I wrote a blog yesterday on the character traits of authors. I then sent out a message on twitter. By the end of the day there had been 323 hits on the page. It shook me out of my normal slumber and begs the question, why that blog entry?
Why was it so popular? How do you write a blog that gets people rushing to your site?
Within a couple of hours of it going up there were 10 comments posted. So the entry obviously struck a chord. It was intended to be slightly contentious, humorous, nothing really special (or so I thought). I didn’t really put much thought into it, I just needed to get something up on the site re: the first rule of blogging – put up regular posts.
Had I unwittingly stumbled on the right formula for a successful blog?
Of course, the main reason for the success was not that I had written a brilliant article or put up some ideas that would change the face of writing forever. It was that certain key twitter users liked it enough to recommend it to their followers.
And that’s the point.
I had a gander at the people who had retweeted me and there were a couple of key ones with around 3,000 to 4,000 followers. The truth was that my blog had unwittingly fallen into their category of the kind of thing they recommend to other users.
And that’s why my hit count shot up so much.
Which got me thinking about why people retweet. It’s that word of mouth thing – what spreads and what doesn’t depends on the kind of people you’re talking to, or twittering to. And people will retweet for a variety of reasons:
- Because you’re a friend of theirs or part of a community
- Because you’ve retweeted them in the past
- Because they like what you’re saying and think their followers will like it too
- Because it’s funny/interesting/new/contentious
Part of the reason why I run this blog is to experiment – find out what works so I can use it in the future to sell my novels. I’ve concentrated so far on Twitter to help me build up a following that feeds into my blog because, at first glance, it ticks all the boxes for me. It seems more interactive and more user friendly than, say, Facebook. You get more of a sense of community and, more importantly, you can pick and choose the people that you want to have a deeper interaction with. It’s a valuable tool.
The question is this: How do you use social networking intelligently?
I think the bedrock of any social networking device is to use it with a sense of community. I’m a writer and I want to communicate with other writers – it helps me remain focussed on the job at hand and gives me positive feedback that feeds my writer’s ego. I hope that, in return, I can provide that same service for those within my community (despite what I said in the last blog).
But there is also the need to use the blog and twitter to sell my wares. At several points, this desire conflicts with that idea of being part of a community, mainly because it’s a selfish thing. I want to sell. I want you to buy. But I also want you to be my friend.
As writers I think this is the balancing act we have to be most aware of. I should not be selling myself at the expense of my bedrock notion that I am part of a valuable community who deserve good and useful content.
That means I would never dream of signing up to affiliate programs that DM horoscopes or the latest iPod bargain. First of all, I wouldn’t earn any money out of it, and secondly, I think it would annoy the hell out of my followers. Besides, you can bet your house that if I turn into a demon salesman then people will start pressing that old unfollow button pretty quickly.
So here’s my plan for good blogging and networking for writers:
- Support writers in their struggle, take the time to read their stuff and comment on it (positively). In other words, take part in your community.
- Write interesting and regular blogs that get people involved – it’s no surprise that my most successful blogs are the 5 minute writing challenges and the one’s where I offer a “contentious” opinion. They invite readers to take part.
- Retweet the good stuff and find out what the top retweeters are passing on to their followers – then put some of that in your blog.
So, as usual, now it’s your turn.
What methods have you used that have proved more successful than others and how do you find the balance between what you want to achieve and what your readers want to read? Let me know in the comments section below.