No matter what topics you blog on, the key to growing your audience is directly tied to your ability to network in the real world. This was the consensus of the SXSW panel and many members in the audience. Yes, you should market yourself, your company, and your blog in the blogosphere, but you should also “get real.” Sometimes there’s no substitute for old-fashioned “get out and press the flesh” networking.
The panel also agreed that having unique content was a key. You can do all the online and offline marketing you want to, but if you’re marketing a shoddy product, it’s only going to catch up with you. Here are 9 key points:
- Don’t be afraid to contact blogging networks and ask them to carry your blog. That’s exactly how I got started here at Allbusiness.com. In the summer of 2005 I had been writing a customer service blog for several months. In surfing the blogosphere I came a cross a business blog hosted by them. I e-mailed them asking why they didn’t have a customer service blog. They replied challenging me to join them, and eventually, I did. Currently Allbusiness.com is looking for people to blog on green businesses, sustainability, business taxes, finance, and other business related topics.
- Be Authentic. This links back to having unique content. There’s only one “you.” Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
- Seek a niche that isn’t already covered by dozens of others bloggers or vloggers. If you do, make darn sure you differentiate yourself with unique content.
- Don’t seek to make money right away. Focus on putting a quality product out there. Build your traffic. Improve your writing or videoing skills.
- Don’t disrespect your competition. The following is my humble opinion: This is especially true if you’re a business blogger. Being respectful to your competition allows you to widen the conversation and it can help build your traffic. There are other customer service bloggers out there, but I view Maria, Doug, Meikah, Joe, Becky, and others as friends in the same community, not competitors. I cannot increase my audience by attempting to decrease their audience.
- Engage in real world marketing. Get out and meet people. Become a speaker at conferences, network, network, network. (Not a good speaker? Join Toastmasters, which is another great place to network.)
- Collect and keep data such as e-mail addresses from your readers.
- Don’t try to reach everyone, find a segment and zero in on it. For example, don’t try to write a blog targeted at women, zero in on fashion or women’s health.
- Finally, and this is as much my suggestion as it is the panelists: Be true to yourself. Know your reason for blogging and never forget it. My goal is not to make money off of my blogs. My goal for this one is to learn more about the ways I can improve customer service in my organization. Second, I want to become a more effective writer.
If your goal is to make money, then as stated above, first focus on delivering unique content that adds to the conversation. I highly recommend ProBlogger as well.