Like ice cream, blog posts are for sharing. Photo credit: LabyrinthX-2 on Flickr.
Dear CoLab Radio Bloggers. And Other Bloggers:
A lot of people ask me how to share their posts with large audiences.
The main thing is to invest some time in finding the people who are most likely to benefit from digesting your post. The content on CoLab Radio is incredibly diverse. One day you see a post by a public school teacher in Boston. The next day you’re hearing about road construction in Myanmar. Only the most committed CoLab Radio readers are going to devour both of those posts. You want to make sure your post reaches its natural audience.
Here is a framework for thinking about AUDIENCE:
1. Friends and Family
Some people are going to love your post because they love you. Nearly every entrepreneur knows that his first round of investors should be the friends and family who are willing to take a risk on his crazy idea. The same goes for you. Share your post with your best friends and ask them to pass it on to people who they think might be interested. If you’re looking for comments, ask them to kick off your comments section.
Is your post about something happening in a specific place? If so, you might find a strong local audience.
Example: After Nick Mullins published A Day in Berea, Kentucky, he went straight to the folks who care most: People who have lived in Berea. Berea is a tiny town in the Kentucky hills, but folks who know about it love it. Once Nick penetrated the Berea College alumni network, folks were writing in that they were booking vacations to Berea that very day.
3. Interest Groups
Someone out there needs your blog post, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to find it on her own. So go out and find her yourself. If you are documenting bike lanes, bikers and bike lane advocacy groups will like your post. If you’re talking about urban manufacturing, companies producing goods in cities will like your post. Just look at your work and think about who might be interested. Then do a web search.
Here is a framework for thinking about SHARING:
If there is one person out there whose work you really admire, maybe this post is your opportunity to reach out to her and say thank you with a link to your post. Email gives you a chance to send a specific message to a specific person. People appreciate that level of effort.
Are you on a list serve? If most of the people on your list serve would be interested in your post, you can email out the link. If you know of a big list serve that might be interested in your post, send a personal email to the list administrator asking whether she thinks it would be appropriate to share your post with the whole list. Maybe the list administrator will do it for you.
Example: After Anne Spirn published Music for Change, a story about two men in Syracuse, New York who hope to make their neighborhood a better place through the recording studio they manage, she emailed all of the students and professors at the MIT Urban Planning Department via a list serve. Since Anne is a member of the department and was writing about a city planning issue for a department-based blog, this email list was a great fit.
Facebook is the number one driver of traffic to CoLab Radio. Although we share every post on CoLab’s Facebook page, consider that to be a starting point rather than an ending point. Facebook is a friend network. Users rely on their friends to share news that’s relevant to them. Share your post on your own page, and your friends may post it too.
A final place to turn to on Facebook is the group pages. Do you know of an organization or company that would connect with your post? If you find an interest group page, take a look at it. Are lots of people posting on the page? If so, you can share your own post. Does it look like an administrator is doing most of the posting? If that’s the case, find a way to contact the administrator and ask if he’s willing to share your post with his followers.
Example: When the K-12 News Network posted Firing Day at the Charter School on their facebook page, parents and teachers who otherwise wouldn’t have seen the post clicked through. How did they learn about the post? I found their site, read some of their articles, then tweeted @K12NN from my personal twitter account because it seemed like the story fit with their mission. I also could have emailed them instead of tweeting.
Even if you don’t have a twitter account, you can help share your post via Twitter by telling CoLab Radio who might be interested in your post. Twitter is a big place. I am only familiar with the most quintessential urban planning accounts, and I don’t even know all of those.
As you’re searching the web for interest groups, check each site to see if the group has a Twitter account. Make a list of the twitter handles of relevant groups and people, and send us the list in an email. Don’t forget the most obvious twitter accounts: If you have written about a group or person with a twitter account, make sure to include them. If place-based Twitter accounts tweet about your city or town, include them too.
If you have a Twitter account, you can do all of these steps on your own. But even then, let us know if you want @MITCoLab to hit up some accounts on your behalf. @MITCoLab will release between one and three tweets about your post.
Example 1: While Ruth Miller was writing her series on innovative community planning strategies in Newton County, Georgia, she mentioned that she liked @thisbigcity. Although @thisbigcity is a fantastic account, I’d never heard of it. I tweeted him about the Ruth’s series from @MITCoLab. @thisbigcity picked up Ruth’s post, followed her (@mcplanner), and ended up coming back to CoLab Radio for other posts. I go back to @thisbigcity, too.
Example 2: After Chiara Camponeschi published a post about cities sharing resources, she sent her post to over 20 twitter accounts. @craigslist_fndn, whose account profile says, “We connect people to the resources they need to strengthen communities and neighborhoods” was an obvious fit. @craigslist_fndn retweeted and its followers grabbed on to the information because it was exactly in line with what they wanted from @craigslist_fndn.
Web links to your blog post offer something that the other social media outlets don’t: a long shelf life. If you documented a specific organization, company, or person, they may link to your post from their site. Send them the link and let them know you would welcome that. Other bloggers who care about the issues you’re documenting might also want to link to your post.
5. Press Releases
Does your post or series of posts represent a bigger or ongoing project? Newspapers might want to know. Write up a press release and send it around.
Example: Teddy Krolik used his blog series, Voices on the Verge, to launch a neighborhood oral history project. He sent a press release to the Baltimore City Paper and they published a great article on it. After that, more people knew about the project.
6. Other Social Media Outlets
So many cool outlets come out so often. I can’t keep up. I follow Stephanie Hatch’s blog about social media to stay on top of the latest stuff. She documents what’s out there, how to use it, and why it matters. Then I can decide whether each platform is a fit for CoLab.
SOME EXTRA TIPS:
• Don’t discount small outlets.
• Don’t get discouraged if you share your post and feel like no one is responding. Who cares!? You published a blog post! It was hard and stressful, and you probably owe someone an ice cream cone for getting you through it. If you’re happy with your work, you’ve succeeded.
• Beyond friends and family, there are no favors on the Internet. If people share your work, it’s because they think it’s valuable. If they don’t, it’s probably because your work doesn’t fit in with what they’re doing. If you really want someone to take in your post and get no response the first time, contact them a second time. Heck, go for that slightly-stalker third time. What do you have to lose?
Finally, you don’t have to share your post far and wide if you don’t want to. Maybe you are happy enough to have your story out there on the Internet, or maybe you’re shy. No matter the reason, you are under no pressure to be a publicist. Close your computer, leave the library, shut off your smart phone, and go to the park. You are way more important than your web traffic.
– Alexa Mills