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Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers

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: Category: platform
Jun 15, 2016

 

When you take some time to think about your target reader, you are being intentional, which is ALWAYS a good thing. Without intention, you don’t have strategy.

 

Will this be perfect? NO.

 

I sometimes get a little eye-roll-y when people talk about their perfect reader named Molly, the one with three kids, a husband who works a corporate job, and who loves to buy her clothes at White House/Black Market.

 

This drives me crazy because I know my own audience pretty well. At least, a good portion of them. They email me back and talk about their lives. They hang out in my Facebook group and share what they are working on and struggling with.

 

I still don’t know where most of them shop. And if you asked me where I like to shop, I would say that I LOVE White House/Black Market, but I can AFFORD Ross.

 

People are complicated. Your audience will not be one-dimensional.

 

If it helps you to name your ideal reader and think of that person when you write, great. If that brings clarity and cohesion to your work, power to you! Do what works. But more often, I think that completing a workbook like this and thinking about your target audience is more about YOU.

 

It is more about finding out the kinds of need that you meet with your blog, your writing, or your business. Your ideal reader is the person who NEEDS what you OFFER.

 

Do your best to imagine that one person who needs what you have. Think about their ins and outs and their finances and marital status and what shows they watch and what makes them click on a particular headline. This can be a very helpful exercise.

 

But then remember as you write that your audience may have some commonalities and some similar backgrounds and interests. They are diverse. They are not all named Molly.

 

Defining your target audience is a great tool for you! But the more you actually connect with your readers in a personal way through emails or Facebook groups or comments on a Facebook page, the more you will be able to write with those particular people in mind.

 

It doesn’t mean you will try to please them all, but you might think about how you word something because there are four REALLY dedicated dudes that follow your 90% female readership. Consider your target audience and write for them as WELL as the audience you know IS actually reading.

Apr 14, 2016

Do you know your brand story? Have you written yours? 

Brand is one of those terms that gets thrown around all over the place. We use it often without being 100% sure that we know what it means. Add another really broad term like story and you have Brand Story. Something you could probably talk about in a conversation or nod along with, but when pressed, you might not fully get this concept.

In this post (and podcast episode) I want to help you understand what a brand story is, why it's important, and how to craft your own brand story. The coolest part? I made a freebie just for you! Click to get a free mini-course that will walk you through crafting your brand story in a few minutes a day.

What is a brand? 

I would define your brand as your full identity. Not as a person, but your identity as a writer, blogger, or business. It encompasses everything from your visuals (which is what many people think of as a brand) to your ideals and beliefs.

Your brand has a vibe. It should have a clear sense of purpose, which is where the brand story really comes in. Your brand becomes recognizable not only visually, but in terms of the kinds of content you create and share and how you interact with people in your space.

What is a brand story?

Your brand story is the way that you would describe all of those moving parts that make up your brand, but in a HUMAN and relatable way. You see, story is engrained in our DNA. It is an innate part of us. Sometimes after childhood, we don't validate story. It becomes less important than some of the more tangible or measurable things: income, ROI, financial security, investments, and all those fancy adult terms.

And yet, we know and we see how story actually impacts us. This is why advertisers utilize story in Superbowl commercials.

Writing Your Brand Story

When you write your brand story, you'll be talking as much about your audience as you will yourself. Because this is not simply a story for you, to bring the focus to you, but this is a story that is meant to draw in the ideal audience. You talk about your history, your values, your struggles, and your transformation, but you'll also be really speaking to THEIR values, struggle, and the transformation they want to see.

You'll want to write out the whole thing, then edit it down, and become familiar with it. You should already know it, because it's your story, but just like everything online, there is editing. Every value you hold dear may not come through your brand. You edit. You choose. You define your brand.

Where Does Your Brand Story Go?

I've never seen a Brand Story tab on the navigation bar on a website. Rather, it's a framework that goes underneath everything else. It's like your why: it brings focus, clarity, and cohesion to your brand. Even if you never share the actual story you write word for word. Even if the whole thing doesn't go on your website.

Pieces of it may appear in your About page, or on your Work with Me page. When you talk to people about what it is that you do, this brand story will come out. At least, that's the point. You want to work on this and craft and write this like a mission statement and KNOW it, so that when someone asks, you will retell your brand story in your own words. Because it is YOURS.

Want to craft your brand story? CLICK HERE to sign up for the free email mini-course!

Mar 9, 2016

Twitter and I weren't always BFFs. But it has become a platform that uniquely allows you to connect with people-- if you know how to do it. If you are just starting out on Twitter, it can seem like an anti-social platform until you find your footing. Madalyn Sklar, founder of the Twitter Smarter podcast and the number 3 social media influencer in Houston has some great tips and ideas for mastering Twitter.

If you want to find Madalyn, you can check out her website, listen to her podcast, or connect on Twitter. On Thursdays, she hosts the always awesome #TwitterSmarter chat at 12pm central on Thursdays.

On Twitter, you have to be to the point with your message since you have limited characters. (Though this may be changing if Twitter adds the rumored 10,000 characters!) Twitter is all about making smart choices with your words. Be intentional in your tiny space! Make every character count.

Socially speaking, Twitter is the cocktail party-- a really great place to connect. One great way is Twitter parties feel like you're in a room full of great people and have side conversations in the midst.

Madalyn Sklar's Tips for Mastering Twitter

Optimize Your Profile

  • Have a great picture that shows who you are.
  • Utilize your header image real estate. Show off your personal brand or blog! (sizing 1500x500 pixels)
  • Craft a bio that tells who you are and has the MOST important things in the 160 characters.
  • 1-2 hashtags are okay, but you don't NEED them. Definitely don't stuff them.
  • If you can fit something personal that will help build connections, great!
  • You can include an extra link in your bio.

The Best Tools for Managing Twitter

  • Find what works for YOU!
  • Hootsuite lists are great for listening to conversations. (Read how I utilize Hootsuite!)
  • Buffer is a phenomenal scheduling tool with great Chrome extensions.
  • Tweet Jukebox is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of scheduling. You can plug in evergreen posts to have them autoscheduled over time.
  • Social Quant is a tool for finding followers (try through Madalyn's link for a 14-day trial!). You give them a list of keywords and the algorithm finds and follows people for you. Great way to boost your followers!

Consider what you want to be live and present for and what you want to schedule. Evergreen content is fabulous for automation within Twitter. You also can automate your books or coaching packages or email list landing page to tweet daily or weekly.

Madalyn's final word was to pick ONE thing from this interview and take action! You can Tweet to Madalyn (@madalynsklar) and to me (@kikimojo) or use the #TwitterSmarter hashtag to tell her something you've learned or applied!

Note: Madalyn is the opening keynote and I will also be speaking at Social Media Day in June! If you're in the Houston area, definitely come out for Social Media Day!

Oct 22, 2015

Everywhere I turn, I find people touting programs designed to multiply your email list. But is the key to a healthy email list found in numbers? In this interview with Paul Jarvis he talks about his email, the Sunday Dispatch, and why engagement trumps numbers alone.

If you don't know Paul, he calls himself a freelancer evangelist. He is the type of person who split-tests his profile picture and who also talks about unicorn farts. With a 20-year career as a freelance web designer he is also a prolific writer on sites like Forbes, Fast Company, NewsWeek, and BuzzFeed. You can find Paul on his site or on Twitter, and but where you should really connect is through his email list, The Sunday Dispatch. Oh, and he is co-host of Invisible Office Hours with Jason Zook and he has his own podcast, the Freelancer. Here are some of my favorite Paul pieces:

Audience Growth
What Do You Do When the Trolls Come Marching In?
Whose Playground Are You Playing In? 

 

NOTE: The podcast episode will be up momentarily! Having some issues this morning with...well...all kinds of things. If you are here from my weekly email, know that this will be up by the end of the day.

Quotable

"People don't realize they can cultivate an audience of people they want to have in their audience."

Big Ideas

  • Paul sends a weekly email called the Sunday Dispatch. It includes articles that will later appear on his blog or in syndication elsewhere, but they come to subscribers FIRST.
  • He aims to be interesting and valuable to his audience. Many people send what is interesting and valuable to themselves, not to the audience.
  • To figure out what's interesting and valuable to THEM, Paul listens. To make it interesting and valuable to himself, he puts his own spin on the content. This also has the effect of being interesting to the audience as well. There is no shortage of articles & content, but people read and identify with his because it's unique and personal.
  • Paul uses humor to help get to the ideal targeted audience. He cultivates the exact type of people he wants in his audience and doesn't worry about the rest.
  • The numbers on your list are often vanity metrics. It's the ENGAGEMENT that matters. You want people who support you and your work. This is much harder to measure than simple numbers alone.
  • Paul unsubscribes people who are rude or mean in responses to his emails. He will also look at how many people have not opened over a quarter and will delete those people.
  • When you delete people, you are saving yourself money (once you get to that point of paying) but you are also increasing your engagement and open rate.
  • To test content on his blog Paul uses Optimizely. (Yep, he even split tests his photos.) But he will split test his email subject line using Mailchimp's A/B testing every time he sends. The winning headline is the one he uses when he posts that content on his blog and other syndications.
  • Guests posts worked well as he was building and now he doesn't do guest posting as much but will put his posts up on Huffington Post, Inc, and Medium. If you are posting on quality websites, don't worry about duplicate content hurting your SEO. Google gets it.
  • For Paul, the point is to get people on his list, not just get hits on the blog, so everything links back to the sign-up for his list.
  • Depending on your revenue model, your focus might be different. If you are selling ads on your site, you need page views (or opens & clicks on your list if you're selling ads on your site). If you are selling products or services, your mailing list might be your best place to sell.
  • Things are so saturated right now, that it gets hard because of all the noise. Disruptive revenue models are the ways to find new and unique ways to create content.
  • If you are genuinely excited about the thing that you're doing, people see that come through and they get excited with you. Plan well, but continue to be excited and keep that moving.

 

And if you want to know more about the Creative Class (which I can tell you firsthand is an awesome investment!), you can read more about that HERE.

Oct 2, 2015

When I heard Maritza Parra speak this summer on list-building at Podcast Movement, I knew I wanted to have her come on the show. You guys know how I feel about building email lists. (If you don't, you should read this or this or this.) Maritza shared in the session how she sold her first product to a list of 800 people and made $30,000. Now you're REALLY geared up for this interview aren't you?

Maritza hosts the Easy Online Marketing Podcast and you can find great value on her site. I would highly recommend signing up for her email list, where you can get a freebie with SO MANY ideas for freebies that are working right now to give away as incentives for email subscribers. SO helpful!!

Quotable
"The whole point of a list is building relationships."
Big Ideas

Give free content BEFORE asking people to op-in.
You want to move people toward taking action.
Maritza has subscriber appreciation days where she will have her readers sign up for a phone call or mini session with her so she can really connect.
Super targeted lists of very passionate people can be VERY successful. This allows you to be super specific in what you offer and lets you zero in on those pain points for your audience.
Consider doing real-life meet ups where you can connect with people in person. Have a Q&A and make notes of what things they want to know and learn.
Don't take unsubscribes personally!
When is the best time to send something to your list? When you have something important to say, THAT'S the time.
You teach people how to treat you, so if you hesitate or second guess who you are or your product, that lets other people know they don't have to take you seriously.
If you are giving great content, you should be able to offer paid products without feeling bad.
Add a story to what you are selling. Frame it well and as an experience.
Maritza said she has had more failures than successes, but those failures taught her more than the successes. When you fail, celebrate and try to see how you can push through.
Keep separate lists. Know why people signed up so you can speak to specific pain points.
Your freebie whole be a list-specific product, but doesn't have to be huge. A 1-2 page PDF would be great.

Do you suffer from list-building stage fright? Don't be afraid to email your list or sell to your list. If they signed up, there is something they want from YOU.
How to Involve Your Audience in Your Products

Involve them in the process. Ask what they want in a survey or give them two choices and have them hit reply to tell you.
Have a webinar or live training where you can say, "The results are in!" This lets them know that THEY were the driving factor.
Launching before you create your product allows you to know that you have an audience and a need for that product.

I loved this interview because it made me feel like I can do this. I can get over myself and my stage friend and email my list. I love the ways that Maritza connects with her people via phone calls and face to face. What is YOUR big takeaway from this? Let me know in the comments!

The post List-Building Secrets for Success with Maritza Parra appeared first on Create If Writing.

Sep 23, 2015

Whether you are a writer working to establish relationships with readers, a blogger wanting to create a community around your blog, or a business-owner wanting to connect with customers on a deeper level, Facebook groups are the way to go. (Until Facebook makes groups go the way of the dinosaur, but as Katie mentions in the interview, that's why you have an email list!) I loved getting to talk with Katie this morning and I hope you can come away with a renewed sense of how Facebook groups can work for you, no matter WHAT your purposes.

As for Katie, you can find her at the Biz Women Rock site, listen to the Biz Women Rock podcast on iTunes, or jump right into her Biz Women Rock Facebook group to see her live out what she talked about in this episode. (I'm in that group and she practices what she teaches!!)

ALSO! This is time sensitive so I want to throw it out here right now at the beginning. Katie is doing a free webinar this Friday, September 25 at 2pm EST about how to start, grow, and monetize your Facebook group. She will give an awesome free training (I did it last month!!) and offer you the last chance to buy the Facebook Groups Rock course before she has her baby girl in a few weeks! Sign up for the free training HERE.

Quotable
"Your group on Facebook, i.e. your tribe or your community, is only as good as the value you're providing them."
Big Ideas

Katie started an in-person community in Tampa and applied some of the principles that worked for an IRL group in an URL group.
Biz Women Rock started as a podcast and she was following the typical model of getting sponsors and growing the podcast audience.
The Facebook group came out of her desire to want to wrap her arms around her listeners. (I LOVE this description!)
Out of this group, her brand became a trusted resource and the central focus became NOT the podcast, but the community and brand as a whole as a business resource with the podcast just being ONE of these things.
Facebook may very well change up how groups work and they may not work well forever. This platform isn't YOURS. Get email addresses!
To collect those email addresses, Katie utilizes webinars and has also used the Facebook group as the freebie or opt-in for people who sign up on her website for her email list.

Facebook Group Tips for Moderators

The group needs to be engaged for it to work. Figure out what works for each group, but asking questions you think people WANT to answer is a good way to get people talking. People love to share about themselves!


Utilize different kinds of media: video, photo, text. Videos especially can bring people into your world and helps make you relatable and approachable as the leader of the group.


You need to have this engagement and relationship before you sell to your group. It won't BE salesy if you're doing it well.


As the owner, YOU set the tone. Don't be afraid to moderate and do what works for you, not just what other groups do.

Jun 24, 2015

Special thanks to Josh Mills of Unbroken Light for the podcast music!
In these days of publishing with so many viable options, how do you decide if you should pursue commercial (traditional) publishing or publish independently? Or should you think about hybrid publishing?

(Note: There is hybrid publishing in the sense that agencies or publishers are doing a sort of half-commercial, half-indie publishing, but I am using it here in the sense of doing BOTH traditional and indie publishing.)

You will NOT get an answer for that question in this episode with Ed Cyzewski. What you WILL get is an inside look at his experience as a hybrid author. Among others, he has commercially published Coffeehouse Theology and A Christian Survival Guide as well as Pray, Write, Grow and Creating Space independently. He has an active blog and shares great content (as well as humorous quips) on Twitter. Do join his email list, if for nothing other than his pet rabbit. (You'll see.) Go stalk him. Tell him I sent you. 

Some of My Favorite Posts from Ed: 

Are Independent Authors Just Control Freaks with Issues? 

Why You Should Join the Book Lovers Email List (<- MY title, not his)

When Commercial Christian Publishing Was Bad for My Soul

At a Glance

Writing about what you really care about helps you find readers who can get on the same page.
Blogs so often evolve as YOU evolve. That's okay!
Your blog writing can be a great place for discovering what your readers want to read.
With traditional publishing, often you have a year to prove yourself and if you don't make the sales, you can be considered damaged goods. This (clearly) comes with an enormous amount of pressure.
Even the tactics that publishers will use to promote books (WHEN they use them) won't work for everyone.
A lot of the things that you might think will help you sell books will NOT. In Ed's first experience, interviews in magazines, on radio spots, and media tours sold very few copies.
The secret is to be relentlessly helpful and make lasting connections.
Your email list should be about authentic connections and establishing relationships with your potential readers.
Prayer and writing often involve similar steps and can develop one another, becoming a life-giving cycle. (More on that in his book Pray, Write, Grow!)
Writing is a gift, but also a marketable skill. Carve out the writing time and keep shifting things in your life to keep the creative life up. Don't necessarily do this by taking away your financial safety net!

Quotable and My Big Takeaway: 
"You can't afford to NOT independently publish and make all your mistakes first."
Relevant Links
Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl (find his site HERE)
Falling Upward by Richard Rohr
The Examen App
What I want to know from YOU:
How did this conversation affect your desire to publish traditionally or independently? What has your experience been with either? Let me know in the comments!

The post Ed Cyzewski on Hybrid Publishing – 010 appeared first on Create If Writing.

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