Name: Michelle

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/writtenbysumer

Personal Blog: http://www.writtenbysumer.com/blog

Bio: Michelle Salater is an award-winning writer and president of Sūmèr, LLC, a company which specializes in web copy writing, SEO copywriting, and the promotion and marketing of websites after they launch. In 2009, she was awarded the Forty Under 40 Award for her business and community leadership.

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    Authentic Marketing

    February 26th, 2010

    Building a successful business online requires effectively reaching potential clients through strategic and authentic marketing practices. Companies that utilize transparent practices are more successful than companies that shy away from expressing their brand personality and business practices.

    Transparent practices are crucial if you want to build trust between potential clients and your brand. If you hide your brand personality, if your message — including the one in your business blog —  is inflated or muddled in industry jargon, or if the message is too focused on the company, it will be difficult to reach a large range of potential clients and strategic partners.

    The key is to get real. Take some time and evaluate your business mission and what your company stands for. Take a look at where you aren’t being as authentic as you could be, then rework your message to reflect the personality and the message you want to communicate.

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    Do Blog Contests Really Build Blog Readership?

    February 18th, 2010

    Over the past few months, I’ve been working very hard to build my blog readership and the number of subscribers. Along with building relationships with other bloggers, sharing posts I love, asking people to be guest bloggers, and being a guest blogger for others, I’ve also started running blog contests.

    I ran my first contest back in December of 2009 and a second one in January. The first contest I gave away a free seat to one of my upcoming PR 2.0 bootcamps. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of participants. I figured since that went well, all my contests would run as smoothly.

    Boy, was I wrong. The second contest I gave away a free book, Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich. I promoted it on social media, I emailed people about it, and I talked about it with clients. I was shocked when only four people participated, yet 204 people saw the post.

    Unsure what went wrong, I decided to seek out bloggers who’ve run contests and see what had worked for them and what hadn’t. I wanted to find out if certain types of contests fare better than others, if the time of year had something to do with it, and if a successful contest was dependent on something I wasn’t aware of?

    The first of many interviews I’ve conducted was with wedding photographer, Chris Leary, owner of Weddings by Chris Leary Photography based in New York City. Chris is currently running his second wedding-photography contest on his blog—giving away up to eight hours of free wedding photography to a lucky couple who wins his blog essay contest.

    Here is the interview with Chris Leary:

    Describe your first blog contest.

    In January 2009, I held an essay contest called “The Power of Giving,” where all entrants were required to submit an essay on their love for each other and to play off the theme of something old, new, borrowed, and blue. Much like my current contest, the winner won eight hours of photography by two separate photographers, limited travel, online proofs, a signed print, and a copy of all the images on a disc. The intention was to give back, to donate my services and my passion for wedding photography, and to have a contest that was a positive experience for all . . . and for me.

    What did you learn from this experience?

    The first blog contest I ran, I relied on my blog readership, which was very small and wasn’t sufficient in getting the word out. I only made a general announcement on my blog where—according to the stats—I had a readership of about 500 people. Not a single entry came to me in the first two weeks of the four-week contest. No one even emailed me with questions or to ask if this was for real.

    I kept wondering why people weren’t taking advantage of such an incredible opportunity—a prize worth about $3,000.

    At that point, I realized that a readership of 500 people is way too little to have any impact and I needed to do more to get the word out. When I decided to promote on Craigslist, my blog traffic went up slightly, but nothing that would be considered viral.

    Fortunately, one person who saw it advertised on Craigslist also reposted it on an online bridal forum, which really helped. In the end, I received a fair number of entries, about 50, but I thought a contest like this would generate three times that.

    How heavily do you think the prize plays a role in contest popularity and participation?

    I think the bigger the better for prizes. My winning prize is worth about $3,000—most of it equates to my time, but I do pay my second photographer his normal rate. There is definitely a demand for wedding photography, and people continue to get married despite what is happening to the economy. People may put their lives on hold, but it is only for a very short time; people will eventually move their lives forward. The prize has great value, not only in the quality of the services, but I’m also in demand because I can only do one wedding on any given date.

    I also think the winning prize needs to have no strings attached. In my case, I have no expectations from the winning couple.

    What components do you believe are essential in running a popular blog contest?

    In my case, timing has played an important factor. The recession makes my contest easy to promote because many couples are looking to save money where they can in their wedding budgets. Having a contest that awards photography is an easy way for couples to save money. There is no risk to me; it’s only my time. It does require flexibility for the couple.

    I also think a minimum of four weeks for a contest is mandatory—especially with a larger prize. You need time for the word to get out so everyone knows about this fantastic opportunity.

    What is the biggest mistake bloggers can make when hosting a contest?

    Not promoting. Not updating their blog to let the audience know what’s going on. You need to create a buzz. Make your readers feel as if they are missing out on a fantastic opportunity. I’d also suggest you hire a PR consultant to help strategize and get the word out. The success of a contest is in the sheer number of people who see it, share it, and participate.

    You’re currently running a second blog contest. What are you doing differently this time around?

    As in the previous year, the prize remains the same, and the contestants are required to write an essay or send in a video essay. Since I strongly value creativity and having fun, I ask the couples to share their own creativity and to just have fun with this contest.

    Unlike 2009, this year I have implemented the use of Facebook and Twitter. I’ve also reached out to other bloggers, especially wedding bloggers who write about saving money on wedding expenses.

    In light of the disappointment some of the contestants expressed last year, I decided to give everyone who participates, but doesn’t win, a discount on my wedding or portrait services.

    Check out Chris Leary’s current blog contest.

    What do you think makes a successful blog contest?

    6 Comments "

    10 Ways to Put Your Blog Promotion on Autopilot

    February 16th, 2010

    blog promotionThink of your blog as an airplane and you, the writer, as the pilot. Imagine flying a plane eight hours straight without autopilot. You’d get pretty exhausted, right?

    When it comes to your business blog, you can spend hours promoting it and spend less time on more important business tasks, or you can utilize tools that allow you to put your blog promotion efforts on autopilot.

    Here are 10 ways to promote your blog without having to waste your time performing the same everyday tedious tasks:

    Su.pr: This URL shortening tool optimizes in its conversion, Su.pr increases your website / blog traffic by exposing each of your shortened URLs across StumbleUpon, Twitter, and Facebook. It also allows you to schedule your URLs to be posted on Twitter or Facebook. One of the greatest features of Su.pr is its tracking ability. You can track, in real time, how much exposure your URL is receiving and detect where the exposure is coming from.

    StumbleUpon: One of my favorites, this brilliant bookmarking tool allows you to bookmark your blog posts and share them with your followers. StumbleUpon allows you to bypass the search engines. Instead of sifting through Google or Bing, StumbleUpon allows you to personalize your searches so you can easily find blogs, websites, photos, and videos of interest to you. Once you find one you like, you can give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down rating. You then can share your bookmarked findings with other StumbleUpon users.

    Networked Blogs: With over 300,000 blogs in their database, Networked Blogs provides bloggers with a chance to promote their blog, without having to visit the Networked Blogs website more than once. Simply add your blog to the Networked Blogs platform, optimize your submission with keywords, and your blog will automatically be submitted to the database.

    Facebook: You can further use the power of Networked Blogs by feeding your Networked Blogs into your Facebook account. Feed your blog into your company page or profile page on Facebook using the Networked Blogs application or the notes section. We personally prefer using the Networked Blogs feed application because it allows us to display our blog posts on both Facebook and the Networked Blogs directory.

    FriendFeed: With FriendFeed, you can share everything you do on social media platforms with your friends—in real time. You don’t even have to manually add anything to FriendFeed if you don’t want to. All information you choose to share is automatically fed into your FriendFeed, enabling all of your friends to see what you’re up to. Some platforms you can feed into FriendFeed include your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Su.pr, and much more.

    Digg: As one of the best online bookmarking tools, Digg enables you to share your blog posts as well as other bloggers’ posts with the entire Digg community. When you share your posts to Digg, others can vote on what they find to be the best article.

    Delicious: Delicious is another social bookmarking platform that allows users to save and share their favorite sites and articles with others. Much like StumbleUpon, Delicious allows you to tag sites you bookmark. Adding your blog posts and other blogs you love to this bookmarking site will help with overall promotion and exposure of your blog.

    LinkedIn: LinkedIn allows you to feed your blog into your profile page. Every time you post a new blog, that post will appear on your profile. LinkedIn also allows you to import your Twitter account.

    Blog Buttons: Add a blog button to your Facebook page and your website. You can create your own blog button by simply taking a jpeg of your company logo or your blog logo, or creating a jpeg that says “Blog,” and linking the image to your blog.

    Email Signature: Put a call to action and link to your blog in your email signature box. Every time you send an email to friends, important prospects, clients, colleagues, and others in your industry, they will have the option to visit your blog.

    Why do you blog for business? Click here to take my blog survey.

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    3 Mistakes To Avoid When Posting YouTube Videos

    January 29th, 2010

    Do a quick search on YouTube and you’ll find videos without sound, ones that make no sense, poorly produced videos, and boring content. The worthless video is everywhere.

    These poorly produced videos are fine if you’re uploading footage of your cat chasing your hamster or showing your kids playing in the ocean. But if you are a company using YouTube to promote your services, products, or expertise, then poorly produced videos will do the opposite of what you intended.

    Posting a video just to post it: Posting a video without a clear purpose is a YouTube no-no. Not to mention a waste of your energy and the viewer’s time.  Before you create a video, you want to decide what the purpose is, the best way to provide prospects with valuable information, and the most effective way to execute it.

    Let’s say a tour company wants to post a video about their latest tour promotion to Niagara Falls. Posting a video that just scans the falls and the spectators isn’t enough. Without some sort of explanation to orient the viewer, the video will have minimal impact. And a video like this does nothing to entice viewers to want to visit Niagara Falls. Sure it’s a nice view, but the video message isn’t powerful enough.

    A more effective video would orient the viewer and include audio that talks about the tour, gives facts about the Falls, and / or include happy traveler interviews about their experience.

    Your video should reinforce your brand, not hinder it: A poorly made video—whether it be bad quality, muffled sound, or flat-out pointless—reflects your brand image. Your videos should be consistent with your brand personality and with your brand message.

    For example, if you are an adventure travel company and you have a video of you on a zip line high above a rainforest canopy, viewers will be okay with shaky video footage. It not only shows what your company does, but it creates an experience for them. By contrast, if you own a spa and you want to post a video on the latest and greatest facial services you offer, your video should be high quality. Your dress and message should reflect your brand.

    Not using a call to action at the end of each video: Although the entire video should be working to drive the prospective client to take action, the last portion of your video should always provide a call to action and be accompanied by the appropriate contact information and links.  Having your information readily available after viewers finish your video will help drive them to take action, which could be calling your company, purchasing your product online, inquiring via email, or simply learning more about your company.

    Whatever the action you want them to take, make it obvious.While the call-to-action usually comes at the end, if you have the appropriate video software you can display your website link and company phone number at the bottom of the screen throughout the entire duration of the video.

    7 Comments "

    Mind Your Blogging Manners: 10 Proper Commenting Practices

    January 26th, 2010

    blogging tips1. Read the blog post. Sounds obvious, but I’ve read a few comments on my blog and on other blogs where the commenter clearly had not read the post. If you want to contribute to the conversation, you need to read the entire post.

    2. Make sure your comment is relevant to the post. This goes back to reading the entire post. You cannot read the first paragraph of the blog post and expect your comments to be relevant. And don’t just rely on previous comments. You might get away with reading the intro a few times, but it will eventually come back to haunt you.

    3. Your comments should add value. Your comments on other blogs should also add value and demonstrate your expert opinion as to what’s being said in the blog

    4. Provide positive feedback. If you disagree, respectfully disagree. At all costs, avoid personally attacking the blogger, being too negative, or attacking other commenters. There is a polite way to offer your opinion.

    5.   Engage others with your comments. Your comments should peak the interest of the author and of other viewers. A good way to do this is to ask follow-up questions. Authors who are intrigued by your comment may want to visit your blog and comment on it.

    6. Don’t sell, sell, sell. This goes back to the point above that your comments should add value. Only talking about your products / services is annoying, rude, and not the way to provide value to the conversation.

    7. Don’t include links to your site in your comment body. This is considered spam, and I can attest, no blogger likes this. There is a time and a place to include links.

    8. Fill out the information box. When you comment, blogs allow you to include your name, email, and a link to your blog or website. Take advantage of this. When people viewing the blogs come across one of your intriguing comments, there is always the potential for them to click on your link to view your site or send an email your way.

    9. Check back frequently. Don’t just leave a comment, and never return. Contribute to the conversation. If the blog allows it, sign up for follow-up comments via email.

    10. Comment frequently on blogs you love. Doing so helps build relationships with other bloggers and the online community. It also shows people that you care about what’s going on in your industry and that you respect others’ opinions.

    3 Comments "

    How to Decrease the Time You Spend Blogging While Increasing Post Value

    January 21st, 2010

    Do you try really hard to keep up with your blog posts but find yourself hurried and frustrated? Rushing to post just to post is not the best idea. When you stick anything up on your blog just to check it off your to-do list, you run the risk of posting articles with little value to the reader and boring them to tears.  

    How do you manage to write blogs packed full of useful information while spending less time doing it? Below are a few tricks of the trade.

    1. Use pictures to tell a story. Images in blog posts work to draw readers in and keep them reading. Graphs, charts, and photos are effective ways to back up key points you’re trying to make. Or, let the images tell the story for you, and post a photo story.

    2. Interview key influencers in Q&A format. Find someone you feel would be of interest to your readers, and ask him or her for an interview. Send the person a list of questions, have the person answer by a set deadline, edit the copy, write an intro, and violà! You have a post readers will want to read and one you didn’t have to write.

    3. Request guest bloggers to write for your blog. Guest bloggers provide a fresh perspective and help expand your readership base.

    4. Use video. Whether you want to post a how-to video from YouTube or write a quick how-to blog and use video clips as examples, incorporating video into your posts will save you a ton of writing time.

    5. Write a short reaction piece. Is there an article relating to your industry that you have a strong opinion about? Sit down and write a short reaction article—it shouldn’t take you long. These short and sweet editorial posts not only show readers you are current with industry news, but they also showcase your personality.

    6. Create an editorial calendar for your blog on a monthly or quarterly basis. Taking time to plan post topics—including scheduling guest bloggers and interviews—will save you a ton of time on a weekly basis.

    7. Batch your writing time. Setting aside a few hours a week to write posts will keep you from rushing to find topics to write about and writing at the last minute. Find a time that works for you, and, each week, make sure you use that time to write blogs.

    What do you do to maximize your blogging time? Feel free to leave a comment below.

    6 Comments "