4 Exceptional Bloggers You Don’t Know, Yet.

I’m an information junkie. It’s an addiction. I need to know a lot about a lot of different things. Don’t get me wrong, focus is fantastic, living and breathing one specific niche and owning it is what building your audience online is all about; but I’ve always been a huge believer in bringing opposite worlds together to spark up something new. New ideas, thoughts, insight, methods, views, you name it.

To get this point across, I reached out to 4 bloggers – Andrew Warner, Hillel Fuld, Erika Napoletano and Geoff Northcott each of which are doing an exceptional job of bringing their passions to life. I was curious to find out what, if there was any, was the common bond between these great folks from opposite ends of the blogosphere. Here’s what they had to say about the current state of blogs, where this medium is heading and along the way, share their best tips with other up-and-coming bloggers who are paving their own way.

Besides their funny and insightful answers, the most interesting things, as you’ll notice, is that they in fact do share vary common traits. They write about what they love, they invest time without focusing on immediate financial return and in a sense, their niches chose them more than they chose it.  Read on…

Andrew Warner
Hi Andrew, Thanks for taking part. Please tell us about your blog, when and why did you start blogging?

On Mixergy, entrepreneurs who’ve built successful companies tell their stories and teach how they did it. I started it because when I built my first company, the people who wrote all the books on how to build businesses never really built one themselves. So those writers always had a fairy tale view of what it takes to build a company.

How did you decide what niche to focus on?

I tried a few ideas. Most of them sucked. Then, one day I interviewed my friend Rosalind Resnick about how she built her company. It was fascinating to hear her tell her story. When the interview was over I felt like I had to have those kinds of conversations for the rest of my life. That really launched me into interviews.

What were your first few days of blogging like and what caused your best peak to date?

Once I committed to a regular schedule everything changed. You’ve seen that on TV, right? Shows that the networks move around — from Wednesday at 8 to Thursday at 9 to Saturday at whenever — fail. No one knows what to expect and when to expect it. Once I decided to post a new interview every weekday, my audience knew what to expect and when to show up.

Is monetizing your blog something you’re currently focusing on if so, how?

Not really. I like that it pays for a nice office and a full-time assistant, but it’s not my main goal.

How do you see blogs evolve in the future? Will Short form / status updates start stealing the focus?

They’ll be dumber and full of more pictures of cats. Every medium seems to get dumbed down, doesn’t it? Remember when the newspaper was the place you went for education? Now it’s full of paparazzi photos and partisan politics. Same thing happened to TV news. It’ll have to blogs too. The smart ones have started dumbing down their message already.

I have zero interest in competing with that, so I’m going to focus on being smaller, exclusive and focused.

Your Top 3 Favorite Blogs to read and why?

I use aggregators so I can whip through lots of blogs quickly.

Lastly, your biggest tip for people starting to blog today?

Start by sucking. I’ve interviewed over 200 entrepreneurs. When I ask the ones who succeeded what their first version looked like, they usually have a look of disgust on their faces. Then they tell me how ugly or underpowered it was. But they improved. Meanwhile, the wannabes who never start refuse to launch until everything is absolutely perfect.

Next up, a dear friend Hillel Fuld who’s blog, TechnMarketing is on Fire!

Hillel Fuld,
Tell us about your blog, when and why did you start blogging?

To be honest, it was all very random and not planned out. I was a very late adapter to the whole tech, mobile, and Web scene, but as soon as I was introduced to them, it was a strong connection. I loved mobile technology from the first time I unboxed my Razr (can that even be called technology?). What became clear is that the love and passion for anything mobile transformed itself quickly into an obsession (the healthy kind) that meant I had to know anything and everything that was developing in this space. One day, I simply decided to put all the information and opinions I had gathered down on to paper; virtual paper of course.  That is how TechnMarketing was born.

How did you decide what niche to focus on?

As I mentioned above, I never made this decision, the decision was made for me. It was my natural passion, and just like in the entrepreneurial world, I believe that a blogger should follow a passion and not a business model. Monetizing will come if you offer good enough added value and that added value will only come if you are passionate about your topic or niche.

What were your first few days of blogging like and what caused your best peak to date?

First few days of blogging? To be honest, they were pretty pathetic. I wanted to get some content up and work on the design of the blog in cooperation with my partner in crime, Aryeh Altshel. I look back now at the very first posts, and suffice it to say, they are not my proudest moments. Just like everything else in life, with experience comes knowledge and as time went on, my writing improved. In terms of my peak, Twitter has helped a lot over the years, but my record day was when I wrote a post that offered users a comprehensive Twitter guide. The post went viral on Twitter and had close to 1,000 tweets from key influencers on its first day. For some reason, people like to talk about social media on social media.

Is monetizing your blog something you’re currently focusing on if so, how?

Well of course monetization is on the minds of all bloggers, but I do think patience is needed when it comes to making money from a blog. We are only now beginning to really monetize and we are doing it with selling ads on the site. It is important to remember that I invested two years of hard work building up the blog before seeing a Penny. That is something bloggers should keep in mind. Not everyone can do what Pete Cashmore did.

How do you see blogs evolve in the future? Will Short form / status updates start stealing the focus?

I am well aware of the new micro blogging trend but I do not see it taking over the blogging world. As a heavy Twitter addict (shameless plug, follow me here), no one knows the appeal of Twitter and shorter updates more than me. Having said that, there is still very much a need for people to share longer posts with their audience. Twitter is great for linking to those posts, but in my opinion, will not replace them any time soon.

How do you see your blog 3 years from now?

If my blog continues at the rate it has been moving, I hope to be posting ten posts a day and reaching audiences of millions. A man can dream, right? In reality, I just hope I keep up the blog for three years, it sometimes gets difficult with all the distractions of life, but I keep pushing myself, and hope to continue to do so in the future.

Your Top 3 Favorite Blogs to read and why?

My top three bloggers to read would have to be Ben Parr of Mashable, MG Siegler of TechCrunch, and lastly, a less known blogger,TremendousNews. Why? All three combine useful information, easy reading, and a perfect dosage of humor throughout their posts. I just like reading their articles, it is as simple as that.

Lastly, your biggest tip for people starting to blog today?

I will repeat what I said in the beginning because this is what makes or breaks blogs, as well as businesses, and many other things in life. Follow your passion and not your wallet. If you are truly passionate about something, then you will stand out and the money will follow. I know that sounds like a slogan, but my blog is living proof. There are many tech blogs out there that cover mobile, social media, and Web, but mine is doing well because I love the space and from what my readers are telling me, that passion comes across in my writing. Passion is the most important thing for starting a blog. If you have that, everything else will fall into place. Might take time, but it will happen eventually.

Those who haven’t yet read Erika’s blog Readhead Ranting are missing out on one of the most fearless, in your face writing out there. Here’s how she made it happen for her blog.

Erika Napoletano
Tell us about your blog, when and why did you start blogging?

Blogging for me was a complete accident. I started my blog over on Multiply.com back in 2006 as a way to share thoughts rolling through my red head with my friends. That evolved into Redheaded Fury. I then started a WordPress.com hosted blog called SEO Copywriting Redhead which would later become RedheadWriting.com. Redheaded Fury, to me, was personal. The other site was all business. And now, four years later, they’ve joined together to create the current iteration of RedheadWriting. A crazy path, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How did you decide what niche to focus on?

Write what you know! I knew about all the crazy stuff that happens in my day to day and I knew about business and SEO copywriting. Those two focuses evolved into conversations about what I like, what I was learning, discoveries and more. As I progressed, my brand progressed as well and people came to me for the certain flavor of uncensored advice I shared, regardless of the topic.

What were your first few days of blogging like and what caused your best peak to date?

The first few days? Well…uneventful! You post something. You hear crickets. Now, fast forward to August 30, 2010 and my site has 12,000 uniques a month. While I’m small potatoes compared to may bloggers out there, I’ve got a fairly in-your-face brand. And it pays off. Earlier this month, I ran a particular Bitch Slap column on freelancing. I almost fell off my chair when I logged into Google Analytics! Let’s just say that a month’s worth of visitors stopped by in two days. I’m fairly sure I shrieked.

Is monetizing your blog something you’re currently focusing on if so, how?

To be completely honest, I despise the phrase “monetize your blog.” And I’ll tell you why: 99.99% of all bloggers out there do not have the traffic to generate revenue directly from the sale of something on their website. Anyone who says you can (and EASILY) is full of crap. My website establishes me as an authority on certain subjects and offers me brand exposure. As a result, I get new business inquiries. That’s how I monetize. As my audience grows, my inquiries grow. I’m doing what I love and making a great living doing it.

If you’re a new blogger looking to monetize your blog, I will slap the keyboard right out of your hands. Here’s what you need to think about before you ever (EVAH) begin blogging:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • Where does that target audience live online and what’s important to them?
  • Why the hell should they care about anything I have to say?
  • How committed am I to consistently coming up with fresh content?
  • How will I market my content?
  • What is the goal for my blog? (reputation, entertainment, lead capture, etc.)

When you’ve got all of that locked down, you can begin to think about where the money might come from. I make about $180/year in affiliate commissions from a single sidebar link on my blog. It’s because I know the product, I use it and endorse it heartily. Think about that.

How do you see blogs evolve in the future? Will Short form / status updates start stealing the focus?

I’m an avid reader. An information junkie. You might be able to get my attention in 140 characters or less, but I still crave great reading. I don’t necessarily see blogs evolving. But more people may begin using them. I suspect we’ll see more video blogging (I just started this practice myself this week). Maybe live blogging as well over an interface like Skype.

How do you see your blog 3 years from now?

When I figure it out, I’ll call ya. 😉 I write four to five days a week, so it’s gonna be a meaty little sucker!

Your Top 3 Favorite Blogs to read and why?

Justin Kownacki – in-your-face, no BS thoughts on the social, the marketing, and social marketing.

The Oatmeal – because sometimes I need to unplug

27b/6 – Smart, smart, smart. It’s SMART!

Lastly, your biggest tip for people starting to blog today?

See question 4 😉 And if you come on Twitter and use auto-DMs, I’ll cut ya.

To round things off, I had to include Geoff Northcott who’s Supercollider blog merges together brands, culture, technology and communication to form a very unique perspective of what’s really going on in our constantly shifting industry.

Geoff Northcott
Tell us about your blog, when and why did you start blogging?

I started blogging quite late, in early 2008. I was, and am still, hugely excited about the opportunities in our industry to help shape the future of marketing, and evolve it beyond advertising into something better and more valuable, for both brands and their customers. I realized I was coming up with some original ideas that people were actually interested in, and I started to see some of my predictions and ideas about where things were going being proven out in the industry. So at that point I felt I had enough worth contributing to the conversation that it was time to start posting.

And I wanted to start for no other reason than I wanted to be able to share ideas with some of the people in the space whose ideas excited me the most, which I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do.

How did you decide what niche to focus on?

I never decided on a niche, the blog was a just an extension of the thinking I do at work and from all the reading I do outside of it. I had lots of ideas about where marketing was going and the huge role the web could play beyond advertising and wanted to share them. My second post was an attempt to aggregate a few of the points I believed and wanted to explore, and I’ve stayed more or less on message since a manifesto of sorts.

What were your first few days of blogging like and what caused your best peak to date?

I posted a test post back in February 2008, and clicked my recommended blogs to make sure the links worked. A day later I got a comment on my test post from David Armano saying “good luck with the blog”, which I thought was awesome of him. I also thought that meant I was about to join a very exciting conversation with all the bloggers in our space. It took me a while to realize that it is actually a lot of work to start from scratch, especially that late in the game. There’s only so much attention to go around, and a lot of blogs seeking it.

My first big peak was from my “Brands on Flickr” post in the summer of 2008. It was my first attempt at creating a proper resource for people, and was based on a lot of research and analysis. It was a lot of work. But Jeremiah Owyang was kind enough to tweet about it, and it brought my first real burst of traffic. Since then about 7,000 people have viewed that post, it still brings in lots of search traffic.

My best ever peak was my “Platforms or Campaigns? Both.” post, which got some great tweets and retweets. @bbhlabs really was the catalyst for that spike, thanks guys!

Is monetizing your blog something you’re currently focusing on if so, how?

No, definitely not. My blog isn’t meant to be a commercial vehicle itself, it’s more about creating opportunities and getting ideas out there.

How do you see blogs evolve in the future? Will Short form / status updates start stealing the focus?

I think it’ll be different for everybody. My own approach is to try and use each medium to its strengths. My blog is for more long-form posts and thought-pieces, like what you would’ve done with a white paper or article in the past. And I use Twitter to share links to some of the most interesting things I find along the way. For me they are complementary, but both with distinct roles.

How do you see your blog 3 years from now?

Good question…

I’ve imagined at various points a mini-media network or collection of blogs, created in collaboration with like-minded folks, that focus on specific niches but all complementary and centered around where we think things are going. Kind of a collective hub, a combination of curation and origination and synthesis.

More likely, it will look a lot like it does now.

Your Top 3 Favorite Blogs to read and why?

My top three would be:

  1. From the Head Of Zeus Jones
  2. Influx Insights
  3. Russell Davies

Adrian, Ed and Russell are all original and deeply insightful thinkers, which is what I value the most in a blogger. They can genuinely introduce me to new ways of thinking about technology, about people, about brands and products. They give me ideas or thought-starters, helping open up new territory, like explorers. And they are also excellent writers, capable of crafting a compelling story. And that’s that I aspire to be as well, so for me their blogs are essential.

As a bonus pick, I’d recommend Contagious News Feed. Great curation of the latest work in our industry, always on point with important trends (rather than what’s trendy, necessarily), and always very readable.

Lastly, your biggest tip for people starting to blog today?

Avoid the blogosphere echo chamber at all costs, and write something original. Don’t be afraid to have a contrary or unique point of view. In fact, if you’re just starting out, that’s probably essential. You need to be contributing something new, something of your own creation, creating value for other people and for yourself. Reposting links or writing “me too” posts are adding noise, not value.

Your blog posts are a creative product. No one starts out wanting to be the guy that forges Picasso knockoffs, you want to be Picasso. Otherwise, why bother? Spend your time doing something else you’d enjoy instead.

So there you have it, a jam-packed blog post with 4 of the most insightful bloggers money (can’t) buy. I hope this post inspired you as much as it did me putting it together. If you take away anything from this read it’s this. Don’t be afraid to create your own path. Focus on what you love so that it never feels like work and make as many friends along the way as possible to amplify your reach.

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Vacation Anxiety

We’ve all been faced with it at one time or another, vacation anxiety. The fear of losing professional momentum can sometimes make you lose sight of the important things… Keeping your priorities in check.

Do you find it difficult to disconnect for a few days and feel anxious when you’re away from your work?

How I Learned All About New Media Marketing The Hard Way

The title of this post has been kicking me in the back of the head for a few days now. The truth is, I’ve been meaning to write this post for far too long but I kept putting it off for when I felt the time would be just right.

Many of my closest friends know how passionate I am about the work I do, but few truly understand how hard I’ve worked to get to where I am professionally. I can honestly say that every step I’ve taken over the last 8+ years since being in the online marketing business, have gradually given me the skills and knowledge needed to create a successful new media marketing business. Some may say I’ve been lucky enough to take my enthusiasm for online media marketing and turning into a living, but I’ll be the first to tell you luck had almost nothing to do with it.

My beginnings as an online marketer

My first job in the online world wasn’t very fun or creative but it taught me the basics of building an online business, back when the basics was all there was. Winter 2002, I was offered a job in a company that created various websites for the US market. They were looking for a means to branch out. Their idea was to basically take their existing websites and translate them from English to French and Italian. They got word that I spoke Italian as a mother tongue and invited me in for an interview.  The “web” working environment was completely new territory for me, but I felt at home almost instantly as I walked in. I even remember joking with them if they wanted to do the interview in Italian. That’s how comfortable I was that I was going to get the job, and so I did; translating website content. Once the sites went live, it was time to get them indexed by Google by finding index “directories” and getting Google to point to them as much as possible. This went on for over a year, right around the time Google’s Adwords system was taking shape.

Around that time, my wife and I felt it was time for a real change and packed up our little family for Israel. That’s where things really took off. A few months after arriving I was offered a position to lead the pay per click marketing division for a company which at the time had huge potential but no one dedicated to increasing sales through Adwords.

This particular company dealt in one of the most competitive markets of the online industry, targeted to the adult segment. In my first year with the company, I upped the ante by making sure we had one of the largest and most effective ad spends through not only Google but also on  Yahoo, MSN and any other ad network with significant media we could utilize.  We’re talking ad spends of anywhere between $70k-$100k a month.

Over the course of the second year, I was flying back and forth between Israel to the biggest trade shows in the US and UK “Ad:Tech, SES, Etc…” learning everything I could about search engine optimization and search engine marketing while meeting incredibly talented people in the industry. I was sucking up as much information as I could every chance I could. Even through my 11+ hour flights, I would study the latest industry news, trends and tactics. I wanted to be the best at what I was doing.

As much as I loved the opportunity and knowledge I was receiving, things were getting repetitive; I honestly felt that after 2 years of managing over 100k a month ad spend through the top ad networks, I learned everything there was to know about them inside out.

The company I was with was notoriously known for have zero human / personal values, so when I approached management with a request to move me up to a senior level position and was brushed off, I knew it was time to move on. I wanted my involvement with the company to lead from a strategy perspective. Luckily this was right around the time Social Media was coming to the forefront and business were looking for a way to make an impact. The next position I took was with modu mobile as their New Media Marketing manager. Truth be told, I loved the title, which no one really knew what it meant. So, I was basically given the freedom of building an online marketing strategy from the ground up. It was a perfect fit. The mobile industry was new to me but everything I had learned made me ready for it.

The results in the brand awareness I generated for modu a few months into the role were phenomenal. To this day, I thank the management “and the team” who had full confidence in me and the methods I used to present the modu mobile phone concept. One year into my role I flew to Vegas for the 2008 New Media Expo, where one of my biggest career epiphanies occurred….

Two pivotal career moments

Gary Vaynerchuk took the stage for the opening keynote at New Media Expo 2008 at the Las Vegas . The atmosphere in the room was like that of waiting for a rock star to perform. Looking back, It’s not so much what he was said, so much as the way he was presented it. I had seen Gary before only on the Conan O’Brian but listening to him live and seeing the audience’s immediate response was something else. It was the 1st time I felt I could and more importantly should focus all my enthusiasm and understanding of the online marketing industry towards building my own brand. Yes, I was married and 2 daughters to support by then and sticking to a 9-6 job was safe, but I was exploding with ambition. Experiencing the impact and opportunity of new media marketing on such a large scale was a real eye opener. It proved to me that there was legitimate business to be made. That set the trigger that launched Oren Todoros New Media Consulting. I had already created a video blog called Seovice, but It was time to channel my drive in a much more serious direction. I had waited long enough and felt at the top of my game.

The second major boost came when I picked up Donald Trump’s book Think Big. I won’t spend too much time talking about it, suffice to say it’s a must read for anyone who’s building their brand or business. Get it. You’ll thank me “or Donald” later.

Just give it a damn name

What started for me as search engine optimization and link building evolved with the onset of real time social interactions, and has come to be known as Social Media Optimization. For a while it seemed that these two camps were really divided and individuals from each industry thought the other was a total waste of time. The events I had attended and people I met up to this point really only got one or the other. Personally, I thought that there was huge potential in bridging the gap and bringing these two worlds together. As soon as I learned that an event called Affilicon was being organized in 2009. I reached out to the organizer for a speaking opportunity on the Social Media Strategies Panel. I was dead set on using this opportunity to share my thoughts on where our industry was headed on such a large scale.

Far too many in the online marketing industry and our society in general are blind to the potential of learning new methods of reaching their audience towards building their business. Search Optimization, Social Media, New Media Marketing, they’re all dependant on each other. Before there was the “Social Media” title, it was called message boards or forums, so they’ve actually always been there. Search Engines give you more to work with by throwing videos, images and conversations into the search results mix. That alone should ignite your eagerness to learn how to utilize them. Your company, brand, business, whatever, is unique. The only common goals and the ones you need to be most concerned about are communication and reach.

Our industry has evolved countless times over the last few years and will continue to do so at a faster pace than before. You can learn to adapt by being flexible, or you can keep wasting time giving things a name.

Learning from new clients

Oren Todoros New Media Consulting took off faster than I expected. The clients I’ve worked with such as Clip in Touch, modu, Starhome, have all pushed me to take the services and more importantly quality of the online brand building work we do to stellar heights. Here’s a tip if you’re faced with having to close important deals for your own business. Don’t let your competitors beat your enthusiasm. They might offer a lower price, faster service but if genuinely love what you do. No one should beat your enthusiasm.

Whenever I take on a new project, I make it a habit to not only work directly with the person who hired us for the job, but also with as many people within the organization as possible, so that everyone is part of the success. This is especially true when it comes to new media marketing. It’s never a one man show and we’ll never know our client’s business better them, so there absolutely needs to be cooperation and understanding, every step of the way.

Planning to succeed

I’ll conclude with this. Plan to succeed. Don’t go into any project / profession thinking, “I’ll just do what I can here, make a few bucks and move on,” thinking this way actually causes you a huge disservice by setting you back and giving your potential competitors a huge head start.

Trust you’re your instincts, and don’t leave anything up to luck. Work your ass off.