Checking In, Laser Focus, and All That Jazz

This seems like an appropriate time for a post like this, so it’s rather fortuitous that this has been on my mind.  This post is so long, but at least skim it, I’ve pinked and bulleted the important stuff, like what’s coming up on Sweet Phenomena.

For those of you who are bloggers, I’m sure you’ve had that whole “I need to refocus my efforts, I need to re-assess” thing going through your brain.  I do.  Quite often, but more often lately.  Maybe because we’re surrounded by “new year, new beginnings” stuff.  I’m not a big fan of that, I think it can always be time for a new beginning, but that’s not really my point…

Huh?

 

Yeah, I confused myself too…  I enjoy blogging.  I enjoy social media.  I enjoy interacting with you guys.  I like participating in and holding giveaways.  I like reviewing stuff.  I love what I do.

No matter how much you love something, though, sometimes you need to ponder how you’ve been displaying that love.  I’m happy with the overall direction of Sweet Phenomena, but I’m ready to do some laser focusing and really clarify what I want it to be.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that you should first blog for yourself.  If you aren’t doing it from a place of truth, you won’t survive in the multi-million blog world.  The readers will come.  There will be people who can relate and who enjoy your voice.  And there will be those who don’t.  And that’s OK.

I’m also the type of person to jump into something feet first, learn a ton of stuff after starting, redo it a better way, and then evolve it as I change.  It’s not “right,” but I’m OK with that.

Purpose

 

Sweet Phenomena has gone from being a blog about homeschooling to being a mish-mash of stuff.  That’s what my life is like.  That’s what my brain is like.  I love homeschooling.  Fact of the matter is, though, I’m not an uber-homeschooler like many of the homeschooling bloggers out there.  I can’t come up with curriculum.  I don’t want to.  I can’t make worksheets, create printables, devise games.

I’m so much happier by finding these things on the internet and implementing them, sharing my findings and experiences with you guys.  So, one of Sweet Phenomena’s purposes is:  homeschooling schtuff.  It probably won’t be anything earth-shattering, but it will be tons of resources, links, and info; our honest-to-goodness experiences; and other morsels I’ve picked up along the way.  This includes The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew reviews.

I’ve also decided to use my voice and my reach {no matter how small} to bring awareness to a cause so important and personal to me:  domestic violence.  I grew up in a household where my mother suffered from it for many years, and I think people need to know about domestic violence, how prevalent it is, what the warning signs are, and how to help.  You’ll continue to see this here.

I like reviewing stuff.  It’s fun.  You get things for free.  I’m just putting that out there.  I really like bringing you guys this information.  I don’t know about you, but I love it when people I know share new, exciting, innovative, and fun product information with me.  I’ll buy something that’s been recommended to me over anything else in a heartbeat.  So, you’ll still see product reviews on Sweet Phenomena.

The stuff won’t always be directly related to homeschooling, but it will be related to life as a mom, families, or life in general.  Basically, if it’s applicable in my life and it’s a company/product I feel I can get behind, I’ll review it and let you know what I think.  Believe me, I’ve turned down stuff that is not at all related to my life, from a company I can’t feel good about recommending, or from a company that is a competitor of something I’ve reviewed before.  I’m not about whoring out my internet real estate.

I like Social Fabric and shoppertunities.  They’re fun and interesting, so you’ll continue to see those.

I’m a blogger, and I’m constantly learning, so you might find a few tidbits of info on blogging and social media here.

And, because I can talk and talk and talk, you’ll get injections of life here on Sweet Phenomena.  That makes me real to you.  That opens up conversations.  It gives me a record of time.

Oh, and miscellaneous.  I have to throw that in there to cover my bum.  Just know it will always be family-friendly.  Yeah, I feel I need to say that.

To recap:

  • homeschooling schtuff
  • domestic violence awareness
  • product reviews
  • Social Fabric and shoppertunities
  • info on blogging and social media
  • injections of life
  • miscellaneous

So, Really, What’s Coming Up?

 

I hate vagueness, so here are a few specific things I’ve got in the works for the next year:

  • A series on archaeology and homeschooling – Babydoll wants to be an archaeologist and I’ve been unhappy with the surface info/products available for fostering this, so I’m putting together what we’ve found and will be doing.
  • An editorial calendar – I can’t promise I’ll stick to it {because, well, I’m imperfect}, but I’m working on an editorial calendar for the year that will show the general subjects I’ll be covering each month.
  • A regular posting time frame for domestic violence awareness – this cause is important and I want to cement a specific posting time frame for it.
  • The return of The Homeschool Mother’s Journal – I have missed this, and I haven’t done it because {I’m not going to lie}, we’ve not had a stellar first half of the year.  I believe Babydoll is learning, but I’m trying to reconcile my style of homeschooling with my view of education, and that’s like a freaking mallet to the head…
  • A new site design – I probably shouldn’t put this out there because it’s such a far-off thing {and so expensive}, but I really want a new site design for 2012.  I’ve got visions, I just need to get them out of my head, and pay someone to make them a reality.
  • An eBook {or two} – Yet another thing I probably shouldn’t put out there, but I have several ideas that I’ve already begun researching, and I really want those to come to fruition.
  • A series on lapbooks – I was recently talking with a few homeschoolers who had no idea what these were, so I thought I’d break them down.
  • Better pictures – I can’t promise anything here, but I’d really like to improve my pictures.
  • More on what it’s like to be a secular-friendly non-traditional homeschooler – I’m such a weird homeschooler, and I can’t be the only one…
  • Unit studies/lesson plans – OK, so I kind of lied when I said I don’t like coming up with curriculum and printables.  Really, I don’t, but I have a few items I’m interested in developing a small unit study for.
  • How I am getting my mommy swagger on – I turned 30 in 2011, and while that didn’t bother me, I’m going through that whole really finding out who I am.  I feel like I’ve thrown myself into being a stellar wife and mom {and fail so miserably so many times}, and have forgotten about me.  To his credit, Vince is always telling me to do for myself, always helping, always encouraging, but I’m an all-or-nothing martyr, and that’s not cool.  I need to make me happy.

OK, I really could go on and on.  I’m so excited.  I’m so glad to have you along for the ride.  This is so gonna rock.  :)

Sweet Social Media – Brands and Bloggers

Social MediaAs bloggers, we’re all involved in some sort of social media, even if it’s just a small amount. Blogging is a form of social media.

Some of us do it because we’re hoping to make a career of it, some do it as a personal outlet, others do it because they enjoy writing.  There are countless reasons we play at the social media playground.

And since this playground is always getting new additions, it never stays the same; it’s always evolving.  That makes it fun for those who know how to adapt to the ever-changing game.

Then there are those who don’t see the value of the new stuff.  They don’t see how it is useful to them.  This short series will take a look at the relationship between bloggers and brands:  why it’s useful {for both parties}, a few really bad experiences I’ve had, and finish up with some great ones I’ve had.

For now, let’s take a look at the unique relationship that exists between us and brands.

Brands and Bloggers

 

Many businesses are learning the value of bloggers.  We are word-of-mouth.  We develop a following of readers that enjoy what we have to say.  Just because they don’t make a current purchasing decision based on what we have to say, the seed is planted.  They now know of a product or service, and will likely remember it when and if it ever comes up again, whether that be in their own homes or those of the people they interact with.  And so on and so forth.

In addition to the powerful voice we have on our blogs, many of us are involved in activities outside of our blogs that put us in constant contact with people.  These are connections as well, and they’re connections that can help or harm a business.

I enjoy this relationship.  I enjoy learning about new products, learning more about products I already use, and really working to promote companies I enjoy.  It’s fun and it’s interesting, and most bloggers take this job very seriously.  As a blogger I have the opportunity to have my vote count, to sing the praises of brands I love from the rooftops, all while being compensated.  It’s great!

Some companies, though, haven’t realized the untapped potential in bloggers.  Next week we’ll talk a bit about a few places that don’t quite get how to interact with bloggers.

Image credit

Bloggy Boot Camp: What I Took Away

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I had so much fun!  I found a wine I love, met some great folks, and came away with tons of great knowledge!!

That's me! Tiffany Romero can work some photo magic...

Me with my new bloggy friend, Andrea, from SingleandSaving.com

And since I can’t seem to get the sharing of this quite right, here’s a doc I did explaining what I learned!

BBC

Photo Credits

What Bloggy Boot Camp Taught Me {The Not-So-Serious Edition}

Social Marketing for Women

I will definitely do a serious version, because really, there was a ton of valuable information I took away and I really don’t want to discount all the hard work that goes into BBC.

However.

I couldn’t help but sit there today and think about a few things:

  • It’s a great feeling to hear someone say: “Oh yeah, I follow you on Twitter!!!”
  • Then it’s rather humbling when you realize nobody else in the room freaking knows who you are
  • You should definitely look into starting a domain name collecting hobby.
  • You can apparently take away many lessons from Twilight.
  • There’s no right or wrong, just good and bad.
  • Something you did in the past can really come back to bite you.
  • Everyone is friendlier once they’ve gotten some wine in them.
  • You should definitely make it to the appetizer table early.  Otherwise, you’re left with nuts.
  • Twitter is perhaps one of the single best things ever created.
  • The people on Twitter are actually real.  I even walked down the streets of Atlanta with one of them.
  • Comfortable shoes can still be uncomfortable once you’ve been walking the streets of Atlanta.
  • Yes, what they say is true:  Tiffany Romero really is perfect in every way, but especially when she has a microphone.
I had so much fun at BBC, and really recommend attending one if you can.  You’ll come away a different blogger.

How I Started Getting Paid to Blog

No, no I don’t have any super secret info.  I wish I did.  I wish I could give you “x” number of steps and send you on your merry way.

Fact is, I still don’t make a whole lot doing this, but I have many more opportunities than I did a few months ago.

So, by no means am I an expert.  I’m sure others can tell you way more than I can and could probably put you on a more direct path.  But, I figured I’d let you know what I’ve been doing and what’s working for me.

  • Establish your blog, your voice, and your community before doing anything else.  I know some bloggers start off as deal/review/giveaway bloggers, so their quest for money-making opps starts right away.  That’s not my thing so I can’t help you there.  My blog started on a whim as a way to keep track of our homeschooling.  I quickly came to enjoy it and the people I met, so I decided to kick it into high gear and really make the blog something I could be proud of promoting to complete strangers.  I then realized all of the opportunities out there for bloggers and decided I wanted to pursue reviews/giveaways and paid opps.  But before I did any of that, I had a blog I was proud of, content relevant to my niche, and knew who I was and what I did and did not want on my blog.
  • Stay true to yourself, your blog, and above all, your readers.  When I started pursuing compensated opps {I use that term loosely, especially since, according to the IRS, any review goods are compensation}, I knew I wanted to stay true to my readers.  I didn’t want to blindside them with posts about adult books or information about the public school system and how you can work it as a parent because that had nothing to do with my blog, and it darn sure wasn’t relevant to them.  I know who the majority of my readers are, and I know what it important to them, and that’s what I stick with.
  • Network.  I hate that word, because it sounds so great and simple in theory, but so difficult to actually figure out how to do.  I’ll do my best to give you specific ideas.  Look for social media or blogger groups in your city/state {if we have one in Birmingham, where everyone is living ten years behind everyone else, you should have one near you}.  Attend blogging conferences {I have yet to do this, but will be at BBC ATL next month!}.  Comment on other blogs.  Yes, I know people say that all the time, but you must make time for it.  It doesn’t have to be a ton either, one or two.  Get to know your fellow bloggers.  Join online blogger groups; maybe there’s one for your niche available.  Google is your friend.
  • Participate in everything.  You know all those fantastic giveaway hops, memes, etc., that take place around the blogosphere?  Join them.  Don’t know who hosts them?  Ask me, or ask the blogger where you found the giveaway in the first place.  Scared to get prize packages together?  Self-sponsor or just email companies you like.  Yeah, it makes me want to vomit, but it has to be done.  They say no?  Move on.  You’ve got bigger fish to fry.
  • Join Twitter.  And Facebook I suppose.  I always tell people that Twitter was the single best thing I could have done for my blog.  The instant interaction with others really boosted that “connection” that is so important in blogging.  Facebook is finally starting to yield some great results for me, although that is more of a conversation than quick snippets on Twitter.  Word of caution:  Care more about others than you do yourself.  If you’re a Twitter whore, people will notice and they will despise you.  Retweeting and promoting others can go a long way in helping your own blog.
  • Join a blogging group.  I participate in a few groups for bloggers, but one in particular was instrumental in getting more traffic to my blog and more opps coming my way.  I can recommend some if you’re interested.  It was through this group that I found out Social Fabric was allowing new applications.  I applied and was approved and I love the group now.  No other way I would have known about it had it not been for my group.
  • Finally, Google is your friend.  Again.  I know I mentioned it before, but it really is.  Google various phrases/words, such as “paid to blog.”  That’s how I cam upon Bucks2Blog, a site that provides opportunities for you to get paid to blog.  Even if a site you end up at doesn’t turn into something you’d like to do, it can lead you on infinite rabbit trails.
I’m sure there is so much more I could share, and I might do that in another post.  For now, though, make use of the bloggers around you, just send an email, most of us don’t bite.
True Confessions:  I am participating in a blogger campaign by Bucks2Blog and was compensated for my time.  See, isn’t it rad?  This doesn’t change the views and information provided in the post.  This honestly has been the path I’ve taken to the point I’m at now.  And please, feel free to ask me any questions!