Tuesday, March 01, 2011

10 ways to get (and keep) tipsters for your blog

A would-be blogger called me recently for tips. She's been a faithful reader of my blogs, so when she asked, "And people bring you things to write about?" I knew it was more incredulous than not actually knowing what happens here and on The Eloquent Woman.

But yes, it happens--and can happen for your blog, whether you're blogging personally or for your company, government agency, university or nonprofit. Here are some tactics that work for my blogs, and I welcome your tips in the comments:
  1. Make your content easy to share. If you don't have an RSS feed, Facebook like buttons and other easy sharing tools on your blog posts and feeds (and those are built into most blog platforms), you won't be able to help your readers help you reach that tipster you don't know yet. Offer multiple options.
  2. Be accessible. Do readers know how to contact you? Not all of them will want to comment publicly; offer a private option. Make sure your blog has a contact page that lets them know where to email you, find you on Twitter and Facebook, phone you or track you down some other way.
  3. Focus. If your readers and followers get your angle, they're much more likely to tee up content ideas, leads and links that you can use. Got a blog about graphic design and your penchant for long-distance bike rides? I know what to send you. On this blog, it's ways to stay prepared and avoid getting caught by surprise, behind the curve or speechless when you communicate in public or with the news media. On The Eloquent Woman, it's issues faced by women about public speaking and presenting. Far as I know, they're unique--and I have the great tips to prove it.
  4. Ask. Ask again. Ask your readers: Ask them for tips and ideas, ask what they want to see or what they want to know. Ask them "Who are you? What are you looking for here?" Ask them to fill in a blank, share a tip that they know, or what their latest challenge or question is. Listen to your readers on the different channels they use--Facebook, Twitter, Quora--and ask different questions tailored to those sites. Then use every single response as its own post. Waste nothing. If readers see themselves in your posts, they'll be inspired to help with more information later.
  5. Tip that hat. Tipsters love credit--most of the time. You'll encourage tipsters if you credit them with passing along something that inspired you, asking the salient question, or offering a smart point of view. Be generous, and others will return the favor.
  6. Thank on the backchannel. You may not be able to hat tip every tipster in public, for your purposes or theirs. So be sure you're extra generous with thanking them in a direct message in whichever platform you're using to communicate, from phone to email to Twitter. Asking their preferences for whether a public acknowledgement is okay also helps cement a tipster relationship.
  7. Tell people what you're mulling...in advance. "I'm looking for..." or "I'd like to write about..." posts that share areas where you're gathering string can help tipsters help you. Got a long list? Update it monthly or post it on a static page so tipsters can refer to it over time.
  8. Invite guest posts or ask to re-post relevant blog posts by others.  Don't hesitate to ask bloggers on your topic to write a guest post or (easier for them) let you reprint a relevant post of theirs on your blog. It may help you build a relationship with a great tipster and contributor.
  9. Join the conversation. Chatting with folks on Facebook, Twitter, Quora or your social site of choice will help you hear about trends and tips, and give you the chance to send private messages to reinforce what works for your blog.
  10. Be honest. I get all sorts of pitches and tips that just don't fit this or my other blogs. I always let the tipster know why the pitch doesn't work, in hopes they'll come back with something more relevant next time. (That pitch for a guest post on what single women can do in lieu of a date on Valentine's Day really didn't fit my blog on women of all marital statuses who are interested in presentations and public speaking. Really.) You also can post a statement about what works and what you're looking for to help clear things up.
What works for you in getting tips and content for your blog? Share it in the comments.

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