For all bloggers, but particularly beginning bloggers, gaining traction with an audience can prove a daunting task. So many bloggers grow frustrated and quit, because they fail to attract an acceptable level of readership. But if you have a blog you believe in, you don’t want to quit. You want to do everything in your power to make it a success. Unfortunately, the old playbook is outdated at this point. It’s time to start thinking about growing an audience in the ways that businesses build brands.
Lost in a sea of others
The greatest obstacle to gaining traction is overpopulation. Millions of blogs populate the web, and there are dozens, possibly hundreds, in even the narrowest niche. The more blogs in a niche, the more difficult it becomes to stand out and gain that critical audience. Worse yet, overpopulation extends even further these days.
When social media started to catch on, new bloggers could take advantage. By standing out on social media platforms they could drive traffic to their blogs in novel ways. By the time the rest of the internet caught up to these trends, the first wave of social-driven blogs had already succeeded. Blogs that try this tactic now will find themselves as lost as they are in the blogosphere in general.
So what’s an upstart blogger to do?
Build it like a brand
When I started my latest business, I knew there would be plenty of competition. Maybe not as much as a new tech blog will face, but there were plenty of obstacles to overcome. A lesson from one of my mentors stuck with me and helped me build my business and brand. I can share that lesson directly with you, since it consists of just four words.
Start from the beginning.
Sounds simple, maybe even too obvious, right? Yet so many upstart bloggers want to start in the middle. They want to work as though they already have an established audience and are seeking to expand it. But that’s a poor strategy, because building on an existing audience is far different from building an audience from scratch.
Any upstart business will start grounded in reality: zero customers, zero leads. From there they grow and expand, employing tactics that fit with their current stations. That makes the process much more effective, since there are never any presumptions.
How to start from the beginning
The first step any brand needs to take: establish credibility. A brand might represent many things to many different people, but to everyone it is a signal of credibility. Without that credibility a brand is meaningless.
How do you establish credibility? By starting with individual outreach. This means reaching out to individuals who, through your own research, you determine might be interested in what you’re offering. For an upstart tech blogger, that might mean a fellow tech blogger. It might be a Twitter or Facebook user who is particularly active. But as with a snowball growing as it rolls downhill, it starts with the most basic part. For an upstart blog, this is the individual.
At the same time you reach out to individuals, you also have to work on your offering. The key is to exceed expectations. When you reach out to people and show them your blog, they will enter with a certain set of expectations. The key is to figure out those expectations beforehand and exceed them, so that when those individuals do visit they leave impressed. That can give you word-of-mouth power, which is a key to growth.
Once you have a small base established, it’s time for higher level marketing tactics. Giveaways can help expand your brand to people it otherwise wouldn’t reach. Exclusive content, such as interviews, can also drive audiences, since other blogs are more likely to link you.
There are no shortcuts
When building a blog, just as in building a brand, there are no shortcuts. If you happen upon any shortcuts, they will likely bring you short-term gain at the cost of long-term growth. There’s just no way to cut out steps to building credibility. People take credibility seriously, and they can detect when it’s not there.
That might mean a bit more work than you counted on, but that shouldn’t be much of a hindrance. After all, it is your passion and desire to build your blog, right? Then treat it like a brand. Build that credibility with an initial audience, and you can grow until you reach the sky.