This week I was having lunch with a friend and we were talking about her business and how to promote it. Owning a business is not for the faint of heart. Now matter how much you wish and hope and pray, it doesn’t just promote itself. It takes a lot of work and when you’re the one in charge all the responsibility falls on you to make things happen. The same rules apply if you have a brick and mortar store or an online store, if you’re a retailer or a writer. As we were saying goodbye she asked me the question every blogger is secretly hoping every real life friend and acquaintance will ask…“What about you? How can I help you promote your blog? What are your goals?” unfortunately I was at a bit of a loss on how to answer her. Unless you have a staff to do the leg work of promoting your blog on all the social media outlets, find brands to work with and make you look like a rock star; blogging can be solitary and a labor of love. You know those bloggers with followers in the hundreds of thousands and really fancy looking sites? That doesn’t happen all on its own organically. There is a machine behind the green curtain making things happen. They have a staff…who get paid money. Most bloggers will never have that, and I’m okay with that. For the small time bloggers, we depend on each other to help promote the posts and blogs we love. We share opportunities with our online friends when we think it will benefit someone else and we are each other’s cheerleaders. We spread the love and light each other’s candles.
Because success in writing and blogging depends on other people reading what you write, there is a necessary evil that many introverts (who also happen to be bloggers) shy away from. Self-promotion. I struggle with tooting my own horn too much because self-promotion feels very self-serving which in turn can feel narcissistic. But sometimes in order to get the right people to notice you, you have to make yourself seem super awesome…that you are the best thing to happen to the internet since Grumpy Cat. You have to play this social media numbers game that can feel juvenile and is terribly tiresome.
This online world is a strange animal. There is so many awesomely amazing things happening here and so much horrific garbage going on right at the same time, right at our fingertips. It’s odd that we’re all here together making a go of it. I like to imagine what the internet would look like in real life: we’re all at a huge library sitting around reading what interests us most. Over here is a lady looking up recipes, right next to her is a 13 year old frantically flipping through pictures of her friends. Across from them is a lunatic who is holding out for the South to secede from the Union, hoarding canned goods and ammo. Next to him is a guy flipping through a Penthouse next to a convention of costumed Star Wars geeks who are crowding a group of moms talking about cloth diapering who sit next to a guy reading instructions on making a homemade bomb (ISA – please do not red flag my innocent little blog for those words. I swear the only thing I’m concocting in my kitchen is banana bread and baking soda volcanos). Sprinkled throughout are 10 million diy projects and Amazon drones dropping packages a-la owl mail call at Hogwarts.
Back to the topic at hand.
I wonder what the blogging world was like before Facebook and Twitter? I guess email played a key role. You know those
annoying informative emails you still get (from a certain age demographic) that have about ten FWDs at the top and contain a link or really long text from some random person and it ends with If you love Jesus you will forward this on to 20 people? Is that what sharing blog posts was like before social media? Yikes. Or maybe it didn’t really occur to bloggers way back then that they needed 10,000 page views a day. Maybe the term “going viral” wasn’t really an end goal. Maybe they just wrote because they loved to write, regardless if very many people read it.
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game and forget why you are writing in the first place.
“If you’re not careful, you’ll hang your entire self-worth on getting published or getting a certain amount of page views. We might feel like failures if we don’t get them. But it’s equally dangerous if you do get them. Little by little it’s easy to start needing them – the comments, the reader e-mails, the Amazon rating, the positive reviews, the Twitter mentions or the Facebook likes.”
– Shauna Niequist
If it doesn’t give you joy, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate. Not necessarily to stop writing or blogging or whatever, but to step back and take a long hard look at why you do what you do.
So I was and I wasn’t able to answer my friend’s question. “What about you? How can I help promote your blog? What are your goals?” What about me? Well, I’ve given up on the numbers game and blog because I like to. I don’t know how she could help me…tell every single person she meets “you simply MUST go to Stephanie’s blog right now! It’s the best thing EVER”. While that’s a nice gesture I don’t think it very effective, plus telling that to every single person she meets seems a bit unreasonable. What are my goals? I still maintain that I would like to make some sort of living doing this. Whether it be directly or indirectly, I’m not going to place restrictions on how opportunity will present itself. I told her that I will continue what I’m doing – the writing, the blogging, the building an online community, the blasted self-promotion – and am happy to allow the Universe, God, Random House, whatever, to make itself known through those efforts.