There is a special name for folks who start a blog and expect it to flourish in a matter of days. They are called disappointed people.
What’s wrong? I posted my blog to Facebook and Twitter. I used a clever hashtag and everything! I even had four ‘Like’s’! Why is no one coming to my blog?
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Many a bloggers have been where you are and felt what you’re feeling. The question is: how do you get out of it? How do you go from having your only comments be from your proud mother to actually garnering new and interested traffic?
Have you considered SEO?
While the primary point of this post is not about SEO, it would be foolish to leave this point out.
Is it easy for you to find your favorite blogs on any given search engine? What you may not know is that there was a lot of time and energy put in to making that blog easily accessible.
If you are unfamiliar, SEO (search engine optimization) is the process by which someone seeks to make their website highly ranked on search engines. The higher a website is ranked, the more likely individuals will find and go to that site.
That is why SEO is important for building your blog audience. If you are wanting to have any chance of strangers finding your blog, you need to take SEO seriously.
I’m not going to go into SEO in this post. However, if you are interested, Matt Wolfe has laid out a great tutorial for SEO and steps you can take to get your blog noticed.
A bolder approach
While SEO is a very important factor in building an audience, it is not the only way. In fact, if you’re just starting out, there is probably a underutilized tool in you marketing arsenal that you need to wield: your friends and family.
A few years ago I worked for a non-profit organization called Cru. While working with Cru, I had to raise my own salary to be a part of their staff team. That meant I had to interact with individuals, churches and groups, tell them about what I was doing and ask for financial support.
This was one of the harder things I have ever done, primarily because I couldn’t be passive about it. I had to put in the effort to see results.
Posting a message on Facebook did very little, as it was easier for people to ignore my status. Sound familiar?
So what did I do? I made phone calls, set up appointments, practiced my pitch and made the ask. Through personal contact, I was able to meet my goal.
Why do I tell you this?
I tell you this because many aspiring bloggers try many of the same tactics. They think that if they just keep posting to their Twitter and Facebook pages, their blog will explode. It’s as if we have perverted the famous Field of Dreams message to “If you post it, they will come.” And that’s not the case, not quite.
Consider this: your friends and family are a lot more supportive than you think. They just need you to ask them for support. And with the right kind of support, you can get promotions and referrals that will significantly grow your readership.
What does this look like for an aspiring blogger?
1. Be prepared- As you get ready to market yourself to the people you know and love, make sure things are on the up and up with you and your blog. Some of the things that you should have prepared are:
- A clean layout- Does your blog look professional? Professional does not mean sterile or uptight, but fitting to your core audience. There are far too many websites that look like they were made by the Taliban on a busy day. A good looking site will give you credibility.
- Interesting content- Don’t make your friends and family be embarrassed to promote crappy writing. If you are in a place where you want to see your blog grow, make sure that your writing is solid. If it isn’t, not only will your group of friends and family be less inclined to share your blog, but those people that are referred to your site will probably not come back.
- A subscribe option- Whether it is a landing page, sidebar widget or separate page, you need a subscription option. Subscriptions are great because they will keep your readers informed as to when you have a new post, do affiliate marketing or things of the like. Like I mentioned above, if you can contact a person directly, you will have a higher chance of getting them to come to your blog.
2.Work Up Your Pitch
In a lot of ways, your first pitch to your family and friends is the most important. It will set the tone for other favors you may ask for in the future. That is why it is important that your message is clear, concise and has all the information that they will need.
Here is an example of a message I sent to some people in my circle:
…I hope you’re all doing well. I need to preface, this is not spam, it’s really Dominic 🙂 I am writing you because I recently started my own freelance writing/blogging business. I started a website called cheerupgreg.com and have published many posts that I am excited about. I would be greatly appreciative if you could take some time right now and look at my website and some of the articles. I am trying to gain more recognition and add credibility to my blog, so if you could subscribe to it (there will be a button on the right) that would really help me gain some momentum! Additionally, if there are articles that you like, would you please leave a comment and/or share it on your social media pages? Thanks so much in advance!
My message was as short as it could be, while at the same time touching on why I was writing them, what I was asking them, why their support would be helpful and thanking/trusting them to help.
Make sure to use your own words and make it unique to you!
3. Send the message
It may sound obvious, but the first two steps are useless without step three. You actually need to build up the courage and send the message.
There are a few different ways that you can send this message, but a quick tip is this: the more personal, the better.
If you sit down with a friend and ask them for their support, they have nowhere to go. They have to give you a yes or a no. And they will probably give you a yes. But if you send a group email, they will be more inclined to ignore it, delete it or put it off (and eventually forget about it). Speaking to the latter option, most friends and family have good intentions about getting back to you, but simply forget.
A word of caution: a “blanket status update” on Facebook is going to be the quickest way to get your request ignored. Not only will it be easily ignored, Facebook will only show it to a few people.
If sitting down with friends and family is less of an option, I would recommend an individually sent text message or email. Start by adding the persons name (Hey Steve! How’s it been going?…, etc) and pasting in your subsequent message. This will make your communication feel more personal, and thus less likely to be ignored.
Using what you’ve got
You might be having some mixed emotions right now. Perhaps this feel like cheating. Perhaps you want your subscribers to follow you without having to ask them. Perhaps you want subscribers other than your friends and family.
Asking your friends and family for this kind of support is not a failure,nor is it some metaphorical “move back in with the parents”.
What you are doing is asking your close circle of relationships to help you take your blog to the next level. You are asking them to promote you to their family and friends, who will hopefully share you content with others in their circle.
Don’t let your family and friends stay an unused tool in your arsenal. Ask them for support and see your blog flourish! If you have taken these steps, how has marketing to your close relationships benefited your blog? Or do you have a difference in opinion? Please leave a comment and share your experience!