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#HappinessIs [wk 1]

First round up of all the happies from the past week, as part of the #HappinessIs project … so much awesomeness.

Things that have made me happy this week:


(Small victories!)


(It tasted like apple-flavoured nirvana)


(+10 kiss-ass points for the boyfriend)


(Sunshiiiiiiiiiiiine!)


(FREE and related to FOOD, whats not to love?)

 

Things that have made other people happy this week:


(Word.)


(Squee!)


(Double squee)


(Triple squee and high five for awesome kids)


(*blush* … I try, I try!)


(Stay classy, Kate)


(Yay sleep!)


(Now I want to know what the story was …)


(Cats are fucking awesome … if you want happies, get a cat)


(Simple pleasures)

Look at all that happiness. WONDERFUL!

Read more about the #HappinessIs project here, and get involved by tweeting your happy moments using the hashtag.

If you’ve blogged about something happy then feel free to use the hashtag when you link to it, and grab the badge below if you’d like to include it in your blog post.

<div align="center"><a title="Happiness Is" href="http://www.sarahsuperfluous.co.uk/blog/happinessis/" target="_blank"> <img style="border: none;" src="http://www.sarahsuperfluous.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/happyicon.png" alt="Happiness Is" /></a></div>

 
Go forth, and be happy.

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Silent Sunday

 

Happiness Is …

A few weeks ago I was sitting reading through my Twitter stream (procrastination, ftw), and it hit me just how much negativity is out there in the Twittersphere. So so much.

I love that Twitter gives us all a voice and the means to speak out, but the reverse of this is amplifying the kinds of opinions that really shouldn’t be made public. Racism, sexism, downright stupidity and small minded awfulness.

I don’t like it. In fact, I really really hate it. And I don’t like hating things because it’s bad for my inner zen.

So I decided to start a happiness project. Something that will use Twitter to remind me to make the most of the small happy things in my life, and that will remind others to do the same. I figure that if we all put enough positivity out there it has to make a difference at some point.

And so #HappinessIs was born.

> Each time something makes me happy, I tweet it with the #HappinessIs hashtag.

> If someone else uses the #HappinessIs hashtag, I retweet it.

> And at the end of each week, I’ll blog the things that have made me most happy and a round up of the best tweets.

Hopefully these small positive contributions to the world of Twitter will make a difference somehow, somewhere. It’s pretty simple, no?

Get involved and share your happies too … use the hashtag to tweet them or a link to a blog post  :)

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It’s all about the $$$ – Learnings

Last week I opened up a discussion about sponsored content, and had some really interesting feedback that I’d like to share.

To start, let me be clear about what I mean when I say sponsored content – in this instance I’m talking about sponsored blog content. Paid for content has been around for a while, think print advertorials or media websites with posts ‘supported’ by a brand. It’s not a new concept, but the use of bloggers to host this content is just gaining traction, and it’s causing problems.

Too many bloggers, too much sponsored content, not enough understanding of ‘the rules‘ and a huge plummet in peer trust. Does that about sum it up? Yep, I think so.

Done right, sponsored content can be great. It provides income and extra interesting stuff to write about for the blogger and it creates awareness and traffic for the brand. Win/win. In theory. The issue now is how do we make sure we achieve this golden state without:

a. bloggers losing their peer trust and authority
b. brands wasting the opportunity for  quality content
c. readers getting fed up and oversaturated with advertising

Perhaps let’s just start with some basics.

For brands.

1. Stop with the sneaky sneaky. Yeah, I’m looking at you SEO/PR agencies. Trying to convince bloggers that they don’t need to disclose paid content or that paid follow links are totally fine and Google won’t penalise them is not cool. You’re making your clients look like dicks. Stop it.

2. Stop with the boring sponsored posts. Think quality over quantity. I’d rather read one totally bloody amazing authentic product review, than 10 run of the mill all sound the same copy and paste posts. I can tell what’s sponsored and what isn’t even if it hasn’t been disclosed. So can all the other blog readers. If you’re going to pay for content be willing to pay well, and let the blogger write it themselves.

3. Start investing in quality. If you start putting some strategic thinking behind social content you won’t need to resort to underhand methods to get your brand seen and heard. Plan long term, create kick-ass branded content, trust in your product, and the links will come.
Inspire bloggers to work with you instead of paying them to publish the same old blah and you’ll earn awareness, advocacy, traffic, people talking about and most importantly – love. (I’m not even joking, brand love is about the most important thing you can aim for.)

Summary: I’m not going to give away all the answers (well, I will if you hire me, ha) but it’s pretty simple – stop paying for low quality links and posts, and start spending money on branded content that will make people want to write about you.

I’m not saying “stop paying bloggers!”. It may sound like I’m not a huge advocate of sponsored content and to an extent that might be correct … I’m of the opinion that if you have to pay people to write about your brand then you’re not doing it right. And by ‘it’ I mean ‘anything’. But I do believe in paying bloggers for their time and effort – think long term relationships and blogger panels. In short: “spend your budgets more wisely, you get what you pay for”.


For bloggers.

1. For love, or money? Think about why you started blogging in the first place – was it for the love of writing or to make a bit of extra cash? Don’t let the temptation of $$$ make you forget your purpose and lose the essence of your blog.

2. Learn the rules. If you’ve been approached by an agency for your first sponsored post, hurrah, well done! Next, swot up on the rules to avoid being bullshitted by a pushy SEO agency, or worse, doing something illegal. I can’t stress this enough – if you don’t know what a no follow link is, or why you legally need to disclose when you’ve been paid to write something, then step away from the publish button and do some research, right now.
(This post on follow/no follow from Geekalicious, and this one on disclosure from Cybher is a good place to start.)

3. Don’t sell your soul. Don’t be tempted to blog about something that has zero relevance to your blog for the sake of a few quid. You’ll lose readership and trust and it’s not beneficial in the long term. Learn to say ‘no thanks, but keep me in mind for more relevant stuff’.

4. Put it in your own words. Don’t publish content you’ve been given without tearing it apart and rewriting it in your own tone of voice. Your readers aren’t stupid and they’re going to know if you’ve just copy/pasted – especially when 5 other bloggers post exactly the same thing. Sounds obvious, right? But you’d be surprised the number of high profile bloggers that are happy to publish word for word. What happened to blog personality?!

5. Find a ratio. Please, please think about how often you’re publishing sponsored content and how much non-sponsored content you’re offsetting that against.  Don’t turn your blog into a review farm – you’ll lose readers and worse, your personality.

Summary: I understand wanting to make your blog profitable, I really do, but don’t let it be at the expense of your reputation. Be smart and stay authentic.

 

Thank you to everyone who commented on my previous blog post – you’re helping make the world a better place. Honest.

Agree/disagree with any of these points? Think I’ve missed something? Leave a comment or tweet me @sarah_saza.

*image credit

 

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My daughter the artist / comedienne

My daughter loves drawing, and I love listening to her tales of what’s happening in her doodles. She’s a 4 year old comedienne, precocious and confident, she makes me laugh til I cry.

Here’s some of my favourites from this week.

A princess climbing a wall: “because girls and princesses can do what they want and she wants to do climbing and get muddy”. (feminism ftw)

 

People holding hands getting ready to do roly poly’s: me “why is that boy spotty?” … daughter “because he’s a grown up boy and they’re always spotty because they don’t get washed”

 

A house full of people, with bananas: me “why are all the bananas different colours?” … daughter: “because rainbows are brilliant” (said in exasperated voice, with some eye rolling and a silent “DOH MUMMY”)

 

Forest of talking trees: “but there’s only one talking tree left, because giants think they’re broccoli and eat them. I like broccoli too. Can I eat talking trees? I want talking tree’s for dinner.”

 

I bloody love my kids. They’re a hoot.

 

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Silent Sunday

 

 

Making engagement better for bloggers and brands: It’s all about the $$$

It’s all about the $$$ … or is it?

Continuing the discussion about bloggers vs brands, I thought it would be interesting to talk about money. Specifically, sponsored content. I think it’s great that so many bloggers are able to make a profit from their blogs now, be it via reviews or paid content – but it’s all starting to feel a bit over-saturated. Maybe it’s the fact that more bloggers are becoming aware that they need to disclose paid content, or maybe its that there are just more opportunities out there these days, but it feels like every other blog post I’ve read of recent has been paid for by a brand.

This leads me to start thinking about trust. One of the most important factors in working with influencers (read: bloggers) is that their audience trust them and value their opinions – but how much is that opinion worth if it’s been paid for? If everything a blogger is publishing is paid for, does it lose it’s relevance? Do we lose the peer trust element? Are we going to end up full circle where brands are unwilling to pay for content again because it’s just got no value? How do we tackle this, and what are the alternatives?

And the of course, there is the issue of people accepting paid content opportunities that don’t yet understand the regulations and rules they should adhere to … should bloggers agree to publish sponsored content if they’re not aware of all the legal implications?

Share your thoughts please (keep ‘em clean, no bickering!), and I will of course write up a learnings blog post in the next week or so. Please also share links to any articles or blog posts about sponsored content that you think absolutely everyone should read … especially for people just dipping their toes in the paid content waters. Ta!

 

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Events – learnings

A few weeks ago I asked bloggers to tell me what they love/hate about blogger events, and what it takes to get them to attend. This question was part of a wider discussion around all things blogger and brand.

I have to apologise for my tardiness in writing up these learnings, but they do say good things come to those who wait ;)

Time of the day, and weekday vs weekend was a hot point of the conversation, as was travel expenses and considering childcare. Thanks to everyone that got involved and left comments – you’re all fantastic and you’re helping to improve engagement for everyone :)

Brands, want to get awesome bloggers to your awesome events? Listen up!

  • Getting time of day, and day of the week right is essential if you want a great attendance rate. Think about who your target attendee’s are. Do they have young kids in school or babes in arms? Do they work, or are they stay at home parents?
    Weekends are great for bloggers with children, if you make sure the event is child friendly. Week days are fine for those not working/with flexible hours if you give plenty of notice and provide childcare. Week nights are tough, but make it appealing enough (a chance for a child-free evening!) and you’ve got a good chance
  • Give as much notice before your event as possible. Bloggers have lives offline too, they can’t drop everything to attend your event with just a few days notice. Send invites as early as possible, even if it’s just a ‘save the date’ note. A minimum of 2 weeks notice is recommended
  • Location, location, location. surprisingly, not everyone lives in London! Most brands hold their events down south because they’re used to targeting the traditional media that are based there, but bloggers are all over the UK! Some of the most awesome ones are based up north, so why not take the event to them rather than making them travel all the way down to London
  • Cover ALL expenses. This one shouldn’t need explaining really, but sadly there are still a number of brands out there that don’t understand this. Don’t make a blogger pay for the privilege of attending your event. Remember that they don’t have an expense account like a journalist does, and it’ll just make your brand look tight. Pre-purchase train fares and travel cards, and reimburse taxi, accommodation and food/drink costs. Make getting to your event as easy and enjoyable as possible
  • Think about all the little details, so the bloggers don’t have to. Look at train times, pre-buy tickets, book taxi’s, provide location details and directions, think about dietary requirements, and consider childcare. Minimise planning stress for the bloggers, and they’ll have a much better time, which is win/win for everyone
  • Is your event actually worth it? Without being mean, I’ve seen a load of blogger events recently that sounded really rubbish. One hour long, or a schedule that consist of sales pitch after sales pitch. Remember the ‘what’s in it for me’ factor. It needs to be fun, giving bloggers the experience something they might not have done before, learning something new, or a great day out for the whole family. Don’t hold an event for the sake of holding an event.
    Interview with your brand CEO? Not unless they’re a huge personality with a great story. VIP trip to a festival? Now you’re talking!
  • RESEARCH! This one is never going to go away. Want bloggers to attend your event? Read their blogs! This is the only way you’re going to know if your event is relevant to them, or them to your brand
  • Use social to make your event social! The blogging world is a community. Lots of bloggers already know each other, or have read each others blogs and would love to meet in person. Encourage this! Tweet attendee’s pre-event and include a hashtag, create a conversation starting point and let them break the ice before they even leave their house
  • Goody bags – awesome or a nuisance? Everyone likes getting something for free, but remember to think about the logistics of taking giant goody bags home from events. Sending your product post-event is a great way to follow up and continue contact ;)
  • Keep in touch and build those relationships! Sometimes events can be a bit like a one night stand. Blogger attends, has fun, writes about it, then never hears from the brand again. What a waste!
    Events should be the basis for creating a great relationship. Keep in regular contact, follow up with a great gift (as mentioned re goody bags above), and send a follow up email thanking everyone for attending. Include links to attendee’s blogs/event blog posts too, enabling your attendee’s to keep in touch with each other and talk about how awesome the event was – RESULT!

Other considerations: Childcare, snacks and drinks outside of scheduled meals, name tags, no peak hour travel, and info on USBs.

And always, always provide CAKE.

(no really, cake is a guaranteed win)

 

Can bloggers learn from this too? Yes! Please don’t be scared of asserting your needs. Be direct and say honestly if you can’t afford to pay for expenses up front. Brand won’t learn unless you tell them what’s acceptable and what isn’t – remember, you’re still a fairly new breed to them!

Also:

  • Please don’t accept invitations if you know there’s little chance of you attending. Be honest and ask if a place can be reserved for you until a certain date. This means other people won’t miss out on the opportunity to attend
  • No shows are heart breaking. Putting in weeks of work into an event, getting 15 confirmed attendee’s, and then only 3 people show up is just horrible.  It’s also not worth it financially, and brands will end up reconsidering holding events altogether. I know it’s not always possible, but do try and let the organiser know as soon as possible if you change your mind or can’t attend
  • Don’t be offended if you don’t get an invite. It doesn’t mean you’re not ‘big’ enough. You might not be on the brands radar, or live at the other end of the country from the event. Find out who’s sending the invitation, and email them to see if there’s still space. They won’t think you’re being cheeky, promise!
  • Similarly, don’t be offended if you get a last minute invite. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a substitute because other people have pulled out – sometimes a local/awesome blogger will be discovered just before the event, or the list extended to include those a little further away because travel budget has been increased

 

Agree/disagree with any of these points? Think I’ve missed something? Leave a comment!

I’d like to talk about sponsored posts next – so be sure to come back!

*This post was first published In Feb 2012, I’ve reposted it to restart the discussion!* 

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Why is content so rubbish?

Why is content so rubbish? Something I’ve been asking myself a fair amount of recent. Actually, that should read “why is content STILL so rubbish?”. I mean, let’s be honest here … brands have had a few years to get on board the social media train (choo chooo), they’re starting to realise the importance of being online and engaging their fan base – but it doesn’t seem to have gone beyond that yet, and it infuriates me.

For a large majority of brands there’s still a clear lack of strategy around the way they behave on social, especially concerning content which is disconnected at best and erratic at worst. It’s not enough to just be on Twitter and curating cool shit from reddit and Tumblr. It’s about taking that next step into content creation, specifically branded content. Not product, not TVC’s, but content that amplifies the vision of the brand and creates affinity and advocacy. Content that can stand alone and doesn’t need to rely on advertising campaigns. Content that creates love.

And yet, there is still a reluctance to allocate (ever decreasing) budgets to creating this kind of content – brands (and by brands I mean their agencies) are still relying on recycling and reusing commercials and advertising materials in their social spaces, rather than producing new content. Is this simply a cost saving measure, or a massive lack of understanding?

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing the same old ‘yay it’s Friday‘ images on Facebook. I’m fed up of seeing random pieces of content tweeted into my feed that have no relation to one another, yet look and feel like every other bit of content out there. Where is the story? Where is the connection? Where is the content that grabs my attention and is immediately recognisable as ‘that brand, telling that story’?

I want more content like this:

And less like this:

Or this:

Is that so much to ask?!

 

 

 

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Making engagement better for bloggers and brands. Week 2 – Events

Last week I asked bloggers opinion on blogger and brand contact, and earlier today I posted ‘learnings’ from this discussion. The insight from this conversation was so useful that I hoped it could become a weekly thing, so please do get involved!

Today, I’d like to talk about events. Recently it’s become increasingly difficult to get people out to events, and that means brands are becoming less willing to host them – after all, where is the value is forking out thousands of pounds on an event that only 3 people attend?

Is the issue time of day, childcare, cost, or time off work? Is the problem that people would just rather get involved from the comforts of their own home? Or is it just that the event itself isn’t ‘wow’ enough to motivate attendance? The old adage “you can’t please everyone” stands firm here, but surely there has to be some sort of achievable middle ground!


Events are a fantastic way to meet each other face to face, they’re the opportunity to experience something you might not get to try out otherwise, and they’re a sure-fire way to create a lasting brand/blogger relationship … but if the difficulties to get people interested continue, they might disappear altogether.

So, my question(s) today is:

Events – love or hate them, what does it take to get you out of your house, and what time/day works best for you?

Think about how much notice you need, what costs you think should be covered, and how many attendee’s works. Please leave a comment, your thoughts are hugely valuable!

*This post was first published In Feb 2012, I’ve reposted it to restart the discussion!* 

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