In August of 2011, sitting on a train in France, I had the distinct impression that I needed to start blogging consistently and with purpose. I had always had a blog, but my postings had been sporadic at best and my audience was me and my roommate. One day I'll tell you all about said train ride in France, but what is important is that I came home with the determination to be a "blogger." Problem is, I had no idea where to start. Now, a year and a half later I find myself with some idea of what I'm doing, but still lost on many things. Lately I've gotten a surge of emails from newbie bloggers asking for blogging advice. My first reaction is to always ask, "Who knows?! I need all the help I can get!" I often feel like a small fish in a big lake in the blogging world, but I guess I have figured out a thing or two about this community. And so, I will share. Everything I know about blogging, but please know you should take this all with a grain of salt. I am learning here too. Oh, and veteran bloggers, PLEASE chime in. We would love your input and advice on everything and anything! Also, this is the first in a two part series. Part two cometh next week. This girl needs to sleep tonight.
1. Swap with other bloggers
I think the hardest stages of a blog are the 1-100 stage. It's difficult to get most people to take you seriously as a blogger when no one is "following" you. The best thing I did during this stage was I looked for bloggers that were similar to me. I would find a blog with lots of buttons on the sidebar and then I would open up every single blog in a new window and spend time studying at the other blogs. I think you can learn something from every blog- either in the "what to do" department or "what not to do" department. I kept a list of the "big bloggers" that I looked up to, and I watched what they were doing and I copied the things that I thought were successful. I also kept a list of blogs that were similar in size and audience to mine. I would ask the bloggers if they wanted to switch blogs for a day with me- I would post on theirs, they would post on mine. At first I was only getting one or two new followers from each post, but as my audience grew, so did the bargaining power I had with other blogs. I remember having 50 followers and asking Eryka, a blogger with 80 followers, if she wanted to switch posts with me. I was terrified she would say no because I was "so much" smaller than her, but I figured I had nothing to lose. I was totally shocked when she said yes, and we both ended up with more followers because of the swap. Two words. Win. Win.
2. Network, network, network!
Blogging is social, and if you're not willing to really put yourself out there, and get to know other bloggers, then you're not going to find a lot of people support you. In September of 2011 I started blogging faithfully five times a week. I never missed. My posts were creative and funny and I certainly give them my all. Only no one was reading. The idea came to post my blog links on facebook, and so I got family and friends reading my blog. The blog peaked, but then stayed stagnant for months. It didn't grow because I had no blog connections. I was blogging, but not at all involved with the blogging world. It wasn't until I really started reading others' blogs and commenting that I realized I had been blogging completely in my own little bubble. I hadn't been contributing at all to the blogging world, and in return, no one was reading my blog. It dawned on me that I needed to be more actively involved with other bloggers and it wasn't until then that the blog took off.
Actively search out blogs, and if you find a blog you like, follow it. Make sure to tell the blogger in a comment that you are a new follower. This will often lead to curiosity from the blogger and a lot of bloggers will in turn look at your blog. Of course, be weary of the copied and pasted "Hey I love your blog! I am following you. Please follow me." That is a huge blogger no no and we all hate those people. But, if you leave a genuine comment that you are interested in a blog, you can often expect that person to look at your blog and sometimes even follow you in return.
Blogger veterans: What did you do to get your blog through the 1-100 follower stage? Any suggestions to get it initially off the ground?
3. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Use em!
All of these go hand in hand with blogging. Get a facebook page for your blog if you don't already have one and get a twitter account. Twitter is a great platform for promoting your blog. Link up every post you do (Heck, I even sometimes do it twice a day. The great thing about twitter is there is no "socially unacceptable" number of times you can tweet. You can tweet all day!) Follow all your bloggy friends and blogs you admire on twitter. Mention them when you like one of their posts, ask them questions via twitter, etc. Be actively involved in the twitter world. I know a lot of bloggers that are much better and faster about answering tweets than they are about email. It seems less threatening and commital maybe? You can find me on twitter here, on facebook here, on Pinterest here, and Instagram @thelifeofbon. Come join the par-tay!
Veteran bloggers: How do you use twitter? Any secrets that have brought you lots of success?
4. Karma, baby!
Most bloggers want the same thing- for other people to read their blogs. So if you help another blogger out in her journey to more pageviews, chances are she will likely do the same. At least once a week I try to tweet the link to a blog post of another blogger that I genuinely loved reading. I don't ask anything back, but I always mention them so I make sure they know I was sending good karma their way. This doesn't mean you expect anything in return, it just means that you are promoting someone else completely free of charge and a lot of time the blogger will take notice and return the favor. My advice would be to stick to bloggers who are pretty close in size to your blog. For instance, I am madly in love with the outfit posts that Sydney does from the Daybook. But if I mentioned that in a twitter shoutout, the chances are 99% that she would not hit me back. Her blog's too big, she's got too much other blog stuff to worry about, and my blog is not "important" enough for her to take notice. Maybe when I have 10,000 followers? I know it sounds harsh, but it's the reality. Stick with blogs that reach similar sized audiences and your chances for success will be higher.
Veteran bloggers: Do you use Instagram to promote your blog? How so? How about Pinterest? I've heard Jennie say that she posted one of her blog posts on pinterest and got 25,000 hits in two days. Tell us how! Spill your secrets, sister!
5. People have to connect to you
I guess old John Steinbeck knew a thing or two about writing. I completely agree with this quote, and in fact, I kind of live by it. In every post I write, I ask myself if I am connecting with my audience. Do women relate to what I'm saying? Am I making people laugh? Or cry? Do they relate to me? The fact is I believe we are all narcissists to some extent. We don't want to hear about other people- we want to hear about us. Something WE can relate to. My sister, who isn't a blogger at all, told me she absolutely loves Nat the Fat Rat's blog because of how beautiful her birth story was. My sister could connect to all of it. "She hit it dead on!" my sister said, "I understood completely what she was describing." Some blogs are aloof. There is a disconnect from the blog and the audience. There is no interaction. No authenticity. No caring. I've read blogs where the girl goes on and on about her huge shopping spree and all the money she spent. Or about how perfect her husband is and how they spend the whole weekend cuddling and whispering sweet nothings. I think that's great, and I'm not saying you should take that out of your posts completely I just think bloggers should be aware that they are limiting the people that they connect to. They are excluding people who are poor or who don't have the libery to buy anything to their heart's content or that are lonely or who have just broken up or who have never had a significant other or who fight day in and day out with their spouses. And I will say this. A lot of bloggers are too pretentious. They just seem fake. If I had one wish for the blogging world, it would be that all bloggers come down a notch and be more real. At the end of the day, those are the blogs that I come back to every day.
6. Encourage conversation in your posts.
Erin did something brilliant in her post yesterday, and that was she based the entire post off of comments. She essentially let her readers write the post. Not only did she have people clicking on her blog once that day, but she had people clicking over and over to read the comments. (Erin, you care to share with us how many pageviews you had that day?!?) My controversial posts are always my most commented posts, because people are encouraged to speak up. They have a motive to leave a comment and the comments themselves attract traffic as well. I'm not saying you have to start posting crazy, controversial stuff, but when you are writing a post, ask yourself, "If I was reading this post, would I want to comment?" Think about your readers and if they have motivation to join the conversation. Also, consider some kind of "reward" for commenters. If you are small enough you can reply to every comment, but if you have a growing blog there will come a point when you just can't return every comment. I do a "commenter of the week" where I take my favorite comment and put the comment as well as the blogsite of the blogger who left the comment. A lot of bloggers reply right in the comment section- they participate in the conversation. Give your readers some kind of incentive to comment.
7. As soon as possible, start sponsoring other blogs.
Lately I feel like there has been a bit of a bad rap for sponsored blogs. I've heard a lot of bloggers say that they "never" read sponsored posts or that they feel they wasted their money. There have been blogs I sponsored that I didn't think were worth it, but most times I have been pleased with my sponsoring results, and I sponsor 2-4 blogs a month. I would advise any new blogger to start sponsoring blogs as soon as they are financially able. In my case, I didn't sponsor any blogs until I was making money on my blog because our budget didn't allow for it. But once my blog was bringing in a little money, I could spend it. All the money I make on my blog goes right back into it. If you have a bit more freedom with your budget, and blogging is something you seriously want to pursue, sure spend $20 on a sponsored post and just hit the ground running. Truth be told, it wasn't until I started sponsoring other blogs that my blog really took off. Sponsoring is a form of advertising and of course advertising isn't 100% effective, but it does reach an audience and if you are a small blogger- that's exactly what you need. An audience! For more on sponsors, help yourself to this post all about sponsorship
8. Don't be afraid to ask people to help you out.
I don't think there is anything in the world wrong with a blogger asking blogging friends to help out- as long as it not every day requests (we all know those get old) and as long as the content is actually worthy of posting. When I posted my 21 rules for using the internet I asked all readers who agreed to repost it. I knew I had written something a little bit above and beyond what I normally write and I wanted as many people as possible to see it. It is one of my top ten viewed posts because of that. You know when you've written a great post and so use those as a form of advertisement for your blog. Lure people in with those. Like I'm about to do right now. If you like this post, agree with it, or know anyone that can use it, PLEASE share it. Tweet it, link it on your blogs, or email the link. And leave comments! What's the most successful thing you have done for your blog? Least successful? This is a blogging community and as such we should all be helping each other out. Spill your beans, girls!
You girls are the best. I am seriously involved in a love affair with my readers. Keep on knocking my socks off, will you?
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week. And yah, this isn't a radio, so just pretend you can tune a blog, will ya?