Archive

Archive for the ‘The World of Blogging’ Category

How to Avoid Email Hubris and Costly Fines

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

      Email hubris is spamming your friends and
everyone else in your contact database without
their consent. Like trying to resist a danish with coffee in the morning, it is hard to contain your enthusiasm.  You want to share the next great product or service with everyone.
      To keep you in check from spewing forth endless emails, the Federal Trade Commission issued The Can Spam Act.
      What people do not realize is that for every unsolicited email you send out, whether it be in bulk or individually, you are at risk for a fine of $16,000 per unsolicited email.  
       Let’s face it.  We all do it. We meet someone at a Business Card Exchange and enter their email address in our database. Exchanging business cards is not an implicit consent to requesting to be added to your email announcements.
       The Can Spam Act ( an act known probably to compliance people, but overlooked by the masses) includes the distribution of all business email, whether sent bulk or individual, that promotes or advertises a commercial product or service.  It also includes promoting a website/blog, which advertises a product or service.  Even sending emails to former clients must have consent.
      The provisions of the Act are not difficult and follow common courtesy.  In a nutshell, here are the basics of the Federal Trade Commission’s Guide to Email Etiquette.
1.  Be Transparent.  You should be truthful when you fill in your “To”, “From”,  “Reply to” and subject lines.  Deceptive domain names etc. will obviously will get you in trouble.  In the Subject Line, avoid using sensational or exaggerated text to get the reader to open the email.  Eventually they will find that they were misled.  For example: Your subject line reads: “You Won a Trip to Hawaii,” but the email text says you won a chance for a Hawaii trip if you click on any of the what seems like hundreds of advertising options.
2.  If your email is an ad, be clear and say so.  Ummm. Well, according to the Act, there isn’t much leeway here. It has to be conspicuous and upfront. Use your creativity to get this done.
3.  Location.  If you are legitimate, you have a location. It can be a post office  box.  No biggy.  Adding this will give your email greater credibility.
4.  The Opting Out Issue.  You must give the email receiver a way of opting out of receiving your email. It must be clear and easily recognizable.  Check other sites and emails for wording.  And should you have requests for opting out, you must comply within 10 business days.  Just remember you may have the person’s name on a couple of lists, so it is prudent to weed through lists periodically.  You are also responsible for those opt out requests that get caught in your spam filter. 
5.  You are responsible for the emails sent out on your behalf.

For the specifics of the law, check out this website:

http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business.pdf

Lots of people are not compliant. Lots of people get away with spamming. However, a more pragmatic way to view this is: In the long run, unsolicited email offends your target audience.  Aside from the hefty fine, which could break a small business in this economy, it is in your best interest to adhere to FTC rules. 
      Repetitious emails hawking the same product or service from you is annoying.  And if you appear more self serving, you know where your email will go…to  JUNK, UNREAD.  
       These rules aren’t hard because this particular piece of legislature has the distinction of making sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Open Book: Is Blogging Overrated?

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment

After blogging for a couple of years now, I am wondering if blogging is overrated.  Yes, as a writer, you would think that this process is a no brainer and enjoyable.  But in truth, it steals time from my day, from my other writing and reading, and although pleasurable, may or may not be all that productive from a return on investment viewpoint.

In another blog written not long ago (http://www.corichu.com/blog/2011/08/22/create-blog-written/), I took the position that blogging is an activity that helps a new writer.  The blog is free self promotion, a foundation for building a loyal fan base when that first novel gets published.

I was struggling last week to come up with something worthy of writing.  I realize that “worthy” is subjective, but I wouldn’t want to read a blog if I didn’t expect to come away with a new idea, a different point of view, or at least a bit of humor.  Geesh, my time is worth something…and that’s what this blog is all about.  Is blogging overrated?  Am I getting something out of my time investment? 

Blog posts are not quick, easy breezy well-written snippets. I think more  like a journalist; someone who reports or makes sense out of a series of facts.  I just happened to pick the topic of writing, but I could be writing a blog about baseball fashion or nutrition, or focus on the aging baby boomer body.  I read other writing blogs, who have covered the grammar topic, the how-to topics very thoughtfully and thoroughly and wonder if I should just make this blog a series of great links that I found.  After all, the nuts and bolts of the writing process doesn’t change enough to warrant me to re-invent the wheel just because I can’t think of something to publish in my blog. 

Blogging pressure can be annoying. Besides, even though I write fairly quickly (and I do have opinions), I find that I just can’t  spew out anything that comes to mind.  I have to have a topic that I find interesting, come up with an outline, and then research the fine points.  All this is time consuming.  I don’t write my blog because I have a passion for it, and certainly I don’t like that I am adding to more deadlines on my to-do list.  Even though this is self induced, it is nevertheless annoying and pressure.

Marketing component. Also, what people fail to realize is a blog is a product.  Like any product to get the readership up, there is a marketing component.  If you create a blog, how many hours do you expect to spend reading, commenting and linking to other blogs….other social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter?

More time consumed? I hear that we are a nation of non-readers.  I can hardly believe that, but if it is true, then the vlog (video blogging) is the next big marketing platform.  And how much time are you going to invest in vlogging when blogging becomes passe? 

Money making blogs. If you are blogging because you think you are going to make money from affiliate programs, realize this venture has its own pecularities.  First, you will need a great niche…one that will have pull, even when you skip a few days.  (A good example is a celebrity watch blog.) Second, be prepared.  This as a full time job, even though it seems like a part time occupation—one that insidiously steals your time from you.  Third, Technorati reports that only about 10 percent of blogs are money producers.  Some are wildly successful, but most are not making more than $20K a year.  I have been reading about the success stories.  They are inspiring. 

Final Thoughts.  Eh, am I still going to blog?  Yup, I am. I don’t know why though.  It seems to boil down to my need to share.  I am on Facebook and Twitter, but for some reason I don’t post often. 

You will have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself.  Just remember what you devote to this activity usurps the time on another writing project, with the family, with friends or another activity.

Light bulb moment!  Hmmm, maybe I should be sharing and getting paid for it? LOL

Open Book: Blog Content Basics

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

No two brands of ketchup taste the same.  The basic ingredients may be similar — tomatoes (or tomato concentrate), sugar, vinegar, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, etc.  — but the taste differences lie in the ingredient quality and proportion.

And so it is with your blog.  Your blog site is uniquely yours even though there may be a couple of hundred or more people blogging about the same topic.  To keep your followers, consider these basics when you post your next entry:

     Does your post solve a problem?
     Does your post inform?
     Or have timeless content?
     Maybe your post is in demand (trending)?
     Or does your musings provide a bit of humor…something that is insightful,     but leaves your reader chuckling inside at your wit or twisted viewpoint…a bit of comic relief?

If you can say yes to one or more of these questions, your post content will provide value to your reader and will have them coming back for more.

Like the quality of the tomatoes in the ketchup, so is the quality of your writing. Write well (with the help of the SEO gods) and your posts will fly off the shelf.  Write incoherently and well, your writing (while surely highlighting your unique brand) might limit your viewing audience.

Open Book: Quick Ways to Get Your Blog Read

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The writer…the teacher…the marketing guru in you emerges in a spanking  new blog.

I was told that if you write, the followers will come.  True to some degree; however, your success will be measurably better if you write coherently and have something interesting to share (your opinion or some newsworthy mention).   Well written blogs may not always be successful blogs.  It certainly helps, but writing skill needs more to get follower retention.

To increase your followers, here are easy ways to get the word out:

1.  Your blog address is now as important as your name and phone number  in your marketing materials.  Blog address should appear on everything from business cards, signature email address, and stationary — everything printed.

2.  Write as if you were talking to your best friend.  Your voice should be conversational, but to appeal to the widest spectrum of people, refrain from using street language.

3.  Write about something that interests you.  Blogging is not a sprint, but more like a cross country run.  Pace yourself.  Don’t start off with writing a blog daily, because you will burn out.  (If this is a journal or a record of your daily musings or your day job, this might not be such a chore.)  Writing about something your passionate about comes through in the writing.

4.  Be consistent about your blog entries.  Once a week?  Twice a week?   Just think about your followers.  Would you want to read a daily blog everyday, when so many other things compete with your time?  It is best to be consistent, say maybe on a Tuesday and or Thursday.  ( Mondays are horrible, because everyone starts Monday morning with a slew of emails from the weekend.)  Too much is annoying… too little and your followers may totally forget you. 

Bottom line: Post regularly.  Two a week is minimal to help establish an affinity to you.

Blogging Tip: If you love writing blogs, store your extra blog entries, because you may not have time or go on vacation or you will have a brain freeze one day.

5.  Boring blogs don’t attract readers. Interesting ones grow by word of mouth. 

6.  Your blog entries should be more than a litany of  other people’s links.  They want to know about you and what you know that can help them make their life easier…or humorous enough that for a split moment they forget their lives totally.

7.  Comment on other similar blogs, maybe referring to a blog you wrote on the topic.  From you blog, include links to them and ask them to link back to you.

8.  Register with blog directories, so that people searching for your topic will find you.  (ie. technorati.com)  Link to your facebook page, your twitter account.

9.  Bookmark your posts on digg.com, yahoo.com, del.icio.us.com, reddit.com and stumbleupon.com.

Okay, after reading this blog, I realize that it has taken me 15 minutes to collect my thoughts and notes, another 30 minutes to write it, and maybe another 30 minutes to promote the blog using my suggestions.  Just saying, if you want to get the most out of blogging, you will be investing about 2 hours give or take each time.

Open Book: 3 Great Reasons for an Unpublished Novelist to Blog

August 22, 2011 1 comment

People blog for many reasons, but for the unpublished novelist, blogging is a no brainer.

I can’t remember which self-help guru wrote that if you want to be a novelist, you have to do what novelist do. If you imitate the behaviors of novelist, you will one day be that novelist.  One of the behaviors all published authors seem to share is blogging.  Here are the three great reasons why you need to start if you haven’t already.

1.  Name Recognition – Your friends and family might know you are a budding novelist, but you will need a few more thousand book buyers when your novel is finished. Establishing a platform before your first book comes out will give your book a sales foundation.

2.  Expertise – Blogging is a wonderful way of validating your writing through your expertise.  For example, say that your novel is about a mother of a young boy who joins the Confederate army and is wounded inAntietam.  What if you blog about the Civil War?  What if you create a following of historians with your historical interpretations, suggested readings, and new findings about the topic?  Couldn’t you see yourself having a dialogue with some of your followers?  Wouldn’t it be great if your loyal followers retweeted your blog to their loyal followers? This is called viral marketing.

Your Civil War expertise gives your readers the confidence that you will be able to tell a Civil War story with confidence.

3.  Website, Blogging and Marketing – You can shamelessly promote your first novel on your website.  You can blog about it.  You can hop on related websites and leave a link to your new book to increase more widespread viewing and inevitably sales.

Today, a website is equivalent to yesterday’s business card.  However, unlike the painful process of handing business cards out one at a time, now you can reach thousands of people from all corners of the globe in a few minutes.

 Your website will reveal much more about you than merely the standard business card contact information.  From the tone, the style, and the format, your personality will emerge.  The viewer, a complete stranger, might make an intellectual (and sometimes an emotional, depending on how open you are about your personal life) connection with you.  This translates naturally into greater book sales.

And for the website, blogging keeps your site fresh.  If you understand your audience, you can select topics that you know that will keep them coming back.

It might be prudent to keep in mind that even though your candor or attempts at humor might increase your click rate, the energy expended in placating someone else’s bruised ego means less time working on your novel. You just don’t know how your life will move forward with an angry mother —or worse yet, an angry mother-in-law.  So, innocuous storytelling can have consequences.

How to Plot by Example

July 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you a writer who can sit down and have dialogues and scenes stream onto the computer screen with little regard to structure?  If you are, and are happy with your results, you are one of the lucky writers with a gift.  Most writers need to craft the plot through scene summaries and outlines.

I am not so gifted.  I need to plot to make my stories come together in the end.  For many years I let my writing drift.  It was easier and fun, but always when I read it back, the only salvagable sections were description. 

One day a couple of years ago, I found a talented blogger, who writes about the technique of novel writing.  If you feel like a hamster running the wheel when you write, check this website out.  www.storyfix.com.  Currently, Larry Brooks is deconstructing the novel The Help.  He shows us how to plot by examining Kathryn Stockett’s plotting strategy and how this is a major factor that catapulted her novel into recognition.  (I read that she had many, many rejections in earlier drafts, but she did not give up.)

He has a book out called Story Engineering: 6 Core Competencies.  You can see a preview on his website.  You can get a better idea by rooting around in his blog archive, because Brooks does an excellent job describing the core competencies individually.

Okay, I took a hiatus from blogging.  You would think when I unexpectedly became unemployed I would have time to blog more.  Instead I used the time to figure out what to do.  I spent most of the day doing job search activities in a very dry market.  Blogging sounded interesting as a public journal on personal impressions when I first began the journey.  I had envisioned it more like the journal I wrote as a pre teen.  Months later, my thoughts have evolved.  My goal for this blog is to make it more content rich.  In the next few weeks, I will be examining the topic blogging for money.

 

Tweeting about Twittering

June 21, 2009 Leave a comment

I truly don’t know how anyone gets anything done, if they spend time with all these social media windows open on their computer.  While I see the merits of staying connected, I also know someone’s every move, sharing every feeling with not just one or two seems like too much information. 

And pardon me for being so cynical, but what if some not-so-honest person decides to use the online exchange to help himself to the twit’s belongings because the twit announced that he is driving 40 miles away to  be in a wedding party.  Bingo, the twit just opened his home to thieves.

With Google, you can pop the person’s name and do a search.  You can learn how old the person is, where he works and what’s his position, his college information, how many places the twit has lived.  You can Google his present address and see quite clearly all the locations the individual has lived, how many living there complete with full names.  Google maps can show you the front door, the topography.  Yes, there is very little left for the thieves’ imagination.  And if the person has joined and added a profile on any one of the social media websites, the thief knows much more about his victim than he ever needs to know—thus making his job all the more easy.

Oh and let’s have some computer nerd genius decide that it would be great to develop a software that will track a person’s personal daily time line with behaviors and preferences based on the information in cyberspace.  This would be a thief’s HOW TO book.

The not so nice people could also include rapists, pedaphiles, and scam artists.  There is no telling what other occupations may burgeon from gathering personal information.

While we benefit tremendously from news around the world and personal enrichment from these sites, will the downside outweigh the good?

As social media becomes one of the primary sources for news, will we suffer inaccuracies and purposefully placed lies?

Will politics gain another outlet to galvanize public opinion and perhaps, not in a good way, because there will be no fair and balanced reporting?

Will our children who grew up with technology have another vice that will keep them tethered to hardware and not to people in person?

Will the new generation find themselves even more sedentary because the social media connection is addictive?  Will their health suffer for all the hours on line?

It will be interesting to see how people will use this media.  I doubt this will be a fad, but like everything else human beings need to find a balance.