Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tips From The Blogging Queen - Are You Blogstipated? - Column 9

Last month in my TFTBQ Column 8 our blog definition was "Blogstipation."

"Blogstipation" is being unable to think of anything to blog about (i.e. writer's block for bloggers). So, my question this month is "Are You Blogstipated?"

I think there is a fear amongst small business owners thinking about creating a blog and new small business bloggers. They are both afraid that they will have to blog each and every day and aren't sure they would have anything to say. And, for the new bloggers sometimes when they try to write something for their blog they can't think of anything. They're "blogstipated!"

So, is that bad? If you can't find anything to say every day should that prevent you from creating a blog?

The answer to both is "Not at all!" When you've been blogging for awhile you begin to realize that you are going to have those "I just don't feel like blogging today!" days. And, THAT'S OKAY! You do not need to blog each and every day if you don't want to.

Blogs started out as "personal diaries" of a sort and some people, especially those keeping medical journals, etc. do blog each and every day. However, as a small business owner with a blog you don't need to blog each and every day. If you want to you can and if you don't want to - well, that's okay, too! If you only have something to post about once a week that's FINE!

Keep in mind that as a small business owner you're blogging to personalize yourself and your business to your customers. To get your customers excited about you and your products.

If you have something to tell them post about it. If not - don't worry about it. It is far better to post every so often - especially when you write about something that your readers can tell is "exciting" to you than to post about something that clearly bores you.

The negative to not posting every day or even every week is that the search engines love blog posts as it is FRESH content. This means that if you post every day or even every week your blog is more likely to be picked up in a search engine than a blog with monthly posts.

So, how can you avoid "blogstipation?" Well, I can tell you what I do. I have been blogging for awhile and have posted hundreds upon hundreds of posts. The way I avoid "blogstipation" is to only write when I'm in a "blogging" mode. When I am I try to write several posts and hold them in the cue to be posted over several days. That way I'm giving the search engines FRESH content and I'm not putting pressure on myself to write something each and every day.

Do you have to write lengthy articles? Absolutely not. They can be as small as you want them to be. There is no set measure for this. It's whatever you think will interest your readers and potential customers.

And, if you really are "blogstipated" and can't come up with anything to say and you've been blogging for awhile then post a summary with clickable links to some of the articles you may have written a few months to a year ago.

Or, update an old article that your newer readers and customers might like and re-post it with a current date. In other words, if you're really "blogstipated" and can't come up with anything - don't reinvent the wheel. Use some of what you've posted before.

Or, if you have several blogs tell your readers and customers what's happening on those blogs that might interest them.

There are all sorts of things you can do. The most important is - if you're "blogstipated" don't worry about it. It will pass. You'll be in a "blogging" mode again in no time.

"Tips From The Blogging Queen" Column 10 Definition -
"Blogophobia" - Fear of blogging.

Be sure to tune in to my TFTBQ Column 10 on "Do You Have Blogophobia?

Copyright © 2007 - All Rights Reserved - Written By Linda Walsh of Linda Walsh Originals and Linda's Blog. Linda is a doll maker and doll pattern designer.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Forums and Online Communities - Should You Join One?

When I started my Tips For Crafters on The Web blog one of the issues that I wanted to cover for small business crafters was forums or online communities.

Forums or online communities can be vital to the small business crafter trying to establish a presence on the web. Now you might wonder how that be can be? Well, just like in the business world they are a means to "network" not only with your fellow small business crafters, but with potential customers.

Forums are visited each and every day by thousands of Internet users and are utilized by the search engines, both of which are vital to getting your name out there.

So, what exactly is a forum? Basically, a forum is an "online community" of members with similar interests. There are many names for forums, but they are commonly referred to as web forums, bulletin boards, online communities, or message boards.

The forums provide a means of communicating (IE: through text and/or graphics) with another online user and posting content to their post or adding content yourself. You "communicate" with them by "posting" something in the forum in what is referred to as a"thread" or "message." The messages or threads (IE: posts) may be displayed in chronological order, by discussion, by most popularity, etc. depending upon the forum you are in.

Some of the forums are open to everyone while others are private and you have to apply and be accepted.

For some provider communities like Delphi, Yahoo, Google, MSN, etc. they have what is known as "closed" communities. Once you become a member of the respective provider community you can apply for membership to any of their respective forums or online communities and view and participate in them.

So, know that you know what they are you might be wondering why you should join one? Well, for a couple of reasons. First of all, they provide a way for you to network not only with other crafters, but with potential customers. Secondly, they are a terrific vehicle for getting your name out there and advertising your small crafting business. And, third - they can be a LOT of fun.

I'm sure you have a million questions. Let's see if we can answer some of the basic ones:

What Kinds of Forums Are There? Many of the forums were created based upon an Internet users particular interest. The categories are as varied as the numbers of forums.

There are blogging forums, cooking forums, home improvement forums, forums for hobbies, WAHM forums, small business forums, etc. Whatever subject you can think of I'm sure there is a forum for. Some are more specialized than others.

Does It Cost Anything To Join? That depends on the forum. Most of the forums are FREE to join. Others are FREE initially, but then fee based for additional features. Some you pay an annual or monthly fee to join and participate in.

What's A Thread? Basically it's a message or discussion. In other words it's a post. The forum software lets users add content such as text and/or graphics to a message or discussion. Threads might be sorted by subject within a particular category. Or, they might be sorted by relevance (IE: most popular) or by date.

What Does Membership Entail? That depends on the forum. Different forums have different rules for membership and different benefits. With membership comes the ability to participate in the forum and post threads or respond to threads. Most forums want members who are going to participate regularly. For some forums, if you don't, then membership is revoked.

Sometimes membership entails adding the forums banner and/or text link to the front or home page of your website as a requirement of membership. This is especially true if you plan on promoting your small business on the forum. If you plan on promoting your small business on the forum then what's fair is fair - you should promote the forum on your website, too.

Also, most memberships allow you to store a profile on yourself which may or may not include information about yourself, your email address and whether or not you want to be contacted by email or PM (IE: private message to you from another member which is sent to you membership message box), your avatar, your signature, etc.

What is an avatar? When you become a member of a forum you decide what you want your screen name to be. This is your name in the forum and what you are known by. Most members also add an avatar which us a member's small graphic representation of themselves. Some forums provide avatars for their members to use. Others allow you to upload an avatar from your own computer to use or you can enter the URL of your avatar if it is stored somewhere on the web.

What's A Forum Siggy Or Signature? Do You Need One? Like an avatar, most forums allow you to have a signature. This is vitally important to the small business crafter as it provides a means to advertise and promote yourself within each and every thread or post.

You set this up in your profile and each and every thread that you post to or create yourself will contain your signature at the bottom of the post. Your signature can be either a text link, clickable graphic like a banner, or combination(s) of both. It can also be a picture and/or html code sequence, depending on the forum.

For example, my signature includes a clickable banner(s) for my website(s) and clickable text links for all my blogs. If you'd like to see how to create a signature CLICK HERE for my Linda's How-Do-I Series? - How Do I Set-up Forum Signatures or Siggy's article.

Promoting On Forums And Elsewhere? Some forums have no problem with their members promoting their small businesses in their signature or posts as long as it doesn't become excessive. Sometimes certain sections of the forum are set-up specifically for promoting businesses, websites, and blogs. Some don't allow any promoting at all and will revoke your membership for doing so. You have to read the forum rules to know whether or not they allow for this. Most, however, prohibit spamming all the members with emails.

Is There A Common Courtesy Of Forums? Absolutely. Most forums follow the rules of common courtesy - everyone is treated with kindness and respect whether members agree or disagree with each other, or like or dislike someone and their views. Hatred towards another, name calling or bashing of each other is not allowed. Religious or political discussions aren't allowed unless, of course, the forum is set-up specifically for that. Also, threads or posts with profanity, vulgar language, or adult content are generally not allowed as most of the forums are "family-friendly" communities.

Associations? What are they and should You Join One? Associations are provider communities that house multiple numbers of forums. They might be ISP providers or websites set-up specifically to house multiple numbers of forums. Examples might be Delphi Forums, Yahoo Groups, MSN Communities, Google Groups, etc.

How Many Forums Should You Join? That depends upon how many you think you can actively participate in.

What Kinds Of Forums Should You Join? That's strictly up to you. I would join some for business and some for pleasure.

What About Chatrooms? Some forums include chatrooms within their forums for their members to use. Chatrooms are vehicles that allow members to interact online and communicate in real time by typing messages on their computer. Messages that are typed in by a member appear instantly to everybody who is in the chat room at that time.

Some forums set-up specified chat times for all their members to come and get to know one another or specific chats about various subject matter for their members to discuss interactively. A lot of online craft shows provide chat rooms for their customers to interact with the various artists or crafters selling at the craft show.

Does Commenting On Forums Have An Impact On Search Engines? Absolutely. Like other forms of online communication search engines love text and new content and forums are filled with it. Posting and replying on forum threads can be very beneficial to the small business crafter and great exposure for your business. Do a search on any search engine and see for yourself how often forum threads come up and their placement within the results.

So, if you're a small business crafter - should you join a forum or online community? My answer is absolutely if you want to gain vital exposure for your small business. Plus, you may just have some fun while you're at it.

Copyright © 2007 - All Rights Reserved - Written By Linda Walsh of Linda Walsh Originals and Linda's Blog. Linda is a doll maker and doll pattern designer.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Why Would I Want To Create A Blog?

With the popularity of blogs into the mainstream I get asked the following question or see the following question on some of the crafting forums I belong to: "Why Would I Want To Create A Blog?"

So, I thought I'd list a few of the posts that I have written about on my "Tips For Crafters On The Web Blog" or in my "Tips From the Blogging Queen Column" for the Faithful Friends Online Newsletter relating to that question that might interest you:

Blogs, Blogs and More Blogs

Tips From the Blogging Queen - Are Blogs Really Helpful?

I Wouldn't Know What To Write In A Blog

Should You Have A Blog For Your Craft Business?

Tips From The Blogging Queen - Who Is Your Audience and What Should You Tell Them?

I hope my posts help all the small business crafters who are thinking about starting a blog decide whether or not to create one.

And, if you've decided to create one and want to know where to begin just visit my "Testing The Blogs and Helpful Blog Tips" blog. I've got a zillion blogs and have tested many, many of the blog service providers and then posted about it on my blog. It's a great place to start.

Plus, once you've created your blog don't forget to check out my "Linda's How-Do-I Series" on my "Linda's Blog", "Tips For Crafters On The Web Blog", and "Testing The Blogs & Helpful Blog Tips" blog. It's filled with TONS of how-to's and tips for adding all sort of things to your blog. Just scroll down the sidebar until you see it.

If you're thinking of starting a blog I say - GO FOR IT!

Happy blogging.