The word out there is that the world wide web is making the world smaller, giving the voice back to the people, and making us all more tolerant, more understanding, more global. But is this really happening?When we posted our “NxE’s Fifty Most Influential ‘Female’ Bloggers” list, we went through the blogosphere as we know it: the blogs we read, the blogs our friends read, the blogs we know people to be reading. But no matter how careful we were, we still missed a lot of blogs that others would consider influential. In a world where Technorati is tracking over 112.8 milllion blogs, I hardly find this surprising.However, there is more to learn from this than just the simple fact that there are too many blogs for us to keep track of.The blogosphere, just like the physical world we live in, is divided into neighbourhoods that have only limited interaction with each other. The online neighbourhoods might be divided differently than their physical counterparts, but apart from that they share similar characteristics. For example, in the blogging world, I belong to an English speaking neighbourhood interested in business, productivity, serious blogging, and personal development, although physically, I am located far in the north, in the European country called Finland.These bloggers are the people who I know by name and with whom I chat first when I plug myself to the Internet – they (you) are my neighbours. But why these people, and not some others?First, there is the language issue. If I don’t understand the language of your blog, I can’t read it. For me this rules out blogs written in languages that I have never studied (like Chinese, Japanese, Russian), as well as languages that I rarely use such as French or Spanish.So far so good. The language is a natural restriction: if you don’t understand a language, there is no way you can enjoy a blog written in it.But that’s not all. There are many blogs written in English that I have never heard of. In fact, I’m willing to bet that there are blogs that are massively influential within their own neighbourhoods, but still virtually unknown to the masses because the link out from the neighbourhood is missing.Online, just like in real life, it’s all about links. Like the popular saying goes, it’s not about what you know, it’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you.New friends are usually made through old friends and acquaintances. Who you know defines who you will know – unless you make a conscious decision to change that fact and build new links outside your immediate neighbourhood. And as who you know pretty much defines who knows you, this becomes an important question to think about when trying to grow your blog’s audience.
Are you blogging for your neighbours?
From the fact that you are reading North x East, I am going to make three assumptions – or educated guesses – so bear with me (feel free to use the comments section to tell me if I got these assumptions wrong).First, I’m going to assume that one of your most important blogging goals is to gather a big audience. You watch your RSS subscriber count carefully, and you can tell the number of unique visitors in your sleep. And when the growth halts for some reason, you are not far from losing your sleep.Second, let’s assume that a big part of your readers found you through links from other people’s blogs. This is a fairly safe guess, even if you have done all your SEO work and made Google your best friend.Third, let’s say that the people who link to your blog are people who follow your blog.When these three assumptions hold true, a funny (but common) situation where everything spins around in a circle is created: you link to people you know, they link back to you, and the same people read both of your blogs. Every now and then this might result in a few new readers finding your blogs – but in most cases even these new readers are people just like you, from the very same neighbourhood.And after a while, you will run out of growth potential in this neighbourhood. Everyone who could be interested in what you have to say is already following you, and the rest just don’t care. What do you do next?This is when you need to find a way to get noticed out from your town and look for other neighbourhoods interested in similar topics as yours.
Link and be linked to
Once you have decided to get out there and broaden your neighbourhood, that’s where the real work begins.The idea itself is simple:
- Find a bunch of blogs from a close neighbourhood that you believe might be interested in what you have to say
- Subscribe to the blogs, and make sure to read them
- Start interacting with the bloggers and their readers through comments, e-mail conversations, and guest posts
- Bring more value to the new neighbourhood
I have to stress the last item on the list: If you just wait for new people to arrive to your blog, you’ll have a long wait ahead of you. Instead, what you need to do is to get out there and make a genuine contribution to the new neighbourhood. And only then, after you have become a part of that new circle of bloggers, you can expect the readers to be interested in what you have to say as well.But how do you find those blogs?First, in every circle of friends there are some people who have more connections than others. They are the connectors who like to hang out with all kinds of people, and are always happy to introduce their friends to each other. A person like this can well be the first one to introduce you to new people who you never would have met otherwise.The risk in only relying in connectors is that if your friend isn’t really quite that well connected, all her friends are from the same neighbourhood as you. And in this case, the effect (for blog marketing, that is) of meeting new people through them is not quite as high as it could be.A solution to this problem is to come up with a list of descriptions of possible neighbourhoods you might be interested in joining. Show this list to your connector, and she will tell you if she knows anyone who would match the profile. This list of requirements can also help you search for relevant blogs by yourself too. Just fire up Google and see what you can find.To conclude the discussion, here are some examples of what to be looking for:
- People blogging about a subset of your topic: If you are writing about food, take a look at blogs writing about baking or making soup
- People blogging about a broader topic than you are: If you write about baking, how about checking out blogs about cooking, taking care of the home, or food in general?
- People writing about your topic in a different language. This requires that you know the language, and that the neighbourhood knows yours and will be able to read your blog.
- People from a different race. Unfortunately, race still seems to matter – people do primarily hang out with people who are just the same as they are. If you are brave enough to cross this line drawn in the air, you may soon be lot wiser, and a lot more popular than you are right now
- People of different age. Older than you, younger than you – doesn’t matter. Just find a big enough age difference so that you have something unique to learn from each other.
Are you ready to step outside your comfort zone, and start blogging for more people than just your closest neighbours?