Context Is Credibility

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I’ve written before about the importance of context; and ranted too about “stolen” images used, uncredited etc., at Tumblr and other sites. I’ve tweeted and posted at Facebook about my hatred of such things. Others have taken a far more direct and pointed-tongued approach (NWS) regarding the issue. But Sarah Werner‘s It’s History, Not A Viral Feed is the most direct and well-articulated article — complete with excellent resources.

— A. History (@AhistoricalPics) January 24, 2014

 

Research On Content Curation Online

big mouth promotions logoAt Scoop.It I posted (or “re-scooped”) to several of my curated topics a link to a research study entitled Sharing the Loves: Understanding the How and Why of Online Content Curation. Robin Good  of Content Curation World breaks the findings down thus:

a) what people curate as relevant is not generally among the top ranked results according to popular metrics. Good stuff is not the same as what is considered normally popular or authoritative stuff.

b) content curation allows a community to synchronize around specific issues and subjects (as anticipated by Clay Shirky)

c) better and more appreciated curation is of the “structured” kind, providing additional info, meta-data and categorization.

d) curators that are highly appreciated are characterized by consistent activity and by a variety of interests (or viewpoints under the same theme) that they are capable to cover.

This is rather my experience; however, I usually explain it to my clients this way:

a) You can be doing an excellent job, but never receive the recognition, popularity, or traffic you deserve.That doesn’t mean you won’t be appreciated greatly by the smaller group of people who do find/read your curated works.

b) No matter the popularity of your curation, you can build and have conversations — but remember, community cultivation not only requires additional time, but a different skill set.

c) If you’re going to do it, do it well. Use tools, such as labels and tags, and *always* provide context as well as proper credits and links.

d) Consistent activity is nearly as important as showing some personality along with your knowledge. Your topic may be narrowly focused, but offer additional topics and information about you personally (not just professionally) so that people get a sense of you.

More on curation here.

Blogging Death Knells Are Premature & Passe

This sort of “blogging is dead, especially for business” thinking as shared in Beyond Blogging: 13 Content Marketing Opportunities for Ecommerce by Linda Bustos drives me nuts:

Remember when business blogging was really big? You know, 2007-ish, before Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram came and stole all that consumer attention span.

The death of Google Reader may just be one more signal that blogging is passe, at least as a marketing tool for commercial products.

Only 25% of the 85 retail blogs we tracked in 2007 are still actively updated today. That’s a 75% abandonment rate.

So if blogging’s dead, what content marketing opportunities remain for ecommerce?

First of all, the majority of the sites listed rely on content produced elsewhere to fill them — not only curation sites, like Pinterest & Scoop.It, but social media sites, like Facebook & Twitter (which are also blogging or micro-blogging), as well. Without blogs and websites creating content, what is there to curate or share? And, in fact, at least half of the 13 “opportunities” Bustos lists are actions (content, curation) performed at blogs; many are actually dependent upon blogs specifically for content, and at least three of them (Infographics, Newsletter/email, QRated content) require blogs or websites to make them work.

Premature_Burial_VaultIf The Future is based on blogging, how can it be dead?

Secondly, there are major issues with the subject of blog abandonment rate claims. Blogs, like the static sites before them, have always had high abandonment rates. Since 2004, Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere has been examining such things as the supposed “death” of blogs — and the more the death rumor waves rolled in, they rolled back out again as more data put the rumors out to sea. Sure, blogs are abandoned. Blogging has made it super easy for the code-ignorant to self-publish — come on in, the water’s fine! And, like so many self-directed activities, such ease has allowed them to self-perish just as easily. Any one of those reasons can just as easily be applied to curating or “Facebooking”.  (But, by the way, did you do any digging to see why that 75% of retail blogs were abandoned? Are the companies still around? Have multiple blogs been combined? Have blogs been rolled into retail sites? Have they simply been “guest blogging” at other sites, or using Facebook Pages?)

Beneath all of this, however, is the fundamental issue of what blogging is.

I’ve long contended that blogging is a method of publishing; it’s the software, the mechanism, the platform. In that case, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are platforms for blogging. Platforms which are far more controlled by others than the single stand-alone sites which Bustos & others call blogs and are trying to declare dead.  But to say “blogging is dead” is a more than premature; it’s just plain not true.

You can split-hairs over what blogging is or isn’t, which platforms, software, distribution methods etc. are trending now and where it might go tomorrow, but whatever you call it, people will be creating and many of them will opt to control their creations as well. (…Well, many of us will do our best to try to control as best we can in this Digital Wild West. And for many of us, that means our own sites and even our own servers. Because as we are learning more every day, sites and platforms come & go every single day. And censorship is a threat. Wise folks who value their creations know that using another party’s service/site/platform has plenty of risks.)

Whether the blogging/self-publishing mechanism changes is not really an issue, for as technology advances it certainly will change. But the creation of content itself will remain. And (hopefully!) we will always have individuals involved who will opt to retain their roles of both creator and publisher, i.e. their own blogs and sites (whatever they’ll be called), for which the curators, sharers, etc. should be most thankful.

Image Credits: Wikipedia

I’m Betting You Need To Do This

Check MarkI’ve just finished a round of website reviews, and I’m here to tell anyone listening (which includes contacting a slew of former clients with whom I remain in close contact) that you need to implement or update your About and/or FAQ pages.

I know a number of bloggers using Blogger (Blogspot blogs) either avoided creating such pages or simply made posts they linked to and have passed out of mind as they have passed from sight. But now that Blogger offers “pages,” you’re out of excuses.

I know a number of people who said their site was so new no questions had been asked, let alone any questions frequently asked, so they put it off for another day… Those days have rolled into how many seasons or even years now? *wink*

Even those of you who took great efforts to create such information pages should really take another look at them…

The truth is About pages and FAQs are quite popular and important pages. They are where people look to make contact with you, where they look for more information to evaluate if and how to do business with you. That business may be buying ad space, arranging a link swap, or finding additional information needed in order to commit to buying your widget. In any case, every time that page isn’t found, you’ve likely lost that sale.

After the round of such poor and just plain missing pages, I’m almost certain your site’s About and FAQ pages would benefit from a critical update. I’d bet my reputation on it.

Would you bet your reputation on them? Because you are, you know.

If you aren’t sure that your primary information pages are up to snuff, get them (and the rest of your site) evaluated by with a website review.

If you’re not sure just what information is necessary, which questions and answers should be on your FAQ, contact us about a consultation. We can assist you with a simple list of what you need, write it for you — even code it for you, if necessary. Contact me with your needs and budget.

Calling All Former Snip.It Users & Future Content Curators!

As mentioned in my interview with Scoop.It’s Guillaume Decugis, Scoop.It has been working on a way for those of us abandoned by Snip.It to upload the exported data. Earlier this week, I beta tested the new import feature — and it works quite well!

As you can see, there were some topics or categories in common, so I will have to work a bit to resort and even delete both individual links and entire topics. (Because I specifically worked to make sure that my feminist topic at Scoop.It was different from my feminist collection at Snip.It, I have to check each link before I hit delete — however, Scoop.It’s system has always let you know if you’ve scooped a link before, so it goes faster than you think!)

Amazingly, all of my collections uploaded — giving me more collection or topics than Scoop.It previously allowed! And it’s not just for former Snip.It users either now.

For the month of February, Scoop.It is “lifting the topic creation limit: for free!” That means, even if you were not a member of Snip.it, whether you were a Scoop.It user or not, you can get an unlimited number of topics to curate at Scoop.It!

Again, this is only for the month of February (2013). (Which works out pretty good for Snip.it users who have to download their export file of collections and snips by the 21st of the month.)

Here’s How You Do It

Step One: If you were a Snip.It user, and haven’t already done so, go here to export and save what you’ve snipped using the “Export To HTML” download button.

Step Two: If you are not already a Scoop.It member, join now.

Step Three: Once you are a Scoop.It member, contact Ally Greer at Ally@scoop.it. Introduce yourself as a former Snip.It user and request the account option to import Snip.It collections.

Step Four: When the option has been activated, login to Scoop.It, use the drop-down menu beneath your name and click on the Settings option.

Step Five: In settings, look for the Snip.It Import tab; click it and you’ll see where to upload your Snip.It export file.

What’s very cool, is they have progress bars to show you how it’s all going. For those with many collections and thousands of links, it goes faster than you think — especially when you can see that it is working!

Pretty easy and fabulous, right?

A few of the links, very few percentage wise, did not upload the images. But with Scoop.It, you can always edit your scoop, including uploading your own image. So if that bothers you, you can fix it.

First, click the Edit button…

Then the Edit Image button to upload the image.

Once you join Scoop.It, let me know. (You can follow my topics or just leave a comment here with a link to you at Scoop.It; whatever works for you.)

And if you have any problems, contact Ally; she’s always there to help. Really!

PS If you are new to curating, don’t have any file to import, or are an existing Scoop.It member who just wants more topics (for free!), you can still take advantage of the free love at Scoop.It this month. All you have to do is ask for more topics by sending an email to business@scoop.it. Again, details here.

The Scoop On Content Curation & Scoop.It

Once Snip.It pulled the plug on the content curation site, thereby pulling the rug out from under the feet of content curators like myself, I began speaking with the fine folks at Scoop.It.

As always, Community Manager Ally Greer was there with more than kind, supportive words but with some action too. Thanks to her, and the other responsive folks at Scoop.It, there will be some great news coming from my now favorite curation site soon. (Hint: They are working on a way for the exported Snip.It file to be uploaded to Scoop.It; details to follow, so stay tuned!)

Meanwhile, I wanted to talk about why why many had not been using the site – like myself, had not been as dedicated to Scoop.It. After all, while many are scrambling to move their online curation, the same reasons why they hadn’t used Scoop.It before may very well still apply, right? And what better way to discuss this than with Guillaume Decugis, Co-founder and CEO of Scoop.It.

Thanks so much for making the time to discuss this with me, Guillaume.

Decugis: Thank you for giving us this opportunity to communicate with you as we try to find Snip.it users a solution to migrate their topics to Scoop.it.

You might not feel that way after I shoot some hard questions at you! Here’s the first one:

The problem, comparatively, with Scoop.It vs. Snip.It, was the limited number of collections or topics. Many of us had 20 or more collections, and even the business plan has a limit of 15. Can you explain Scoop.It’s reasoning for limiting the number of topics?

Decugis: In the very early phases of Scoop.it private beta, we were confronted with a very simple problem: some people were doing domain squatting on Scoop.it urls without actually using them to curate content. Scoop.it topic urls are unique and it works really well with our topic-centric model: we’re not just about curating content but we also strongly believe that we offer better discovery capabilities to our users by having this model where you curate, discover and follow topics. Making urls unique encourages users to be specific on the niches they cover. So preventing domain squatting was one pragmatic reason to implement topic limitation.

What we discovered since then is that even though we fully understand that some people might want to do more than these limits, this limitation actually forced them to focus on what they felt was essential — one of the objectives of content curation. Content curation in general, and Scoop.it in particular, is biased towards quality vs. quantity after all. We’re not saying you can’t have both, and there are exceptions, but so far the scheme has been working pretty well even though that’s of course something we might revisit at some point.

Of course, paying is also a concern. We obviously feel the pain of “free that can go away” (despite millions of dollars Yahoo! paid), but paid service sites also disappear… Can we be assured Scoop.It won’t vanish? Or at least not in a matter of minutes, without warning?

Decugis: First of all, we’re not forcing anyone to pay: Scoop.it is a free service and will always remain free. Free users are very valuable to us as they help the Scoop.it brand awareness by bringing qualified traffic to the platform. Thanks to them we grew from 0 to 7 million monthly since our launch. So everyone is welcome to use Scoop.it as much as they want for free. Premium plans are here to add value to professionals who want more from Scoop.it or businesses and companies who want to use content curation as part of their content strategy.

No company can ever say “we’ll be here forever”. However, I think free Web services without any implemented business models are likely to be much more vulnerable which is why it’s been very important to us to launch Scoop.it publicly only until we had a good idea what our business model would be. We had close to a year of private beta (yes, we took our time…) but this was very important to us to understand how the balance between free and paying users would work, what people or businesses would be ready to pay for and at what price. We can’t say the current model is perfect, nor that there won’t be any changes. But a bit more than 1 year after our public launch, we’re very happy with the revenue we’re generating, the number and growth rate of our paying customers and, more importantly, their strong loyalty to their premium plans and the low churn rate we’re observing. In the long run, profitability is the only thing that can guarantee any company’s survival and while growth has been our main focus, having a sound business model has been one of our other priorities from day 1.

The last thing I want to say about this is that we view Scoop.it as an open platform: we offer multiple interfaces with social networks but also blog platforms like WordPress or Tumblr as well as RSS feeds and an open API. This provides multiple export capabilities for our users’ curated content and we’ll enable even more in the future. We think the value we build as a company is in our active and growing community – not in locking up our users in a proprietary platform.

I know beggars can’t be choosers, but is there a way former Snip.it folks could get a discount on Scoop.it services?

Decugis: Though we’re happy for Ramy and the team at Snip.it and wish them the best in their integration with Yahoo!, we feel sad about the Snip.it service shutting down. We didn’t plan to do anything specific, but some Snip.it users like yourself have asked us whether they could import their Snip.it collections to Scoop.it and we’re investigating that. We don’t plan to offer a discount on Scoop.it premium plans, but we’re looking at what we can do to welcome Snip.it users who want to join our community while obviously being fair to our existing users. Stay tuned.

I can’t thank you enough for your time, Guillaume. Hopefully this will address the concerns and potential fears of people who are considering using Scoop.it.

As for me, my final thoughts are this: Scoop.It may be forcing us all to limit or tighten up our topics of interest (which does have both its pluses and minuses), even when you pay to play — but they’ve always had their strong points that can’t be refuted.

One, they’ve always had the best means of connecting and disseminating curated content to social media sites and blogs.

Two, they’ve always had the best method of suggesting content to a curator. In fact, they may be the only curation site to offer that option — which has proven to draw in members who may not even curate, but read and watch. Turning lurking subscribers into participating, engaged members is not to be undervalued.

Three, as you can see with this interview, the folks at Scoop.it are readily available to discuss issues, concerns, and suggestions.

As Guillaume Decugis and I have both said, stay tuned!

Snip.It Snaps

Today, just hours after I tweeted how much I loved the site, Snip.It was purchased by Yahoo. That’s good news for Ramy Adeeb and crew, but it leaves those of us who were fans of the site without the space for curation. Personally, despite being mentioned in the Snip.It Hall Of Fame, I feel as others do: tossed aside. Even with all the beta testing etc. I worked with Adeeb and others on, I found out after the site was “shuttered”. All my work there nothing but a downloadable file to upload at a short-list of bookmarking sites — which is nothing like content curation at all, and Adeeb and crew know it.

Personal whining aside, the worst of all this is the BIG business mistake of it all.

Handing things this way means Adeeb, Snip.It, and Yahoo alike all miss out on the good will and future adoption of whatever Yahoo plans to do with Snip.It. Instead of keeping all of us who loved the site in the loop and even in the game — waiting to kill services until after there was the new place for us to participate, this action has rather insured that we won’t give a flying fig about whatever the new service or site is about.

You can’t blame the likely death of Snip.It’s potent new life as part of Yahoo completely on Yahoo — even if there’s a history lesson in that. No, you have to blame the folks at Snip.It for devaluing users so much that we there couldn’t be a “Snip.It’s closed, sign up and merge your account at the new Snit.It.Yahoo” link for us to follow.

Tossing aside Snip.It users like they did, means that I myself have a bunch of orphaned users or followers of my own. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And one I’m not likely to forget. Even if someone from the old or new Snip.It comes-a-calling, asking me to adopt the new site.

So You Want To Sell Your Books (Almost Everything You Need To Know)

So you’ve decided to get rid of your books… Sometimes it’s just a matter of making some empty space on the bookshelves; sometimes you want to fill the empty space in your wallet or checking account. If you are realistic, you can achieve a bit of both at the same time — if you aren’t on some sort of quick deadline.

The first thing to decide or know is your goal.

Are you trying to make money? Is the money just to be used to support your reading habit (to buy more books) or to become a bookseller (and make a full or part-time income)? Are you just trying de-clutter your living space? Do you need to divest yourself of your books in a short time-frame?

In a hurry?

If time is a constraint, say you need to get rid of a lot of books before you move in a few weeks, there’s always your local used bookstore. They may not pay you much for the books, but, if they take all your books, you will get your space back.

You can also donate used books. Along with thrift stores, there are many other places to donate books, many of which will allow you to take a tax deduction for them. Hospitals, women’s and children’s shelters, nursing homes, groups that work with the homeless — many charities take books. Prisons even take books. Generally speaking, anything with “adult” themes (i.e. erotic fiction, and, sadly, in many cases, books on human sexuality) should be pruned from your collection prior to donation.

If you have the time and transportation, you can do a combination: take your boxes into the used bookstores, have them pick what they want to pay for, and then donate the remainders.

Not in a hurry or just a reader with a few books to get rid of?

Readers may be more interested in swapping books. There may be local groups in your area; you can check sites like FreeCycle to find them. And you can also use online sites such as BookMooch, PaperbackSwap, and even BookCrossing.

So you’ve decided to sell your books…

Next, you have to decide what kind of books you have (simply used books or more valuable works) and then determine which is the best place to put them in front of the appropriate bibliophiles (readers, collectors) — while keeping in mind how quickly you need them to sell.

Some sites, like eBay, which offer the auction format, are designed to have quicker sales. Other sites, like Amazon, Abe, Etsy, and eBay stores, allow books to be listed for longer time periods. Some sites, like Abe and Alibris, are known for specializing in books.

Along with online marketplaces, there’s also creating your own site. PayPal buttons offer easy purchasing. Blogging software, like WordPress, now offers ecommerce plugins. These options require you to drive your own traffic to get sales; but the rewards can be greater in terms of control and profits.

Are your books worth anything?

That depends.

When it comes to the sale of anything, the value the item has is determined by the marketplace. Simply put, the buyer buys at the price he wants to pay; a wise seller knows what is fair to ask. Three general rules on book values are:

1) The newer and more popular a book is, the less value it has. Just try to make money of a mass market Twilight paperback; they are everywhere and have little value right now.

2) Older books value lies in having a popular interest (a larger number of people looking to buy it) and in being rare. Yesteryear’s Twilight sensations may still have no value because so many copies were printed and sold — and still can be found. But, with vampires, horror, and the occult still being a popular interest, older books in these areas may be worth quite a bit, providing the book is still a good story and/or is a rare find.

3) Condition is always an issue. The less legible, intact, or as originally issued (dustjackets, etc.), the less value the book has.

It’s important to research your books in terms of prices as well. Using BookFinder can help you find an idea of what a book may be worth. I say “may be worth” because you’re going to get not only a wide array of varying book conditions (which will affect price) but the prices you’ll see listed are asking prices. Who knows how long those books will sit there for sale at those prices, if they will even sell? FadedGiant helps book sellers by providing a database of prices realized (prices sold for) in antique, vintage, and collectible books. It’s important to note that the FadedGiant service is limited. It does not have every old book in the database. Their sold listings will not tell you anything about the condition of the books. And any prices realized will be but a snapshot of what the books was worth at that time. But FadedGiant and BookFinder are great ways for the novice to get an idea of price range; what titles, authors, and attributes are most desirable; and where different sorts of books are being sold. Many professional booksellers use a combination of sales outlets, real world and online, to maximize profits selling their books.

Multiply this work by the number of titles you have, and you can see how the time adds up!

What costs are there?

Seller fees. Each online sales marketplace has a fee structure. There are fees for listing items, fees for when items sell, and sites like PayPal, merchant accounts, etc. have fees for handling the sales transactions. Depending upon which sales platform(s) you use, you’ll have a mix of these costs. Knowing them upfront means you can more accurately set your book prices so that you profit from the sale after fees are taken out or paid.

Shipping costs. Shipping costs include boxes and mailers, packing tape, shipping labels (the ink and paper you print them on), and other items for packaging. There’s also fees for shipping insurance and tracking options which many sellers must use to protect themselves during sales transactions. If you don’t properly calculate and charge for those shipping costs, it can really eat at any profits you may have.

So can the time it takes to ship items. A lot of sites won’t let you add-on a handling fee to your sale, but let me tell you, if you list a lot of books it can take hours from your week or even your day to pack and ship the books you sell.

Additional time factor costs. Along with the time invested in research, there’s time listing your item. You’ll want to not only to give all the usual information (title, author, publication date, etc.), but you’ll want to mention any interesting features (is it illustrated, signed by the author, a first edition, etc.) and you’ll need to describe the book’s condition (is it written in, is the binding sound, etc.). Per the site’s rules, you may need to photograph or scan at least the cover. Sometimes, when you list an item online you’ll have a lot of questions to respond to from potential buyers or interested bidders. And then there’s the time spent organizing your books for sale. (You have to be able to find a title quickly to answer questions and to ship it.) This time can add up surprisingly fast.

If, after all this, you find you are only getting a dollar or something for your book, it may not be worth your time to sell books online.

What else do I need to know?

Seller feedback and rating systems. When you are new to selling online, it takes awhile and to build feedback ratings. Generally speaking, the more valuable the books you have to offer, the more important the feedback etc. is going to be to potential buyers. Often, a new seller will start out selling some of their items at lower prices just to start earning good ratings from buyers. It can also help to be a buyer at the site as well, as that will help build positive feedback for you as a member.

Promotions. Most successful sellers online now promote their listings, stores, and websites via blogs, social media, etc. Traffic online is like traffic in a store; the more people who stop by to see what you have, the more likely you are to have sales. But learning how to effectively market yourself and promote your goods online is a whole other set of skills — and, for many, another learning curve.

Other options:

If you don’t feel you have the feedback (or the time to generate the feedback), if you feel this is too much to learn, or if selling your books is just a one-time event you don’t feel is worthy of investing so much time in, there are other options.

There are people and companies willing to sell for you, such as eBay consignment shops. And there are dealers and others who may buy books directly from you.

You can post your offerings on places like Craigslist; walk your books into antique shops, used book stores, etc.; or sell to book dealers and those who manage estate sales. If you have a large number of books to sell, and they are not overly rare or otherwise valuable, this most likely will mean selling to local dealers in your area. But there are dealers, estate agents, and even auction houses which will make long-distance deals as well, provided your books are worth either party paying for the shipping costs.

Remember, dealers, used bookstores, antique shops, and the like are only going to pay you wholesale prices for your books. “Wholesale” means at a lower price than what the books will eventually sell or retail for to buyers and collectors. That means you will not get the top dollar from book dealers and other such folks. That’s only fair; look at all the work they are doing to get it! Plus, you’ll have cash in hand, while they will be waiting for the books to sell to get their share.

What Kind Of Curation Site Should You Use?

No doubt about it, content curation is growing. If all the news stories about it wasn’t convincing enough, the number of clients asking me about curation would! Here’s a simple little primer on the two major types of curation sites — and a decision tree I made to assist clients.

Pinterest, LoveIt, and the like are image-based eye-candy. At best, this type of curation is like a great store window; it might just lure a lookie-loo inside (to the original site) for a sale. At worst, this type of curation is content theft (allowing curators to garner the traffic and exposure at the expense of the creator of the image, product, etc.), or is just a bunch of spam links sent out in numbers large enough that even a tiny percent is hoped to garner a sale or conversion. (Please don’t do either of those worst-case scenarios!)

Snip.It, Scoop.It, and the like are article-based brain-candy. Images from the sites themselves are generally used, but the focus is the articles. The best of these sites (which most definitely includes those named) aim to not only avoid content theft but to get readers to actually read the content at the original site by not allowing entire articles to just be reposted.

Neither type of content creation site is better than the other; your goals ought to dictate which type of curation site you use. This is where the decision tree will help you. Click the image for a larger view of the content curation site decision tree.

Curation Is The New Black; But Will It Get In The Black?

There’s a lot of talk about content curation; but is anyone making money?

I’m sure some are making a few bucks… But big profits? So far, probably not. Will it? Let’s take a look…

When it comes to potentially profiting from curating online, there are three main groups:

1) Software/site creators — those who have built, hoping the people come. These folks have invested time and money in the venture adventure, and some of them are charging for their services. Much like those charging for blogging software and/or hosting, it remains to be seen whether or not curators will pay for such services — and in enough numbers to pay for the developer investment.

2) Companies and individuals selling the products, services, and content being created. So far, this is the group seeing the greatest rewards. While numbers and margins are murky, it’s clear from the investment and funding dollars that big business believes (or hopes) curation will be the future of brand and product promotion.

3) Curators themselves. This group is last on the list for two reasons. First, they are the base on which this whole business is built; without them, no one is paying for curation sites/software or curating the products, brands, and ideas that corporations are counting on. And second, curators are apparently last on the list in terms of consideration.

Despite the fundamental importance of curators, they currently have relatively no means of making money from curating.

By and large, there are no spots for advertising on content curation sites. Not only are there no means by which the curators themselves may edit pages to place advertising, but the curation sites themselves are without their own advertising, so there’s no option for profit sharing between curation site and individual curators. This doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of curators being bought. Other than, perhaps, the difficulty in contacting a curator, what’s to stop a curator from accepting payolla, putting a dollar value on a “curated” link like many bloggers do with paid posts?

If you think this lack of built-in monetization will keep curators honest in their curation — that they’ll do it for the pure passion and love of it all, you are naive. Curation is a commitment. Without the prospect of money, only a few diehards and crazies (such as myself) will bother to curate and then it will be as time and inclination allows. That is not the steady stream of “superhero” curation that enthusiasts are predicting.

Without advertising options, how are are content curators are going to make money? In order to make money directly from curating (i.e. curators are not merely pushing their own products, services, and/or sites that they have monetized), it will need to be because people are going to pay for curated content, because companies are going to pay for curators to push profits for them (via payolla or paid curator/marketing positions), or some combination of the two.

But will people really pay?

So far the evidence says, “No.”

Curation really isn’t anything new. Curation is, if not exactly the same, a lot like blogging; and we all know blogging isn’t a sure-fired, self-supporting, money-making activity. Not that it necessarily should be. I mean, some guy’s playlist isn’t necessarily equal to that of a radio station DJ — and it’s not just a matter of audience numbers either. Quality and importance — perceived or real — also matter. The low barrier of entry to self-publishing and self-producing comes at a cost to the entire media marketplace. Value perception (heavy on the “values” for the growing confirmation bias tendencies) is ironically at the heart of this supply and demand issue of this new Information Age. For example, how many mixed tapes have you actually purchased?

Image via 123 Stock Photos.

 

 

Lane Bryant Needs Tips On How To Be A Gold Digger

So, on the 13th of this month, Lane Bryant sent me an email saying they “missed me.” They don’t know me personally; they just missed my money as I hadn’t shopped there in awhile.

In the email, there was a 40% off coupon. It was just 40% off one regular priced item, but I had received a gift card for my birthday, so I wanted to print the coupon out to take it to the store with me. No newbie to how this stuff goes, I went to use “print preview” to make sure the barcode part of the email would actually be printed. The print preview did as I feared, only showing the model and not the barcode. So I clicked to “view the email online” — and that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan.

The page on the Lane Bryant site was without an image. All I got was the website header and footer — just a big hunk of whitespace in the middle. So I went back to the email.

Guess what?

The image had disappeared.

Perhaps the gremlins which run the interwebs believed that use of print preview meant I had printed it — and only one coupon is allowed. But I hadn’t printed. So now what?

Since this was a coupon from a national chain that I was going to have to use at my local Lane Bryant store, I called them. I figured that as I’d be using the coupon there, they’d be familiar with the process and maybe even have a spare or blank coupon for such things. No, they did not. Instead, they gave me a customer service number. Only that customer service number is for Lane Bryant card holders, which meant that not only was it difficult to get past the voicemail prompts, but when I finally did reach a person, she couldn’t do anything to help me. I doubt very much that even had I been a Lane Bryant credit card holder that she could have helped me as her understanding of how email lists etc. work was very limited.

“Just sign up for the newsletter again,” she said.

“I don’t think you understand,” I began patiently. “You see, the email was about ‘missing me’, so I would need — along with a new email address to join under — to shop at the store and then not shop at the store for six months in order to be ‘missed.”

She put me on hold.

When she came back, she suggested I call my local store. To which I replied that I’d already done that; that’s how I got the number I called to reach her.

Pause.

“Well, all I can suggest is to get a new email address to sign up for the newsletter with.”

Umm, didn’t we already cover that?

Was there another number for customer service — one not related to credit cards? Would a supervisor be able to help? Was there any other Lane Bryant number to call at all?

No. No. No. (Though it turns out there is another Lane Bryant customer service number; sadly no one gave me that number or even seemed to know it.)

So, Lane Bryant, thanks so much for missing me and creating a marketing disaster.

Instead of making me happy, making me feel treated to something special (even though we all know it’s just about you getting your hand in my pocket and getting my money), you peeved me off. For all the efforts of your team of marketers who want to build relationships with me, you forgot some basic rules. Rules gold diggers know:

1. Be accessible. Yeah, “not to available” might lend an air or mystery; but no means of contact — or having so many hurdles to contact, just means the man with money grabs another honey.

2. Smile nice when reaching into my pocket. Lean in and make me want you to put your hand there… Lift the bills out and take them. Don’t stand so far away, don’t place your other hand over the wallet so that the whole deal is a struggle.

3. Know what you are doing. That includes any of your cohorts (aka employees). Don’t make the mark have to do so much work. Unless our relationship is based on some S&M kink, I shouldn’t be frustrated and sweaty just trying to give you my money.

4. When all is said and done, I should be left with an empty wallet and a smile, dreamily looking forward to next time.

If it weren’t for the fact that I have a gift card, and a rare window of time to shop, it would be a lot longer for you to see me again.

Facts & Questions on Blogging, Curating & Collecting

How Much Data In A Minute?

I’ve been getting a lot of “What the heck is curating?” questions, largely in response to my request for votes (“Likes”) on a topic I’m curating at Snip.It, but also because, despite what Forbes has to say about it going mainstream, content curation is a rather “new” thing. I had thought I’d done a rather good job of defining content curation here, but either I haven’t or people haven’t read that post. But that’s OK too, because it gives me a chance to go into a bit more detail.

Content curation is to magazine and newspaper publication what blogging has been to writing or journalism: A digital-age means of self-publishing which is primarily based on platforms (software or code) available to anyone with access to the Internet.

The big names in blogging platforms or publishing software are WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, etc. In content curation, you have Pinterest, Scoop.It, and, my favorite, Snip.It (RIP). These content curation platforms are not the first; but like Facebook, which improved (and capitalized) upon the early social networking sites which came before it, these three curation sites are emerging as the top dogs. (Also like Facebook, these content curation sites have social networking aspects — and they do connect to social media, including Facebook at Twitter.) And it’s merely a matter of time before you somehow become involved with content curation sites; be it by curating, subscribing/reading, or, as some forecast, using curated content topics as your search engine.

But what does that mean? How is that really different from blogging? And why on earth would we need another means of adding to information overload?

Firstly, information overload is a myth. Humans have always had far more information and media available then it can devour. (So as not to get too far astray, I’ll send you here for more details on that.) Even if the push of media makes it seem worse, such technological shifts in our relationships to information are, as James Gleick, author of The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, “part of the evolution of the species.” The true problem is, or remains, that of how an individual human can find what he wants or separate the good from the bad, i.e. a filter.

And that’s where content curation comes in.

Content curation is the process of sorting, arranging, and publishing information that already exists. Like any collector or museum curator, content curators identify and define their topics, select which items to include (and often how they are displayed), while providing the context, annotations, and proper credits which not only assist their readers but identify themselves as more than interested but invested; a leader or an authority.

Content curators are being dubbed “superheroes” (by Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators, and others) because content curators are saving humans everywhere from the skill and drudgery of finding and filtering themselves. Rosenbaum even says that people will pay “for clarity, authority, context, and speed” of finely calibrated filters.

If this all sounds a lot like what you (or others) do as a blogger, it just may be. Many bloggers spend their time selecting what they consider the best of what other people have created on the web and post it at their own sites, just like a magazine or newspaper. Or they provide a mix of this along with writing or otherwise creating their own content.  Not to split hairs, but curation involves less creation and more searching and sifting; curation’s more a matter of focused filtering than it is writing.

Because content curation is expected to be based on such focused filtering, it begins far more based on topic selection. This is much different from blogging, where bloggers are often advised to “just begin” and let their voice and interests accumulate over time to eventually reveal a primary theme. Perhaps the best way to ascertain the difference is to consider this in terms of collecting styles.

Some collectors just collect what they like as they stumble into it. In fact, many collectors, including myself, began this way; letting their collections evolve until a definition or purpose seems to reveal itself. …Sometimes, collectors just keep piling up stuff, no matter what it is. Even if this isn’t hoarding, it’s not-so-much of a purposeful pursuit. But professional curators, those who manage collections for museums or other organizations, and serious collectors, they maintain a specific focus.  And rather than stumbling into items, they continually seek for specific items. The definition dictates the curation — and everything from funding to their continued employment is based on how well their collection meets the collection’s definition.

While blogging success may be thought of in many different ways, the success of content curation lies in how well you define, search/research, and stick to your subject.

Image Credits: Data Never Sleeps infographic via Domo

Fashion Matters. A Lot In This Economy, Apparently.

It was pretty obvious to me when Amazon, Google, and eBay invested in the fashion sector, that fashion was going to surpass the e-commerce success of books, music, and videos.

Data, analysis and insights publisher on digital marketing, media and commerceeMarketer is predicting that the fashion apparel and accessories sector is expected to grow 20% to $40.9 billion this year (up from $34.2 billion in 2011), while books, music, and video are only expected to grow by 18% this year (to $20.4 billion). The figures are for the US:

If you’d like to make money (or even more money) via fashion affiliate programs, get my white paper.

Working The Knowledge Graph

As I’ve said before, “Search engines are based on programs or algorithms which do their best to interpret what a searcher wants and, attempting to replicate human understanding, gives it to them based on the text or written content it can find.”

So Google’s announcement of, Google’s Knowledge Graph, a major shift in the way it looks at searches, focusing on trying to “think” even more like a human, i.e. less in keywords and phrases.

The Knowledge Graph enables you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about—landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more—and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query. This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.

More at Mashable, where the funky infographic came from.

Things I Learned At and About Tumblr

Tumblr Logo
Tumblr has a bad rep in the blogosphere; it’s notorious for its members taking the content of others without crediting it. But clients have asked or stated that they should “be on it,” and so to be fair, I spent some serious time (about 11 months) using Tumblr — under various niches and topics.

These are some of the things I learned about the site.

Tumblr is far more social network or community oriented than a standard “blog”; or maybe it’s more accurate to say that Tumblr is more of an intense microcosm of blogging. The posts are shorter, more rapid, more plentiful — mainly because nothing is actually created there. Instead it’s based on reposting what others have created around the Internet, and then reposted and reposted over at Tumblr, in and out of the interconnected social circles of followers.

Tumblr is so based on the notion of regurgitating the posts and reposts of others, that the only real way to keep up is to stay logged in to Tumblr and sit at your dashboard, where you can see all the reposts of those you follow go by. For this reason, it has an addicting quality. But the price of such a glut of rehashed stuff is the need for more speed — people clicking repost as fast as they can, more stuff flying at you.

That can be a time waster, but let’s look at the more important things in terms of promoting your business, your site, your writing.

Tumblr is incredibly image oriented. Text posts and links are virtually ignored. Even when the photo you post has text or a link, these are seldom what makes a post popular i.e. reposted. In fact, your text and link have at least a 60% chance of being removed by the person reposting it. And link click-through rates, even when the link is the image credit (i.e. clicking the photo to get a larger version), are much lower than at regular blogs and websites — including in the adult area.

That is the number on reason why using Tumblr to market your site or business is ineffective.

The popularity of a post is reposting. “Likes” do very little for you (since they are a one-click thing not requiring them to leave the dashboard, they are just a way for a user to more quickly add their “note” to a post).

Readers, followers, etc. are numbers that don’t matter as much as the long string of “notes” (the list of people who reposted and liked the post). This is obviously increased by the number of people following you; but as long as your post is reposted by someone and reaches another circle of users, your post will go on and on, showing up on your dashboard over and over again. But, if no one is clicking the links, visiting your store etc., then so what?

Tumblr is also not the best way to have conversations with your customers or your target market either.

Comments are not actually built into the system (though you can add DISQUS) and conversations are discouraged in general. You can send a message via the “ask me” feature, but if you answer it, it’s published at your Tumblr — and the one who asked or commented does not get a notice of it. So unless they are logged in, are following you, and see it on their dashboard, how will they know you replied? And in order to continue the conversation, one of you will have to go back to the “ask” and start again. It’s incredibly awkward.

Tumblr is also a rather closed community in the sense that anonymous (non-Tumblr users) are clearly second class citizens. In your Tumblr settings, you can allow or disallow anonymous to “ask” questions, but unless they say, “Hi, it’s Susan,” or otherwise identify themselves, you won’t know who it is because Tumblr either recognizes a logged in user or labels them anonymous.

While the rest of the Internet is trying to engage readers across platforms, regardless of whether or not they are an official user/subscriber, Tumblr and, more importantly, Tumblr users deride and mock the “anons.”

That’s a closed community.

And now we get to the issue of what most irks people about Tumblr…

Contrary to what most of us were taught, having something unique to say or offer is not important at Tumblr. In fact, unless you are a big wig at Tumblr, your original content is likely to go completely unappreciated. People prefer to repost what the cool kids repost rather than be the person who finds unique or new things. These are the majority of the users at Tumblr.

The other group of users is a smaller group, but they are far too often those with larger followings. These are the folks who like to pose as the news makers, the creators, taking credit for what they found with the omission of where they found it, who owns it, etc. — and they are to blame for Tumblr’s poor reputation, even if the majority users are guilty of perpetuating it with all the reposts.

Some blame the ease of Tumblr’s reposting and sharing widget are to blame for this, but if people were truly lazy and using Tumblr as it is, nearly every image raped from a site would have a link crediting where it was found (and, one hopes, more information on original source, etc.). But these people take great efforts to right-click-save an image, then upload it to Tumblr — never crediting the photographer, scanner, or image owner.

This is a malicious act. It’s done on purpose. It requires more effort than the one or two click of the Tumblr Bookmarklet sharing widget — and it’s done so they can act as if they put the time in on something they didn’t. Often times, once they’ve saved the image on their computer, they’ll even go so far as to remove copyright and URL information before uploading and posting to Tumblr.

The number of people who post that they’re “going home to scan more photos of X” — and then perform image searches for such photos and scans are astonishing. Those of us who spend the time scanning know what our scans look like — where there’s a wrinkle on the page, tanning, if we included text or not, etc.

All of this would be the silly poser stuff of teenagers — if it weren’t so infuriating. Because the bottom line is, there are many big bloggers out there who are so popular because they find and credit the cool stuff; they are like antique dealers who are adored by collectors with less time.

As if this weren’t bad enough, many Tumblr users take great pride in expressing their indifference and defiance regarding copyright and intellectual property. Sidebars and profiles are filled with “I find stuff lots of places and if you’re one of the credit nazis, don’t follow me” and similar statements that I gather are supposed to appear as cool non-conformist, punk-rebellious, barbs at The Man. Unfortunately, the Internet is not The Man; so the ones they hurt are the ones who create the content — artists, photographers, dedicated folks who scan antique and vintage works, etc.

No, Tumblr is not a good way to market your product, your website, etc.

Yeah, this post is so not going to make me popular at Tumblr. But what am I going to miss? Even more of my content going out and about uncredited?

I have since deleted my old test accounts at Tumblr. But I do retain a personal account there for two reasons:

One, a few ethical people I met there only post at Tumblr and so I can keep up with them

Two, sometimes logging in and scrolling the Tumblr dashboard provides some good leads on cool stuff. Such a stream of photos can provide a quick way to see things — but it’s deceptive in the sense that once I spy something cool, I’ll have to put a lot of work in to searching for the images. (For that I use TinEye; a detailed account of how and why to use it is here — the site is NWS.)

And when I do use it, it can be a tremendously frustrating time suck because so much uncredited stuff is coming at you so fast.

So overall, I do not recommend Tumblr as an effective way to market yourself or your blog; but it has its entertainment value and can be useful if you don’t invest too much time in it.

UP to the DL: Blog Tours & Marketing Services

ABOUT:

UP to the DL

U.P. to the D.L. is the dynamic duo of Deanna Dahlsad & Laura Brown, two wordy grrls who met 10 years ago as columnists at (the now defunct) Backwash.com.

Of course, both had been writing and promoting online (and off) long before that time, so the slow demise of one site didn’t keep them from continuing to do what they do — or being friends. *wink*

Our latest joint projects are Inherited Values and Ululating Undulating Ungulate. (If you visit the sites and are interested in joining us there, please check out the “about” pages!)

Because of our years of experience in the Internet trenches, we’ve long been individually helping other writers, bloggers, artists, sellers, and entrepreneurs start-up or increase their online presence; now we’ve joined forces, offering you our firsthand knowledge and experience.

We offer specialized services, such as:

Bloggers, you have brands too, so any of these services can be tailored to suit you!

You can keep up with U.P. to the D.L. by following us at Twitter and you may contact us at Deanna.Pop.Tart@gmail.com.

A detailed FAQ of services can be found here.

BLOG TOURS

The most familiar sort of Blog Tour is the Book Blog Tour, which is the virtual version of yesteryear’s book tour. At UP to the DL, we don’t limit the idea to only books — you can use blog tours to promote anything, any product or service, including, simply, yourself.

This virtual version of a promotional tour isn’t so bad; it’s cheaper, less frustrating than traveling, and, as Arielle Ford (former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books) says at The Huffington Post, you “essentially spend the day in your bathrobe while interacting with your readers and fans and selling books.”

However, if you aren’t familiar with all the details involved, virtual tours can become real nightmares!

Organizing a Blog Promotional Tour involves:

  • Identifying potential hosts — that will reach your target audience
  • Contacting potential hosts
  • Making the pitch, helping sort through the options with hosts
  • Scheduling the tour and individual host actions
  • Answering technical questions and concerns of hosts
  • Performing the check-ups and follow-ups necessary to ensure a good tour
  • Proper timing of it all!

And, if you are an organized person with enough time to do all of this, do you know what things are most vital to a successful tour?

  • Do you really know how to identify your target market and evaluate which of the millions of blogs, podcasts, zines, newsletters, etc. are honestly able to reach them?
  • Do you know how to anticipate, avoid and over-come host/blogger concerns?
  • If you have a limited number of products (or none at all) to give-away for reviews and contests, do you know what other tour options you can offer — some of which are even more likely to garner the results you desire?
  • Do you know what sort of tour events or activities will help you more increase cash flow, which are designed for long-term, how to maximize long tail results — and which ones you really need?
  • Once you have secured hosts that will reach your target market, do you know how to best capture the attention of your potential readers or customers?
  • Do you know what sorts of posts and tour activities will positively (or negatively) affect things such as PageRank (PR) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
  • Are you aware of and know how to address the legal and ethical issues in virtual tours?
  • Do you know how to create promotional tours which will get bloggers excited to participate — and their readers converting to sales?

We do.

We’ve been writing, reading and buying online for over a decade. We know, as press, readers, and consumers what bores & what soars.

We know what pitches get, well, pitched via that delete button. We each have over a decade of networking with other bloggers, building relationships and contacts to ensure results.

We know what sorts of things discredit you, harm the reputation of you and your product or service. We will organize your online event so as to maximize your sales and your personal brand.

Hire U.P. to the D.L. as your blog tour coordinators and liaisons; we’ll maximize your presence and sales.

We know how to identify the online conversations and communities where your audience is congregating — and we know how to ethically participate in those relevant conversations so that you, your products, services, and brands are engaging with your customers and potential customers.

Blog Tour Package Rates:

(Details on what each blog tour includes are listed here; information on the process is also outlined here.)

One Week Basic Blog Tour: One week of blog tour events, including Tweets and other social networking site promotion for just $150.

Two Week Basic Blog Tour: Two weeks of blog tour events, including Tweets and other social networking site promotion for only $289.

Select & reserve your Basic Blog Tour package:

 

Basic Blog Tour
 

 

U.P to the D.L. does not guarantee a specific number of hosts on your basic blog tour, however, our goal is to get at least one host per day of the tour.

For more information, please see our list of tips for authors and promoters.

The Soft Blog Tour: This tour is our specialty; we’ve been doing it for years, nearly unnoticed — and that’s by design.

Unlike traditional blog book tours, the soft tour is designed to go without the pomp and circumstance of the usual blog tour. There’s no set time frame, no tour link round-up or announcements, as this tour is designed to look and feel more organic. It best suits the needs of clients who’d rather avoid the promotional look of tours and for bloggers who, for their own reasons, do not wish to appear as part of an organized tour.

The same rules and tasks of basic blog tours apply, only the posts are published over a longer period of time, rather than as a timely event, and for this tour only we do guarantee a minimum of blog posts.

The fee for a Soft Blog Tour with a minimum of 5 posts is $500.

The fee for a Soft Blog Tour with a minimum of 10 posts is $900.

Select & start your Soft Blog Tour package:

Soft Blog Tour
 

We reserve the right to refuse to offer our services at any time to anyone, or any product, book, service or brand, deemed objectionable.


OTHER SERVICES

We offer a number of services in brand management and online support; experienced assistance for newbies and start-ups, those expanding their online presence, and established folks with limited staffing and budgets.

Marketing Consultation:

Marketing consultations & one-on-one tutoring are now available here.

Website Reviews:

Wondering if your website, store, or blog is ready for a Blog Tour or other promotional efforts? Get a review! More than a “Pass” or “Fail” test, we’ll give you tips on how to improve what you’ve got. One of us will review your site for $9; each of us will provide our own review for $16.

   

Website Review

 

Individualized & Customized Services Upon Request:Looking for some help editing your press release, proof reading your website, drafting your bio, assessing your press kit? Have “just one quick question” you want us to answer, or some information you want us to suss out? Need a longer blog tour time period? Rather than tutoring, would you prefer to have us set up your new and/or connect your existing blog, social media profiles, pages, etc.? Have some other virtual assistant needs? Looking for some other service that’s not listed here? Want to “bundle” a few packages at a better price? Contact us about your needs.

Yes, we offer these and other services for bloggers too!

After all, you’ve got a brand too!

If you’re wondering why your site isn’t getting pitches for reviews, blog tours, links, ads, etc., let U.P. to the D.L. help get you to the next level with our services.

Disclaimer: We reserve the right to refuse to offer our services at any time to anyone, or any product, book, service, or brand, deemed objectionable.

FAQ

What makes your blog tour services different from other blog book tour services?
What niches or genres do you cover?
What does a blog tour include?
How, exactly, does this blog tour work? What’s the process like? How personalized is it?
Are bloggers paid to participate in the blog tour?
What if I want Laura or Deanna to host a tour at one of their blogs… Will that be a conflict of interest or against their No Payola policy?
What’s expected of a blog tour host?
Why host a tour? What’s in it for bloggers?
I’m interested in hosting blog tours. How do I get on your list of contacts?
Do you offer long-term exclusive management?
What publishing platforms, content management software, and other “tech stuff” can you help with?
What social network(s) do you recommend?
Do you do web design?
What’s your privacy policy?
What makes your blog tour services different from other blog book tour services?
Frankly, our experience — which we could go on and on about. But the bottom line is this: We know how to turn ideas, products, services, brands into stories that will garner interest and yield results. 

Some specific features and benefits are:

Content: Because we know written content is king, our focus is on the written content or text of the tour. (After all, people type text into search engines to be found, and brands battle over keywords!) As a result — and to achieve the best results — we:

  • Do not allow canned Q&A. This is not only boring for readers who may be avid readers/followers of multiple host sites (both in terms of redundancy and lack of the individual personality each host site offers), but duplicate content is disliked by Google and other search engines which, upon finding it, will penalize both host sites.
  • We don’t waste any of our time or your money on any specialized graphics, trailers or other gizmos in our blog tour packages. Fancy graphics can be fun, but we’re after results here. If/when individual tour hosts are inspired to create images, videos, podcasts or other audio and visuals as part of their host blog tour post, that’s great — and, in fact, a much more preferred way for them to interact with their readers than offering them canned promotional schtick.

Availability: Like you, we are able to juggle multiple tasks and projects, including multiple blog tours running at the same time professionally and effectively. This means there is more freedom and flexibility in scheduling your tour.

(However, also like you, we do have our limitations! So please contact us as soon as possible to reserve your optimal promotional dates.)

What niches or genres do you cover?
We have a vast network of friends, associates and cohorts all along the Internet, but our specialty niches are: 

  • Arts, Crafts, Photography
  • Beauty, Fashion, Shopping
  • Collecting, Antiques, Vintage
  • Family, Parenting, Special Needs, Mommy Sites
  • Health, Sexuality (from Informative to Risque and, yes, even frank Mature Adult sites)
  • Hobbies, Handmade, DIY
  • Home, Interior Design, Housekeeping, Cooking
  • Relationships, Dating
  • Social Issues, Politics, History
  • Women, Gender, Feminism
  • Writing, Publishing, Media

Yes, we know book bloggers, and, yes, we can help with fiction genres. We find the best results include tour stops at other sites based on your readership’s demographic interests.

What does a blog tour include?
Each blog tour is unique and tailored to the client’s needs, but each tour stop will include: 

  • Subject to relevancy of who/what the tour is promoting, an image of the product, book, company logo, photo of the expert, etc.
  • Links to client’s website, blog, shop etc.
  • A minimum of 350 words (250 if the post is accompanying a host produced podcast, video, etc.)
  • Participation in social media sites by Deanna, Laura, and/or U.P. to the D.L., as appropriate.

Also, at the end of the tour, U.P. to the D.L. will post an official blog tour page with the client’s bio &/or product information (including appropriate site links) as well as listing and linking to each stop (or post) on the tour along with the home page of the host.

How, exactly, does this blog tour work? What’s the process like? How personalized is it?
This might be business, but we also know this is a very personal experience! 

Once we receive your payment, the process begins by having you answer a few questions about you, your promotional interests, your availability preferences (participation and interviews), product availability (for reviews and contests), and your desired time frame. Once we’ve evaluated you and your brand needs, we’ll begin our work in tailoring a tour to fit you.

Next, will begin the process of identifying and contacting the appropriate potential hosts for your tour. As hosts and dates are confirmed, we will communicate them to you, along with any necessary participation on your part (including sending items for review, scheduling interview time, etc.).

As tour posts are published, we’ll send you the links.

At the end of the tour, we’ll send you a link to the official blog tour’s page along with our specific tips on how to continue to utilize the virtual tour.

Absolutely not — this is not advertising; paying for any PR coverage is unethical. 

Our fee is for organizing, coordinating, and communicating regarding the blog tour event itself.

What if I want Laura or Deanna to host a tour at one of their blogs… Will that be a conflict of interest or against their No Payola policy?
To avoid any conflict of interest issues, neither Deanna nor Laura will host a tour at one of their own personal blogs. However, as each will be aware of and following along with the blog tours, if they are interested in the subject or are sparked by an idea presented in tour conversations, they retain the right to publish their thoughts at their own sites after the official event has concluded.
Why host a tour? What’s in it for bloggers?
Simply put: for the content. 

Like any magazine or newspaper, radio or television host, bloggers need stories to tell, guests to interview, topics for conversation, etc. in order to entertain, enlighten, and/or educate their audience. There are many (often unseen and unknown) activities involved in blogging and many bloggers relish the idea of interesting relevant subjects and experts brought to their attention.

Also, the buzz about a blog tour offers the opportunity for host blogs to generate additional traffic from links, tweets, etc. as well as finding other bloggers in their niches to network with.

What’s expected of a blog tour host?
As each tour and each tour stop is unique, some specifics may change, but generally speaking, your post must include: 

  • Image(s) of the product, book, company logo, photo of the expert, etc.
  • Links to client site(s) (Please note: hosts are forbidden to use “no follow” links)
  • A minimum of 350 words (250 if the post is accompanying a host produced podcast, video, etc.)

You do not need to mention or link to U.P. to the D.L. or the official blog tour page. (Although we do recommend you visit the page after the tour to visit other blogs which may be in your niche and therefore might be excellent sites/persons to add to your own network).

And, most importantly, post when promised and follow our ethics rules.

I’m interested in hosting blog tours. How do I get on your list of contacts?
Simply contact us at Deanna.Pop.Tart@gmail.com, providing us with your name, site URL, and any additional information you think would be relevant and we’ll review your site and contact you regarding our decision as soon as possible.
Do you offer long-term exclusive management?
At this time, our services are non-exclusive.
What publishing platforms, content management software, and other “tech stuff” can you help with?
We are experienced in WordPress (including WPMU and BuddyPress), Blogger, Movable Type, Drupal, Tumblr, Blog Talk Radio, as well as standard HTML and CSS.
What social network(s) do you recommend?
It really depends upon your business, brand, personality and time constraints. We are experienced with Twitter, FaceBook, Stumble Upon, Delicious, Flickr, LinkedIn, Tumblr, MySpace, Friendster, Ryze, and Ning as well as many smaller, more specialized communities and networks.
Do you do web design? Do you create logos and graphics?
We are not web designers, but we can, in most cases, personalize or tweak templates and we can refer you to good programmers and designers. 

We can also tutor in the basics in graphic software, such as Photoshop and Gimp so that you can create most things you need by yourself.

What’s your privacy policy?
Client and host names, conversational details, services used, etc. are all confidential. Other than information on blog tour pages, as stated, will be made public. Contact information is only released as necessary in order to facilitate tours, interviews, items sent via the mail, etc. Otherwise, unless you opt to provide a testimonial, your information is never shared or sold. Ever.

DEANNA DAHLSAD

Really? Another bio? Writing bios is the one thing that prevents me from activating all the domain names in my possession. It certainly isn’t a lack of names for websites or an inability to talk endlessly…

Anywhooo, here’s the short story:

I’ve been writing, selling, and working on the web since 1997 (more info below), which has led to many successes, including wonderful personal and working relationships. The latter had me form Big Mouth Promotions; ironically a quiet, under-the-radar, marketing service I started when helping others for free became too time consuming to be so kind about. I’ve been purposefully quiet about my professional services so as not to distract me from my primary passions of blogging, but now the cycle of need is, apparently, high again, and so I’ve teamed up with Laura in a more official way, opening U.P. to the D.L. to provide the experienced “insider secrets” we use on our content focused and driven websites.

You may find and follow me at Twitter and FaceBook. Feel free to contact me at Deanna.Pop.Tart@gmail.com.

Resume-esque Info:Education:

Graduate of Alverno College, dual degree in Professional Communications and Business Management — with a minor in Social Science.

Sales & Marketing Experience:

Various work in sales, marketing, buying, direct sales, direct mail, retail department and specialty shoppe management, winning numerous individual and district sales awards.

Several years of work in the non-profit sector, community relations, fund raising, etc.

Writing:

Along with my own personal sites/blogs/projects, I’ve been:

  • A paid columnist @ CollectorsQuest.com
  • Greeting card writer and blogger for No Evil Productions
  • A paid columnist/blogger @ Backwash.com
  • Various paid work in both print and web publications, under numerous pen names

I’ve also been lucky enough to sit at The Cool Kids’ Table a number of times, with posts/articles featured at BoingBoing and other top sites.

Web & Social Media:

Presenter at the Association of Midwest Museums (AMM) and Mountain-Plains Museums Association (MPMA) Joint Annual Conference, 2008 Museums & Web 2.0: Slaying Dragons or Titlting at Windmills? Blogs, YouTube, MySpace – Using Social Networks for Museums.

Presenter at the 2010, and been asked to return again to the 2011, Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention; my sessions are best (loosely) described as being focused on the importance of sharing your hobby, your passion, and how to do so on the Internet.

Consulting for Collectors Quest, No Evil Productions and numerous smaller clients via Big Mouth Promotions.

More about me than you likely wanted to know…

Along with liking to talk and collecting domain names, I collect many other things. It’s a vicious cycle, really. I find a neat thing to add to my collection and I want to blab about it. In order to make my blabbing more well-rounded, I research the collectible. From there, as my research and I segue into related topics and contexts, I not only find more items to collect, but I find myself wearing my marketing hat and start to think it might suit readers and other researchers better if I had a site tailored to that sort of thing… Should I start yet another site? If so, should I use one of my already held domain names — or the fabulous new one that just popped into my head?

Endless cycle.

(Which is why I know too-too much about starting, marketing and moving websites!)

My antiques, collectibles, and vintage themed sites are:

Items from my collection appear in such places as the Virtue, Vice, and Contraband: A History of Contraception in America exhibit at the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum (at Case Western Reserve University) and The Hingham Shipyard Historical Exhibit.

If you still want to know more about me (and even my mom doesn’t want to know that much about me!), you can check my Google Profile and my other sites (along with their “about” pages) for more.

LAURA BROWN

I started online in 1996, an IRC diva after I had taken a two-year Corporate Communications college course. The free style and creativity of web publishing appealed to me, long before weblogs became popular.

I started writing online in 1998. At first creating my own site, then a newsletter and then I branched out and wrote for online networks like HerPlanet, Suite101, WZ.com, LockerGnome, and BackWash. During this time I became an editor with the Open Directory Project as well.

Along with running WordGrrls and my other sites (which can be found at ThatGrrl), I currently am an assistant to Bev Walton-Porter, host of the online radio show, Elemental Musings on BlogTalkRadio.

I can be found at Twitter and FaceBook. Feel free to contact me directly at thatgrrl@gmail.com.

Skills and Qualifications:

  • Social media management: Twitter, Stumble Upon, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Delicious, and Ning.
  • Developed marketing, advertising, promotions, SEO campaigns for online networks.
  • Knowledge of HTML, CSS and web usability standards.
  • Copywriting, editing and proofreading. Strong verbal, oral and written communication skills.
  • Columnist, community manager and forum moderator.
  • Publishing with WordPress, Movable Type, Tumblr, Blogger and other content management software.
  • Working with a team to develop ontology and integrity of a web directory.
  • Using digital photography, image scanner, graphic software and cartoon drawing to illustrate online publications.
  • Location scout and digital photographer for two Ontario film makers.
  • Production and booking guests for a web radio show.

UP to the DL: We like stuff. We write about stuff. We do stuff. We like projects.

Blog Tour Tips For Authors & Promoters

The success of your virtual promotional tour is dependent upon several factors which you influence:

  • The number of books, products, gift certificates that you can provide for reviews, contests, etc.
  • The amount of your participation in the events (interviews, offers, comments you post, Tweets you make, etc.), communication with U.P. to the D.L. and hosts, as requested.
  • The strength and appeal of your book, product, service, brand, etc.
  • The performance and appeal of your website, blog, etc.
  • The number of response options you offer (newsletters to subscribe to, social sites you belong to for “following,” number and quality of sales outlets, etc.).
  • Your efforts in promoting the tour, via your own site, BookTour.com, etc..

Authors who have traditional publishers (i.e. not self-published works) should check with the publisher, as they may pay for the Blog Tour fee, all or in part, &/or copies of the book out of the book’s promotional or PR budget.

UP to the DL
(In fact, authors who are shopping their books should take heed; many publishers, large and small, require authors to include a marketing plan of the author’s promotional efforts and budget along with their manuscript submission.)

At UP to the DL, we also provide tips for our clients on how to make the most of a tour once it has officially ended.

Ethics In Virtual Book Tours & Other Blog Tours

Blog Tours
Blogging is a form of self-publishing — and it’s a beautiful thing; but it comes with its own set of responsibilities.

I personally don’t abide Paid Posts and proudly proclaim my No Payola status, but as those posts rather cover my sentiments, today I’ll focus on the ethics involved in Blog Tours — specifically in terms of the rules of UP to the DL Blog Tour Services.

These rules are based not only on the experiences we’ve had hosting blog tours, posting reviews, receiving pitches to promote this or that, but on fundamental ethics — good ol’ common sense. And these rules are designed to protect the integrity of bloggers, blog readers, consumers, and promoters alike.

Rule #1 It is not ethical to review something you’ve never used, read or otherwise employed; that’s fraud. Therefore, asking a person to commit a fraudulent act is unethical, at best.

Rule #2 It is unethical, to say the least, to insist a reviewer not publish or share a review that is not flattering. Such “reviews” are not reviews at all; reviews are to be thoughtful opinions, educated critiques, and, above all, honest. Individual hosts may, after reviewing the item and honestly disliking it, post their negative (but not hate-filled or personally attacking) review as they wish; or, they may wish to contact us for help regarding their conflicted responses and uncomfortable situations.

Rule #3 Follow-through on what you promise. Send your review copies, samples, contest prizes on time; publish your blog tour event as promised; get back to people as promised. In the rare cases where “life happens,” please contact U.P. to the D.L. as soon as possible to communicate and problem solve the situation.

Any and all persons who break these rules, are found to be guilty of such unethical behavior, will not be allowed to participate in any U.P. to the D.L. projects of any kind. Offenders may also find themselves the subject of unwanted press, with a public disclosure of their behavior.

I know these rules may sound more stern or even scary rather than inviting, but practicing these principles protects and respects the integrity of all involved! It is our expectation that everyone upholds these values and has a commitment to the rights of consumers and brands.

The Haves & The Have Not (Yet)s Of EBay

Recently eBay released this infographic based on information gathered by Hunch, a recent eBay acquisition, on “the core differences between people who have bought or sold something on eBay vs. those who haven’t yet.” The data is then split between those ho Have Used eBay and the eternally optimistic those who Haven’t Yet Used eBay.

Click To Enlarge Infographic

Aside from the marketing insight, I thought this would be worth noting here as the Haven’t Yet Used eBay people in this survey are 35% more likely to be female.

There are some interesting things to note — but what would be far more compelling, not to mention useful, would be to include information about shopping online in general (the Haven’t Yet Used eBay folks may just not shop online). But if they use Amazon, Etsy, TIAS, or other shopping sites or marketplaces that would say something else entirely. Perhaps the “non competitive” stance in the survey means those who Haven’t Yet Used eBay don’t like auction formats? (This is reinforced by the response of “31% more likely to never have attended a live auction.”) So why not take a look at less competitive purchasing environments?

What is most interesting, however, is that this data seems to confirm that those most likely to use eBay are those seeking unique items, such as antiques and vintage collectibles — while those who have not seem to be more likely to shop Walmart for a perceived “deal”. Why then would eBay continue to shift away from its target market and court sellers of last year’s navy blue sweaters, etc., when those shoppers clearly are not using eBay?

In many ways, the not yet used seem much more like a demographic stereotype of young women: single, shopping for clothing in bulk, but at low prices, (not investing in wardrobes), and who consider shopping a social experience, (eBay does not yet have a “lunch with the girls” option).

However, based on a few references to older musicians, the Today Show reference, etc., this group also indicates a more mature woman who was older at the advent of the Internet, has kept herself busy without it while raising children, etc., and now finds herself behind the technology curve — or just continuing happily without it.

In any case, I am reminded of a Dan Hess quote:

Retailers turn a profit by bringing in new merchandise and pushing self-purchase categories like lingerie, shoes and denim. Retailing is an event-oriented business. Look at any national holiday, retailers seize on it and find a way to market heavily and drive traffic.

No matter how you slice the Haven’t Yet Used eBay pie, you just can’t help but see that some sort of social event aspect is needed for eBay to make the “yet” in Haven’t Yet Used eBay more than a positive attitude.

This isn’t a new idea. Even though Buddy Shopping has come and gone, other social shopping sites continue to try. Usually these are communities devoted to a specific fashion passion, but there are sites like Kaboodle and ShopSquad which offer social connection with a bit of consumer reports — and sometimes a sale commission via affiliate programs. But I don’t see these things impacting eBay. This site has long a disconnection from any social connection. (I think they still require a separate login for the forums? …Can’t say for sure as I gave up on that long ago.)

Maybe I’m not the one to best address how to integrate a social component or event excitement at eBay… I’m on the Have Used eBay side of this infographic and, despite my criticisms, I continue to use the site as a buyer and a seller. Maybe they need to put in an Orange Julius.

Or maybe they should stop chasing the “Yet” and focus more on those of us who are there. Because they certainly have not been doing that.

Related: Read my other thoughts on eBay in this post at my other site: 2011: The Year In Antiques & Collectibles.

Your Best Tool For SEO (Or, Why Search Engines Are Your Friends)

I believe search engine optimization (SEO) is best and primarily served via the content you write. If you believe that, you may stop reading; but if you aren’t convinced…

People seek entertainment and information the same way online as they do in the real world: by asking questions. The only real difference is that a lack of complete sentence structure and punctuation won’t get in your way online. *wink*

You and I may differ wildly in terms of our demographics, interests, and needs (for example, perhaps you are a 20-something male interested in the latest tech gadget while I’m a 40-something female who may be looking up some obscure silent film actress), but we each end up doing the same thing. We each find ourselves at some search box, be it at a search engine, sales marketplace, or favored site, typing in text and clicking to get the results. Those words we typed are the questions we have; on the Internet, these queries are called “keywords.”

What Google and other search engines, including internal search engines on individual websites, try to do is provide the best possible answers to our questions, the most relevant information that matches our query. Search engines are based on programs or algorithms which do their best to interpret what a searcher wants and, attempting to replicate human understanding, gives it to them based on the text or written content it can find.

In trying to take the search as question and help the person find the answer, Google et al employs not just what you say about your site (meta tags, descriptions, folksonomy, etc.), but what your site actually says. In other words, it ‘reads’ your site.

Every word in every post and page.

Including your links out to other sites (because if you’re not having conversations with others, you might just be a mad mumbling fool talking to himself).

To check how much of authority or credibility a possible answer has, search engines also look to see not only who links to that page or post — but for what. And just how do those links get there? By people who read your content!

Ah, the power of the written word.

But it doesn’t end there.

Back to you and I as question seekers on the Internet…

After we’ve posed our questions and received a list of possible answers, we evaluate the responses to our questions.

We each use our own individual criteria for trustworthiness, we have different ideas of what’s funny or entertaining, etc., but we each sort through the options or answers provided to us and make determinations about what we find. And what do we questioning searchers use to evaluate the possible answers? We read the content.

First, we read the brief snippet of content shown with the link, as grabbed by the search engine; if that passes the mustard, we click and go on to read more of that page or post. If that’s what we seek, we likely read the whole post or page — maybe even reading more pages at the site, clicking what’s recommended there, etc. If it’s still not the answer we are seeking, we go back to the list of possible answers or try phrasing our question differently and begin our search for the truth all over again.

This is why written content is so important; what you write is how you are found and how your site is evaluated.

Believe it or not, search engines are our friends and partners in our quests, so there’s no point in trying to “beat” Google or any search engine with SEO tactics.

What’s the point in trying to divert those seeking information on silent film stars over to a site dedicated to tech gadgets — or vice versa? Annoyance?

You can give yourself a little nudge with some basic use of technology to assist in SEO; but frankly, your time is best spent on creating unique content that will address the needs and interests of the question seekers.

The PR Of PageRank

PageRank, or PR, is one of the most misunderstood metrics in the measurement of your website’s success.

What PageRank Is

PageRank is a whole number between 0 and 10 (i.e. PR0, PR3, etc.), with the most popular pages having a PageRank of 10, the least having a rank of 0. The ranking reflects a page’s popularity, primarily based on the number of links to it and the rank of those sites linking to it. (Words used in text links, the size of the page itself, the page’s content and words used in headlines, number of outbound links etc. are said to factor in as well) This rank is per page, not the entire site. So your site’s main page usually has a much higher rank than any other page or post on your site.

You can read the detailed history and description of PageRank, look at diagrams and calculations of Google’s PageRank Algorithm, but the basic premise is that PageRank is roughly based upon the quantity and quality of inbound links.

What Can PR Do? What Can You Do With PR?

Like Alexa, PageRank remains a popular or useful measuring device primarily because it’s free. It’s available to anyone, and can be used when calculating and negotiating ad rates, etc., and it can be one (of many) ways to calculate your site’s growth. You can check your site’s PR here. (It should be noted that the Goggle Toolbar PageRank value displayed is not the actual value Google uses;for some reason there is a lag in the Toolbar reflecting the actual rank information.)

Many people confuse PageRank with SEO. While the two are related in the sense that a page with higher PR is weighted higher in search engine algorithms (and, in cases of text links, the words in the link itself may help with higher search return placement or SERP), and webmasters and bloggers try to manipulate or “beat” the system, they are not synonymous.

People who were once banking on PR and those who financially speculate on SEO are now complaining and making predictions about PR.

They complain about the difficulty in trying to increase PR today compared to “back in the day.” But Google has always acknowledged the mathematical fact that increases in the number of websites and webpages (including blogs and blog posts) decreases the approximation of PageRank, creates resistance to climbing higher in rank. This is why older sites, even established sites that are no longer active, benefit from their age — even if they no longer receive new links in to them. So the explosive growth of blogs alone has created more friction in the uphill push for higher PageRank.

Others believe that PageRank, or at least the public sharing of the value, is going to be discontinued. The fact that PageRank is not included in Google’s Chrome browser confirms their suspicions. But Google has made a concerted effort to downplay RageRank. “[J]ust because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s useful for you as a site owner,” pushing Google Analytics instead.

The Bottom Line

The truth is, the easy days of PR have been over for awhile now, but ignoring the importance of links to your site is done to the detriment of your own site. Not simply in terms of PR, but in terms of discovery by new readers.

Links coming into your site are votes of confidence and recommendations from other bloggers and websites. This was the basic principal behind PageRank, after all.

But perhaps even more importantly, links are access to your site. Every link is an open door. So even if you don’t use PR to monitor your site’s popularity, you should focus on getting links to your site.

Have You Been Curated?

Over at her blog, Laura’s posted about content curators. Unlike content creators, content curators filter and organize the content others have created — using their own passion and information to shape and give meaning to the resource (web directory, social media topic expert, “lens” editor, etc.) they are creating.

As Laura notes, “A content curator can shape public opinion with the choices they make, the content they choose to include or pass by.” Placement in such curated resrouces affects not only individual readers, but systems such as search engines.

Have you identified which curated resources you, your blog, etc., must be in?

Have you contacted those curators which ought to know about you, your site, your business?

If there’s not really a great resource, why not start one?

If You Believe “Good Guys Finish Last…”

It’s easy to be pessimistic today, especially when it comes to business. Those of us not in the upper two percent, those of us with little in our pockets but our sweaty palms, those of us who don’t just feel beaten-up by big business but have the financial and even physical marks to prove it, those of us who are the “other” under the heels of the “us” that is Corporate America, we can easily draw the conclusion that the only time virtue comes up is when the fat cats greedily giggle over their “there’s no virtue in business besides money” mantra.

These feelings infiltrate, or, if you prefer “trickle down” (the only time the principal actually appears to work) into every aspect of our world, at every level. From realized fears of neglect and victimization in our political system to the mentalities of school bullies, controlling abusers, and national “pro-life” terrorists., it seems we are increasingly forced to live in a black & white world of virtue — and to consider which side we are on… Should we remain the down-trodden good guy who will finish last, if at all? Or should we give in to the dark side, just to survive?

I hear this echoed in discussions everywhere.  Activists wondering if they should adopt the same tactics their opponents successfully use.  Entrepreneurs who cringe at identifying themselves as such because of what “being in business” implies. Parents wondering how they can continue to teach their children to be “good,” “fair,” and “generous,” when their children see what the rich and ruthless reap.

It seems hopeless.

Enter hope. Or rather enchantment.

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, by Guy Kawasaki is primarily touted as a business book — a small-business or entrepreneurial manifesto. And sure, it works for that. But more than that, Kawasaki’s book explores the power of enchantment.

Enchantment can occur in villages, stores, dealerships, offices, boardrooms, and on the Internet. It causes voluntary change of hearts and minds and therefore actions. It is more than manipulating people to help you to get your way. Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility. It reshapes civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.

Firstly, Enchantment is a breath of fresh, good, air; it’s an affirmation that good guys and gals don’t have to finish last. And there are real stories, real cases, of real good people who are examples.

Secondly, Kawasaki outlines the principals of enchantment — sound psychological principals and insights into human behavior that are easy to read and even easier to comprehend.

Thirdly, the book inspires action.  Heart lightened with the affirmation and validation that Good is indeed good, heart warmed by the examples of Good successful people, and armed with the knowledge of how it all works, you, the reader, are inspired to live enchantingly.

It’s good that you are inspired because the author is now going to offer you opportunities to implement the strategies.

Kawasaki provides a checklist of things to consider and opportunities to explore, rather like self-help books do. (In the book’s Coverphon, there’s evidence neither the author nor the publisher would like this “soft” self-help comparison; but I think the work is to be commended for it’s uplifting, affirming, readily understood, easy to incorporate strategies as well as it’s “hard” business acumen.)

And, yes, the author includes plenty of tips and methods for businesses and entrepreneurs to put to work online (i.e. push and pull technologies such as email, Twitter, Facebook, websites and blogs, etc.).

While nearly all stories, prompts and checklists are business related (including chapters on how to enchant your boss, resist enchantment, etc.), there’s no reason the information couldn’t be applied to any facet of your life, including parenting. Where else does one need to model integrity more?

(There are even concrete stories for you to counter wise-ass remarks from kids who dare you to prove that greed and might are the only ways to get ahead — in fact, stories and examples that suggest that life ought not to be viewed as a race in which one must “get ahead,” but rather how to work for the betterment of many.)

In short, Enchantment is just the breath of fresh air that good guys and gals need to reaffirm their vows to be a person of delightful integrity. It gives us the tips to enchant — and the permission to be enchanted with ourselves.

PS If you do buy a copy of Enchantment, you might want to know about this enchanting offer from Guy:

When people anywhere in the world buy a copy of Enchantment in any form (paper, recording, or ebook), they can get a free copy of Garr’s book called Presentation Zen.

Presentation Zen is one of the best books ever written about making great presentations. Seth Godin said this about it: “Please don’t buy this book! Once people start making better presentations, mine won’t look so good.”

Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy of this book. While the free copy was appreciated and enjoyed, the fact that it was free has no bearing on this review or the contents of this post — other than the legal requirement to make such a statement.

Is The Money Where Your Mouth Is? Phone Sex As A Career

Making a full-time living off being a phone sex operator (PSO) seems the stuff of urban legend these days. Being paid to deliver sex fantasies over the telephone in the digital age of the Internet seems even to make claims of supplemental income from the career dubious at best. But according to the 10 women I interviewed, there’s still money to be made in talking dirty over the phone!

While the general consensus seems to be that the real money is made by independent phone sex operators, all 10 of the phone sex pros stated that working for a phone sex company or in some other facet of the adult industry is the best way to get the lay of the land, so to speak, and begin your new career.

If you are comfortable talking with strangers about intimate matters, how do you begin? With some research online, of course. Many phone sex companies place ads and have their own websites with online applications. When you find a lead on a job, treat it as you would any career opportunity and ask questions.

Probably the first thing you want to be clear about is whether or not this is a work from home job opportunity or if you’d be working on location. Not only is working on location less common of an option, it’s typically paid for at a lower rate, and, according to the professionals I spoke to, a lower quality phone sex service, with all that implies.

Also be sure to ask about the required number of hours or shifts you’ll be required to work; even working from home, phone sex companies require you to commit to scheduled hours just as any other employer does.

Along with asking questions and reading and the phone company’s website, you should investigate the company. Google the company name, number, etc., searching for reviews and commentary from PSOs and clients alike. Evaluate what you read in terms of the company’s stability and reliability in terms of pay. And don’t forget to ask about the details.

Phone sex, like any industry, has it’s own terminology and duties which seems like mumbo jumbo to those of us who are neither phone sex workers or callers. Some companies require PSOs to perform dispatch duties, whereby they take shifts answering the main telephone number, taking caller billing information and matching them with the most suitable PSO available who can meet their erotic needs. Typically, those dispatching shifts are paid at an hourly rate. Other companies expect their phone sex actresses to also spend time “trolling” or looking for new clients online, buying advertising, and performing other marketing and promotional duties. Traditionally, PSOs who perform trolling are paid more per minute than those who do not, and sometimes they are reimbursed or otherwise compensated for their efforts as well. It is highly recommended that you ask about these duties and any other duties you’d be expected to perform in addition to your performances with callers.

When you work for a phone sex company, you’ll receive some training and support; all the technical stuff as far as phone numbers, connections, billing, your character ID and photos, etc. will be taken care of; and there will be some base of established clients too. But when you work as an independent, all of this falls to you.

Even if you opt to use a phone sex service platform such as NiteFlirt, MyPhoneSite, or TalkSugar, and therefore have the technical issues and billing rather handled for you, there’s a lot of work to be done before you ever get your first call.

All of the PSOs I spoke with were independents, roughly half using those aforementioned phone sex service platforms, and yet all listed marketing or promotions as the one aspect of their business that took up most of their time, even after years in the phone sex industry. Even using the phone sex platforms, which have established customer bases and website traffic, there’s great competition among the PSOs to stand out and get the calls.

This is due in no small part to the low barrier of entry to the phone sex business. All one needs to do is provide valid proof they are of legal age to work in the adult industry, and, generally with the same documents that prove age, provide “Right to Work” documents in the U.S. Which means that nearly any adult female can start her own phone sex business — and nearly any adult female can fail at her own phone sex business.

In order to stand out, get calls, and cultivate your own established customer base, PSOs need to market themselves — on and off any phone sex company or service platform website. All the PSOs I spoke with stated that in addition to managing their own profile pages, placing ads, using forums and social networking sites, and the like, they spent most of their time while waiting for calls running their own websites and blogs. Which means they each developed at least a rudimentary knowledge of blogging, SEO, and other web development issues.

The trade-off for this extra work means the independent PSO has greater control over the calls taken, the rates charged, and the hours worked.

As for the amount of money you can expect to be paid as a phone sex operator, it varies. Some PSOs working for companies are excited to get $1 a minute they are on the phone; which could quite literally mean being paid $15 for 15 minutes of work — but this is all they have to show for having hung around, waiting for calls, for a six hour shift. Other independent PSOs claim to make more than $1,500 a week working less than 20 hours — but this after months or years of paying their dues building a client base and regular callers.

In short, there is no short route to quick riches with phone sex. But if you start, working to gain the experience and skills, building a supplemental business, who knows where you could go?

For more information on making a living as a phone sex operator, check out the Phone Sex Secrets blog.

Learning From The Washability Expert

Inside the pages of Modern Woman Magazine, A Magazine Published By The Ice Industry, (Volume 17, Number 1, 1948), an article on how to wash problem fabrics by Mrs. Jean Robinson, “Washability Expert, White King Soap Co.” This particular Mrs. Jean Robinson is somewhat lost to history, but I was reminded of a few things…

As a collector of vintage magazines, I am continually reminded that not much has changed in publishing over the years — and that most of this should be applied to publishing on the web, including blogging. Today’s example, the “washability expert” and her article.

While a title like Washability Expert seems as made-up as any user ID, it can only be assumed that Mrs. Robinson was employed by the soap company much the way many baking product companies had baking experts — experts who created more than just recipes or kitchen tips, but marketing material.

Every (good) recipe or tip produced was put to use cementing relationships with current consumers or cooking up relationships with new customers. Recipes and tips might be collected for publication in cookbooks and brochures, or they might be offered as informational articles to be published in newspapers and magazines — even, as with Mrs. Robinson’s, in corporate publications performing their own marketing efforts. And each was generally an opportunity for a press release too.

The questions were the same as now:

Are there enough recipes/tips for a publication? If so, is it good enough to sell? Or would it be of better use to offer it to customers for free? In either case, should offers be made via a special purchase, direct mail, etc., and is your offer worthy of a press release?

Would it be best to slowly compile and distribute the tips/recipes over time in your own publication, be the sole source for your knowledge? Or should you reach out to other publications, let them publish your wisdom and increase awareness about your products and services?

If and when you do want to share your knowledge(i.e. a guest blog post) to promote your company/site, how do you get them interested in doing so?

The one advantage larger companies had over today’s self-publishing is that Mrs. Jean Robinson and her ilk only had the responsibility of creating the tip, recipe, or article; someone else decided how to make the best use of it.

That’s probably the most markedly different thing about the low-barrier world of the Internet — it’s no longer good enough to just to be an expert, you have to know a lot about marketing too.

(Insert plug for my marketing and blog tour services here.)

Advertising & Affiliates: The Basics

At some point, everyone working on the Internet faces decisions about advertising and affiliate programs. Some people even start a blog for this “passive income,” believing that it’s as easy as setting up some links and then sitting back to let the income stream in; but that’s not necessarily what happens…

So I’ve got a white paper on the subject. It’s based on my 20+ years of working on the web; priced at $7, that’s less than 35 cents a year!

This white paper is written mainly for bloggers & website owners, to assist them in evaluating affiliate and advertising programs. However, it will also help those looking to purchase advertising &/or promote their own affiliate programs by helping them to understand the sorts of concerns they may encounter along the way.





A Customer Loyalty History Lesson

TWA used to have absolutely delightful certificates to commemorate flights, like this one from 1953:

They used to give these fanciful certificates to passengers as souvenirs — and as a loyalty buy in.  But unlike attempts at ‘keeping’ customers interested with temporary gimmicks, TWA had them take an oath:

Now, Therefore, Know Ye, that this Celestial Dominion herewith doth bestow this Certificate of Flight on said Skyliner Passenger, who doth solemnly covenant forever to keep it unsullied and to use, recommend and support Air Transportation to help foster amity between nations and good will amongst the peoples of the Earth. In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, (printed signature) President, Trans World Airlines, Inc.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find such a charming, creative way to ensure your customer’s loyalty?

*****

What’s this Big Mouth Promotions thing? Oh, OK, now I get it.

Ignore Rude Emails “Offering Links Swaps”

How many times a week do you get the following email:

I’ve visited your website ( url ) and I was wondering
if it would be possible to get a link to my (my partner’s) website on it?

I’ll place a link back to you in X of my (topic or topics, usually unrelated) websites, your link will be placed exactly here:

http://whocares page rank 3
http://whateversville page rank 2
http://bumble-f page rank 2

If you agree, then please link to me using these details:

TITLE: (keyword stuffed)
URL: (a specific page on their SEO seeking domain)
DESCRIPTION: (more keyword stuffing)

Please don’t forget to send me the title of your website after you
place my link so I can do the same in less than 24 hours, otherwise you can delete my link from your site.

Arg!

You can rest assured that these requests are 100% spam, no matter if they correctly contact you about one of your own sites. Here’s the proof:

1) These requests don’t even make sense because, generally speaking, my sites are so far off their topic they do not serve their best SEO manipulating interests. A human would recognize that.

2) The fact that they want you to go ahead and post a link to them first isn’t just rude (the one requesting should always place first and then notify, asking for notification of the recip), it’s them counting on a (however small) percentage of those emailed to place the link, giving their sites either a quick bit of juice &/or, counting on people forgetting to verify the promised link(s), giving them free un-reciprocated links.

Just delete and move along with your day.