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ShareASale ThinkTank Conference Review

I just returned from my first ever ThinkTank conference for ShareASale affiliates. ShareASale (affiliate link) is an affiliate network that is especially blogger friendly. I recommend them all of the time. They’re actively reaching out to bloggers because as I’ve noted before, affiliate networks love bloggers for the quality content they can bring. ShareASale even graciously sponsored my ABC conference last year.

I didn’t really know what to expect as far as how big the conference would be or the format.

ShareASale ThinkTank

FIRST CLASS ACCOMADATIONS

First, ShareASale CEO Brian Littleton is INCREDIBLY GENEROUS. He’s a bit of a hero (or should I say legend) to everyone too. It’s the ONLY conference I’ve been to that cost so little and delivered so much value. The hotel – Chicago Intercontinental on the Magnificent Mile – was absolutely gorgeous and the service was stellar. The food was incredible too. Not just meals but the snacks between every event. I was never hungry. They even had Chicago dogs and Chicago style popcorn. There were around 300 people with the majority being bloggers.

EDUCATIONAL ASPECTS

There were not very many sessions but the two classes for affiliates showed how to pull reports on ShareASale and how to elegantly direct people from your content posts to posts that make you money (see the image below). I learned from both – there were reports I had never checked until I learned about them. I want to try using a call out box in the center of a post to link to another post that has products in it.

They also went over the tools to create and share content from ShareASale merchants. Check out this post about using the Product Showcase or the Make A Page feature on ShareASale. I like how he put the products in line with the post.

ShareASale Presentation

We did have 15 minute discussions but it was super loud and 15 minutes goes by quick, especially when you’re sharing the table with about 10 other people. I did learn something from Missy Ward of Affiliate Summit (aff) and another affiliate that made it worth the effort to communicate. I’m so ADD that focusing in when there’s a ton of other things going on is really challenging.

GENERAL VIBE: OPEN AND WELCOMING

I sat next to famous people who’ve made millions and next to brand new affiliates and merchants who were just beginning. The thing about this industry is if you put in the effort there are a lot of people willing to help. It’s not like a blogging conference where there might be some attitude (look at me, I’m internet famous!). You don’t have to worry about what you wear, your age, if you know anyone else there, etc. You can just be yourself. There’s no attitude and people are approachable. To illustrate this – I caught a Lyft ride with an affiliate I had just met in the closing session. Elaine and I talked for hours and we both learned even more just hanging out at the airport.

THE MOST VALUABLE PART OF SHAREASALE THINKTANK FOR BLOGGERS

The most intense and valuable part of the entire conference are the one-on-one meetings with merchants. It’s a great way to brainstorm ways you can work together, get to know what they offer, and start a relationship. Like Joe from Fanantics says in his recap, you have to be open minded. There may be programs that don’t seem like a fit but end up working for you. As he said, just because you’re not a sports fan doesn’t mean your readers aren’t. Ironically, I started a private affiliate program of just me to sell baseball tickets for the local pro team!

Meeting with merchants was a chance to see and take photos of products that you otherwise just see online. I wish I’d taken even more photos of products. I’d even take them of the affiliate managers so I could remember them later. Here’s one I got though and it’s adorable. I fell in love with this romper Fanatics had on display even though they don’t have BYU (they have BYU and a ton of other teams though).

Florida Gators baby baseball outfit

To illustrate how helpful it is to know your affiliate manager, I pinged Joe on Facebook to get the link to the exact product I took a photo of. He responded immediately. Wow.

For example, there were several check affiliate managers. I learned so much about what each program offers. It’s not just checks either. If you have superhero fans, there are address labels with Marvel characters. If you are a Christian blogger there are checks with scriptures written on them. They also have RFID blocking wallets and purse organizers.

Here’s some checks that I added using the Make-a-Page feature. Unfortunately it doesn’t have all the products available to add to this showcase, but here are some favorites:

Here's what you can make on ShareASale, in honor of Fanatics, here's an example of ShareASale's Product Showcase. Rather than products that I selected, I put in a keyword and it shows products and rotates them based on that keyword. I put in BYU Cougars (where I went to college):


The Travel Blanket I Must Bring to Every Conference from Now On

I’m a bit of a conference addict. I like the temporary escape from everyday life, new people to talk with, and to learn ways to grow my business. What does that have to do with travel blankets?

Hotel rooms, especially conference rooms, are always cold for me. I can never pack enough scarves or wear jackets to keep me warm and still look professional, even in the summer. I always think I’ll be fine this time. I will be warm enough with a jacket. So I under dress.

Maybe this is you, too. You’re sitting most of the time and if you’re wearing professional shoes, your feet get cold. Wearing a skit? Your legs get cold. Even with a jacket you’re cold all over. It’s hard time to focus on the speakers because you’re so cold.

The cost of my stubbornness is that I’m almost always freezing in hotels around the country. That air conditioning that saves men in suits from excessive sweating is chilling some of us women like a bottle of wine on ice.

The Lightweight Travel Blanket I Will Bring to Conferences from Now On

If you are like me you are searching for the solution to being cold at conferences whether at home or on the road. You might like heavy blankets but I’ve fallen for lightweight blankets and lightweight things of all kinds. My absolute favorite are Eddie Bauer blankets. It has to be discreet enough that you can bring the blanket into the room and drape it over your legs underneath the tablecloth where no one can see, and then pack it up again.

I’m addicted to these blankets and even give them as gifts. Just be aware if you give it to a couple, they usually end up purchasing another one because they’ll fight over it until one of them buys their own.

I was recently in Chicago for a blogging conference (ShareASale ThinkTank) and although it’s May, it was cool, even cold. No matter how I cranked up the requested temperature on the thermostat to 74, I still froze. I called a truce by turning it off altogether. The hotel beds have sheets and they’re tough to pull up high enough and once again, I’m longing for my blanket. The one that I left at home because it’s May. I need a blanket that is easy to travel with, either in my suitcase or with it. This is it.

I like the travel throw, which has its own stuff sack and is small. It can also double as a pillow in a pinch. It’s made of 100% polyester and has a carabiner clip which you can attach to your carryon bag or just carry it around your shoulder. They’re a convenient size, very light, and surprisingly warm, and with the included stuff sack, perfect for travel. When I’m not travelling, I keep the blanket in my car. It’s great to use it on the road when I’m travelling with someone who likes the air conditioning on a lot higher than I do.

This blanket is ideal because it is really easy to clean. Spills and crumbs brush right off. The travel throw does not have fleece backing like their home throws. For home (we keep ours on our LoveSac) I prefer the one with fleece on one side. It’s super soft and cozy. For travel though it’s better not to have it because you can’t clean it as easily and it doesn’t come with a sack to carry it in.

Lightweight But Warm Jackets to Wear to the Office

As far as jackets, Eddie Bauer (affiliate link) has a lightweight jacket that I even wear in the house and it doesn’t feel like I have a heavy coat on – because I don’t. Since I work from home most days or in a cool coworking space, this saves me from having to do jumping jacks every half hour to warm up. I’d buy black because it can be more easily dressed up – although I do want one that is cut like a blazer.

Eddie Bauer is my favorite brand for jackets and coats. However, I’m not linking directly to the coat or blankets I have (2 coats, 3 blankets) because it’s not there and they’re always changing inventory. I’m a long, long time fan of Eddie Bauer jackets of all types and their generous return policy). So find it in the home category ? blankets and throws. I know this is a business blog but I also know I’m not the only woman freezing through the work day, almost year round. If that’s you, I hope this helps you too.

One of my most popular posts is a work wardrobe for women that’s practical and functional with a few basics that you can mix and match. You’ll notice that there and in this case, I’d rather spend a lot more up front for something that I love and that will last and last. It’s the same with the travel blankets. They’re going to make conference trips a lot more comfortable!

Note: all links in this post are affiliate links.

Recommended Affiliate Programs From Affiliate Managers Who Get It

When I went to Affiliate Summit this January I got to meet some affiliate managers and get to know their programs. I’m always looking for programs that are well-run and responsive. Greg Hoffman only runs programs in ShareASale and is top notch. Stephanie Robbins is another great manager. So is Melissa from Craftsy. I’m probably leaving some out. Some of the links below are affiliate links.

How The Best Affiliate Managers Can Help You:

  • They keep you updated on promotions.
  • They give you content ideas (StichFix does a great job of this).
    For example, if you’re VidAngel and Martin Luther King Day is coming up, you’d send an alert to your affiliates letting them know you have Selma and how it’s a perfect tie in.
  • They respond to email or other ways of contacting them (Jeannine at Affiliate Window is great at this).
  • They make it easier for you to promote their products. Melissa from Craftsy actually embeds your link into every email. She pre-writes tweets too. At a minimum you can copy/paste or edit then copy/paste.I referred a blogger to the Grokker program, where Stephanie Robbins is the affiliate manager. I noticed that Stephanie actually commented on a post.

    When I mentioned how great that is, and rare, here’s what the blogger said:

    “She is incredibly easy to work with and gets back so fast. This is the first affiliate program I’ve ever had good response. So I’m super glad you mentioned them. I’d just about given up on affiliate with shareasale for a while. Now I’m looking for more great companies on there.”

Affiliate Programs I Recommend

Affiliate programs can change and sometimes get better, but other times they get worse. There are programs I like but I don’t care for the affiliate manager – either you’re on your own or they do little to help out.

As of writing this post, these are some favorites:

Grokker

At home online yoga, exercise and cooking classes. You get paid $10 for each free trial you refer. 30 day cookie.
Sign up here.
Sign up to try Grokker out yourself first to see if it’s a good fit for your blog: http://www.newspapergrl.com/grokker Ideal for fitness bloggers or lifestyle bloggers who attract moms that have a tough time getting the kids packed and out of the house and to a gym.

Healing Natural Oils
Essential oils from Amoils
25% 60 day cookie, Average order size is $62, 3% conversion rate
Sign up here.

100 Percent Pure
All natural, organic and vegetarian skin care.
10% per sale, 45 day cookie, average order size is $80
I got a sample of their eye cream and I’m a big fan. I use it every night and it’s really helped with under eye circles and bags under my eyes. First eye cream I’ve ever loved.
Make sure to read the part that tells how many customers were happy with various aspects of their specific products.
Sign up here.

CleatSkins
Cover that slips onto sports shoes (like cleats) to protect & keep them clean.
$5 per sale, 60 day cookie
Sign up here.

Snake River Farms
Only 3% of all beef in the US receives the designation of Prime, yet Snake River Farms far exceeds the standard.
7% per sale, 60 day cookie
Sign up here.
This is a good one for food bloggers, anyone who has a higher end audience that will pay more for premium quality. BBQ bloggers, organic/whole foods bloggers are also a good fit.

My friends at Oakiwear just launched their affiliate program – they carry fashionable yet durable kid’s outdoor clothing. They’re on AvantLink.

Are you an affiliate of any of these programs? Which are your favorite affiliate programs or managers?

How Business Owners Get Stuck and What to Do about It

I’ve seen it many times. Entrepreneurs that have the skills to start a new company don’t necessarily have the skills to grow that company. That inability eventually kills the company they started. An entrepreneur may not have the business skills needed for the next phase. As a friend said to me recently, “The same perspective and drive that gets things started can blind them to changing situations.”

I’ve been laid off as a result of this problem. So have my friends. It’s happening right now in companies I know: the founders are not necessarily the right people to take the company into the next stages. They hang on anyway (usually because they’ve sunk a lot of time, money and heart into their business).

I’m in awe of people like Mark Zuckerberg. He is remarkable for his ability to start out as a young programmer, and manage to see Facebook to the size it is today – to be the CEO through such incredible growth.

I reached out to  Gary Coxe, a Business and Life Strategist to give his perspective on what gets business owners stuck and what to do about it.

ON MY MIND: How does a business owner ruin their own business once they get beyond a certain size? The ‘quirks’, and/or limited beliefs, that they hold on to limit the company’s growth and the success of those involved.

Today’s world of business is so fast moving a 3-year business plan will be obsolete in 3 months. If you don’t move and evolve fast, you’ll be swallowed up and lost in this quick-shifting economy.

With that being said, you need all the odds in your favor if you want to succeed. As a Business and Life Strategist, I constantly see the mistakes people are making that keep their business from growing. One major problem is that business owners often have a mindset and ‘quirks’ that they just won’t let go of. This hurts their business.

business-profit

Never forget why you’re in business. A business is created for one reason and one reason only – to make a profit. All quirks and egos must be set aside to truly succeed.  Here is perhaps the number one ‘quirk’ or limited belief that keeps a business from growing…

You Have to Do Everything Yourself
‘If you want something done right, then do it yourself’. Find me a business owner that thinks this way and I’ll show you business that will never grow to great levels. Thinking like this forces you to wear too many hats, and keeps you from hiring the right people, because you’re always going to micromanage, and never trust they can do a good job on their own. Continue reading

How To Turn Off Your Location on Facebook (From a Computer)

It seems like every few years I post something on Facebook and it shows the location I posted from. Each time I go through my privacy settings and I can’t find how to turn it off. Then I Google it, read through a bunch of answers and then remember. It’s actually very simple (but not intuitive) to turn off the location on your Facebook posts.

How to Turn Off Your Location on Facebook Posts

Go to the post that shows the location, here’s an example of one of mine:
How to delete your location from a Facebook post

Continue reading

April Fools: 5 Social Media Campaigns That Failed

For my April’s Fools post I’m not going to play a joke on you. I won’t tell you the name of my business has been changed or make up new products for a laugh. Instead I’m going to point out the real fools who thought it would be a good idea to launch a social media campaign.

My favorite is when someone responds to a misguided social media campaign in a way that overtakes the original purpose of the campaign.

Here are my top 5 Fools of 2015. These are the social media campaigns that backfired this year so far:

1. Starbucks: for the #RaceTogether campaign.
The one-week campaign asked employees to write “Race Together” on coffee cups and try to engage people in a dialogue about race. I’m not sure why they didn’t try to hold dialogue between customers by bringing leaders to stores for informal discussion groups about local issues.

Why were they fools? For thinking their customers would be interested in launching into politically loaded conversations while getting a cup of coffee.

2. Hamas: for their #AskHamas campaign 
This was also a week long campaign and it was international (but in English). Hamas is the largest Palestinian militant Islamist groups. It has a PR problem and decided to encourage people to ask questions on social media. Just news of the campaign invited mockery.

Why were they fools? For blowing people up to reach ideological and religious differences then ask the world what they think (and expect it to turn out well).

3. Mall of America: for the#itsmymall campaign

If you have something that you’d rather not be exposed, go ahead and trumpet something that others criticize. The Mall of America asked people to share stories about the mall on Twitter for a chance to win $500 gift cards. I don’t think the tweets about racism won the cash. The hashtag #itsmymall trended on Twitter and there wasn’t a lot of brand love.

Why were they fools? For acting “confused” about the backlash that happened and being out of touch with how their customers are treated.

4. SeaWorld: for their#AskSeaWorld Twitter campaign

SeaWorld has been criticized about their treatment of killer whales after a documentary criticizing them came out in 2013. Feeling maligned, they hoped to educate the public about they are doing to protect whales. They touted some good and then asked people to join in by asking questions using the hashtage #AskSeaWorld. That’s like asking environmentalists what they think about fracking (don’t expect to get any love).

PETA took the bait, asking:

peta-tweet

Why they were fools: For thinking you can reverse years of bad PR by putting out some positive messages and asking what everyone thinks.

#5 Budweiser: for not thinking through their #UpForWhatever campaign.

Bud Light tweeted a picture of five smiling young women on St. Patrick’s Day. It said: “On #StPatricksDay you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever.”

Why were they fools? The tweet was taken as giving an OK to sexual assault and was later deleted.

Lessons learned: when your brand is in trouble it’s probably a bad time to have public dialogue with the public. It’s too little too late. You can successfully address politically-loaded topics with advertising, but it’s more along the lines of rallying the troops than convincing naysayers.  One reason it’s probably a bad idea is because they expose just how out of touch the company is with public opinion.

Next up: a social media strategy (rather than a campaign) that is paying off well for a California doughnut shop I recently visited.

Utah Entrepreneurs Launch AModernBoutique.com on Instagram

A mother-daughter team launched a new business this July via Instagram. It quickly brought in sales and is still responsible for 90% of sales to the ecommerce website AModernBoutique that sells low-priced high fashion jewelry and clothes.

Annie Copinga and Diane Terry launched AModernBoutique.com, a low priced jewelry and other fashion, on Instagram. In just seven weeks after launching, their Instagram following shot up to over 10,000 followers and just a few months later, they have over 11,000 followers. It’s not unusual for the site to get sales within minutes of posting a new photo.

Instagram-marketing

I interviewed the founders of AModernBoutique to learn what works for them. “We sent friend requests to all of our friends and started putting up attractive images, and we noticed who our fashion friends would tag.” Then they reached out to form relationships with friends of friends. Fashion bloggers with large followings started sharing their images tagged with @amodernboutique. “They would tag us on Instagram and then we’d get friend requests from people who loved our necklaces and wanted to be friends.”

After finding bloggers on Instagram, they “listened” – essentially noting what they were posting and writing about on the site. When they found a good match they asked if they’d be interested in featuring their necklaces on their blog. Often when bloggers got their necklaces, they’d put a picture of themselves wearing it on Instagram and thank AModernBountique – which brings even more followers.

Copinga explained she chose Instagram because she used it – “My peers are on there. We just want to see pictures.” When it comes to a small business it’s perfect advice – start with the social network you like and use and where your target market is. She simple takes a snapshot, adds a price, and quick description of it. People can purchase the item right there by putting their Paypal address in the comment and the link to buy.

Instagram Tips
1. Post lifestyle rather than product shots.
Lifestyle pictures are better than just a picture of the product. So showing someone wearing a necklace with an outfit is better than showing a necklace by itself. Done this way it gives women ideas on what to wear with the necklace. They suggest outfits, ideas, colors to wear with. “Collages work well because we can show it in different looks and multiple colors (we have a necklace that comes in 4 different colors).”

2. Experiment with different times to find when is the best time to post.
For AModernBoutique that is in the morning and evening. “Women wake up, check email, instagram, and Facebook. Always around 4-5pm MST home from work, after dinner (7pm). A lot of fashion bloggers are on the east coast. We test this.” They also watch to see when their competitors post.

3. Use Apps
AModernBoutique suggests FrameUrLife and picstitch. Statigram is a great tool for finding brands and hashtags that relate to your brand. Simply enter the brand name or hashtag into the search box and click Search.  Here’s a list of top apps on Instagram.

Instagram Traffic Compared to Pinterest and Facebook

Instagram 150M Monthly Actives (Instagram was bought by Facebook  in 2012 as they were trying to move towards mobile)
Pinterest: 70 m
Facebook 1.15 b

Great work, thanks for sharing and I wish you much success on A Modern Boutique!

 

Introverts vs Extroverts at Work

Fast company recently posted two graphics that sum up how to get along with me (an extrovert) and how I can get along with better introverts (my son is one). I also get to test embedding posts from Facebook.

It’s fascinating how our brain works and what it means for our personality and what makes us tick or makes us happy. Happy people are shown to be more productive and creative employees, or business owners.

Research has actually found that there is a difference in the brains of extroverted and introverted people in terms of how we process rewards and how our genetic makeup differs.

 

EXTROVERTS EXPLAINED:

introverts explained:

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? (worth a read!).  Turns out that no one is all one or the other. You just might not be either one – and there’s a name for that too — an ambivert. Besides this measure, Meyers-Briggs can help you understand what kind of job you’d be best at. For me that has made all the difference.

Great PR Move: New Smoothie Business Charges Liberals $1 More

Try opening a new shop to sell smoothies in a small Utah town in the middle of Winter. Not just any Winter, one with subzero temperatures. You’d think it would be tough. It’s really a time when you’d probably do better selling hot chocolate. But thanks to some brilliant marketing, one small business owner is getting plenty of customers for his new smoothie shop in Vernal. He’s also getting national press. How? By taking a controversial political stand.

The owner is already a local celebrity for putting up billboards in support of oil and gas drilling in the town. Now he’s using his political views to get customers for his newest venture.

The large menu states that liberals will pay one price and conservatives pay another (not sure what moderates pay). If you’re a liberal you’ll pay $1 more for your smoothie. The extra dollar liberals pay gets donated to conservative causes. Again, brilliant. So is the name of the restaurant. It’s called the  I Love Drilling Juice and Smoothie Bar.

Owner George Burnett  is a real character, wearing his cowboy hat and not backing down from his opinions one bit. In other words this isn’t a publicity stunt (well, yes it is). He really believes it.

“I have liberals come in who pay $1 surcharge….actually all 3 liberals have been happy to pay it.”

No matter what way your politics lean, you have to have admire his brazen tactics.

Not only are customers rewarded for being conservative,  employees must be too. They must not only believe in drilling for oil (raping and pillaging the earth), they have to share their views on social media and with bumper stickers. Again, brilliant!

Now, in just about any other town in the US this would be not only bold, but stupid. But this is Vernal, Utah, where liberals might get shot at. When I traveled through these towns in college, we always displayed our US flag on the car to hopefully ward off attacks (while we went hiking). This is a small town where most would rather liberals not even visit (it reminds me of Richfield, New York which has a sign that says: Welcome to Richfield — now go home). This move creates instantly loyalty. And this is Utah, where some parents buy pink guns for their babies (as featured on Nightline).

This reminds me of Chick-fil-A and their open anti-gay marriage position. It may have made them hated with some, but others love them for their stand. That’s a lot riskier since they have a national audience, but supposedly it has paid off since this article claims they have record-breaking profits.  7-Eleven gets political without taking a stand either way by letting their customers choose a Republican or a Democrat coffee cup and claims that they do accurately predict election results.

In other words, taking a stand or using your business as a platform for your beliefs or to measure your customer’s beliefs, seems to be a trend that can pay off. What it’s really doing is tapping into what their customers are passionate about.

What do you think, do politics and business mix well? And, would you drink the Kool Aid  conservative or the liberal smoothie?

 

Online PR Link Love: Using Twitter Bots to Increase Followers

Here are some of my favorite reads or resources found online this week:

  • Bufferapp lets you flag content to be added to a queue and then auto-tweeted or put on Facebook throughout the day. I need this because I get flashes of ideas and finds, then flood my accounts and overwhelm people. Plus this tool chooses the best time of day to post for you. They also have a great blog – like this post on how to find & post great content 15x per day!