Probably the biggest question I’ve seen so far in my reading of various blogs and etc. related to BloggerCon is: How do I get noticed?
Although some people believe it’s now impossible to get noticed or develop a large readership due to the sheer number of blogs, or that you need to “know somebody,” or have an advertising budget, I think it is possible to be noticed and be successful without all those things. I also think that it will always be possible, regardless of the number of blogs, but you need to commit time and energy to doing it.
First you need to present a good blog, something of value to a large number of people. No matter what your subject matter, there will be people wanting to read your work if it gives them something they need. If the content isn’t worthwhile, though, the biggest advertising budget and a collection of important contacts throughout the Big3 won’t do you much good in the long run. If you’ve got passion for your subject, and know more about it than other people do, you’ve got the basic materials for a pretty good blog. What are you saying that nobody else is?
Most bloggers have something else going on in their careers. They may be teachers of whatever subject their blog covers, or work for the company they blog about, write for magazines, or author books. The blog is often a supportive aspect of their career, or a creative outlet their day job doesn’t provide. I don’t think if you asked today’s best-known bloggers what their job is, that any of them would use the term, “blogger” to identify their chosen profession. Blogs don’t happen in a vacuum.
The things the well-known bloggers did early on to promote their blogs were probably quite simple; a few e-mails to friends and colleagues to let them know what they were up to, and maybe an announcement on a discussion group. You could also start there with your own network, but then you need to do more.
Promotion doesn’t happen in a vacuum, either. It’s also something other than what many people think it is.
I guess it’s human nature to want to avoid things that are labor-intensive and tedious, though everybody’s got their personal definition of tedium. There just isn’t any substitute for laying the groundwork, though. Today’s high-profile bloggers have in some cases, spent years blogging and making contact with other bloggers and potential readers in a lot of places, both on and offline. You have to be willing and able to tell everybody you can about your blog, and persuade them to read it. Then, by the quality of your content, you keep them coming back and telling their friends about your blog. That’s all promotion is, reduced to its essence. Where it gets hard is the point where you realize you have to keep doing it. There is no day on the calendar six months or a year away, when you can say, “OK, I’m done promoting now, and I can stop.”
Promotion needs to be a significant part of the ongoing work of maintaining your blog.
If I’ve learned one thing in my years working with creative people of all kinds, the vast majority of them want to devote their time to their chosen field – whether it be writing, painting, sculpture, whatever, and do not want to spend any time promoting. Perversely, they’ll waste a lot of time (and often money) trying to figure out ways to avoid promoting. I’m on the mailing list of a could-be famous sculptor who has all kinds of ideas for promotion, and has even blown some cash on his ideas, yet he stubbornly refuses to speak to anyone from a newspaper or magazine, complaining that he doesn’t have time for that. I’ve seen bloggers say they’ll “do anything” to promote, but they can’t be bothered to list themselves in the major directories. They don’t have time for that.
I could create a laundry list of things various people have told me they don’t have time for, but the list would boil down to the basic things you need to do to promote your work online. The harsh reality is, that if you start right away amending the details of promotion using the gauge of what you have time for, then you probably don’t have what it takes to achieve success. Serious promotion requires some hard choices, and often will take time away from things you’d prefer to be doing.
It is true that the RSS feed provides major possibilities in the area of exposure when it comes to online writing. You can’t, however, depend on that as your only source of promotion. All the RSS feed does is make your blog available to a wider audience. It’s much the same as having a book published and distributed by all the major chain bookstores. I know people who’ve had books available not only at the chains, but at major grocery and discount stores, as well. They’re still laboring in obscurity; not because their books weren’t any good, but because not enough people knew about their books to go out and buy them.
People sometimes have funny ideas about promotion and media exposure. I can’t tell you the number of times somebody has said, “I’ll make the media come to me,” as if it were an actual possibility. These people don’t appear to realize there is no magic way the media is going to find out about their effort unless somebody tells them. Who is that somebody going to be if it’s not you?
Your readers can’t phone up the Detroit Free Press or the AZ ‘public and say, “John Doe’s got this great blog on brain surgery, and he’d be thrilled to talk to you about it. He lives right in your area, and here’s his phone number.” They don’t have that information, even if they wanted to do something like that. Of course you could ask them to do that, but then you’d be promoting.
Not promoting won’t enhance the quality of a work, though it seems some have the idea that an excellent work has the ability to speak for itself. (There’s that concept of magic again.) A blog or a book cannot speak for itself. If it could, Seth Godin wouldn’t be investing any effort into promoting his latest book, Free Prize Inside. You know it’s excellent material, as he’s proven time and again. He knows how marketing and promotion works far better than most people. Wouldn’t he be the first to sit back and wait for the magic to happen if it was really there?
Good promotion doesn’t depreciate the quality of a work. Spamming and outrageous publicity stunts can’t help you if that’s not the image you want to project. If you make bad choices and engage in poorly-conceived projects to promote, then yes, you can damage the reputation of your work. Case in point: Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken” has been fun for a lot of casual websurfers, but it’s not giving the company anything beyond a vague association with online porn, which of course has nothing at all to do with their products.
There are many completely ethical and inoffensive ways to promote, but you also need to ask yourself if you are truly willing to take the risk of having other people read and possibly comment on your work. That’s what’s at the bottom of many people’s resistance to promotion – they’re afraid to take the risk.
Of course not all bloggers will succeed, and neither will they get even 15 minutes of fame. But the onus is on the individual to make use of whatever tools are available to announce his work to the public. Hard work and determination is as important as it always was in getting noticed, no matter your chosen venue.
A few basic ideas on promoting a blog are here.