PART 3: STARTING AND DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL NONPROFIT BLOG

By James D’Ambrosio

(This is the third in a series on nonprofit blogging)

If you’ve read — and absorbed — the previous two columns, you’re well prepared to start posting articles. The focus now is building a dedicated readership and turning those readers into subscribers — they’re e-mailed whenever you post something new — that will comment on articles and create a dialogue.

To be sure, building a readership takes time — at least several months, perhaps longer, depending on how often you blog. With so many choices on the Internet, you’ve got lots of competition (remember the 200 million blogs I talked about?) Blogging is the polar opposite of  “build it and they will come.” It’s more like “swimming out to your ship, and building it, too.” There’s no getting around this work — strong effort will eventually be rewarded. 

That said, here are ways to spread word of your blog and create interest:

 PUBLICIZING/DRIVING TRAFFIC TO YOUR BLOG

 ♦ E-MAIL, WEB SITE, NEWSLETTER: Start with your personal network by adding a link to your blog on your e-mail signature (provide a complete URL). Every time you send an e-mail, recipients can click the link and visit. Precede it with a short tag line such as “Check out our new blog.” Next, place a link on your Web site, and an ad in your printed or e-newsletter. These venues will tap into an audience already interested in your agency or cause. Leverage that network and then branch out (see below). 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were crucial in building my readership; they can work for you as well. After posting an article, place a brief description on each site and provide the link. This gets you into the mainstream. Taking it a step further, join nonprofit groups on LinkedIn closely related to your cause or mission. For this blog, I joined a variety of nonprofit and communication groups, posting notifications to each. This was — by far — the largest single factor in exponentially increasing my blog traffic: over a five-month period, I increased monthly page views from 123 to over 1,000 — nearly a ten-fold increase!

COMMENTING ON OTHER BLOGS: This is an area I’ve yet to fully explore, but definitely worth pursuing. Research blogs related to your cause or subject matter, and comment knowledgeably on them. Many blogs allow comments and a place to list your own blog address. This will help generate interest from the blog owner and it’s readers — another audience you want to attract. A note of caution: make certain your comments are substantive and add to the conversation. Otherwise, you won’t be taken seriously. 

 ♦ TIMING IS IMPORTANT: From my experience, when you post an article — and publicize it on the Internet — is nearly as important as the content itself. Think in business terms. I’ve generated the most traffic posting on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings between 10-11 a.m. During mid-week people are more focused on work and late in the morning are fully engaged. Avoid posting on Friday afternoon or Monday morning when people are focused on the weekend or not in full work mode. 

As you can see, it’s important to reach out to different audiences. The above strategies worked for me, but there are other approaches, so experiment a bit and see what happens. Hopefully this article —  and the series in general — helps you become established more quickly in the blogosphere.  

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QUESTION TO READERS: Any other ideas/suggestions you’d like to share about  blogging?               

 

PART II: STARTING AND DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL NONPROFIT BLOG

By James D’Ambrosio

(This is the second in a series on nonprofit blogging)

Building on last column, I’ll move on to the next steps in preparing to post that first article. Before you do, it’s important to create the necessary informational and technical infrastructure that will give your blog a true professional look and feel.

KEY ELEMENTS OF A PROFESSIONAL BLOG   

 ♦ BLOGROLL: A blogroll is a list of links to other blogs on the Internet with related content. This serves two purposes: a) it shows you’re interested in meeting the informational needs of readers; and b) it keeps your blog ‘sticky,’ giving visitors another reason to stay on your site after reading an article.  To accomplish this, scour the Internet and review content of blogs similar to your focus. Begin with 6-8; you can always add more later. I’m gradually expanding my list (see left sidebar). 

♦ A PROFESSIONAL PHOTO: Provide a professional-quality photo of the primary blogger and insert it into each post. This literally ‘puts a face’ on your blog and helps readers relate with you as a person. 

♦ PAGES: A good blog provides background and context. Include a “Biography” or “Bio” page with 2-3 paragraphs about the author’s professional background and some information about outside interests. Also create an “About” page — a few paragraphs discussing what you’ll write about, why it’s important, and how often you’ll post. Also add your photo to this page. (Review the pages at the top of the screen.) 

SUBSCRIPTION BUTTON: Make it easy for readers to access posts with a sign-up button: when visitors enter their e-mail and subscribe to your blog, they will be notified each time you post new material. WordPress helps you create this. (Note sign-up button on right). 

SHARING BUTTONS: Adding sharing buttons after each post — LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc. — allows  readers to promote your articles across the Internet. While you’ll need to do your own promotion — a subject I’ll discuss in Part III — let readers extend your reach to a wider audience. 

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A BOOK TO HELP: The above tasks require a certain amount of technical knowledge and ability. If you’re planning to use WordPress, I recommend “WordPress: Visual Quickstart Guide” that walks you through the process with screen shots and detailed information. I found it very helpful when I was getting started. A new second edition, due out October 22, is available from Amazon for $19.99: http://amzn.to/putna8.  

Following these steps will set you apart from others who may not understand the value of — or take the time to — provide these elements. As noted earlier, blogging is all about providing value to your audience. Do it consistently, and, over time, you’ll build a loyal readership.

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QUESTION TO READERS: Anything you would like to add? Something else you think can help others?

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