Most of us have now got a blog up and running. We have chosen a topic and a direction, selected a theme, tweaked it to our needs and begun to post.
That’s the easy bit! We now have two challenges – how to create engaging content on a regular basis and how to attract readers who come back again and again.
Once we are going in the right direction, we need to tell the world (or at least the small part of the world that we have identified as our target audience), that our blog is out there.
Very broadly, this happens in two ways: visitors will see a link to us from a site they are visiting or they will use a search engine to find content relevant to their interests or inquiry. (If we were working in an organisation, a third visitor stream could be encouraged by promoting the blog address across other platforms, from newsletters and fliers to adverts and billboards, etc).
Here is a useful checklist, from Heidi Cohen at Ragan.com, to get you started:16 ways to grab readers for your blog (and keep them!).
Now, take a moment to think how you built your Facebook network. How did you get started? How did people know you were on Facebook? Why do new friends come to you? Who do you interact with on a regular basis? Do you have friends you have never met in the real world? If so, how did that connection arise?
Adam (@AdamVincenzini – follow him!) at CommsCorner offers 10 Facebook search tips for PR pros.
Clearly, in most cases, your blog readership will be rather different. MAC299 and MA PR students are trying to establish a presence in a professional network, and want to be read by people they have never met.
The way forward is through peer recommendation and endorsement, firstly by establishing links with other Sunderland PR students, and then extending those links to embrace those on other courses. If you do this well, other will mention your blog in their posts, and may add comments to your blog. If you do something that catches attention, you might attract comment from a more established blogger who may significantly increase your potential readership.
You will also want to tell people when you create new content. Hopefully, some people will subscribe to your blog using an RSS feed/ newsreader, but you will also need to tell people, using Twitter, Facebook and other methods.
(Think headlines, and think what sort of tweet would encourage you to follow a link – it is probably more than “I have added a new post to my blog”).
As always, think about how this works in the offline world. We quickly tire of friends who constantly talk about themselves and their achievements but take little interest in us; online can be the same – if we want people to comment on our blogs we should also take the trouble to read and engage with those of our peers. That way we build community.
Clearly this analogy is limited. Most organisations will want to build a readership that far outstrips the network within which they can actively engage, but they will want to form dynamic relationships with key influencers and stakeholders. Whose endorsement would help you? People can judge us on the friends we keep – in a professional sense, who is regularly seen to be talking to you?
These linkages can be important in other ways. One of the criteria Google and other search engines use to rank web pages is the number of inward links. It is a simple concept to grasp – if a lot of people link to a page, that page must be of interest (the wisdom of crowds!) but rather harder to implement.
We will look at Search Engine Optimisation later on, but for now, spend time thinking of ways to improve your social skills at class level!
39 Blogging Terms to Know, by Rebecca Churt at HubSpot
Dan Gillmor offers a useful list of tools at Mediactive.