I’ve known Eleanor Evans of Bellesouth since 2005 through the social networking site known as MySpace and other social networking sites. Over just a few short years, she’s actually figured out how to make money at blogging, a fact I am in awe of. She was also a strong member of the Super Action Team, a group of amazing marketers and social networking gurus who volunteered to help me promote my novel, Super.
It is with great pleasure that I present an interview with Bellesouth’s industrious and brilliant creator, Eleanor Evans, in which she answers critical questions about unemployment, godliness, and how to become a paid blogger.
Aaron Dietz: When we first communicated about doing an interview you said something about pretending it’s a Barbara Walters Special, so I watched some of those to prepare. And if I may, I’d like to steal some questions from her, starting with the following:
At one point I heard that you thought you might do a show like The View. Is that true?*
Eleanor Evans: Ha! No. You might be confusing this with the time I was interviewed by Star Jones on her short-lived Court TV show for breaking a high-profile story during my newspaper days. She said, “You go, girl!” to me. That’s as far as it went.
AD: That is hugely impressive! Once again I am in awe of you.
How did you feel when you read about the three heads of the auto companies taking private planes to Washington?*
EE: Absolutely annoyed. I hate flying just as much as the next guy, but if I need tons and tons of money I’m taking whatever cheap, multi-layover trip I can get. Or I’ll just drive my ’04 Focus so they’ll see that I’m so broke I can’t afford to use a car wash.
AD: If you were President, what would you do about unemployment?*
EE: First of all, I’d try to recover revenues by pushing for legislation that would place a tax penalty on any U.S. corporations that create more jobs through outsourcing than through domestic hiring.
Secondly, I would push for tax incentives for U.S. corporations who can report at least 25 percent new, domestic hires during the tax year.
I would also end the Bush tax cuts, as they have done absolutely nothing to create jobs. The revenue created would significantly offset our debt.
I would also push for vocational training for jobs we desperately need. The industries that are seeking workers are in health care, homeland security and public health, education, oil-mining and extraction, and engineering services.
I also would push for more development in the creative economy, as more and more Americans are going into business for themselves through writing, art, design and handmade goods.
Sadly, I don’t think those outsourced jobs are coming back, and if they left those countries, how would they be able to live? I don’t want to see the same China that existed 40 years ago.
We need to pay attention to the “Buy Handmade” movement and how it’s enabled lots of Americans to earn substantial incomes. Bloggers are also doing the same thing.
AD: Amen. This stranglehold of bad politics going on could be completely alleviated by a strong shift in purchasing habits. Your words here are quite poignant.
We refer to you with deep respect as Your Holiness – are you a god?*
EE: No, but if I was a God, I would be Poseidon. He carried around that HUGE trident. I bet I could catch some really tasty fish with that thing.
AD: Ha! Now anyone reading this post knows what to get you for a gag gift. And now just to shift the tone a little bit, I’d like to ask you some questions that were NOT originally generated by Barbara Walters.
On one of your many online profiles, you claim that you “get excited about the little joys in life.” Can you name some of these little joys you get excited about?
EE: When I’ve had a really bad day, I open the front door to my condo and my dog immediately runs up to me to show me how much I was missed. Getting hugs from my mom, my friends and their kids. Sharing inside jokes with my mom while we’re out in public.
AD: How did you end up becoming a paid blogger?
EE: It all started in about 2008, when I was looking through my Google Reader recommendations and I happened across a blog written by Julie Vazquez. It told stories about her life and her kids but also included product reviews, giveaways and other interesting posts that would attract readers. I found out Julie wrote for a company called IZEA (www.izea.com), which marketed itself as a leader in “sponsored conversations.” Basically, you are paid to write honest reviews about products, services and promotions. So I joined IZEA, started writing a little bit here and there, and eventually my blog took on a new life and I was joining other groups and getting more offers. It’s still paying just a little more than milk money, but it is growing and I am continuing to learn from people.
AD: How did you get into the whole “mom” blogger market?
EE: From the days of MySpace blogging, the greatest portion of my readers were stay-at-home moms. For some reason I have always connected with them, even though I’ve never been married, I don’t have children and at the time I worked a 40-hour-a-week job. I think right now “mom blogging” is getting to be VERY big, especially since we’re in a recession, people are always looking to save money. At the same time, businesses can get a lot more exposure by allowing trusted writers with word-of-mouth marketing standards to give honest opinions on their products. It attracts me because I have the power not to promote or write about something that goes against my principles.
That’s the best part about working for myself; I call the shots, I agree to the terms, and I don’t have 15 different bosses coming up to me to remind me to put the cover page on my TPS reports.
AD: I’m always so proud of myself when I get a pop culture reference. Office Space. See that, everyone? My memory works sometimes!
So, where do you see the blogging thing going in the next five years?
EE: I have no idea where it’s going. I think the mom-market novelty will wear off soon and that it will take a few good writers and promoters to keep up. It’s like Mary Kay. There’s always gonna be someone with the pink cadillac and some others with a closet full of product they can’t give away.
AD: What’s in store for you and your site, Bellesouth?
EE: As far as Bellesouth is concerned, I’m still going to be adding stories and anecdotes from my life, but there will also be a lot more reviews, giveaways and post exchanges such as the one we’re doing here. But I’m also working very hard on my Facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/bellesouthblogs), where I’m posting deals and giveaways from other sites, as well as engaging in regular dialogue with them.
I take a lot of things from my reporter days, including my philosophy that you have to genuinely earn people’s trust, and once you do, you must spend every day earning their trust again and again. Engage your readers; respond to their comments even with a simple “Thank you,” and be sincere in everything you do.
AD: Since we met through MySpace and we both took part in the explosion of user-generated content that occurred there not that long ago, I thought I’d close with a few MySpace survey questions, just for old times’ sake. Here goes:
What did your last text message say?**
EE: We have received a request to add your mobile phone number to REDBOXALERTS. Please reply Y to confirm your subscription. Msg&data rates may apply.
(I’m not gonna reply to that one.)
AD: Have u every liked someone who had a girlfriend/boyfriend?**
EE: Every liked? Now I KNOW you copied this from MySpace.
AD: Busted. I wanted to be authentic. Copy editing the questions wouldn’t have felt genuine.
Why did u get a myspace?**
EE: One of my college friends said I needed to get on MySpace and start a blog, because I would be very good at it, people would read it and laugh.
AD: And the rest, as they say, is history. I think it’s fitting that I close this out with an old school emoticon, for old times sake.
* An actual question taken from a Barbara Walters Special. Can you guess which celebrity Barbara Walters was talking to?
** An actual question taken from a MySpace quiz.