Thursday, August 9, 2012

On being a carnival... or something like that


Notice that I didn't put the words "sponsor", "giveaway", or "guest post" in the title of this blog post? That's my #1 rule for doing promotional posts on your blog.

Although I'm realizing now that even I don't always follow my rules, so take that with a grain of salt. Lol. Seriously though...

You may or may not love when bloggers have a giveaway or allow guest posters, but especially when done wrong they can be very annoying to a blog reader. Maybe it's just me, but when trying to get through hundreds of unread posts in my Google Reader, I literally just skip all the ones who's titles scream, "Hey! I'm doing something other than my normally scheduled content!!"

However... if you make it seem like you're so very excited to introduce your reader so something or someone new... they just might get excited too. Part of that starts with getting them into your post to read it, so make sure you title with either a relevant, searchable phrase (more on that in a few weeks), or a catchy, makes-you-wonder title (like I did today).

Giveaways

Let's be honest. I love winning free stuff. I'm sure you do too. But have you ever followed a blog that suddenly seems to have a giveaway every other week? Annoying, right?

Make sure you don't turn into a used car salesman. People read your blog because they enjoy your voice, your style, your whatever... It can be disconcerting if that voice is constantly changing.

I do think giveaways can be very effective if done sparingly (say... no more than once a month) and especially if done selectively (limiting to select sponsors or to a hand-picked Etsy shop). Make sure your readers know that you value their time and wouldn't interrupt their regularly scheduled programming unless it was important.

As for the nitty gritty of doing a giveaway... let's discuss:

* BE CLEAR HOW PEOPLE CAN ENTER YOUR CONTEST *

Since discovering Rafflecopter, doing giveaways has been so much easier for me! Basically it lets you plug in ways that a person can enter your contest (follow you on Twitter, subscribe to the gift-giver's blog, etc), and keeps track of the number of entries. Then at the end of the contest, you just click a button and it randomly picks the winner! So easy!!

Another common way I've seen is just to have people comment on the blog post for their entry(s). Then you just have to count up the posts and use a Random Number Generator to pick the winner.

One word of caution... make sure it's not too complicated to enter! I've seen so many giveaways that REQUIRE all those entering to follow the host blog and all the blogs participating in the giveaway. Most likely I'm already following the host blog or I wouldn't have known about the giveaway, but it's really frustrating to be forced to subscribe to half a dozen other blogs that I have no interest in just to enter a contest.

Have ONE mandatory entry, at most, and make the rest optional. You want people following you who want to follow you, so requiring it of them can backfire on you quickly.

* SETTING UP YOUR GIVEAWAY POSTS *

Essentially you want to make sure you have the vital information needed within the giveaway post. Make sure you have a nice, big picture of whatever you're giving away. Mention WHO is giving this item away and link to their blog or shop. Also of course, make sure you tell people quickly and simply how they can enter.

If you have a personal story to go along with the item, that's always good too, although be careful about making the post too long. Especially if you've got many items in your giveaway, you don't want people's eyes to glaze over before they get to the "Enter Contest" button.

* NOTIFYING YOUR WINNERS & HOSTS *

You may or may not have gathered from my little rant the other day, but it is vitally important to be explicitly clear when you notify the hosts and winners of a contest. Make sure you let everyone involved know who won, what blog you're from, and what the prizes were. Assume that no one remembers anything. Better to be over-clear with too much information than to have a host email back with, "Wait, which blog are you from again? I've sponsored 20 giveaways last month and can't remember what I gave to your specific one."

Guest Posts

I kind of like guest posts... when done right. I enjoy the ones that give me something to think about or to try to create, etc. However there's a certain type of guest post that particularly annoys me: "Meet the Sponsor". Maybe it's just the way they're usually presented, but when I see these in my Google Reader, I click away very quickly. One way to give your sponsors value for their advertising dollar is to let them do a guest post on your blog. Let's make sure we don't scare readers away before they've read the post, though!

* GUEST POSTS ON YOUR BLOG *

Like the suggestion above for giveaways, make sure you title the post with something other than "Meet the Sponsors!!" or "Guest Post!". Title your post with something relevant that makes them want to click in, and you're much more likely to grab a reader's attention. {For example}.

Also, if at all possible, try to steer your sponsors / guest-posters in the direction of a topic that you think your readers will be interested in. How do you know what they'll like? Simple --> it's whatever interests YOU! Your readers read your blog because they find what you find interesting to be interesting, so when picking guest post topics, make sure it's a topic that excites and interests you and it'll fit right in.

* GUEST POSTS ON SOMEONE ELSE'S BLOG *

Now get on out there and guest post yourself! I try to do a few every month as I have time, and it generally does bring in some new traffic to my blog. Most times I guest-blog on the blogs that I sponsor, but occasionally it has just come up naturally through a conversation with someone whose blog I read.

Make sure you consider the host blog's aesthetic, as well as your own. You want the post to be BETTER but not completely different than what you normally write. You also want to mesh with the feeling and vibe that the host blog is giving off. Not that you need to change yourself - just be aware that their readers will respond more to something that matches that blog's feel (since that's what made them subscribe to that blog in the first place!)

To actually write the post, I like to write it on my own blog (without publishing it) and check it in the "Preview" window to make sure I like the formatting and that everything is spelled right. You can upload any pictures that you want in the post and make sure that you like how everything looks.

Next, click over to the "HTML" view and copy/paste that into an email to the host blog. That will transfer everything about your post to them very easily (photos and all)! Just don't forget to consider what size column their blog uses - you don't want to send a ginormous photo when they have a super skinny blog, for example.

Promotions

Last but not least... promotions.

A promotion is anything that fits into the category of non-regularly-scheduled-content, but isn't specifically a guest post or a giveaway. You probably know them when you see them: book reviews, product reviews, Etsy shout-outs, etc.

There's nothing wrong with these types of posts, in particular, but just make sure that you are always aware of the need to bring something of value to your readers. Tell them WHY you love this product, person, or shop. Don't just spam them with information that has nothing to do with your blog. Speak in your own voice - your lovely, blogger voice, not your I'm-trying-to-sell-you-something voice.

And again... try really hard to limit these types of posts, especially if it's clear that you stand to benefit by someone reading &/or clicking through on this post (such as is the case on affiliate sponsorships/links). If you're a book-lover, and you genuinely want to share with us what new book you've just read, that's awesome! But if you're just trying to force in a post to try to get clicks... realize that people can see through that and will be put off by that.

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This concludes week seven of the Build Your Blog! series. Next week we'll talk about designing a "grabbable" blog button! If you haven't already, don't forget to subscribe to this blog so you know when the next edition of the blog series is ready!

Questions or comments about this week's topic? Leave them below & I will try to answer them all in a follow-up post later this summer!

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Grab a button and spread the word!

2 comments:

  1. These are great tips! I agree that having to follow unending steps just to enter a giveaway is a total turn off!

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  2. I agree with everything you've said!! I especially hate the giveaways that require you to follow 7 blogs or something, I don't want to just randomly follow blogs I've never seen! I get that they are trying to increase traffic by hosting the giveaway, but what I've seen on a few giveaways that I think is MUCH more effective is to require readers to visit the blog and leave a comment rather than follow. That exposes them to the content of the additional hosts without requiring a commitment, that way if I'm actually interested in the blog I will follow on my own...and will be much less likely to skip them when they show up on my feed.

    One thing I'm particularly bad about is coming up with creative titles for posts. It's not that I don't know how to be creative, I just like everything to be perfectly organized and fit into a specific category. So most of my post titles tend to follow this format: "category of post: specific post content." I'm not sure if this is helpful or hurtful to readers perception of my blog, but I definitely like being able to scan recent post titles to know what I should post about next!

    Linda

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