Wednesday, February 08, 2012

9 ways to blow your blog's horn without blowing it: Promotion you can live with

I'm often asked how to sustain a blog--a nod to the fact that they're easy enough to dream up and set up, but perhaps not so easy to keep alive. Or as my mother would say, "That blog isn't going to read itself."

Bottom line: You're going to have to blow your own horn, my friend, to get the readers that will make your blog more than an island of your thoughts. But how to do that without blowing it--in the wrong way? Here are some ways to promote your blogs and feeds that I think you can live with:
  1. Link your blog and your bio: You're an author and publisher if you have a blog, so make sure it's in every bio with a link. Add it to your email signature, one of your most frequent yet ignored promotional options. Link to your blog's "about" page on your Twitter profile (it's an amazing traffic-driver). 
  2. Give us something to go on: Every time I see a post on Twitter that says "I posted a new blog" I figure you're proud that you actually posted. If you want me to read it, stop focusing on your accomplishment and tell me what's at the link. The same goes for that email you just sent telling me you have a newly redesigned website. Focus on the content, folks. That's what we're looking for. And if all you do is push out your content, I'm far less likely to click that link. Prove you're a human and start having some discussions with people.
  3. Speak to your blog: Every speaking gig or presentation can become a gateway to your blog if you include it in your bio or introduction; talk about it in your speech; and write a post to serve as an electronic handout, rather than giving out your slides or just mentioning it on the final slide. I've even taken video of audience questions and posted them on my blogs later with answers and links--great way to keep engaging your speaking audience long after the presentation is done.
  4. Drive traffic on the right sites: Traffic-driving sites have been shaken up recently by Pinterest, which is a strong traffic driver despite its newcomer status. All you have to do is create boards on the topics that your blog covers, then pin blog items directly to them so that your pinned items link back to your blog. Pinterest drives more traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and and YouTube combined. At the same time, a design change in StumbleUpon means it's now less reliable as a traffic-driver. Twitter remains a top traffic-driver. Not sure which site works best for you? Do a three-month pilot test, measuring your baseline and results.  
  5. Make it easy for me to follow and share your stuff: I've lost track of the number of times I've read a great blog post, then searched in vain for a "pin this," +1, retweet, or Facebook "like" button. Failing those options, I look for an RSS feed so I can read and share from Google Reader--and often find that missing, too. Even if you already publish on the very shareable Facebook and Twitter, make sure your blog has the buttons to share, too. The functionality is built into most blog platforms, so this should be easy.
  6. Cultivate tipsters: When people start to bring you fodder for your blog--sources, articles, "this made me think of your blog" flotsam and jetsam, pictures, ideas--you know it's taking hold, since the tipster has to have read enough to understand your take. (The tipster's much better than the people who pitch releases and products, for bloggers just as for reporters.) A tipster's the best kind of fan, so thank them and do some periodic posts that let tipsters know their contributions are welcome. If you work at a company or organization, cultivate internal and external tipsters on different channels.  Don't forget to ask them for their ideas of what they'd most like to see on the blog, an easy and authentic way to get content ideas that people actually want to see.
  7. Tip off your mentions and those most likely to share or recommend: Got people you reference in your blog, top sources or those who take your posts and write their own around them? Send them an email, direct message or some other behind-the-scenes heads-up when you post something you think they can use. Don't overdo this, but do make sure they hear from you first when they are mentioned or it's their regular beat.
  8. Thank your sharers: A corollary to cultivating tipsters is to thank the people who share your stuff, via retweets, Facebook shares or other reposts, links or mentions. You can leave a comment on their blog posts mentioning your post, send a "thanks for the RT" tweet or other appropriate public recognition. Keep track of those who share your stuff, too. One of the best ideas I've seen about Google+ was to create a circle called "People who RT me," but you could also make Twitter and FB lists for the same purpose. Make sure they get thanks, and updates, directly from you for spreading your blog posts far and wide. This is the community-building part of your blog. I know some bloggers who've given this up as a time-consuming task, but it pays big dividends.
  9. Summarize your stuff: Not everyone will read everything you do (shocking, but true). So serve it up in different ways: Publish a list of the most-read posts every month, share them in a monthly newsletter via email, and make sure your RSS option includes the chance to subscribe via email.

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