How to build a big audience and become a “must read” advertiser

The notion that a person can write something each day about their lives or their interests and get an audience of hundreds of thousands is fascinating. Especially if you have something to sell that could be tagged onto each bit of writing.

It looks like at route to free advertising, which seems like it is too good to be true. So the question is, is it possible, or is it too good to be true?

My answer below is of necessity generalised and simplified, but I am happy to explore how the notion of blogging can be related to your business if you want to go further. So, here are the key points.

Blogs have to be about something that people want to read about. And that probably isn’t your business. Which seems like a contradiction, but isn’t, because the blog is not an advert for your business, but a way of getting attention.

Let me take one example: cycle sheds. Cycle sheds are, well, cycle sheds, and talking about the frames, the materials, the layout and design is probably not going to excite many people. So you won’t have a growing audience if you write a blog on it.

But let us imagine you discover that some schools have been allowing their art departments to draw murals on the side or roof of the sheds. You ask schools to send you in photos. You put them up and write about them. That’s a start.

Then you notice that some schools encourage students on their last day at school to come to school in unusual forms of transport. So you put up pictures of that (with the emphasis on bikes), with the cooperation of the schools, which tend to welcome the publicity.

Now when I say this to people they quite often say, that is all very well, but I can’t see how that relates to my business.  Mostly it can be done – although I would always admit this can be very much an indirect route to selling.

What you can do is see this as a form of sponsorship.  Sponsorship gets your name out there and allows many more people to know about what you are and what you do, but in an indirect way.

A blog is similar. What you mustn’t do is make the whole thing about you and your business – your job is to attract people to your site because it is interesting and unusual, and you get known for running it.

Let me give you an example of a blog that I came across recently called Primitive Technology. Even if the subject matter is not of the slightest interest to you, just scroll down the pages for a few moments.  These are posts by an Australian, John Plant, who in recent years has made projects that create the basics of civilisation.  And his audience is massive.

He’s not a man living in a primitive way, he doesn’t live in the wild, he uses the internet, makes videos, and raises money through advertising and donations.

Now I’m writing about this at this moment because, although I currently run three blogs that have gained big audiences and which make some money, Schools.co.uk itself doesn’t have a blog so I’m starting one from scratch.

Doing this reminds me of all the frustrations of the technology in getting it going, and also makes sure I don’t forget just how easy it is to stop such a project.

In the meanwhile, if you want to start a blog of your own related to anything even vaguely connected with your work, and you want to discuss this, do drop me a line: Tony@schools.co.uk

And if you really want to see the sort of things I get up to when not writing these notes, you might want to try this blog of mine on Bob Dylan.  It gets around 1 million page views a year, and has even come to the attention of the publishing company of the man himself.

Tony Attwood

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