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One of the most frustrating things is when you create a great image for Facebook and then you can't make Facebook show the right blog image. I hate this. Bloggers hate this. Writers hate this. People email me about this and write questions in Facebook groups about how to make Facebook show the right blog image.
So I'm going to show you!
This is just one of two tips in this week's Create If Writing podcast episode, so you can listen here and watch the video blow to see a demonstration.
Step 1- Create the right sized image
If you are just sharing a photo on Facebook, square is best. But if you are creating an image for Facebook to pull into the feed to go along with your link, I always use 560 x 292 pixels. This pulls the correct image, beautifully sized and non-pixellated.
I use Picmonkey for this and you can watch my quick video on how to resize images for social media for more on this.
Step 2- Insert the image into the Yoast SEO plugin
I love this plugin. It is life. It helps guide you into making smart SEO choices, allows you to choose the heading when your post shows up in Google search, and lets you choose the image for Facebook. And more.
First, install the plugin and get familiar. You'll find that it creates a little box at the bottom of every post. You can click on the social share tab and then upload the image you just created for Facebook. (You should also create a great Facebook headline and description while you're there.) Publish the post as you normally would.
Step 3- Debug that mug
Facebook generally will NOT pull the correct image at first. Sometimes ever. Which is the super frustrating point most bloggers find themselves in. But Facebook made a tool for that! It's called the Open Graph Object Debugger. You plug in your url and then hit Show Existing Scrape Information. Then scroll to see what image and description it's pulling.
Then, when the image is NOT the one you wanted, you will put in the url again and click Fetch New Scrape Information. I do this as many times as it takes to get that image showing up in the preview. I also generally ignore any errors that it points out. I'm just interested in the image and usually the errors are a bunch of nonsense anyway.
And that, my friends, is how you make Facebook show the correct blog image. Ta DA! Share with all your friends. Bookmark the debugger. And use it. Often.
What you need to know about course creation, how to set up your blog's navigation, and writing catchy headlines.
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What IS platform and how do you build it? Last week I spoke at Houston Baptist University's Writer's Conference all about platform. I had some great questions and thought it would be really great to unpack and define platform since it's a word that gets tossed around so much. What do you really need to have a platform? How can I deal with the struggle to promote my own work? Let's dive into that.
Listen to Episode 93 - What Is Platform and How Do You Build It
The idea of platform, for writers or bloggers, wasn't even a Thing years ago. If you were an author, you wrote books and a publisher (were you so lucky to find one) would handle most of the marketing for you. As a blogger, you would write blog posts and people would just appear to read. That's how it worked!
Now, there is the need to build a bridge to connect with readers. You can either draw them into your site with SEO (search engine optimization) or be present with social media to push out your content.
If you shudder at the idea of platform, stop thinking of it as a burden and consider it the way that you can directly build relationships with your readers. Who doesn't want that?
So here is my three-step process for building your platform: your blog, your email list, and your social media.
The beginning of your platform, whether you are an author or a blogger is your website. The term "blog" generally refers to a site with a series of posts, but these days, blog and website are more synonymous. Blogs look more like traditional websites and often are now a PART of a site, not found on the main page.
I would highly recommend if you HAVE a blog, to integrate that into your main site. I'm a fan of using your real (or writer's) name dot com. If you have an awesome blog or brand name that's working for you, you could always own your name and have it redirect, or even have the blog page have your unique blog title.
When I started my parenting blog, it was called I Still Hate Pickles. People always said I would love pickles (my most hated food) when I was pregnant, and since I started the blog when I got pregnant (and STILL hate pickles), this seemed like the perfect name. Switching to Kirsten Oliphant made sense from a writer standpoint, but plenty of people missed the Pickle-Hating theme. And it is always a little weird to say, "Check out my blog, Kirsten Oliphant dot com!"
Whether you consider it a blog or a site with a blog on it, this will be the main hub online. People can find out the basic info about you and where to connect with you on social media and also sign up for your email list. At the most basic, your site should have a main page where people can find out basic info & sign up for your list, an about page, a shop page if you have books or products, and a blog page if you have a blog.
Here are some helpful resources if you're trying to get this whole thing started. I highly recommend starting with either Wordpress.org or Squarespace. Wordpress is great for the long term, but has a larger learning curve. Squarespace is GREAT for people just starting out, but not just for newbies. You can drag and drop and even set up a shop, all for about $8 a month.
As an alternative to a whole blog, you could set up just a landing page just to collect email addresses. You could do that with an email service provider like ConvertKit (read why I love them so much!) or even Mailchimp, though it won't be so pretty. This will take some of the overwhelm out, but will still get you starting on having a central hub.
Though I mention your site first as the public face and place for people to connect online, your email list is the foundation that goes underneath it all. This is where you KEEP the connection you've made with people and retain it. Your email list is more permanent than anything else you have. It's your best digital asset.
I'M A HUGE EMAIL NERD, Y'ALL. And there's a reason. It's because I truly believe email is the most important and long-lasting connection you can make with your audience. (I literally wrote the--or A--book on email, Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers.)
Don't wait to set this up. Set it up first and make sure you have some great opt-in places on your blog, not just a "Subscribe to Our Newsletter" thing in your sidebar.
No one is just going to find you, unless you are KILLER at SEO, which also requires usually being present online for some period of time. So you need to promote and connect with your audience. Social media is where you put yourself out there. It's where you talk to your audience and share your content. But it can be super overwhelming!
Start with ONE platform and rock that platform out. It's really hard to manage multiple platforms, even with great tools.
Things to consider:
It's important to think about what YOU like, because if you don't want platform to be a huge burden. If you can find something that you enjoy, you'll interact better and resent it less. So take into account what platform speaks to you.
People really are EVERYWHERE these days, but your people might be more likely to be on one platform than another. Everyone is on Facebook (at least 30 years old an above) and a lot of the world is on Twitter. LinkedIn tends to be much more traditional, both in terms of publishing and the corporate world. So consider your audience hangs out as well as where YOU want to be.
Consider what skills you need for each platform. Instagram, for example, needs great photos. For YouTube, you need video. If you can't easily integrate into the platforms because you don't have the tools or skills, then DON'T CHOOSE THAT PLATFORM. Or, take a course or really work to get your skills up to snuff for the platform.
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Last week I shared details about my disappointing course launch. Reader Kaitlin from Ink & Quills emailed me asking a question I hear a LOT: Should you pr sell your course before you build it?
Course creators hotly debate this and I want to break down reasons why you should NOT and why you should presell your course before you build it. Plus one option you might try instead!
Thanks to convertKit for sponsoring the show! Get a free month with my affiliate link: http://createifwriting.com/convertkit
I'm going to give you a spoiler alert here and say that I think you can do EITHER. Preslling before building might really work for you. Or it might not. I definitely DON'T think it's unethical. Unless, that is, you're running off to Paris with the money you make and not delivering the product. (Listen to the episode for more on THAT story.)
Let's break those down into the dirty details.
Preslling Validates Your Idea.
Preselling your course before you build it shouldn't be the primary way you validate your course idea. You could be surveying or getting people on the phone (yes, the PHONE) or listening in groups to see what people are asking or paying attention to the responses of your email list for what they want from you.
But preslling your course before you build it makes people put their money where their mouth is. I've heard many stories of people who build out what their audience SAYS they'll buy, but their audience doesn't actually buy when push comes to shove. Preselling before you build your course will let you know for SURE. Until you get paid, all that validation seems like guesswork.
Preselling Motivates You to Finish.
When people have given you money, it puts a mighty responsibility on you to finish. It lights a fire that makes you GET 'ER DONE.
Contrast with people I know who have been building courses for months or years without finishing because there is no fire. Nothing is at stake for them. It's easy for life or kids or other projects to get in the way.
WARNING: This isn't for everyone. Some people don't work this way and a deadline with this kind of pressure would paralyze them and shut them down rather than getting them to work. Only YOU know how YOU operate.
Preselling Can Finance the Course.
When I interviewed Bjork Ostrom from Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro, he talked about preselling memberships to Food Blogger Pro. They built the membership site with that money.
Some courses or program may not have a lot of overhead, but the presale allows you to have money to invest back into the course you're finishing up to get things polished and in order.
Be Clear That It's Not Complete!
I totally bought a course in presale that I didn't realize hadn't been finished. It was a huge disappointment to me. I'm sure they made it clear, but you need to realize that some people (like me) skim and just click buy without reading the fine print. Make it bold and clear. The last thing you want is someone who is disappointed or feels cheated.
Have a Good Portion Complete.
Make you don't have the bells and whistles. Maybe your course isn't shiny. But your course should have an outline and a solid bunch of content before you presell it! Don't start from scratch after you have money in hand. That WOULD be paralyzing and too much pressure. Definitely have things in place. Otherwise, how would you present the course for sale to people? How would you have content for a lead magnet or webinar or anything to even PRESELL the thing in the first place?
Relevant Links about Why You SHOULD Presell Your Course:
Presell Your Online Course and Get Paid to Make It - Halley Gray via Teachable
How to Sell a Product Online - Lewis Howse
Exactly How I Marketed My Online Course - Melyssa Griffin
Again, let's break these objections down.
You Might Not Finish.
Only YOU know how YOU work. For me, having that deadline and the money on the table mean that I had to finish and would do a killer job. For you? That might be too much pressure. It might be paralyzing. If you don't work well with this kind of pressure, please do yourself a favor and don't presell!
You Might Ruin Your Reputation.
If you don't finish or don't finish on time or don't have people find your course awesome, you may really affect how people see you and talk about you online. That's never a good thing. This is a big risk. Make sure it's a well-calculated one.
You Won't Have Validated Results That Your Course Works.
This is the biggest reason many have for NOT recommending a course sale before it's built. If you haven't had people go through the course, how can you promise results? (I'll get to my OWN problem with that statement in a minute.) You won't have testimonials or feedback. In a sense, your course won't be PROVEN. This is a valid point! You're selling something blind, in a sense.
Tweak as necessary.
Take the feedback and change from it. Let those first people really help you with the updates that you need to make.
Ask if your course is about information or transformation.
For some courses, this idea of transformation (ex: I went from 10,000 pvs a month to 100,ooo after taking this course!) is more important than in other courses. Some courses may be more about INFORMATION. We are in a period where the transformation seems like the big sell. I get it. But sometimes you just need to KNOW something. Like the tech behind running a webinar. Period.
I personally hate when people promise results, through testimonials or just flat-out saying that you'll get them. To me, these don't give the full picture either. Success and change depends on the student as much as the course. I think there are so many factors that THIS makes me way more uncomfortable than selling something that isn't done yet. I hate overpromises.
This looks different for different people, but overall, you would have either an application process or a smaller payment to get people in beta. You wouldn't fully be launching without a product, but maybe you would start with the first week and drip out the content rather than having everything ready as you plan to do on launch day.
I personally recommend having people pay. I have not had good experiences with people doing something for free in order to give a testimonial or give feedback. There is no skin in the game. No push to DO it. So unless you have someone SUPER motivated (this is where an application process could come in handy), you may get nothing from letting people in for free.
However you plan to sell your course, do it in a way that doesn't feel smarmy to YOU. Keep your integrity. Be smart. Make intentional choices. I stand by the idea that there isn't a right one, just a right one for YOU.
How have you (or would you) launch YOUR course? Presell without a product or no?