December North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club

Growing Your Blog Is Easier Than Ever, Or So You Thought

There seems to be a misconception that growing a blog happens overnight. I entered into the blogosphere towards the end of 2008. At that time I had not jumped on any social media platforms. In fact, I had no idea what social media was or how it worked. I see and hear many people say, “I’m starting a blog and going to make a lot of money in a couple months.” I shake my head and think, “If you only knew.”

Blogging

I’m not going to tell you that people do not grow a blog quickly, as some do. In all reality, most bloggers learn skills and then find themselves marketable. It is work. For some reason, people think that bloggers lead a glamorous life of hanging out in the kitchen in pajamas all day, while building a following through the use of social media. It does not happen that way. Trust me, if you are only focusing on social media and not making real face to face connections, you will not be successful in this world of blogging. When you put yourself out there in your community, I can guarantee you will make connections that will be life changing, in a good way.

Social Media Thrivent

You may or may not like what I’m going to say, as this is a reality check for anyone in or wanting to enter the blogosphere.

BLOGGING IS WORK

If you are going to be successful growing your blog, you need to be present. This means you need to be writing, making videos and sharing through social media. You also need to be out networking to help you build the base of of your business. Nobody has ever said that building a business is easy, and I’m here to tell you that it is not.

BLOGGING IS ABOUT PEOPLE

Bloggers share their experiences to help people. If people weren’t around, there would be no audience. When conversations occur, business begins to flourish. When you offer a solution to a problem, your business will grow. People will find you, they will look up to you and respect your opinions. Write, make awesome videos, take great photos and share your passion. People will get to know you and relationships begin to form. Again, it’s all about the people, it’s not about you or social media.

books and blogging

BLOGGING IS NOT ABOUT LINK DROPPING

I see way too many new bloggers thinking that dropping links everywhere is going to take them to the top. It’s great to share content that others write, but what I see happening; is that bloggers are not focusing on the people. They seem to think that a blog will grow overnight through the use of social media. When you combine social media and meeting others in real life, that is when your blog will grow. Again, it’s called work.

When you become the expert in your arena, wonderful things will begin to happen with your blog. The time you have spent building on relationships, the social media breakfasts you attended and the networking events you invested in will take your blog to a new level. These ladies in North Iowa have been my inspiration to work harder every single day.

Sky Deck Bloggers

I can also tell you, that success looks different for everyone and it will look different from what you set out for it to look like. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be part of a business that is a media sponsor at the Women In Travel Summit in Milwaukee. This opportunity came out of face to face connections, it did not come from link dropping or staying in my kitchen 24/7. I met Lisa of The Walking Tourists, in person, and have not looked back since.

Lisa and Sara

Do you want to grow your blog? The best advice I can give you is to connect with a blogger that inspires you and meet up in person. Your blog and your life will be on a path that will take you to a level you never imagined to be possible. Think big and work hard! If I can do this, anyone can.

Rascal Flatts

Top Three Reasons To Start A Blog

I have been blogging for 7 1/2 years and there’s one thing for certain, a blog, is still a blog. Over time, social media platforms have come and gone. But, blogging in general has not changed. Blogs are still a fun way for you to share your thoughts with the world wide web. I am often asked, “Do you think I should start a blog?” Here are my top three reasons why you should start a blog.

YOU HAVE A COMPELLING STORY TO TELL

When you have a compelling story to share, you will quickly find blogging very easy. Your blog is an easy way to share your thoughts, opinions, and ideas with the world wide web. Once you put it on the world wide web, it’s out there for the whole world to see. If you like the idea of your thoughts being shared all around the world, start blogging!

Blogging

YOUR BUSINESS HAS A WEBSITE

If your business has a website, you should have a blog on it. According to a HubSpot Survey, 60% of businesses that blog, acquire more customers. If you struggle with content, find a good writer. There are several bloggers out there that would love to be paid to write content for your company blog.

BLOGGING ALLOWS YOUR VOICE TO BE HEARD

Do you feel as though your voice is not heard? When you start a blog, you will have a reader. There’s always one person that will read your blog. In my mind, that’s all I needed when I started blogging 7 1/2 years ago. Share your passions, your life, your inspirations and anything and everything you want the world to know about. Your voice will be heard, once you start blogging.

Blogging is a fantastic way to heal. Many people start blogging out of some type of tragedy. They often have a story to tell and blogging offers a great platform to get started sharing. If you love to talk, I can tell you that you will be happy that you hopped on the blogging train. Once you find your spot on the train, you will only evolve. You will meet new people, build relationships through your online activity that you never thought were possible.

So, what’s stopping you? These are three top reasons why you should start a blog and never look back! I’d love to hear what you blog about or what you are considering blogging about. I can guarantee you that someone will want to hear your story.

December North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club

How Small Businesses Can Work With Bloggers

Small businesses owners often ask me how they can work with bloggers, as they have no clue where to start. They then ask me why they should work with bloggers. From my personal experience and helping business owners work with bloggers, I have put these tips together for you, the small business owner. Let’s start with the why.

CUSTOMERS ARE ONLINE

Your customers and potential customers are on the world wide web. When a blogger writes an article about your product or a business, you now have an article promoting your business across the globe. Bloggers will also share their article through their social media platforms, which will give your business additional exposure.

For example when you google “how to spend a day in Webster City,” four posts that the North Iowa Bloggers wrote appear on page 1. The North Iowa Bloggers visited Webster City, Iowa in December of 2014 and shared their experiences through blog posts and social media. They visited local businesses, ate in local restaurants and shopped.

Amy in shop in Webster City

Another example: Natural Plus Nursery, of Clear Lake, Iowa, hosted the North Iowa Bloggers for an afternoon in Spring of 2015. Mary, co-owner of the nursery, shared the history of Natural Plus Nursery and showed the bloggers what they offer. Google, “what does Natural Plus Nursery have to offer”. On page one through google search, you will find three blog posts written from this visit and on page two, you will find two more.

Google anything similar to these keywords for these two businesses and you will find posts written by the North Iowa Bloggers. This is just one way that small business owners can work with bloggers. Your imagination is the only thing that is stopping you, when it comes to how. Social media and the world wide web offer endless opportunities for both parties.

Now, let’s tackle the how.

HOW TO FIND BLOGGERS

Contact your local Chamber of Commerce, as they often have bloggers that are members. Here is where you can get connected with bloggers that can help you grow your business. Attend social media breakfasts in your community, bloggers attend these and love meeting new businesses owners at these types of events.

December North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club

If you hit a road block with these two venues, ask on your personal Facebook page. Trust me, you will be connected with a local blogger or two in a relatively short period of time

HOW TO CONTACT A BLOGGER

Bloggers will have a contact form on their blog, which is a great way to reach out to a blogger. You can also e-mail them, as they usually have this in their about section or how to contact me section. If you can connect with them through social media, send them a direct message through their Facebook Business Page or a private message through Twitter. Bloggers love interacting with small business owners and will help you.

TEAM PLAYERS

If you are a small business looking to grow, bloggers can help you grow in ways you never imagined. Bloggers are team players, just as small business owners are. Keep in mind that traditional marketing still has its place for many small businesses. Be ready to expand and grow, as your online customers are waiting to meet you.

Bloggers offer a “new way” of marketing and I hope you will give it a try to see how they can help you. If you don’t try it, you will never know what could have been.

 

 

 

Rascal Flatts

Tips For Getting Ready For Your First Blog Conference

Your first blog conference is on the horizon and you may be asking yourself, “What have I gotten myself into?” Relax. The fact that you have purchased your blog conference ticket and made the commitment to attend is hurdle #1. You are on your way to ramping up your blog.

Blog Buttons

Business Cards

Business cards are important. They are often the avenue that a conversation begins with someone. You may be in a loud room when you meet someone and not be able to talk. By exchanging business cards, you can continue the conversation once the conference is over and you are in a quiet place to gather your thoughts. I will admit it, business cards can float around for a while, but they are important. I personally love it when I can ask someone for their Twitter handle and BOOM- we are connected!

Facebook Groups

Most conferences have a Facebook group where attendees can enroll. Here is where you can often make arrangements to share a cab or even find a room mate while attending the conference. Often times there are attendees that decide where to meet for dinner, as reservations are often needed. By interacting in the conference Facebook Group you will also know some of the attendees before you actually meet in real life.

Be Flexible

Most blog conferences have a schedule listed on their website. Look it over, but be prepared to be flexible. Often times you will find that a session you want to attend is just not what you were looking for. Be open to changing your schedule up and attending a session that you did not think would be a good fit. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you will more than likely walk away with more knowledge than you ever imagined.

Blog conferences are a great way to meet others with the same interests as you. They are also a way to learn how bloggers are monetizing their blogs and what types of businesses bloggers are working with. By going to a blog conference with an open mind, you will learn more and meet more people.

And you just never know— Rascal Flatts or some other awesome music group may show up! A note about this photo: I went to Blissdom and did not know these other conference attendees before this conference. I met Robyn, 2nd gal from left, through the Blissdom Facebook Group and we were room mates. I met the other ladies through the conference and we have stayed in touch, ever since.

Rascal Flatts

If there is one thing that I have learned in my 6 1/2 years of blogging that it is OK to change things up now and then. My path has not been A to Z. Heck, it’s been from C to S and from Z and back to P. Take a ride off the beaten path and your blog will thank you!

So… tell me. What was your first blog conference experience like? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Blogging

How To Make Time For Blogging While Working A Full Time Job By Guest Blogger, Katy Flint

Katy blogs over at Learning As I Go- check her blog out. She is offering tips on managing your life, as she has managed to find balance in her life. Hopefully her tips can help you out.

Wife, Step-Mom, City Clerk, Norwex Independent Consultant, Jamberry Independent Consultant, social media manager, & blogger!  Woofta!  That’s a lot of titles and that doesn’t include those other ones like aunt, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend, etc.  I’m a busy lady!  I’m going to be honest and say that my busyness is my fault and no one else’s.  I work full-time, have 3 side jobs and family responsibilities because I chose that life.  But, here I am and this is how things are going to stay because I love them all and really have no desire to give up any of them.  So, how do I manage to do all the jobs I do, take care of my family, and be a blogger?  Well, here are a few things that I’ve learned:

1.  Schedule Time – Yes, schedule time to blog.  Sounds silly I know, but if you don’t you’ll always be too busy doing dishes, cooking meals, folding laundry, or doing your full-time job.  I try to schedule about an hour each Sunday to focus on my blog and social media.  I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but if I’m focused and not interrupted, I can knock out quite a few posts and schedule quite a few “shares” (See #2).  I also use my lunch hour at work quite a bit because I’m never interrupted there!

2.  Schedule Posts – This applies to your blog posts themselves, but also to your social media accounts.  Using the schedule feature on Facebook pages or Hootsuite is a great way to have things posting when you’re super busy! It’s an easy way to look like you have it all together when you really feel like you’re falling apart! 😉

Blogging

3.  Don’t Beat Yourself Up – It’s true!  If life gets uber hectic and work is extra demanding, don’t beat yourself up because you don’t have time to write and post!  It’s ok!  The world is not going to end, no one is going to be mad (they might miss you), but most people understand what its like to work full-time, be a wife & mother, and how crazy that can get.  No one is going to criticize you for focusing on work and family first!

Learning As I Go Cover Photo

Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Blogging: Guest Post By Blogger Katy Flint

Are you new to blogging or considering starting a blog? Katy Flint started blogging over at Learning As I Go, a little over a year ago and she offers her advice to newbies. Be sure to follow Katy on Twitter and Facebook to stay in the loop! Thank you Katy for sharing your wisdom with all of us, it is much appreciated.

It’s been a little over a year since I started blogging. Honestly, at this point, I barely remember my life before blogging. I barely remember a life before “I’m going to blog about this!” or “Don’t eat yet, I need to get a picture for the blog” or “I can’t wait to tell the North Iowa Bloggers about this!” What a wonderful adventure it has been since then! Have I hit the blogging top yet? Nope! Am I going to? Who knows! Has the road been smooth and without hiccups? Not at all! I’ve learned a few things in the past year and here are 5 things I wish I had known when I started blogging!

Learning As I Go Cover Photo

 

Start a List – if there’s something you want to blog about, but don’t have the time…write it down! You’ll either come back to it and it’ll be great or the moment will pass and it’ll weed itself out!

Blog About Your Passions – be it food, exercise, family, crafts, etc. Whatever your passion is, blog about it. Don’t worry about if someone else will like it, you’ll find an audience.

It’s OK to Feel “Off’ – Sometimes you feel like blogging and sometimes you don’t! Sometimes the ideas and posts flow from your fingers like a river and other times you feel like a river during a drought! It’s ok! If you’re not feeling it, don’t blog! It’ll come across that way.

Have Good Pictures – learn how to take good pictures! It doesn’t matter whether you use a cell phone camera or an expensive camera, just take good pictures and learn how to edit them! Good pictures will get more attention!

Find An Easy “Out” – because there are those times you don’t feel like blogging or because there’s times you won’t have time or you won’t feel inspired…find something that is easy to post! For me, it’s Wordless Wednesday! It’s quick and simple to post and helps fill gaps when my writers block or busy life gets in the way!

Blogging has blessed me immensely and the blogging community is such a supportive one! If you’re thinking about it, take the plunge! Good luck!

Your Time Is Now – Make It Happen

If there is one thing we are promised it is the moment we are in, right now! I often see people asking when they should start a business or a blog. Really? Why waste all of your time and energy asking, when it would be much smarter to invest your time and money into the doing! I am an entrepreneur. I get that you want the time to be right, but in all honesty if you wait for the “right” time, you will be waiting your whole life.

 

Make It Happen

When you dig in with all you have, that’s when things begin to happen. Your blog will not magically appear when you spend all of your time asking others about a title, a hosting service or even when or how often you should post. I see this over and over again…seriously, just do it!

I have learned more from the mistakes I have made by doing. Sure, I have asked a lot of questions along the way, and will continue to ask. Most importantly I will continue the doing part. Once you stop doing, your business comes to a halt. Many people stop because they don’t understand that their customers are changing, yes, that does happen!

There is nothing wrong with evolving. Most successful business owners will tell you that in order to be successful you will need to continue to evolve. I have learned this myself, as I have dug in and made things happen. In 2009, I can tell you that the words North Iowa Social Media Breakfast Club never crossed my mind. In 2012, the words began to cross my mind and in 2013 I dug in and made it happen.

When you actually take the time to DO, that is when the magic happens! By doing you learn what works great and you also learn what does not work so great. The best things I have learned, as a small business owner, is that in order to grow, mistakes will come and I have learned from them. By doing, I have learned so much more than anyone else could ever show me. I could spend 24 hours a day asking questions of others on social media and get absolutely nowhere. Instead, I have chosen over and over again to dig in and make things happen!

So, if you are caught up in asking others what you need to do to get your business going, why not just do it? Life is to short to spend time doing nothing. Share your passion with others and live your life! Trust me, you will be grateful that you took the plunge to make it happen. The people you meet will continue to bless your life in ways you never imagined. Making a difference in the lives of others is a terrific feeling and I hope that each of you can experience the joy that I have been able to experience.

What are you waiting for, Christmas? Please don’t, get out and make it happen TODAY!

Katie Olthoff Stats

Why Bloggers Should Build An Email List: Guest Contributor Katie Olthoff Shares How It Is Working

Katie Olthoff Stats

For months now, I’ve been hearing that bloggers should concentrate on building their email lists.  Facebook changes constantly, Google+ is starting to disappear, Twitter is overwhelming, and even Pinterest is asking you to pay to promote your content.  Email lists are truly the best way to contact your followers.

So I decided I wanted to my list to grow.  But it didn’t.

I tried a few different things:

  • A sign up form at the bottom of every blog post.
  • A Hello Bar across the top of my blog.
  • Sign up forms in my sidebar.
  • Free printables for subscribers.

But my list numbers stayed steady.  When I posted more frequently, people actually UNsubscribed.  (I think I was overwhelming their inboxes.) Not what I wanted to happen.

Finally, I bit the bullet and changed things up.  Instead of just sending an RSS blast automatically every time I posted something new, I made a weekly newsletter.

In it, I shared blog posts from the past week, plus two or three from the archives that are seasonal or just popular.  I share a turkey recipe (because I am a turkey farmer) and ask a question to help me get to know my readers or get advice from them.

Email Newsletter Katie

A weekly newsletter is more work, because I put it together manually.  And it is a commitment.  But it has paid off!

My “open rate” and “click rate” has increased since making the switch.  And my subscribers have been growing by leaps and bounds!

I am working on some tutorials for Mailchimp, which I will be posting on my blog, On the Banks of Squaw Creek.  So if this sounds too complicated for you, pop on over and I’d be glad to help you out!

And if you want to hear more about life on a turkey farm in Central Iowa, sign up for my email list while you’re there.

Katie Olthoff is a former teacher turned writer, blogger, designer, and social media enthusiast.  She blogs about her life on a turkey farm with two little boys and a 100 year old farmhouse at On the Banks of Squaw Creek. Katie also does logo design and blog design for the Blogger platform. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Katy Flint 1

Tips From A New Blogger, Katy Flint On Using WordPress.Com

A huge thank you to Katy Flint of Learning As I Go for sharing her experience with WordPress.Com. Katy is a member of the North Iowa Bloggers and her blog has been inspiring others for several months. I am over the top excited that Katy agreed to share her experience with all of you, as I understand how challenging it can be when it comes to getting your blog up and running.

Katy Flint 1

I can’t believe that it’s been about 8 months since I started my blog, Learning As I Go.  Last summer I found myself blogging for my job, but had so many things I felt like I wanted to “say” and “get out” but the professional blog wasn’t the place for it!  So, I took a leap of faith and started my page.  I knew of other bloggers and what they did and often read their posts, but really didn’t know HOW to blog or WHERE to blog.  I knew that WordPress.Com existed (from Googling it of course) and that it was free (Free is good when you’re starting out, right?)!!  So, I thought….why not? I set up the name of my blog and dug in.  Then you learn things and you learn that it’s not as simple or as easy or FREE as it seems.  A couple things I’ve learned from having a WordPress.Com account and wish I had known before I began:

  • The web address of your blog is going to be really long!  When I started out mine was www.learningasigokf.wordpress.com !  Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.  I’ve since purchased a domain and have it routed to my WordPress site (www.katyflint.com.  A lot more fluid, right?)
  • Widgets – you get what you pay for, right?  Some widgets that a lot of bloggers use are not supported by WordPress.com like Rafflecopter.
Donna Hup Rafflecopter
Screen Shot: Courtesy of DonnaHup.Com

 

  • Layouts – the layout (or design) or your webpage/blog should be a description and illustration of who you are and what your blog is about…when working with FREE you are much more limited.  Yes, WordPress.Com does offer several nice layouts, the best cost money (typically $69 and up) and then when you want to personalize colors, etc…you add another $99 fee on top!  Starting with the free layouts will cause one to want to change and personalize as your blog grows (trust me, I’ve been there.)

One thing I will say that I love about WordPress.Com is it’s a great app (both Android & Apple).  From my phone and iPad, I can see my stats, edit & write posts, upload media, etc.  It’s great for on the go (which I often am) and when I feel that writing itch start!

So, while free is good when you’re starting out, there are some things to be aware of that can hinder your growth as a blogger!  Good luck and blog on my friends!

Connect with Katy on Learning As I Go, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. and Instagram!

Three New Year’s Success Strategies For Your Blog

Strategies for blog 2015

The New Year is upon us and it’s time to think about your blog and your goals for the New Year. I have never been much of a New Year’s resolution person, but I can tell you that it’s important to develop a strategy for success when it comes to you and your blog. Many folks blog as a hobby and several blog to make money. No matter the reason, you will feel better about things if you set some goals and try to meet them. After all, doesn’t everyone feel good when they can reflect upon a success story?

PLAN TO ATTEND A CONFERENCE

The easiest way to meet new people and be inspired is to attend a blog conference. Yes, there are conferences for bloggers. Two conferences that I would highly recommend would be Type A Conference and Bloggy Conference. This is where I have met some of my best friends and some of the most inspirational people on the planet. And you know what? Here is where you will surround yourself with people that “get'” you. How cool is that? Need a little financial help getting yourself to a blog conference? Find a sponsor and make those travel plans now!

ATTEND LOCAL NETWORKING EVENTS

Local does matter! Join your local Chamber of Commerce and dive in. This is one of the simplest ways to meet new people in your local business community. Volunteer for an event or two and I do think you will be pleasantly surprised. Is there a social media breakfast club in your area? If there is, attend asap! If not, start one.

NEVER APOLOGIZE

Let’s face it, even bloggers need a break now and then, as bloggers are human. Never apologize to your readers. For example, if you need to take a little break from blogging, that’s your choice. Your blog is online and always available. I often see bloggers take a little break and come back with, “I am so sorry…..,” really? There is no need to apologize when in fact several of your readers may have never noticed your absence until you brought it to their attention.

Most importantly be yourself online and I can guarantee that you will have great things come to you. It’s ok to check out what other bloggers are doing and ask questions. Bloggers can be your best resource when it comes to growing your blog. Chances are good that they may have the same questions you do or have had the same question in the past. When you do your thing you will have the most success.

Make 2015 your best year yet and embrace change. Step out of your comfort zone and I think you will be pleasantly surprised as to where your blog will take you. Tell me…. What are your goals for 2015? I’d love to hear about them.