Wednesday, January 22, 2014

C Is For Crushing On Brandon Stanton.. Ahem... Content

Well, to start with, C is for Cheers from Baby. Or is it Crushing on Brandon Stanton?  Not sure.

Nonetheless, she was very excited because her copy of Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton finally arrived from Amazon.

I'm not going to embarass her here by publishing her email to me where she squealed and shrieked etc, thanking me for the book.

You can read about what she did when it arrived here, if you don't mind teenage language and enthusiasm (She's 15).

For the rest of you, let's just say I'm her favourite person because I listened when she bludgeoned me about loving Brandon Stanton, wanting to read HONY and basically, wishing she could grow up to be like Brandon Stanton. Yes, I know I'm repeating his name a lot. She repeated his name and book title A LOT!

And when I didn't take the hint, she started sending me posts from his Facebook page.

C is for also for content

Specifically, creating blog content. Listening to the chatter from participants of the VA Tips and Tricks Blog Challenge, one of the issues most talked about was, "what can I do to blog more frequently, consistently and as quickly as possible so that blogging helps me accomplish my goals but does not take too much of the time I could use running my business?"

OK, you didn’t phrase it quite like that, but the issues raised related to aspects of this big question.

I’ve been blogging since January 2006, have grown a reliable readership even if it’s not very big, lost my blogging mojo and eventually got back into blogging with some enthusiasm. So I think I have some insights that could be answer parts of this question. Maybe?

 A. Type of content to help you hook your client

Here are some suggestions as to the type of content that could help you hook your readers:

1. Content infused with heart

I’ve found that blogs that work for me, that encourage me to read the first page, then move on to other pages, maybe even subscribe to receive updates, are blogs whose content has personal elements. I learn a lot from these blogs, because they infuse this learning with personal experience. I also feel that over time, the bloggers grow into people I can trust when it comes to the subject matter of their expertise.

Examples of such blogs for me are Lori Widmer’s Words On The Page, (on the business of freelance writing) Jennifer Mattern’s All Indie Writers (freelance writing and blogging) and Melissa’s The Inspired Room, Rhonda's Down To Earth (Simple Living Lifestyle) and Nana Chel's Going Grey and Slightly Green.

Except for the first two, these blogs cover very different topics and yet they all command my interest almost every day.

The element that these blogers have in common is that they teach me something new, that affects an aspect of my daily life, every time I read their posts. They infuse their posts with personal experience, insight and friendliness instead of giving me what looks like an extract from a school essay.

When I read their posts, I feel like we're just hanging out, and yet, I leave with something so valuable that no matter how busy my day is, I usually make the time to go back.

By contrast, blogs which practically contain dry lectures on a subject don’t do it for me. The post may be well-written, even provide accurate information, but I find that after a while my eyes just glaze over the content and I leave the site with no feeling of kinship and no motivation to go back.

2. Content infused with fresh insights to help solve a problem

There are a number of reasons people read blogs. These include entertainment and looking for information to solve an existing problem. I think we can rule out entertainment when it comes to blogs about being a virtual assistant?

Anyhoo, what I mean to say is, your readers are probably visiting your blog because they have a problem a VA could potentially help them solve, if they had one.  So your blog content needs to provide some of the answers they need before they ask the question, so they are reassured that they are in the right place.

3. Content that demonstrates your expertise

The above point brings us to the expertise that you are selling. To hook your potential client, you need to demonstrate your expertise through your content.

You could do this by writing up case studies showing how your clients have dealt with certain issues (you don’t have to name names, and some happy clients may be happy to be profiled on your blog) , or just giving some advice, like I’m doing in this post, without giving concrete company examples.

B. Making it easier and more pleasurable to blog

The one thing we must not forget is that blogs started out as a fun activity people did to share their lives, knowledge and skill with others. It was only later that it was co-opted as a business tool.

And one of the ways you can make blogging less of a chore is to discover /rediscover the joy in the process itself. So how do you do that?

1. Look at blogging as a way to make new friends

As I’ve said before, my blog Storypot is my kitchen, where I hang out with friends and associates and we share a cup of coffee while we cook up stories. This means that I can relax, use casual language and just chat about what my visitors want to talk about.

That kind of attitude will affect the way yu perceive blogging (a way to hang out with friends, not a job) and your content (you chat about what interests you both).

I've made some pretty good friends just hanging around here and some of them were very supportive when I lost my blogging mojo. They were not just my readers. They cared about me personally, emailed me to say, " how are you? is there anything we can do to help?" And they gave me space, making it clear they'd still be here when I was ready to blog again.

Friends like that? You want to get back to; to chat with them.

2. Make time for blogging, but don’t rule out inspiration

Most of us work from home and there are no colleagues to share with them when you have that 'Aha!" moment, or to share our frustrations with. Well, your blog is there… write up whatever it is.

Leave the post in your computer for a while, to be posted, get a trusted friend to read it to see how indiscreet you're being and whether you should delete some things or not. Then when the issue is no longer a hot button for you, publish it.

Posts from the heart like that resonate with people.

3. Use tools/apps to help you get through tough times

There are tough times when the words just won’t come no matter what you do, and you just want to skip the blogging thing and move on to the next job.  As a writer, unfortunately that happens more times than I care to count.

I used to use a timer to allocate 30 minutes or an hour to a writing project. I wasn’t allowed to start another project or move from my desk until I started on the project, even if I had to stare at the screen for hours.

These days, I use an online tool called , which gives me approximately 25 minutes of work interspersed with 5/10/15 minutes of rest in-between. You may find that staring at the screen for 5 minutes you will eventually start typing something. You may not like the beginning, but it will get better as you continue.

Or maybe you relate better to writing prompts. Or you have a silent day and just post an interesting picture from your office. Or a quote from your favourite author/character/motivational speaker etc.

Anyhoo, I think we mostly know these things. But sometimes we forget them in the heat of our daily lives and busy schedules.

So I hope this helps a bit, reminds you why started your blog in the first place. I would also like to ask you to comment, share the strategies that you've used to make your blogging easier, or to get through the days when you don't want to blog/feel like you don't have the time.


This blog post is part of Week 3 of the VA Blogging Challenge. Here are my previous posts for the challenge:

Week 1:

A is for Assessment
A is for Anthologies and Amazon Widgets

Week 2

B is for Basics
B is for Bookmarks

Week 3

C is for Celebrating Storypot's 8th Anniversary


po said...

I see Baby is starting a new school (from her blog) - am wondering if it is the school I was at back in the day - LOL that would be so weird but I grew up in Durbs too. I have never heard of this book though - need to check it out!

Damaria Senne said...

Good to hear from you Po. It could be the same school, if the name starts with W and it's for girls only.

I also hadn't heard of the book or the author, until baby started nagging. Then suddenly, the guy was everywhere I went online....

po said...

Well... I grew up in a suburb beginning with W and went to an all girls school! :D I hope she enjoys her time there if it is the same one, I am very grateful for the education I got at that school. Am googling that book now!

Crystal Collier said...

Great post! I was examining my current memes while reading, and I LIKE where they've landed. It definitely takes time to get your blogging feet under you, but as soon as you do, you've got the freedom to RUN. =)

Damaria Senne said...

@Crystal - From what I can see of your blog, you are running very fast. Nice job!

Rebecca A Emrich said...

Great read. I love humans of New York. I spend too much time just flipping through it. okay... back on topic. I agree with you the best blogs are the ones with heart. Don't believe me? Try the very emotional and fantastic ride Jordan and I had for the past few days (you know about it, and thanks from both of us for your comment) anyhoo... heart and something to say really makes a blog.

You are perfectly right in those three points.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Happy 8th Anniversary!!! And nice to meet you. :)

Student Mommy said...

Congratulations on 8 years!!! I'm on 6. I only took it seriously about two/ three years ago. I have no theme. I talk too much, and so this is my avenue in the hopes that I physically talk less... not really working, but I'm loving blogging.

Shawn said...

Thank you for helping me to see how to make blog writing more then just a chore. Especially #1 I'm new to the group and to most of the VA's on the group so I hope to make friends while I'm participating.

Damaria Senne said...

@Rebecca - like I said in my comment on your blog: do it again. OK, maybe not exactly the same kind of announcement ( not sure your nerves could survive that), but that kind of authentic post that inspires people. Could have done without the trolls though.
@Student Mommy - 6 six years of consistent blogging is very impressive. And hopefully, you'll hit your stride in traffic (I live in hope too)with a lot of conversation going on.

@Shawn - I'm glad that my post could help, even a little.

I've found bloggers to be an incredibly friendly and generous lot (Rebecca's trolls notwithstanding), so I'm sure you'll make a lot of friends. Gaynor to start with.. I've been her on your blog. You know, I met her online in 1999, and we happened to have kids sharing a birthday, even the year... and she's always happy to make new friends.

Unknown said...

I love the Humans of New York project. He produces some beautiful photographs. I dabble in photography myself so this post was a lovely read and reminder of his stunning work. Thank you

Gaynor Paynter said...

I am a very nice person. It's true. Bwhahaha

Jennifer Mattern said...

Damaria -- I just wanted to thank you quickly for mentioning All Indie Writers. I'm so happy to hear that you enjoy the site. :)

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