Monday, April 14, 2008

Blogging-related bleg for advice

OK, so I've volunteered to teach my colleagues how to make their blog into something that people outside of RBU will want to read, but that also discusses what's going on here. I also plan on showing them ways of getting it wider attention and readers. Obviously, nothing's guaranteed, but I have some ideas.

On the writing front, they should talk about the specifics here but with the framework of the larger problems for higher education in general -- especially public education. They won't get readers and links -- especially not from Inside Higher Ed -- unless what they write speaks to a larger audience. And they should mix posts that speak to fellow academics and general audience readers.

On the marketing front, these are the ideas I have: register with technorati; read other blogs and comment on them; send an e-mail to the "Around the Web" editor at IHE when there's a post they might be interested in; register with SiteMeter to see what traffic you are (or aren't) getting; register with a local blog who collects Rust Belt blog links and categorizes them; create a blogroll (which may get the attention of those bloggers checking their links);, what am I missing?

Does anyone have any other ideas?

It's hard to grow a blog audience overnight, I know, but it's worth a try getting some wider audience, I think. And also, once the trustees sign off on my tenure and it's a done deal, I'll link my colleagues' blog here, so eventually they'll have at least one link!

PS -- I've told my colleagues that I have a blog, but I haven't told them which one.


Dr. Crazy said...

Another good piece of advice is to link to other blogs within posts and to contextualize what you're saying with those links. That way, if people click through from that link, the other blogger will find out about your colleagues' blog. I often find new blogs that way - somebody links to Dr. Crazy - I see people are coming from that link, and so I head over and check it out. Sometimes even people will leave a comment for me that says they responded to something I wrote and provides me with the link (which is very nice for lazy me). That then gets people who read my comments over there too, presumably.

Another thing that could be good would be to have one main blog that just explains the basics of the situation and that has links to all of the faculty blogs and maybe links to any press? If you put something like that together, and if you, say, emailed me the address, then I'd link to it in a post, which could get it some good visibility in academic blogging circles.

Also, another question: would it be possible for some students to blog about this, too, in some fashion? Or maybe just to set up a facebook page where they could leave comments? I feel like student voices would make a big impact, but obviously some might feel uncomfortable doing it because of power dynamics involved.... That said, if there were a way to get student voices heard I think that would be great.

Things have been crazy but I'll nag my chair about that stuff I'm trying to get for you tomorrow.

JM said...

Between the stuff you already listed and what Dr. Crazy said about linking to provide context, you've hit all the things I listed in my blogging book re: starting to gain attention/readers. Not that my book is the be-all/end-all of instruction or anything, but the point was that it's a basic, yet thorough, list. Also, of course, continuing to participate in conversations ... can't just let a blog sit there (so says the person who hasn't blogged substantially all semester...damn grad school).

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

I would suggest that, aside from all the technical stuff (that you and Dr. Crazy have covered pretty well), bloggers should have a niche identity for their blog, and resist off-topic postings. If they want to blog extensively about their personal life (or knitting, or Star Trek, or LoLCatz, or politics, or whatever), they should do so in a separate blog.

I'll probably develop this idea more at K'zoo.

Pacifist Viking said...

Be a little wary of making a subject too broad just to reach a wider audience; it can distance the blog from the subject matter that would make it interesting in the first place. You're probably right to suggest "they should talk about the specifics here but with the framework of the larger problems for higher education in general -- especially public education." But a clear, specific focus is probably better than a broader focus.

I write a sports blog that focuses mostly on one team. For a while, I tried to emphasize the more general sports stories (I thought, "Shouldn't I try to reach readers that don't root for this particular team?") But while readership was steady, I started getting far fewer links (which are important for gaining more readers). I've accepted that I'm mostly going to have a more narrow, specific audience, but that's OK--I don't want to turn off that audience.

That doesn't mean a blog should be too provincial or esoteric. But dr. richard scott nokes is right: a blog (especially a new blog) needs a "niche identity" to draw in reader's interested in the particular subject matter or a particular angle(though I don't mind occasional off-topic posts).

The Constructivist said...

Great advice in post and comments. Here's my list: patience and persistence (lots of); voice/persona (your own, but experiment--multiple "niches" are fine)); writing what you like and not caring too much about how widely it is read (leads to better results on the latter than putting the cart before the horse); cultivating your readership (and noticing shifting patterns in it, like when I was research blogging I was mostly being read by grad students and now that I'm taking on structural and institutional issues I'm getting more faculty readers [aside from random googlers]); posting on topics that aggregators (3quarksdaily, bookforum, cliopatria) identify as big when you have a unique perspective on them and are motivated to write something interesting on them (even if it's short, weird, or "not your best thinking"); starting a discussion with other lesser-read blogs and inviting bloggers with larger readerships to join in; learning from your favorite bloggers.

Written with all the wisdom that comes from being "Around the Web"ed twice this semester and finally thinking of an average visits day in the 30s....

Dr. Virago said...

Hey everyone, thanks for all the advice! Sorry I haven't responded before now but I've been swamped this week.

Dr. Nokes -- rest assured that this blog I'm giving the advice for is already about as niche as you can get -- it's specifically about the new admin's strategic plan for this university and the faculty's grave concerns about that, as well as about the admin's attempts to undo faculty governance. But I'd like more than a local audience, so in some ways I think it needs to be a little less niche -- ie, framed by the bigger issues that the local events speak to.

But just to irk you, the next post I do here will feature my dog! :)