Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Our Interview with Amy Clark of MomAdvice.com

Welcome to the first of our series of interviews with established bloggers.

Today you'll hear from Amy Clark, the founder of MomAdvice.com, a hugely-popular online lifestyle magazine and women's community that includes three blogs, The MotherLoad, The MotherLoot, and The AldiQueen. The Indiana mom got her start in blogging, but has since expanded her "realm" to include spots on local television news programs, spokesperson roles with national companies, magazine columns, and more. Amy was one of the first bloggers to find Baby Cheapskate. She's offered tons of encouragement and sage advice to me and other bloggers over the past few years. Here's what Amy had to say about blogging:

Your website, MomAdvice.com, has been around for a few years now. A lot has changed in the blogging world. How is blogging different now from when you started?

When I started out, I had no idea what I was up against or how difficult it would be to create my own little niche in the blogging community. I immediately felt like it would serve our site best if my blog went the traditional mommy blog route. I loved sharing funny stories about my children and it was a very popular route to take. Not only was it popular, but it showed that I was just a normal mom with the usual problems that every mother out there has had to deal with. I wanted to add that element so that people understood more about who I was.

Unfortunately, what I quickly discovered is that I wasn't cut out for that type of writing. I wanted to keep our privacy and I wanted to protect my kids more than I wanted to share in that type of format. I love reading other people's stories, but soon discovered that my stories were better kept for close family and friends. In a sea of thousands of mommy bloggers, it made it hard to really stand out.

I figured that the natural direction would be to still add our family element to it, but to share on the categories that we talk about in the rest of the site- organizing, working-at-home, parenting, and personal finance. This made our blog go in a different direction than many blogs and fit more naturally with what we were trying to offer to our readers.

The thing that I am realizing though is that the blog community is constantly changing and the additions of all this social media can add another dimension to your reader experience altogether. What I try to remember is to not stay stagnant by reading and learning from others, constant and continuous research, and being open to change. Change can be hard when you get in your groove, but staying on your toes can not only benefit you professionally, but it can benefit your readers too.
You've done an amazing job of growing your website, so much so that you've expanded into more traditional media like TV and print magazines. What advice do you have for bloggers who are interested branching out like you've done? Can you describe some of your "big breaks"?
I feel extremely blessed and lucky to live in the community that I do because my community and family support is what has made my experience very unique. Our local newspaper, local news, and writing for a community publication have really helped grow our site within our own town.

I feel like my big breaks have happened because of our content. For example, I landed a Cascade spokesperson position because the company found an article that I wrote on how to use your dishwasher. I was featured in a segment on The Early Show because they were researching the topic of work-at-home scams and their researcher found our site through a search. I serve on the advisory board for Real Girls Media and that happened because they were using a tagline about empowering women and our tagline was about… empowering women. My current spokesperson position with Kenmore was also through my articles on appliance research and home organization. None of these opportunities were ones that I was seeking out, but were just things that landed in our lap.

I guess, if my life is any example of this, write about what you would want to represent and what you can confidently share on. Also use all of the free stuff that you do as practice in helping you become more confident with yourself and the topics that you can share on. Many opportunities are not going to pay you, but the paid opportunities often happen because of the free stuff you do now. If you get an opportunity to be in front of a camera, take it. Be open to experimenting in other types of mediums and it will add a new dimension to what you can offer companies. I really prefer getting to do stuff behind the scenes, but those television opportunities have helped showcase that I am more than just a blogger and that I am comfortable in other types of mediums too.
You're the kindest, most gentle blogger I know. I love how you lead by example. Do you have a few blogging etiquette tips you'd like to share? A few "do's" and "don'ts," perhaps?
Oh well, that is awfully nice of you to say and I really appreciate that. Blogging etiquette is something that I feel very passionate about and I do my best to practice good etiquette, in hopes of growing our community more.

One of the things I try to do is that I do my best to comment back on reader comments. If someone has a question or needs further clarifying on something I have blogged about, I try to always answer those questions. If I can, I also email the answer directly to the person. This lets our readers know that I am always listening to them and that I care about what they have to say.

If I can, I do my best to visit blogs from those who have commented on my blog. That builds the relationship up with the reader further and lets them know that I care about what they are talking about too. I know how much I appreciate comments so I try to give this back to my readers as much as I can. I always keep in the back of my mind how difficult it was starting out and how much comments meant to me. Never forget that beginning place so you can help others grow too.

I have also found growth has happened through highlighting other people's work. We do a weekly feature where I just highlight great ideas and projects that I find all over the web. This is one of the most time-consuming entries for me, but it also very worthwhile because people love to be featured and sometimes they never knew about our site in the first place. At first, I didn't understand how important it was to feature other bloggers, but now I see how much we have grown and all of the friendships I have made by highlighting other really amazing writers out there!

If I can offer any advice on etiquette though, it would be to do the best you can to be kind to others in your comments and respect the differences that make each of us so unique. Comment as much as you can, build personal relationships with bloggers, and treasure the readers that you have by making their experience on your blog the best that you can. Oh, and giveaways never hurt anything either! Share what you can with them so they know just how valuable they are.
MomAdvice is a part of the 9rules network. Can you talk about that a little? Has being a part of 9rules changed your blogging routine or editorial process at all? What are the benefits of being part of a network like 9rules?
The first rule of 9rules is to not talk about 9rules. Just kidding! It is quite the honor to be included in the 9rules community and to be among such amazing bloggers. I don't feel that it has changed our editorial process as much as it has been an opportunity to bond with and ask questions from the best of the best on the web. Our main attraction to 9rules has been the opportunity to be able to interact and share through their forums on the difficulties we are experiencing and the opportunities that have arisen through the website. For my husband, who is our web designer and a web designer professionally, interacting in this community has been a dream come true for him and we have learned so much.

Networks are great because it gives you a good base community to share with. I would say that if you are interested in joining a community, make sure it will be the best fit for you as your blog is growing and make sure that the community can grow with you as you expand your blog. Whatever network you decide to join though, make sure that you understand all of the fine print of joining it. Will you not be able to have advertisements on your site? Can you do product reviews or is that a conflict of interest? Are you able to join other networks or are you now exclusive? Be sure that you can agree to those terms before making that commitment.
Catch our next blogger interview a week from today!

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