Practical, easy tips to grow your blog and networking with other bloggers — more of the things I wish I’d known sooner!
This is the 3rd post in my Blogger Resources series. Find the first 2 below:
For the first 6 months that I was blogging, I honestly didn’t realize what kind of a community of bloggers there was online. I didn’t reach out to anyone (not true — I reached out to Julie after reading her Making Money Blogging post, but we’ll get to that later!), and I didn’t try to connect or network really at all.
Occasionally another blogger would visit my blog and comment on my terrible posts with my terrible photos, and I’d think, “wow, I must be so cool!” Turns out, I wasn’t, but they were trying to establish a connection with me. And when they would comment on, like, every terrible post, I’d start getting a little creeped out. When I didn’t reciprocate, they stopped.
I didn’t actually know how important networking with other bloggers would be for the growth of my blog, but once I caught on and was able to find some ways to connect, it really paid off big time.
1) The Online Blogcon
I launched my blog (though I hesitate to use the word “launch”…. there’s a little more gusto implied in the word than is usually realistic of starting a blog) in March 2014 and I joined the Online Blogcon in September 2014.
There is a Facebook group for “attendees” of the Online Blogcon, and that was my very first Facebook group of bloggers. I’m scared to count, but I would say that I am now a part of 30+ blogger Facebook groups (more on Facebook groups below!). This was really a turning point for me.
Before the Online Blogcon, I had alllllll of these questions, and pretty much no help with them. Sometimes I’d text my BFF to see if she had an answer for me, or I’d Google it. Most of the time, I ended up frustrated, threatening to chuck the computer across the room.
I had jumped into a world I knew nothing of. I didn’t know anything about blogging, I didn’t know anything about taking pictures of food, I didn’t know anything about web sites or HTML period. It was extremely frustrating to feel so STUCK.
After I joined the Online Blogcon, my
life blog changed forever (I know this is starting to sound like some sort of commercial for a dating web site…. bear with me.) I now had questions, and I had a bunch of like-minded people in the same situation to ask! I had ANSWERS. I also had a mentor through the Online Blogcon, which was super awesome!
If you’re a new blogger with few connections, and even if you’re an experienced blogger, there is so much to gain from the Online Blogcon at such a small cost.
2) Guest Posting/Contributing Blogger
Right after I “launched” my blog, I found the post Making Money Blogging on Julie’s Eats and Treats. As I mentioned before, I was constantly scouring the web for blogging resources. Julie gives a great list of networks to apply with for sponsored posts, and at the end of her post she encouraged readers to reach out and ask her questions. That was the first time I felt comfortable reaching out to a Real Food Blogger, and I sent her an email. She was so super helpful and a few months later I started as a contributor on her site.
Contributing to another blog (sharing posts on a regular basis) and guest posting (sharing individual recipes or posts) can really help to gain some great exposure and develop new connections with bloggers!
Before you start randomly emailing bloggers asking if you can contribute a post to their site, look around their site. Get to know them. Find out if they have ever even had a guest poster on their site. If they have other contributors, they are probably more open to the possibility.
Most bloggers will look for regular contributors in the fall for the next year. So keep an eye on some bloggers that you love, that you know take contributors, and when the option comes up to apply, get your name in!
Now, maybe you think this is hypocritical, but I have never accepted a guest poster or asked for contributors. (a) Because I am a super OCD Control Freak, and (b) because I have just never really felt like it would offer much value to anyone. I’m still just a new little blogger in my mind, though I have seen such significant growth over my first year and a half.
Like I’ve already mentioned, I didn’t really understand this type of networking for the first many months I was blogging. Some bloggers I really admired would come and leave a comment when I first started, and instead of actually reciprocating and reaching out to them in return, I just left it. I thought that they actually liked the recipes I was posting, and let’s be fair, they might have seen some potential in the recipes but my photography? Left a lot to be desired!
For the first probably 6 months I was blogging, I would look at other food bloggers I followed and wonder how to get invited to the party. There are always round ups and group giveaways and virtual baby showers and I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. How do I get invited to that? How did she get invited to that?
My advice? Keep working at it and striving to be better and create better content and it will come. You will make connections and friends. You will join groups of bloggers. You will get invited to the party.
To start, follow some blogs you love, and I’m going to suggest you follow a variety of bloggers. Find some bloggers in the same niche who started around the same time as you and have a similar following, and find some bloggers who are more established than you are that you really admire. Read their posts and leave comments (and please don’t leave 50 different comments on 50 different blogs that all say, “this looks amazing!!!” — read the post and try to make a real connection!), follow them on social media, like and comment on the stuff they’re sharing, and then don’t expect anything in return.
There was a time when I replied to every comment and could reciprocate all of them. But you get to a point where it’s just impossible, or you miss some, or you miss a few days because you have a 3 year old and an 8 month old…. Don’t go getting all upset because someone doesn’t reply.
I have made some great friends online because they commented on every post, until I actually got around to visiting their blog. Or they commented on every Instagram post, until I actually got around to visiting their Instagram page. I’ve discovered some fabulous blogs that way, but the first time someone comments on something? It often gets lost in the chaos. Don’t obsess over it, just keep plugging along, keep reaching out, and do it because you actually really like their stuff. Don’t reach out because you are expecting something in return.
This is just not the way I recommend living your life — blog because you love it, find stuff you actually really like, and reach out to those people. If you live your whole life only doing things because you expect something in return and never just do things to try to help and benefit others, people will sense that you’re just using them and that’s not what you want.
4.) Facebook Groups
There are a ton of Facebook groups for bloggers. As I mentioned before, I would guess that I am in at least 20-30+.
There are groups for sharing stuff on different social media outlets. There are groups for discussion. There are “tribes” or tight-knit groups of bloggers who are close friends. There are also groups that you can share your recipes to to get more exposure.
Here’s what I would suggest. Go to Facebook and type in some random words into the search. Try “blogging” or “food bloggers” or “bloggers” or “pinterest” or “social media”, and start requesting to join some groups. This is also a great way to meet people you might not have met otherwise!
If you have friends who are bloggers, ask them what Facebook groups they’re in. Ask them if they can invite you (or if they can ask the admin if they can invite you). If you have a few blog friends who are all wondering the same thing, start a new Facebook group! A friend of mine did this several months ago, and we now have a tight-knit group of just over 20 bloggers who are all kind of at the same place and going through the same struggles.
The group that will benefit you the most is that one — a group of bloggers who are going through the same things and are in a similar place. And plus, it’s so exciting to see everyone growing their blogs together when you know where you all started!
5.) Submission Sites
These are the sharing sites I currently submit to:
Usually, submitting to these sites won’t get you a lot of pageviews unless those sites share to their social media channels (which isn’t always the case). But a lot of people and web sites (think Buzzfeed, Huffington Post) will look there for certain recipes to include in their posts, which can bring you a lot of traffic!
And I’m going to leave you with those as my top 5 tips for growing a new blog. I’d love for experienced bloggers to weigh in in the comments below with additional tips!