“Find your niche”: Thoughts from the Pittsburgh Women Bloggers panel


Back in June, I spoke on a panel of Pittsburgh-based women bloggers put together by NAWBO of Greater Pittsburgh (National Association of Women Business Owners). The panel included a great mix of savvy women:

and me, representing Pittsburgh Bloggers and My Brilliant Mistakes, as well as this blog.

We had a lively discussion, with great questions from our moderator, Terina J. Hicks, and from the audience. A few points seemed to come up again and again, and have stuck with me since the event.

  1. Pursue your passion, and find your niche. Each blogger has a focus area or set of recurring topics and themes that she is passionate about, and this helps in a couple of ways. It acts as a hook that readers can latch onto in understanding the blog; it allows the blogger to stand out as an expert; and it allows the blogger to explore things that are interesting to her, that she cares about. It’s no fun to focus on a topic that you’re not deeply engaged with, so don’t bother trying. Choose as your focus the thing that matters to you, then cover it as well as you can, and your passion will show.
  2. Success comes from connecting with others. As Heather Hopson put it, “If content is king, collaboration is queen.” Traditional media works to find and connect with an audience; social media, including blogging, is about finding and supporting a community, who have the same tools you do for publishing and connecting. The more you can support others and help them succeed, the more they’ll support you, and the stronger the community becomes. Collaborate with those who are excited about the same things you are.
  3. Share your story: No one else has your unique perspective. With all the blogs, tweets, updates, videos, and other content on the web, we can get the sense that everything worth saying has been said already. But each of us has a story to tell and a personal perspective that’s worth sharing. Be your authentic self, and you’ll be unique.
  4. You are as ready as you need to be. Several people in the audience had questions about the right tools, equipment, and preparation for starting a blog, podcast, or series. While we all acknowledged that some tools can make things easier, we also agreed that the way to become an excellent blogger (or podcaster or web star or what-have-you) is through experience, and the only way to gain is to start. Start now, accept that the first results might not be perfect, and work to improve with each mistake and misstep you make. The first lousy video you post is still infinitely better than the idea for a video that’s trapped in your head. Be bold and start, now.


Thanks very much to NAWBO Pittsburgh for putting together this empowering event and inviting me to participate.

Watch a video review of the NAWBO Women Bloggers panel event.

Related: check out this post, “How to craft the best blog post ever.”

No doubt I could list way more than seven elements from perfect blog posts, but these seven seem to cover all the most important bases.

  1. Headline: the 6 words that count most
  2. Storytelling hook
  3. Fewer characters per line at first
  4. Featured image
  5. Subheads for scanning
  6. Content and the 1,500-word sweet spot
  7. Soundbites for sharing

Interesting research that validates the trends we all see on the web. Read the full post here: http://blog.bufferapp.com/perfect-blog-post-research-data

Please, for the love of clear communication and thought, everyone get this straight: “This Is a Blog Post. It Is Not a “Blog.”

The reasons for avoiding this linguistic boner are pretty simple. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that it can be confusing. No matter what dictionary you check—online, Urban, or otherwise—you will find no definition of blog that means blog post. Saying one to mean the other is like saying magazine when you mean article. The listener or reader may get your drift eventually, but only after they’ve been thrown for a loop.

Blogging and the virtual neighborhood

Blogging and the virtual neighborhood


Porch by sonjalovas

Blogs are front porches reinvented for a digital age, perhaps—platforms that take the inside out and bring the outside in, corridors of courtesy in a digital and fast-paced world.

Kathryn McCollough considers the role of porches in community life, and whether blogs might be a form of virtual porch. (Thanks to Chris at gunky.org for linking to this thoughtful post.)

People often talk of social media replacing the water cooler as the place where people connect and exchange ideas. All social media are not equal in their ability to help us communicate though — Twitter emphasizes speed over nuance, Facebook reinforces existing connections but does less well bringing new connections to the fore. Blogging has its own characteristics as well. Continue reading

Webinar: Blogging for Business – April 27


With so many kind of social media and online networks, is good ol’ blogging still useful for business? Yes! This webinar, intended for independent professionals and business owners, will cover the basics of why and how to create a blog for business, and then how to go beyond the basics to make something amazing. Why blog, how to start, where to find content, how to connect it with other marketing and business processes, and where to find help (especially free resources).

Presenter: Cynthia Closkey, President of Big Big Design

Register for this free webinar

Blogging for Business
Wednesday April 27
11:00am EDT
Register now >>

A few notes about this webinar: It will be a 45 minute seminar, including time for questions. I’ll be covering some of the same information from my session of the same name at Pittsburgh PodCamp 5, but updated for 2011.

How will this webinar compare with the course I’m teaching in May at CCAC, “Nonprofit Blogging for Profit“? Well, the CCAC course will be longer — three hours long — and will include hands-on application of some of the topics covered. And it will focus on special needs of nonprofits.

Follow Me: How to Use Social Networks to Build Visibility & Drive Sales


Today I’ll be speaking on a panel at the 5th Annual Business Technology Conference, organized by the Small Business Development Center at Duquesne University. Our moderator will be Betsy Benson, Publisher and Vice President of Pittsburgh Magazine, and sharing the panel with me will be the delightful Victoria Dilliott, owner of Affogato Coffee Bar.

Our session title: “Follow Me: How to Use Social Networks to Build Visibility & Drive Sales.”

Follow Me: How to Use Social Networks to Build Visibility & Drive Sales

View more presentations from Big Big Design.

My portion of the session will be an evolution of a session I gave at PodCamp Pittsburgh 5, “Blogging for Business.” I wanted to expand on the ideas I’d discussed at PodCamp, going beyond blogging to a more comprehensive social media communications strategy (and actually beyond social media to online communication as a general thing).

The slideshow includes lots of neat visuals from Flickr and elsewhere (all Creative Commons attributed), but there’s one particular visual I’d like to highlight: the “Killer Blog Strategy Mind-Map” diagram by Johnny Haydon. Communications — and social media/online communications in particular — act much like a loop system, and this diagram does a great job of visualizing the loops of causes and effects. A full diagram of the system would be much more complex, but sometimes the complete complexity obscures the core of what’s going on. If you’re trying to set out your plan to build communications (and community) online, this diagram is the place to start.

More notes to come after the presentation.


Thanks to everyone who attended our session. What a fine discussion we had! Very big thanks to Victoria for sharing her story, and to Betsy for moderating the session.

Here is more information for some examples I mentioned during the talk:

Cooks Source controversy: Thorough summary write-up here, the main post by the blogger who first discovered her material had been reprinted without permission.

A sample of how Paper.li shows interesting content from a Twitter account and the users it follows: my Paper.li

Eat’n’Park using social media for last-minute promotions during the Stanley Cup playoffs: coverage in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (6/21/2009)

Cover It Live: great tool for liveblogging an event


Last night I attended an interesting discussion at Pitt, “The Future of the Book.” I knew ahead of time that I’d want to share my notes, and I was curious how others might react to the ideas.

So I set up an event on Cover It Live. It’s a simple-to-use gadget for documenting anything as it happens, and it’s able to integrate content from a number of sources — multiple panelists or contributors, Twitter, Facebook, and logged in or anonymous commentors. I’d seen bloggers use it during events like this year’s State of the Union address, and I wanted to try it myself.

Continue reading

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Content Marketing General Social media

two women reading newspaper on park bench

I’m cool with “social marketing” and businesses’ presence in social networks. Obviously.

I like blog comments. A lot.

However, it seems I will forever cringe while reading comments on social marketing blogs.

What do you say we try a little experiment with this social marketing blog post!

[I should probably clarify, I’ve never had a problem with any comment on this blog. We don’t get many, and they’re rarely, if ever, from the cringe-worthy marketing professionals you see elsewhere.]

Here’s my idea:

Shut out the centralized, public comments.

There are other places where you can commnet on this very post. Google Reader, Google Buzz, Twitter, Facebook, message boards, and other blogs. Heck, you can even talk about it offline! Hopefully, you already know plenty of people who want to hear your opinion of my ideas. People who want your answers to my questions. People who are interested to know which questions you find most interesting.

You’re not commenting just because you like people to see your name and link, right?

So, I’m going to offer a few ideas and questions, in conclusion. Now that you’ve read this post, start a discussion about it amongst the people who already know you. Feel free to invite me into your network to participate. Tell me I’m wrong to my face, it’s cool.

[I was trying to decide if I should leave the “trackbacks” (pingbacks) on.

Cindy offered, “One hazard of this suggestion is that it becomes the original author’s (your) responsibility to report back to the blog audience on responses to posts. So then you’re setting yourself up as a filter. Open comments avoid this problem; so do trackbacks. They promote transparency.”

So, the comment thread can link back to those responding blog posts.]

Okay, then. Here are those questions:

  • What does my post and this blog lose from closing the comments to this post?
  • What do I gain? What do other readers gain? What do your blogs, and social circles gain by commenting “locally?”
  • I’m drawing my line at posts about and for social marketing professionals. I’m not suggesting businesses using blogs to talk to their consumers should do anything like this. But could that line be better drawn some place else?

Let me know where you think.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon