I was recently asked to speak at a Webinar for several teachers who write for The Center For Teaching Quality’s great blog, transformEd. The topic was on building an audience for your blog, and I thought I’d share a few points I made that readers here might, or might not, find helpful:
* Write for yourself, not for others.
I always write for myself first — in several ways:
— organizing resources so I can find them when needed
— thinking through lessons and getting helpful reader feedback
— writing about education policy issues to help me better articulate what I think
— letting people know about my books
— writing about what I learn from my students, so they can see the impact they have on me
— developing a blogging presence has helped create many other opportunities for me, including invitations to write books, write for other publications, and to participate in more substantial policy discussions in union work and in state legislative discussions.
I think this perspective is particularly important for newer bloggers who are building an audience. When fewer people are reading what you write, it’s less ego-deflating if what you’re writing is helping you.
* Use other social media to develop an audience for your blog, but don’t primarily make it about you.
I actively participate on Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest and Facebook.
Twitter has been the most important social media tool for increasing my blog audience, which is now (depending on what Feedburner feels like saying on any particular day) has between 16,000 and 25,000 daily subscribers. I send about thirty or forty tweets each day (and don’t use an automated system), with about a third to one-half of them related to my blog (I might tweet the same post three or four times over a two day period) or to pieces I write for other publications. The other tweets are resources I find pretty useful, but maybe not useful enough to blog about, and/or “retweets” from others which I think deserve a wider audience and which I perhaps will blog about at a later time. Some tweets might be direct responses to questions, or questions I’m asking.
I only write posts on my blog about what I consider to be the “best of the best” resources and information I learn about….
On Google Plus, I only share three kinds items:
* I’ll share my blog posts once
* I’ll share posts from other blogs I subscribe to in Google Reader (the Google Plus button in the Reader makes it easy to share) that I also “star” in my Reader as ones that I think I might find useful someday. I figure that if I might find them useful, others might as well.
* I’ll share videos, mainly funny ones, that have little educational relevance.
I might share ten items on Google Plus each day and, apart from my blog posts, the rest are generally different from what I share on Twitter. I’d say those resources are less useful to me than what I share on Twitter, but still have potential.
For Pinterest, I share infographics that would be too bulky to include in my blog, and, more importantly for my blog, quotations. Share As Image is a great tool to highlight a few sentences and turn them into an attractive image for Pinterest that, in turn, I can post on my blog.
For Facebook, I have my blog posts automatically shared as part of Networked Blogs, and also manually share each post, since more and more people use the “Subscriber” feature now available that lets you subscribe to peoples updates.
I get the greatest number of blog visitors from Twitter, followed by Facebook. Google Plus and Pinterest are far behind.
* Always give credit where credit is due, and help others look good.
If you get ideas from others that you want to share with your readers, or to expand on, tell your readers where you got it from originally. By linking to the source, or tweeting the source, not only are you doing the right thing, but you are also making the originator aware of who you are. Be generous with your resharing on other social media for the same reasons.
* Asking for reader feedback is good, but make the request “genuine.”
Reader response is one way to help build your audience, but make your solicitation a “genuine” one. In other words, don’t just stick a generic request at the end of your post — make it a specific question and, even better, explain why you’re asking it. People will take you more seriously the more seriously you take them.
* Write about practical classroom issues.
There is no question my posts receiving the greatest amount of reader feedback, and the posts that have been most helpful to my becoming a better teacher, have been the ones about practical classroom issues. Writing about them helped me, and the incredible amount of reader feedback helped me even more.
* Leave thoughtful comments on other blogs and then expand those comments into your own blog posts.
Some of what I consider my best posts began as comments I left on other blogs and then later expanded into a full post. By doing this, you help the other blogger with your comment and, by giving him/her credit in your subsequent post, you expand his/her audience. And you get a post out of it (plus that blogger might be more inclined to take a closer look at your blog)!
* Write often.
I’m not necessarily suggesting you have to post as often as I do — you deserve a life 🙂 — but I’d suggest people post at least two-or-three times a week. There are several reasons for this, but the most important one is a quote I’ve seen attributed to multiple famous writers: “Write a lot, because most of what you write will be s–t.” The more you write, the better chance of you getting having something good to share relatively often.
* Read The Best Sources Of Advice For Teachers (And Others!) On How To Be Better Bloggers.
There’s a lot of good advice there from a lot of good bloggers. It can’t hurt to take a look….
What do you think? Do you think my advice makes sense? If not, why not? What am I missing? Help me add to this list!
I am starting to write my new blog and you have pointed out one extremely important point for me. Even though I have always written articles because I like writing I have never thought about writing a blog just for me. But you are right.
As long as my blog will be useful for me, some others might find it useful too.
I think it’s good to write “for yourself” but I also observe that successful bloggers keep their audience in mind as they write. Teacher bloggers, for example, are able to ‘see’ beyond the confines of their own classroom or school and have the knack of inviting others along on their learning journey. And they always exhibit “metacognition” – they know what they don’t know and are comfortable talking about that. They’re willing to wonder.
What John Norton said.
Having said that, this was a really good read. I particularly have to keep in mind #3, 5, and 6. Going to try some of these. Thank you!
great article. i use a lot of text images. i create them with a powerful tool called pixteller. http://www.pixteller.com Having many options and features, PixTeller gives you infinite possibilities to put your imagination at work and give more power and visibility to your words and images.
Thanks John. I found that a helpful comment.
Audience is important – writing for me; writing to them.
I have been reading about your “Best” resources for quite a while now.
What are your thoughts on re-blogging? I find so many great things in the blogs that I follow. My tendency is to re-blog those and add some of my own thoughts. Most of my posts are my original posts, but i am wondering what your thoughts are.
I think it’s fine to include a short quote from another bloggers post, along with a link, and then share one’s thoughts on it. However, I would never reprint another blogger’s post in its entirety.