I’m often asked, via email and or in-person, questions about how I find the time to blog and questions about building a blog audience. While I am by no means a “pro blogger” or a “social media expert,” I do have some tips that can help new(er) education bloggers. The following tips apply to those people who would like to expand the size of their blog’s audience. If you’re not interested in this topic, skip this post and I promise the next one will be back to “regularly scheduled programming.”
1. Identify a niche for your blog and write for that niche. You might be thinking that “education” is a niche, but it’s not. A niche is something like “K-12 School Leadership” or “Technology in the Elementary School Classroom.” Identifying a niche does two things for you. A niche helps visitors quickly identify what your blog is about. A niche also helps you identify topics for your writing.
2. Post consistently. You don’t have to post five things a day to build an audience. In fact, you don’t even have to post everyday, but you do need to post consistently. Chris Guillebeau has built a huge audience by posting three times a week on a regular schedule. In addition to posting on a regular schedule, post with a consistent voice (see #1 above).
3. Link to other bloggers. If you read a post on someone else’s blog that inspired the post you’re currently writing, link to that person. If you’re quoting someone, make sure you link to that person. And if you use someone else’s slideshow, video, or audio make sure you link to that person (I forgot to do this once and was very embarrassed). Linking to others is not only the right thing to do, it can also be the way to get on another blogger’s radar for the right reasons (I’ll talk about the wrong reasons later). If you link to another blogger, he or she may see your post even if they’re not a regular reader of your blog. Down the road that blogger may link back to you.
4. Write original material. It’s fine to quote other people and or to post other people’s presentations, but in doing so make sure you’re adding value to that work (also make sure you link to them, see #3). Adding value can be writing a commentary about a video and how that video influenced your thinking. Adding value could also be a critical commentary designed to spark conversation. Simply copying and pasting another person’s blog posts without adding value, even if you link to that person, is not only bad etiquette, it can be a violation of copyright.
5. Network. Get on Twitter or Plurk or FriendFeed and contribute to conversations there. (Read this post for ideas about finding other teachers on Twitter). If you’re making good, insightful, or helpful contributions to conversations, people will be more inclined to check out your blog. Don’t be afraid to self-promote, but do so sparingly. (As Chris Brogan says, don’t be that guy).
6. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about your readers. People come to your blog for a reason. That reason may be to further their learning, to be inspired, or to be entertained. Whatever the reason, they’re coming with an expectation and you need to try to meet that expectation.
7. Don’t stress-out over fluctuations in statistics. Watching the statistics of your blog can be stressful if you worry about every fluctuation. The statistics do give you some nice feedback about things like the type of post that appeal to your readers, but don’t obsess over daily fluctuations. Instead look at weekly or monthly statistics to see if your audience is growing. Think of it this way; the more readers you have, the more people you will have stop reading.
As I said at the beginning, I’m not a “pro blogger” or “social media expert” so take my advice with a grain of salt. If you’re interested in what the “experts” have to say I recommend Pro Blogger, Chris Brogan, and Gary Vaynerchuk.
Do you have your own advice for new bloggers? If so, please leave a comment.