This is a guest post by Eric Cummings. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.
I loved Aditya Mahesh’s recent guest post, 4 Ways to Promote Your Blog Offline. We bloggers are used to thinking about blogging as something you only do behind a computer. There is the “real” world and the “digital” world, and never the two shall meet. Aditya’s post debunks this myth though she missed one obvious but often underutilized publicity technique area: reaching out to our existing, real world social networks. Or put simply, tell your friends, family and co-workers about your blog.
This may seem blindingly obvious, and in many ways it is. But whether out of fear, privacy, or embarrassment, many bloggers keep their digital and real lives separate. I know I did, and many times still do. For new bloggers, utilizing existing social networks will dramatically expand the reach of your blog in the rough, early days. It will help create a community, give you valuable feedback, and expand the reach of your blog.
So, how do you utilize your social network?
1. Start small. In the beginning, get feedback from trusted friends. Ask trusted friends to give you honest feedback. When my brother and I started On Violence, for the first three or four weeks, we only told five of our closest friends. They provided feedback that helped us re-format pages to make them easier to read. We also found out what posts grabbed their attention and they pointed out those pesky typos that dog beginning and expert bloggers. And your friends can tell you, as one of ours did, that your language sounds pretentious. (Not all of the criticism feels good, but it helps.)
2. Tell your friends and family. First, I targeted emails and phone calls to my friends who I thought would want to be part of our community. If you are truly passionate about your topic, I bet a bunch of your friends are too. But this is obvious, what about your Great Aunt Mable, or your weird uncle Ted? Surely they don’t care about your new blog on early 90’s hip-hop. Maybe, but maybe not. You never know who your blog will interest, or who your next loyal reader will be.
3. Tell your co-workers and fellow enthusiasts. Chances are, unless you write a blog on making money from blogging, your blog is about a hobby or interest area. You have other friends in that area; take advantage of this. If your blog covers surfing, then talk to the surfers you ride with at the beach. If they aren’t interested in your blog, who will be?
4. Advertise with Groups and Associations to which you belong. Do you belong to a fraternity or sorority? An industry group? A church with a newsletter? Send out an announcement about your blog.
5. Target the real world recipients of your blog. Similar to tip number three, you need to target the people who are probably interested in your blog that you’ve never met before. If your blog reviews local restaurant, then talk to restaurant owners you know. Basically, wherever your blog can connect with real world people, you need to let them know about it.
6. Ask friends to guest post. There are tangible benefits to this. It is one less post you have to worry about writing, provides another voice to your website, and will help expand your reach into your friend’s social network. The biggest benefit I’ve had is in discovering another wonderful writer. My friend Matt contributed a post about his experience as an aid worker on the Thailand/Burma border. It was meaningful, well written, on topic, and a joy to read. If we hadn’t reached out, he never would have shared this story with us, and our blog wouldn’t be the same.
7. Ask your friends to comment. Nothing is sadder than a blog post with no comments. People want to go to blogs with community. Our blog, though small, has one. When new people come to our blog, they feel free to comment without feeling like they are the only one commenting. (Though to be fair, on some days we still struggle with this.)
8. Invite your friends on facebook/myspace/linkedin. I have over 300 friends on facebook, why would I not invite them to our blog? The more interesting thing has been connecting with friends I haven’t talked to in a long time, and restarting conversations and relationships with them. You have a social network already, use it.
9. Tell people you meet, in real life. This seems obvious, but was hard for me in the beginning and it still is. It is hard to put yourself out there and say, “I have a blog.” It seems pretentious. But again, you never know who or when you could meet a new reader. I met one of our most loyal readers at three in the morning outside a hostel in Munich. A tip: order business cards. They are cheap, practical and will help give you an opening.
Eric Cummings writes about for On Violence, a blog on counter-insurgency warfare, military and foreign affairs, art, and violence, written by two brothers–one a soldier and the other a pacifist.