Lessons Learned From First BlogPaws Live 365 via Google+ Hangouts On Air

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Blog Post by Tom Collins

The BlogPaws team recently hosted its first BlogPaws Live 365 hangout with three of the speakers who will be in attendance at BlogPws 2014 in Vegas. Here is what we learned from that hangout:

Lesson 1. When you do a Hangouts On Air, you get more than a real-time interactive event. You also get a re-usable piece of content on your YouTube channel that can be embedded on your blog, downloaded as an mp4 file, edit, create trailer clips, and more!

Lesson 2: Boy, is Denise Wakeman right about the visibility impact of using Google+ and, in particular, Hangouts On Air. (She explains why in the video.) Yvonne and I got a vivid demonstration the morning after this first episode. We were visiting a new partner over in Boulder and wanted to show the original BlogPaws Be the Change video, which generally comes up near the top of a search for “blogpaws” on YouTube. When the search results popped up on the conference room screen that morning, however, the #1 result was the video above — less than 24 hours after the live event!

Advice: DO NOT miss Denise’s session on Google+ at BlogPaws 2014.

Lesson 3: This one is a bit subjective, so I’d like to hear what you think. We only gave ourselves a week to promote this first episode and I was very pleased to see a good turnout (61 people watched the live session) and actively participated in the comment stream, chatting with each other and uploading photos. I think it helped that I uploaded a header image and still image “trailer” in the Upcoming Events page. What do you think? Here’s what it looks like in the page for our next episode, BlogPaws Live 365:2, March 27.

If you are planning to schedule your own Hangouts On Air and want to create your own header and trailer image, here are the dimensions I used based on published advice and a bit of trial and error (it seems Google must change these quite often, so take these as a starting point and realize you may get an error message like, “The minimum dimensions are nnn X nnn,” as I did. Then, you’ll know!):
Event page header: 1200 pixels wide X 300 pixels high
Still “trailer” image: 728 pixels wide X 415 pixels high

The Google+ Help section lays out the basic steps for setting up and scheduling a Hangouts On Air, minus the image specs.

Lesson 4: You may have heard that using video in your blogging is important, but that a downside is the lack of searchable text for search engines to discover. Using Google+ Hangouts on Air helps with that problem on Google, at least. But another recommended technique is to publish a transcript along with the video. Assuming you don’t want to type out the dialogue yourself, reasonably priced way to get a high quality transcript is SpeechPad. Just upload an audio or video file with spoken words and the folks at SpeechPad turn the words into text. For Hangouts On Air, all you need to do is give them the link to the recorded video on YouTube. They’ll go grab the video and you get back a downloadable text transcript (RTF format compatible with Word) and the audio track (as an MP3) that you could re-purpose as a podcast.

Here’s an excerpt from the full text transcript they produced for us (cost: $1 per minute for one-week turnaround, total for this video, $26):

Highlights from the Text Transcript of BlogPaws Live 365:1

Host: Carol Bryant
Guests: Denise Wakeman, Susan Daffron, and Carol Bryant
Hangouts Producer: Tom Collins

Tom Collins: All right. Hello, everybody. This is Tom Collins. We are on the air, and I am going to disappear behind the curtain and pull the levers and push the buttons in a moment. But I will also try to wrangle your questions and answers, and feed them to Carol so that she can share and get them answered for you. And any that we don’t get to tonight, we’re going to do a follow-up blog post, embed the recorded video, and try to address as many more as possible there. So over to you, Carol.

Carol Bryant: Okay, great. … I’m really excited because our panel includes three of the speakers who will be with us in Vegas, in just about 62 days. Tonight we have Denise Wakeman, Susan Daffron, and Caroline Golon with us.

* * * *

I want to start out with going around, and just giving everyone a chance to introduce themselves … and what you’ll be talking about at the BlogPaws conference. So why don’t we start out with Denise, and I’ll hand it over to you.

Denise Wakeman: Okay. Thank you very much. I am Denise Wakeman and I am a blogger. Been blogging since 2004. I’m also a consultant. I work with solo professionals, speakers, authors, coaches, all kinds of professionals, on helping them build their visibility on the web. I’ve been working on the web since 1996.

I’m really excited about BlogPaws. I’ve known Yvonne DiVita for many years, since I started blogging actually, and so I was really pleased to get an invitation to speak at BlogPaws this year. I will not be bringing my cats. They would not be very happy if I brought them to Vegas with me, so they won’t be coming with me.

* * * * [Laughter]

Anyway, I’m going to be speaking at the conference about Google+ and Google Hangouts, just like what we’re doing here today. I’m going to be talking about that and how you, as pet bloggers, can use this amazing tool to really increase your visibility and grow your communities really fast and powerfully build relationships. So that’s me.

Carol: Awesome. * * * * I’m really looking forward to that session.

Let’s go next with Susan.

Susan Daffron: Okay. My name is Susan Daffron, and I own a book publishing company and have published, I think, 15 books at this point, both fiction and nonfiction. And I’ve done a lot of consulting on publishing. For four years I ran the Self Publishers Online Conference and I worked with a lot of publishers over the years. And I’m going to be doing a session at BlogPaws with my husband, James Byrd, who has written a number of books, and we’re also writing novels.

We’re doing a panel, and it’s three people, so it’s me, James, and also Penny Sansevieri from Author Marketing Experts. And the concept behind our session is about the differences between fiction and nonfiction books, and the similarities . . . we’re going to talk about what you need to think about when you’re going to publish, really, anything, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.

Penny has actually, unbeknownst to most people, done a sort of secret project where she has actually published some fiction under a pen name. And so she is going to reveal all these secrets where she actually created a platform and everything that had nothing to do with her existing Author Marketing Experts platform, which has all been about nonfiction. So she’s going to reveal a bunch of secrets.

I’m going to talk about my novel, which appeals to pet owners because it’s a romantic comedy about a woman who runs a boarding kennel. I’m on the second book. Anyway, marketing that and finding your audience, no matter what it is.

My cat is coming to BlogPaws, oh, my god. Actually, nobody will see her. She’ll be incognito. But my dogs are coming too. So anyway, that’s what our session will be about and it will be how to start approaching the idea of actually publishing the book, whether it’s on Kindle or in print or both, and what you need to know, what you need to think about.

Carol: Great. Those are two really great topics. I know the attendees, and myself included, those are things  that we hear all the time: “How can I be more effective on Google, in the Hangouts?” and “I want to publish a book. What can I do?” So there’s two different awesome panels that anyone listening to this or anyone coming to the conference should definitely check out.

And for our third introduction, as if she needs an introduction, Caroline Golon.

Caroline Golon: I’m Caroline Golon, and I am one of the co-founders of BlogPaws. I cannot believe that it’s been five years. It’s amazing. One of the amazing things about BlogPaws, as I’m sure all of you know, is the collaboration that comes as a result of every conference. It was kind of the impetus of the entire organization being formed, the opportunity to connect with other pet bloggers to not only increase readership and community with our own blogs, but also there’s this kind of universal desire to help pets in need. That’s just been the theme throughout BlogPaws since we started: Be the change. Be the change you want to see for pets.

And so I will be leading a session on Be the Change on Thursday, and what we’re going to do is talk about some of the examples of collaborations that have happened as a result of BlogPaws. There’s a lot of examples. I think probably most of you listening today can think of an opportunity that has come about because of their ability to connect with other pet bloggers that have similar interests and similar desires to help.

We’re going to talk about examples like that, and then we’re going to do something a little bit different and that is we’re going to work on some projects together. We are going to choose several projects from the audience of people who might have a germ of an idea or maybe they’re putting something into place or have something that’s been going for a while. They need a little bit of a kick start. We’re going to talk about some of those projects together and figure out some ways that we can work together to make some of those things become a reality.

So I think it’ll be a lot of fun and we’ll learn a lot, and I hope that people walk away with some really solid information and ideas about what they can do and who they can connect with as well during the conference that weekend.

Carol: Good!

* * * *

Denise, I hear people say, “Well, you know Google or Google+, these Hangouts, just one more thing for me to get involved in. I don’t have the time. Is it really worth it? Especially in the pet blogger space. Our time is limited. We want to make a difference. A lot of us have full-time jobs during the day and we’re blogging at night.” What’s one little nugget you could give us tonight that someone could hope to take away from your particular session?

Denise: You know, a lot of bloggers want to know how to monetize their blog. They want to know how they can make money with their blog. In order to make money, you need to have an audience. …

… And what I’ve discovered about Google+ that is different from any other social network is that it’s much easier and faster to build relationships with people. And you need to have relationships with your community in order for them to buy your book. We’ll be talking about how to create books.

You’re bloggers. You’re creating a lot of content. How do you create something that you can sell? And Google, let’s remember this, Google owns Google+, Google equals search. Google equals search. …

Google+ is search. So if you want to be found, it’s really a good idea to start getting active on Google+. There are many communities. A community on Google+ is like a group on Facebook for example, and there are lots of communities devoted to pets and pet bloggers already on Google+.

… Every single public post that you post on Google+ is a unique page on the web and that page is indexed. And by indexing that content and associating that with your blog, for example when you post your blog post, you share you blog post on Google+, it gives your site more authority.

* * * *

So why Hangouts? Why should we be doing video like this?

Well, video is one of the fastest ways to build connection with your audience … to create content and accelerate your visibility on the web.

Because of the way that Google’s Hangouts are integrated with other Google properties like YouTube, while you’re watching this, it’s automatically streaming on YouTube as well, and as soon as this event is over, it’s going to be available on YouTube. …

So I’m going to be talking about more details around that. I really, really encourage you to think about doing this. This is a way for you to connect with your audience in a way that is easy and free.

Carol: Nice. We like easy. We like free. It sounds like a pet blogger’s dream.

* * * *

Well, good. I’ll flip to Susan then. In a similar vein, I hear a lot in the pet blogger space, “I want to write a book. I have so many blog posts. I’d like to do something with them. I’d like to transition. I have no idea what to do because the publishing landscape has changed so much.” … So … is there a myth that you could dispel just now for people about is it easy to get your book published these days? …

Susan: It’s easier to publish but it’s harder to get noticed.

It’s basically because the advantage you have is that anyone can write a book. The disadvantage you have is that anyone can write a book. And they do. So there’s absurd statistics like 20,000 books being released every day or something. I mean, there’s literally a million books coming out a year. Now how does anyone find your book?

That’s the big trick. And so what we’re going to talk about is finding your audience, figuring out what they need to know. And as a blogger, bloggers have a huge advantage. Because if they’re connecting with their audience, they know what their problems are.

This is particularly easy for nonfiction. I know that a lot of pet bloggers want to take some of their blog posts and write books from it. I’ve done it. … A whole bunch of my books came about that way where I had just a ton of online content which I then reorganized and put into book form. And that gives you an opportunity to reach a whole new audience. People who may never want to read piecemeal articles online, they want to read it in a sequence, in a book where it’s organized, where they have an index. And there are a lot of people who just like book forms. I happen to be one of them. What a huge shock.

And there’s something, Dan Poynter, who’s been an advocate of self publishing, since, I think he published his first book in 1969. … But he always says that “the root word of authority is author.” And being an actual book author gives you a different level of credibility that it’s difficult to get with a blog unless you turn into Copyblogger or something. … And you’re Brian Clark and you’re making gazillions of dollars. But for the rest of us …

Anyway, if you’re writing, that’s a big part of the battle. And what we’re going to talk about is the pros and cons of writing fiction versus nonfiction, how you want to approach your marketing. You still always want to find your audience though, so that’s a really important thing. So when I went to write fiction after writing however many nonfiction books, I thought about my audience. What audience do I already have? I have a lot of people who’ve read my pet books.

A lot of people who know me through the rescue organization that I’ve formed. So what are my books about? They’ve got dogs and cats in there, and that’s actually one of the biggest things in my reviews is that if you’re an animal lover, you’re going to like these books. And then you get that word of mouth going through your audience. And it’s all about finding your audience.

And then Penny is also going to talk about, she’s been really doing a lot of testing with how to get your book noticed on Amazon. If you can get noticed on Amazon, that’s huge.

Carol: That’s going to be an awesome session as well. So we have platform and building, making sure you have that platform in place and getting published with you. And we have Denise who is helping to show us how to get the word out, and connect and building communities. So Caroline, that brings me to you.

My third big question I get I lot is, “I want to help pets. How? I don’t even know where to start. Do people really care? I’m just a little fish in a big sea. The Internet’s a vast landscape.” What’s something that you think is a myth that might be dispelled in your particular session?

Caroline: Well, I think that some people feel like they want to help, and they have a platform to do so, but they’re hesitant to reach out to other bloggers because they may be working on their own project or helping their own local rescue or the rescue that’s near and dear to them.

I think one of the big things I want to get across in my session is that it’s not a competition at all. We’re not competing for the same donations. We’re not competing for the same brands to help us. We’re not competing for the same people to support us. If we work together, we can do amazing things.

I’ll give one great example. Many of you may know Dorian Wagner of Your Daily Cute. … She has been running the Santa Paws drive for, I think, four years. Every single year, basically what it is is that she raises donations of toys as well as cash from her audience and now today many other bloggers’ audiences, and she distributes it to, I think, five or six different rescues or shelters during the holiday season. And it has just grown and grown and grown. Every year I see more bloggers joining her. I see more bloggers supporting her. But then I see her supporting what they’re doing as well throughout the year.

So I think that if we can bring people together, let them know about our pet project, and figure out a way that we can help each other, I think that that is just going to be, we’re going to see an increase in those collaborations that can really help everybody. I mean, you’ve seen it yourself, Carol, with Wigglebutt Wedding, right? … And Wigglebutt Warriors. You know?

Carol: Right.

Caroline: You help people and they will help you. We are a community. It is not a competition, and it’s almost like the more you put out there, the more you get back. That’s one thing that I really want to emphasize in my session.

Carol: Awesome. So the working together is pivotal. That’s what I’ve found. And BlogPaws Be the Change has been so instrumental in why so many of us do so very much for rescue … taking your lead and the lead of others who have done so very much. …

… That leads me to I’d love to have each of you let folks who are listening and watching know how to find you. What’s your first point of contact where they can learn more about each of you?

Denise: Okay. Well, you can find me at DeniseWakeman.com and you can also get hooked into my occasional Hangout series at AdventuresInVisibility.com.

Susan: My website is SusanDaffron.com. And my book publishing company is LogicalExpressions.com.

Caroline: My company is called High Paw Media, like high five, but high paw, and it’s HighPaw.com. And you can reach me at caroline@highpaw.com.

Carol: Great. … This is Pet Blogger Education Month at BlogPaws, and just being able to bring you ladies together and … kicking off our speaker series.

And for anybody who wants to know more, learn more, and just be connected, come to the BlogPaws Conference. It’s probably one of the best investments you’ll make in yourself. …

Like Caroline said, she wants people to think big, so let’s start the year big and start the conference off big. And thank you all for joining us.