Instagram & Giveaways

Instagram is one of those platforms that I started using for personal reasons.  I just really liked it.

Instagram giveaways

I have been on it for awhile as seen by my over 500 posts – and really only a handful of those had anything to do with the fact that I am a blogger {you can find me as @Texasholly}.

As Instagram has grown in popularity, sponsors and my own competitive nature has started looking at follower numbers.

Ick.

In the last month or so I have made a conscious effort over there in terms of increasing numbers and what I have found is that it is a bit different than other social networks I hang out on…of course!  Nothing these days is simple.

It is a weird thing that people on Instagram un-follow if you don’t post.  Oh, and they un-follow if you post too much.

I am not sure what the magic number is, but it is likely different for everyone based on their followers.

One thing I have had success with is giveaways.  Giveaways on Instagram are quick ways to increase numbers, but don’t get too attached to those new followers because they seem to un-follow in herds.  On one of the giveaways, I had lost nearly 1/3rd of my new followers within days.

AND I WASN’T POSTING CRAP!

Here are the three different giveaways that I have tried:

Group Instagram Follow – Blog-based

Instagram giveaway group

I have done this twice lately.  You can see my blog post on Kids Activities Blog for this Instagram Giveaway.

Basically, I have teamed up with a group of other bloggers and thrown money into a pot.  A widget like Gleam or Rafflecopter is used to have everyone’s Instagram profile included and each follow is an entry.  It grabs the attention of the readers you have on your blog who might be on Instagram.

The issue I have with this is that there is little actual Instagram interaction – I promoted it on Instagram, but it is awkward to send people to the blog from Instagram to enter.

I am not a fan of Instagram not allowing links.

Flash Giveaway on Instagram – Easy Partnering

Instagram Flash Giveaway

On this one, another account {@thedailymomapp} gave away one of our books with instructions to follow and tag.

I then posted a notice that it was happening and sent them her direction.

This was super easy and I picked up a few extra followers.

Flash Giveaway on Instagram – GroupRound Robin Giveaway on Instagram

This one is going on until tonight at 7 pm MT.  You can find it on my Instagram.

It is a group of IGers each throwing their own giveaway worth around $50 and sending IGers to the next through a tag on the photo {kinda genius, eh?}.  It is very similar to what I have participating in many times on FB.  While this one will likely end up adding a few less followers than the first one above, I love that it is ACTIVE IGers that see and follow.  To see that much interaction on my account just makes me smile.  My guess is that there won’t be as many un-follows either because the other participants run similar {albeit more beautiful} IG accounts.

What about you?  What has your Instagram experience been?  How have you increased your following?

 

Is Twitter Worth My Time?

I hosted a three-hour workshop at Declare Conference this weekend about social media.  The 15 poor souls involved got a Holly overdose, but it was a ton of fun.

Is Twitter Worth My Time - Business 2 Blogger

Throughout the workshop, question cards were being passed forward for discussion.  I love a good question and I thought this one was really concise and straightforward.  I bet it is something you have wondered lately too.

Is Twitter Worth My Time?

Maybe!

{Class dismissed.}

OK, let’s step back and work toward that answer in two ways:

What is Your Goal?

What is your goal with Twitter?  What is your goal with blogging?

My goal is to drive traffic to my website, Kids Activities Blog.  My goal with Twitter would be to support that goal.

To see if my time spent on Twitter is supporting that goal, I went to Google Analytics to find out how many hits from Twitter I had in the last 30 days.

I went to “Acquisition” –> “All Referrals” –> Searched Twitter in the search box

The verdict was dismal.  Twitter sent me a whopping 22 visits in the last 30 days.  That wouldn’t even be in my top 100 referral sources.  Maybe not even in the top 500.

For me, it is a no.

But your goal may be different.  Twitter is amazing for community-building.  If you are seeking interaction and support or giving support, your answer may be very different from mine.

Do You Have the Time?

The second part of this discussion is simply a matter of time.  There are only 24 hours in a day and we can’t do everything.  Once you have identified your primary goal, then you need to budget your time realistically to support that.

Let’s say your primary goal is community-building so your answer on the last question was different than mine.  Now I want you to make a list of where you are currently having success supporting your peeps – FB? G+? Private community? Blog comments? Tumblr? Instagram?

Are you having more success in another place?  Would your time be better spent adding more effort to that vs. Twitter?

Every single person will have a different thought-process on that.

Purpose-driven Time

When you break things down according to how they support your goal, it gets easier and easier to make decisions about what you should devote precious online minutes to.  And this may change from week to week or day to day.

Just be thoughtful and avoid the social media black hole!

Blog Photography Tip – Getting Good Kitchen Shots

Way back in the early days of blogging, photography was an after-thought.

Just a nice way to punctuate our wise words.

Kitchen Photography without a flash

Now it it a necessity!

With most social media being visually-based, getting traffic is dependent on the photo that is shared.

The pressure!!!

Thankfully, getting a good picture is getting easier and easier.  But one area of the house that often doesn’t have enough natural light is the kitchen.

Oh, and budget for an additional 20 minutes to scoop all the dirty dishes off the counter.

That is why Rachel Miller and I have another option to share!  Rachel is my blogging partner at Kids Activities Blog and while we don’t do a ton of food photography, we are often photographing kids activities at the “kitchen counter”.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more blogging tips!

Facebook: Organic Growth Podcast with Michael Stelzner

I had the pleasure of chatting with Michael Stelzner from Social Media Examiner in his Social Media Marketing Podcast about Facebook and the journey that Kids Activities Blog has taken to arrive at our current FB community of over 585,000 fans.

Organic Facebook Growth with Holly Homer

I want to thank Michael for letting me tell our story…y’all know how I love to chat.

Please hop over to Social Media Examiner for Facebook Organic Growth:  How to Defy the Odds and Grow a Huge Facebook Community!

7 Days of Pinterest Adventure – Join Me!

As many of you know, I have been concentrating much of my social media time on Facebook over the last few months.  It has been worth my time and energy and the resulting blog traffic has been awesome.

Pinterest strategy

The problem is that you can’t be EVERYWHERE at once.  So, some of my other social media profiles have suffered…

anyone following me on G+ right now probably believes that I am dead.

This week I am taking back my Pinterest account from quiet slumber.

I am devoting 1 hour per day to the account and writing about it here at B2B so you can join me if your Pinterest has also been sleeping!

On your mark, get set, go…60 minutes on the clock.

What I did today – DAY ONE

First 20 minutes -

  1. Deleted boards – I went through quickly and deleted 15 boards that I was a contributor, but hadn’t pinned anything in 6 months.  I figured if I hadn’t used it, the space could be given to someone else!  I have over 100 boards…so it is getting a bit ridiculous.  I have a feeling I will be able to delete a few more as I get deeper into this, but for now 15 seems a lot lighter!
  2. Renamed a board – I had one board that I started that I hadn’t used much.  It had good content, so I renamed it something that was related, but would get more use.
  3. Look at my secret boards – I haven’t used these much, so I was unfamiliar with what I was thinking when I started them!  Getting re-acquainted with the possibilities…

Second 20 minutes -

Pinned/scheduled my new blog content {6 pins} and found 15 other quality pins to schedule/share from other blogs/websites.

Last 20 minutes -

I found my largest 3 boards and because they are all boards that I am a contributor to, I read the description/instructions and wrote those down!  I created a “schedule” to use them to their fullest potential finding posts that fit the boards and either scheduling them or adding them to a spread sheet that will make it an easy share later this week.

Whew.  OK, I feel like I have just scratched the surface of what needs to be accomplished, but the good news is that there are solid pins going out today and for the rest of the week on my top 3 boards...and tomorrow is another day!

DAY TWO

After day one, I realized how big this job was going to be!  So, my main project today is to get a bit more done without feeling completely overwhelmed.

Baby steps.

Today, I spent the majority of my time finding the rest of my top 10 boards – the ones that seem to get the best re-pin rate.  The funny thing is that it isn’t always a numbers game.  Some of my smaller boards do better than the larger ones.

But, I wanted to identify my top 10 boards {that I am a contributor too} so that I could have those with a scheduling plan by the end of the day.

Oh, and I also noticed this morning when I looked at my blog live Google Analytics is that the morning is REALLY low for Pinterest traffic.  I don’t know if that is because I don’t pin in the morning to my blog or if it is just a low traffic time.  I am going to schedule some early morning pins for a week or two and see if I can change that pattern at all.

DAY THREE

 Shhh…life got in the way and day three was a bit later than day three.

I hung out on Pinterest and took a hard look at the remaining boards.  I had 110 boards remaining after day one.  That is still REALLY OVERWHELMING.

My first investigation was to look at how many people were on a new board when I created it.  For me, that is around 30K.  When I got to looking at many of the group boards I was a member of, I noticed that they had a smaller following.  I started removing myself from those boards unless they had a crazy-high repin rate.

I deleted myself from 24 more boards.

I had to be pretty ruthless.  I needed to get this under control!  Ack!

After all that deleting, I noticed that I was down about 500 followers…not bad for deleting 1/4th of my boards.

DAY FOUR

After the board purge, I was feeling better about what was left.  It was something that seemed to be manageable.

I am attacking it from two different ways -

  1. The top 10 boards will be scheduled and handled separately from the rest – many of them have restrictive rules.  I plan on pinning to these once a day unless not allowed.
  2. The rest of the boards are ones that are mine or smaller group boards or group boards with liberal rules.  I plan on using these to pin an additional 20 pins a day from a spreadsheet that I will be creating tomorrow.

DAY FIVE

OK today, I tackled the top 10 boards with a spreadsheet to keep track.  If you know me, you know I am NOT a spreadsheet person.  They hurt my head!  BUT I love giving my opinion, so using Google Docs to create a form that feeds into a spreadsheet is something I do ALL THE TIME.

I created a form that asked for my link, pinned photo notes and which boards the pin is appropriate for:

Pinterest board scheduling

So, the first time I go in, I fill this out.

When I am ready to pin again, I access the spreadsheet portion of the form and delete the board name when it is pinned to that board.  When an entry is completely pinned to all appropriate boards, then I delete the line entry.  If there is another photo in that post that also can be pinned, I would start that as a separate entry.

Each of these top 10 boards I am pinning daily {unless the rules say otherwise}.  I am using Curalate by creating buffers for each board so they go out just once a day.  I also like that I can schedule a bunch all at once – like a whole week ahead and then add when time allows.

Tomorrow…

DAY SIX

The Business of Blogging

Have you ever thought about HOW much time you spend on each part of blogging?

One of the things I both love and hate about blogging is that there are SO many things involved.  Blogging seems deceptively simple.  It really is at its core – if you are just writing for yourself.

Business of blogging - Business 2 Blogger

But when you are wanting OTHER people to read what you wrote, then things can get difficult.

The actual WRITING process is sometimes the easiest part!

Oh, and then you need good photography.

Oh, and then you need to promote your post.

Oh, and then you need to be an expert in affiliate advertising, sidebar ads and sponsored posts if you want to sustain your writing.

Those are some pretty big OH’s!

But I am not done.  If you are an expert in affiliate advertising, sidebar ads and sponsored posts, then suddenly you are running a small business.  You are invoicing, collecting and navigating the tax implications.

And as you grow, there are contract workers, employees and so many more taxes…

The good news is that you don’t have to learn this all at once.  You start with the writing.  And then the photography.  Or start with the photography and then the writing.

Once that is covered, then start learning social media one by one.

Once that is covered, then you are going to have to dip your toes into business.

*flinch*

I started with setting up an LLC.  I had a lawyer do it because I am not very good at staying awake through legal jargon, so I didn’t want to be responsible for something crazy being in there that I was supposed to “catch”.   My business is also set up as a “S Corp” which I don’t completely understand, but it supposedly has some additional benefits – but be sure you understand what type of business was set up because there are different tax forms for different types of LLC’s.

Once you have an LLC, you can set up a business bank account which will help you keep your personal and business separate.

My next step was to figure out how to pay people.  I use a payroll service because they file all the fancy tax forms that need to be completed.  For my non-US contributors, I use paypal.  It only took me a month to do the research on that!

For expenses, I put EVERYTHING business-related on my business debit card.  It makes it easy to see everything going out on the bank account and paypal.  That way I only have two different lists to keep straight!

For invoicing, I use quick books or paypal.  We have had to start reconciling paypal because more and more clients are willing to pay that way – it is good because it is fast, but it can be a bit of a challenge for bookkeeping.

I love the ad networks like Adsense that do a direct deposit a week or so after the end of the month.  Unfortunately, many ad networks do not do that and worse, they are 4-6 months behind the times.  I just got my February check for one of them!  February!  It is JULY!  I don’t even REMEMBER February.  What I recommend for that is keeping a spreadsheet of ballpark numbers you login and get from your ad network dashboard at the end of each month.  That way when they send {or don’t send} a check 5 months later, you will know if it is right or you need to make a call.

My motto with everything is just to do a little every day.  That has been really important in the business aspect of blogging.  It is too overwhelming to try and tackle everything at once…so make a little progress every day and before you know it, you will be running a business!

 

Why is My Website Down?

The alternate title to this post is, “Why is my website so slow?”!

wake me when my website it back up

Oh hosting!

Silly, silly hosting!

It is something that you only think about when things go wrong.

Often, very very wrong!

I had a little chat with B2B’s own Shauna Callaghan about hosting woes:

I think the bottom line is that HOSTING SHOULD NOT BE DRAMATIC.  If yours is, please consider a change because it is my guess that you are now at the level where it is holding you back.

Oh, and to get a hold of Shauna, check out her website for additional hosting information.  The other host that I have had a really good experience with is Synthesis.  I am sure there are others, but those are the ones I can personally recommend.

 

Dream the Impossible Blog Dream

I am going to pause our usually informational conversation here today and get a tiny bit mushy about blogging.

Dream the Impossible blog dream - Business 2 Blogger

 

I have been blogging now for around 7 years.  It started kinda accidentally and then has lead me on a very winding journey to the place where I blog today.

Often I hear people say that we need to set goals!

A 5 year plan!

A road map to future success.

Hogwash.

There is no way I could have even come within a million miles of setting a goal to be where I am today.  To be able to see it as a possibility 7 years ago.  5 years ago.  Or even 13 months ago.

When asked where I see myself in 5 years, I now answer, “it hasn’t been invented yet”.  Because that is now my experience.  That is now my story.

I am a full-time blogger.

Who saw that coming?

Because of my blogging, there is a book in bookstores with my name on it.

Couldn’t have predicted that!

Let’s plan as far as we can easily see, master what we know, follow opportunity as it leads and live the dream we couldn’t have planned.

{Group hug}

Declare Conference August 7-9 in Dallas Texas

I am super excited to be part of the Declare Conference again this year.

Declare Conference

The Declare Conference 2014

Declare is a faith-based conference for women that will be held in the Dallas area August 7-9.  The weekend includes several speakers {including ME} and sessions to offer tips to help you grow as a blogger, find your voice, learn to really connect with your readers, increase the impact of your words, and make the most of your online platform.

I am Speaking and Leading a Lab

I am really excited to be doing an optional 3 hour lab on Thursday prior to the official start of the conference.  It will be a VERY informal learning session.  We will start with some Facebook, G+ and SEO basics and then answer YOUR questions from there.  Bring your laptop!  We will work on YOUR blog and social media empire.

Then on Friday I will be speaking – Facebook Doesn’t Hate You:

It is time to stop taking poor Facebook exposure personally, and take action to build your Facebook page into something that can’t be ignored.  Holly Homer will walk you step by step through the game rules that she and Rachel Miller have discovered through building their page.  Their journey started last October with 13,000 fans and has grown by over 400,000.  This isn’t magic, it is a strategic way to play the game!

More than You Wanted to Know

Declare speaker badge

Silly facts about me:

Favorite book:  Anything by Steinbeck or Kinsella {what can I say?  I have diverse tastes}

Coffee or tea:  Coffee, except for Chai tea which is absolutely my favorite.

Dream vacation:  Snow skiing or hanging out at the beach.

Night owl or early bird:  I get up and work several hours before the kids get up.

Little known fact:  My favorite class was Gross Anatomy and I spent a summer teaching in the human cadaver lab in the afternoons and spent the mornings on dissection.

I hope to meet you in person…I promise no dissection will be involved.

Click here for more information.

Using Social Media Stats for Blogging Goals

Last week we talked a little bit about Google Analytics and how it can help your blog to ACT on what you find.

Today I want to take that a little bit further and look at some social media stats and how that can help your blog.  Stats are everywhere these days and we should recognize the power of these stats and capture them for GOOD!

listen to what social media is telling you - B2B

Hashtags

I love hashtags on Twitter & G+.  And although this doesn’t qualify as a “statistic”, I think it is something that we should consider when blogging.  If you are consistently using a hashtag on social media, you may want to take a second look at whether you are regularly WRITING blog content with that as a keyword.

With the hashtag being searchable, it is a VERY good idea to have your name associated with a hashtag in your genre, but don’t leave your blog out of the loop!  Create consistent content using that keyword too!  This proves to Google that not only do you interact with that hashtag online, but you aren an expert in it because you are writing about it as well.

Top Pins

Pinterest’s analytics are getting richer by the year.  Many third party apps are also helpful in analyzing Pinterest stats.  Viral Tag, Ahalogy and Curalate are all things that I regularly use to help me determine what my most popular pins are at any given time.  But you actually don’t need super fancy graphs because what you can find under “analytics” in Pinterest is pretty awesome.

Pinterest - Most Clicked AnalyticsMy favorite page in analytics is my “most clicked” pins.

It is one thing to have a lot of re-pins, but if they are not consistently being clicked on, then what is the point?  My bottom line is to generate blog traffic which means people actually have to CLICK OVER TO THE POST!

Once you find which pins are generating the best click-throughs, then it is easy to create content that fits well with your blog and delivers visitors from Pinterest.

Top FB Posts

Even if your top FB posts are not from your blog, you can learn what is resonating with your fans!  I click through to the POSTS page in FB insights:

FB Insights Page AnalyticsWhile it is helpful to look at the orange bar to see how many people saw that post on my page, when I am looking for things that are important to post about on my blog, then I check out the blue bar.  The blue bar is going to reflect the number of click-throughs to my blog {or someone else’s blog}.  Notice a theme here?

What good is social media for bloggers if it isn’t driving blog traffic?

You may have a good answer for that, but in order for me to justify my time and energy on a social media platform, I need to see results in the form of passive income generated from my blog!

While the pink bar looks good on my FB page – likes, comments and shares – it is the blue bar that is working on my blog’s behalf.  I take a look at what I am already writing that is doing well and what might be a formula to improving other content.

If you are not familiar with FB stats, you might want to watch my FB math video.