Announcing: Andy Wibbels: Smart Blogger Extraordinaire! Creator of the Easy Bake Weblogs seminar -- that has helped hundreds of businesses all over the world use blogs to build their businesses online. Jane is thrilled to offer this exclusive interview with Andy. Just a peek into his weekly blogging tips newsletter chronicling the latest development in business blogging. Andy has also created course on how to use RSS and podcasting to market themselves online. His personal blog is over at Andymatic.com.
Lip-sticking: Easy Bake Weblogs -- that's one of the most innovative blog titles we know. Tell us how you came to choose it.
Andy: I'd started my seminars under the name Weblogging 101 which was nice and simple and obvious but didn't have any zing. I really don't remember when I got the Easy Bake Weblogs idea, but I've found that it really connects to people on an emotional level and it keeps things playful. Blogs are about fun and having a good time - if it isn't fun you won't do it and I only work with people that want to have fun. If I wanted to work with assholes, I would've stayed in a cubicle job. (Girls just wanna have fun!)
Plus, everyone loves the big retro mixer logo - I think it defuses the technophobic reaction people have to unfamiliar lingo like blogosphere or - ugh- blogopreneur... Eventually, I'll probably drop the "Web" and make it simply Easy Bake Blogs.
Lip-sticking: We notice you write short, terse notes that invite comment. How is this working out for you? What do you have to say to bloggers who don't enable comments?
Andy: It is funny: the snarkier I get the more that people like it. It is sort of in my nature to be a sarcastic wiseass and I find myself writing not just to inform but to entertain - like when I blogged marketing tips from a gay leather convention.
Another example was my screed about autoposting software that rips off other people's content feeds - I wrote how I thought it was like dumping sewage in a public pool. My readers loved it and I'm still getting comments three weeks later.
There's a real need for saying what everyone else is thinking and people really gather around that spirit. That's what has really caused blogs to break through. I find the more I tap into that Ranty McRantyPants spirit the more engaging the conversation.
I often tell clients to be either provocative or passionate. The internet can be such a cold medium, it takes that kind of warmth or heat to push through and get people to respond. Slay a sacred cow, say what isn't being said.
If you aren't going to be honest or have a personality, then just go back to schlepping sterile press releases. I think bloggers that don't use comments are weenies. I know there's comment spam and all that jazz but there's so many options available to combat that. I think a blog without comments isn't truly a blog (and I know I'll catch hell for saying that). If you have a blog without comments you're basically just using a blog for the content management features - not to truly forging a conversation or relationship. Sure the neo-Nazi's might show up but you can always delete comments.
Lip-sticking: Give our readers the low-down on podcasting. What is it?? How does one go about doing it? Are you still podcasting...and if so, on what subjects? With whom?
Andy: Podcasting boils down to two things, timeshifting and placeshifting. You can have your favorite radio shows downloaded for you automatically so you can listen to them anytime - that is the timeshifting part. It is kinda like a VCR or Tivo.
Then you can even sync them to your mp3 player - that is where the placeshifting part comes in. It is a further step in the audience calling the shots on when and where they enjoy media. For the podcasters, it offers unlimited reach for their news and views with a low startup cost.
It is like the technology is coming back around and we are able to share our stories with eachother again - it is a global campfire. I just finished piloting my podcasting course, Podcasting Bootcamp, and we had a ball experimenting and exploring all the different ways that podcasting can be used in business (next course starts in July).
Everyone is nuts about podcasting right now as if it is some new form of media - I see it more as a delivery channel. It is one more way to move your thoughts and stories to the rest of the world. And there's a lot of trashtalk with Clear Channel and other conglomerates coming to podcasting but, I think it is great! Once people have downloaded iPodder and realize that the big companies are pushing the same garbage they hear on the radio, they'll seek out more engaging podcasts.
I have a podcast for Easy Bake Weblogs that I use to deliver my expert calls I have every few weeks that is just using podcasting as a delivery channel and it integrates with my newsletter. I'm working on the build out of my personal podcast over at Andymatic. I recently interviewed a guy organizing to get articles of impeachment started in U.S. Congress and it got a lot of attention. Again, passionate and provocative.
Lip-sticking: We visited your Coachamatic blog, but found that you haven't posted there in quite awhile. Is Easy Bake Weblog keeping you too busy to post on Coachamatic...or, did you merely lose interest? We hear so much from MSM (main stream media) about blogs being neglected or abandoned, giving the blogosphere a bad name, we were curious about this dilemma -- one of our favorite bloggers not keeping up his blog (like we haven't neglected several of our blogs lately! oh yes, we have!) Mainly, we'd like your advice on blog posting and how to keep up...since so many folks question us about that.
Andy: Coachamatic has fallen by the wayside in the past months. I basically had to make the decision to split my attention or focus fully on the blogging end of things. I went whole-hog (or whole-blog?), and it has been fantastic! I got the ebook out, revamped the seminar, did a live version of it, even started an affiliate program.
It is so much fun to get on teleseminars and have people from all over the world laughing and learning together. It is exciting to go to a conference and meet people who have been reading me for years and feel a kinship with them even though we've never met in person.
The coach-y stuff still lingers in all I do and I'll eventually get back to it. I focused on coaches as my target niche because I know so many of them and they've been a great foundation to built out from. I'm thinking of turning Coachamatic over to a team of guest bloggers to tend the site while I'm off in Blogging Province.
Regarding posting regularly, I'll scold clients that send mass emails to people with a cool tip. Anything you think 'That's neat' or 'I can use that later on' you should be blogging. We're not talking War and Peace it can be simply 'I found this, here's the link, here's what I think, go read it.' And it takes the same amount of time to blog it as it does to email it. THAT is why it is so crucial to choose something you are passionate about.
This is a little fruity, but I really feel part of blogging is sharing your knowledge with the world - the idea that no one should have to solve a problem that someone else has solved already. If you can get your knowledge out there and indexed by search engines, you are contributing to the overall knowledge base of the world. I've often found explanations for late-night tech-traumas on blogs and forums and I know how grateful I am to find those things so I try to keep that spirit in mind.
Lip-sticking: Tell us what industry publications you read...that keep you on track with your business, and maybe influence what you blog about.
Andy: I have about 60 blog-related feeds I check once or twice a day. I like to keep an ear out for the next bleeding edge stuff. My clients really like to learn the stuff that is just out of beta because by the time I've developed a course in it, it is starting to hit the mainstream. I like to listen to the real blog pioneers and see what they are thinking about and how can we de-geek it and bring that to a wider audience.
Lip-sticking: Which leads us to this question: how many blogs do you follow? How many do you think one person can follow? How many do you think one person should follow?
Andy: This is a tough question. It is so easy to fill up on feeds and feel lackluster for not reading all of them. I keep pruning back my aggregator a little more each week. I say focus on 10 feeds in each topic area you are tracking.
So I started with 10 personal blogs I read, 10 blogging blogs, 10 podcasting blogs and 10 general business blogs. There is a feel that just because you can track everything that you should. I think we have to divorce ourselves of that notion that we have to have all the information all the time. It sort of reminds me of the Amish take on cellphones: 'Who do I become when I use this technology?' Do you became a sun-scared, grey mottled slug sitting in front of the computer all day trying to find that next perfect piece of information? Somedays it is 4 in the afternoon and I realize I haven't left the computer - that's not a life. I'm workin' on it!
Lip-sticking: Our favorite question: do you shop online? In fact, tell us more...would you buy a car online? Would you buy expensive jewelry online (for yourself or someone special)? Would you buy a pet online?
Andy: I was most dangerous when I had a credit card number memorized (as well as the code on the back of the card)! Those were my eBay days... (I still miss Webvan) I'd buy a car online, but I'd shop for it in person first. I doubt I'd buy a pet online because if it died on the way to my house I'd feel really guilty and it would stink up my apartment building. Besides, Astro Boy would get really jealous. Lately I'll shop for books online and then try to buy from locally owned stores. I buy songs on iTunes as well.
Lip-sticking: Okay...we have to ask...what wouldn't you buy online?
Andy: Anything that requires a large price tag, a long time commitment and has lots of tactile/sensual features and I can't test out in person. I'll buy any tech toy online becasue I can jump down to Best Buy and check it out for myself and then order it online for a lower price. Also, I can research purchases with online research and review sites.
Lip-sticking: And, back to blogging, a topic you're an expert in -- what would you NEVER blog about...thinking of business or politics, not journaling, which is its own category and not something we're much concerned with here?
For that matter, when it comes to business blogging, who's the best person in a small company to be the blogger: the President, the Sales Manager, the Secretary, or...someone else?
Andy: I never blog about politics on my professional blog. My clients know I'm a big ol' bleeding heart so if they want to see that side of me, they can read my personal blog. I also keep personal posts on the personal blog. I used to blog really personal stuff. Then my dad found my blog (boy that was a phone call... but now he is one of my top commenters). I also have sort of a trashmouth when I write so I keep my profanity on my personal blog, too.
I use my personal blog to test out different strategies or functions that I then move to my professional blog. I wrestled with keeping them separate for a long time but in the end decided that it accentuated both to keep the business stuff in one realm and everything else in the other.
With regard to business blogging, I think a company's bloggers should either be the top of the orgchart or the ones in the trenches that talk directly to customers. I mean who really wants to hear what the paper-pushing middle managers have to say? The excitement happens at the top and bottom rungs. But if a CEO is going to talk about how he has four pensions and his yacht has a hole in it, he better expect some backlash. [some content deleted here on request of the interviewee... perhaps readers would like to ask Andy more on this subject, offline.]
Lip-sticking: We dislike ending our interview on a dark note, but...we wonder if you'd like to say a few words about Corey Rudl... we read about his death via car crash on your blog. He was a pioneer, much like you, Andy, and so smart!
At times like this, words seem little consolation, but...they are often all we have. Comments?
Andy: It was very surprising to hear of Corey's death. I have been tracking the internet marketing crowd for years now and he's one of the few guys that seemed to have a handle on integrity and wasn't all hype. I am very wary of the 'marketing of marketing' crowd and treat them like a cross between Scientology and Amway (with Don Lapre thrown in for good measure).
Lip-sticking: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Before letting you go, we're wondering what the first blog you ever read was...seriously -- we know it wasn't Lipsticking, and that's okay. So, what was the first blog that came across your monitor??
Andy: Probably Camworld. Cameron Barrett is responsible for me getting geeky enough to try out Linux, understanding open source software, reading Slashdot and starting my own blog. My blog turns five years old this July [congrats!!] and it has really been wonderful to look back on old posts and see what has changed, where I've grown and what I still whine about.
At the end of the day I love blogging becasue I am deeply passionate about instant global self-expression and any technology that allows you to broadcast your voice to the world.
Jane is speechless. We believe there are some out there who would say, What's not to like about that?