Over the years, I’ve tried lots of different things in a bid to grow and improve my blog.
Some of those things have worked, and you can read about them in my ebook (Hey, did I mention that I wrote an ebook? I wrote an ebook. You should buy it.), but others have been less successful – in fact, some have ended up being a complete waste of time, and today I thought I’d talk a little bit about what those things were, and why they didn’t work for me.
Before I do, though, I just want to stress that, although these techniques didn’t work for me personally, that doesn’t mean they won’t work for you, or for anyone else. I’m not writing about them to slate them, or to discourage anyone from trying them: I’m just sharing my own experience of them, and I’d be interested to hear yours, too. And, with that said, here are some of the things that DIDN’T work for my blog…
Use Instagram to boost your brand
I love Instagram: I scroll through my feed multiple times per day, and my addiction has only grown since they launched the ‘Stories’ feature a few weeks ago. For me, Instagram is a great way to document my life, spy on other people’s (OK, so “spy” is probably the wrong word here, but you get what I mean…) and while away the time. What Instagram is NOT, however – or not for me, anyway – is a great way to promote or grow my blog. Seriously, I feel like I’ve tried everything at this point: I’ve followed all of the pro-tips, I’ve diligently tried to grow my following, and… nothing. I’ve been stuck on roughly the same follower number for the best part of a year now (Every day I seem to gain a bunch of followers, and then lose exactly the same amount, so in real terms I’m seeing absolutely zero growth), and nothing I do seems to change that.
What’s more, Instagram doesn’t really seem to do much for my blog, either, at this point. For some reason, brands are really interested in it, and an Instagram post is almost always a requirement – sometimes even the MAIN requirement – of any collaboration I do, but although I get decent engagement on my posts, my experience has been that most of the people who follow me on Instagram prefer to STAY on Instagram. So they’ll like a photo, or leave me a comment – but they probably won’t click through to my blog to read the post that photo came from. Which is a bit of a bummer, really.
I’ve no idea if my experience is typical here, or if there really is something I’m doing wrong, but until I work it out, I’ll be continuing to use Instagram – but for fun, rather than because I think it has a huge benefit to my blog.
Er, anyone want to follow me on Instagram? Anyone at all?
Sign up to as many Pinterest Group Boards as possible
When I started to get serious about using Pinterest to promote my blog posts, I read a lot of advice posts about it, and almost all of them told me I should be joining group boards and pinning to them on a regular basis. Well, I dutifully went out and joined a bunch of group boards – I even started one of my own – and I saw very little benefit from it.
Now, the fact is, I DO get a lot of traffic from Pinterest: in fact, it’s one of the main reasons my blog grew so much in the first few months of this year. Hardly any of that traffic comes from group boards, though, and, although I do still pin to the ones I’m a member of, I don’t do it religiously, and I STILL don’t see much of a benefit to it. Instead, most of my Pinterest traffic comes from a handful of pins that went viral, and from people clicking through from the pins I add to my own boards. Again, I’m not saying group boards won’t work for anyone: but they sure haven’t worked much for me…
Run Giveaways to increase your follower numbers
To be fair, I haven’t done a lot of giveaways on this blog: for the simple reason that every single one I have done has been a lot of work, for very little reward. For the most part, giveaways benefit brands, and they benefit the person who wins ; they don’t, however, benefit bloggers (or not this one, anyway), and they don’t always benefit the regular readers bloggers think they’re “rewarding” by giving something away, either.
The problem is that giveaways attract people who are only interested in whatever it is you’re giving away. Yes, that might mean you get an initial boost in followers/pageviews (assuming that following your blog is one of the requirements of the giveaway), but that doesn’t always translate into a long-term benefit to your blog, because the people who’re only there for the giveaway will either unfollow you when it’s over, or will continue following, but never click through to your blog. You might think that an artificially inflated follower count will help you attract sponsors, and it might – for a while. Brands aren’t stupid, however, and it won’t take them long to realise that most of your followers aren’t actually engaging with your content – which makes them worthless to the brand, and worthless to your blog, too.
Work “exposure” in order to “get your name out there”
I have pretty strong views about the idea of working for “exposure” – as regular readers will probably know by now. I’m not going to lie, though: there have been times in the past when I’ve allowed myself to be talked into doing something for a brand, in the belief that getting a link from their social media or website will bring me enough new readers to more than justify the time I’ve spent on whatever it is they’ve asked me to do. And you know what?
It never is.
Well, OK, there have been a few times – a VERY few times – when I’ve been mentioned on a brand’s Instagram, say, and I’ve gotten an influx of new followers from it, but the times are few and far between, and these days I’ve noticed that even being regrammed by a much larger account than my own will only give me a handful of new followers.
I’m not sure if it’s just that Instagram users are less interested in clicking through to another account (I mean, why would they, if they can see the photo on the brand’s page anyway?), or if it’s the brands’ habit of crediting me in a tag rather than a caption (I know from experience that most of my own followers don’t even LOOK at the tags I add to my photos: I normally tag all of the brands I’m wearing in outfit photos, for instance, but I’ll still always get questions from people asking where I got something), but these days I don’t see much benefit from being featured on a brand’s social media – which is why I no longer agree to do anything purely for the “exposure”: it just isn’t worth it.
Use Facebook Advertising to improve your reach
Facebook is NOT my favourite social network: to the extent that I more or less ignore it these days. My posts are all automatically added to my Facebook page, but the fact that the Facebook algorithm only shows those posts to a tiny percentage of the people who follow that page renders it all but useless to me – which makes me reluctant to spend any time on it.
In a bid to try to beat the algorithm, however, there have been a few times in the past when I’ve succumbed to the lure of Facebook advertising. You know that little box that sometimes appears on your page saying, “This post is proving more popular than most of your other posts! To increase its reach, and show it to more followers, why not try a Facebook advert!”? I’ve totally clicked on that box. I actually kind of hate myself for having done it, because I REALLY resent a business model which forces me to PAY MONEY purely to reach the people who have ALREADY indicated that they want to see my content, but sometimes the temptation is just too much – especially when Facebook promises amazing results for as little as £3.
Did I get those results, though? Did I hell. I mean, yeah, sure, on the handful of occasions when I’ve paid to boost a post, that post HAS reached more followers, and gotten more likes and comments on Facebook itself. As with Instagram, however, I find that Facebook users are reluctant to leave Facebook (I know this from all of the times people comment on the link to my post, in a way that clearly demonstrates that they obviously haven’t bothered to read the ACTUAL post, and are just guessing what it’s about from the photo and/or post excerpt…), so Facebook advertising gets me more likes on Facebook, but has very little benefit to my blog. I suspect this is probably because my post titles just aren’t click-baity enough, though, so if yours are, this just might work for you.
What about you? Have you tried using any of these techniques to grow your blog? Did they work for you?