We are extremely excited to share with you our second broadcast of the SiteSell Presents series: WRITING / BLOGGING with Demian Farnworth, Wade Harman and Kevan Lee. The event took place live on Monday, July 13th and was a lively discussion both with the panel and attendees.
Besides getting a chance to hear from such recognized experts as Demian, Wade and Kevan, we tackled questions like:
- What process can one follow to help with writing or blogging?
- What is a blog post whiteboard?
- Is it ok to follow and emulate other bloggers?
- How important is consistency?
- Who are your favorite bloggers?
… and more!
Our SiteSell Presents: WRITING / BLOGGING Show Page has more information on the broadcast and our fantastic guests.
Watch the recording of SiteSell Presents: WRITING / BLOGGING –
Full Transcript of “SiteSell Presents: WRITING / BLOGGING with Demian Farnworth, Wade Harman and Kevan Lee”
Mike: Hello everyone, welcome to the second episode of SiteSell Presents. I’m your host Mike Allton and today we’re talking about writing and blogging. And I couldn’t be more excited to be joined by these three brilliant writers. I’ll introduce each and then we’ll get into some questions for the panel but before I do, I’d like to remind all of you watching live that if you leave a comment with a question on the event page, we’ll try to get to it during the show. With that, let’s say hello to our guests.
00:30 – Introduction of Guests
Mike: Demian Farnworth is the chief copywriter at Copyblogger. His main gig is to write web copy that conquers the web’s two main problems: obscurity and neglect. And he may be one of the last remaining St. Louis Rams fans. Hello Demian and welcome to the show.
Demian: Thank you, thank you Mike, appreciate it.
Mike: My pleasure.
Demian: I’ll follow them out to LA if that’s where they end up. That’s where they started.
Mike: Wade Harman is a full-time social media marketing blogger. He has a psychology degree and he uses it to help people create action from their updates on social media. Hello Wade, and welcome to the show.
Wade: Hey thanks so much for having me on the show Mike. And I am a Rams fan as well.
Mike: Are you? I didn’t know that.
Wade: I’m on the bandwagon, yep.
Mike: Didn’t I convert you into a Cardinal’s fan when you were up here?
Wade: You did, you did, I started watching them and was like yeah I love them.
Mike: Awesome, awesome – and finally Kevan Lee is the content-crafter of Buffer. This is where he shares his best actionable advice on content marketing, his favorite writing tips, and his top time-saving tools. Hello Kevan, and welcome to the show.
Kevan: Hi Mike, thanks for having me and I’ll say I’m a Blues fan. I don’t know if that counts but it’s something from St. Louis.
Mike: All right, we’ve got a lot of St. Louis connections here today. Awesome, so now that we’re all introduced let’s get to it. First, I think it would be great if each of you took a moment to share with us a bit more about yourselves. When did you realise that you had a knack for wielding the written word? And whoever would like to go first.
Demian: Wade likes to go first.
Wade: Oh man, okay I’m the least among all these people in this Hangout. My name is Wade Harman. I used to be a coal miner out here in Southwest Virginia, and I hurt my knee and couldn’t really work. The only thing I knew how to do was coal mine, so I started seeing that people could make money with blogging, so that’s how my journey started. And here I am today, I like to write for the reader and we all say that yes we need to write for the reader but it’s not only writing – it’s in the building of the relationships and I learned a lot whenever I first started my first blog, and I made up a lot of mistakes. So bad that I just killed that blog and started WadeHarman.com. So from there I just started building from what I knew. I mean, I’m literally learning this as I go, and I’ve followed great writers like Demian and Kevan for a long time. There was a point in my career where I just literally watched Demian and what he did and the way he wrote so I could make myself better. And I think it’s all about learning from each other too so, that’s about me in a nutshell.
Kevan: Yeah I can piggyback off of that to say that I spent some time watching Demian too and just kind of observing from the sidelines and learning. My story began probably back in high school when I started my own school newspaper using Microsoft Publisher and printing it on a copy machine in the office and just very much a creative outlet for me that really kind of sparked my interest in writing. I followed the writing down the journalism angle and went to school, studied journalism, and it was right around the time the newspaper industry was changing quite significantly so I hopped off of that and I took my passion for sports online and I started this very snarky, silly, dumb sports blog that was a wonderful, wonderful time for me and a chance to kind of learn on the fly and experiment and then it kind of went from there. I transitioned slowly into networking and getting connections with people in the SaaS space and the blogging space and grateful for the chance to learn from lots of cool people out there and fortunate to come on to Buffer and be where I am now.
Demian: So it’s an honor to be with these two guys because they may have borrowed from me but I clearly borrowed from them too because they are very talented writers and I enjoy watching them just grow and get better and the traction that they get. And it’s a real treat, man. It’s a treasure to watch people come in and enjoy what I enjoy doing and watch other people do it too.
Demian: I’m always honored when someone borrows my stuff because it’s not about my success; it’s about everybody just doing something. I always feel honored when that happens. I think I enjoyed writing poetry back in high school but I wasn’t very good at it like most people and it wasn’t until I was probably 25 that somebody told me that what you do as far as writing is not something like normal, most people can’t do that. It’s something you do well and special. And so at that point I was like okay, so I decided to go back to school and I told my counsellor, I said hey, just give me a program where you write a lot and you read a lot. She said English Literature. I said great, I’ll do that and I loved it. I actually did pretty well at it. I thought okay well after I graduate I need to find a career and I had a good friend who had a marketing agency and he hired me on and introduced me to direct-response copywriting and at that point I fell in love with it. And that was back in 2001 and I never looked back since.
Wade: I will agree that when you said most people can’t write the way you write, I will definitely agree with that.
06:33 – What Process Do You Follow When Writing?
Mike: Yeah, there’s no doubt about that. So when the three of you, each one of you individually, when you need to start writing or you need to write a particular blog post, is there a process that you follow and if so, can you share that with us?
Demian: I like to do a ton of research and just sort of whatever the assignment is go and just over prepare for it and once I reach a point of saturation, sit down and then take my notes, compile all my notes, put them on a whiteboard, and then take my laptop and set it down in front of the whiteboard and then start writing a rough draft from there. And then using the whiteboard to jog my memory and keep me on-path and stuff like that.
Wade: One of the things I like to do is do a lot of listening and most of you that are on Google+ and are following me on Google+ will see that I get into a lot of conversations and that’s the way I want to learn how to write my blog posts. If somebody needs help with something or if somebody is asking different questions then I will find what they need and then I will take that and I will search for it on Google, and if there is a way, if there is a couple answers; I think actually Buffer has this in a blog post somewhere. But there’s like an example, Kevan correct me if I’m wrong, so you have your idea for a blog post and then you go search for it on Google and then the diagram says, is there an answer for it on Google, if no, write the post. If yes, then reformat that answer into the way your readers can use that. And so basically that’s one of the things I like to do when I write. And also another great tip I learned from Buffer is the before and the after and the bridge. So the before is, here’s your world so take what they need help with and the opening part of that blog post, you start to say here is your world. This is what you’re doing right now and then the after is what it’s like after the whole problem has been solved and resolved. And then the ending [bridge] will be how to get there. And I do a lot of whiteboards as well and got this from Demian, I believe there is a post that talks about how to set this up in storyboard form and so most of the things that I do, I’m following these guys. And it’s a good way, and one of the ways you can get to that point is through conversation. You have to start somewhere, start with the person.
Kevan: That’s awesome. Your whiteboards sound cool; I might have to get one. I like that. For me kind of what I heard, a bit from Demian and Wade too was, for me there is a bit of a marinating process for ideas. I find that it’s rarely that I will have an idea and then sit down and write that idea that same hour, that same day even. Typically an idea comes up, it goes onto a Trello board, it sits there for a while. My subconscious kind of turns it over as I’m doing other activities and then all of a sudden it will hit me, like oh I can take that angle or I can go this route with it.
Kevan: So then I’ll hop back into Trello, I’ll look back at all the ideas with my eye again, add them to the weekly list and then just go from there. So for me at least, it helps to have some time to mull things over, either consciously or subconsciously. I just have them present in my mind.
10:19 – How To Build A Blog Post Whiteboard
Demian: Kevan, Kevan you can build a beautiful 4×8 whiteboard just at Lowes, buy a real thin sheet of a shower wall, and then a real thin sheet of plywood and then you can just drill straight into it and build a little thing. Do not pay for a real one. You can do that. It works perfectly fine.
Kevan: I love it, cool project.
Demian: You can clearly do it smaller than that.
Kevan: Is that the size yours is?
Demian: Yeah, 4×8.
Wade: I was talking to Mike before we started about whiteboard paint and when you mentioned Lowes’ name I thought you were going to mention that. That’s what I’m going to do my whole wall.
Mike: A massive whiteboard. Yeah I think it’s interesting because we’re all talking about how we’ve been drawing off each other. Demian you wrote a blog post some time ago, I don’t know how long but you talked about your scratch pad and how you make notes and that sort of thing and that’s a process that I adopted. I use Evernote to blog but most of the time now when I start a new blog post, I’ll give myself some space at the bottom and scribble a little bit and then start adding notes into Evernote and refer back to that as I write the post and make sure I hit all the points that I originally thought of.
11:42 – Is It Ok To Follow And Emulate Other Bloggers?
Mike: But what’s really interesting is someone is listening in and they’re thinking well these guys are just copying off each other. But you read any one of our blog posts, they all sound totally different. Even if we were writing on the same topics, these blog posts come across very differently so I want to make sure everyone listening understands it’s okay to follow along with other bloggers and learn from them and try to adopt some of their processes and techniques and then just make it your own.
Wade: Yeah I would like to follow up with that. Demian, I sat and I studied his writing for months and to this day I’m still not where I need to be with my writing but learning from other bloggers, learning their writing styles and Demian was the one that showed me you need to make some short sentences. Long sentences are harder to read. So it took me a while to get out of that. Why can’t I write a long sentence or a long paragraph? So he showed me how to shorten those paragraphs up and when that happened I started to develop my own style after watching him and so it’s good to syphon cyiphon off of other bloggers that you like.
Demian: I think we always turn a corner once we gain some confidence. Once you have some confidence and you realise who you are because really for the newbie writers it’s always like, what’s my voice? Who am I? And take some time to kind of figure that out but you can shorten that learning curve by writing a lot and studying other people but eventually you get some confidence like this is who I am and this is what I feel most strongly when I talk about these sort of things. And we still kind of look to people and challenge ourselves and say hey, I want to be like that person because I just naturally become a better writer when you do that sort of thing.
13:27 – What Advice Do You Have For Writers Trying To Find Their Audience?
Mike: Yeah, and let’s explore that for a second. So you’ve got writers and bloggers who, they’re trying to find their voice, they’re trying to find their audience, their niche, what advice do you have for people in that situation?
Demian: Well I always say, well listen to what are you getting compliments on and what are people talking about when someone says, hey, when you write an email or text or when you’re talking to somebody and somebody says, “I heard you when you wrote that text to me. I could hear your voice in my head,” then you need to go look and pay attention to what they’re kind of talking about. And I think it’s really kind of a process. It’s one of those things like finding your voice is a nebulous and difficult thing to do but it comes over time and it’s a maturation process. And I always tell people too, like when do you feel most comfortable in your skin, the way you talk, are you snarky, or are you just sort of polite and very proper? Those are both completely appropriate ways to approach writing so whatever you’re most comfortable and who you think you are and just ask people.
Kevan: Yeah, it’s such an interesting way. I think coming from journalism I was sometimes taught to not really have a voice in my writing. Let the news speak for itself. And so I’ve had a chance to work in many different ways but I wrote without a voice and I think sometimes in PR you can write that way, lots of different ways, so sometimes in finding my voice it’s often when the writing flows the fastest for me.
Kevan: I know I’m in my voice if it’s coming easy and I’m not overthinking things and self-editing a lot. That’s a great signal and I think something else that kind of popped up to me lately was there’s only so many different topics you can probably write about in social media which is what we cover on the Buffer blog but I found that I will have written about a topic that other people have written about and yet they’re two completely different posts and they sound completely different and had I not categorized them, I wouldn’t have known they were even the same thing and I think that…you can write about the exact same topics in a different voice than bringing unique things to the table in each so I think kind of having something to compare it against to, helped highlight my voice for me as I went along.
Wade: You make a really good point too when you talk about finding your flow, Kevan, and that’s the way it is with me whenever I feel like I’m finding my voice – you get your flow and everything just comes out perfectly. Seth Godin said something that really piqued my interest. I saw it about two or three months ago. He said, “I blog like I talk, and I don’t get talker’s block.” And when you can write the article just like you’re speaking to the person, make it a conversation that they can understand. Demian said that they can hear his voice and that he’s so good at writing conversationally, and that’s where we need to be without writing; learn to write the way you talk. It’s just, I’ve got an accent, but people can learn to hear your voice and that’s a very important aspect of the whole thing too.
Kevan: Yeah, one interesting thing too is, so Buffer has its own voice and tone, and I have my own voice and tone, and fortunately they’re quite similar to each other, but I think there are some people out there who might be working at a place that is hoping that that person will write according to the company’s voice and tone. So I think there’s also that layer of I don’t know if it’s complicating or a challenge or what not but I think that’s also something to think about too as you explore that voice and tone.
15:00 – Have You Tried Publishing To LinkedIn or Medium?
Mike: You know it’s interesting because, actually all four of us are in that kind of same situation. All four of us have a personal blog and then we all also write for a larger brand or a larger agency. So yeah I can see where that is going to come in some times where you might want to phrase things a little bit differently, maybe not speak in a different voice because you’re probably blogging for that agency for a reason and they probably liked your voice on your personal blog. That said, have any of you explored any of those what I would call outposts for publishing, like Medium or LinkedIn Pulse, and you used those to promote your content, original content, syndicated, what have you?
Demian: Yeah, I have and I failed miserably at it. Even as much, because I did an experiment on Medium and I did an experiment on LinkedIn and both just did not have the bandwidth to even though for the most part, those places will take old articles and they just re-publish them there so it’s really not that much more work but there’s still some community building going on there and I’m terrible at community building. And so I have enough responsibility to just try and take care of my own posts and stuff like that when I went to do it on LinkedIn and all those take some time so I know Gregory Siati, he had a really good experiment to get a good run on LinkedIn and he’s got an article about that. And Shawn Smith who we featured on Copyblogger one time, he had a really good run on Medium or I think he still does. But most of that is because they published regularly and built up community, sort of did work to actually build up a community. I don’t know about anybody else, if Wade or Kevan have tried that.
Wade: I’ve blogged on Medium before. I’m the same as you. It was kind of a failed experiment. You’ve got to post consistently and when you’ve got other obligations to other people’s blogs and then your own, it’s hard to stay consistent on that.
Demian: You’ve got to interact too – it’s like any other place.
Kevan: Yeah I think I’ve kind of cheated too and just re-published stuff to see what would happen. They make it easy to do that so it’s really great, great platforms there. The biggest thing for me was consistency where I’d be excited about starting it and do it for a week or two and then kind of tail off and I think if I’m able to keep up with it then it might be worthwhile.
Kevan: I haven’t been able to keep up with it yet. I did notice on LinkedIn that engagement was quite high which was great. I think maybe my post got maybe 500 views but like 75, 100 likes, like significant percentage of likes compared to social media stuff that we typically do. So LinkedIn is probably the one that I…
Demian: Are these your articles or Buffer’s articles?
Kevan: These are my personal ones.
Demian: Oh, okay, right.
Kevan: Yeah, so my personal ones. The interesting thing with Buffer is we’re not quite sure how to do that with Buffer. Do they come from me? Do they come from Joel or Leo, our founders? So we haven’t figured out that part of it yet. We’ve done that on Medium. We just republished straight Buffer stuff on Medium. And those have done really well. It’s typically that we were cherry picking the most popular posts on the Buffer blog which is again a little cheating but the early returns there were really good from the big brand side. Personally it’s been a little low for me and I think Demian and Wade make a good point about community building and taking the time to really make it valuable on there.
20:55 – How Important Is Consistency?
Wade: I think, you said a word, that I think it’s the payoff in the whole blogging community, its consistency. And if you can find that consistency with your blogging, what do you guys think? I personally feel like consistency is the key to this whole thing, whether you’re on social media, or you’re doing your blog, and it’s creating that time and that space where you can publish your new article about and consistency builds trust and trust builds relationships and it just follows down the ladder. Anybody want to comment on that one?
Demian: Yeah I’d say you know, I think anybody could write that super-viral post and have that sort of one hit wonder impact and then sort of tail off and never be heard from again but really what I think establishes somebody and it speaks to all of us who are sitting here on this panel is that it’s that day in and day out. I know Kevan Lee has some phenomenally high social shared posts of his. But he gets recognized because it’s the consistency over time that you see that he has a strong voice that prevails through. And we were talking about voice earlier. Ultimately, it comes down to people have their favorite writers because of their voice, because who it is, because none of us are ever really going to talk about something that’s going to be breakthrough or super original, but it’s how we approach the topic or angle and hopefully getting people to see a evergreen topic in a new light or a new angle or a new approach because I mean I’ve been doing this for over 15 years and in this space and I have yet to talk about something that’s oh my god, this is just from outer space and you’ve never seen this before and here it is. It’s usually like how can I talk about call to actions like a hundred/thousand people before me have talked about it, but talk about it such a way that people find it interesting? So you build that audience so you have that consistency…through that consistency you build that audience. Not only do you get better yourself with that consistency but you ultimately start building an audience and people start sticking around and eventually the number of people who are following you, listening to you, and watching you grows and that’s all very empowering and kind of feeds on itself.
Kevan: Yeah I think consistency is one. It might be baked into my personality a bit with journalism and deadlines and publishing every day and things like that. I see that there are a couple of different ways of looking at consistency. I think Demian mentioned both of them. Its consistent voice and tone and then a consistent publishing schedule. And both of those have been really key for us at Buffer and key for me personally. Lately I’ve been coming back to the idea of consistent posting schedule and thinking, so at Buffer I post three or four times a week and I think that’s great. I think that’s really valuable for establishing yourself and the blog and all that. Well at the same time, I wonder how will someone know when I have something truly remarkable to say or something that is really amazing if it just falls in line with three or four times a week that I post, as opposed to say, I only publish when something strikes as really worth publishing. So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m probably going to go back, I’m always going to be three or four posts a week but I’m at least letting myself think about the possibilities at this stage.
Mike: That’s funny because that’s kind of where I’m at. I don’t have a publishing schedule for my personal blog. On SiteSell we do, we publish Monday-Wednesday-Friday every week. But yeah, for myself I published a post Saturday and I published another one this morning and it might be a week and a half before I publish another one because it just depends on if there’s something newsworthy or a topic that I feel like writing about. But something that you both kind of mentioned is not only that consistency but with that consistency comes the fact that you won’t be a one hit wonder because you’re not just going to write one post that
25.00 – Who Are Your Favorite Writers & Bloggers?
Mike: we read and we like and we forget about you, you’re going to hopefully continue to publish more and more and more and I think that’s something that we look for whether you think about it or not, it’s the one question I was going to ask each of you, is who are some of your favorite writers and bloggers? Who are bringing that consistent voice and that consistent presence?
Wade: Well for me it would have to be Demian Farnworth. Mark Schafer is also good; not just his writing but there’s other underlying means with why I say his name. He’s went above and beyond to just help me with my personal writing. There’s a ton of people. There are too many people to even list. Kevan is another one. Mike you’re another one. These people that I feel have been consistent in my life and my blogging industry and to help me, there’s just so many people to name.
Kevan: Yeah I often think back to my Feedly blog and look it at maybe on the blog level. I think everyone here on the panel is some folks I admire too. On blog sites I think Copyblogger’s consistency has been really key for me. The Moz blog, the consistent way that they publish and the way that they find creative ways to publish, going into the community to find posts they can add there. I think Neil Patel’s blog is something I’ve taken inspiration from just in how much he’s able to do in addition to everything else that he does. KissMetrics and the way they do things in terms of a guest post schedule, I think that’s a really neat way of going about it. So just some blogs in general that I take a lot of inspiration from as far as how they have things set up.
Demian: So I’d have to, with Kevan mentioned those that I admire, and Buffer blog for instance. I look at CoSchedule for example as another blog that I look into for inspiration also. Like Market Angel – I don’t think we read it but whenever I’m looking for a headline idea, I will go there and I point most people there. I feel kind of the same way about the Men’s Health blog, its exceptional well but beware. And then I like for inspiration places like BuzzFeed and Business Insider and the Atlantic Monthly and those are kind of my go-to places when I’m sort of, how am I going to position this particular article, this particular idea and stuff.
27:50 – What Are The Best Ways To Promote Your Blog Posts?
Mike: Well we have a question from the audience, from our friend Nazim. He says, “What are the best ways to promote your blog posts?”
Kevan: That is a great one. I think I’m particularly bad at this one so I might give my very bad answer and then concede to Demian and Wade for the good answers. I could do a lot better with promotion of my blog posts. What we do on Buffer is we share it on social media multiple times and we send it to our email list and trust that that’s enough so I’ll pass it on for some better ideas, maybe from others.
Demian: Those are clearly working for you guys. The other thing to, some people I’ve seen, a lot of people, and this takes a lot of energy, you can burn out with this procedure but some people have this inner circle of influencers, when a new, they don’t do it for every blog post, but when something is sort of substantial and they want to get some traction on it, they’ll have this insider email list they’ll email and they’ll say, hey I just published this blog post on this topic would you mind sharing it in some capacity and I think like Kevan’s talking about, having those relationships with those people in those influencers and stuff is probably one of the best ways to do it to promote a particular blog post. Wade?
Wade: Yep, I will add to all of that. I’m doing the same stuff. But what Demian says, I do kind of the same thing on Google+. And you don’t have to have a huge email list for this to work, for Google+ you can create a notification circle. I know Mike does it. A couple other people do it on Google+, so every time you share your post, you can write a little disclaimer at the bottom and say let me know if you want to be in my notification circle. I’m going to send you an email and a ping here on Google+ every time I publish a post so if they say yes and normally they will if you’ve got a great post there, they’ll say add me to the circle and so that circle will get bigger and bigger and bigger as time goes on and so when you share to Google+ at least, you can share to Public like you normally do and then you can choose your blog notification circle.
Wade: So I think that’s what makes it so important to promote blog posts. You’re pinpointing targeted people that want your content. I’m even doing this over on Pinterest now. I’m asking people, hey, do you want me to send you this pin? And people have been coming back to me and saying; yes send me this pin notification. So I’m sending pins on Pinterest and I use Triberr as well is a good way to get content out.
Mike: Yeah I was going to make sure we mentioned Triberr because that’s huge particularly if you have an audience on Twitter, Triberr is fantastic, and for five bucks you can make that new post sticky so that tens of hundreds of people will see it and share it.
Demian: Let me add two things. I think implicit in Nazim’s question is this idea of we all eventually want to get on the radar of the big people. We want the big people to notice what we’re doing so the typical way is building a relationship where it’s also social media through Twitter, through following, sharing their stuff, replying with them, commenting and being intelligent about how you relate to them and you can do that on their blog too if they have a comment section, following and commenting on them, and getting on their radar. And eventually you write something that adds to the discussion that they’re already talking about and that’s just a long-term sort of strategy. Another thing you can do to is to get on the big people’s radar is, and I found this to be more exceptionally well, is to write something that challenges something they said but write it in a very meaningful and intelligent and kind and where you actually have a good argument and you’re adding to the discussion. And I’m seen this work exceptionally for stuff that I’ve done, Seth Godin, Mike Elgan, Brian Clark – I mentioned how I got on Brian Clark’s radar. So I just wrote a post that challenged something that they said and they responded to be in some sense either by writing a blog post on their own website, sharing it in some capacity, but again sharing it with their audience so but that’s another one of those things that you can only, you don’t want to burn that one out too quickly. You can burn that one out too quickly.
Mike: Kevan, any other thoughts about how you can promote a blog post within the content itself? What makes it more shareable?
Kevan: One of my things that’s worked well is we do a lot of tools posts or roundup posts, things like that, there’s like built in opportunities there to reach out to brands or individuals that you mentioned and kind of get their networks involved and sharing there so that’s kind of a low hanging fruit that we go to sometimes. That’s the one that comes to mind to me that could be good.
Wade: Talking about getting people to share within your content, again I’m the least of these guys, but Mark Schafer told me in San Diego this past year, he said, “you can make people click but you can’t make them share.” So that really started getting the wheels turning for me and so I started to think, well what if you could make somebody share? What are the necessary elements to allow this to happen with people? And I came up upon a guy by the name of Robert Pluchik. And talking about emotional theory and how he created the wheel of emotions. I believe I found this on Buffer’s blog actually. And it talks about happiness, sadness, anger, and trust. And if you’re bringing an emotional response to the table, then you’re going to be able to get more people to share your content. So you have to be relevant to the need or the want that they have at that time and make it emotional for them. Logical is good but emotional has been proven to be shared more.
Demian: Isn’t it true too that people are more likely to share something that’s positive versus something that’s negative?
Wade: Most definitely.
Demian: I think there are some studies out there and people are typically willing to share – that’s why Upworthy is what it is today. And the other thing is too, if you just ask people to do it, hey, please share this, whether it’s inside the article itself or of course people a lot of times have those little embedded within the article the sort of retweet this particular line here and stuff.
Wade: Oh those are great.
Demian: Which gets traction too on the particular, it gets that quote gets shared but then sends traffic back to the site. At least that is the theory.
Kevan: Yeah, that’s all great. I love the high level thought of emotions. I think something we try to do too is kind of in the way that we design our blog posts. We always include images so that that’s something that people can easily share. We’ll bold or highlight key quotes or snippets, or block quotes. Something that has really taken off for us on occasion is bullet point lists that we personally have screen grabbed and shared with the tweet so it’s a little hack to get more characters in your tweet but also very kind a visual queue in the Twitter timeline also for people to grab. So those are some of our maybe our structural tips on making it share worthy.
35:44 – How important is interactive content such as ranking, meme caption, quizzes, in your content strategy?
Mike: And really relevant to this conversation, we’ve got another question from my colleague Carole from across the pond, she asks, “How important is interactive content such as ranking, meme caption, quizzes, in your content strategy?”
Kevan: We did a quiz once and it did really well for us. We used Quizzer and we haven’t used it since. Maybe I’m being too kind in saying it did well for us. I should say it’s on me that I haven’t gone back to do it again. But it was great and what Quizzer lets you do also is email addresses in there. So it was a good fun source of entertainment for our readers and a good source of lead gen for us. And I’ll think about some others while the rest answer. That was one though.
Demian: The question you’ve got to ask yourself about that kind of content, I know that you should probably speak on this too Kevan is like, you can create content that gets a ton of shares, that will get social media very buzz about what you’re writing. Of course writing a great headline will work too and send a lot of traffic possibly to your site but the question is, is that good traffic? Is that traffic that will actually convert, because I was fascinated with Bell Beth Cooper who used to write for Buffer. She wrote a number of superior articles for Buffer and I was always fascinated. These articles were nothing about social media. But they got like ten gazillion shares across the board for it. And after talking to her and a few other people about that, and if anybody noticed that has been following Buffer for a number of years now, will notice they have since pulled away from that strategy. Like Kevan said, they focused more on social media because they learned that what that traffic did was build the visibility of the company up, but once they got to a critical mass, and they said it’s no good having 14,000 people come to the site and two people convert. We need to change that. How could we track more people who are actually relevant to what you’re actually doing and we’ve seen that on Copyblogger itself. We did an infographic, probably the number one performing post across Copyblogger on what’s called Grammar Goofs and we make fun of it all the time because it’s the number one post on our site, always, and it did like over 200,000 Twitter, like across the board it was just ridiculous. But the traffic was like negligible. The traffic was like okay we’ll never do that shit again. Its fun and its ego building to do something like that, “oh my gosh, look at these vanity metrics, look how good this did.” Well, okay. At the end of the day, Brian asks, “well how many sales do you have?” Well, zero.
Kevan: Yeah, that’s a great one eh? I think there are a couple things…oh, sorry go ahead.
Demian: No go ahead, I’m done.
Kevan: No, I think you’re good. I think there’s a couple things that we think of. So there is kind of that interactive content that is entertaining and could be shared highly, then there is interactive content that could still be shared highly but is helpful. So in our case, we haven’t done too much memes or other quizzes or things like that, but we’ve done infographics a couple times which we kind of knew inherently that they might be shared more than a typical blog post. But at the same time we did them because it was a helpful way to re-package our content so even if it didn’t lead to necessarily sales, we knew that it was a helpful way to share. But yeah, you’re exactly right. The kind of the reason we pivoted away from life-hacking and productivity content is because it would get lots of shares and visibility but it wouldn’t convert and then the social media content did convert and we’re kind of were at that point where we want it to be known for social media rather than the life-hacking stuff. So lots to consider in terms of this conversation.
Wade: Yeah, I really don’t have anything to measure that either. I’m actually doing interactive piece of content for Jay Baer right now, it’s more of one of those choose your own adventure type of deals so if you want more tips on social marketing for your content, click this content, and it takes them to another thing, or if you want to learn more about content marketing, stay on this path and click this.
Wade: Do you remember those books where you could go to Page 30 or go to Page 6 and it’s a different thing? It’s kind of like something like that but, as far as knowing anything about measure, it sounds good. Technically it should work but we’ll see I guess.
40:11 – SiteSell Customers Are Content Creators. What Advice Do You Have For Standing Out Today?
Mike: Yeah, I know some of my own blog posts, some of the best performing have been lists. I use List.ly a lot, because it’s very dynamic to be able to crowd source some information but the bottom line like you guys have said is there’s got to be a reason for it, a business reason for talking about that particular topic because if there’s not enough association, it’s just not going to be any good. So one other question, at SiteSell, we’re really strong, believers in the importance of the role that content plays and the development of a business and our customers are working every day to write and share information. So what final advice would you have for someone today given how much content is being produced each and every minute? How can somebody stand out?
Wade: I think you stand out by being you and being relevant and helpful. Be kind, be genuine, and when you’re like that and you found your voice and you get your flow and all the writing is coming out of you really good the way it should, I think that your right audience will find you and that’s the connection that I’m trying to make with everybody. I’m trying to build relationships not only with my content but with myself personally. And just stay true to your convictions and write about those things and help people, above all, help people.
Kevan: Yeah, I like that sentiment a lot. A couple of thoughts come to mind and I think there’s this sentiment about unique selling proposition or however that’s phrased and sorry I’m not too familiar with it but that idea of a unique quality to your writing, really kind of catches my eye. I think that’s what I notice when I’m finding other blogs out there that have some cool stuff and what that specifically looks like for us at Buffer and the way that I think about it. I think it was CoSchedule where I found this but they mentioned this Red Ocean strategy and Blue Ocean strategy, where a Blue Ocean strategy is kind of the topics that are out there and everyone knows about them, and the Red Ocean strategy is what you’re aiming for which is something unique that no one else is really talking about, and identifying that and writing about that, could be a great way to get your name out there and get your content found. Another one that we think of kind of more recently is something that Rand Fishkin at Moz mentioned about having ten times as good of content as what currently is out there. So knowing what’s the best and not just seeking to improve on it, but seeking to improve on it ten times better. I think that’s one thing that’s been very inspiring for me personally at Buffer. We tend to write quite long blog posts so going ten times bigger is maybe more in our wheelhouse than other people. So that’s been great for me but I think you can do that in any number of different ways. I think the tone you have to be is unique and it could be specially a great tone for improving an existing topic. It could be a really short post that’s really synched and has a lot of visuals and things. I think the Canva blog is doing some cool stuff with visuals now. So there’s lots of different approaches to it. I think finding the unique one for you is my one tip.
Demian: Yeah, you have to know your competition. Like Kevan said, you can’t really create the ten times better blog post if you don’t know what’s already out there and just being kind of paranoid about people writing better than you. I think and understanding what’s out there and who’s writing about what because you can’t, if you have this brilliant idea and you wake up and say I’m going to write a blog post on how to write a blog post, you’ll have to consider the fact that there’s probably been a million of those written already and so not that evergreen content isn’t good, but how are you going to approach that particular evergreen content in such a way that it looks like a Red Ocean type of content? Yet, is actually…did I get my metaphors wrong? The Blue Ocean…
Kevan: I might have got them wrong first, I think you’re right.
Demian: And my favorite example of this is Darren Rowse who wrote…he has a pro blogger but he also has a site for a hugely popular digital photography school. He wrote this post about how to hold a camera. Everybody knows how to hold a camera right? And he’s like yeah, it just sounds like a stupid thing to do. So he decided to go ahead and do it and it’s like his most popular blog post because it is evergreen content. So my advice to people is to say this. Assume nothing about your audience.
Demian: Assume nothing, but at the same time know what’s already out there. Know your competition inside and out so that when you write something that has been written before, your write it and hopefully it naturally comes in on your voice but challenge yourself. Don’t be satisfied because it’s so easy to just sit down and write a blog post and think you’re done. But even before that, sit down and figure out what’s already out there and write in such a way. So naturally, I always talk about this idea that there are two different kinds of curation. There’s passive curation and active curation. Active curation is the research you do on a particular assignment. Passive curation is just being this sponge where you are soaking or a sinkhole where you’re absorbing all this information out there so that when you do sit down you can start rattling off these things, oh CoSchedule did this, and Canva did that, and Buffer did that, Wade Harman did this, so here’s how I’ve got to approach this particular topic. And all that, as Kevan said earlier, as you consume all this information, it marinates in your head and all of a sudden it’s just like you have this idea but you’re like no it’s not good enough, no it’s not good enough, no it’s not good enough and boom. It’s good enough. This is the direction I want to go and so you go that way. And that’s why it comes to that thought I said before. Be overly prepared. Always be this sinkhole that absorbs everything around you because it’s all material. It’s all material and you never know. I’m done.
46:18 – What Are You Working On Now And Where Can We Find You?
Mike: Boom. Drop mic. Fantastic, now before we wrap things up, I’d like each of you to share kind of what you are working on now, where can everyone in the audience find you, let them know.
Demian: You can find me on Twitter @DemianFarnworth, Copyblogger, I write there. I’ve also got a Podcast called Rough Draft, you can listen to that and it’s about writing online. It’s a daily short, under 10 minute podcast and then I’ve got my own personal site called CopyBot.com which often gets neglected so listen to the podcast.
Kevan: Yeah, I’m at the Buffer blog and its blog.bufferapp.com. I think you can find my stuff there and if you also want to find me online you can Google Kevan Lee, it’s Kevan with an A so any result that comes up is probably me and no other Kevan which is pretty cool. I love how you all have a little name tag underneath your stuff. I need to figure out how to do that on the Hangout. That’s really cool. It’s Kevan – K-E-V-A-N Lee and on Twitter, personal websites, and anywhere else.
Wade: Well, my name is Wade Harman. I blog for WadeHarman.com. And I also blog for an online marketing blog called WeallMedia.com. We offer content writing services and PR services, and social marketing services so it seems like it’s just getting busier and busier but that’s where you can find me and find me on Google+ all day. I do a Hangout show every week on Thursdays too. Check that out. It’s the Relationship Marketing show.
Demian: It’s a good show.
Mike: Very good. Thanks! Well that’s it for our show today everyone. I’d like to humbly thank my guests Demian, Wade, and Kevan. You guys have been so generous sharing your time and your wisdom. And I’d like to thank everyone in the audience for listening in; I hope you’ve learned as much as I have. This has been an incredible show. Please join us next Monday at 12 Eastern when I’ll be joined by my good friends Jeff Sieh, Dustin W. Stout, and Rebekah Radice, to talk about SOCIAL MEDIA as we continue our SiteSell Presents series. See you then!
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