Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Viral Marketing, Pt. 4 of 4: Diversifying

Although all of the networking options in the sites discussed previously in this series are important for extending our web presence, the contacts we make through them will be of little use if we don’t have something to give those contacts. A steady stream of somethings, in fact. As the world careens down the technological highway at a dizzying clip, authors can’t afford to be left behind. Having a “home” on the web is vital. Owning a website, a blog, or, preferably, both is almost a no-brainer these days. But figuring out how to optimize these web presences—and then diversify them—is often missed.

Although subject matter is an important consideration, you probably could blog about just about anything and find some kind of audience in the blogosphere—if you know how to attract their attention. Posting links and forming relationships on the sites we’ve already talked about is a large part of that attraction, but following are a few more important considerations:

  • No blog is an island. Want people to follow your blog? Want them to leave comments? Then get a good grip on the Golden Rule. Bloggers, for the most part, are very reciprocal. If you follow them, they’ll probably follow back. If you comment on their posts, they’ll probably comment on yours. At first, it might seem a bit mercenary—to pay attention to others simply so they’ll return the favor—but it’s a practice that ends up divvying out results all the way around. The important thing to remember is to make sure you keep your interaction meaningful. “Great post! Check out my blog!” does not constitute a meaningful comment. Put some effort into your comments, and you’ll establish mutually beneficial (and enjoyable) relationships with other bloggers.
  • Give your followers a lot of TLC. Don’t write a post, publish it, and then forget about it. Pay attention to the comments and take the time to respond. Even if your readers don’t return to read your replies, they’ll notice your comments to others, and they’ll appreciate your friendliness and approachability.
  • We have contact. In the interest of increasing that approachability, make it easy for your readers to contact you. Spambots are attracted to the “at” sign in email addresses, so it’s not a good idea to post your address in plain view. Either spell it out (myaddress at emailworld dot com), install a spamguard code to differentiate the robots from the humans (you can check out an example of this by clicking the “Contact” button at the bottom of my webpage), or a built-in contact box (such as the one AuthorCulture features in the lower right-hand column). Whichever you choose, make sure it’s in plain view, so readers will be able to access it without any trouble.
  • Button it. Make it easy for viewers to add your blog posts to popular sharing sites such as Digg, Del.ici.ous, and StumbleUpon. You can easily add the code for the individual buttons to your blog, or an all-in-one “Share It” button, such as you’ll find at the bottom of all AuthorCulture posts, which gives readers a myriad of options to choose from. The code for this particular button can be found at AddThis.

  • Kindle a fire… or two. Amazon’s Kindle has recently made it possible for authors to offer their blogs to Kindle readers on a subscription basis. You can sign your blog up here.
  • Two heads are better than one. Don’t think you have to hoe your own row all the time. Sometimes bringing other people in on the job—whether temporarily or permanently—can multiply your audience in the space of a single post. Seek out guest posters who can add quality posts and bring your blog to the attention of their own followers. Or even start up a group blog—like Linda and Lynnette and I did with AuthorCulture.

Once you’ve got a solid blog going for yourself, it’s time to think about diversifying. Expand your horizons to encompass as many different media formats as possible. Only a few months ago, I started offering my personal blog Wordplay in an optional audio format. This not only allows me to provide my followers with a media choice, but I’ve also been able to submit the blog to previously unavailable venues, such as iTunes and Bluberry. I also have plans to start a vlog (or video blog), as a Wordplay subsidy, which will allow me to take advantage of the massive traffic garnered by such video sites as YouTube, Tangle, and Vimeo.

For years, I’ve stood on the edge of the marketing jungle, shifting my weight and grimacing, certain that I’d never be able to make a dent in this foreign world of fast talkers and slick advertising. But the truth I discovered was both sobering and surprising. I think economic expert Robert T. Kiyosaki summed up the sobering part when he pointed out that his book covers don’t tout him as a “best-writing author.” They say “best-selling” author. But, happily, the surprising part of my discovery has led me to the realization that not only is marketing possible for an author like me—it’s even fun!

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