So You Wanna Be A Blogger?

Blogging is a great way to connect with a target audience on a somewhat personal level on one condition… you actually BLOG. It sounds great in theory – start a blog, write about a cool topic, get a bunch of readers to follow you, and BOOM! All of a sudden you’ve graduated to Perez Hilton status, with 14,500,000 estimated monthly users. Who wouldn’t want THAT????

But you need compelling content that people crave. It doesn’t happen overnight and it definitely won’t happen unless you do a few key things right up front.

Your first step is to figure out your topic and blog name. It can be your name or something that is related to the type of content you want to write about. When I created my blog, I knew I wanted to write about innovation, entrepreneurship and startups. So I agonized for DAYS and finally came up with The Idea Mama. It’s catchy, right??? =)

Once you have a name, you’re ready to roll! So here it is… my top 10 list for starting a new blog! These steps come way before your fingers hover over the keyboard, itching to type that first entry. There’s a lot of prep that goes into the setup. Don’t rush the process. Take your time, think long and hard about your goals with the blog. These tips will help you get started.

Group of BLOG related 3D words. Part of a series.

  1. Buy the domain. You can’t have a website without a domain name. It’s your home address… on the web. Go to http://www.godaddy.com and find out if it’s available. If it is, GRAB IT! If you want to test the waters, buy it for one year instead of three.
  2. Select a blogging platform. I use WordPress and I like it. I’m not wild about TypePad. I’ve used that in the past and found it to be extremely frustrating. One of my other sites, Author Navigation, was built with Weebly. They have a free trial available. Weekly is very intuitive. You can drag and drop components onto your page according to the theme you select. Easy to use and very reasonably priced.
  3. Get a logo for your website. Fiverr is THE place to go for a cost-effective graphic. It’s one of my favorite places on the web. It’s a community of freelancers who offer gigs for graphic design, online marketing, advertising, music and audio, writing and translation – all starting at $5. You can always beef up your gig for an additional amount but let me tell you, I’ve gotten kick ass results with only $5. Go. NOW! If you need a recommendation, I’ve got a guy… =)
  4. Create a Twitter handle…I have a couple… @kristen_luciani, @theideamama. Use your new blog name and if it isn’t available, come up with some variation. Then, HAPPY TWEETING! You’ll share your own content, as well as content you come across on the web and with your fellow tweeps. We’ll get to that in the next tip…
  5. Create a CrowdFire account. This will help you find the right target audience to follow on Twitter. It helps to grow your following, which you NEED to grow. You’ll also be able to find INFLUENCERS using this tool. Influencers are people who are subject matter experts in your topic and have a large following, which represents a large opportunity for consumption of quality content. Establish relationships with a few key influencers. Retweet and comment on their content and hopefully, they will eventually return the favor.
  6. Create a Facebook page for your blog and start to get likes. Make sure you post to it several times daily. You can post images, links to articles or anything else that is relevant to your blog. The purpose is to engage with your fan base and sharing compelling content is the best way to engage. Videos are cool too. People really appreciate the personal interaction, so get out of your comfort zone.
  7. Set up an Instagram account. You can post images or 15 second-long videos. AND you can link your Instagram account to Facebook and Twitter, so any of your images will post to all three locations.
  8. Establish a Hootsuite account. This is a tool that allows you to consolidate all your social networks and post to all at once. TIME SAVER!!!!!!
  9. Register an account on Quora. This is a great way to get exposure to a new audience. Establish yourself as a subject mater expert on your topic by answering questions in that category. It really helps get your voice heard and people will start to become familiar with the value you bring to the table. AND, you can always use those questions/responses as blog posts!
  10. Subscribe to a photo site. I belong to Dollar Photo Club. It has great images and is extremely cost-effective. $99 per year entitled you to 99 images. Each additional one will cost only $1. There are plenty of other sites, but this is my preference. You can’t post random Google images on your blog, even if you credit the website. If you get caught, you’ll get a nasty letter warning  you to take the image down or else legal action will be taken and you’ll most likely be threatened with a fine.

There are also a ton of informative books on blogging. Here are a few of my faves:

Feel free to browse other titles…just be careful that the book wasn’t published too long ago otherwise the industry will have changed too much for the information to be really relevant. Sometimes, though, you can find diamonds in the rough.

Okay, I’ve gotten you started. Next steps?

WRITE, then SHARE!!!!

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

Social Media Ideas Designer Desk Architectural Tools Office Concept

It’s Almost RELEASE DAY For NOTHING VENTURED!

September 15 is almost here! Release day for “Nothing Ventured!” I’m excited beyond words (which is kind of odd for an author) and thrilled for the launch day events to kick off!

We’ll be running giveaways with awesome prizes, so be sure to check them out! I’ll post all the details here!

Nothing Ventured, Book Two in The Venture Series

After suffering a devastating loss that forever changed her life, eluding love is Mia Bradshaw’s primary objective…. until she’s granted a coveted career opportunity to partner with Silicon Valley heartthrob, Chris Camden. But when everything she’s been so careful to protect and control is put in jeopardy, can the guy with more lines than a supermarket before a snowstorm save her… and himself?

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So while I wait for Tuesday to roll around, I’ll need to find ways to keep calm and occupy myself…hmmm…this might do the trick.

 

 

Startup Spotlight: Let’s Go Du+ch!

Sharing experiences, creating memories, engaging with like-minded people, enjoying a richer life… this is the concept behind going “du+ch.” The company was born of longtime friends Vincent Paradiso and Debora McCleary, who partnered to create a social network for travel and entertainment. Both entrepreneurs in their previous lives, Vincent and Debora created a unique way for people to connect with others who would share the cost of excursions they may not otherwise have been able to experience due to excessive costs. Their efforts established a marketplace for sharing life’s adventures, big or small and I had the pleasure of catching up with Vincent to chat about some of his hopes, challenges, and goals for the future. I was also excited to gather a few sound bytes from Deb, who founded the premier New York beauty directory, The Debb Report. And you all know I’m a sucker for all things beauty and fashion… =)

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Vincent, prior to co-founding du+ch, you had a very successful professional career in ballet. What made you decide to delve into the world of entrepreneurship? 

I’ve always been bit of an entrepreneur. I love ballet, but I always knew I would do more. I’d always had an interest in real estate so I formed Paradiso Properties. My goal was to have multiple investment homes that I rent and manage, along with a real estate license to sell homes. But I quickly grew bored with my new career choice. I made money, but it wasn’t my passion. I started contemplating new ideas. I thought of all the amazing things I did with colleagues while on tour with NYCB, and how we would split the bill. We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy as much had we not shared the cost. I knew I had something but wasn’t ready to dive in. One night out with my girlfriend, I wanted to book bottle service at a club but didn’t want to pay $1,500. Our friends couldn’t join, so we skipped out and the idea for du+ch was born.

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Deb, what differences have you experienced between building du+ch and building the Debb Report? What unique challenges have you faced with each endeavor and how have you addressed them?

The first challenge with the Debb Report was having my partner drop out. I ended up funding the entire site on my own, and found a few friends to help me write all the salon bios that are (almost all) now in place. Updating my site is still a challenge, because aside from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram updates, I have to be on top of so much information. I realized that I couldn’t do it all on my own, especially with the time du+ch now needs. I recently hired a wonderful beauty/fashion blogger to help create original content to help grow my site and SEO. Having a partner who is fully engaged and committed is a necessity. Vincent and I definitely have a give and take when it comes to growing du+ch. We complement one another very well and have complete trust in each other, which is invaluable.  Because du+ch is an e-commerce site, it is a much more involved endeavor than my directory so Vincent and I are having to learn as we go. We constantly seek expertise from those who have done this before and people have been very generous with their time and knowledge.

Choosing the right partner is so important when founding a brand-new venture. How do you work through differences in opinion and what qualities do you each bring to the table?

(Vincent) Deb is a long time friend. We have great chemistry. When I approached her with du+ch, she was immediately ready to jump onboard. The key for us is making sure we always keep open lines of communication. She helps ground me and work through new ideas. As I’d mentioned earlier, the ideas don’t stop. You can’t attack all of them at once, you have to stay focused. du+ch would be nothing if I’d built it, then decided to go out and work on another idea. Being able to keep everything organized helps a lot. We have yet to have any major disagreements, but I believe we both are the types of people who will listen. We will acknowledge each others’ points, let them sink in, and compromise on a solution.

(Deb) Vincent and I agree on most things day-to-day, but when we disagree, we have a real ability to listen to one another and come to a joint agreement fairly easily.  Luckily we are both sane, thoughtful and committed to making du+ch a success, no matter how long it takes us.

What is the best part about running your own business?  

Exactly that, it’s mine. I’m directly responsible for its success and/or failure. I take great pride in bringing an idea to life. It’s challenging work, but when you know your hands are involved in every working aspect, it is so rewarding. I look forward to each and every day. I am constantly learning about every aspect of my business.

Du+ch is such a unique concept. Do you have plans to expand beyond more elite and trendy events? Do you see a market for couples, families, businesses?

Absolutely! We’re now in all of those markets. The beauty of du+ch is that everything on the site is user-generated. The same way you can sell anything on eBay, you can share anything on du+ch. It is a marketplace that puts the power of the sharing economy in the hands of the masses. You no longer have to build an app to enter this space, you can use our platform to share anything you want. Every user, individual or corporate, can host and search for anything they want to share. The look of our brand is luxurious, but users can share free events, basic group packages, or even ultra luxe experiences. We take the social element of Facebook events, the payment features of Eventbrite, and combine them into one site. The greatest thing is you can reach more than just your current circle. The point is, friends cannot always join in the fun. With du+ch, you can find those who can, get to know one another, and pool your funds to make anything within reach. The great thing about du*ch, and what separates us from a Groupon/Eventbrite, is our social transparency. Every user has a profile with reviews and verifications, so you can meet new people and feel comfortable sharing with them.

If you knew then what you know now, how might you have advised yourselves before launching du+ch? Any big aha! moments?

I would have been a lot more specific in the design and build of the website. I had it in my head, but translating it to developers was difficult. They needed every single specification and I didn’t anticipate providing them that level of detail. I would have also done more research on payment processors. When we create the app, I am going to document every last detailed requirement for the developers. I won’t leave any stone unturned.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? 

Discipline, focus and creativity. It is so important to stay disciplined. There are too many distractions surrounding us everyday – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. You have to resist the temptation and prioritize. You also have to focus on your goals, plan your short- and long-term strategies and then execute your plans to achieve them. That said, you have to remain creative, think out of the box and fill a perceived need. Always strive to disrupt the status quo.

What have been some of your failures since launching du+ch, and what have you learned from them?

I assumed once the site was built, the audience would come. I thought people would just find it, sign up and leverage the network, which wasn’t the case. I also focused too much energy on creating the perfect user experience. Marc Cuban once said, “Perfection is the enemy of profitability, you can try to make everything perfect, but you’re losing opportunity somewhere else.” What may seem perfect and simple to one may not be the same for others. I also mistakenly assumed that upon launch, I would play a support role. I didn’t realize I was going to have get out there and sell. That is the biggest challenge. Once you fill the need, you need to let the world know you’ve filled it. You have to make your own opportunities.

To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?

Taking the lessons I’ve learned from the ballet and applying them to the business world. For both, you need to exhibit the discipline, focus, and creativity mentioned earlier, but you also have to be willing to fail, deal with rejection, perform, and not let anyone define you. We failed all the time while dancing. If a step wasn’t executed as expected, you didn’t give up. Instead, you figured out what went wrong, fixed it, repeated it, and tried to perfect it.  We dealt with rejection on a regular basis. In business, you have to do the same. Not everyone will love you or embrace your vision and that’s okay. So many of my most rewarding experiences came from taking a leap. Never be afraid of failure.

How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?

Getting the word out is our biggest challenge, especially on a shoestring budget. I have seen a big jump in traffic when I advertise and share available listings on Facebook, but it hasn’t converted much yet. One experience that did convert was dinner with a private chef. The price was extremely reasonable and users wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. We are working on lining up fun yet cost-effective experiences. Giving corporate partners a chance to list group deals as they would with Groupon, but without the heavy fees, will help line up some great offerings. I also notice that when I do interviews like this, we get a major boost. I think it helps so much to get the word out. This interview engages a new audience and helps us connect with them. Some readers may skim our story, some may read the whole thing, some will love it, some will hate it, but either way I just grabbed the attention of a potential user and was able to get my entire message across. It is the best way to acquire new users and highlight interest in our brand.

Follow du+ch: Website  Facebook Twitter Google+ YouTube Instagram

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Taking It To The Street…Maybe With Some Wine And Cheese

In a world where virtual is no longer the alternate reality, there is still a lot to be said for direct human contact as a driver of prospects and sales.

Let’s face it, we’re all way too dependent on our mobile devices and completely absorbed in email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube…and on and on. But all the action is online, right??

Ummm, research shows that’s not exactly the case anymore.

Successful selling is rooted in relationships…personal relationships established via in-person meetings and informal, lighthearted conversations. So we need to turn our focus to OFFLINE advertising to differentiate us from the competition. Making yourself accessible to potential customers, giving them a chance to find out who you are and what you’re all about – it goes a very long way and may make them more inclined to patronize your business.

Hitting the pavement may be just the ticket to launch your company to the next level. If you were wandering around a bookstore, wouldn’t you think it was cool to run into an author in your favorite genre hosting a meet and greet? Maybe get a chance to pick their brain about their characters, what drives them to write, where they draw inspiration from? Maybe you might buy one of his/her books because you were just so impressed with their warmth and engaging personality. Maybe you read the book, love it and recommend it to a friend. Maybe that friend is Ellen DeGeneres and the author gets picked up for a segment based on your referral and hits the New York Times bestseller list the next week. Just saying, it could happen. And so the story goes…no pun intended. =)

Don’t discount the importance of face-to-face interaction. A handshake and a smile feel so much better than a private Facebook message, don’t they?? Hosting a cocktail party is a great way to get to know prospective clients!

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Just make sure you don’t kick back too much.  Remember, you’re working not partying on spring break. =)

Couple having fun in disco night club with body tequila party