If we’re going to do any marketing at all, we’re going to have to invest something. It might ‘only’ be time, ideas, creativity and enthusiasm: it might ‘only’ be money. We can justify using ‘only’ if we have a limitless amount of any of these precious resources – and nothing else more meaningful to devote them to.
For most of us, this is not the case. So how do we make wise choices?
If we want more people to follow us or comment on our posts, we first need to ask ourselves two equally important questions: why they should they bother and why does it matter to us whether they do or they don’t?
The first is perhaps the most difficult thing for us to judge. Are we sure we’re offering the blogging community at least some posts and ideas that have a unique perspective, that are worth reading and responding to?
If not, deal with that. Don’t market anything you’re not happy with, unless you’re hoping for feedback that will help make it better.
It’s likely that many of our posts will only appeal to a certain part of the community – people who share some of our interests. That’s useful, as we can use it to target any marketing we decide to do.
Pictures can have a wider appeal that the written word. You’re going to have to be a very skillful blogger to persuade me to read anything much about opera, as I just don’t enjoy it, though a wonderful picture of an opera house, or a performer under the stage lighting, or beautifully dressed members of the audience could well catch my eye.
When should we consider marketing?
We market things if we want to reach out to others, to make them aware of us, to invite them to respond to us, connect with us, or buy from us if we have something to sell.
If we are writing purely to express ourselves and are happy for other bloggers to just overhear and interact if they happen to stumble on our blog, marketing may not be the best use of our resources for now. We should put all our creativity into our next post.
The same applies if we’d like more time to quietly experiment, refine our content and discover what blogging’s all about before seeking new followers.
If we do want to engage others, why?
- Do we want more followers – any followers: popularity for its own sake?
- Do we want to connect with like-minded people or inspiring people – ones who share some of our interests – the people we would enjoy talking to if we were to meet?
- Do we aspire to help build a community around a group of interests or to connect to one that already exists?
- If we value quantity of followers over quality, are we willing to do the kinds of things we’re going to need to, even at the risk of alienating some bloggers we might have a more natural connection with?
- For example, do we want to write only about the subjects closest to our hearts, or will we adapt and write about more popular stories or angles, if that’s what’s required?
There are no right and wrong answers to these questions – a brief look around the WordPress blogging community shows there’s plenty of room for any combination of answers.
And our choices today may just be starting points – ideas we can revisit as often as we like as we learn what works for us.
Talking to ourselves in the dark.
Some of us seem to write much more easily and freely than we read. For each outstretched hand of a writer, an outstretched hand of a reader is needed to make the connection. That’s why so many of us welcome thoughtful comments.
The overall stats WordPress makes public suggest there are about one and a half comments per month for every published post – but many comments come in clusters and are also shared among existing posts, that run into billions.
I know that there must be some bloggers who would welcome any genuine feedback at all, to avoid the unnatural feeling of talking out loud, alone in the dark.
I’m perhaps lucky that I write with my ideal online companion in mind, and am thrilled by a single ‘like’, but I can understand the feeling and I’ve already seen it mentioned by other bloggers.
It must be awful to pour out your heart in your blog and get no response. If you stumble on this post and would like someone to just read and respond to something you’ve blogged about, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best.
I should perhaps warn that while genuine comments are very welcome on my blog, I am quite brutal with spammers, even though I dare say they have feelings too. I am guided by Akismet and just press ‘delete’. My young blog’s already had over 400 spam comments – far more than I would ever have expected.
The people you’re looking for are looking for you.
One of marketing’s biggest ironies is that that the people you’re looking to connect with online are, at the same time, looking for you. Not you personally, of course, unless you have already built up a reputation in your field, but someone with your interests, your integrity, your passion, your knowledge, your experience. Someone who is funny, original, open, helpful, friendly, encouraging, inspiring or just a plain good read.
How do we connect?
I’m enjoying many aspects of WordPress, but I’m amazed by the primitive search facility. I don’t think this helps us connect.
I realise we can search through en.search.wordpress.com, but try using it to find a blog you can see is on WordPress from the footer, or to look for a post you know exists. I typed – word for word – the title of an interesting post from a blog I was thinking of following. There were eight words in the title, so I foolishly imagined I would only get one result – the actual article I was looking for. I searched by relevance and then by date. Either way, I couldn’t find it. That’s not great.
The WordPress Reader is fine when you’ve already found the blog and made the connection, but the suggested blogs are frankly limited, given there are 64.8 million posts per month. And ‘Fresh’ isn’t updated as often as it might be. Perhaps if we could see all the content it would be overwhelming.
But there are over 70 million WordPress blogs and I know I’d like to follow a lot more of them. It’s frustrating to know there are kindred spirits out there for me in abundance, creating great content, waiting for me to find them. Perhaps they’re writing about roses, cottage garden plants or gardens, or nature, or photography, or space, or literature – or just being wise about stuff in general. That’ll do me!
I suppose the answer is that it’s up to us to gently reach out and help make the connections happen. In other words, do a little marketing.
Honing our marketing instincts.
One of the most important instincts on social media is to decide when marketing our own content is appropriate and when it’s not. We all have a slightly different sense of this, and it’s not easy to get the balance right.
I’m not writing here to the people who already have this covered, who routinely blast links to every blog post far and wide, but to bloggers who are more reticent, perhaps even shy. People who would like to have more followers but feel too embarrassed to market their content. Those who see intrusive marketing tactics and conclude that marketing is quite simply a bad thing to do.
Deciding our marketing principles.
My best advice to these people is: marketing is as honourable or as dishonourable as you choose to make it. Decide what your personal marketing principles will be and stick to them. Make them practical and irreproachable, such as:
- Resolve to be who you say you are online.
- Never intrude.
- Never market anything in a way you would find irritating yourself.
- Don’t use the easy excuse ‘everyone else is doing it’.
- Be realistic.
- Be welcoming, friendly, helpful and kind hearted.
- Don’t make it all about you – give back more than you take.
Working with guidelines like these, your own marketing charter, I can’t see why you should ever be ashamed about marketing something worthwhile to people whose own blog content and interactions suggest they might be interested in some of the same things as yourself.
It’s good to share.
Sharing links to thoughtful, interesting content you’ve created or found can be just as good as sharing chocolate gingers or cherries – well, perhaps almost as good, since we’re being honest – but how do we go about sharing chocolates online? Don’t answer that, I find them hard enough to resist already!
Leave a trail.
If you have some specialist knowledge, or a positive outlook and enthusiasm for life, you can be confident that some people will genuinely be interested in hearing what you have to say.
Resolve to help them find you. Leave a trail to the posts you’re most satisfied with – ones you are happy to represent you, the most insightful and interesting – so that people can find your blog if they want to see more. You’re just giving people the chance to connect – they can ignore it if they want to.
Be guided by your instincts. There’s nothing wrong with erring on the cautious side and just dipping your toe in the water to begin with. It’s your blog, your reputation, so if in doubt, don’t do it. Unless you’ve suddenly decided to adopt the kind of strong-arm online marketing tactics most of us naturally deplore – such as creating images that float around or jiggle insistently, obscuring the content your visitor wants to read – you’ll be fine.
Monitor what happens, listen for feedback, even if it’s a deafening silence, and gradually adjust your strategy.
‘OK, I’ll give it a go. What can I do to attract more visitors to my blog?’
Many marketeers suggest so many options that it’s paralyzing: it seems that so much is needed – some of which we know we aren’t going to do – that it’s hardly worth making a start.
I’m not going to do that. Good marketing is all about getting your priorities right.
1. First step, if you’re not already doing this, always tag your posts with a few relevant words that will help people find you. Don’t go over the top – if you use more than
2. Promote links to your blog posts on whatever social media you’re most active on and comfortable with, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ or Pinterest. Unless you have an agent or a publicist, you’re going to have to do it yourself, and that’s fine. Just add a teaser to explain why the post is interesting with a link to it. For example, if you use Twitter, try sending something simple, like this:
Gardeners might enjoy my post http://wp.me/p55T5h-ep about my quirky hellebore breeder friend.
There’s some evidence that a link in the middle of a tweet works better than one at the end. If you want to use a shortlink like the one above, check out these instructions.
Keep your tweet short, so people can retweet with a brief comment. Add a hashtag or two. And, unless you are using a business account, work to the 80/20 rule: make sure only 20% of your tweets are self-promotional.
3. Spend time looking for other like-minded people: ones who are most likely to be interested in your posts. Connect with them, encourage them, give them the kind of genuine feedback you’d appreciate yourself.
4. Sign up for a BloggingU course, take part in a Daily Post challenge or a challenge hosted by another blogger. You might even decide to host a challenge yourself.
5. Add decent quality pictures or graphics to more of your posts. If you’ve never posted a picture, get out your smartphone, and take a few shots of the most interesting thing you see all day.
6. When you’re writing a post, don’t be afraid to link back to an earlier post if it seems relevant or helps to continue the discussion.
7. Ask questions in your posts to help make it clear that comments are welcome – and take the time to respond to them.
8. Follow The Daily Post for ideas about all aspects of blogging from a variety of experts. Take advantage of the search facility at the top of the page to dig out advice from the archives on a specific topic, such as tips on SEO and advice on authenticity.
9. Dip into WordPress’s Community Pool each Monday. Ask for specific feedback from the kind of people you want to attract and return the favour.
Try at least some of these ideas, check results and learn what works best for you. If you’re a shy person, you may need to grit your teeth to publish your first link on Facebook or Twitter, but make it a good one and you’ll soon see that it’s socially acceptable. After two or three attempts, it’ll just become something you occasionally do, and you’ll start to see results, I promise.
It’s not a quick fix.
And above all, be persistent. I’m sorry if this comes as a surprise, but marketing is another of those long haul journeys. Even if your post goes viral, that’s no guarantee you’ve ‘made it’ or of much instant gratification, as this blogger discovered (but take a look at her current follower count while you’re there). All the more reason to enjoy what you do – to make sure marketing is a natural part of the blogging experience.
Branding: being true to yourself.
If you want to enjoy marketing your blog as much as creating a post, as you reach out to others, make sure your marketing activities – large or small – sit naturally with your brand.
You may be thinking: ‘But I’m not a brand, I’m just a person’. In marketing terms, whether we think about this consciously or not, everything we publish on our website or blog is stamped with our personal brand.
I’m talking about something more subtle than a logo: our own voice and personal style. Think of branding as simply being true to yourself and you’ll not go far wrong.
For a brand should never be a façade: it gains strength and credibility from being layered through everything we create or do. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins invented the words ‘inscape’ and ‘instress’ to help him explore the dynamic, individual identity we all have and recognize in others. Great brands are as individual as human beings. Both have identities stamped though and through like fingerprints, right down to our choice of words or tone of voice.
When we blog, we expose ourselves.
Our brand may have more in common with a curiosity shop than a fashion icon, but providing we have the confidence and courage to remain true to ourselves, our blogs will develop – almost by accident – a unique brand identity, simply by being authentic.
And we’ll be right on trend: authenticity is a buzz term in marketing, though I think the best, most intuitive marketeers have always understood that’s what it’s all about.
I believe any marketeer should take their responsibilities seriously. Appoint yourself as Chief Marketing Innovation Officer (part time, of course) and start to think a little differently about blogging.
Remember you’re in control of the who, what, when, where, why and how. Whether your style is more of a creative, thoughtful marketeer or a bold publicist, keep it proportionate, respectful.
But I’d encourage you to take just a few steps outside your comfort zone. Take pride – and have a little fun – in publicizing the content you’ve taken the time to create. And feel free to let me know how you get on!