Kimberly Castleberry was someone I met through Twitter. One person asked if she and I knew each other. I went to look at her profile and discovered she only lived less than 20 miles from me and we had some common interests – so I followed. Not far after, we met at a local restaurant, talked for hours, and became friends. We even traveled to WordCamp Chicago together though I am glad she survived my city driving…lol.
Kim and I are great friends and continually try to meet at least once a month for a luncheon. She knows WordPress, shiny fun tech gadgets, marketing, and more. She has a strong and growing community and has helped a lot of newbie site owners harness the power of social media for their site and overall business.
Also, as a side fact, tt is not uncommon to see her and I promoting each others events. 🙂
Without further ado, here is my interview with Kimberly Castleberry.
NILE: Before I go into the questions, please tell myself and the readers a little about yourself.
KIMBERLY:I am 30 years old and from Southern Illinois. My backgrounds is in IT, small business and medical research. I am passionate about helping small businesses succeed in social media. I primarily blog at http://just-ask-kim.com and run http://speed2trust.info
NILE: What inspired you to start blogging, or why did you start blogging?
KIMBERLY: I actually entered the ranks of blogging a little sideways! A bunch of my friends in one of my communities had moved to using WordPress as a platform for business blogging but didn’t know how to set it up or get started. So I installed it and enjoyed playing with it while using what I learned to help THEM get going. I actually launched it as a blog myself a couple weeks later with no real objective except to be able to stop writing the same tutorial instructions for each of them, individual, times fifty! The ability to set a tutorial up once and just give someone a link to help them out was an incredibly powerful objective for me!
Since them, very much following the same idea, my blog serves as a resource for tips, tricks, tutorials and insights into social media technology such as WordPress and social media marketing. Rather than blogging just to blog, I blog because its a great way to put resources out there for others, to give value in a way that develops my credibility and brand, to demonstrate competencies that lend people to seek my services, generate an income, and as one of the faces of my business marketing approach. I enjoy blogging but much of that enjoyment stems from how well it works to accomplish these goals, rather from solely the emotional release of a traditional public journal.
NILE: Versus a lot of bloggers who blog about blogging, you have done this, but you like to talk about marketing. What tips do you have for people trying to market themselves/their business/their website? What methods do you recommend?
KIMBERLY: First I think its important to identify what you to achieve. There is a big difference between a blogger that simply wants to generate enough revenue to pay their hosting expenses and wants the marketing side to stay out of the way as much as possible versus a marketer that is using WordPress as a platform to build a brand, build brand loyalty, foster community engagement and either using the site as a primary stream of income or as the “business-front” of a service/product that is the primary stream of income. These are two very different objectives with different needs and requirements.
Almost all of these tactics can be useful to the hobby blogger because every little snippet of marketing that gets applied just makes the revenue easier to attain.
Regardless of which category you’re in, once you’ve figured out where your income will come from, you must have traffic. It doesn’t really matter whether you start with article marketing, social media marketing & tribe syndication, video marketing, commenting on 100 other commentluv blogs a day, or some other source of traffic, but pick one and work the heck out of it until traffic is arriving!
Now to back up a step – before you drive traffic – you must decide where you’re income will come from. Google Adsense is very common in the blogging field and can work quite nicely however more and more its suffering from a blend of “ad blindness” and not being congruent with social media marketing where you want to carefully hand-pick the items you promote to protect your most valuable asset (your name). The same goes with selling banner ads, where if one is not careful about who they take on as an advertiser, the social media ramifications from the harm it does to their name to be promoting someone/something that’s not worthy can be harsh.
For the hobby blogger looking for simply covering hosting expenses, use of Google Adsense and occasionally Infolinks can usually provide the handful of dollars a month to cover hosting.
The first intermediate step that many hobby bloggers take is advertising spaces on their blog as well as beginning to delve into the world of affiliate promotion products where they can promote someone’s products that are congruent with their blog theme and generate on average 50%+ of the sale price. List building usually begins at this level – often initially as a way to gain some additional blog traffic and exposure and leading into the ability to promote products to your list.
The marketer on the other hand starts out way more protective of their need to generate an income than they do of their need to seek the emotional release and feel-good of personal blogging. This is an important mindset distinction and has a lot of impact on end results.
Income opportunities for marketers utilizing blogging for promotion are rather abundant and honestly mostly limited by the amount of time you can dedicate to your business.
Take a look at your biggest blogging names and you’ll see that as long as they are still in a phase of actively gaining traction (rather than the several that are simply coasting), they are doing two things…. building an email list (this is NOT the same as RSS email options) and creating products. Why? Because that’s where the money is the best currently.
Even a hobby blogger can easily put together a free 10 tips report on his/her niche topic, perhaps 10 tips for handling unruly teens…. and then record an interview with a more knowledgeable/established member of that niche and offer it as a $7 or $17 sale and begin very quickly making some revenue. Then scout through clickbank for some niche related products that you can later promote to your list after they’ve been receiving your blog posts, updates, tips and freebies for a while. It’s way too easy to overthink this which is what most do and get spinning their wheels.
Find a niche you’re passionate about. Narrow it down drastically. Keep your site focused around that topics. Get a list management service like Aweber. Create or purchase (PLR) a report you can use as a optin offer to begin growing your list. Begin work on creating a low priced first purchase product. Set up other income systems such as banners that you plan to use. Start driving traffic. Build a solid, consistent reputation with your visitors and list that helps to establish your credibility on the topic. Promote things that you know will help your visitors. Cash the checks.
NILE: Have you ever had some difficulty in the beginning when trying to reach a target audience? If so, how did you overcome that issue?
KIMBERLY: My target audience was originally only my friends with in the community so was an easy reach. However, as my reach within the larger blogging world has increased, I’ve had to re-think my target, re-adjust my focus and sort out new ways to reach that audience. I’ve been working lately to have better reach within the more classic “bloggers that just want to make some extra money too” community which I’m finding is taking a different approach. I have to be careful not to cater to any particular new sub-niche and lose focus of who my businesses “avatar” aka target market aka “ideal client” really is. Losing that focus almost always has cost me reach, impact and reputation. Its a slipperly slope to start letting our niche widen and try to be everything to everyone. There are a lot of people I can help – but not a lot of people I can cater to if I want to stay correctly focused. This is important to remember. Because I know who my businesses avatar/ideal client is, its easy to partner up with others in similar niches and use tribe syndication and mastermind groups to get good exposure. Networking through someone else’s network – with their blessing – is always a fast tactic with good results.
NILE: In your opinion, what is it that you believe a person must do in order to become influential amongst their niche?
KIMBERLY: Influential stems back to reputations and first and foremost must ALWAYS be to protect your name, reputation and credibility. Be careful of risky associations, risky promotions or the temptation to promote something that might might not be right just because you can make a buck. In this industry words are powerful but its honestly the action that speaks far louder. Want to get seen by those at a “caliber” above you? Write about them and link back graciously and speak truthfully and with heart. Don’t just write/link to get them to stick their nose in for a peak.
See a group of individuals within the niche that you would like to build a better relationship with… find a way you can help them and give freely. Marketing has kinda ruined the idea of “free” and “gifts” but a gift, of something or a service that someone can use, given freely and with the right heart almost ALWAYS has incredible ripple effects.
See one of your favorite bloggers struggling to get an image to sit right? Drop them a private message with a link to a tutorial that will make it easy for them. See someone struggling with something you find easy? Set up the basics for them and give it to them. These little gifts coupled with your sincere kind words said “behind their back” build bridges.
All of this I think goes without saying that there is the need for consistent, regular high-quality content AND consistent, regular actions of taking good care of one’s community/readers/subscribers. If you continue to remember that these visitors are blessing you with their time, that you serve them, then your humility and graciousness will keep you in the correct frame to continue providing value, quality and building relationships.
NILE: What advice to you have for new bloggers who want to become successful and influential?
KIMBERLY: While I stress having a hyper-narrow niche… don’t let not having one stop you from blogging! Get started writing, learning the mechanics of wordpress, forming the HABIT of writing nearly daily, laying the groundwork for the next step. Don’t overlook how important this part of the learning curve is. You can always tighten up your niche later.
Find ways to give and give and give to your readers – but at the same time have a strong belief in the value of your best work and don’t be afraid to name that price. Free has no worth. Free is not credited correctly in the brain. Whether your specialty is a service or a information product, value it… and your readers will value you.
Never forget that you constantly have to network in 3 directions…. up, down and sideways. Up, with those you respect and are attempting to build a relationship with. Sideways with your peers who are perhaps your strongest ally. Down, lending a hand-up to those who are just getting started. Neglect one of these and traction will be unnecessarily rough to attain.
Never forget that success is a long term project, just like building an offline small business or reputation in a new town. It will not come over night. There will be days the journey seems to be beating the snot out of you. Take a breath, muster your strength and stand back up. You CAN do this if you want it bad enough. Don’t let the struggle or the grind or the frustrations break your spirit or make you too cynical. Don’t ever forget why you started, what your goal is, and who you serve. You are always closer to success than you think you are… don’t take your foot off the gas!