Afterward we got to talking about strategies she could use to boost her new book launch. I suggested an oldie-but-goodie idea of running a blog challenge. Her results were pretty incredible, and I asked her to share them with you in this special guest post. This is a thorough guide, and the full process is laid out here.
In August 2013 I ran a 30 Day Blog Challenge on my blog to coincide with the launch of my book The Suitcase Entrepreneur and tied in with using software called Contest Domination to really create some buzz.
The challenge was a lot of work, but to date it’s been the most successful initiative I’ve ever run on my blog. I’m going to share the entire planning, process and results with you in case you want to run a similar challenge yourself.
Here’s the full process from start to finish. Feel free to skip ahead to see the results, or start here and work your way down.
Main Aim and Key Goals of the 30 Day Blog Challenge
The aim of this entire series was to inspire those who participated to build a blueprint for creating an online business and a lifestyle they loved.
This is pretty much my entire aim in life and business and what my blog, podcast and video series aims to do on a daily basis.
It was free to join and at the end of the 30 days the aim was to ensure you had a serious plan of action from which to create freedom in business and adventure in life.
Drawing on themes, topics and insight from my NEW book The Suitcase Entrepreneur and my BYOB Build Your Online Business eBook, I gave participants access to unique content, tips and knowledge to apply to their own business goals and lifestyle desires.
Like any great challenge I set out to achieve several goals, which were to:
- Drive massive traffic to my blog and help cross promote with bloggers and community
- Get a load of shares across social media using Contest Domination platform
- Entice people to buy lots of copies of my book – especially during launch week
- Add hundreds of subscribers to my email list through the competition
- Promote the book through the blog for an entire month
The Blog Challenge Planning and Production Process
I wanted this blog challenge to not only inspire people but to get them to do the work and take action and to really showcase what it takes to be a Suitcase Entrepreneur and make the most of highlighting specific content from the 315 pages in my new book.
As I mentioned it was broken out into 3 Acts which were:
- Day 1-8 Act 1: about whether you’re cut out to be a digital nomad and what it really takes to be free (mindset, case studies, life vision)
- Days 9-21 Act 2: how to build an online business you can take anywhere (and the future of work, social media and outsourcing)
- Days 22-30 Act 3: how to become a pro at being homeless (travel and adventure, managing life on the road and location independence)
Part 1: Planning
I’d never attempted to plan, write and produce 30 days of epic content and this was no small undertaking. I warn you that if you’re going to attempt a challenge of these proportions you need to commit to planning ahead!
I worked together with Cher who’s my Chief Happiness Officer and Karl who volunteered as a digital strategist, to brainstorm the best way to present the acts and blog posts.
In the planning process we looked to Darren Rowse’s 31 Day Build a Better Blog Challenge and Corbett’s very own (now retired) B-List Breakthrough concept.
This gave us a healthy framework from which to work from and to understand the elements we should include to make it more valuable, shareable and doable.
We then used MindMeister to plan out the acts, daily topics and rough bullet points of content into a mindmap. After that we set deadline dates for this while on a live Skype call and assigned each of us to write specific days’ content.
Part 2: Production
Thanks to our mindmap we had pretty clear intentions of what needed to be done and the main aim was to have at least 8 days worth of blog posts prepared in advance. Then it went like this:
- We used Google Docs (one for each act) with a contents section to easily refer to and navigate to each blog post that we all wrote within this document
- We left comments and questions within the document, which we could answer and resolve
- Once complete I’d make the blog title green (yellow meant in editing mode) and my virtual Assistant Margaret could then copy and format them into a new blog post on my WordPress site.
- We used Asana to manage the project and other marketing related activities such getting banners done, blog post images (Cher created 3 template backgrounds and then posted the blog title for each day on the image) and the Contest Domination imagery.
This worked pretty well and Cher was amazing in getting through hers. Karl was mainly focused on tool posts that he could pull from my books and intro sections summarizing what was coming up.
The lions’ share of the work fell to me in terms of editing all the content, rewriting some of it (since I wrote the book I figured I had the most knowledge on this topic…).
Part 3: The Contest
You might think writing and launching a book as well as running a 30 Day Blog Challenge is more than enough work, but I decided to throw in a contest too to entice even more people to take part (and because I wanted to try it out).
After listening to an excellent podcast by Amy Porterfield with successful results of people who’d used the platform Contest Domination to grow their list, extend their reach and grow their social media following.
I also contacted Travis the founder of Contest Domination, to ask for more tips and I’m so glad I did as he helped me out by telling me the following, which I’m happy to share with you (and I’m sure he is too):
Contest Domination Tips from Travis Ketchum:
When it comes to authors specifically, it’s important to understand that people are most curious about you, the author, and want to get a more personal connection. For example, I’m a big fan of Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk etc so for a book launch that was a contest for access to him – like 30 minute phone calls, a special prize that’s personal to me for my collection etc are things that are key triggers.
What you’re trying to accomplish here is getting people to act irrationally in terms of promoting your contest because you’ve connected with them on a personal level vs just a “tell people about my book and enter to win your own copy”. While something that simple will get you more leads, the higher the stakes, and the more personal you can be – the greater your return will be.
The sweet spot for a contest seems to be between 2 and 4 weeks. If you’re going for a month or longer though, you just need to have a strategy for driving fresh traffic into the contest outside of your initial tribe. This is a great opportunity to leverage Facebook ads etc to suck a ton of fresh leads into your contest to engage and share your message.
I’ve found there are 3 “hotspots” emailing your list…
1. Right at launch during the new, shiny phase..
2. Right in the middle so they have time to keep sharing with friends.. &
3. 48-72 hours before the contest closes so they can do a mad dash to the finish.
I took notes and then went ahead and set up Contest Domination, which was really straight forward to use as it takes you through each step.
Because I was being pedantic and also new to the platform it took a few hours of making sure I had it right including imagery, messaging and bonus points.
In the end I was confident that my challenge was a goodie. Here’s what people go as you can see from my contest imagery:
WIN a $5,000 day in person with Natalie Sisson to build your dream lifestyle business.
Implementing the 30 Day Blog Challenge
I had been `leaking’ information about this upcoming challenge during July and had been sharing my book publishing adventure with my community since March so they were well primed and excited for it.
I set about promoting the blog challenge around one week before it began when the landing page was ready by way of:
- Mentions in emails to my Highflyer list
- Social Media
- Fun video
- Facebook advertising
- Podcast shoutouts
To make it simple everything was housed under one landing page at suitcaseentrepreneur.com/blogchallenge where we put in the details of how it would run and how to partake.
In fact here’s exactly what that page said:
Join the challenge in 4 easy steps:
1. Enter the 30 Day Challenge contest
Simply enter your name and email in my contest [there was a link provided] and you’ll instantly get a chance to win a full day of coaching with me in San Diego valued at $5,000.
2. Visit http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/blogchallenge every day
That way you will be able to see the latest post in the challenge and call to action (and we will also email every few days with the latest blog posts so you stay up to date).
3. Commit to writing a response blog post
Answer the call to action we will provide each day by writing a blog post on your own site and copying and pasting the URL of the blog post in your trackback field under where you write your blog post to let us know you wrote it!
4. Display the 30 Day Challenge badge on your site
Tell us you’re partaking by placing one of the badges below on your sidebar with the copy and paste HTML code we’ve provided and/ or at the end of each post you write!
Then I went on to summarize what was covered in the 30 Day Series and below this was a simple yet highly effective `Click to tweet’ button that was an optional fun step for people to share that they were doing the challenge and so many people tweeted about this it was amazing.
Below that were the page share buttons, which by the end of the month had over 650 Facebook shares, 700 tweets and hundreds of shares to LinkedIn, Google Plus and Pinterest too.
And then below this every single blog post was displayed once it was published as we fed in the category slug for the blog challenge.
Finally we had simple instructions at the very bottom of the page on how to provide a trackback or permalink on your blog to identify us that you were participating.
So this page really acted as the central hub on where to find everything you needed.
The 30 Day Challenge In Action
There were many moving parts to this challenge so I’ve broken them down into four parts:
1. Daily blog publishing process
I worked with my Virtual Assistant Margaret who aimed to set up multiple blog posts in advance. She was also tasked with doing the following:
Optimize the images too by putting in ’30 Day Blog Challenge Day 4′ In both the image name, description – just not caption and the URL to the blog challenge page as the custom URL
- Install the Pinterest extension on your browser so you can simply click on the `Pin It’ button when you hover over the image for that day’s blog post. You can then add this to the 30 Day Blog Challenge board with a short description that says exactly what it says on the image, e.g [Day 1] Welcome to the 30 Day Blog Challenge’ and include the URL to the blog challenge in the description http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/blogchallenge – as the pin will point to the post – so we have two calls to action or ways to find it
- Keep an eye on Disqus pending comments and approve them if they’re related to the challenge, as well as comments that are trackbacks.
- For all trackbacks and links in the comments from participants use bit.ly to capture the title and the bit.ly link and post this into the appropriate day’s blog post under the heading called `Round of today’s blog posts from you’ if I haven’t already
It soon became impossible for me to add the personal touch of reading every blog post, leaving a comment, pinning some of them and sharing. But through the course of the 30 days `most’ people had at least one interaction with me on social media, their own blog post or in the comments of my blog post challenge as well as the daily emails I sent.
2. Daily email process
This was probably the main driver of the challenge. Contest Domination was linked to my InfusionSoft account so anyone who entered the competition was automatically added as a contact and tagged and with 30DC. This meant I could send a daily email to them regardless of when they joined.
This email was simply the title of the blog post with a small summary on what was included and a link to the blog post. The first week I also threw in some valuable blogging tips as I realized many people had started a new blog just to partake in this challenge!
This was really well received and I got numerous personal replies and responses during the challenge to my emails that kept the momentum going and helped keep people on track.
I did make mention of my blog challenge twice more to my main Highflyer list, which encouraged more people to join.
The daily social media promotion and marketing process
Between Margaret and myself we did the following:
- Pinned daily each new blog challenge post to our 30 Day Blog Challenge board set up on my Pinterest account. In addition we took a selection of 6-12 posts per day from participants and pinned them there too which they loved and further shared as a result.
- Scheduled the blog post image, description and URL to go out everyday using Hootsuite to be shared across all my key social media sites including my Facebook Page, Facebook profile, Google Plus Profile, LinkedIn and Twitter.
- Set up a Twitter list for the challenge and hashtag #TSE30DC which we inputted as a keyword search tab on Hootsuite. This allowed us to track a daily feed of people blogging and follow them and add them to the list as well as retweet or share their blog posts and respond to them with personal messages.
- Leveraged Contest Domination for maximum sharing as the more platforms you shared to the more entries you got. In addition I’d then share, like and comment on people’s social media activity which encouraged them to promote the challenge and the contest.
- Linked to the 30 Day Blog Challenge at the end of my weekly video series and shouted out in my podcast with the direct URL
The Facebook Advertising strategy
The goal of the Facebook advertising campaign was to grow my Suitcase Entrepreneur Facebook fan page, drive traffic to the contest, and promote The Suitcase Entrepreneur book.
I worked with Tony Ruiz for this and here is an overview of how we approached the campaign of which my final spend was around US$1,500 and contributed to approximately1500 new likes, more email leads and certainly more book sales.
Target Users Who Liked Similar Like Pages and Existing Fans
For Facebook users that liked pages similar to the Suitcase Entrepreneur we targeted them with a “Like” Ad, this is an ad that shows up in the news feed and has a call to action to like our page.
Once they liked the Suitcase Entrepreneur page and became familiar with the brand over the next couple weeks they were targeted with ads about the new book (along with the existing users who already liked the Suitcase Entrepreneur).
The “Book Ads” were promoted in both the news feed and sidebar but we saw more clicks with ads that appeared in the news feed. 815 clicks for news feed ads versus 64 clicks for sidebar ads.
Using “Page Post” Ads
These ads appear strictly in the news feed and look like regular posts. In fact, in order to run them you must post on your page first and then set them up as ads in the back end.
We ran two “Page Post” ads which received 5,178 clicks over the six ads that were set up in the ad manager and didn’t look like regular posts.
- One “Page Post” Ad was specifically to promote the contest. This ad was targeted to users who liked similar like pages to the Suitcase Entrepreneur. The contest “Page Post” Ad received 3,898 clicks, which is the most clicks out of the campaign.
Driving traffic to the contest gave us a chance to get a lead, like on the Suitcase Entrepreneur page, and the potential to be shared throughout social networks since it was ran through the Contest Domination platform.
- “Page Post” Ad number two promoted the book and its achievements in becoming an Amazon No #1 Bestseller. This ad targeted friends of fans and collected 1,280 clicks.
The great thing about the “Page Post” Ad is you tend to collect likes on your page even if your intentions are not to generate likes.
We ran this campaign for around 3 weeks only and there was a lot of room for testing other variables with targeting, ad positioning, and how frequent an ad is shown.
Overall, ads that show up in the news feed are having the most success right now within the Facebook advertising platform.
Overall Blog Challenge Results
Despite the fact that I had a mini burnout during this period (seriously that’s a lot of content and marketing to undertake in an intense period while being on a book tour), this was an immense success and something I’m truly proud of.
I never dreamed I’d have such an incredible reaction to it and such an outpouring of love and feedback from people who adored the challenge.
What’s more I ran it during a holiday period so really expected fewer people to be online and active, turns out it worked in my favor as people had more time to write in general.
During August 6 (the day my book went live on Amazon) and September 5 here are the results I achieved:
- An almost 100% increase in traffic to my website
- 187% increase on the previous months visits from Facebook
- 490% increase in traffic from Twitter
- 202% increase in traffic from Pinterest
- 57% increase in traffic from Google Plus
- 1,000 new subscribers added to my email list
- Over 300 people partaking in the blog challenge
- Over 150 comments on one blog post alone
- 30% increase in digital product sales on my blog
- 1,500 new Facebook Fans added
- 400 new Pinterest followers
- 900 new people adding me to their circles on Google Plus
- No #1 Bestseller ranking for my book within one week of it being published!
- More importantly massive amounts of goodwill and new fans and lives changed.
Lessons Learned from the 30 Day Blog Challenge
This kind of thing is not something to be undertaken lightly. It was epic in every single way and made even more so by the fact that I was launching my book and as I mentioned, on a book tour so dealing with interviews, media, planning and the events.
It showed me the power of blogging and for the hundreds of participants the joy of blogging consistently, especially when you have a blueprint to follow,
In no particular order here are the key lessons learned that you can apply to your own challenge should you choose to run one:
- Timing doesn’t matter if the blog challenge resonates and is clearly laid out (as was proved by my August undertaking). I did have a lot of requests to re-run it and so did in October on a less `full-on’ and more automated scale which has been great too.
- Social sharing in critical to help your challenge ‘explode’ online, create maximum buzz and intrigue and to be seen to ‘be everywhere’. Make sure it’s connected into your challenge and across your platforms and that it’s EASY for people to participate in.
- Visual images appeal to virtually everyone so by having our 3 Act templates as gorgeous images as well as sharing Pinterest images from people’s posts we got a lot more eyeballs
- Being engaged makes a big difference as participants consistently fed back to me. Leaving a comment on their post or sharing it on Twitter or liking it on Facebook meant they felt a part of something bigger and part of the community – which they were!
- Motivation is critical as doing anything for 30 days is tough. Many people dropped off after days 5-10 and then became re-engaged through my email correspondence and suggestion to combine multiple daily challenges into one post. I also offered giveaways of my books at the end of each act to those who’d shown up and committed the most.
- Community is key and self-managing and I had not intended for friendships and strong bonds to be formed during this challenge. The second time around running it I’ve invited everyone to join my free Social Media Club where they can continue to communicate, share and support (not just in the blog comments). Plus many people helped each other during the challenge answering each others’ questions so I didn’t have to monitor everything.
- Continue to leverage your challenge. I posted a survey to all participants and had over 50 people give me in-depth feedback proving they’d actually pay for me to run this again given the value of the information. I am running this challenge again right now during October – come join! This time with a two-part video intro and welcome, another contest and the 30 daily emails set on autoresponder from when people started. The results have been great once again.
The key to all of this in my mind is to have a very strong vision and purpose for your blog challenge. Of course I knew if I executed well this could contribute to growth of my blog, traffic, email list and sales of my digital products and book.
But ultimately I just wanted to create an incredible experience for my community and encourage people start blogging or if they already were, to fall in love with it again.
On the final day I asked people to share in the comments how they found the challenge and I still visit that blog post now given all the feedback I got like:
Thanks so much for running such a fun and helpful challenge. I feel like so much has happened in the last thirty days and a great deal of it has been fueled by the inspiration you bring.
I feel I’m really starting to find my path along this business journey and of course the daily writing prompts have been extremely helpful in the development of my personal voice.
I would recommend this challenge to any one.
Or this from Haydee:
Perhaps you will never know how wonderful and meaningful it has been to blog alongside you. You taught me that there is literally, a freer way to living –starting from our mentality and out to our surroundings. You’re the proof for all the naysayers in my life– not only can anybody have a location independent life, but they can also really have a compelling reason to get up each morning.
That framework is lucrative enough, but you also make enough money to prove that it’s a lucrative model financially. I have learned and applied more in this 30 Day Blog Challenge than I ever have in such a short period in my life.
When you get feedback like this, oh and don’t forget the winner of the day with me who wrote an entire blog post about our coaching day, you realize you’ve definitely hit on something that has changed peoples’ lives!
It just so happened that it tied in perfectly with The Suitcase Entrepreneur book, which wouldn’t have been written had I not started my very own blog in late 2009.
So what are you waiting for?
Let me know if you have questions about the contest, or about running your own blog challenge in the comments below. Good luck!