This past Thursday I was privileged to speak to the Tel Aviv Writer’s Cafe about how they can use blogs and social media to promote themselves and win more (paid) writing gigs.
Here are the seven tips. For more info about the Tel Aviv Writer’s Cafe, please scroll to the end of this post.
1. Brand yourself as if you were a brand name
If you are trying to market yourself as a freelance writer, or freelance anything, it’s important to start to look at yourself as the product that you, the business owner, is trying to sell. Yeah, that’s a lot of hats to wear, and that doesn’t include the fact that you, the freelancer, are also the accountant, administrator, and coffee-fetcher. Anyways, in order to accomplish this, you need to create “Brand You.”
Why should I brand myself?
The brilliant Gary Vaynerchuk has the answer for you (bonus: guess who’s apparently a MOT (Member of the Tribe)…note how he says Alav Hashalom about Paul Newman passing away!):
Another reason you want to do this is because Google has a long memory, and you need to control what prospective employers and others see about you on the web. You have a chance at doing this if you have a personal site built on your own domain. To see what I’m talking about, read this post from Lifehacker: Geek to Live: Have a say in what Google says about you.
So how do I do this?
At the very least, buy your name domain name now (we recommend using www.name.com – and we have no affiliation with them, they just don’t suck like some other registrars we won’t name). If you’re name is Joe Shmoe, buy www.joeshmoe.com. If that domain name is taken, add your middle initial and buy www.joezshmoe.com. If you don’t have a middle name, pretend you do and choose a middle initial to use from this point forwards in all your professional correspondence so that people will Google your name that way and actually find you. If you think it’s weird to add a fake middle initial, ask Michael J. Fox, if he regrets it. (To see why he didn’t just use “A,” the initial of his real middle name, read about his Early Life in Wikipedia. Hint – it may have to do with the fact that he’s Canadian, eh?)
If you’re not up to it, you don’t have to actually do anything with your shiny new domain name right now. So why are you buying your domain name now if you’re not going to use it? Because it can get snatched up between now and when you do want to use it by someone else, which would suck for you.
If you are up to it, I strongly recommend starting a blog that appears under your name-domain name.
But I don’t have thousands to spend on that kind of thing right now!
That’s alright, I say. Here are instructions on starting a personalized blog on a shoestring. The reason this method is good is because if your blog becomes a real success and needs to grow, you can relatively easily move over to your own self-hosted WordPress blog, like all the pros.
Starting a Personalized Blog on a Shoestring:
- Sign up for a blog on WordPress.com. Try to choose a name that represents you, but remember that you will be putting your new name-domain on your blog in a few steps.
- Choose a WordPress theme that best suits your needs. You can find them under Appearance > Themes in the sidebar of your new blog’s admin section. I recommend choosing a pretty plain theme with a header area that allows you to upload your own personalized image. My sister Deena has done a good job with that on her blog, which runs on WordPress.com and you can see here: http://deenascreations.com.
- You should go through all the other settings and choose what best suits you. To do this, go to Settings, and go through the sub-pages and modify as you see fit.
- Map your domain name onto your new blog. First, you need to change your DNS settings for your domain name. DNS tells your domain where it should be point to, i.e. where the site that will be using this domain is sitting. First, log into your account on your domain registrar. Try to find where the DNS info is managed. It may be under Manage Domains or Manage DNS, depending on your registrar. When you do find where you manage the DNS, remove any existing nameservers and add the following:
- Now, go back to your site and click on Upgrades, and then click on the Domains tab.
- Then, enter your domain name in the Add a Domain field:
- At that point it should ask you to buy 10 credits in order to use your own custom domain on WordPress.com. This costs $10 per year.
- Once it’s set up, create an About and Contact page (crucial), and start blogging your head off.
Here are some examples of people who have really succeeded in creating a brand around themselves:
Here are some resources on creating a personal brand:
By Dan Schawbel – who has succeeded in branding himself as a personal branding expert
By Brian Solis
Oh, and more Gary Vaynerchuk just cuz he’s so awesome, inspiring and in your face (and did I mention he’s an MOT? What naches.)
2. Don’t forget about social media
Since blogs run on RSS feeds, it means you can promote your blog content elsewhere. This is good because it increases the likelihood that people will come across your content, which is the most important thing here. You can set up your facebook and twitter profiles to automatically pull in your blog content, and post it for all your network friends to see.
In order to do any of this automatic republishing, you need to know where your feed is. On WordPress.com, it’s at http://myblog.wordpress.com/feed, where myblog is your WordPress.com blog name, or at http://myblog.com/feed, if you’ve mapped your own domain on to your WordPress.com blog.
To learn how to automatically post your blog posts on facebook, read Publish your Blog’s Feed to Facebook.
To automatically post to twitter, first create a user account on twitter. Then, go to EasyTweets, sign up, and add your twitter account to your profile. Then, click on the RSS icon at the right-hand side of your dashboard:
Enter the feed URL (see above for info on how to find it), entry frequency that EasyTweets will check for new posts (every hour is fine), any text to add before each tweet (I don’t recommend adding any text because then it looks automated), and whether you want to post the current new item in your feed, or only start updating from new items. Press Add RSS Feed, and you’re done.
One thing that came up during our session, and often comes up, is people’s confusion as to what usefulness twitter provides. Here are some links that may help you better understand why all these people get to excited about twitter:
How to Attract and Influence People on Twitter — The Ultimate Twitter Resource – this is like a how-to book for twitter
3. Get people to stay in touch with you via RSS feeds and email subscriptions
If someone comes to your site, you want to get them to subscribe in some way to stay in touch before they leave. If you do, you can start to create a long-term connection where they consistently receive content you create, and trust grows between you. If you don’t, chances are they’ll leave, forget that you exist, and never come back.
So, make sure to prominently display the options for subscribing. Here’s a screenshot from Natan Sharansky’s new site for an example on how to do this – note how the subscription info appears very close to the top of every page:
4. Focus – so that people know what they’re getting
People subscribe to certain content because they are interested in the general topic being covered. Imagine if you were an avid car fan, and you bought Cars magazine only to find a spread about the latest hairstyles (or whatever they write about in fashion magazines). And imagine if you were an avid fashion fan and you opened the latest edition of Elle only to find a spread about axel grease (or whatever they write about in car magazines). You’d be pretty disappointed because you are paying to read those magazines because of their focus.
Same with your blog: people subscribe to it because you are writing about something they are interested in, whether it be politics, celebrities, iPhones, or cats. So stick to that 99% of the time, and your readers will stick with you.
5. Optimize for search engines
Yes, even you can optimize your blog for search engines. SEO may be perceived as a magical talent only bestowed upon special fairy beings, but there are some basic things you can do to help your blog rank better in the search engines. Here is a quick rundown:
- Make a quick list of keywords you think people are using to find people like you. You can use all sorts of fancy keyword tools if you want, but you can also just use your brain since you know your industry. Take this list, and write it down on a piece of paper. Make a note of which terms are the most targeted, and which are less focused. You have more of a chance of ranking high for “Jerusalem car fans” than for “car fans.” You see what I mean? So while you’d probably like to rank high for car fans, it’s best to aim for Jerusalem car fans. But even so, don’t lose sight of the big vision of ranking for “car fans” because you may get there.
- Once you’ve got your keywords, make sure to use them whenever possible in your blog titles, and in your first paragraph. However, when in doubt, make sure you are ultimately writing for humans. What I mean is, don’t stuff your title and paragraph with keywords that don’t make sense, because while you may make Google happy, you won’t make people happy, and that’s not good.
- Tag your posts with tags related to your keywords, but also to other stuff you mention so that you may rank for those words as well.
- Pay attention to meta keywords and particularly to your meta description, because that’s what appears under the title of your post in the Google search results.
- Link internally. When you mention an event, term or phrase that you’ve mentioned before, link to that other post, or category if it exists on your blog.
6. Promote offsite
Aside from trying to get traffic via the web, make sure to promote your blog in other places as well, like in your email signature and on your business cards. And tell people about it whenever relevant, without being annoying.
7. Track your success
Like anything in life, if you are trying to achieve something in life, you need to track if you are getting there. As the saying goes “if you can measure it, you can manage it.” So track your site stats and feed stats. Don’t worry about seeing huge leaps in growth, but you do want to make sure there is a steady incline at the very least. You don’t want to plateau or start to shrink – that’s bad news, and if you see that you need to work to reverse it, generally by creating more content, and commenting on more blogs.
8. Bonus – accessing the awesomeness that is called humanity
“But you said 7 tips,” you say.
That’s right, I say, but I added a bonus. The bonus is about all the people you get to connect with via your blog and online activity, particularly when those people are…extraordinary (in every sense of the word).
Recently I got the following comment on this blog, and it makes it all worth it. Note the author’s name:
Author : moshe rabeynu
I am a former male exotic dancer and am interested in establishing a “Chippendales” type establishment in Israel. What type of assistance and tax benefits does the Israeli government provide to new businesses of olim chadashim? Are there many such entertainment facilities in Israel? I would like some idea as to how stiff the competition would be. Do Israeli women, as a rule, like to look at males dancing in skimpy G-strings? Are they generous tippers? Would they put a shekel to the shmeckel? If I hire other olim chadashim as dancers, would they have to pay any taxes on their tips? Can I employ dancers who have not had a briss ? I might want to hire one or two to add variety to the show lineup. Is a liquor license hard to obtain in Israel. Do I have to bribe any officials to receive one? To whom is it customary to pay proteksia money to start a business and keep it going and approximately how much to they ask for? Thank you for your help.
If there were commenting Olympics, this one would bag a super-gold.
That’s it – 7 tips + 1 on how to market yourself using blogs and social media. Thanks to those who came to my session – it was great meeting you!
And now, a bit about the Tel Aviv Writer’s Cafe:
It was started 3 years ago by Stephanie Freid, a freelance writer and journalist, as a way of grouping Tel Aviv area writers together for networking and topical discussions on everything from how and where to look for jobs to tips on approaching editors to discussing what makes good journalism to deciding on filing taxes in Israel and abroad. Attendees come from a variety of writing backgrounds including technical, journalism, marketing, book writing & blogging.
Writer Forum guests have included NBC New bureau chief/author Martin Fletcher who spoke about his experiences covering world conflict and his acclaimed first book “Breaking News”, successful book author Matt Beynon Rees on taking a journalism career to the realm of fiction novel writing, NY Times writer Dina Kraft on covering conflict in Israel and why it seems to hit a nerve among so many, Pajamas Media editor Alison Kaplan Sommer on how to slot into the new era of blog writing, Israel Project Executive Director Marcus Sheff on keeping the foreign media informed and celeb blogger Lisa Goldman on how her blog propelled her into the limelight.
For more info, please contact Stephanie at [stefanella.stef at gmail.com].