The top questions about networking tends to be, “How do I increase my followers on Facebook/Twitter/etc.?”
A few months ago, I received an email from a fellow blogger asking how my Facebook following had increased so quickly.
This is a question bloggers receive very frequently. And it’s a good one! To be honest, most of us don’t have a single clue what we’re doing. We experiment and see what works and doesn’t work (or takes too long to work). So I sent her a list of things that I’d done that I thought was helping me.
Once I finished answering the email, though, she seemed disappointed by what I had to say. Much of what I told her required work. This all happened around November/December. It will be June in a couple days. She never made any of the changes and her blog hasn’t grown an inch.
Being a “freelance” blogger doesn’t mean you can just sit in your pajamas all day (though it is a perk), write your posts, and be done. As a fellow blogger once put it, “Blogging is a team sport.” I’ve never heard anything so true about blogging. You have to reach out to other bloggers. You’ll get nowhere if you’re not willing to cooperate with others.
Where do you even start? It’s more difficult to figure that part out when you’re new to blogging. So here are some of the things that can help a new blogger get out there, get seen, and make some bloggy friends. (Note: these aren’t the only ones that exist. They’re the ones I’ve done that have worked pretty well.)
1. Link Parties / Blog Hops / Pin It Parties / Etc.
There are so many different names for link parties, but they all have the same basic concept: link up your blog or your blog posts to get more views and, if your post really impresses the hosts and co-hosts, they will feature you on their blogs. There’s a little more to it, so for a full explanation, Rock-a-Bye Parents has a great post here. (She also explains how to host your own party, if it’s something you’re interested in.)
The rules usually involve the following:
- Follow the hosts and co-hosts.
- Visit other blogs.
- Tweet (or somehow share) the party.
- Advertise the party on your blog.
Obviously some of those become harder and harder to prove when parties grow. So frequently they have to work on the honor system. But the system works really well for everyone involved, so honoring it can only benefit you!
Why You Should Do This: It’s easy, guilt-free, shameless publicity that you don’t have to pay for.
If you get featured, some parties require that all participants pin your post. Some parties will make you a co-host for the week. It all depends. But even if the prize is simply that they link back to your blog post at the next week’s party, it’s still a major win!
A lot of people dislike having to hunt down parties and then spend time reading all the rules (because there will always be at least one party that does something different from all the rest, making things difficult, and you’ll have trouble remembering which one it is). So there are people you can hire to do your link parties for you. If you don’t have the money for that, then I suggest participating in a bunch of them and slowly narrowing down which parties are most beneficial to you and sticking with those.
For a list of link parties, please visit my Link Party Directory.
Hashtags kill me. They’re annoying to read and they turn everything into an ocean of hyperlinks. But holy crap, are they useful.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, a hashtag looks like this: #hashtag. You change the word to something relevant to your post (like #blogging or something). And that’s it. Easy.
Twitter is the King of Hashtags, but you can use hashtags basically everywhere. Facebook, Google+, Instagram, even Pinterest. To figure out how they work on each platform, there’s a great post called A Scientific Guide to Hashtags: How Many, Which Ones, and Where to Use Them.
Why You Should Do This: It increases your blog post’s chances of popping up in social media search results. On search engines, we rely on SEO to get our sites seen. On social media, hashtags basically are the SEO. (Which is great, because they’re way easier to understand.)
My favorite hashtag system is on Tumblr. If you have your blog connected to a Tumblr account, the posts will automatically be sent there as an excerpt AND Tumblr automatically uploads your post’s tags as hashtags. It makes life so much easier. I wish other social media platforms would do the same.
3. Optimize Your Photos for Pinterest
This is one I hear a lot of people complain about, especially if their blogs aren’t photo-centric. It’s much easier to do with DIY, food, and fashion blogs than it is with…well, everything else. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still important.
If your post is centered around pictures, then just be sure to take one vertical picture (as opposed to horizontal–if you’re not sure what I mean this post at my other blog is a good example. My primary picture if vertical, the rest are horizontal. Also, they are all the same width. This is important for neatness). Put it into Gimp or PicMonkey and add a title to it. The best photos for Pinterest are 800 pixels wide and 1200 pixels long.
If you don’t have a post centered around images, then create one. Again, you can do this in Gimp or PicMonkey. Figure out the size you need it to be and then use text and overlays to create an image featuring the title of the post. (This is easier to do in PicMonkey.)
Why You Should Do This: Pinterest is photo-centric, but also a great source for traffic. So you want to optimize that as best you can.
4. Join Groups
As I said, blogging is very much a team sport. The best way to find “your team” is to search for groups. Actually pay attention when people invite you to groups (even if you’ve never heard of it, them, or even if it doesn’t have many members).
I joined The Blogging Bunch on Facebook a few months ago, which I was weary of because my experience with groups until that point hadn’t been great. Also they only had a couple dozen members when I joined. So I was sure it was going to be another failure.
Nope. Joining that group has been the best decision I’ve ever made. At this moment, it has over 400 members and it’s growing every day. Not only has it taught me a lot about blogging, but it’s taught me a lot about what other people don’t know about blogging. That group is what inspired me to create this blog. I look forward to posts, even if it’s just a panicked “help me,” and I enjoy mingling with other group members. It’s great!
Why You Should Do This: This is probably the quickest and easiest way to make blogging friends, because it forces you to interact with other people.
Also, because blogging can create such a tight-knit community, people are sincerely friendly and eager to help.
The Blogging Bunch in particular also has a separate group where you can go and participate in what I refer to as “link swaps.” Everyone enters the link for the social media they’re doing that day (for instance today, Friday, is Google+). In order to participate, you have to follow everyone else who links up. So you also get your blog seen by people who otherwise wouldn’t have.
You never know what a group can offer you until you try it. So if you get invited (or you see one with open membership), give a shot. If you hate it, you can always leave.
This was originally part of Link Parties, because interacting with the other participants through comments is really important.
So important, that I’ve decided it should be its own thing. 😛
The majority of my bloggy friends were made through commenting. Especially when my blog was just starting out. Theirs were, as well, so it turned into a, “If you help me, I’ll help you” sort of deal…and now we visit each other and talk to each other on a fairly regular basis.
Why You Should Do This: If you’re visiting other people’s blogs and commenting (real comments, not just “I visited you, now return the favor” comments), more people will see your blog. Including people who don’t participate in the link parties or are active on Pinterest and such. Let’s face it…all (free) exposure is good exposure. Which is exactly what commenting gets you.
Just be sure to leave a meaningful comment (even if it’s only something like, “This looks delicious and I’m pinning it!”). The best comments, though, are the ones that start a conversation. Like, “My grandmother used to make a very similar recipe, but she used ___ instead of ___.” I’ve noticed I get more hits from sites I’ve commented on when my comment was meaningful.
6. Build or Join a Tribe
Tribes sound weird, but they’re simple. A tribe is just a group of (5-10) like-minded bloggers who are similar in size (meaning following) and age. You don’t have to be the same niche, you just have to have something in common. For instance, this is a budget blog. I do food, DIY, blogging, etc. If you’re a couponing blog or a thrifting blog, we would make a good tribe.
Why You Should Do This: Tribes help each other grow by doing blog challenges together (like coming up with a keyword you can all share and everyone has to write one blog post a week using that keyword), sharing each other’s stuff, commenting on each other’s blogs, guest posting for each other on a semi-regular basis (having multiple guests posts on a blog is better for your SEO than having just one. And linking back and forth to each other helps, as well).
You’re constantly introducing each other to new audiences (which is why it’s important that you’re not all the same kind of blog. It’s fine to have similar types of posts, but if you’re all strictly food blogs and nothing else, you’re not going to reach as wide an audience).
Just be careful–I’ve seen some tribes who attempted to game Google by searching for each other’s keywords and clicking on each other’s links to boost it’s page rank. Google is familiar with this trick (that trick is to Google what, “My dog ate my homework” is to elementary school teachers), so those pages got removed from the search engines altogether. They wound up doing more harm than good.
There are others I wanted to discuss in depth. They’ll have to wait, though. 🙂
What do you do to build your blogging relationships? I know there has to be way more than what I wrote here, so feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments!