Monday, March 31, 2014

What I learnt from running my first Twitter chat or Tweet-up

Last week we held the first WABAK Twitter chat - to help a bunch of mostly former blogging students get the hang of using Twitter, and as a substitute for a face-to-face meet up this month.

Let me tell you, hosting a Twitter chat or Tweet-up is SO much fun but much more exhausting than I'd imagined! We had a total of 14 tweeps chatting away - I'd thought I'd acknowledge them all by including their hello messages here.



We spent an hour online talking about confusions of Twitter, who to follow, how to use hashtags, what snacks people were eating while tweeting ... and so on! (Also, a strong sideline in Pinterest!) I asked about ten questions during the chat to keep things on track and I think that worked out pretty well. But I still learnt a lot:
  1. Not everybody has got the hang of using Twitter on a computer - many see it as a mobile app and it definitely is very useful to use on smartphones (I check Twitter on my phone fairly regularly!) but for more "serious" efforts, the desktop version at Twitter.com makes it easier ... and easier still is using something like Tweetdeck where you can see various columns at the same time (for example, a column just for the #wabak hashtag).
    Tweetdeck screen shot of the #wabak tweet up
  2. Some of the participants had some great suggestions on great Twitter users to follow - including @problogger, @kellyexeter, @doctorkarl, @brainpicker, @huffposttravel, @thisissethsblog, @valeriekhoo, @kisstosell and @sarahprout.
  3. Chocolate is still a popular topic.
  4. Kylah (@kylahmorris) from Zest eBiz won the prize for being the first to spot the trending topics of the day; Aggie (@aggie_lim) from Happiness Everyday won the prize for being the person making the most effort to "attend" our tweet-up - she was mid-learning at the Food in a Fuel Stove event at the Bibbulmun Track Foundation (pictured below).
    Aggie Lim tuning in to our chat while cooking at Bibbulmun Track Foundation
  5. Newbie users reminded me that when you first join Twitter, it can be a real challenge to keep your tweets belong 140 characters. Fortunately, even long-winded people like me get the hang of it so I tried to reassure them.
  6. Above all, I learnt that chatting with a dozen or so people at once and trying to direct their chat towards a common goal is MUCH easier in person than online! But it was heaps of fun, and I think we achieved my main goal which was to provide a bit of a comfort zone where people could have a go at interacting on Twitter amongst a supportive group.
But I'm sure the learning is still continuing for the participants, and for others of you who are still trying to "make friends" with Twitter - so do let me know in the comments - what questions do you have about Twitter?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Monetising my travel blog with a long list of tasks (and a stats update)

Well, it seems that there are plenty of you out there keen to see how my journey to monetise my travel blog goes, judging by the feedback I got to my first post inviting you along for the monetisation ride. I wasn't planning to update monthly (more likely quarterly) but since I have other relevant stuff to mention I decided I would this month - and we'll see how we go from here on in! If I have exciting enough news, I guess I will report in more often!

Why my blog traffic rose in February

Here are the stats for the second chunk of the year - following straight on from what I showed last time.

Not A Ballerina traffic statistics - all looking better since last time
Now there's nothing majorly spectacular to report except that everything is going up. Visits, uniques and pageviews have all risen somewhere around the 40% mark. This, of course, would be super-exciting if I thought it would be a continuing trend every month, but remember that I had a blogging break in January so much of this is the result of simply blogging. (Oh yeah. Big reminder to self. Important to blog consistently!)

I have also tried to be a bit more regular with my social media promotion across all the major platforms but I am still struggling with having so few working hours now that my son's at school (much shorter hours than daycare!) and I've been teaching UWA Extension courses left, right and centre.

But still, it is much better than the traffic going down, and next month when I'll have been blogging and promoting a bit more consisently should be more telling and hopefully a bigger cause for optimism.

What I'm planning to do to improve my blog traffic in 2014

Oh goodness, what am I not planning to do? I have a rather long list. Some of it is stuff I have known about forever and only half-heartedly done. Some of it is new ideas. Some of it is quick stuff, some of it time-consuming. If my life was my blog, I'd have done it all by now but this blog gets worked on around the corners and edges of a rather full life, and that's OK.

Anyway, there's nothing magical or secret about some of the plans I have. In the hope that it might give you some ideas (or inspire you to tell me other things I should do), here's my list, or at least the "so far" list as I keep adding to it. (In no particular order, I might add.)
  1. Make an editorial calendar and stick to it with minimum of 2 posts per week (this is working so far, yippee)
  2. Create a giveaway for those who sign up to my newsletter list (part way there, watch this space!)
  3. Work on an income-producing product (ebook of some kind)
  4. Create more postcards for good posts (especially for Pinterest but for promotion in general)

    Example of a Not A Ballerina postcard
  5. Update more of the old posts into the new categories (necessary after a revamp of direction/topic/theme from a year or so ago)
  6. Pin more of the archived posts to Pinterest
  7. Add "Tweet this" links into some of the best/most popular posts
  8. Schedule promotion (Twitter, Facebook, etc) for good archives
  9. List and contact more potential advertisers
  10. Follow up for more work with previous PR/sponsors/etc
  11. Do some guest posting
  12. Increase frequency of Instagram posts from blog (I've started this lately with Schedugr.am which allows me to schedule Instagram posts for the middle of my night, which is the time when the largest part of my travel blog's audience - North Americans - are online, thanks to the time difference)
  13. Look at the pages (eg Country Guides) and re-do, revamp, delete, optimise
  14. Create an editorial calendar for the newsletter and ensure it is always sent on time
  15. Look at travel blogger groups on LinkedIn
  16. Update my media kit (great tips from Brand Meets Blog post)
  17. Add headlines and other SEO-related optimisations
  18. Continue to comment on the other travel blogs I feel are closest to my niche (something I do regularly at the moment but should still be on the list)
  19. Continue refining my ideal customer profiles
  20. Transfer the blog from Blogger to Wordpress
Phew. That's it for now.

What about you? Is there something on this list you want to do straight away? Or do you have any suggestions for me?


Thursday, March 13, 2014

How to use our Facebook group for Perth bloggers - WABAK

One of my blogging students had the fabulous idea of starting a Facebook group for Perth bloggers who met in my courses, so that they could all keep in touch and follow each other's blogging journeys. WABAK: Western Australian Bloggers Amanda Knows was born in a hurried fashion as a result, and the odd name seems to have stuck. In fact, Rae from I Opened My Mouth and It Ran Away Without Me told me one afternoon we should absolutely change it but then came back the next day saying the opposite, with this justification:
So here's why I don't think it should change:
Western
Australia - not discriminatory includes country WA
Bloggers - proud to be a blogger that is who we are
Amanda - Amanda is our founder and fearless leader
Knows - Amanda brings us together, gives us the opportunity to share and discuss via this group, alerts us as to what is happening in our blogging world
Sounded out Wayback - was way back when we started
I think that we should share and contribute as individuals such as what we are doing and how it has hleped us to either improve/change/direct/focus our blogging world be it either business or pleasure/hobby. Sharing journeys allows other members who are interested to see how we/they can develop should they be interested. I like being nosey!
And I think Rae sums up exactly what I'd like this group to be all about. (Although I am not sure about being a fearless leader.) The only thing she failed to mention was that one of the key results of coming together in our Facebook group is the ability to organise physical meet ups, which must include cake. Very important!

WABAK blogger meet up in February 2014

How to use our Facebook group for WABAK

Now, I know that some of our members have never had the cause to be involved in a Facebook group before, and I promised to give a bit of a how to guide to help them out. To start with, if you haven't joined the group yet, head to WABAK on Facebook (assuming you have a Facebook account) and hit the "Join Group" button - I'll be notified that you've asked to join and will approve you, unless I don't know who you are, of course!

So, what can you do in this group?

  1. Respond to posts in the group - some of them are from me, some from other group members. You can "like" or comment just like any other Facebook post. However, only people who are in the group can see it (it's a "closed" group).
  2. Post an update, a question, a link or an image yourself. Stick to posting stuff that is useful for other WA bloggers (if anyone gets too self-promotional we will get out a big stick). When we have meet ups I definitely encourage you to post any photos you take afterwards. Makes the fun last longer! 
  3. Edit files. Yes, we have files! Facebook groups give you the ability to have basic documents. See the image below for the spot where you can click "Files" - at the moment, we have just one document, a list of the blogs written by group members. When you open the document, there's an option in the top right to "Edit" - click that and edit away, then click "Save" at the bottom.

Menu options for the WABAK Facebook group - using Files
So, those are the three main functions you can use in our group at the moment - simple, right? Oh, and before you ask, the arrangement of the members' profile pictures across the top (you can see them in this graphic) is based on who has previously left a comment or made an update - the most recent updater is on the left. So it's constantly changing.

Have you got some more questions about using our Facebook group? Let me know in the comments and if there's something important that I've missed I'll add it in to this blog post.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why my Perth blogging courses make my own blog better

It has been a very bloggy fortnight.
(And yes, bloggy is too a word.)

In the last two weeks I've run the Becoming a Blogger beginner course AND the Better Blogging advanced course at UWA Extension and what with seeing so many of my old blogging students at the Perth Problogger Event as well, it has been blogs and bloggers galore here.

And I'm a tad exhausted, and have been rather busy, but guess what? I have been working harder on my own blogs than ever before! There are several reasons for this and it's an interesting study in motivation, I think.

Checking my blogs practice what I preach

When I'm about to teach a blogging course, I double check that my blogs - which I'll inevitably use to demonstrate stuff - are up to scratch. In the past I have had those terrible moments when I've been going on and on about the importance of your About page, giving lists of what should be on it, only to click over to mine and see - oops - my About page is in desperate need of an update.

Similarly, I make sure that my blogs have several recent posts on them before I confront a room full of blogging students. I can hardly answer their (inevitable) question "How often should I blog?" correctly if they can see very obviously that my blog has been inactive for a few weeks.

Getting inspiration for my blogging

During the courses, I get so inspired by ideas from my students, and often make notes about what I will write about on my blog after hearing what they have in mind. (And not in the plagiaristic way that sounds like, I promise!) The lunch break when we get to chat about how blogging fits into our lives, while enjoying this rather inspiring view, also helps.

The view from our favourite blogging course lunchtime spot, Perth

Immersed in blogs, working on my blog

Teaching my students "best practice" for running a blog reminds me of what I am actually striving for. I am a bit hit and miss, for example, on having an editorial calendar, even though I know that using one always makes me blog absolutely regularly, and spreads my content out across the right topics, and all kinds of other advantages which I rattle off to my students. Late on Saturday evening, after teaching the advanced blogging course all day, I finally got a properly-planned editorial calendar together again for both my blogs, and just a couple of days later I can report I am already a couple of weeks ahead on my blog plans. Perfect!

So yes, I might be a bit sleep-deprived, and I might have a head swimming with ideas to help a dozen different bloggers in all industries and niches, and I might even feel that I missed out on having a weekend, but all in all, spending a day with bloggers is always inspiring and invigorating, and that's why I do it.


Why do you do what you do?




Sunday, March 2, 2014

#businesspics and why using Instagram for business is my big 2014 tip

Heard me mention Instagram before? I am a bit of a fan and have been using Instagram since it was just two months old. If you need the beginners' guide, head back to my first post on what Instagram is, but otherwise, let me tell you what I've been loving about Instagram lately:
  • It's the perfect way to be personal, and personal is good for your brand. Instagram is a clean and simple app, with relatively few functions, and it's very much focused on creativity and sharing. 
  • It's fast, simple and done on the go on your smartphone, which is perfect for someone like me who doesn't always get to sit down at my desk during the course of a day.
  • There's very little overt promotion, and that means you have to think outside the box. You can't leave links everywhere (or at least it is strongly discouraged and most users stick to this), so you need to focus on the kinds of messages you can give your followers about you and your business in a more subtle manner.
  • It has great engagement. If you look at the proportion of your followers who "like" or comment on your Instagram posts, it's usually a much higher percentage than on any other social media. 
  • You can share it to other platforms. Occasionally, I'll share an Instagram picture to Twitter (usually if my caption is pretty short, so it won't be annoyingly cut off) and quite regularly, I share the images to my Facebook business pages. I find it a great way to add to the content coming through on Facebook and because it's also very image-based my Instagram posts usually work really well there and have great engagement too.
  • Advertising is just starting up on Instagram but they are promising they'll keep it true to the spirit of the app. It'll be interesting to see how it works out but there could be some interesting opportunities there.
  • Heaps of social media experts are predicting that Instagram will be important in 2014. Even Forbes and Social Media Today are saying so. Personally, I hope they're right.

#businesspics for March 2014

Some of you may have participated in my #businesspics Instagram challenge in 2013 - well, now it's back! You can play along on Facebook instead if you're not on Instagram but I would strongly urge you to try Instagram out. This month I've grouped the photo prompts according to some key areas I think are important to show your customers and clients: your workplace, your clients or customers themselves, your products or services, and perhaps most importantly, YOU!

#businesspics Instagram photo prompts for March 2014
The numbers in the prompt image are dates in March; join in when you feel inspired or try to take an image for every day of the month (that's my plan!). If you want a reminder email each time a new round of #businesspics starts (and a mid-month pep talk) sign up to my #businesspics reminder email list. I look forward to seeing your gorgeous pictures and helping you create interesting and engaging content for your social media ... remember to hashtag your images with #businesspics and tag me @amandakendle so I see it straight away!
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