Photo by Tengis
This post is a lesson borne out of a challenge I’ve been facing at the moment: a growth plateau.
It started at around the time I began to experiment with an inward growth strategy without external promotion: I would write good posts, new audiences would find them through links and social media, and the blog would grow on the back of its content and existing audience alone — or so the theory goes.
It’s a strategy that goes against common advice — that you should constantly be searching out new audiences and promoting externally, whether by guest-posting or by calling upon social media networks.
The result of my experiments? They haven’t worked for me.
My old promotional strategies yielded more subscribers in less time, and while the inward method is less time consuming, it seems to yield significantly less results.
The experience has taught me that good content, even with an established audience, needs to be shared with new audiences on regular basis, whether that’s by guest posting, asking for links, writing easily linkable posts or promoting content on social media.
If you only look inward, your blog or website becomes a walled garden, and it’s much harder for new audiences to enter that space.
Another valuable lesson I’ve learned through this experience of slowed growth is that promotional methods are like pastures. The rewards yielded by each method are finite.
When I started writing for ProBlogger my byline generated a considerable amount of targeted traffic, but after a handful of posts, it started to decline until it petered out almost to nothing (even though some of my later posts were very popular).
If you expose yourself too much to the same audience, you saturate that audience.
Imagine a hotdog seller at a baseball game. She targets a particular section of the stands, and calls out: “Hotdogs, two dollars each!”
The first time she does so, she gets a few takers who leave their seats to get a hotdog. Once they’re finished, she calls out again, and a couple of stragglers who didn’t hear her the first time shuffle over to her cart.
The third time she calls out, there’s only one taker — someone who had just arrived to hear her call for the first time. The fourth time she calls out, there are no takers. The fifth time, people start to grumble with annoyance. Everyone who has the desire for a hotdog has already bought one!
Consistently marketing yourself to the same audience begins to use up the attention the finite attention that audience has to give to you, just like grazing the same pasture for months will leave it barren.
Like any nomad, you must continually move to greener pastures, and new audiences. Are you riding the same old promotional methods into the ground?
But it takes time…
The inevitable truth, though, is that marketing your content to new audiences takes time — probably several hours a week, in fact. This is time not everyone feels they have.
My advice, and what I intend on doing myself, is to subtract the needed time from my inward looking strategies and focus it once again on reaching out.
You might write one less post per week on your own blog and write a guest-post somewhere else instead, for example.
Never forget to look outwards
- By guest-posting on popular blogs or well targeted blogs.
- By writing list posts designed to please social media and your existing audience.
- By asking for social media votes from friends and contacts. Let’s face it — social media is not as organic as it used to be.
- By pitching links to your content at other blogs and websites in your niche.
- By becoming genuinely involved and active in the social media service you’re most likely to be successful with.
But remember: while powerful for a certain period of time, the above examples are all vulnerable to ‘empty pasture’ syndrome.
Spread out your guest posts on specific blogs, or don’t guest-post more than a few times in the same place. Mix up your content and don’t keep on repeating the same formulas.
Don’t ask for social media votes too frequently, and don’t always ask the same people. Don’t always pitch the same kinds of links at the same people, and again, don’t ask for too many favors unless you’re confident you can do something meaningful in return.
Navel-gazing promotional strategies are less time consuming, but the time you save is disproportionate to the diminishing returns.
Do you need to explore greener pastures?
I know I do. Maybe I’ll see you around the place?