feature pieces filled with opinion. I was aggressive and snarky, the same way lots of game bloggers are, because people responded to that style. One of the most popular pieces I wrote on the site was a post called, “No, I Won’t Have Sex With You,” which was about how annoying it is to just want to play a game online and have guys try to hit on your simply because you’re female. The tone of the post was accusing and even borderline mean.
I don’t apologize for this; it was a good post. But what kind of readers did that post attract?
Furthermore, rather than shut down any bullies or trolls that commented on that post, we rode the wave of popularity. Each increasingly vile comment or attack would lead to more comments and links and traffic. We allowed the negativity to thrive. We created that community.
Now again, the gaming niche is already full of jerks more so than other niches, but as the blogger, I have to take responsibility for creating a community where they were welcome. Myself and the co-founders of this blog could have shut it down. The post wouldn’t have been nearly so popular, but we could have moderated comments or stepped in to the conversation to make it clear that disrespect would not be tolerated. We did not.
So ultimately, we had to be responsible for the community of jerks we created.
Think about that when you are writer and when you are creating comment policies for your blog. Having a negative community like that is certainly a valid option. Some very popular blogs like Perez Hilton thrive on negativity. But then don’t complain when your community isn’t about kum-bi-ya, rainbows, and unicorns.
My life is much happier since we closed the doors at that gaming blog and I truly think that one of the reasons why is that I don’t have that negativity in my life anymore. For me, allowing the trolls room to flourish on my blog was not worth the stress. At the time, I blamed them, but ultimately it was my fault for shaping that community to be what it was.
What are you shaping your community to be?
- 19 Ways to Build Relationships With Blog Comments (socialmediaexaminer.com)
- When Internet Trolls Attack: Sherri Shepard Edition (clutchmagonline.com)
- Using Social Media to Make People Feel Special (waxingunlyrical.com)
Feb 29, 2012 Community
As you build your blog, you’ll also start to build a community. Community, in the beginning, means that you have a group of cheerleaders, people who believe in what you’re doing and care about your message. Blog zombies tend to ignore their community, but if you cultivate it, you can actually use your fans to build you blog faster. So here are my top five tips for new bloggers regarding their community:
1. Get to know your fans.
When you’re a blogger like Chris Brogan, you can’t possible get to know every person who leaves a comment on your blog or retweets one of your links. There aren’t enough hours in the day. But when you’re just starting out, you’re only going to have a handful of dedicated readers. Get to know them. Say hello. Visit their blogs. You don’t have to become fans in return, but you can at least take the time to reply to them on Twitter.
2. Reply to comments.
I used to be of the mindset “only reply to comments if you have something to say.” I’ve amended that idea a bit. I still think that it only hurts your community if you leave useless comments like “Thanks for reading!” as responses, but I think you should work hard to try to have something to say in reply to everyone. It doesn’t always happen, of course, but replying to comments shows new readers (and potential community members) that you’re listening.
3. Highlight your community members in posts.
People love to feel special. When someone writes an especially good comment on your blog or a social network, use it as a jumping off point for a blog post of your own, linking back to the original inspiration of course. When you highlight community members, you’ll telling them that you’re happy they’re invested in the success of your site.
4. Ask for advice.
Your community will feel needed if you take a moment to ask for their advice or opinions. Shoot out a question on Twitter. Create a poll on Facebook. Ask for advice via blog comments. Give your community a way to get vocal.
5. Stay active.
When you’re building a new community, staying active by posting regularly, interacting every day via social media, and answering your emails promptly is important. Someone who has a huge fan base might be able to get away with posting only once every month or so, but for new bloggers, that typically doesn’t work well. You have to stay on the forefront of their minds so you become a fixture there, not something that’s easily forgotten.
Your turn – what are your best community tips for beginners? Or, if you’re a newbie yourself, what are your biggest community frustrations?
- How to Get More Shares on Every Post (blogworld.com)
- 6 Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Community Manager on Community Manager Appreciation Day (kommein.com)
- How To Avoid Community Manager Burn Out (outspokenmedia.com)
- 4 Critical Mistakes that Cost me 1000′s of Subscribers, Fans and Followers (kikolani.com)
Dec 9, 2011 Community
Recently, I attended a free virtual event about publishing. In order to sign up, I had to give away my email address, so I knew I’d be added to an event email list. That’s the name of the game. And really, I did want emails from them, at least leading up to the event. I like to be kept in the loop.
The event wasn’t my thing in the end. It was a well-organized event; it just wasn’t for me.
I continued to get emails after the event ended, mostly about future events and partner events. That’s okay. I expected that from the organizers, and if I had liked their event, I probably would have been happy to continue receiving emails. But, since I have no intention of ever participating again, I decided to unsubscribe. And that’s where I ran into problems.
See, when they collected my email address, they didn’t just add me to a main list. They added me to all of their lists, and in order to stop receiving emails, I have to unsubscribe to all of them. Separately.
What the fuck.
I’ve been trying to unsubscribe from these damn lists for over three weeks now. Every time I think I’m good, I get another stupid email about their stupid events. I’ve unsubscribe to at least ten lists at this point. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
It’s shady at best to add me to so many lists without a clear way to unsubscribe to all of them at once. The way they did it was very smart, because they have it set up so that you only get one email every few days, even though you’re on all the lists. As soon as you unsubscribe from one, another that’s been dormant kicks in.
News flash: I DON’T WANT TO GO TO FUTURE EVENTS.
This company is like a crazy ex who is stalking me. I’m not going to take you back. You’re lucky that I don’t have a restraining order. Yet.
I’m not going to have a sudden change of mind. In fact, all this is doing is pissing me off more and more. Even though the event itself wasn’t for me, I was happy to recommend to it people who I thought could benefit from it. At first. Now? I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone because I find the constant sales emails so annoying. I’m pretty sure that their goal isn’t to annoy people to the point where they speak badly about their events.
The moral of the story here is that unsubscribes suck, but you have to make it easy for people. Anyone who wants to unsubscribe isn’t a valuable list member anyway, since they aren’t likely to click your links, read your blog, buy your products, or promote your services. They’re just a useless number, not part of your community. So let them go!
- Ask the Readers: Why Did 125 People Unsubscribe from VBL Last Month? (virtualbusinesslifestyle.com)
- How I Tripled My Mailing List Sign-Ups in Less than 10 Minutes (blogworld.com)
- Listen and Learn When Customers Unsubscribe from Your Email List (community.constantcontact.com)
This week was not exactly a bright spot in the social space. Earlier today, news broke that Diaspora co-founder Ilya Zhitomirskiy died today at the age of 22. Reports of his death have been confirmed by the Diaspora team, though an exact cause has not been named. Rumbling rumors have whispered the word that no one likes to hear: suicide.
I immediately thought of Trey Pennington, who unexpectedly committed suicide earlier this year. I immediately thought of Simone Back, who announced her suicide on Facebook and her “friends” all bickered from their computers instead of helping her. I immediately thought of people I’ve lost in my past because they decided to end their own lives.
This world is a hard one.
Those of you who know me know that I’ve dealt with depression on and off for a long time. I’m not a stranger to thinking that my life and everything I’m doing is worthless. I’m no stranger to thinking that I’m a complete failure and you’d all be better off without me.
Chances are, you’re not a stranger to those thoughts either.
When I’m brave enough to have one-on-one conversations with people about anxiety, depression, and suicide, I’m often left staring at another person who’s teary-eyed and says, “Me too, Allison. Me too.”
So this is a wake-up call for you, hopefully – that you are not alone.* We’re often afraid to talk about it, but we’re all around you. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has never felt completely defeated in life, that’s okay. That’s actually fantastic! This isn’t some kind of special club that you should strive to be in. But perhaps this is a wake-up call for you too – a lot of people around you are suffering. We put on happy faces and try to do our best to carry on, but some days are incredibly hard.
It’s nobody’s fault.
And social media, the online world, is supposed to make this all better, right? Maybe it does. I’ve been able to connect with friends when I’m blue, even at 3 in the morning, because Twitter never sleeps. I’ve been able to look back at all the glorious, funny times I’ve had with friends because they’ve all shared pictures on Facebook. I’ve been happily reminded that I’m loved and the world is good and it is all going to be okay. So yes, maybe social media is making this better.
Sometimes, I guess, better isn’t good enough.
What I think many people don’t realize is that this industry, the new media world, is extremely tough. I get a kick out of bragging to my friends that I get to make my own schedule and work from home and all that good stuff…but in reality, there’s a dark side as well. We’re constantly under scrutiny for everything we do because we live online under a microscope. We’re attacked by trolls, and even when we’re reminded to ignore them, it still hurts the soul. We’re pressured to blog more, blog better, blog until our fingers bleed for an audience that has the attention span of a gnat. We’re built up by our peers one day only to be knocked down the next, and all in public.
I don’t know if Zhitomirskiy’s death was suicide. They’re just speculation. For all I know, a meteor could have fallen on his head while he was sleeping. But what I do know is this: for every Trey Pennington and Simone Back there are countless depressed bloggers and social media professionals and users who aren’t well known and who don’t get national coverage.
I often think, “What if this is my last post?” It’s a morbid sort of thought, but it’s the thought that I think we all have from time to time when we hear of a death in our sacred all-too-small social media space. It’s part of why I challenge myself to make everything I write as awesome as possible.
Today, though, I want to challenge you all to think a little different. When reading something from your favorite blogger, think, “What if this is his/her last post?” Think twice before leaving that overly-critical comment where your snarky tongue was perhaps a bit too sharp. Don’t blow off the thought crossing your mind that you really should send the blogger an email telling him/her how their work has changed you in some way – just do it already. Defend him/her when the trolls attack. Hit the like button or retweet rather than waiting for tomorrow. Be proud of these new media pioneers.
Be good to the bloggers in your life. Be good to the people in your life. Be good to yourself. Tomorrow is not a guarantee.
Please consider leaving a comment of support on this post for bloggers who are reading this and feel upset and like failures. I’ve been a long-time supporter of the organization To Write Love on Her Arms, which helps people suffering from depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide, so in addition to the regular donations I make, I’m going to send in another $5 for every comment I receive on this post, up to $100.
*If you are having suicidal thoughts, please get help. It will pass. It will get better. I know because I’ve been there. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or consider a hotline where you can talk to someone who is outside of the situation. And if none of those things are viable for you, talk to me. I’m allison_boyer on Twitter or allison -at- abcontentonline.com via email (that’s the best email to use for a fast response, though info -at- blogzombies.com also works).
Oct 13, 2011 Community
Ah, the days of LiveJounral and Xanga. I actually think those blogging platforms are still around, at least in some form. They gave bloggers a voice, a way to vent online. We blogged out little hearts out, no rhyme or reason – we just said whatever was on our minds. It was blogging chaos!
I’ve been nostalgic about the earlier days of blogging (remember my lament about the lack of blogrolls last week?). We didn’t know how to monetize at all, but we weren’t doing it for money. We were just connection with friends and, later, strangers who shared similar interested even though they lived half-way around the world. It was beautiful. I remember the first time I got a comment from someone I didn’t know. I thought it was weird that some random person cared what I had to say…but I was also super excited. Someone cared.
I’ve never been someone who is the life of the party. My circle of friends is small, and I easily get lonely. Blogging opened a whole new world for me, where I didn’t have to be afraid of my social anxiety holding me back. I could be an introvert and that was okay, because I could still connect with people and share my ideas.
Today, I think a lot of bloggers have gotten away from that spark, that passion to share ideas and meet amazing, interesting, fabulous people who you would never meet otherwise. We’re focused so much on the next big money-making project that we forget that sometimes, blogging is just pure joy because you get to connect. It doesn’t have to go farther than that. There doesn’t have to be an ROI to our relationship. Making money is great, but people are even better.
You want ROI? I love my job as a blogger. And that’s priceless, isn’t it?
The days of LiveJournal weren’t so bad. I hope we can get back to that mindset, at least a little. I don’t like feeling like we’re back in high school, where you only want to be my friend because I have the homework answers. Let’s just be friends, period. And it sounds a little cheesy and idealistic, but if we stop thinking with dollar signs 100% of the time, maybe we can work together to change the world.
- The social networks of yesteryear. How the mighty have fallen (royal.pingdom.com)
- A Quick Look: Blogging History (arkitecteral.wordpress.com)
- Problogger Darren Rowse visits #BWEChat (jtdabbagian.com)
- Are Internet Friends “Real” Friends? (blogher.com)
- Srinivas Rao Talks How to Maximize Engagement With Your Audience (blogworld.com)
The alternative title to this post is “Duh.”
I have a girly blog crush on Jenny Lawson, otherwise known as The Bloggess. This is probably not the last time you’ll see me writing about her. Her blog is my obsession. But not in a creepy, show-up-outside-your-home, heavy-breathing stalker way. In a totally *cool* awkward girl way. But I digress. Yesterday, she posted this gem: And then the PR guy called me “a fucking bitch”. I can’t even make this shit up.
Basically, she sent a cheeky response to a totally off-base PR company request and the VP accidentally hit reply all and included her on an email where he called her a fucking bitch. Seriously. Oh, whoops, I was supposed to say “spoiler alert” huh? Well, spoiler alert, that’s what her post is about. But go read it anyway, because she actually posts his responses. And that’s where shit gets real.
Dude messed up. Big time. But instead of apologizing like a decent human being should, he defends himself and suggests that they both just laugh it off. Wow. I mean, at this point, both the foul-mouth offender and his boss have apologized, but only because Jenny’s powerful Twitter network (including Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman *nerdgasm*) backed her up. It was a long day at that PR company, I’m sure.
There’s an important lesson in here for bloggers, in my opinion. For human beings actually:
You’re going to mess up. You’re going to make horrible mistakes that have you chewing on your own foot. You’re going to say and do things you regret. These are facts. It’s not about the mistakes you make, though. It’s about how you handle it afterward.
Like the title of this post says, if there’s mud on your face, stop acting like the village idiot and smearing it around. When you make a mistake, apologize. It’s as simple as that. You have to eat poo sometimes, because sometimes you are at fault. And even if you think your actions were justified, if you’ve hurt something else, it is not okay. When you defend yourself or try to justify your actions, you just make matters worse.
Is it worth it? Rarely is the answer yes. Had that PR guy simply emailed her back and apologized profusely for his lack of professionalism, I highly doubt that Jenny would have posted about it on her blog. Sure, it’s still a crappy thing to do, but the fact of the matter is that people make mistakes. That’s why online forgiveness is so important. Instead of that route, however, he choose the route that led to this situation reaching over TWO MILLION PEOPLE.
Dudes. I hope he went home and said a prayer for his job.
Admit your mistakes and learn to say you’re sorry. That’s what this post boils down to. There’s no cheeky zombie-related tie-in because you don’t need me to tell you that zombies don’t apologize for any of the bs they pull. So go out there and be better than that. Admit and apologize. If you can do those two things, the rest of this blogging thang is cake.
- HOW TO: Recover from a Social Media PR Disaster (mashable.com)
- The Right Way to Apologize Online (searchenginejournal.com)
- The Simple Way to Avoid Social Media Failures – Jeff Stibel – Harvard Business Review [del.icio.us] (blogs.hbr.org)
I’ve always been the type of girl to hold a grudge. I’m not proud of it, but I’ve been that way since I was a little girl. I get really emotional when someone offends me, perhaps because it takes a lot for me to get to that point. I’m quick to talk about the actions I don’t like, but it’s hard for me to not like people. I believe in the benefit of the doubt. So, if I don’t like someone, there’s probably a really emotional reason why.
And I’ve always had a hard time letting those types of things go. I’m stubborn like that.
It’s something I’m actively working on about myself, and I think working on being about to forgive people isn’t just something that will help me personally, but it will also help me be a better blogger.
What I’m quickly finding out is that holding grudges holds you back in a professional sense. People suck – they’re selfish and mean and dramatic and greedy and ill-advised. Yes, people definitely suck. So do you. I’m not an especially religious person, but the phrase “let he without sin cast the first stone” comes to mind here. I do things that suck all the time, sometimes even purposely because it’s easier or better for me. It’s not something I like to admit, and it’s definitely not okay, but that’s human nature. And I’m still a good person. At least, I try to be.
I’m working on recognizing that in other people.
I’d like to give you an example, and although I’m a huge proponent of naming name, I’m going to avoid it in this instance because I don’t want to speak badly about this person because of something that happened privately. So let me tell you the story:
Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »