A friend of mine is a very well-read, successful blogger. His personal narratives, short stories and semi-autobiographical fiction normally collect dozens of comments, sometimes well over 100, and spark lots of interesting exchanges between his readers. He’s built his audience steadily, over the course of a couple of years, and by all measures of blogging success, sans monetization, he probably holds the status of “legendary.”
But his blog is on MySpace.
Before I go on, allow me to say that the social media world normally makes fun of MySpace. They look down their noses at those commoners not sophisticated enough or too tolerant of busy graphic design to think Facebook is better. Boy, are they missing an opportunity, though. I’ve said it before, but there is a vibrant community of bloggers on MySpace, many of whom write fantastic stuff, most of whom comment and share and interact just like we do. But they do it in their own little world, away from the search spiders and PR pitches, so that makes them less impactful? MySpace blogs are the single-most overlooked communications outlet on the planet. But I digress.
So when my friend emailed me to say he is building a WordPress blog to try his hand at blogging somewhere other than MySpace and wanted some advice on promoting it and driving traffic, I was more than happy to respond. What follows is essentially what I told him, broken down a bit differently to help others out there know how to promote their brand new blog. Keep in mind he’s a fiction writer, not a business blogger, but these are generic tips for anyone. They also aren’t aimed at driving tons of irrelevant traffic (the Digg effect). They are aimed at building a sustainable audience of enthusiastic readers.
1. If You Are A MySpace Blogger, Rinse And Repeat
Surprisingly, what you’ve been doing in MySpace is essentially the way to do it elsewhere. Read other blogs, comment on them, share those links and blogs with your readers and friends. I don’t know if I would walk away from the MySpace audience, but I would certainly try to transition them to your site. Those folks are in their comfort zone on MySpace. They’re not going to go off site to spend much time with a blog that isn’t in their back yard. I would suggest posting the first few graphs as teasers with a “Read more here” link to your main blog post. Some will call BS on it and stop reading your work. Others will gladly click over. Encourage them to comment on the blog, not MySpace, but know some of them won’t.
2. Use StumbleUpon
I would suggest using StumbleUpon to build up a network of people already predispositioned to share sites with each other. It’s not vote-oriented or competitive. It’s more of a, “I found a cool website or blog post and want to share it with my buddies,” kind of place. You join, have a profile, download a little toolbar for your browser and when you’re on a site you like, you give it a thumbs up. You can add a comment or a review as to why you like it. Your StumbleUpon friends then see what you’ve rated and may click on it to see it. You shouldn’t submit only your stuff — no one likes a spammer. But if you consistently contribute other sites, you can mix your own in as well. You can also ask StumbleUpon friends to submit your site for you, then give it a thumbs up so you’re not the person listed as the one who “discovered” the site. Once you have some audience built up, you’ll find people submitting your material before you even ask.
And make sure to go look at your friend’s submissions, too. You can’t use it as a one-way street. Participating and being an audience member is as important as posting your own stuff. If it’s not a two-way street, the audience realizes you’re just trying to sell your wares and they move on.
3. Use Twitter
You could also explore Twitter. It’s more immediate, but also highly portable. You can access it from your cell phone, etc. You follow people and see their messages about what they’re doing. They follow you back and see yours. When you have a new blog post, you “twitter” the link to it. I get most of my traffic from Twitter and StumbleUpon.
The same rules apply, though. You can’t be a link whore on Twitter unless most of the links are to cool stuff you find. Then you aren’t whoring, you’re sharing. (Yes, there’s a difference.) Twitter is primarily a place to have conversations with people, so use it as such. You’ll get addicted to it, but you’ll also build up a group of friends willing to go see your latest blog post when you let them know it’s there.
4. Invest Time In Your New Communities
You need to invest the time to build these networks of people, just like you did in MySpace. It won’t be quick. I’ve been on Twitter for a couple of years now. I’m on it all the time, too. That’s why I have 3,400 people following me. But they don’t just follow me because I blog. They follow me because I share links to interesting sites, ask for their opinions on issues, strike up debate and conversation, toss out funny one-liners from time to time. It’s like I’m the fun guy at the party. They love what I bring to the conversation. So when I mix in a link to my blog, a couple hundred folks click it without hesitation. I don’t use it primarily to drive traffic to my blog and it shows. Ironically, the traffic follows.
5. Don’t Be A Dick
Blogging is an inherently ego-driven activity. You don’t have a blog if you don’t think your writing is important enough to be heard. As you start to build traffic, you’ll get a little swagger about you. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel important. But the moment you start acting important to your readers is the minute they walk away. I was once a big fan boy of one significant social media blogger. But, in ever-so-subtle ways, he started big-timing folks. I don’t even read his stuff anymore, as good as it might be. So, as good as you are, don’t get cocky thinking you’re some big shot writer person. Continue to participate with the community. That genuine person is what makes people click on your links without hesitation.
Those are my tips for new bloggers, with an obvious slant to the MySpace bloggers looking to branch out. What are yours?
Note: Links to my friend’s blog are not included because they should come with a bit of a disclaimer. He writes alternative lifestyle fiction that can only be classified as for mature audiences. It’s not porn, but before I gave those interested a link, I wanted to throw out a bit of a warning that the subject matter may or may not suit you. Here’s the link.
Image: “Toy Sampling Megaphone” by Altemark on Flickr.