Create If Writing

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Now displaying: September, 2016
Sep 26, 2016

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It's the year of video! And has been for the last five years, apparently. But live video stormed onto the scene in 2015, offering more ample and unique opportunities to use video. In this interview with Chef Mareya from Eat Cleaner, she shares how to use Facebook Live to build an audience.

This posts contains affiliate links! At no extra cost to you, any purchases made by clicking through may result in a commission. 

Want to connect with Mareya? 

Find her Facebook page (where you can watch weekly live cooking shows) and the Eat Cleaner  site.

How Mareya Got Started on Facebook Live

Mareya had a following already on Facebook, so she used the live aspect once it became available to leverage who she already had. Facebook is still favoring the live platform, so you can get tremendous reach by using live video within the platform. You are able to reach people in a dynamic way. There is no smoke and mirrors-- no editing. The watchers have started to become their own tribe with a name for themselves and interact with each other online.

The Benefits of Facebook Live

  • You will have the favor of Facebook
  • If you are a regular, you will start getting regulars
  • This allows people to really see you as you are without the polish and the fakery of more produced videos
  • People become lifers through this kind of platform because of the personal nature
  • Facebook might start to pay attention to YOU
  • Because it's a new platform, you can really plant your flag there and GROW because it's so new
  • You will garner a group of more connected fans than you might through another platform
  • Higher-watched content helps prime your page and grow your organic reach


Why You Should Stop Being Nervous about Live

What's the worst that could happen? People know they aren't getting a polished, professional video. Your people have more faith in what you're doing when things are so stripped down. Being unedited means you build trust with people. There may be surprises, but there are no secrets!

Tech Setup for Facebook Live

The nice thing is that you don't need to have a lot of the things that you might need for more edited and polished videos. Here's what you DO need, based on Mareya's suggestions and my own.

  • Your phone (supposedly it will be rolling out to desktop soon), held vertically
  • Tripod
  • Ring light
  • Microphone (I use this one for video)

Can You Monetize Your Videos?

You can actually use your own products or cross-promote your products in the videos. If you are talking about something paid in the video, you can have a more authentic integration that's NOT an ad.

Tips for Upping Engagement on Facebook Live

  • Take questions
  • Say people's names
  • Respond later to comments
  • Show up regularly with VALUE

How Can You Launch a Physical (Not Digital) Product

  • Do the pre-work
  • Know your audience and the market
  • What makes your heart leap out of your chest with excitement
  • Research who else is doing it and how you might bring your own angle to the space
  • Know the business metrics you need to achieve to make it work
  • Get a coach to help you put the numbers to it and walk you through the process
  • If you want to patent, find someone to help you through the patent & trademark process
  • Buy related urls so you have them before you launch
  • Use people around you as a sounding board


My big takeaway: TELL YOUR STORY.

People don't just buy products. They buy people. They come to like you and want to do business with you and support you. They see you telling the truth and it builds trust. Live video is a phenomenal way to tell your story in an authentic way.

So if you're wondering how to use Facebook live to build your audience, the best way is to USE FACEBOOK LIVE TO GROW YOUR AUDIENCE.

Got it? Okay. Perfect.

Sep 19, 2016

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In this episode I'm talking with Christine Pittman, a food blogger who runs Cook the Story (her personal food blog) and Cookful (a contributor food site). I was blown away by her levels of organization and how starting Cookful with intentional organization brought the site to over 200k pageviews a month after just a year. How did she do it? By starting out blogging as a business.

Listen to Episode 67 - Blogging as a Business


To connect with Christine, find her at Cook the Story, Cookful, or on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Cook the Story on Pinterest, or Cookful on Pinterest

Highlights from the Interview

  • When starting a blog, take the time to plan and map things out ahead of time. Being intentional from the start can mean faster success. 
  • At Cookful, there are themes, which means multiple posts on a particular topic (like Candy Apples, which are being featured right now). These posts cover different aspects of a topic, incorporate keywords and link to one another. As a result, they rank really well for SEO (search engine optimization). 
  • Tiny details can go a long way! For their featured topics, even the sidebars will show related post to that topic, rather than just a standard sidebar.

Tips (Especially for a Contributor Site)

  • Have a consistent voice. Pull writing samples so that you (or your contributors) can get a feel for the style. 
  • Be specific with your audience, even to the point of having a photo of the 
  • Make sure everyone knows the goal and what the site is about. 
  • Consider making a file or document with the voice style guide as well as image standards and the details about fonts and color palette. 

Christine's Favorite Tools for Organizing Your Blog

  • Coschedule - a paid plugin for wordpress that can act as an editorial calendar, allow contributors to talk, and also schedules social media
  • Basecamp - this tool is where the style guides live and is also a place for the people on her team to talk 
  • Board Booster - a Pinterest scheduling tool (this is my affiliate link!)

How do you know when you should invest?

If you are blogging as a business, invest in it as though it's a business. (Don't go TOO crazy; definitely consider your current financial status. But you may take more risks.) It may sometimes be a bit of a gamble, because you don't know the end result. Thinking of it as a business changes things. It IS often an investment to make money. (Read my post on how to know if you should use free or paid tools!)

You should also consider how things free you up or will make money BACK for your site. If you are investing in tools or people or apps, think about how the money will or can come back to you. Ask if you NEED it or what it will bring back into the blog. 

How do you know that you should say yes to a paid opportunity? 

You may start out taking money or jobs that are not the idea or things you really WANT to do, but the goal may be to work toward saying NO a lot more and only saying yes to the opportunities that you LOVE. Consider your dream job and then work toward that. 

Final Thoughts about Blogging as a Business

Getting organized starts with having a plan, writing it down, and working step-by-step to accomplish the steps along the way. A mastermind group or small tribe of people doing similar work can really help as you try to articulate your ideas and get feedback from other people. 


What are the systems and tools that help YOU accomplish your goals? Have you seen a mindset shift make a big difference in your decisions, large & small? Leave a comment. Let's chat.

Sep 15, 2016

Monetization of your podcast, book, blog, or platform is not without pitfalls. Whether that's getting caught in the traffic-chasing circle or turning off your audience talking about too many affiliate products, you will have roadblocks and issues. It can even stifle or choke your creativity. 

But in this episode I hope to help you see some of the pitfalls and avoid them. We should sell confidently, without apologizing, and realizing that we won't see eye to eye with everyone about what is smarmy. 

Sep 12, 2016

If you can figure out what monetizing your passion looks like in real life, you are living the dream. For many of us, it STAYS a dream. But for Lindsay Ostrom, her love of food and sharing recipes turned into a full-time job for her and her husband Bjork (remember episodes 61 & 62?) through Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro. In this episode she shares the story of how she was able to monetize her passion through blogging.

Listen to Episode 65 - Monetizing Your Passion


Want to connect with Lindsay? You can find her blogging at Pinch of Yum, sharing amazing recipes (like this Tikki Masala that is in our kitchen rotation) or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook.


The Highlights

Monetization Started Through Experimentation.

When Lindsay and Bjork started out with ads on Pinch of Yum, it was a scary change. They started by asking what was working for other people, then implemented ads and began watching and tracking metrics to see what was working. The mindset was: if you can make $20, you can make $40. And if you can make $40, you can make $80.

Growth Isn't Always Fast, But a Slow Upward Trend.

They started small, just using ads on the blog to monetize. Then Lindsay paid attention to what people were interested in and started with ONE product, an ebook. She utilized affiliates to sell the book and saw a steady increase in traffic and sales through word of mouth and the affiliate program.

It Is Possible to Monetize, Even without Huge Masses of Traffic. 

Find a value that you can provide to the readers you do have and to potential readers. You don't have to have masses of traffic or depend on ads. Find what your readers want and how you can provide that for them, whether through information or a product.

Follow What Is Naturally Happening and Makes It SCALABLE.

Pinch of Yum's training counterpart is Food Blogger Pro, where Lindsay and Bjork run a membership site to train food bloggers. This formed organically when they realized that people were constantly coming to them for help and answering emails one on one was simply not scalable. If you have people constantly coming to you for help, find ways

Working with Your Spouse as a Business Partner May or MAY NOT Work for You.

Every couple may not work well together on a business. (It's hard enough sometimes to work with people you aren't married to sometimes!) For Lindsay and Bjork, this looked like working in separate spaces. If you are trying to partner with your spouse on developing a business, there are the great benefits, but those same benefits can be a real struggle. You need to be intentional in taking care of and protecting your relationship.

Food Blogging as a Business Looks Different Than Food Blogging as a Hobby.

Lindsay started out just trying things and posting her thoughts. Now that the blog has a more serious following, it works better in systems. She makes every recipe twice, once at a normal time, and then one day when she makes all the recipes and takes all the photos in one day. Working in batches is a way to get more done systematically.

Your Skills Will Continue to Develop Through Use and Experimentation.

Pinch of Yum is a site known for food photography and Linday's book, Tasty Food Photography, has helped countless bloggers get better. She found with each new lens, she learned new things about photography. With her writing, she tried to write the kind of blog she wanted to read. It's important to read other blogs and works similar to yours, but to keep your own voice and perspective so you are inspired by someone else, but aren't emulating anyone else. Just start and keep showing up, trying new things along the way.

Should You Do It for a Business? Or for the Love? 

Lindsay is in the camp where you start with what you love and see where it goes. If you aren't rewarded by the process itself, you will struggle to sustain that. There MUST be an intrinsic reward in the work itself. That will keep you going. Success doesn't happen right away. You should ask, "Would I do it even if I weren't being paid?" Think long term. It's not getting rich quick. There is no magic formula to blogging or anything else, no matter what other people tell you. Keep showing up and posting content. The love will be the fuel behind what you do.

Sep 8, 2016

This episode is all about Pinterest for podcasters. Why podcasters? I keep hearing the conversations and questions from podcasters who don't use or simply dismiss Pinterest. If you aren't a podcaster, never fear! You'll still get some great tips and takeaways for how this platform can work for you. But podcasters, I'm writing this with YOU in mind!

Many people are under the impression that Pinterest is the kind of site where you hang out to learn about DIY, tasty recipes, or home decor. I rarely (if ever) read or hear of people talking about Pinterest for podcasters. Twitter and Facebook tend to be the more favored social platforms.

But those who use Pinterest for promotion know that Pinterest is perhaps THE most powerful platform for promotion. 

Why? Unlike both Twitter and Facebook where links have a shelf life of a few minutes to a few hours, Pinterest has legs. Long ones.

I am constantly getting traffic from Pinterest. EVEN FROM THINGS I PINNED A YEAR AGO. Yes, you read that right: Posts I shared one time a year ago bring daily traffic to my blog from Pinterest. LOTS of traffic.

Pinterest is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not really a social network so much as a search engine. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT just for moms hanging out at home wanting to cook great meals and redecorate their homes.

No matter what your podcast niche, there ARE people pinning and sharing that kind of content on Pinterest. With the potential for mad traffic that keeps on going (and going and going), you have the potential to broaden the reach of your podcast.

You ready? Let's get to it!


Pinterest for Podcasters

Set Up Your Account

This seems pretty basic as you basically need an email and password to set up your Pinterest account. BUT there are a few important parts to setting up an effective account! (I'm moving really quickly through the setup process here, but have a much more in-depth post about Pinterest on Jane Friedman's blog.)

Set up a business account. Nope, this isn't scary and it changes NOTHING if you already have a personal account. It looks the same and feels the same with the added bonus of getting all the analytics your heart could desire. Learn to set up your Pinterest Business account

Get rich pins. You'll know rich pins when you see them. They look more official with all the info from the site itself right on the pin. People pin these more frequently because they know they are actually validated. Follow this tutorial to set up rich pins with Yoast. On blogger? Try this setup for rich pins.

Write great keyword descriptions. Pinterest is less social and more search. This means that you'll want to use effective and relevant keywords in your descriptions. This means your profile, your boards, and your pins themselves. This doesn't mean keyword stuffing (repeating the same words again and again) but rather using the words that people might search for NATURALLY within your descriptions.

Have a board for your site & podcast. Create boards that are for your target audience. If you want to have other, less relevant to your podcast or business boards, you can always make them secret boards or (if you want more to manage) have a separate personal account. I just keep my board secret. Your first board or boards should be YOUR content. This means name one after your podcast or your website, use the correct label for the kind of board it is, and a description with great keywords. Every time you do a new post or episode, pin to that board or boards.

Set Up Your Site

On your site side, you will want to do a few things to be Pinterest-friendly. These things make it more likely that people will share your images on Pinterest.

Have your site verified. This basically means your site fully connects to Pinterest. It will make sure you're getting the correct analytics. Use this simple tutorial to verify your site in a few minutes.

Install the Save It Button for Pinterest. Most people have social shares on their site, typically at the top or bottom of each post or floating along the side. The Save It (formerly Pin It) button will hover over each image, encouraging your readers to keep the juice going by pinning your images. Learn how to install the hovering button in this post.

Creating Pinnable Images

Create Pinterest-styled images. It takes a few more minutes, but I create several images for each set of show notes. I have my normal thumbnail for the podcast, a horizontal image standard for each episode with my guest for that week, and then an image that is geared toward Pinterest. Take a few minutes to search around Pinterest for keywords related to your podcast topic. What catches your eye? I'm dealing with writing, social media, and online platform, so I tend to grab pictures from Pixabay or use my own stock photos. The typical podcast image may not perform as well on Pinterest as it would on other platforms. It's worth the time to consider how you might make images that would be more suited. Here you can see a few images that I used for the same set of show notes.

Size images for Pinterest. Social media platforms love to mess with us by having different optimal sizes. On Facebook and Twitter, this is often a horizontal image. On Pinterest, you need a long and lovely image. The optimal sizing is 735 x 1102 pixels. I typically use more like 800 x 1200 because it suits the width of my blog better, and really longer is better. (Once you pass around 1400, Pinterest will clip the image and it won't all be visible. Play around with the size that goes best with your blog.) I use Picmonkey or Canva (both have free or paid versions) to create my vertical images.

Label images with keywords. Every image has metadata that you may not know about. You can find this in blogger or wordpress by clicking on the image. You'll see the file name (which typically starts as something like IMG3002) and the alt tag field. Those are the two you really need to worry about. Rename the file with keywords, which will help you in Google search and in Pinterest.

Replace IMG 3002 with how-to-grow-your-email-list as the name. Then in the alt tag field, you will want to write out a description that will help you get pinned on Pinterest. When people click to pin an image, the alt tag automatically fills in the description on Pinterest. That may be something like: "This interview with Kirsten Oliphant will teach you how to grow your email list without breaking your budget." See how the phrase is the same? That's called a long-tail keyword and will help your image appear in search. Do this with every image on your blog. Starting NOW.

Hide images if you need to. For some people, a giant image disrupts the feel of the post. You can always hide the long images in your post. (Read how to hide vertical Pinterest images in a post!)

Writing Killer Show Notes

This is the place where I feel like podcasters really can learn to shine. Since I was a blogger before I was a podcaster, I write posts that are full of great content, images, and keywords. If you are dialing in your show notes, you will not find much success on Pinterest. Instead, try to beef them up and make the show notes content that will stand on their own rather than a supplemental afterthought.

Don't rely solely on transcriptions. Transcriptions are great for some people and for enrichening your post with SEO juice from long-form content and keywords, but most people don't want to read them. Pinterest users especially are not going to be thrilled to click over and find a simple transcript. If you want to use a transcript, consider writing out content before the transcript so that the post has some value in and of itself.

Don't be afraid to repeat yourself. I have a lot of listeners to my podcast who don't read show notes. I also have a lot of followers who read and almost never listen to the podcast. Why? They just aren't podcast listeners. I'd love to convert them, each and every one, but some people just don't get it. So I write out show notes that follow the arc and the details of the show fully.

By creating rich show notes that resemble more of a blog post than traditional show notes, you may be able to reach a new audienc. Maybe you can convert them to listeners and maybe not. You can for SURE work on getting them both kinds of audience members (listeners and readers) on your email list. If they love you, they will follow what you're doing using the medium they prefer. Don't turn off non-listeners.

Make listening easy in the post. I love the custom player from Libsyn (which you can see at the top of this post). It's pretty and effective. Some people listen to my podcast solely in the posts themselves. Libsyn also has the ability to push your podcast to YouTube, where it will be a sort of static video showing your cover art and playing the audio. You could embed this YouTube video in your post for a bigger, more noticeable way to listen. Give people options and make it EASY. Don't make them leave your site to listen. You are more likely to hook new listeners and maybe even first time podcast newbies this way.

Make subscribing easy in the post. Definitely make listening possible right in the post, but don't forget to link out where you want people to subscribe or leave a review.

Have a call to action. Want subscribers to the podcast? Reviews? Comments? People who will sign up for your email list? Make sure you have one strong call to action at the end of every post.

Utilizing Video

Pinterest (like most platforms) is pushing video. Video currently looks weird on Pinterest because it doesn't appear like the other long pins, but because Pinterest is focusing on it and promoting its use, this is a great feature to use. People can view videos right in Pinterest, which means that people have a chance to hear your voice and get hooked right then and there, even if you aren't doing video podcasts.

If you are using Libsyn, you can make YouTube a destination. This creates a video with a static thumbnail image from your show in YouTube. (As with any video, you could go change the thumbnail image to an image of you and your guest if you have one!) and then pin each video to Pinterest. These could go on your main podcast or blog board, or their own separate board that's all video.

This is my next step and I'm excited to see how this might impact listens and discovery!


I hope that this posts has helped you consider Pinterest for podcasters. (And if you're not a podcaster, it should still give you some best practices for the platform!) If you are not using Pinterest, you are missing out on a massive and lasting traffic source.


Sep 5, 2016

To celebrate speaking at BlogHer Food in October, I'm sending you some interviews with food bloggers for the next few weeks! This week I'm chatting with Rachel Matthews of A Southern Fairytale about how she got started food blogging and how she has come to work with brands. 


Connect with Rachel from A Southern Fairytale

You can find delicious recipes at A Southern Fairytale or follow Rachel on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter

Her first relationship with a brand came from leaving a comment on another blog. 

Comments are not what they were a few years back, but connecting with other people in your niche and being social, public, and putting yourself out there can lead to any number of collaborations. When you are a writer or blogger, the danger can be staying in your own little space and comfort zone, waiting for people to come to you, rather than giving back, going back, and connecting with other people in their spaces. 

The key to long term success is forming relationships, not just one-offs. 

While there is nothing wrong working with someone one time, forming a more lasting relationship with a brand (or collaborator) helps your own brand and enriches your content. It establishes authenticity when you stick with one brand rather than hopping around from brand to brand, relationship to relationship. (Especially if they are competing!) 

Want to connect with brands? Rachel breaks down how this works today. 

You can use connecting companies like Collective Bias (aka Social Fabric), SITS Girls, Izea, Influence Central, or many other companies that help bloggers partner with brands. This can sometimes introduce you to a brand and save you the work of having to go out and make pitches directly to the company. They also don't allow for the type of relationship that Rachel mentions as so key to her success. They might be a good place to start OR, if it makes more sense for you, where you want to stay. 

Rachel's Top Tips for Getting Started with a Brand Ambassadorship

  • Make sure you are trying to establish a relationship with a brand or product you already authentically use. 
  • Get to know the brand, talk and interact on social media long before you reach out. (Check out my post on connecting with influencers for more!) Create the relationship and then when you do reach out for a pitch or asking to start a conversation, you are on their radar.
  • Consider coming with your own ideas already in the pitch.
  • Make sure your voice in sponsored content or working with a brand is the same voice you use consistently through the brand. 
  • Meet sponsors at a conference or local event and then actually follow up. (The conference itself is probably not the best place to pitch!) This shows them that you are a professional and are taking this seriously. 


Rachel rocks her elevator pitch on the spot and explains how she developed it. 

When it comes to crafting an elevator pitch, it should be something that flows naturally off your tongue using your own words and style. You can practice it and hone it, but make sure that it feels authentic and natural and conversational. Consider recording it and listening back on your phone or computer. Whatever it takes to make it completely ingrained so that when someone asks, it comes across professionally, clearly, but in your unique voice. Get feedback from a friend or reader that is familiar with your blog and brand. Crafting your elevator pitch can also help you firm up your sense of self and who you are. 


Food bloggers have learned how to write recipes better and have become better at photography & styling. 

When you go back and look at the early posts from most food bloggers that have been around for a while, you will see big changes in how recipes are written and how photography has evolved. 

Food bloggers love food, love each other, and love to talk about it. -Rachel Matthews



Sep 2, 2016

As a bonus to Episode 61 [listen HERE!], Bjork Ostrom from Food Blogger Pro & Pinch of Yum shares what he is geeking out about. Spoiler alert: He MIGHT be looking through your windows. 

The Automated Home

  • Nest 
  • Amazon Echo


The Quantified Self 

  • Heartrate Tracking
  • Scales That Sync to Your Phone 


Bjork is fascinated with the idea that we are becoming more and more connected, but through the internet in tiny particles sent through files and time and space. Technology is such a huge part of our lives, but has become more than just consuming, but creating and connecting. Bjork thinks that we are always moving forward and making things better. There is a potential for increased quality of life, even if there is some shadow. 

He's an optimist. 

Meanwhile, I'm a little scared thinking about how fragile this world of technology is that we have built so much upon. That's my pessi-realism for you.