This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti of Sparring Mind.
I’ve been a long time blogger, and believe me, I both know and appreciate the amazing power of a good guest post for bringing in intelligent and interested readers.
The thing is, since I often blog outside of the blogging/marketing/writing topics, I know (as you might) how hard it is to utilize guest posting for certain topics.
My guest posting problem was really evident with this niche: music blogs almost never accept guest posts, because their “articles” are really just posts with media (audio & video), so there really is no need to have another author write for you.
Despite this, I wanted to accomplish what every blogger sets out to do: run a successful site based on my interests.
I’ve done it before, but in each case I’ve always harnessed the power of guest blogging and writing epic shit.
Now that this wasn’t an option, I needed to find another way…
The Power Of Networking
Outside of the direct benefits (the backlinks & traffic), one of the biggest reasons that I participate in guest blogging is due to it’s ability to create connections, and serve as a brilliant networking “tool” to get in touch (and stay in touch) with successful bloggers.
In reality, my guest posting for other blogs has brought so much more long term benefit than just the initial guest post; because I would always stay in touch with the authors, they would often tweet out my articles, comment on them, and in general, support my new content.
I realized that I needed to create these kind of relationships again for Sophistefunk, but this time, without guest blogging.
Due to this limitation, I eventually managed to accomplish exactly that using these three techniques:
- Utilizing the greatest “social network” of all…
- Creating connections by showing love to the little guy
- Using small chats on social media to create bigger collaborations
All 3 of these techniques played a vital role in creating the consistent traffic that I see today, and below I’m going to show you exactly how I went about it.
1.) Email: The Greatest Social Network
Think Traffic features a lot of smart advice, so it didn’t surprise me to see that Corbett & Caleb had already touched on how to utilize influential people in order to generate interest for your own blog.
Point is, connecting with influencers works, no matter the niche.
So in my case, I obviously was going to have a hard time connecting with bloggers, due to our topic (believe me, I tried).
That was okay though, because it lead to me establishing much better connections by getting in touch with people who REALLY have influence in my genre: the artists themselves.
By far, the most popular posts on my site have pretty much always fit into one of these two categories:
- They featured an interview with an electronic musician
- The post premiered a new track from a popular artist
I’m going to be honest with you: pursuing that first one made me really, really nervous.
However, like every blogging project I pursue, it ended up being the kickstart my blog needed to turn into a successful site.
The reason that I was worried this time around, however, was that since I wasn’t doing any guest blogging, I didn’t know what I could offer these musicians in return for their time.
I learned a lot about networking through this experiment, but I would have learned nothing had I let these doubts stop me from taking action.
Here are the biggest things learned boiled down into 3 key points:
a.) You don’t always have to have something to offer to reach out
People like when you take interest in their work.
I greatly underestimated this fact when I starting reaching out to artists to build my blog, I’d thought that they would want nothing to do with me since I couldn’t offer them much.
So instead of pitching my interview requests as part of a “collaboration”, I sent emails that highlighted my sincere fanhood, and my desire to learn more about them outside of the new music that they were producing.
This generated amazing responses: I’ve only been turned down once in my interview requests, even during my blog’s earliest stages!
Despite the popularity often tied with successful people, I think you’d be surprised at how infrequently people reach out to them with sincere “thank you’s” in the form of personal emails.
My email structure therefore always followed this pattern:
- Concise but sincere thank you (cite a personal example of how the person’s work as brought some sort of enjoyment in your life)
- Quickly ASK for an interview opportunity (never send the questions in the first email)
- Wrap up by thanking them for taking their time to read, and that you look forward to their future work (and supporting them through it)
I got a 100% response rate with these concise emails, and as stated, I’ve only been turned down once (I’ve had about 3 say yes and then never got back to me, but I’m not counting them out yet, since I once received a response 3 months later!)
My point: if you respect an influential person’s time, make your email to the point, and offer them some sincere gratitude. They are more than likely going to help you out.
b.) Leveraging past experience works like magic
Another thing is, once you get past those first few successful interviews or collaborations, continuing to do them gets much easier.
After my first successful interview, I started sending the link along to future requests so people could see how it would turn out, the styling/format, and how they would be promoted (the first interview got around 60 total shares, so not too bad).
This lead to a quicker response rate (people like examples) and more interest in spending time to do the interview with me: people could see first hand how it would work out.
This lead to me connecting with bigger and bigger artists in my electronic music niche.
One of my most recent interviews with Michal Menert got over 180 Twitter & Facebook shares, not bad for a new blog!
The thing with personal interviews like this is that the person you connected with is likely to promote it more heavily than a round-up post. I’ve found that personal interviews with only one influencer will often have that person sharing it multiple times.
For example, Michal Menert was nice enough to share it on all of his social networks (thousands of followers and fans), and then share it again two other times, bringing in tons of targeted traffic.
c.) Respecting people’s time goes a long way
In emails, I always keep things concise, and mention at the end how I appreciate them taking the time to read through.
I also never send any “work” in the first email: your first message is about selling you and your idea, not about begging for handouts.
If the person you’ve contacted expresses interest at your “yes or no” request, send them your project (in my case, almost always text interview via email, which are easy to do).
If they don’t reply at first, send a follow-up asking if what you’ve sent is too much.
Many a times I’ve sent an email stating: “Hey there SoAndSo, I know you’re a busy guy/gal, just wanted to follow up on our interview. If you find the questions are a bit too long (or if there are too many), I can make it a bit more concise for you. Thanks again for your time!”
I typically get follow ups like “Nope, no problem at all, thanks for the reminder, here they are below!”
Or, I’ll get, “Ha, it is pretty in depth! Would you mind if I pick three and write a couple of paragraphs for each?”
Either way, I’m politely following up and letting them know that I’m willing to work around their busy scheduling, demanding nothing but very set on working with them.
Respect people’s time, and they will respect your requests.
2.) Showing A Little Love Gives Big Traffic Gains
Above I mentioned how I used “showing love to the little guy” to result in more traffic.
This strategy, while it might seem to only be applicable in my niche, actually works quite well for all blogs.
Being a popular music blog, I get a ton of submissions from artists looking to get featured.
My problem became this: I didn’t have enough time to feature these independents artists on a daily basis because there were so many big artists that my readers expect me to post about.
Also, featuring a single new “indie” artist usually wouldn’t work out as well for them, since people generally look for artists they already know (sad but true).
So, I decided to group submissions together, in a post type I called “Follow Friday” (taken from Twitter) where I would feature 7 indie artists in a single post.
This worked even better than I expected because now not only was I showing some love to the little guy, every time I would do a post like this every artist that was featured would share it with their following.
Although these were independent artists, they still would have hefty follower numbers and fans (think 1k-2k).
And now I had 7 artists all sharing these posts at once, since they were all featured on a single post.
This has caused my “Follow Friday” posts to be one of the most anticipated on the site outside of artists interviews, and it all started with giving a little promotion to some independent talent.
How to apply this to your blog: Besides doing Corbett’s strategy (a round-up of opinions), the best way I’ve found to do this for “traditional” bloggers is to mention somebody whenever you talk about a specific topic, strategy, or focus.
For instance, in an interview I did with Brian Gardner of StudioPress, I also did a case study on a theme designer named Orman Clark.
Orman tweeted out the post to his large amount of followers, even though he wasn’t apart of the interview: I let him know about the post via email and he tweeted it out instantly.
Another strategy is to cover an “up-and-coming” list of people in your niche, or people in a certain group.
A great example of this is Corbett’s 44 Creative and Adventurous Bloggers, or Tom Ewer’s coverage on 5 bloggers to follow if you’re tired of the A-listers.
People love getting mentioned, especially those who aren’t A-listers in the field, and they will almost always promote your content in return for showing them a little love.
3.) Really Connecting on Social Networks
Above I’ve covered the power of email and how I would use it to follow up with people when I wanted to collaborate or let them know I featured them in a post.
That’s what I liked to call pursuing traffic, rather than waiting for it to come to you.
Social networks, however, are quite good for other smaller opportunities to reach out to others, and they’ve played a major role in helping me grow my blog.
I have a major following on Facebook (over 7,000 fans now), and although I have a very small group of followers on Twitter, both networks have been great in helping me connect with people who will share content on my blog.
Again, since I’m in the music niche and often feature the work of others, these are mostly musicians.
Sometimes it can be as simple as me tagging the artist in a new post where I feature them.
R/D is an artist I post about a lot, and he almost always retweets my posts when I mention him on Twitter.
I also tag people via the Facebook page to notify them that I’m posting about them, and independent artists typically reciprocate by sharing the status or post on their own page (and when I mean reciprocate, I mean about 90% of the time).
I also promote the artists on my pages with no strings attached, I’ll share their social media profiles and website posts with no links to my own site.
Tagging them when I share this sort of content builds a better relationship with people than just always posting links to your own site where they might be mentioned: people know you’re out to get more visitors, so when you share something with no gain to yourself, they appreciate it.
The last way I use social networks is for one very obvious strategy, and one very unique strategy for my niche.
The first is that I almost always “break the ice” for a potential interview by mentioning them on a social network, such as:
“Man, sure would love to do an interview with @Musician, been reading their blog and it’s awesome!”
This gets a really high response rate, and when the follow up email is sent, increases the likelihood that they’ll commit to my (often) gruesomely long interviews. 😉
The second thing I do is very unique to my niche, but an excellent traffic source.
I use social networks to start chats with artists about premiering content (songs, or even albums) which we then take to email (again, the best networking tool of all).
These conversations I start on social media almost always flourish into in-depth email discussions of how I might be able to get my hands on a new release to promote on my blog before anyone else.
Obviously this is a “music only” niche strategy, but getting a hold of fresh content and releasing it first is big, because for the first few days, most of the traffic will go there while the other blogs wait for the official release.
I did that with an artist named Kraddy, posting about his album a day before it was “officially” released, and he even tweeted and shared the post on Facebook!
The main takeaway: Using social media as an icebreaker for the “behind the scenes” email talks can not only lead to bigger collaborations (and bigger traffic), but it can also be used to let people know you’re enjoying their content.
If you’re running a more “traditional” blog, mentioning people on Twitter, sharing content you enjoy, and just being a friendly person on social networks will lead to better things and team-ups, which get flushed out into real plans via email.
Don’t be anti-social, you don’t always have to submit a guest post to get someone’s attention!