Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Do’s and Don’ts of Sponsored Blog Posts

Sponsored blog posts are one of the most popular ways for influential bloggers to make money. With popularity comes confusion over what is effective and engaging and what is not. Are stock photos sufficient for imagery purposes? Do you have to include a disclosure? The next time you have an opportunity to write a sponsored post, consider these tips:


  • Add a disclosure at the top of your post before any content or photos.
  • Use 1 or 2 SEO keywords in your post title and in the first paragraph of your post.
  • Link one of the keywords to your client’s website as a “nofollow” link. (Find out more about “nofollow” links here.)
  • Make sure all client links are coded as “nofollow”.
  • Include at least 1 “hero” image in your post as well as 3-5 additional high quality original images that support the story. (The hero image is the first thing a reader will see in your post and is meant to set the tone for your story below it.  In sponsored posts, the hero post often integrates the client’s product in the photo).
  • Check your grammar and spelling…and then double-check it.
  • Tell a story about how you incorporate your client’s product into your life.
  • Teach your readers something (how to make something, how to do something)
  • Be professional while speaking in your unique voice.
  • Ask the brand to share your blog post on their social channels.


  • Accept a sponsored post for a brand that does not fit with your blog’s current content.
  • Agree to a deadline you can’t meet.
  • Forget a disclosure in a post and any subsequent social shares
  • Write a review.  People can find reviews on the brand’s website or on retailers’ websites.
  • Use stock photos unless the brand requires you to do so.
  • Badmouth the brand publically. Send them a private message if you are not satisfied with their product…or if working with a blogger network, notify your direct contact.

Where to Focus Your Marketing Efforts When Targeting Hispanics

Written by Natalia Carter

I still remember my first marketing class when I had to organize a business strategy. The most important page was where we have to define the target, as it is the key to designing all the sales tactics. This has not changed. But considering that my classes were taken in Colombia, there were many points that now, as resident of the United States, we did not consider. The American market is characterized as multicultural. We are talking about a country of immigrants. And where once a minority, Hispanic immigrants now make up a large part of the population. Most brands have been working to connect with and sell to this demographic, with mixed results.  So this begs the question where should you focus your target efforts when your audience is Hispanic?

To answer this question we must first recognize that over 60% of Hispanics in this country have Mexican heritage. As a result, there is a general preference for a certain kind of language. In the case of those Hispanics with Mexican heritage, it is the Spanish spoken in Mexico. As a rule, when a brand is specifically targeting a group of people it is preferable to keep the language spoken in that country. Once this is understood, we must then consider the next useful classification: age.

Usually Hispanics over 45 years old reported feeling more comfortable buying when the message is transmitted in their first language. They are also more likely to watch TV and be influenced by commercials. Also, word of mouth is still popular. On the other hand, the younger audience is not only bilingual, but they speak English more often. And though commercials are effective with younger audiences, those with the involvement of a celebrity are more seen as more trustworthy. Recently, social networks have also gained space in this younger sector. Facebook and Twitter are the most noteworthy.  From surfing the net to looking for reviews about products and services, use has increased significantly. And this is where the importance of blogging has seen tremendous gains.

Given the above information, and the rapid changes in communications technology, brands must now focus on meeting their customers where they are and not where they want them to be. In the past, companies were the ones who decided that where, when, and how customers would be reached.  They dictated the communication.  Today, the story is quite different. Brands must be alert and constantly analyze the platforms their audiences prefer.

Natalia Carter is a social media professional with more than 5 years experience creating social media campaigns and blog content on her site, Comiendo en LA.  Born and raised in Colombia, she and her family moved to Spain when she was young. It was there that she learned the wonders of travel, meeting new people, and Spanish food. Natalia has a degree in Business from CESA in Bogotá, Colombia. After living in different countries, she finally settled in Los Angeles. The city’s beauty, people, and rich cultures sparked her decision to create her blog which is now a hub for Hispanic foodies.  You can tweet her at @ComiendoEnLA

5 Ways to Maintain Balance In Your Work Life When You’re a One Wo/Man Operation

Written by Patricia A. Patton 

So maybe you’ve been blogging for a while now, following best practices for being recognized but you find yourself hitting a proverbial wall. Even though you know better than to chase every new shiny thing that appears in the digital arena, you still engage in this practice. There you are reading and clicking through articles for the entire day, but might this not be a sign? If chasing new things is what you do over a sustained period of time, you will find you have little to show for your time. When I find this happening in my life, I know that as a one wo/man operation, I have lost balance in my work life. For regardless of the importance of research, the truth is that if no work is being completed, gathering nuts alone will not take you far.

Here are the strategies I have learned over the past several years about working alone, feeling isolated and winding up with an imbalance in my output:

Embrace the Problem
Some people seem to have their operation on auto pilot. But in my experience, frustration makes its occasional visits and it’s pretty natural to experience some burnout when you are responsible for all aspects of your blogging business success. If you find yourself running from one set of suggestions to another with a slightly different focus but similar goals and you are feeling drained, it is time to accept that you are engaged in some aspects of burnout and are in need of balance in your work life .

Revamp Your Work Practice
I know it sounds silly to say begin by moving more. Get physical. Get up from your sitting position away from your computer at least once every hour. Take a few moments to work another part of your brain. For me this means not sitting inside the home office, i.e hanging with my computer from morning until 10 pm. It is important to finish projects; but staying in one place is not always productive. And just because you are online all day does not necessarily mean its been a productive day. I said that earlier. Secondly,  put everything you think you want to read that you find online but takes you off course in a particular file like, Evernote. Then when you take a break, go through your reading. Keep notes on the new  thoughts and content that comes from this practice that might be woven into future posts. Try this strategy by allocating a given time frame for follow up either once or twice a day for short periods. This way, you don’t need to feel guilty and you can keep your focus.

This year I had a breakthrough that I think will help you maintain balance in your work life. I actually tried thinking strategically about how to integrate the lessons I’d learned from my blogging experience into a more profitable and commercially viable format. I created what I felt was missing in terms of the community I wanted. Lo and behold, I assembled a small but engaging group of black boomer bloggers with whom I have collaborated to create a White paper, anecdotal research and an ebook as a group. This practice actually leverages my Klout and increases my engagement.

Leverage your momentum
Until recently I’d never spent time on LinkedIn. I thought of it as a place for professional people looking for 9-5 jobs. But it is not simply that. Linkedin is a place to establish your
expertise and to market your business. I published a post about an experience I’d had
when my private internist closed her business. This event precipitated thoughts about
personalized medicine and the future of health. Eighty-three people have since read
this post, the number would be less if it was simply on my web site. With diminishing
comments and more retweeting, this is a respectable improvement. I am leveraging
my momentum by beefing up my LinkedIn profile, taking advantage of the community
features, and leveraging LinkedIn as a business marketing tool.

Schedule Regular Time Away From Work
The practice of unplugging is more powerful than it suggests. In order to maintain balance
in your work life we must all take time away from our work. When I have time to breathe
deeply, I sometimes awaken with a completed message and clarity of focus. I highly
suggest, organized time away from work even if you are the Boss.

You can find Patricia blogging about health, technology and travel at

Why Eliminating the Fan-Gates is a Good Thing for Brands

Facebook recently announced they will eliminate the fan-gating as of November 5th and will not allow brands to require users to “like” the page before gaining access to content, apps or offers, for example. This is one of the better moves Facebook has made.

You don’t want to bully likes out of people anyway.

The only people who thought paid fans were good were the poor social media managers who used like-gated promotions to meet the arbitrary growth goals set by managers who valued the quantity of likes over the quality of conversation and engagement.

Facebook has already made fans acquired this way relatively worthless anyway, given news feed algorithm changes.  They likely weren’t seeing your posts if they weren’t interested in your content.  This move empowers social media, employees and brands to help shift the conversation to the value of engaged followers, versus numbers of likes.

It forces brands to start thinking about what true engagement is all about. And puts greater emphasis on creating quality content for motivate driving fans, which means “likes” will actually mean more because fans will be people who want to engage with the brand.

This is actually a relatively minor move, given changes to custom tabs and apps over the last year or two, that merely continues Facebook’s trajectory of moving away from tabs, apps, and promotions.  It’s incredibly difficult to get views on your custom tabs without paid media in the current iteration of “Facebook Pages.”  This is where most apps and promotions lived in the past.

Yes, you need fans, but unless they’re truly engaged, you’re spending good money after bad.

The Ultimate Moment of Truth

I recently sat in on a webinar that Brian Solis, Digital Analyst and Principal at Altimeter Group and Nick Stein, SVP of Marketing Vision Critical gave based off of Brian’s book, “What’s the Future of Business? Changing the way businesses create customer experiences.”

Brian believes there has been a shift in customers’ expectations and there is no doubt that consumers are becoming increasingly empowered, demanding and impatient as a result of social media and technology.

Solis feels brands are just pushing out stories and measuring engagement. Companies need to move from monologue to dialogue. Moving from monologue to dialogue means amending the way we think and interact with customers. Conversation shouldn’t begin with putting content into a content calendar and then posting it on a social channel, just to wait and see if the audience shares or comments. That content should be part of an architected customer experience.

According to Solis, there are two types of customers: traditional and connected. Digital natives are more intuitive than traditional customers who have to think about things. He calls it “Generation C.” Generation C is always on. Brian said, “We are now trying to connect with an audience of audiences.  We need to remember that people who live a digital lifestyle aren’t like other customers.”  His example of a teenager reminded me of that. A study showed that six minutes is the average timeframe a teenager can concentrate on homework before switching to a tech distraction. (But teens aren’t the only people who are multitaskers–namely, the digital mother.) I think this is true of many digital natives. Building a great customer experience for this distracted consumer versus a traditional customer is a very different path. And architecting that experience is critical.


The moment of truth has changed. It can happen anywhere today– even in an app or on a social network. People are using social sites as search engines. And they are building shared experiences. Those shared experiences are the consumer’s “Ultimate Moment of Truth” and they leave behind a discoverable digital footprint of content that becomes the next consumer’s Zero Moment of Truth.

Consistent Communication: Create An Editorial Style Guide For Your Company

Written by Jamie Smith

Consistent Communication: Create An Editorial Style Guide For Your Company

Hundreds, if not thousands of words flow out of your company every week be it in written communication, project pitches or through your content marketing efforts such as social media and a company blog.

Here’s a question: are you presenting a unified message in all these communications? Is one person who is writing to represent your company using one style and another person using a completely different style? That can not only get confusing, it’s bad for branding.

Establishing an editorial style guide is vital for any company that uses any form of written communication, be it in print or online. A style guide is especially important for companies that have multiple employees or contract writers creating content on the business’ behalf.

Let’s take a moment to clarify something. You might be thinking “But our marketing/design agency already created a style sheet for us.” That was more than likely a design style sheet that address colors in your logo and website design issues. An editorial style guide is a set of “rules,” so to speak, that addresses how your company communicates in written words.

Why do we need this set of rules? Our writers are good at what they do

There’s no doubt your communications team, be it employees or freelancers, are top-notch. But even amazing writers need a guideline to know how to express thoughts consistently.

Editorial style guides are even important for a one-person communication team because unless that person is planning to work at the company for the rest of his or her natural life, there will eventually be someone new creating content. It will be obvious to many readers when someone new comes and minor and not so minor style issues change.

A company editorial style guide is important for several reasons including branding and time efficiency. Branding is all about reputation and how the world sees your company, right? People will notice if you use inconsistent communication, especially if it’s in the same document. It’s important to always appear that you know what you’re doing as a company and being able to communicate effectively and consistently is a big part of that image.

Editorial style guidelines can also protect your branding in that it provides a consistent way for your company name to appear. For example, are you an affiliate that must have the copyright symbol in your name on first mention? That’s important to note.

Another reason to have an editorial style guide is time efficiency. If you have an individual person in your office managing several contract writers, it’s very likely that person is spending a lot of time editing the pieces for consistency or to follow the style rules that person is accustomed to using. All that work (and time on the clock) simply because a uniform style guide has never been communicated or even developed.

How do I create an editorial style guide?

The first answer to that question is that you don’t necessarily have to be the creator. Yes, the marketing department (in some companies that’s the owner!) should have a voice in developing the guidelines so that they are complete. But if you don’t have a communications team already in place the guideline development can easily be outsourced to a professional writer or a qualified marketing agency. No matter who creates the document, multiple websites host template editorial style guides that will make the task much easier.

The first step to creating an editorial style guide is to determine what set of rules are your “fall back” source. For example, most newspapers use Associated Press style and many other publications use the Chicago Manual of Style.

It’s then important to note any exceptions to the chosen style guide and to call out specific topics that will be used most often.

Here are some areas to consider for your editorial style guide:

• Punctuation: do you use periods in your times (p.m. vs pm)? Do you use long dashes? Do you use the Oxford comma?

• Tone/voice(s): Will each writer who contributes have their own voice and write in first person or are all blogs and communications written in third person plural? Is the tone serious, friendly, etc.?

• Abbreviations: What style of state abbreviations do you use? What words are commonly abbreviated or never abbreviated? While we’re talking about it, do you use contractions or not?

• Titles: Do you capitalize? Place them before or after the name? Does everyone get their title used? Names of other businesses should always include the way the company itself spells its own name.

• Branding notes: Do you need to make sure that your company name has a trademark symbol? How can it be referred to on references after the first time in a document? How is your organization described?

• People references: It’s usually considered more correct to use “people first language” (person with a disability instead of disabled person, for example). This needs to be clarified. But to further the discussion, do you refer to your customers as customers, clients or something else? What are your employees called?

• Sourcing: What are appropriate research resources and how are they to be cited?

One more note for success with your editorial style guide: Make it available in an online form for your staff and freelance team. This could easily be done through Google Docs so that the document isn’t available to everyone. Providing an online version makes it easier to access and update.

Lions, Tigers and Business, Oh My!

What do lions, clowns and business have in common? President and CEO of Collective Bias, Bill Sussman, recently shared his insights in The American Genius.

Taking inspiration from his time as VP of Marketing for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Bill delved out five core business lessons. Lesson number one? In the raucous arena that is today’s constantly changing marketplace, a strong core team is essential. No matter what kind of service or product your business is offering to the rest of the world, it will not succeed without the substantial foundation that only a supportive roster of employees can provide. Each department within your business should be considered as important as the next: each act should collectively contribute to an overall stellar show. If you are not striking the right balance of responsibility and accountability in each department, it will visibly show through in your delivery to the public. When that balance is found, the result is as dazzling as an acrobat flying hundreds of feet in the air. “A successful delivery means a loyal customer base and a means to grow sales year after year,” Bill said.

To learn how every workday should be like opening night at the circus and other paramount modern business lessons, read Bill’s article here.