NBI2: Blog Promotion through Unique Identity, Collaboration, and Social Media
A lot goes in to making a blog popular. I suspect it has as much to do with luck and who you know or whose eye you catch as anything else, and of course, regardless of any of that, it takes time – a lot of time.
There are a few things, though, that could help the process. They won’t necessarily speed it up so much as improve the final outcome as the word of mouth about your blog spreads. Those three things are having a unique identity, going out of your way to collaborate with others, and utilizing social media to further the reach of your blog. Each of these take a little more time than just diving right in and writing, but each is worth it alone, and together they can make your blog a very powerful force.
A Unique Identity
Creating a unique identity can really help your blog flourish. Early on, the “letter” format of my correspondences caught a lot of attention, though, if we’re being honest here, I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a bit of gimmick, and I stole it from The Perks of Being a Wallflower (before it was a movie) to help encourage a personal, conversational, and somewhat intimate tone for discussion on the blog. Since then, I’ve heard more about my writing style than the letter format, particularly my use of parentheses as asides. Both of those elements help distinguish me as me, which helps people feel more personally connected to the blog. That personal connection brings people back time and again, so you should work to establish your own.
Another way to help define your blog is through coming up with unique topics; I suspect that this is what really first got my blog noticed. I’m very interested in cognitive science and psychology, but I’m a teacher by trade, and I worked hard early on (perhaps even “peaked” early on, as my most viewed article was within the first month of my blogging) to combine all the interesting tidbits I’d learned and apply them to gaming.
Each of you with your very diverse backgrounds know about unique and interesting topics that are unfamiliar to many of your readers. As a result, you can bring unique viewpoints to the genre of game writing, and you can generate unique topics that others wouldn’t ever consider. Make a real effort early on to take whatever personal skills and knowledge you’ve accumulated and think How does this apply to gaming? What unique viewpoints do I have a result of my background? What two ideas are out there that others haven’t put together, but I can?
I did this early on with the Johari Window and WoW, the aforementioned “most viewed” post. The ideas were out there, but no one had thought of putting them together. Each of you have ideas like that in you, whether you are engineers (look at the structures of your games and talk about their construction), geologists (how do mining nodes compare to the real world?) painters (talk about color palette and meaning in the designer’s choices) or whatever. Find that interesting angle, and write about it.
Not only should you generate your own interesting topics, but you should also collaborate with others to create group topics about which to write. This can be accomplished in several ways. The first is just to read others’ posts and respond to them. Nothing gets links back in like a great comment or a civil back-and-forth between two bloggers who are linking to one another. I’d guess that for each time I link to another blogger’s article, I get 3 or 4 new readers, maybe 1 or 2 of which remain.
Beyond just that sort of normal reader response relationship in which many bloggers participate, you can also set up shared topics about which to blog. There are community sites that already do the work for you, where people suggest topics weekly for you to blog on, such as Blog Azeroth for WoW players. If you’re getting into one of the next generation of MMOs like TESO or Wildstar and find that there’s no such place, then if you’re of the technical nature, start one yourself! That alone will help get your name and blog out there.
Additionally, don’t hesitate just to contact other bloggers you know and ask them directly about collaborating. Most bloggers have their contact information available, and you can set up a project of your own and get others interested through some marketing. I did that with my Individualism versus Collectivism in MMOs posts; I asked several other bloggers I was familiar with if they’d be interested in approaching the topic from their own points of view, had them invite bloggers they knew, and so forth. Pretty soon I had a very nice turn out with some very big names, which both helped really promote the conversation as well as get my blog’s name out on other popular sites.
Use Social Media
Lastly, my most general and likely-to-be-repeated-by-others suggestion is to use social media to help promote your blog. I avoided social media like the plague for a long time (and still do to some extent), but after seeing post after post about using it to promote one’s blog, I finally gave in and began using my mostly-defunct Twitter account (I had only started it to ask some devs questions at PAX) to promote my blog. It was slow-going at first, but I now suspect that most of my non-feed-reader views come from Twitter, either directly through links (which you can monitor) or from people who come here after they see I’ve put up a new post.
I don’t engage in Facebook or any of those other social media sites; I stick to Twitter, but if you’re already on there (and many of you are), then you should absolutely use it to its full possibility. You can set up a group for your blog and invite people and put out information that way, or in whatever other ways Facebook can (I wouldn’t really know).
So regardless of your specific game of choice, your background, or your play style, remember that you have a very personal perspective that can be applied in unique and informative way. Use that as often as you can, and be patient as your collaborations and promotions slowly but surely drive up your viewership. I won’t happen overnight, but if you keep on keeping on, you’ll get what you want from your blog.
For more information, here’s a link to my last year’s entry in the Newbie Bloggers Initiative: Advice from an Old Bull.
Stubborn (and sending my best wishes to each new blogger!)