Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blogging about Blogging: BIN 2011 Meta-Post #2

Home from the second day of Blog Indiana 2011 (aka BIN2011). (Read about the first day here.) Common cliché would have me write "the second gruelling day," but the most gruelling thing about Friday was rolling myself out of bed in the morning. Except for everything that happened before my second cup of coffee — which I don't technically remember anyway — I enjoyed every minute of this conference.

Like yesterday, a tremendous amount of information was presented, more than anyone would want to read in a blog post. And so, like yesterday, I'll do my best to hit some of the more interesting and useful highlights.

On Writing Better, or, Why You Should Read Logophilius

The morning began with Erik Deckers (@edeckers), donning a T-shirt bearing the slogan "eschew convoluted phraseology," giving the keynote speech on tips for writing better blog posts.

I don't want to dwell too much on his writing tips — I'd rather you read my blog instead — but my favorite one this: Use strong verbs. Erik offered some great examples of replacing weak verbs and adverbs with strong verbs: "I loathe adverbs" instead of "I hate adverbs passionately," for example. Or "Robby wolfed down three bananas" instead of "Robby ate three bananas with gusto."

This isn't a tip for writing a better blog, it's a tip for better writing, whether it's a blog post, a tweet, an essay, or a novel. Strong verbs not only make your text more interesting, they let you eliminate entire adverbs, making your text more concise and draining less of your reader's time.

And my number-one rule* for good writing is to not waste your readers' time.

Check out some more of Erik's stuff at Laughing Stalk.

*Okay, so this might be like my fourth "number-one" rule for good writing, but you get the idea that it's important to me, right?

Affiliate Marketing Might Just Be a Four-Letter Word

After the keynote, the breakout sessions began. I attended Tricia Meyer's (@SunshineTricia) "Five Affiliate Marketing Benefits for Bloggers." "Affiliate Marketing" is code for selling stuff on your blog.

I was impressed by Tricia's enthusiasm for affiliate marketing, but I didn't feel like a lot of what she said really applies to me. Tricia makes a living from affiliate marketing by blogging; I want to maybe make some money from affiliate marketing with the blogging I already do. The distinction might seem slight in print, but in practice it's huge.

Tricia, as I understand it, finds affiliate marketing opportunities and then builds blog posts (and sometimes entire blogs) to take advantage of those opportunities. That's a great way for people with the time, energy, and drive to do that to make some money and get some free swag. I don't have those three things, though.

So I won't be diving into the world of affiliate marketing with the Tricia's zest. In fact, the idea of it still scares me a bit. But I did learn two important things:
  1. I really do need to take a closer look at affiliate marketing. I have been promised that it won't cause the headaches that I think it will.
  2. There's a whole bloody wiki out there for affiliate marketing types. (I haven't found it yet, but Tricia says it's out there somewhere.)
So if you have a blog and you've been thinking about selling ad space to make a few bucks but you really don't know where to start, do these two things right now: 1. Follow @SunshineTricia on Twitter. 2. Ask her a question.

And tell her I sent you.

Ghosts, Guests, and Gasps

Next up was a panel discussion about outsourcing a company's social media marketing. This discussion quickly skidded out onto the thin ice of ethics and disclosure of who writes the company blog. That devolved into some heated talk about ghost blogging, which some abhorred as simply not being in the true spirit of the blogosphere. One person pointed out, though, that ghost writing has been around for centuries. (Think about the ten greatest speeches of all time; now, how many speech-writers can you name?)

Then it shifted to downright <i>hot</i> talks about guest blogging, and whether and when it's appropriate or ethically necessary to pay your guest bloggers. (The important point to remember: Compensation isn't always money; not paying a guest blogger isn't the same as not compensating a guest blogger.)

Like most panel discussions, few conclusions were actually reached. The legalities of outsourcing your corporate social media efforts are fairly straightforward; the ethics of it are your own. Whether you should outsource depends on what you want to get out of your blog, because it can't all be outsourced:
  • Becoming a better writer: "Write every day" is a common tip for becoming a better writer. Obviously, if you outsource your blog, you don't do all that writing that will help you become a better writer.
  • Becoming a thought leader: "Thought leader" has been bandied around in social media perhaps a bit too much. But whatever "thought leader" means to you, you won't become one if you outsource your blogging.
  • SEO: If the main purpose of your blog is to draw more traffic to your site, outsourcing with a reputable social media company can do that, and probably better than you can.

Become an Expert in Four Easy (NOT) Steps

People become really successful with social media (and with many other things) when they are recognized as experts in their fields. Financial planner Peter Dunn, aka Pete the Planner (@PeteThePlanner), revealed his four-step plan to being recognized as an expert:
  1. Become an author. Seriously, being a published author adds to your credibility. If someone were to ask me what I do for a living, which answer makes me sound like an expert?
    • "I'm a copy editor."
    • "I'm an author, and I do some copy editing."
  2. Learn to talk in sound bites. If you get to the point when people want to interview you for TV or radio, you need to be able to answer questions quickly and succinctly. No one wants to interview someone who rambles, and if you ramble, you won't get invited back. Regularly using Twitter can help you learn to be concise.
  3. Learn to look into the camera. This isn't a metaphor. If you ever get on TV, resist the urge to watch yourself in the monitor and instead look into the camera. Any video shooting or Skyping you do can give you practice in this.
  4. Don't pitch crap. This could go at the beginning of the list, too, but it becomes even more important when you start garnering a modicum of recognition. In the end, it isn't enough to look like an expert, you need to be the expert.
Peter Dunn is a great speaker, even if my super-simple summary doesn't reflect that. He used to do stand-comedy, and now he directs that humor into his work. If you ever get the chance to hear him, do it. Not only does he know what he's talking about, he won't put you to sleep when he's talking about it. Check him out at

The Cool Tool Fool

In my final (and totally packed) session, Douglas Karr (@DouglasKarr), coauthor of Corporate Blogging For Dummies,** quickly presented a large number of new and old tools people can use to measure every conceivable online metric.

The one tool that elicited a collective gasp from the audience was Tynt. This is how Tynt works: If someone comes to your website and highlights and copies some of your text, when that text gets pasted elsewhere — in a blog post or in an e-mail, for example — it is pasted with a link (with some extra tracking information on it) to where the original text came from. The idea is that Tynt can then track where your content is being shared and which of those sharers are driving the most traffic back to your site.

In theory, this could be a great tracking tool. In practice, though, it's rather annoying. See, the link that Tynt attaches to the copied text doesn't appear behind the pasted text; it's a "Read more:" text link that's added (after a couple of blank lines) below the pasted text. For the person doing the pasting, this is great if you're sharing something in an e-mail or on Facebook. It's damned annoying if you're sharing on Twitter or putting together a blog post.

More exciting to me — not for this blog, but for my day job — are the analytics dashboards, like Geckoboard and TwentyFeet. Businesses with a large, multichannel web presence get metrics from many different places: Google, YouTube, Facebook, WebTrends, all manner of social measuring tools, and their own measurement tools. Analytics dashboards trap all these wild numbers and tame them, presenting aggregated results to the end user.

And, unlike Google Analytics, these dashboards give you real-time web stats. (Or so I've been told. I haven't had the chance to try any of them out yet.)

** Full disclosure: I mention Corporate Blogging For Dummies for purely selfish reasons. I work for Wiley Publishing, home of the For Dummies series, and selling more of these books (especially on our own website) can only be good for me.

And Then I Went Home

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. I will soon post some of my overall impressions of the conference, the people, and social media in general here. One thing's for certain, though: I want to go back next year.

If they wanted to do it again next month, I'm in, too.