MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Twitter Chat on 5/22

b bar twitter chat

It’s finally time for happy hour! Remember when we asked you about getting together for a Twitter chat here? Well, mark your calendars, friends: The B Bar’s first ever Twitter chat will take place on Thursday, May 22 at 9pm EDT/6pm PDT. We can’t wait to have a cocktail with you!

For this first chat, Meg and I discussed what topics we get the most questions on, as well as what your input was when we requested topics previously. By far, the majority of the questions we get asked all relate back to one thing: taking your blog from hobby to business. How do you know when you’re ready? When should you invest money? What does a hobby blog look like versus a blog that’s a business? Is it necessary to invest a lot of money? How do you start to guarantee partnerships that make your time and money investment worth it? If these thoughts have ever run through your head, we hope you’ll attend (and enjoy!) our first Twitter chat.

We’ll remind you of all this again, but on the day of the chat, follow along with the hashtag #BBarHH (HH is for happy hour, of course!). We’ll also release the chat’s questions early in the week of May 19th (if not sooner!), so you can come prepared with follow up questions and answers. And, if you’re signed up for our newsletter, you’ll receive some of our favorite nuggets of advice from the chat straight to your Inbox in the days following!

If you can’t make this chat, don’t fret — we’ll host another one soon, and the next chat will be on a weekend morning to help accommodate varying schedules!

We’re so excited to connect with you all in a more immediate, personal way, and can’t wait to chat with you on May 22. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let us know!

both-sig

Advice from a Blogger: Changing Your Blog Name

blogging advice - changing your blog's name

 

Sasithon Photography for Clara Persis

Believe it or not, it’s common for bloggers to contemplate changing their site name at some point during the lifespan of their blog. Often, the names we selected when we first started out no longer represent us or the work we do. But, making the switch can feel so daunting! Blogger and social media consultant Clara Artschwager recently went through the process of changing the name of her blog and going through a complete re-brand. Today, she walks us through the steps she took to manage the process, and why she decided to make such a big change in the first place. Take it away, Clara!

My reasons for starting a blog back in January of 2011 had nothing to do with why I blog today. At the time I was working as an event planner at a company in Washington, D.C. I was relatively uninspired in my day job, but couldn’t leave because I was holding out for a promotion and moving back to New York that summer. So I started a blog called Channeling Contessa, aptly named because I was a passionate eater and at home cook, and loved the Barefoot Contessa.

That first year the site purely served as a creative outlet; a place for me to post what I was cooking and eating. Even though I never anticipated it would amount to much (2011 felt very late to start dabbling in the blogging game), I worked diligently to constantly improve the quality. I invested in a nice camera, taught myself how to take better food photos, networked online like mad, and began to expand the content to other lifestyle areas. In addition, when I moved to NYC in the summer of 2011, I began working for myself, which made it much easier to devote more time to the blog. In many ways 2011 was the seed year, and in 2012 things really took off. I landed some major press, my audience more than tripled in size, and the blog really began to serve as a marketing platform for my work.

Even though I had a dedicated page on my blog which listed my business services, a separate business website, and several blog posts which explained my role as a social and digital marketing and branding strategist, more often than not my entire persona was wrapped up in food. This was financially beneficial in many ways, as it opened doors to sponsored content and allowed me to become a part of several magazine’s blogger networks. But being seen as a food blogger or being mistaken as a food stylist long term, was working against me, not for me. I always saw blogging as simply a component of my brand (not the sole thing), and as a conduit to something else.

Furthermore, my brand was so tied to someone else’s brand! I remember a trusted mentor saying to me back in 2012, “When are you going to get her brand out of your brand?” Her words stopped me dead in my tracks. It was so true. Ina Garten would always own the term “contessa,” the site wasn’t directly reflective of me or my client services, and it wasn’t serving to most effectively grow my business. I knew I needed to make the switch, not only in the name, look, and feel of my brand, but in the overall nature of the site. The blog needed to become somewhat secondary.

My business was already called Clara Persis, so it made sense to bring everything under that brand. Also, after reading various articles, books, and resources on the method of naming a business, I felt it would be best to go with my name (Clara is my first, Persis is my middle). It had the most longevity, and was unique to me. It couldn’t be anyone else’s brand. I teamed up with the wildly talented designer Erika Bretchel in the summer of 2012 to work to bring that brand to life. Five months later we launched clarapersis.com, with the blog simply becoming the Clara Persis blog.

I suppose my biggest regret was not making the transition sooner, because this brand not only feels much more true to me, but has really empowered my business- it’s grown significantly because of it. That said, so much of working for yourself is learning as you go, accepting that you’re going to make mistakes, and recognizing things always take longer than you think. The process of designing and building the site taught me so much about what it means to build a brand, as well as what it means to maintain it. A brand is a living, breathing thing; in a way, it’s never complete. The new site has really opened my eyes to other ways in which I can work to constantly improve the external representation of my brand and best leverage it to grow my work, whether that be in the form of video content, new copy, site features, and so forth. The reality is that will be an ongoing feeling and effort for the rest of my career. But as it should be! A key lesson to be learned for any business owner.

I loved learning about Clara’s journey and actually found her insights so helpful on a very personal level too. Let’s hear from you guys — have you ever contemplated changing the name of your blog and business? What stopped you from doing so? If you did go through with it, was your experience similar to Clara’s? And if you decided to stick with your name, what made you decide to do so?

victoria sig

LET’S DISCUSS: Disclosing Advertisements and Paid Endorsements on Your Blog

how to disclose paid promotion and gifted items on your blog

Disclosures. Ironically, one of the simplest “do’s” for any blogger can also be among the most confusing. Yesterday, I enjoyed reading this post from Garance Doré on how she’s choosing to approach sponsored content, and specifically, how she will indicate when content on her site is promotional. It was a great essay that made it clear to her readers what they could expect from her over the long haul. And after all, that kind of publisher/reader trust is theoretically why a brand would want to compensate you to talk about them in the first place, no?

Inspired by her post, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk a little bit about disclosures — how everyone handles them, what’s required of you, what’s not, and where the gray area is (and actually, in writing this post, I learned a lot of new things!). Also included below is an excellent FAQ section that I’ve re-purposed from the FTC website, and it even covers how to disclose affiliate links (um, rewardStyle anyone?).

Lucky for American bloggers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has two guides to help navigate these sometimes tricky waters. The first is .Com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, which was just updated last year. The second is Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. This second one is especially pertinent for bloggers, since many times, we serve as endorsers more than we do direct advertisers.

Here’s the most important point to take away (this one’s from the .Com Disclosures guide):

Disclosures that are required to prevent an advertisement from being deceptive, unfair, or otherwise violative of a Commission rule, must be presented “clearly and conspicuously.”

  Read more »

HOW TO: TAKE A VACATION BUT STILL POST ON YOUR BLOG (BUT NOT WHILE YOU ARE ON VACAY!)

coney island beach by mina teslaru

Coney Island Beach by Mina Teslaru

Blogging and vacation. Working during your vacation sort of defeats the purpose, no? So what do you do when you are leaving on an extended vacation? I’ve got a few trips coming up, so I’ve got this concern on my own mind! There are several options you can do depending on what you have time for. Not all of these options will help you keep your traffic consistent, but sometimes you just need a break and that’s ok.

Ideas for Blogging Around Vacations

1. Do all posts the week before and schedule them to post while you are gone. You can of course work double time before you leave and schedule regular posts for each day while you are gone. This requires the most work, but it won’t even be like you are gone.

2. Point your followers to your Instagram. Do a post before you leave linking to your Instagram if you plan on posting a lot of photos to Instagram while you are gone and tell your audience to follow you there while you are gone. This might not keep your traffic on your blog steady — but it could help you grow your Instagram following.

3. Just take the time off. Isn’t that what vacations are for!? Do a post before you leave telling your audience that you are taking the week off, and to come back on a specific date when you’ll be back up and running. You’ll be so refreshed and inspired after some time off.

4. Put together a guest post series. A few weeks before you leave, send an email out to a few of your blogger buddies and see if they will do a guest post for you while you are gone. Have them submit it to you a week or two before you leave, so you can design/write the post and schedule it for while you are gone. Victoria actually did a great series like this when she went to wine country for a week. She asked some of us to pick out what we’d take to wine country — boom! Easy guest post series while she’s gone that related to her trip. Here’s an example — my picks for wine country.

5. Repurpose old posts. What does this mean? If you have a few posts from a year or so ago that were just really good and aren’t season specific, you can repurpose the content. I wrote a really funny post about Thin Mints (the cookies) in 2009 that still applies to my readers today. Five years ago I probably had different readers than I do now, so I could easily shape up the post (do a little rewriting or add to it) and use the same content with a few tweaks.

6. Write a follow-up post. Similar to repurposing an old post, if you wrote something a while ago and now you have a new take on it, write a follow-up to it. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. Something simple, honest, and inspired is always a good way to go.

And while you are on vacation — if you want to — document it (don’t we all do that anyway) and use the content to share with your readers when you get back.

meg sig

6 Ways to Manage Your Inbox

tools to help you manage email

Ohhhhhh email. How I both love you and despise you. If you guys are anything like me, you’re in a constant struggle to keep up (or rather keep down) with your Inbox. In addition to using tools like Gmail’s canned responses (Meg has a great tutorial on that here) and learning to be okay with using the delete button judiciously, I’ve come across a bunch of great tools that can help anyone manage their email. I’m a big fan of Unroll.me (listed below!), but a few of these other ones look like they’d be really effective too. Check it out:

SaneBox

What it is: SaneBox determines the importance of each email based on your past behavior within your Inbox.  It will move messages you care less about right out of your Inbox into a separate folder, then summarizes them for you in a digest. In addition to a one-click unsubscribe feature, you can also set up reminders to respond to emails you’ve received or follow up with people you sent emails to. There’s also a nifty “snooze” feature so you can ignore emails that don’t need an immediate response. And, I love that SaneBox allows you to seamlessly move any email attachments to Dropbox!

Recommended if: Your email is really, really out of control, but you rely on it for literally every aspect of your personal and business life.

Cost: $7-$36 depending on the plan you choose; for most of us, the lowest plan would probably be fine.

Unroll.me

What it is: After signing up, Unroll.me displays a list of every single email listserv you’re subscribed to. Add the ones you want to keep to your “Roll Up”, unsubscribe from the ones you don’t. From then on, all the subscriptions you want to keep will arrive via a single email in an easy to follow daily digest. It’s as amazing as it sounds.

Recommended if: your email newsletter subscriptions are out of control, but you want to stay subscribed for the occasional sale or promotional code.

Cost: Free!

Mailbox

What it is: Mailbox is a redesigned inbox that you can add to your mobile devices. The app allows you to quickly work through emails, swiping and slashing to move things to archive and trash. It also has snooze functionality, and you can set up push notifications to receive new emails on your home screen.

Recommended if: You hate both the native iOS or Android Mail app, and can’t get behind Gmail’s mobile app either.

Cost: Free!

Emailga.me

What it is: Basically what it sounds like. With Email Game, you set a timer and compete against yourself to make it through your Inbox!

Recommended if: You’re super competitive by nature. And have a lot of emails you’ve been avoiding.

Cost: Free!

Boomerang

What it is: Boomerang allows you to control when you send and receive messages in the Chrome, Safari and Firefox browsers. You can set reminders for yourself to send emails, as well as to follow up with people when you haven’t heard back, and you can automatically schedule messages to go out whenever you want!

Recommended if: You need a way to pace when you’re receiving responses. For me, I often find that if I get on an email kick and clean out my Inbox, sending all those emails usually results in responses back…which defeats the purpose of the clean out session entirely! If you work in a position where you have clients, it’s also a great way to remind yourself to follow up with new leads.

Cost: Free!

Taskforce

What it is: A nifty app that integrates into your Gmail and allows you to turn emails into tasks. With Taskforce, you can even share those tasks with friends and colleagues, regardless of whether they use the app!

Recommended if: You find that new emails result in you adding new items to your To-Do list. Taskforce allows them to be one in the same.

Cost: Free!

Have you tried any of these? What do you think? What are your favorite ways to manage your Inbox?

victoria sig