Fact: I Am Terrible At Marketing My Blog (This Is Not An Advice Post)

Posted July 4, 2019 by Amber in Bookish Things / 18 Comments

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I have been blogging on-and-off since 2009.  In many ways, I don’t think that’s a fair date, and it’s the reason I don’t really celebrate a blogiversary – I didn’t commit to anything consistent until 2017.  Still, in that time I haven’t even amassed 1000 followers.  That seems like such an important number to me – as if “1000” will make me more of a legitimate blogger.  The sensible side of me knows that isn’t true – you can be a legitimate blogger as long as you have a blog… even if only your mom follows you (my mom does not follow me, thank goodness).  But having consistently blogged for a couple years and not reaching that magic number sometimes makes me feel like I am doing something terribly wrong.  Am I not posting frequently enough?  Is my layout rubbish?  Should I be doing more memes?  Discussions? Reviews?

In my heart of hearts, I know none of that’s the answer.  People like Ilsa @ A Whisper of Ink only post every couple of weeks, have a smattering of content, and have a good voice… but not an entirely unique one.  And yet, Ilsa has over 3000 followers.  I’m not picking on her, by the way.  I love her blog and have been following her for an age.  She’s a good example of what I’m trying to get at here, which is that Ilsa is a fantastic marketer.

I’ve never been big on social media.  I joined Facebook when you still needed a school email address to get on to it, which I know dates myself a bit.  I’m a lurker on social media at best, and while I’ll occasionally post a tweet here or there, I don’t get involved in a lot of discussions or blog trains.  Social media presence has a huge impact on blog following.  I’m sure you’ve all seen those posts about whether you need to be a blogger AND a bookstagrammer, or a booktuber AND run an active Book Twitter and honestly… it depends on what you want.  If you’re looking for stats, becoming friends with the whole internet is a good way to do it.

Will your Instagram followers feed into your blog traffic?  Maybe.  Probably not.  But when you reach out to these blossoming communities and become a recognizable face and voice, you become a more powerful influencer.  More people will want to follow you on multiple outlets.

However.

Doing all this takes time.  When you see bloggers go into burn out, or talk about how they’re unsatisfied with their current Instagram layouts, it’s often because blogging is a second full time job.  Being deeply involved in Twitter conversations takes hours out of your day.  Shooting and editing a handful of shots for Instagram takes a whole morning.  I can’t even begin to speak on how long it takes to script, film, and edit booktube videos.  To market for numbers, you need to be ready to commit 40+ hours/week into your content, and most of that is preparation and promotion.

I’m not an expert on how to do this, because I don’t do this.  I’ve tried multiple platforms and burnt out quickly.  My bookstagram has been neglected these last few weeks, because I have been putting my mental energy into posting, reading my ARCs, and my day job.  When you neglect Instagram, loves, your followers fall FAST.  I’ve lost 50 followers in the last month, and it declines daily.  I pulled out of Instagram because I was becoming steadily discouraged by the platform – you have to fight so hard to show up in the feeds, and it wasn’t growing my blog numbers at all.  You can’t even direct link in your stories until 10k followers.  So if I wasn’t enjoying it, and it wasn’t feeding my blog… what’s the point?

As a blogger, that’s a really personal question.

Why are we here?  What are our endgame goals for our blogs?

I know I’ve talked about the statistics trap before, and how so many bloggers fall into that number.  For those of us vying for ARCs and review copies, it’s really easy to fall into that trap, and suddenly, our whole blogging experience becomes about raising that number – increased retention, more subscribers, more daily visits.  If that’s fulfilling to you, I think it’s awesome.  It’s not my endgame, though.

My endgame is this:  I just want to talk about books.  I want to scream about books and tell you all which ones I love and which ones I want to defenestrate.

Whether it’s 600 or 1000 to 16000, I’m very grateful to have amassed a small community here.  Marketing intimidates me – I am an introvert, and the idea of spending my free time trying to connect with strangers and make them think I’m cool enough and smart enough that they should read my blog every day… is exhausting.  I turn that energy to the content instead, and that’s a treat for me.  It’s rejuvenating and lovely and words are just the best.

I know this isn’t an ambitious goal, and I know that marketing myself better would increase my influence and make me more appealing to publishers.  I’ve seen the fruits of blog trains and met new, lovely people by hopping on board.  Some days, I think I should stop writing posts and set aside that time to promote the blog instead.

But I like writing these posts, and so I follow my guilty pleasure and fill my blog with thoughts.  And not marketing.

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How do you promote your blog?  The one post-format that brings me in the most clicks are Top Ten Tuesdays, but that meme doesn’t build retention (most comments are “come check out my TTT”) – I’m curious how you build up your brand!  It is friendships, cross-platform promotion, memes?  Spill your secrets in the comments!

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18 responses to “Fact: I Am Terrible At Marketing My Blog (This Is Not An Advice Post)

  1. I tried instagram and it was an epic fail plus it wasnt driving anything to my blog. I know Twitter. It is like a warm cuddly friend. So that is easy for me. I refuse to get back on Facebook. J got off last year because it just became too toxic and I wont be going back. I’m very clear about this with publishers. My follower numbers are tiny but my unique views have doubled every month since my hiatus ended until June. June matched May. Point being one doesnt always alogn to the others. Not all book readers want to follow an account. They will book mark your site and come back and so forth I would love to have 1000 followers, sure but if I don’t? I’m not gonna sweat it. As my views have doubled? I’ve also had a lot more engagement that has been overwhelming (in the best of ways).

    • Amber

      I’m definitely Facebook Lite now on a personal range, but I have no interest in making a page for my blog over there. I just… don’t really see the point anymore? It’s all reposted memes, angry politics, and pictures of people’s children. 🙂 Follower numbers are definitely subjective as well, you’re right. WordPress followers are one thing, but a lot of the Blogger users won’t sign up for WordPress just to follow. It’s so nice when posts just intrinsically pull people in – congrats on your increased engagement!!!

  2. I blog because I enjoy the writing aspect of it and sharing about the things I love. And that is why I continue to do it. It is not about the numbers – though more followers would be nice. Instead it is about the satisfaction you get about sharing your thoughts with like-minded people.

    • Amber

      I love this sort of positivity and passion. 🙂 There’s a lot of satisfaction in talking about your passions with like-minded folks!

  3. Oh my gosh, this is me right now. I know I don’t want or need a million followers to consider myself “a blogger”, but what I’m struggling with is the whole… aesthetics part of blogging? I’m so unsatisfied with my knowledge of making a blog look good, or adding special graphics, or having a signature sign off, however I have no idea where to start? And knowing that, I’m already burned out, lol. Either way, I think you have a very lovely blog and completely understand where you come from.

    • Amber

      Aesthetically your blog looks very tidy and clean! I think the aesthetics are rough because on one hand, you want to resemble a lot of the other popular blogs, but on the other hand, you want to stand out. Then there’s all the custom featured images, and the photography people put into the posts. Those take a lot of time and some skill, and if you don’t have them you’re too text-based, but if you do but don’t do them just right, they can look messy and weird. There’s really no winning in blog layouts, tbh. Try not to let graphics/ads take over your page to the point of making it unreadable, and you’re otherwise pretty good. 🙂

  4. Amber, thank you so so much for sharing this! I’ve been really burnt out for months, even though I haven’t been blogging that long at all. I had a blog before that I ended up giving up on because (a) it was taking too much of my time and (b) I realized I was never going to be good at the whole social media aspect of things. So it’s really nice to know that I’m not alone, at least in the social media aspect of things.

    I’m honestly not really sure why I keep blogging at this point. Partly, I’m doing it because I want to get through an entire year and see what happens. Partly I just enjoy keeping track of my reading/writing life in some ways. But mostly, like you said, I just enjoy having a space to talk about books and writing. Even if no one’s reading my posts, at least I’m stretching my writing muscles and I’m creating a space to talk about what I love. That’s priceless, at a certain point.

    • Amber

      Honestly? The early months are the WORST for burnout! A lot of the community makes it look easy – like you’re going to get a bunch of followers right off the bat and your community is IMMEDIATELY going to appear, and that’s the exception more than the rule. And it can be really disheartening to see that you’re working so hard, but it feels like it’s going nowhere.

      I hope you’re able to overcome the hurdle of feeling like there’s nobody listening, and I hope having that space to talk about your passion helps get you through! If not, though, don’t feel bad if you find blogging isn’t a fit for you. 🙂 I hope it is, of course, but feeling like you’re talking to a wall can be super frustrating.

  5. omfg I feel this. even with being super active on twitter, I’m completely lost as to how to get more blog traffic. and like… I guess it doesn’t matter too much? I’ve made some amazing friends thanks to book blogging, and I’m so so grateful for that, but I guess I just pour so much time and effort into my blog posts that I wish they got more views and/or interaction? and then it gets disheartening when they don’t, which puts me in a blogging slump…

    • Amber

      It’s SO disheartening. Every once and a while the popular fancy blogs like Cait or Ilsa or May will put out a “how to bring followers to you blog! 🙂 ” post and that’s GREAT except I’m either doing the things already or it doesn’t work for me. Lol. I think honestly some people just get lucky.

  6. I relate so much to this post. A massive part of gaining a bigger audience is down to marketing. I used to be involved in Twitter and the blogging community quite a lot and it definitely helped. But then I started my GCSEs and A-levels and I just didn’t have the time nor the energy to blog so much. I also find Twitter is always full of arguing so I don’t like going much on it anymore!

    • Amber

      Twitter is SO angry. I used to love Twitter, back in the day. I think that the Twitter community has a lot of power and a good voice, but I also think there are too many people there who instill judgment and hate than lift up other people’s voices. It’s a difficult environment to be in.

  7. This blog post really speaks to me! I’ve technically had a blog since 2013, but regular blogging only became a thing in the past couple of years. It’s difficult then, seeing younger blogs and some blogs that don’t have particularly special content having so much ‘success’ or such a huge following because then you wonder what you’re doing wrong.
    I feel like a lot of the social media/marketing side of blogs happens on twitter, but twitter is my least favourite social media platform (especially for my mental health). It doesn’t occur to me to tweet what I’m up to or what I’m thinking about meaning I fall into the category of silent observer.
    There’s also an age divide I think, and this plays into writing style, how bloggers use social media but also how much *time* they have. I have definitely had more interest/engagement/traffic since I started posting twice a week, but honestly, it’s hard work! I work full time, I play netball after work, I like to have a social life and I’m just not sure how I’d fit in blogging as often, reading as much or even doing the blog hopping/social media side of things. I could have definitely done it when I was at uni. But now? It’s a huge ask.
    I do just want to talk about books but part of that is having people engage and feel less like I’m writing into a void. So it is frustrating sometimes, but you’re right – the focus should be the endgame and not the follower count.

    • Amber

      I agree in that Twitter seems to be the heart’s blood of blog marketing, and I’m an observer for the same reasons you are – my mental health. I’ve been known to dig my feet in and really engage *sometimes*, but then I’ll drop off the face of the earth when I feel like I’m starting to have negative mental health consequences from it. And that’s true for me with all social media, but doubly true for Twitter.

      I also agree with your comments about the age divide. I work full time as well and up until recently that included a haul of a commute. I’m very much a homebody, so I don’t do a lot of socializing, but when I do, my blog definitely gets abandoned. In this particular niche (book blogging), there’s a lot of solo activity time required in both reading and writing, and those things only go so quickly, *especially* when you have to balance that with a 40+ hr/wk job, let alone other activities. As a high schooler, I would have had SO MUCH TIME to build a social media following and then translate that to blogging. Even in college I probably would have managed, though I was a bit busier. But as an adult? Even when I have the time, I often don’t have the energy. And that energy, I feed into posting.

      On the flip side, though, so many blogs are just… filler material. I participate in Top Ten Tuesdays pretty regularly, but that meme takes me so much less time to write than one of my discussion posts. Some of these blog have a lot of memes, and things like WWW Wednesday and Can’t Wait Wednesday and Down the TBR Hole are fairly simple to post, but I feel like they have a less meaningful impact. Your blog, in particular, has SUCH GOOD discussion posts. Those are quality, take thought and time, and are more long-living. Even a well-written review takes time to formulate into a discussion about the book. There are bloggers I follow that I click through to every time… and other ones I don’t think I’ve clicked through to in months. So even without the marketing, at least there’s the satisfaction of knowing you’re putting out something meaningful.

      • Yes to the energy part too! Blogging is a hobby, sure, but it’s not something i do to relax!

        Yep, totally understand the value of those kind of memes, but if that’s all you’re posting, it feels like filler. And thank you! I do spend ages on those discussion posts, so I appreciate that! <3
        That's why I keep coming back to your blog too – I know you'll always have something interesting to say about a topic, and your reviews are more than just 'sjksjsf I loved it!'

        • Amber

          Awww, you’re the sweetest. Sometimes my reviews are ‘sjksjsf I loved it!” though! XD Usually when I’m writing too many reviews and my brain’s ceased to function. Which is always fun. XD

  8. Personally, most of my traffic comes from Pinterest. So, I do most of my marketing efforts on Pinterest. But, as someone who went to university for advertising, I love interacting on social media. Honestly, I just think that’s just personal preference though, is that you either love it or you hate it. I honestly post every day on Instagram and I talk to people on Twitter almost every day. For my actual blog post though, I schedule a post on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook using Buffer so that is can be posted to all three platforms at once.

    Rachel recently posted: Book Review: Grin Grim
    • Amber

      Thanks fo sharing those great tips, Rachel! It’s true that the time you put into social media gives back to you – I’m so glad you enjoy it so much!