Sunday, 28 April 2013

Push-Up Bra Blogging [12]: Where next? A few thoughts about community and an end of series round-up


Hello.

I feel a little bit coy right now ... and not just because I'm writing this above a picture of a bra ...
... but because:
No ...  hang on ... WE reached my target.

Actually no ... scratch that ... what actually happened was ...

WE EXCEEDED MY £500 FUNDRAISING TARGET!!!

With a little help from Dr.Who, McFly, Kenny Rogers, Austin Kleon, freezer meals, Groundhog Day, special guests Caroline, Gabrielle and Jennifer ... plus too many cleavage-enhancing garments to mention ... we did Something Good you and me ... something really good.

So thank you:

Abi, Alexa, Alison, Amanda, Amy, Andrea, Angie, Anon A, Anon C, Anon G, Anon K, Anon W, Barbara, Beverly, Carmen, Carolyn, Christine, Deb, Ellen, Emy, Fay, Fiona, Gail, Hazel, Heather, Helena, Helena C, Honore, Janet, Jayne, Jemma, Jennie, Jennifer, Jenny, Jo, Joanne, Julia, Julie, Jx, Karen, Karen M, Kate, Kirsteen, Kirsty, Linda, Liz, Louise, Lynn, Lyra, Lythan, Maria, Mary, Mel, Miriam, Nicola, Sandie, Sandra, Sarah, Sheena, Sian, Suzy, Teresa ...

[And Thank You in advance to those who continue to donate now as my page remains open to contributions from anyone who's still catching up with the series and wishes to show appreciation in the future].

Your kindness, your support, your participation means that Save the Children can now put our combined £518 towards:
And I don't know about you ... but that really makes me so happy. [Despite the tears I was fighting back when I realised we'd done it!]

And because I've had a few questions about this [and also because my Dad (gently) teased me about me going on holiday with your donations!!] let me just clarify:
  • Just Giving forwards all of your donations on to the charity within a few days;
  • I never see any of it - it comes nowhere near me;
  • No holidays / shoes / dresses / snacks were purchased during the making of this course with your £££!  
OK then ... while we're all still basking in the afterglow of our joint good deeds let's move on to my final word on this blogging game [well, it's my final word for now at least ... who knows when I might hook myself back into my push-up bra in the future?].

Appropriately enough we've gone full circle  ... because we're back where we started [maybe it was the Dr.Who effect?] with The McFly Approach.

Because after all the tips, tricks and inspiration you've picked up along the way ... ... it's still all about you ... 

... only now it's about you, me and the thing we are together the blogging community.

How can we build and encourage a community around our blog?

When I opened up the floor to your questions ...  the only one I received was on this topic. And perhaps it was one key aspect of blogging I'd not touched upon already.

Perhaps it's the missing segment of padding in our blogging bras! [Thank you Carolyn for raising such an interesting point].

And perhaps it could be a series in itself ... but perhaps not by me. Or not now at least. Which I think is why I've found this post so hard to finish! There's almost too much to discuss, and I'm by no means any great expert on this [I certainly don't have the world's biggest blog-following].

So let me just tell you a few things I feel I can pass on ...

Is there anybody there? 
So ... you've taken on board some of the ideas in the series, you've got a line of draft posts, scheduled posts, and fresh content working its way along your blog's production line ... you're hitting 'Publish' more often than you did back in March when the series began ... now what?

Where do those posts go?

Do they come to rest gently on open eyes, ears, arms, hearts, minds? Or do they bump down with a resounding echo ... in an empty room?

Chances are ... during your blogging 'career' it's going to be a mix of both I'm afraid.

I don't know if it's possible for every single post you create can achieve the same amount of comments, traffic and exposure. And some days you really will feel like you're whistling into the wind.

And, while it's far easier said than done, if you want to continue to maintain and build your blog, you're going to have to not let the set backs ... well ... set you back!!

I think ... yet again ... that this is where working out why you're blogging, finding our what benefits blogging can have for you and then only blogging what YOU enjoy [as we looked at in the early chapters] comes in important.

Because if having a blog offers you an important outlet before you get anyone else's feedback ... then you can work on everything else over time, rather than giving up when things feel a bit lonely.

But let's look at a few things you can experiment with to help you find a wider audience for your blog:

A few ways to increase blog traffic + blog comments

If you've never read up on anything like this before do me a favour and read through my next set of tips with an open mind ... and don't let yourself get overwhelmed. OK? Please?

I've been there myself ... [still go there occasionally!] and I know what can happen.

You can get to thinking that you need to take it all on board  in the next 5 minutes or else you're getting blogging 'wrong'.

But you're not.

These aren't hard + fast rules ... just things to consider, test out and discard if they're not working for you.

Remember that this whole course has been Pick n'' Mix. Taking baby steps. Not leaping from a Double A cup to a Triple G overnight. Moving along by increments.

They may initially feel rather 'cold' to you, technical, businesslike ... and they may not be what you had in mind when I said we'd discuss 'community'. But stick with me ... because we'll get there by the end. OK? OK ...

I know some people blog purely to share photos and things with immediate friends and family - like an online family album ... so the following hints may well not apply if that's you. But, if you're hoping that word will spread about your blog beyond immediate acquaintances,  if you want a bigger and better blog you're going to have to ...

Invest in the quality of the content you share:
  • People are more likely to leave comments on posts which have really grabbed their attention - for one reason or another.
  • Think about the kinds of posts which arrest your attention ... what do they contain? What made them special?
Remember that while your blog should begin with YOU ... it's ultimately read by someone else.
  • What's in it for them?
  • What do you offer that will keep them returning?
  •  This can be anything from friendliness and humour to tutorials and inspiration ... to free downloads to interesting insights ... and on and on  
  • Whatever it is ... you do need to bear in mind that blog readers are just as time-pressed, forgetful and just a click away from the next web page as you are. If you want them to hang around ... you're going to have to offer them something worthy of their time.
Then, once one or two regulars start hanging around ... you want to make it easy for your readership to keep growing ... and so ...

Make your post 'pinnable'
[You do not need to be signed up to Pinterest for Pinterest to work for you. Other people 'pin' [save] your post for future reference on their boards.]

Pinterest is the single biggest driver of traffic to my blog.

It is responsible for the traffic behind my single most viewed post of all time:
This step-by-step tutorial I posted in 2011 gets repinned on an almost daily basis on Pinterest and has led to over 29,000 views of the original post.
 
For the record: to anyone feeling dejected about how your posts don't get lots of comments ...
  • this post, with over 29,000 views has a grand total of ... 28 comments.
  • Approx 0.1% of the people who've seen it have left a comment.
  • Blog-traffic figures and blog-comment numbers do not always match up the way you might expect!
Occasionally, almost 2 years later, I still get emails and comments from people thanking me for the tutorial letting me know that they plan to stick around, read other things and subscribe / follow me. And it's all down to Pinterest. [Oh and ... also me putting in the effort to make a nice tutorial! I don't want to hand over my successes entirely to someone else!]
  • People are more likely to pin your posts to Pinterest if it features beautiful / fun / eye-catching images and /or an inspirational project / a tutorial / tips etc
  • People can only pin images to Pinterest ... so even if your written advice / recipe etc is the best in the world ... make sure there's at least one image in there.
  • This needn't be a photo - you can make a .jpg image just from text eg. a quote or a diagram.
So ... now that we're realising that visuals are pulling people in, you might want to start to ...

Use good quality images:
  • brush up on your camera skills so you can take more attractive photos of your projects
  • learn a few photo-editing tricks [this needn't be in Photoshop. I personally use: Microsoft Office Picture Manager [a free software on my laptop]; Picasa and GIMP [both of which are free to download online].
  • If you use Blogger - you can also edit photos after you've uploaded them to your Picasa Web Album / Google+. Click on your image > select 'Actions' > select 'Edit in Picasa' or 'Edit in Creative Kit'
OK, so once you're happy with the content you're putting into your blog in general you're going to need to let others know about it. How else are you going to build that community?

Make your post 'searchable', 'Google-able': 
At this point in your blog's life it may well be the case that the only people reading your blog are those who already know you from somewhere [friends, family, members from another website or forum] however ...
  • the more you blog, the more content you put out there then the more visitors who you don't know from Adam will start dropping in  ...
  • and many of them will find you via search-engines [like Google]
  • If you want to know more about this you can find a world of information about SEO [Search Engine Optimisation] on the internet however ... in simple terms ... 
  • the words you use in your blog post title, body of content, in your labels / tags and in the name you've saved your images under all help tell search-engines about what's in your post and so ...
  • if you've written a tutorial about Art Journal Pages then those words need to be in those places somewhere then ...
  • the next time someone looking for inspiration for a journal page goes to Google and searches for those terms ... your post is more likely to appear in the search results.
... and then ... you may well have just found your newest blog reader.

Do you see how even though SEO etc is dry, technical and slightly like black magic ... it can still lead to positive, human connections?

OK, well hang on to that warm fuzzy feeling ... because we're dipping back into uncomfortable territory again now ...

Make your post 'visable':
I once read some business advice that said something along the lines of: 'launching a new product without marketing it is like putting up advertising posters in a basement: no one will know the thing exists' ...

... and the same goes for your blog post.

I know you might be feeling a little unloved because your blog isn't getting the attention you'd like ... but maybe ... just maybe it's not because you're hopeless at it ... it's because no one's knows about it or you!

How about revisiting Chapter 8 'The Austin Kleon Approach' where we looked at joining in with other people's link-up features for some more ideas about branching out and making connections:
  • When you leave your link on these kinds of posts chances are the the host and some of the other participants will drop by.
  • Maybe to leave a comment, maybe just to look.
  • But the more you take part, the more connections you'll make.
  • The more your face / words / style will become familiar.
Or, consider guest-blogging for others - or asking people to guest for you:
  • this could be by approaching a blog you like with an idea [preferably blogs you know take on guest-bloggers already.]
  • or keeping your eyes peeled for requests and opportunities
  • or by getting together with a few blogging friends and 'swapping' blogs for a day ...
  • or creating a blog-hop
There are lots of ways in which you can start to migrate outwards from your small corner of Blogland ... just far enough to get your work / face / projects seen by a new set of eyes which may then become new readers and friends.

But you don't need to only rely on other people helping you become more visable ... you can take on the role of promoting and marketing yourself too!

When I asked on my Facebook page for people to share how they build and promote their blog my long-time blogging friend and ever-supportive commenter Carmen [of Whoopidoings] replied:
  • "My blog posts automatically get tweeted and posted on Facebook and with my book reviews I also manually copy and paste those over to Amazon, GoodReads and Pinterest. If I notice someone has pinned something I've done I will thank them in their comment section of that pin."
And, I'm sorry to break it to you if that all sounds like a lot of work to attract people in ... but ... if you want to grow your blog .. it's pretty much par for the course.
  • My posts get automatically tweeted and Facebooked;
  • I tweet links to my posts and FB them on top of the auto-posts
  • I pin my own posts on Pinterest 
  • I occasionaly guest-blog
  • I leave links on the Facebook pages of various companies when I've used their products in a particular project
  • I put my blog address on my shop packaging
  • I sometimes add it into the bottom of my emails [depending who I'm writing to of course!]
If all this sounds like a lot of work and not something you can face doing ... then there's a few ways to look at it:
  • Pick one idea ... and give it a go for a month and if it doesn't work, at least you'll know.
  • Look for the things you will enjoy doing [eg. tweeting, joining in with link-ups] ... and then concentrate on doing those consistently, regularly, and pretty darn well!
OR maybe ... now you've had a glimpse into what it can take to get yourself and your blog 'out there' ... you can use the information to stop being so hard on yourself about why your blog isn't getting more views / comments:
  • if you're content with keeping things small and simple, then that's great, there's no need to venture out into social media etc to promote it.
  • And at least you can understand why it's remaining small
  • And it might be clearer to you that other people aren't inherently more popular than you ... they're just promoting themselves more often.
And finally ... the biggest piece of advice is less a blogging tip and more a commandment ...

Remember to do unto others ...
  • You want more people to visit your blog? ... then visit more blogs yourself, ones you're genuinely interested in.
  • You want people to leave comments and feedback for you? ... then leave comments for others.
  • You want more personal comments where you feel the commenter really read your post? ... then engage with other bloggers, let them know their post resonated etc with you.  
  • [Edited to add: I still appreciate the quick comments too! It's good to know you're there in whatever form! x]
  • The other blogger may well return the favour sometime ...
While it's not something you can force, if you're commenting and interacting from a genuine place [ie. not spamming someone else's comments with links to your own blog when not appropriate] then it can only all help toward raising your profile and having someone drop by your blog to see who left such a nice comment.

Rinda of [Gallo Organico] offered up a perfect example of this in a comment on a recent post in this series:
  • "I scheduled almost a full week's worth of blog posts on Monday when I had some free time. That's given me more time this week to visit other people's blogs and be a good commenter/community member, which has in turn brought more people to my blog!"
Look ... I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to not always leaving comments ... especially when I'm busy or tired and have only really sat down to read blogs as a means of zoning out. And part of me takes comfort in my own fallability in this:
  • it shows me how if I can really enjoy a post ... but even then still not stop to comment ... it may mean that other people did the same thing on my post!
Plus ... by recognising that I can't possibly be equally supportive to every blog in my blog-reader I've become more selective about where I focus my on line energies and I do try to more regularly leave comments for those people I've connected with in more than one way [eg. people I know from My Month in Numbers, tweeters, friends I email etc etc].

I think that, while we continue to build and grow a readership, we really need to embrace and appreciate the audience we have right now, the people - no matter how few - who keep showing up for us.

Let me share something with you ...

I may have plenty of blog subscribers, a couple hundred Facebook page 'likes', and close to 1000 Twitter followers ... and Push-Up Bra Blogging may well have brought in a few thousand page views ... but ...

... do you know how many donations were made to Save the Children to help me reach my target? 63.

Now ... I won't lie and say that figure hasn't caused me a certain amount of ... pause for thought let's call it ... over the last few weeks but ...

... while I was typing out the names of the people who made each of those 63 incredibly kind donations [so I could thank them all at the top of this post] ... do you know what I realised?

That I knew them.

That I knew you.

The vast majority of your names were already familiar to me.

You're a mix of regular blog commenters, Month in Numbers bloggers, regular Facebook and Twitter friends, people I know in 'real' life, and family plus and few faces I've seen here and there in Blogland.

You're the people who've regularly shown up for me here.

And the lump in my throat as I write this stands as evidence that those 63 real connections - above all the other seemingly impressive statistics - are the ones that really count.

So ... I guess my final word to you has to be:


You get out there and enjoy your blog my friends!

Julie x

 -------------------------------------------

My fundraising page once again.

27 comments:

  1. Cor. Thump to my throat...

    P.S. I recognise those scissors in that tutorial - BOBS prize?

    Sx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Julie you made me cry there, just a little bit. This has been the most fascinating, useful and informative series I've ever come across in blogging. It's really made a difference to how I intend to blog and made me visit and comment on more blogs than before. I now have a pile of draft posts, some finished and some a work in progress.

    My month in numbers is coming along and this will be featuring in it

    Thanks for doing this series and well done on reaching and exceeding your fund raising target.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brilliant ending - the last bit really made me laugh and I need that on a Sunday night. Glad you raised so much and I hope it keeps coming in.
    What you say is so true, I know I have neglected my blog, not got so involved, still commented but not as much and I have missed the camaraderie. The regulars are what makes it special.
    Well done xx

    ReplyDelete
  4. This has been a fantastic series and I'm so pleased you reached your target. I try hard to comment on blogs I've read but sometimes I just don't have the time and I end up with a couple of word comments: lovely post, great idea etc but I know how I appreciate people commenting so try to do something, no matter how small. I joined a Shimelle class a few years back and found a great group of bloggers out there. I'm sure you've come across various posts about how we met up recently! There are some great people out there! Thanks for all the advice on how to find new friends whilst still cherishing the existing ones!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Such a worthy cause and I'm more than happy to have helped in a small way to your target. I'll hang my head in shame now and fess up to actually haven't read any of the series YET ... But I knew I wanted to blog more and I need all the help I can get. So now I've got some catching up to do. Again, thank you for taking the time to put this altogether

    ReplyDelete
  6. I still haven't had a chance to read all of your posts but I have them bookmarked and a new notebook at the ready. I'm so pleased you surpassed your target, it was definitely worth it and thank you for giving up your expertise for such a worthy cause.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh blimey. I've got a lump in my throat here and I haven't even sat down and read through the whole class yet (I fully intend to this week. Can't wait - need to get some structure to my blogging!)

    I cannot, CANNOT agree enough about visiting other blogs and commenting. I can remember someone saying to me "oh, you had such and such amount of comments on that post and this post" quite snottily - I guarantee you that it's always been from people who do not visit other blogs much and certainly don't comment. It's not magic. It's not luck. It takes work but it is SO worth it. I can tell you that my very best friends? Apart from 2 long term friends made via school and work (and Craig of course - so 3!) but my best friends have been made via my blog. Such good things come of it. Inspiration. Confidence. Exposure. Even peace of mind - through Rocking Fridays - a whole mind frame altered.

    Well done Julie - on the charity and on the whole course :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you Julie, as you know I've thoroughly enjoyed your series. I've got out my notebook, tripod and started drafting my projects. So I'm all ready..... bring on the blogging.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Congrats on reaching your target! A great summary post with plenty of sound advice. One day I'll have time to read the course in full and maybe even implement some of the ideas!! Thank you :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. This has been a great series! Learned a ton even though of course I thought I already knew it! Hah! I have far to go and plan to revisit all your posts on this as I build my blog this time around. I will say, for me, linky parties helped a lot!
    Thank you so much for posting this!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Julie, this is such a wonderful post - your title suggests it's just a bit of a final round- up but there is so much in here of great value that I will becoming back daily for a week at least! And then there is your great Twitter series, and if you ever want to do a How To Use Facebook one, I will be eternally grateful! And Pinterest is awhile other story ... Thank you for all your dedication and time (you must have invested LOADS) to helping us. Glad we were able to give a little back too :).

    ReplyDelete
  12. Justed wanted to say a quick thank you for this series. I have already put some of it into practice - my five posts for this week are sitting in draft waiting to be finalised!

    Liz x

    ReplyDelete
  13. Tears in my eyes as I read this, Julie!
    I agree, it is not about numbers or having a huge following. It is about the special people who stick by, show up regularly, and who help to build something special.
    You have given me some great ideas through this course. I've not had time to try many of them and my second attempt at scheduling a post failed as miserably as my first so I need to check out why.
    But I love the idea of using Pinterest. And I'm not sure if I ever saw your acclaimed Art Journal tutorial, so I'll be adding to your number of viewers!
    THANK YOU again Julie for this course. It has been truly amazing. I have so enjoyed your humour and your writing, and the course content will keep me busy and learning for a long time to come. I am going to miss your twice weekly postings but at least your regular blog posts will stop me having withdrawal symptoms!
    I might even be able to get my act together and join in with My Month in Numbers.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for a wonderful series. You have given me so much to think about! Hooray for reaching the target! xxx

    ReplyDelete
  15. Well done on reaching your target and thank you for a really good series. I have really enjoyed it and it has given me plenty of food for thought about my own blog.

    Karen x

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks (again) for the shout-out. Congrats on reaching your goal. At some point, I will write a post about the amazing, infinite generosity of my blog friends in supporting my daughter and I as we train for our half marathon and fight against cancer. It's been beyond amazing.
    I'm pretty happy with the amount of followers I have; not sure I want to go down the pinterest rabbit hole.
    I first found my blog community through the Shimelle class we all started with and then grew it substantially with my photo scavenger hunt and paint party friday.
    Rinda

    ReplyDelete
  17. great to hear the community came through to reach you target.

    Yesterday when preparing several posts I typed 'and then' and then thought 'Julie would create a new post now' so I did. Your words of wisdom are out here and working - thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm so glad i wasn't the only one with a lump in my throat as i read your post. And in true Julie spirit you brought a smile to my face with your final words. There has been so much information in your series that it is impossible for me to take it all in - so i'll be back to read (ad take notes) again and again.

    Congratulations too on reaching your target - even penny makes a difference and its good to know that collectively we were able to help xx

    ReplyDelete
  19. Wonderful, wonderful news about your target - I hope you are feeling suitably proud. Because you deserve to be. It's a fantastic achievement.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and I love how you ended with some chat about community and commenting. There as many different attitudes to commenting out there as there are bloggers I sometimes think! I have a post going round Pinterest with similar numbers - and haven't received any extra comments at all on it! Which is food for thought every time I pin something myself..
    ..but what I'm noticing more and more is that some of my quieter readers are also my most regular..which brings us back to your excellent point: it has to be about content and its value to readers can never be entirely gauged by comment alone.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks so much Julie for at least giving me a mental push (I'm struggling with the DOING part still)! And, it was a teary moment there to see my name listed as one of the contributors to your fundraising effort . . . I love those little ones so much! Now to getting off my virtual duff . . .
    Hazel
    haallred.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  21. Wow, tears from me too, that last bit really touched me. This has been such a brilliant series and it's given me so much to think about. We're in the middle of (hopefully) selling our house/buying a new one and I feel so frustrated as I don't have time to blog the way I felt I ought to, i.e. chronologically and from scratch, but you've opened my eyes to creating drafts/posts with all the stuff I ALREADY HAVE on my laptop, so for now I will tinker with that and post as and when. Thank you sooo much, you're inspirational.x

    ReplyDelete
  22. Underneath it all, you and the PUBATB series have been most entertaining!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Another here with a lump in my throat (and no I'm not stalking you Julie - promise). Thank you so much for this series - I am going to have to come back to each post in order to take it all on board and remember what I want to use from all your wonderful tips.
    J x

    ReplyDelete
  24. Julie, thank you for this fantastic course, it has helped me to rethink about blogging and I realise how much I do enjoy it, so will be blogging more often. Thanks for all the ideas which I will be putting to use.

    I am so pleased you made your target for Save the Children.

    Barbara

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks so much.. amazingly useful information and good natured humour. Well worth a donation :)
    ( Kazy1 from UKS )

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thank you so much for this course! You've given me so many ideas for my blog, I can't wait to implement them. This was a great and heartfelt way to end the course. Thanks again! =)

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thank-you for sharing this fabulous series. Lots of really great ideas. Just love the way you write! Thanks again :)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for leaving me a comment, asking me a question, sharing your own story or just randomly saying hello.