OWN: Why You Need A Blog
Here is @RachelintheOC ‘s OWN Series on Blog Writing: O: Overview: Why you need a blog; W: Writing a successful blog; and N: what you Need to do to market your blog in today’s environment.
Part I: Overview: Why You Need a Blog
If you want to market your book or future book in today’s social media-heavy environment, you MUST have a blog. A blog is your own personal marketing space to post writing samples (posts, sample chapters, experiences, etc). When used correctly, your blog can be a great place to build your fanbase as you create the work you want to sell.
But…who the heck am I to tell you what to do? Why should you listen to some snarky redhead from the OC? There are lots of folks out here in social media land with opinions. What makes me so special?
I’m not a social media guru. Or expert. But I am familiar with blogging, Twitter and the like. I’m getting to know what SEO means (though I can’t say I’m utilizing it to its fullest extent…yet). I’ve got a handle on some fancy terms, and I read articles and posts everyday where I learn more and more from people who DO know a lot more than I do.
I guess you could call me a social media navigator. Or sponge. These are terms I’m comfortable with.
I’m happy with my 4,500 (and growing) Twitter followers, with my 30-50 mentions/day and about 40-50/day retweets. I’ve worked diligently to create a targeted, quality interactive bunch of writers, readers, social media peeps, arts lovers, and other cool peeps that I’ve culled over the last six months and analyze weekly. Of course, I’m always following more, and I interact with many of them daily (lists are awesome). I also use Google Analytics to know that I get between 50-200 hits to my blog/day, hitting as many as 4,000/month.
But how did I get here?
Well. I feel incredibly fortunate that the super bright and talented Carolyn McCray aka @craftycmc (writer, veterinarian, PhD, and cool marketing chick so insightful about social media that lots of really smart people pay her lots of money to run their social media accounts for them) plucked me like a needle in the Twitter haystack. Something in me stood out to Carolyn – beyond the red hair and snark—and her mentoring has helped me take RachelintheOC.com far beyond the small but loyal 600 Twitter followers and 80 blog hits per month I had in April.
We, along with author Kait Nolan, founded the Indie Book Collective in September and we now apply these same principles to help writers learn how to use social media to develop their social platform—just like Carolyn helped me.
But what about the book? My book? It’s great and all that I have worked my way a bit around this social media universe–but what good is it if I don’t have anything to show for it? Didn’t I start blogging to write a dang book?
I knew when I started blogging that I wanted to write a book. Perhaps fiction. Definitely non-fiction. Twitter has helped me enormously with marketing my vision, branding myself, and has helped me put my WIP (work in progress) ideas into an actual piece of work.
I’ve learned that there are lots of ways having a blog helps you in this regard. Let’s discuss the six key benefits of having a blog:
- Increases your readership By this I mean, if you write it sure, a few will come. For me, those few were my friends and family, initially. And it was great. At first. But beyond posting pictures of my kids and what we were up to, I wanted to really get into it. Take it beyond the everyday and find my niche. You’ll need to do the same.
How do you grow past those first few followers? That takes skill, my friend.
Take our free workshops. Read our posts and articles. Listen to our weekly live radio shows. Interact with other writers. And read read read other blogs you admire; take note of what you like and adopt that.
All of this will contribute to improving your blog’s overall attractiveness and ergo, draw readers in. Remember though: make your voice heard.
- Get over yourself My brand came out of my interests and humor, but it took courage to take my blog in the direction I wanted to take it. My posts are often controversial, my language occasionally off-color, and sometimes I probably reveal more of myself than even I expected to. But that’s what makes it mine.
Write something you’d never show your mother or father ~ Lorrie Moore
If you’re afraid that others will judge you for what you write on your blog, how are you ever going to write a book?
- Primes the pump for purchase I started blogging in 2008. The genesis of my blog has been nothing short of spectacular. I no longer write novel-length posts or brain dumps. (You’re welcome.) I keep it short and er, sweet (well, this IS me…). Point is, as I learned more about branding, I learned my writing strengths (humor) and what my readers were eating up; so that is the direction I go.
I wrote my first Mancode post “Men are from Seinfeld, Women are from Friends,” in April. The response has been cr-azy. I knew I was onto something. I had found not only my brand, but through my networking on Twitter (more on that in Parts II and III), I found a way to test out what worked and what didn’t.
- Testing your brand What’s so great about having your own blog (in combination with Twitter especially—but more on that in Parts II and III) is that you can write a post and see what kind of response you get. It’s market research in its purest form. Blogs allow you to find your voice and get responses right away.
For example, I decided to write a few posts that were a bit outside of my Mancode milieu called Chickspeak: what we gals really mean when we say “I’m fine” or “I’m tired.” I wasn’t sure if guys (or gals) would be interested in this topic. I mean, I knew I could bring the funny—but was it enough on brand? And was this something that I could potentially add to my book?
Depending on the response you get (mine was great), you can either continue with a new direction or change course. Just always remember: your blog is what you make it, so take advantage of that freedom. Push yourself, take chances, reach. You don’t have anyone to answer to but yourself. But remember this: you will get feedback, and everyone will have a say.
My advice is this: it’s your blog. Follow your instinct. But remember to keep it mind that you’re putting it out there as a way to have people know about you, read you, find out who you are. That’s the impression you want to leave.
- Find Reviewers By already having samples of your work in place, and thousands of readers following your (at minimum) twice-weekly postings, when you do publish (self or traditionally), finding reviewers of your works will be a piece of cake if you’ve been blogging for awhile. You don’t want to have to find and develop a relationship with these folks after the fact; you want them in your corner now.
There are plenty of ways to find reviewers, book bloggers, book clubs, etc on Twitter, Facebook, and other blogging sites. Start interacting with them as you build your following in your specific genre. Find out about them as you build. Court them. These folks are your friends. I’ve made some deep, wonderful connections on Twitter that I don’t think would’ve been possible in real life.
- Platform for Contests, Giveaways, Direct Mail, etc. As you become more blog savvy, you can attract more followers using social media by doing contests or giveaways on your blog. It doesn’t have to be anything super fancy. A book, CD, whatever floats your boat.
I’m working toward e-publishing several Mancode/Chickspeak entries that I’ve not posted before as a sneak peek of my book (for those few truly dedicated followers—those who have pressed that follower button on my blog, who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, who comment regularly, who retweet me. Those folks deserve a reward!) that will go to only ten or so folks.
You can also direct mail your followers by developing a confidential email list as you build. Keeping those dedicated readers filled in on your updates with exclusives is a great way to build brand loyalty.
I hope this overview has given you enough reason and motivation to start a blog, or to whip into shape the one you’ve neglected for far too long. Honestly, you are missing out on a fabulous free marketing tool that can work wonders in moving your writing career along depending on how much effort and professionalism you put in. You owe it to yourself to make your blog great.
Now you just have to start!
Part II of this series will focus on tips to writing a successful blog, while Part III focuses on how to market your blog successfully using Twitter.