Upcoming Blog Conferences: TxSC and iRetreat

I’m super stoked to be attending a few amazing blog conferences over the next few months. First up is one I’ve attended once before: Texas Style Council, followed by iRetreat here in New Orleans in June, where I’ll be a speaker!

Texas Style Council 2015

Texas Style Council 2015

I attended the most recent Texas Style Council in August 2013. The upcoming event, which takes place March 20-22, 2015, will be the last one EVER. (This seriously makes my heart a little sad, but I know how much work it takes to organize events, so I can’t blame the organizers for wanting to go out with a bang and call it quits after this one.)

The theme for this year’s event is CAMP, aka “Create A Meaningful Presence.” And how are we gonna do that, exactly? Well, for one thing what makes this event extra special is that it will be held outside of Austin, TX at a Girl Scout CAMP! That’s right – see what they did there with the play on words??

Next, the lineup of speakers and “camp counselors” is pretty freakin’ epic. The keynote speakers include Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), Erin Loechner (Design for Mankind), and Sophia Rivka Rossi (Hello Giggles founder). There are so many amazing people involved this year, I couldn’t possibly begin to name them all (you could just visit the speakers and staff pages of their website if you want to check them all out…), but I will say I am SO excited to see everyone!

I have great memories of jamming out on the dance floor last time with Liz (Delightfully Tacky) and Julie (Orchid Grey). Hilary (Our Style Stories) and Tieka (Selective Potential) both gave great presentations last time. I’m super pumped that Cyndie Spiegel will be there this year too. Oh, not to mention getting to see Becky (The Pink Samurai) in person again! Plus the staff are all such sweethearts. Indiana has done a great job assembling an amazing team, including Linda, Nicole, Toyosi and so many more!

I’m looking forward to the non-traditional format, and smaller sessions that will hopefully encourage meaningful discussions about what it means to be a part of this increasingly digital world that can sometimes seem so fake. (But we’ll keep it real.)

I’ve been trying to reach out and connect with people ahead of time that are planning to go, via Instagram and elsewhere. If you’re going, please let me know, and please say “hi” at CAMP! (I’m actually pretty shy / introverted in person, especially when I first meet people, but I have a chatty / excited / loud side too. Ask me nerdy questions about WordPress or SEO or being a creative entrepreneur. It will get me started talking, I promise!)

Registration for CAMP TxSC March 20-22, 2015 closes this Monday, March 2 at midnight! Register now and join me there! I’d love to see your pretty face in person!

Blogger Conference

iRetreat Blogger Conference 2015

Next up, I will be SPEAKING at iRetreat Conference here in New Orleans this June, along with two of my amazing co-workers from FSC Interactive. We’ll be talking about what it takes to grow your brand or business on Instagram

(Timely too… I’ve been experimenting with this on my own Instagram over the last two months. I started January 2015 with 750 followers and a goal to see how fast I could hit 1,000. I’m proud to say I tipped that goal today!! A big THANK YOU to everyone who follows me there!)

Now, it’s not all about numbers. (Seriously, never pay for Instagram followers or anything like that. Yuck.) I seriously do want to find MY PEOPLE. I’ll be joined at iRetreat by Elizabeth Piper and Margaux Maizlish from FSC Interactive. Elizabeth currently manages the day-to-day operations of the @VisitNewOrleans Instagram account, which is one of the largest tourism Instagrams in the WORLD! Margaux is FSC’s Social Media Accounts Manager, which means she oversees a LOT of different brands who are on Instagram, including @Zatarain’s.

All of this is to say… You should probably join us at iRetreat. They’ve been slowly releasing the names of all of the 2015 speakers, and it’s already looking like a killer lineup.

Save $50 by registering for iRetreat now, ’cause the discounted early-bird price of $249 ends on March 25, when the price goes up to $299.

Are you planning to attend a blog conference this year?

Which one(s)? Let me know in the comments. And DEFINITELY let me know if you’re coming to one of the blogger conferences I’ll be at! I’d love to connect!

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Pinterest Bans Affiliate Links… Now What?

Pinterest Bans Affiliate Links... Now What?

As you may have heard, the big Pinterest news this week is that they’ve decided to ban all affiliate links and are simultaneously planning a Buy button, which will allow users to shop and purchase products without ever leaving Pinterest. While there are plenty of fashion bloggers up in arms about this latest development, I can’t say I’m actually surprised it’s happened. It was only a matter of time.

Pinterest claims this move was meant to improve user experience, although it’s likely it has more to do with the fact that they are preparing their own new monetization efforts with the upcoming Buy button. That said, there are plenty of spammy online marketers out there who just don’t get it, and they make it hard for those of us who really do just want to share awesome stuff and create a great user experience for readers. I only use affiliate links for products that I actually like, think are well-designed and fun, and would actually buy. Affiliate marketing does not, SHOULD not, equal spam. It should be about helping a user find products and services they are looking for more effectively.

In my last monthly online income report, I mentioned how Pinterest has been a huge factor in driving traffic to my sites. Pinterest is, and will continue to be, a big part of my online marketing strategy, although based on this recent news, I will be making some adjustments.

Pinterest has disallowed certain kinds of affiliate links and most link shorteners (bit.ly and the like) for a long time. The main programs that are affected by this recent development are Reward Style (which I participate in) and Hello Society. Another affiliate program I use, Zazzle, will also certainly be included in this list of programs that were allowed until recently but will not be allowed moving forward.

One thing to remember in light of this news is that this is why it’s so important not to rely too heavily on any single source of traffic or income. This is why it’s also SUPER important for any brand or business to have their own self-hosted website and build their own list of customers, separate from any social media platform that can change their policies or go out of business at the blink of an eye.

For example, a few years ago I got really into Squidoo, which allowed users to build “Lenses” or web pages dedicated to a single topic. Squidoo had lots of traffic and high page rank. It offered an integrated Amazon affiliate program, and gave marketers the opportunity to add their own affiliate links to articles as well. I learned a lot from building pages there and from the community that used Squidoo. But I didn’t stop what I was doing on my own websites, so last year when Squidoo announced that they’d be shutting down and transferring their content over to HubPages, instead of moving with them, I just saved all of my content so that I could update and add the best info back onto my own websites, rather than letting it move over to yet another 3rd party website.

As for the recent Pinterest news… right now I have some pins that do include affiliate links, and they will be affected by this update. But another big part of my current Pinterest marketing strategy is pin-optimized images that live on my own websites, that are meant to (hopefully) go viral on Pinterest and then drive traffic back to my blog posts which include affiliate links.

Cool Gifts for Guys on Pinterest

For example, one of my most profitable posts during the holiday season was Cool Gifts for Guys. This post includes multiple pin-optimized images meant to drive traffic back to that post, and from there, drive clicks and affiliate sales. This pin from that post (pictured above) has been re-pinned 879 and liked 197 times, as of today. That single pin accounted for 4,964 visits to my website during December 2014. This pin should NOT be affected by the newest update to Pinterest’s Acceptable Use Policy.

Moving forward, I’ll keep an eye out for my older pins that DID include Reward Style or Zazzle affiliate links, and look for opportunities to turn that content into new blog posts. I’ll create a new blog post around that product(s), and add those images to the post. I’ll probably also create a new pin-optimized image to go along with that post. (I use Pixelmator, a cheaper Photoshop alternative for Mac, and Canva, a web-based photo editor, to create these images.)

After the new blog post is live, I can edit the pin and change the source URL to point to my new blog post, so that instead of clicks going directly to the product, without the affiliate link, users will be directed to a blog post that includes even more useful content (like other similar products that a visitor might enjoy or tips on how to use that product), plus a direct affiliate link to the product.

What do you think about this latest news concerning Pinterest affiliate links?

Let me know in the comments what you think about this change, and how you will be adjusting your own Pinterest affiliate marketing strategy!

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Monthly Online Income Report: December 2014

Online Income Report December 2014

I was recently (re)inspired to start posting my monthly online income reports, after reading the income reports of Regina and Erika. I posted a screenshot a few weeks ago on Instagram of my December earnings on Amazon, and I got a lot of great feedback, so I thought it might be helpful for other people if I started doing proper online income reports here on the blog. I contemplated starting to post these about a year ago (blog draft and everything), and then for whatever reason, never finished it.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll be able to keep up with these on a monthly basis (this one took me a LONG time to compile), but please let me know in the comments if you find this information useful, and I will try to do them regularly. I know I’ve certainly found it helpful to read other income reports over the years. I love Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income reports, although the results are so astronomical, they can be intimidating if you’re just starting out with online income streams. The income reports from Five Green Lizards were really inspiring to me a few years ago when I was testing out Squidoo (RIP), and they turned me on to Zazzle as another income stream. The income reports from Pinch of Yum are another great source of inspiration for food bloggers.

I’ll try to explain as much as I can about my current income streams here, but again – since this is the first report please chime in with any questions and I’ll try to answer as best I can!

So, without further ado… Here goes:

Monthly Online Income – December 2014

Amazon – $1,941.53
Zazzle – $50.27
RewardStyle – $127.75
Shareasale – $44.59
Etsy – digital downloads – $45.00
Etsy – jewelry sales – $128.90
Storenvy – jewelry sales – $0.00

Total Gross Online Income – December 2014: $2,338.04

Year-Over-Year Comparison – December 2013

Amazon – $259.80
Zazzle – $8.63
RewardStyle – $54.16
Shareasale – $26.77
Etsy – digital downloads – $9.00
Etsy – jewelry sales – $0.00
Storenvy – jewelry sales – $64.50
Squidoo – $17.12

Total Gross Online Income – December 2013: $439.98

Most Popular Blog Content – December 2014

For most of the affiliate programs mentioned above, I’m counting money earned that month in the totals, not the money that actually hit my bank account that month, as most of these pay out a couple of months after the original sale. Most of these programs still have referrals that are considered “open” for last month, so the amount I actually get paid on could vary slightly from what’s listed here, in case anyone returns anything before the transaction is officially deemed “closed.”

Also, for the four affiliate programs listed above, I use multiple channels to promote products. This blog, Miss Malaprop, features more personal style, crafty business tips, etc. Cool Stuff We Like is the site I started in 2011 as an experiment, but now it’s my primary money-making blog. That site saw a HUGE spike in traffic during the last quarter of 2014. Which is due in no small part to Pinterest.

Top Pins for Miss Malaprop in December 2014

Traffic Overview – MissMalaprop.com – December 2014

Google Analytics Overview Miss Malaprop - December 2014

Traffic Overview – CoolStuffWeLike.com – December 2014

Google Analytics Overview Cool Stuff We Like - December 2014

Amazon Associates is pretty well known in the world of affiliate marketing, as is Shareasale. As I mentioned near the beginning, I’ve only been experimenting with Zazzle over the last year or two. Those earnings are a mix of sales for products I’ve created, plus affiliate commissions on sales of other people’s products I’ve promoted. (Mostly the latter.)

If you’re not familiar with it, RewardStyle was created primarily for fashion bloggers, and it has a lot of cool tools and features. (I’ve you’ve ever seen a fashion blogger post about LIKEtoKNOW.it on Instagram, that’s part of RewardStyle.) I use their program differently than the majority of their affiliates, as I’m not a traditional fashion blogger. (I tend to post nerdy gift guides rather than outfit posts.) They recently integrated Amazon, right before Black Friday last year, so my December RewardStyle earnings actually include some sales on Amazon as well. Most of my other RewardStyle commissions are for sales on ModCloth and ThinkGeek.

In regards to my craft business, I’m only including online sales here (both digital products as well as jewelry). In 2013, I was primarily promoting my Storenvy shop, but now I primarily promote my Etsy shop, since my listings for both jewelry and digital products are there. I still do the occasional craft show, particularly around the holidays, but in person sales are a much smaller part of my income these days, as I’ve scaled back to focus on my full-time day job at FSC Interactive. Which brings me to…

One of my biggest income leaps in 2014 vs 2013 was the fact that I went from part-time hustling for myself and Trashy Diva to full-time hustling as part of the amazing team at FSC Interactive. (And still part-time hustling for myself on the site, natch.) The fact that I have this full-time day job at all can be attributed to everything I taught myself through blogging for so many years. (MissMalaprop.com got its start in 2006, but I had a personal blog on LiveJournal starting in 2001.) Over the past year I’ve learned so much from my personal business that I’ve been able to apply to my day job and vice versa.

Next Steps:

I spent some time between Christmas and New Years doing mini website audits on both of my primary sites and making to-do lists for the year, as well as a content plan. Time has a way of escaping me (I want to do ALL OF THE THINGS), but I’ve been in the slow process of updating old content on both sites (particularly anything that still gets a lot of organic search traffic or Pinterest traffic).

I’m continuing to try to diversify my income streams. I have some plans for some new offerings on Etsy that hopefully I’ll get around to later this year. I also have a backlog of doodles and photos to scan and add to products for my Zazzle shop. Not to mention all of that jewelry that is sitting around un-photographed and not on Etsy yet.

I’ve got quite a bit of travel planned for the next few months, including two trips to Austin, Texas: first for the Texas Style Council bloggers conference in March. (Check out my recap of the last one here.) And second for the Austin International Drag Festival in May. So don’t be surprised if that cuts into how much I’m able to accomplish over the coming months. But the whole point of this online income stuff is to be able to also craft the OFF-line life I want, and travel is a big part of that. So win-win.

What did I miss?

Let me know in the comments if you’d like clarification on anything I mentioned here! Also, please let me know if it’s valuable enough for me to continue doing these. Thanks!!

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New Orleans Gift Ideas

On the hunt for great New Orleans inspired gift ideas? Look no further! I’ve gathered up a few of my favorites, including handmade gifts by local artists and gift ideas for your favorite foodie!

New Orleans Gifts Jewelry

New Orleans Jewelry Gift Ideas

Wear your love for New Orleans on your sleeve. Or your neck, or your wrist, or your finger… you get the picture.

I actually designed a few of these pieces myself, and friends of mine are the creators of the other pieces seen here. The top two necklaces (NOLA Love Heart & Fleur De Lis Necklace and the Louisiana Illustration Necklace) feature my original illustrations, and they are both customizable. They’re created on-demand by Zazzle, which means you can personalize each piece and choose from all sorts of options. I also made the Fleur De Lis Earrings seen at bottom – they’re available in my Etsy shop!

The other two pieces were made by some of my favorite artist friends. My friend Tressa of Flambeaux Design Company handcrafted the King Cake Necklace seen above out of polymer clay, sprinkled with real cinnamon! The Twisted Fleur de Lis Necklace is made by John D Iron – if you’ve followed me for a long time, you might remember his work, as I used to carry it in my old shop.

New Orleans Food Gifts

New Orleans Food Gifts

If there is one thing about New Orleans that sticks with you (both in your memories and on your hips), it’s the food! Whether you live here and want to send NOLA themed food gifts to friends and family who live out of town, or whether you’re looking back fondly on past visits to the Crescent City, these gift ideas are a fun way to cook up New Orleans flavor at home.

Handmade in NOLA - Gift Ideas Under $30

Handmade in NOLA – Gift Ideas Under $30

My friend Emily of Sweet Olive Soap Works is a born & raised New Orleanian who learned soap-making from her grandmother. She has a whole line of New Orleans inspired handcrafted soaps, and one of the most popular ones is her Red Beans and Rice Soap, which is actually made with Red bean and rice powders, but smells like fresh laundry! (That’s cause historically in New Orleans, Mondays were laundry day, and you’d throw on a pot of red beans & rice to cook all day long while you did your laundry.)

My friends Heather and Mark of Unique Products make all sorts of cool recycled stuff, which you can find in person at their shop at 2038 Magazine Street. Their Sun Jujus made from recycled Mardi Gras beads are a fun gift for anyone who loves New Orleans.

Sarah Ott is a local artist who makes beautiful jewelry and accessories, like this Nola Love Bangle. You can shop her work via Where Y’Art, on her own website SarahOtt.com, or visit her kiosk at the Riverwalk in downtown New Orleans.

NOLA artist Heather Mattingly crafts up Fleur Debris out of found objects like Mardi Gras beads, king cake babies and screws. Each piece is one of a kind, which makes for a very special gift idea!

This is by no means a comprehensive list! There are SO MANY amazing artists and creators here in New Orleans, and there’s no way I could include them all. Check out my Pinterest board Louisiana Love for more great NOLA inspiration.

What are YOUR favorite New Orleans inspired gifts?

Let me know in the comments!

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What I Wore: Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3

Marie Claire Roadshow Example

I got an email recently from the photo department at Marie Claire magazine. They’re about to shoot a feature here in New Orleans for the February 2015 issue, similar to the example above, and asked me to be a part of it.

First thought that ran through my head: “Holy cow, this is amazing! Is this real life?!?”

Second thought that ran through my head: “What the hell am I going to wear?!?”

Clearly, I had to enlist my boyfriend David S. White to help me do a test run and figure out what I should wear and how to not make funny faces on camera. Here are my options!

What I Wore: Leopard

earrings – Abiqutie
jacket – Trashy Diva
dress – Trashy Diva
belt – Trashy Diva
tights – Foot Traffic
boots – Miz Mooz

What I Wore: Blackmilk

earrings – made by me, Miss Malaprop
jacket – Zara
shirt – Ureshii
leggings – Blackmilk
purse – vintage, hand-painted by Love, Marigold
boots – Gee WaWa

What I Wore: Stripes

earrings – made by me, Miss Malaprop
jacket – Trashy Diva
shirt – Target
skirt – Trashy Diva
shoes – Swedish Hasbeens

What I Wore: Teal

earrings – made by me, Miss Malaprop
jacket – Zara
shirt – Target
skirt – Trashy Diva
shoes – Swedish Hasbeens

The call sheet they sent out included 20+ people, and the example from the magazine they sent had 11. So who knows if I’ll make the cut, but it sure is nice to be asked!

What outfit do you like the best? (I think I’ve narrowed it down at this point, but I’d love to hear what you think!)

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