Below are some key points from the presentation of Sonia Simone, Brian Clark, and Darren Rowse at Blog World Expo .
1) Free is not a business model. Your free content is only an attractor. Once you attract people and have attention for the things that you write, people should begin to like you. This is your opportunity to take charge and sell something that is related to the free content on your blog, this should be your business model.
Once you begin to monetize your site, realize that each outside ad you place on your website is selling your audience to someone else (maybe even your competitor). When you sell, be sure to sell directly to your audience through products affiliated with your blog and brand, do not sell your audience to a third party ad network. One way to begin to sell on your website is with premium content. The more information you give away for free, the more people will be willing to pay to get the full picture (premium content) or the same free information in a different format. If you give your audience 90% of your content for free, they will pay for that remaining 10% to complete the picture. Remember the bikini concept of information, the more you show, the more people will be willing to pay to see the rest.
2) The Push-Button Internet Cash Machine is on the Fritz. In your life online, you will hopefully have a few times when you can make money quickly, but these times are few and far between. To truly sell something and be profitable you need to be real and you need to be someone that people can trust. Do not sell just to make money. Take the time and energy to create something worthwhile that has real value to your audience.
3) You are not Scalable. The "baby" phase of your blog is fleeting. In the beginning, it is easy to reply to every email or see every comment, but the bigger your audience gets the harder it is. You cannot be engaged with your audience 24/7 without having alien DNA. So engage your audience, but set boundaries so that you can engage without giving them every piece of yourself.
4) No One Actually wants that much Authenticity. The idea of being authentic is popular right now, but realize that your readers do not need to know everything about you and your life. Part of being a success online is creating boundaries between your online and offline world. You should avoid lying about who you really are, but you should strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be online. Your blog isn't really about you, it is about your audience.
5) Social Media Hates Selling (And yet, you have to sell). By creating a profile on any social media website, you are selling yourself to your audience. But your audience on social media will not respond well to shilling on your profiles. You need to foster good relationships with people on and offline so that they build your reputation in social media for you.
The truth in selling is that "people hate to be sold, but they love to buy." You should gather regular attention through your blog and through social media, and then gently lead your audience towards a sale. One suggestion, is to develop your product and then develop free content related to your product. Release the free content first, and your audience will want the product that you have developed. You need to give your audience the chance to buy without pitching them. People hate being pitched, but they love to be given an offer. How do you know what your audience wants? Observe your audience religiously. You can use polls or surveys, but perhaps the most telling is reading the comments that users leave on your site. Is there a specific post or idea that people are gravitating to? Are they asking you for a product that you can develop? It is better to make a product that you know your audience already wants instead of forcing them to sit through a pitch for an irrelevant one.
6) A Blog is not a Business. Publishing a blog does not make you a business owner. Bringing a blog into the world of business takes time and careful cultivation. You should begin thinking about the possibilities of your blog long before you execute, and examine your audience. A transient audience (for example on a product review blog) is going to be less receptive to paid products then a loyal audience that reads you blog every morning. Use analytics to learn about your audience and create the perfect environment for your product's release. Keep in mind that while your goal for your product may not change, the road you take to it's release and success will change over time.
7) No One is Reading Your Blog. When no one (or no one but your mother) is reading your blog, ask yourself the following questions. How much time have I been blogging? Does anyone care about what I am blogging about? Is my content fresh? If you find that your blog is too new, give it time to grow and develop. If your blog is on a topic that no one cares about, take the time to find another niche or settle for a small, but passionate audience. If your content is stale, take the time to add pep and flair to your posts to keep interest in what you need to say. And above all else, be useful. People come to website look to be either informed or entertained. The world does not need another Parez Hilton, but they do need more information. Be useful and the readers will come.
On a final note, remember that your blog is your message to the world. Each time you hit publish, you are sending out a message, make sure that you have something important to say.
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