Q1: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Ann Smarty, brand & community manager at @NinjasMarketing, founder of MyBlogU, co-founder of @VCBuzz
I am an active blogger and guest blogger all over the place too (sites like @DevSEOchat, @smallbiztrends, @entrepreneur, etc). I blog A LOT for about 8 years now…
Q2 : Why is reading so important to you?
Reading is VERY essential self-growth: It inspires, makes you think, improves your memory, etc
Reading is also the most essential for keeping up-to-date with the industry news
Finally reading is important for me as a writer because it enriches my vocabulary
Sadly, I can’t read a lot (for the lack of time), but I’ve learned to read fast to be able to still keep track of niche content
I also use tools like @Cyfe and @Trello to organize my reading list
Q3: How do you get inspired to write blog posts?
First things first: Coffee. I drink it even at night if I know I need to write an article
Like I said, reading helps a lot to refresh your mind and get inspired
Especially reading comments: they are gold for inspiration!
I also have a very effective note-taking method. If I have an idea, I take brief notes using anything I have at hand: A piece of paper, iPhone, or a laptop
My notes are impossible to understand to anyone except for me (lots of arrows, signs, abbreviations)
I also try to write an article as soon as I feel inspired: Don’t wait until the inspiration is gone!
Q4: What are some brainstorming tips you can provide?
I use @MyBlogU to let the community send me ideas. Collaborative brainstorming works wonders!
@MyBlogU made me a very productive writer. Here’s more on that. Using @MyBlogU collective brainstorm, I can use one project to write 3-4 huge articles within a couple of hours because the ideas are usually very different (people just send whatever is one their minds), I can get inspired to write a lot!
Quora is another great source of inspiration to me. I used to use HARO too but recently got less active there…
Q5: What other content formats could we incorporate into blogging?
I’ve always used lots of visuals in my content
Because I do many tool reviews and lists, I love using annotated screenshots (using tools like @Snagit)
I found that annotated screenshots tell their own story, so they can be easily used in Slideshare decks…
I create decks using @HaikuDeck (Here’s a recent example)
Screenshots can also be turned into the instructional video (I use @Animoto for that)
Here’s an example of a video instruction using screenshots and visual testimonials.
The more types of visuals you create, the more channels you can market to
Plus, this way you give your readers lots of interactive and visual aids to encourage them to stay and share!
Q6: What are some tools you use to help you through the blogging process?
I have mentioned some of them already. I use @Cyfe and @Trello to collect & organize ideas
I use @MyBlogU to help me come up with new ideas + partially write my article (using MBU users’ blurbs)
I use @Quora for inspiration too (questions always inspire!)
I use Google Plus /explore to research related hashtags and concepts, more on this here.
I use @Snagit, @Animoto and @HaikuDeck to create visuals for my content (and lots of them)
I use Google Docs for collaboration (they have great features to collaborate with editors)
I use @BuzzSumo to find recent popular articles on the topic to reference
Q7: What are the benefits of writing for other blog sites and how do you team up with them?
The benefits are obvious: If you write good articles, you get those blog readers check your site (=traffic & subscribers)
I am usually invited to contribute: That is how I come across them
Sometimes I approach editors I know will be interested in my blog posts to expand my influence a bit
I try to contribute regularly to some blogs (like @smallbiztrends and @entrepreneur) because they drive traffic and exposure each time!