The Pin the Map Project is over three years old now and has come a long way from the day I pressed publish on my first post. Back then my readership consisted of exactly five people: my parents, my boyfriend and my sister (all who I must thank for being so gracious as I inundated their inboxes with new blog post alerts). Building a blog following takes time and is something that I am still doing on a daily basis–be it pushing out social media posts, connecting with other bloggers, running paid media campaigns or simply brainstorming ideas to grow my readership.
The building of a following is a painstaking process where some days will find me on top of the world feeling as though my blog is the next big thing and others will find me convinced that I’m my website’s only reader. Such is the nature of the internet–it’s a fickle place where talented and innovative people are elbowing their way to the top in hopes of simply pushing their photography, blog, film, jokes, stories and social posts into the spotlight. The past two years of The Pin the Map Project has been a whirlwind of highs and lows yet my passion for this corner of the web I’ve created is something that has me always looking forward to typing away on my laptop at my nearby coffee shop. Lately, I’ve been receiving quite a few reader emails all asking me the same question: how do I build a following? To address this excellent question, I have decided to update this post with th ways I look to build my traffic and readership both on my blog and social media.
Don’t turn your back on paid opportunities!
I get it, the dream is to go from 0 to 60 with your blog and wake up one day to find you have organically gained over 100,000 new followers simply due to your awesome content and hard work. There are always those bloggers who somehow manage to turn an obscure website into a massive success in less than a year time; these blogging enigmas may scoff at the idea of paid media but as someone who has worked in advertising in New York City for over 3 years, I can assure you paid media is a fantastic way to build a following quickly.
Essentially, paid media allows you to give your blog guaranteed exposure when your attempts at social media pushes and networking just aren’t cutting it. I have helped brainstorm media campaigns for some of the world’s top brands–from Converse to Volvo–and if these globally recognized names are paying thousands of dollars for a paid social campaign or blog integration program then there is something to be said about putting your money where your words are and building your following.
So, what do I mean by paid opportunities?
There are a few different options for paying to gain following. Companies like Outbrain help amplify your content and increase traffic to your website by taking links to selected posts and placing them alongside relevant articles across the web. For example, if someone is on CNN Travel and reading a story about the top destinations of 2015, at the bottom of the story in that “You might be interested in…” section the reader could find a link to your website. You set the pricing, date and content of your campaign with Outbrain and just watch as your traffic spikes.
Consider paid social media opportunities, too.
This is something I was just introduced to by a fellow blogger who incredibly grew his Instagram following from a cool 3,000 followers to upwards of 20,000 in less than a year! Beyond the usual Instagram tips of using the right hashtags and engaging with other people’s posts, he advised me to reach out to some of the larger players in social media and ask them to repost some of my content. I reached out to a few large Instagram accounts that I know to accept posts of these nature (@ourplanetdaily & @theglobewanderer to name a few) and found that to put my photos in front of almost 1 million people costs anywhere between $10-$100.
To some this may be considered a waste of money but it is a great way to make a BIG splash in social media and quickly grow your following. Likewise, Twitter and Facebook offer features to promote your social posts and pages to followers who may find it interesting. So while, yes, it is ideal to be a social media rockstar on your own; it is worth considering paid opportunities to help give your hard work the exposure it deserves.
Now, let’s address a social media taboo that has been getting attention lately: Should you buy followers? It is tempting to pay $50 and watch your social media following spike to 10,000, but it is important to be aware of all the factors in buying followers. On Twitter, for example, many “buy following” services will inundate your following with fake profiles (you know, those Twitter egg profile photos) and while the following may read thousands, a simple click will show it’s a facade. On Instagram, fake accounts are less obvious but it’s important to note that buying following does not guarantee engagement. So if you bought 10,000 followers but your photos are averaging 20 likes and no comments, there is a clear disconnect there. Contrary to popular belief, while social following is important to brands it is the engagement that really reels them in.
Now, let’s talk growing your following organically.
If paid ways to grow your following isn’t your cup of tea, I have found success in a few organic ways to grow readership as well. My biggest tool by far has been my work as a freelance writer, which has allowed me to contribute to some larger publications like VICE, FOOD & WINE, Roads & Kingdoms and others that always link back to The Pin the Map Project. For tips on freelance writing, check out my post 8 TIPS TO BECOMING A TRAVEL WRITER.
Another way I’ve grown my following is by networking with other bloggers via guest posts and traveler interviews. I launched a series called The Traveler Series, in which I interview bloggers, writers, photographers and editors on their travels and websites. This is a great way for me to not only network but also grow my readership by having more established blogs promote their interview to their following. Similarly, guest posts help introduce you to other blogger’s audience by showing your style of writing and linking to your website (you can guest post for The Pin the Map Project too!).
Use blog syndicators like Bloglovin’.
Everything I post is automatically posted to Bloglovin’ where other readers can discover my content alongside that of other fantastic bloggers. I cannot recommend Bloglovin’ enough–both for growing a following but for also discovering other websites and finding inspiration for your own website.
Join a blogging network.
One of the big takeaways I took from advertising is this: when it comes to bloggers, brands and advertisers rarely reach out to bloggers directly but rather reach out to blogging networks. As soon as my website reached a set amount of following, I began applying to blogging networks I knew to be good such as Say Media, Mode Media (formerly Glam Media), Blogher, etc. I joined Mode Media earlier this year and I believe it has made quite a difference for The Pin the Map Project as far as an increase in following, generating income and partnering with brands.
The takeaway of all this is that it is possible to build a following but it takes time, effort, consistency and sometimes money to really turn a blog from a hobby into a career. Whether you’re a novice blogger who just published their first post today (congratulations!) or an established blogger who is a year in and wondering why their following hasn’t blossomed (hang in there!); it is an uphill path we are all walking together.
I hope you enjoyed this updated post! Make sure to check out my other BLOG TIPS and share your best tricks on growing a following and any questions in the comments section below!