What do you have to say and what are you giving away?
Yes, the blog is a personal thing - a forum for sharing my ideas and those of others. But I've used my blog (and helped others create blogs) specifically to market art, books, crafts and other lovely things. It's this combined career and blogging experience that made me feel ok accepting the above invite from the Berwyn Makers. I've learned a few things. And now I'm thrilled to be able to share what I know and help if I can. Here's a summary of what I covered (and what I learned) at the Berwyn Makers gathering. NOTE: these are my opinions based on personal experience and instinct. Nothing more.
- These are big, valid questions. If you're trying to show people what you create and potentially sell it to them, you can’t just think of blogging. You have to think of all of it together as social media strategy. What’s your strategy?
- One final note: writing blog posts does not have to entail writing essays (like this!). Shorter is actually better, especially if your goal is to show your work.
- A simple, clean look and layout is best. Yes, it’s nice to have a "pretty" site, but it’s even more important to have a site that works well on all browsers and all mobile platforms. This is called a “responsive” site and the more bells and whistles you have, the slower it'll load on a phone. So keep it super simple and your audience is more likely to stick around.
- Blogger is still my preferred platform, especially if you're new to managing your own site. A mobile-friendly option is built in. And you can use their SIMPLEST template and still make your site look good (see poldapop.com and paintingsinthepost.blogspot.com).
- Buy your “.com” domain. It’s worth it ($10/year). And it’s easy to just point it to your blogger address.
- Learn to photograph your product. If you’re making, and promoting, something beautiful make sure you’re good at photographing it. This means lots of experimenting with light and angles. And then it means consistency. Photograph your work in the same place, using the same light as often as you can.
- What to post today? Should you share slightly different things on Facebook than you do on the blog? These are million dollar questions – for small bloggers and huge companies.
- Answer: What do you have to say? You do not need to write essays every day! If your work is visual, post good images and talk about them. Let your followers see "behind the curtain" - share your world a bit with them. Your artistic process. Your failures. Photograph your world. Show them the space you work in and the things that inspire you. And DON'T over think your writing - be yourself. People will respond to authenticity. And yes, posting regularly is still important, but I'd argue that it's much LESS important than having something solid to offer. So...
- What are you giving away? What do I mean by give away? Mostly, your ideas. What are you offering? Why should people spend time on your blog or Facebook page? If your goal is to sell your work, there are still things you can give away. Create a tutorial of some sort that lives on your blog. Share your ideas. Don't give away your secrets, but do give away some expertise. Your goal is to engage people in a long-term relationship. First, you want to get noticed. Then you want to build a relationship.
- Pinterest means that the good stuff keeps on giving. I'd say 75% of my blog traffic comes from the sharing of a few choice posts ... some published 3 years ago. Those ideas have been pinned and repinned so many times, they do a lot of work sustaining traffic for me.
- What if your blog is more about ideas than craft? What if you're trying to market services instead of a product? Attach an image to your ideas. Any time you can organize your ideas into a list of "tips" or "ideas", you can add an image at the top and use an online image editor (picmonkey) to add text to the image: "5 great ways to...." Now your great post is Pin-able.
- I really think that a smaller but dedicated audience is more important than big numbers. Who are you really talking to?
- Can you guest blog on someone else's site? Or can you swap a button with someone? Reach out and tell other bloggers about your work. Let them know you exist and ask them to feature you or let you contribute something. Offer them your work to give away in return for a feature. Worst response: No. You move on.
- If you can, enter online contests or link parties or "challenges" - anything that will help your work get featured and seen by a potential new audience.
- Install a single Adsense unit (Googl ad) on your blog. Even if you don't care about advertising revenue, it helps with the way your blog is ranked and attended to by search engines.
- Actually hosting ads yourself - a fine idea once you're established and can show a decent number of page visits.
- I already have regular traffic to my blog. If I ever decide to start selling something, my blog is a gateway. I’d prefer a free platform like Tictail.com
- Having a blog (and other social outlets) and diligently marketing yourself does not guarantee sales. Turning attention into actual revenue is hard work. The trick: keep shouting about what you do. :)