No, this photo doesn’t have anything to do with this post, but heck – it’s seasonal!
So, in this earlier post, we talked about how blog-reading is evolving in a more visual, more bite-sized, more social-media-driven direction. I certainly don’t think this heralds the death of blogs – after all, what are all those links that get shared in these spaces?
But I do think that the way we use blogs to reach people is also evolving, and this post represents my emerging thoughts on this topic. Please don’t take this post as stuff you “should” be doing. I’d love to hear your ideas, and have some discussion about how we’re all coping with blogging and social media becoming more and more deeply intertwined.
Okay, so that said…
Letting Go of Subscribers?
When blogs and RSS readers arrived on the scene, we learned to revere the idea of “subscribers” – people who were committed to reading all of our posts. Subscribers represented our core audience, and our potential market. We tabulated our value by the number of subscribers we had.
But increasingly, I suspect that the subscriber is a vanishing animal. How many blogs do you currently subscribe to, and of those, how many are you actually making time to read regularly – and how “regularly” is that really? Do you read every single post of any blog you subscribe to?
Image by AndyWilson, via Flickr
I’m guessing that most of you have rather sheepish answers to these questions. And there’s nothing wrong with it! We are simply adapting to faster, more nimble, more flexible ways to read web content. We cannot hold ourselves to the same standards of blog-reading forever in a world that’s swirling with change.
If your subscriber numbers are declining, don’t take it personally. Instead, consider that your readers may be wanting to read your stuff in other ways.
…Which leads to my next idea:
Image by colemama, via Flickr
Being Available in More Than One Way
If people aren’t seeking to read every single post from any one blog anymore, what does this mean for bloggers? It means recognizing that your readers are reading their content in a lot of different places now – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, mobile apps, visual aggregators, and even email subscriptions.
I get this question all the time: “Should I be using [insert name of social media tool here]?” Usually, my answer is that nobody “has” to use anything, and that you should choose the tools you like using and have time to use. But increasingly, I’m wondering whether a blogger might want to set up at least as RSS feed presence in various social media venues, so people who do their blog reading there have a way to tune in.
Image by launceton_lad, via Flickr
I also used to say that if you’re going to use any social media tool, you have to actively participate there. But maybe you don’t. Maybe all you have to do is broadcast your content on all the disparate channels people use nowadays. That won’t get you a wide following on any single channel, but maybe it’ll reach a few people you would have lost otherwise.
As much as I despise Facebook, for example, it has proven beneficial to feed my blog over there for the people who want to read it. I do hear from people who are glad they can pick up the posts there instead of having to travel over to my blog.
I’m really conflicted about this idea, however, because it’s still frustrating to find my friends posting the exact same things on every social media channel. But perhaps the answer is to simply not follow everyone on every channel. Maybe we’re settling into smaller, platform-based cliques now.
…Which, yes, leads to yet another idea:
Image by johnkoetsier, via Flickr
A Thousand Points of Data
The problem, of course, with having your content displaying in many places is that you then have to watch many more data points to determine how many people you’re reaching.
For example, these days I’m watching my website traffic numbers, my RSS subscriber numbers, my blog comments, my Twitter mentions and retweets, my Facebook Likes, Shares, and Comments, plus my podcast feed subscribers and download numbers for each show. Good Golly, that takes a lot of time! And, it takes some effort to coalesce all that stuff into any coherent picture of how things are going.
Of course, sooner or later the web is likely to provide us with tools to do that coalescing for us, but right now, in a crazy disparate universe, growing an audience can mean tending to a lot of data.
Image by Krissy.Venosdale, via Flickr
Getting More Active About Getting Seen
Increasingly, growing an audience also means putting ourselves out there. We can’t just post the posts and sit back waiting for someone to notice. The craft community is full of aggregation websites, and these are places where large numbers of people (including all the people who curate content for those aggregation websites) go to see new craft.
I believe that these aggregation websites also feed an awful lot of social media link-sharing. And so, if if you want more people reading your best blog posts, then it pays to regularly submit those links to aggregation sites. Craftgawker and iShareCrafts have open submission forms. So do One Pretty Thing, CRAFT, CraftGossip, and many others.
(Incidentally, I think there’s a lot more to this whole “curation/aggregation” thing, but let me save that for another post.)
What are your thoughts? How is your approach to blogging changing these days? What tactics have worked in terms of bringing you more visibility?