This guest post was contributed by Hannah Tometzski, founder of beauty blog Polly Polish.
Long gone are the days where a blog existed as a single entity. Nowadays it’s nigh on impossible to run a blog on any scale, whether the only comments are from your mother or you’re the next Manrepeller, without peripheral social networks to support it. But simply starting a Twitter account and following five people isn’t enough. Here’s five tips on how to start building a community of readers around your blog.
As someone who works full-time and blogs in what little spare time is left, I can appreciate that many people don’t have the time to be reading lengthy blog posts when a picture will do them just fine. In some ways I think Instagram is going to be the death of many a blog but I’ll refrain from going down that tangent for now. What Instagram is doing though, is proving that the old adage of a picture speaking a thousand words as true.
I blog about nail polish, and yes there are far more nail polish devoted blogs out there than you would imagine. It’s a great outlet and I love writing about my experiences with different brands, new products and exciting releases, but I know that a lot of readers just want to see the pretty pictures. The key aspect about nail polish after all is primarily how it looks, and if that can be gleaned from a quick glance at a few pictures then it’s hardly surprising that Instagram is being treated like a blogging platform on crack. There are now Instagram-only lacquer heads (yes, there are many daft made up words in the nail polish community) that are just as well-known as some of the most established and successful bloggers, and they don’t have to deal with lengthy reviews, flawed blogging platforms or pesky code mishaps. It’s a brilliant, quick and easy to use platform to get your stuff out there, and with an average of 60 million photos uploaded every day, there are so many users that could become your readers. Hashtags shouldn’t be underestimated. Tagging my photos with relevant hashtags regularly boosts my follower numbers because it allows anyone to find our content, which in turn can lead them right back to your blog.
2. Link. Link. Link some more
Having other accounts like Instagram, Twitter or a Facebook page attached to your blog is clearly crucial – you’d be silly to ignore such vast user bases in a quest to gain loyal readers. But it’s not worth much if you don’t link. I treat these networks as teasers for the full blog post. Show a smaller image and enough information to pique a follower’s interest followed by a link to your post. If they’re the sort of reader who will just like pretty pictures you might get a “like”, but it’s likely that some people genuinely want to know more. If you don’t provide them with an easy opportunity to do so, you may as well be talking to yourself. Using networks like Instagram to grab a potential reader’s attention can work for non-product focused blogs too. Pick relevant (and legally obtained) imagery, but I recommend avoiding using anything that comes up on the first one hundred pages of an iStock search for ‘smiling lady’ or else avoid looking incredibly cheesy. Whatever your subject matter, if you don’t link back to your original post from various social networks, it will all be for nothing.
When I was speaking at an event about eCommerce in Romania (my day job is in web and software design), I got chatting to the brilliant Lisa Myers of Verve Search SEO, which was a great distraction from the platter of mystery meats from unknown animal origins that had just been stuck in front of me. The one piece of work-related advice that stuck with me (she had no suggestions about how a recovering vegetarian should handle the array of meat sadly) was to link everything back to your Google+ profile. As a writer on any topic it’s important that you build a profile for yourself that shows the extent of your work. If you blog as a part of your day-job linking articles to your Google+ account as the author of a post is even more important because if you move on to another job, that history stays with you and you will begin to build up a rich profile. These things have a snowball effect too, the more you link back to yourself, and the more people will find your other work and so on.
Dishing out advice, gushing about a product or writing about your experiences is all well and good, many people may be fascinated, but it’s a bit one sided. If you want to gain momentum you need to engage your readers, whether they are on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook or on your actual blog. Don’t post a picture and demand that they ‘share to like’, that’s tacky. Also, never ask a question to which readers can respond with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because that’s the most you’ll ever get. Ask for opinions, experiences and advice from your readers. It will inspire them to start conversations with you and sometimes even with other readers, which will likely result in return more return visitors because they know that your content is engaging.
Engaging with the community doesn’t just require you to engage with your readers. You should be a reader too. Read other blogs, follow quality accounts on all the social networks that you can handle and get involved. Lately my job is taking more time away from my blogging so I ‘m not as socially active as I would like. What I do do though is make a little time each week to catch up on a few of my favourite blogs and comment on anything that sparks my interest. On a daily basis I also check Instagram. The advantage to such a quick and dirty style of posting content is that it’s easy to skim through on the bus, or when you’re walking the dog. Take a few minutes to be an active participant in your community of bloggers. I’ve made genuine friendships by putting myself out there with bloggers that I used to think were too popular to give me the time of day, so you never know what could come of being the sort of reader that you wish your readers were.
5. Tone of voice
I’m often approached about guest posts written by PR companies. Sometimes about nail polish, sometimes about the broader beauty community and sometimes about things that have absolutely no connection to my blog in the slightest. I’ve always said no. The only writers on my blog are myself, and a few fellow bloggers who I trust to provide a guest post full of interesting content and imagery. This is because like many people I initially started my blog purely as an outlet for myself. I had no intention of it achieving even the modest levels of popularity that it now has, so my goal was to reflect myself. For me that doesn’t mean prattling on about my personal life and over-sharing intimate details, but it does mean that I’m consistent in my attitude and the way I review the products I’m sent whilst showing a hint of my own personality.
If you’re blogging about products this can be crucial when you start dealing with PR companies who want to send you freebies (a double edged sword sometimes but that’s another tangent best left alone for now) because they need to know that you have a particular tone that suits their brand. It is also great if readers recognise your character through your words because they’ll then trust that what you’re saying is genuinely your own opinion. The internet has made many people suspicious and sceptical, but you can prevent any cause for them to feel this way about your own words by maintaining a tone to your writing that is true to yourself, and consistent across all of the networks that support your blog. Be mindful though not to ruin a professionally toned blog with an Instagram account that shows a little too much of you letting your hair down.
Bonus tip: Do as I say, not as I do.
Have you found Hannah’s blogging tips useful? What methods of engagement do you find the most successful? Leave a comment below to start a discussion and read more from Hannah on her blog, Polly Polish.