Thanks to everyone that submitted their blog to be reviewed!  On Sunday we’ll be reviewing 4 blogs during #Blogchat, one every 15 mins.  Here are the four blogs we’ll be covering, and the order in which we’ll be covering them:

1 – Janice Person – A Colorful Adventure.  Here’s what Janice said about her blog: “It’s a personal blog so it is where I can post whatever I want but one of my real drivers has been sharing information about agriculture that I’m lucky enough to see and experience first hand, especially things about my beloved cotton! Travel is another huge area of my life that I love sharing.

I have been thinking about doing some reworking on the design. Its amazing how fast designs feel dated. The site doesn’t feel as clean as I would like. I don’t want it to feel sterile, just get it a cleaner, more up-to-date feel and yet provide good mobility within the site. Some of the blogchat crew would be great at helping me think through a new look for the site.

Another thing I think the blogchat crew could help me understand is what sort of information would they find interesting about farming & agriculture? What do you think of things like the cotton 101 type of posts http://janiceperson.com/cotton-101/ or the various types of agriculture informationhttp://janiceperson.com/category/agriculture/? of that content what grabs your attention & what makes you think “no thanks.”

I know, that’s a lot to ask, but why not shoot for the stars with the BlgoChat crowd just in case I get picked!”

2 – Velo Crush! Pedal Into the World of Bicycles.  Here’s what  Abbishek said about his blog: “My blog is to promote cycling it in India. I would like to connect to the cyclists in every country but more of India and also the common man. as my goal is to get them all cycling.

I’d kindly request you to focus on it entirely. its a mix of everything which has interviews, tips etc. but at the moment my page views have gone below average and I don’t know what to do about it.”

3 – Deb Costello’s Blog.  Here’s what Deb said about her blog:  “I write an education blog under the premise “what if someone opened a window into a classroom” I am a math teacher and share math questions, commentary on educational issues, funny/interesting stories about kids and my school, and cool tech tools that are useful for math, life, or fun.

My audience has been mostly teachers, not surprisingly, but I am interested in things I could do that would make the blog more interesting to a wider audience.”

4 – Jim Karrh’s Blog (Jim is the Sponsor for this month).

Now if you will be joining #Blogchat on Sunday, please take a few minutes to visit each of these blogs so that you can give each of these bloggers constructive advice about their blogs.  Make notes of what you like, what you dislike, and maybe the things that you aren’t sure of (“Why did you put your picture there?”  “Why did you use that color on your homepage?”).

And please remember it is VERY scary to submit your blog to being reviewed by #Blogchat so if you have criticism please try to temper it and share advice with the blogger on how you think they can ‘fix’ any ‘problems’ you see on the blog.

That’s it!  Congratulations to Janice, Abbishek,  and Deb.  And thanks to Jim for sponsoring this month, he’s a big reason why Blog Reviews are back this month!  BTW if you would like to ask any of these bloggers a question before Sunday please leave a comment here for them!

And please have a Happy Easter weekend!   See y’all on Sunday night at 8pm Central!

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This Sunday we’ll be doing Blog Reviews again, which is one of the most popular #Blogchat topics ever.  The way it works is that every 15 minutes we’ll review a different blog submitted by a #Blogchat member.  The #Blogchat community will tell you what they like, what they dislike, and give you advice on how to improve your blog.  It’s an invaluable chance to get advice from a community of the most savvy bloggers around!

So if you want to submit your blog for one of the THREE available slots for Blog Reviews, here’s what you need to do:

1 – Leave a comment on THIS POST.

2 – Give us the link to your blog in the comment itself.  Add the URL manually. 

3 – Tell us what your blog is about, and who you want to connect with

4 - If there’s any particular area of your blog that you want us to focus on, let us know.

5 – Make sure you can be at #Blogchat on Sunday night at 8pm Central, US time.  Because we’ll want to discuss your blog with you and you can give us feedback.  This is most important.

 

That’s it!  I’ll accept submissions through 5pm Central time on Friday, then I’ll announce the 3 selections back here on Saturday.

I am far more likely to pick your blog if you do two simple things:

1 – Give me as much information about your blog as possible.  If your comment is ‘Dude here’s my blog, check it out: www.myblog.com’, then that doesn’t help me much.

2 – I am going to do everything I can to select regular #Blogchat members.  All things being equal, I will pick the gal that comes to #Blogchat regularly over someone who doesn’t.  I want to use this as a way to reward regular contributors to the chat.

 

So that’s it!  If you want to be eligible for having your blog reviewed this Sunday please leave a comment below!  If your blog is selected we’ll discuss your blog for 15 mins Sunday night at #Blogchat!  Good luck!

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I like and use HootSuite’s basic/free version quite a lot, especially for scheduling tweets and it’s dead simple to use.  So this morning when I got an email from HS telling me how I could get 60 days of HootSuite Pro for free, I was intrigued:

HSNow normally I hate these ‘give us a tweet and we’ll give you this’ offers, but I do use and like HootSuite, and I have been curious about trying out HootSuite Pro, so I decided to send the tweet.  And as promised, I immediately received my email telling me how to get my 60 days of HootSuitePro for free:

HS1Yep, I’ve just been had.  After I send the tweet that HS told me would get me 60 days of HootSuite Pro for free, I am then told that I can only get the 60 days free if I am ALREADY a Pro subscriber.  So why not just tell me that to begin with?  From my POV, HootSuite just punished me for trusting them.  So I am now less likely to make that mistake again.

I see this sort of stunt all the time, and it doesn’t build brand loyalty, it builds brand distrust.  I get why HootSuite made this offer, they want me to sign up for Pro, and then I can apply the coupon and get the first two months free.  At least I think that’s their motivation.  If the goal is to drive Pro signups then just give me a 60-day trial.  If the service is worth paying for, then I will.

I’ve talked about this before, but as a customer, I cannot advocate for a brand that I do not trust.  So if your brand wants to cultivate fans that love you (and customers that stick around) then the trust of your customers is your most prized asset.

Here’s what HootSuite should have done instead: Since the goal is to drive new signups, then instead of 60 days free, give me 30 days, no strings attached.  And in those 30 days, give me access to training (via videos, screencasts, etc) that will show me how to get the most out of HootSuite Pro and help me understand how to use the new features so that I see for myself why HootSuite Pro is a service worth paying for.  Then tell me if I agree to stay on with HootSuite Pro after the 30-day trial is up, that you’ll give me 50% ($5) off my first two months as a ‘thank you’.  That gets me hooked into using HootSuite Pro for 3 months, which gives me time to use the features and become familiar with them.  If the service is worth my time and money, I’ll stick around.  But even if I don’t, I will still feel like I got a ‘deal’ because I got 3 months of premium service for $10 and HootSuite does get my $10.

And no, I don’t want someone from HS to read this and offer me the free Pro trial the email promised, that’s not why I wrote this post.  I wrote this post to give YOU a real-world example of how an offer such as this can drive new business if positioned correctly, and how it can do the opposite if not positioned correctly.

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I’m thrilled to announce that Karrh & Associates will be sponsoring #Blogchat in April! Karrh & Associates is run by my friend Jim Karrh who I’ve known since my early blogging days.  Please check out Jim’s site and blog to learn more about his marketing, training and consulting services.

And we’ve got a pretty solid list of topics for April, along with the return of an old favorite!

April 6th - How to Create Content That Organically Reaches Customers.  With the recent changes to Facebook’s algorithms that have reduced the visibility of updates from brand pages, it’s more critical than ever that brands create compelling content that now only reaches our audience organically, but that they share with others as well.  Well talk about some of the things that are keeping people from reading, sharing and acting on your content, and also the keys to creating compelling content.

April 13th –  Making Sure the Voice of Your Blog is the Voice of Your Organization.  Consistent brand voice is incredibly powerful and its incredibly obvious when a brand is missing this.  We’ll discuss ways you can discover that your brand voice is out of synch and how to get it in tune, especially making sure that your blog’s voice and tone is consistent with that of your larger organization.

April 20th – Blog Reviews are back!!!   We’ll review four blogs (Jim has already volunteered his for the 4th slot) over the course of an hour.  So there will be 3 slots available for #Blogchat members.  I’ll share more details on this the week of the 20th and how you can nominate your blog if you would like to have #Blogchat review it.

April 27th – OPEN MIC!

So there you go, all topics for April, and thanks again to Jim and his team for sponsoring #Blogchat.  Please make sure you are following Jim on Twitter.

Want to sponsor #Blogchat in May? Here’s price and details.  See y’all Sunday night!

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FreeAbout six months ago Popular Science made a pretty significant move on its website that a lot of people missed.  It turned off comments on its articles.  A few days ago, Copyblogger followed suit, and suddenly everyone paid attention.

This is just the start.  Other sites with sizable audiences will likely do the same in short order.  Some sites will nix comments simply because they see other influential sites doing it.  Earlier this week I wrote about how Facebook is putting the squeeze on brands and attempting to push a ‘pay for play’ model where brands will have to pay to get visibility for its content that had previously been free.

All of these moves are a sign that the social media industry is maturing.  Blogs that started out as a 1-person show have grown into publishing empires with entire staffs churning out content every day.  Facebook went public last year, Twitter recently did as well.  New shareholders mean new demands for new revenue streams.

So what happens next? How about paying for blog content? Did you just faint?  It would not surprise me at all to begin to see popular sites go to a subscription-based model.

Here’s the thing, there is far more content out there than any of us can consume, and more being added every day.  And a lot of it is very bad.  Since there is so much less useful content available, it increases the demand for good content.  In some cases, that demand is high enough for the content from some creators that there’s an opportunity for them to sell their content.

Paying for content results in better content.  If a blogger suddenly starts charging for her content, she can then afford to spend more time on content creation.  Which will likely improve the quality of that content.

And  no, I have zero interest in charging for my content, at least not now.  But I know a lot of bloggers/writers/publishers that would love to.  Bold moves like turning off comments or charging for content rarely happen because no one wants to be the first one to make such a potentially unpopular move.  Which is exactly why I think you’ll soon see more sites dropping comments.  It’s a big story because Copyblogger is the ‘first’, but that makes it much easier for the second and then third sites to follow suit.

The dominoes are about to topple it seems.  2014 looks to be a very interesting year.  

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For brands that rely on using Facebook to reach customers, the hand-wringing just went up a notch.  Time and other sources have recently reported that Facebook’s plan is to restrict a brand’s ability to organically reach followers down to 1 or 2%.  That means that eventually, only 1 or 2 percent of your followers will see the average update your brand posts.

Unless…your brand agrees to pay Facebook for more exposure.  Apparently social media is free…until your company goes public and has stockholders to answer to.  It’s not a coincidence that Facebook is looking for new revenue streams now that it’s a publicly-traded company.

Newsflash: Twitter is now a publicly-traded company as well.  Don’t be surprised if the San Francisco company doesn’t also try to generate new revenue at the expense of brand activities that had previously been free.

While I have never been a huge fan of Facebook, I also recognize its right to monetize as it sees fit.  Let’s be honest: Facebook has been letting your brand effectively advertise for free for a while now.  You could argue that they have been letting you get ‘hooked’ on using its service for free and then they charge you, but its still your brand’s choice to use Facebook.  This is why I have been cautioning clients and companies for years now to not plant all their seeds in digital gardens that they do not own.  Facebook in particular has a history of changing the rules and making things more difficult for brands.  Now it is algorithm changes that affect organic reach, before that it was constantly changing rules on running contests on brand pages.

The bottom line is that you never want your brand to be in a position where all its content eggs are put in a basket that someone else owns.  If your social media efforts depend on Facebook to reach your customers, then effectively you have ceded control of said social media efforts to Facebook.

The reality is that Facebook is screwing with your ability to reach customers for free.  And that’s a good thing.  This move is going to force companies to do one of two things:

1 – Start paying for exposure on Facebook

2 – Start creating content via tools that the company controls

Many companies will go the first route.  Budgets devoted to SEO and other digital marketing channels will likely be diverted in a quest for paid Likes.

The smart companies will be the ones that invest in learning how to create and distribute content via channels that the company owns.  Guess what?  The corporate website is about to become relevant again.  The same corporate website that was bemoaned as being an archaic waste a few years ago has been seeing its own Renaissance recently.

Let’s be clear: Your website should be the central home or base of your social media efforts.  All your efforts should feed back here versus going through Facebook or Twitter.  Because while you don’t control Facebook, you do have control over your website.

I am a fan of this move because it is going to force brands to become better content creators.  It’s also going to require that brands get serious about social media: Either by paying for exposure, or by investing in learning how to create content that’s valuable enough to customers that they will seek that content out via channels that the brand owns.

For brands like Red Bull and Patagonia that have been nailing content marketing for a while now, this move won’t have a huge impact, because customers will actively seek out content from these brands.  If no one is reading your content on Facebook now, that’s not on Facebook, it’s on you.

Now’s your chance to get serious about social media and content marketing, and start seeing serious results.  Want to learn how to create effective content that gets seen by your customers? Make sure you follow this one simple rule.

Pic via Flickr user BobLinsdell

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7468312536_638cf71b6d_zSooner or later, your brand will receive a negative comment or bad review. Some posts will come from actual customers, others from competitors hoping to poach your customers.

Still others will come from trolls: people who have never bought from you, will never buy from you, and seemingly have nothing better to do than make your brand manager’s life difficult.

Regardless of who made the post, your reaction is likely to be the same: a deep longing for the post to disappear. But it won’t.

Here are your options for addressing damaging comments online, from least feasible (a lawsuit) to least palatable (taking the high road).

When can you sue?
People and brands alike must suffer a certain number of “slings and arrows.” Just because someone thinks your service is slow or your fries are soggy doesn’t give rise to a legal cause of action.

Once the comments move from obnoxious to defamatory, however, suing might become an option. Laws vary from state to state, but in most jurisdictions, defamation requires a false statement of fact (as opposed to an opinion), publication (communication of the false statement to at least one other person), negligence (if the defamatory matter is of public concern), and damage to the brand’s reputation.

Think “this finance company steals money from client accounts” as opposed to “this finance company sucks.”

You could issue a cease and desist letter to the person who posted the comments, but be aware that many such letters wind up featured on the person’s blog, or on third-party sites like Techdirt.

Ultimately, if the false statements really are damaging to your brand, you might have to bring suit, but you’ll want to carefully consider the implications before you do.

In the United States, the plaintiff must prove that the statements were false (as opposed to the burden being on the defendant to prove that they were true). In some jurisdictions, companies must meet the same standards as a public figure or celebrity in order to recover damages, and show that the person making the statement did so with “actual malice,” knowing it was false or exhibiting a “reckless disregard” for the truth.

In addition to the costs inherent in litigation, you could easily find your company cast as the bully in a David vs. Goliath type conflict, as we saw in the case of a Missouri bar owner who received a cease and desist letter from Starbucks.

Instead of suing, what should you do?
Respond. More than 1/3 of people who mention a brand on a social network expect a reply in 30 minutes or less (like a pizza delivery)!

As quickly as possible, post a reply to the comment on the same site where it was made. If the comments are in a Facebook post, reply on Facebook. If it was a Yelp review, reply on Yelp.

If the comments are on someone’s blog, contact the publisher directly, or post a comment on that site, but keep a screen shot in case they delete it.

Bear in mind that some people who post negative comments about your brand have a legitimate grievance. You will provide a better response if you write your reply with his in mind.

Brands do have some options when it comes to addressing defamatory statements. If the comments are posted to a third-party site like Yelp, you can contact the site to request that they be removed.

Be prepared to explain precisely how the comments posted violate the site’s terms of service. To report a defamatory review on Yelp, for instance, you’d select “Questionable Content” or “Legal Inquiries” from the drop-down menu provided and report the objectionable post as violating Yelp’s terms of service, section 6(a)(I) on content guidelines.

Be sure to give specifics about what the commenter said, and emphasize that it is both false and damaging.

Google has a form users can complete to request that information be removed. Facebook and Twitter provide options for reporting abusive posts, pages, accounts, etc. If the damaging review is posted on a blog, you can request the hosting company to remove a defamatory post.

In most instances, the costs of bringing a lawsuit will outweigh the benefit, and might even bring more attention to the negative comments about your brand. When defending your brand against online comments, consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction.

Ultimately, the best protection against negative comments is a healthy dose of goodwill. Invest time now—before a crisis hits—cultivating a closer relationship with fans of your brand, so they can be your first line of defense if the trolls attack.

Connect with your fans now, before you need them to rally to your brand’s defense: you’ll be glad you did!

Pic via Flickr user DonkeyHotey

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In the Future Your Customers Will Completely Control Your Marketing

March 17, 2014

I recently saw a study into the content consumption habits of millenials that claimed that individuals ages 18 to 36 spend an average of 17.8 hours a day with different types of media. Some forms of media are more important to millennials than others. Social media is a top priority, as 71 percent say that they […]

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If You Want to Write a Book, Here Are Two Things You Need to Know

March 15, 2014

So in 2012 when I signed my contract to write my first book, I decided to write a post that would help my peers get a similar book deal.  It’s become one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written, but something unexpected happened as a result.  Every week I either get a comment or […]

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The Art and Science of Blogging With John Wall at #Blogchat!

March 8, 2014

Here’s the transcript for this #Blogchat with John. I’m excited to announce that John Wall will be sponsoring the next two weeks of #Blogchat on 3-9-2014 and 3-16-2014!  For John’s sponsorship, he’s come up with a pretty cool two weeks of blogging topics. Over the next two weeks John will teach us about The Art […]

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Five Proven Ways to Build More Engagement On Your Brand’s Blog

March 6, 2014

One of the biggest struggles that blogging brands face is creating engagement with their customers.  It’s tough to sell your boss on how effective your blog is if none of your customers are reading your content.  Here’s five proven ways to not only build readership, but convert passive readers into active participants on your blog: […]

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