Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

A Zigzag way to build a blog audience in record time

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 6, 2005

. . . here's my secret.

By Zigzag for SiliconValleyWatcher

As a woman I've got a lot to say. And let me be frank, I'm tired of saying all the things I'm supposed to say. I want to say the things my mother told me not to say, so I started a blog.

It gave me the opportunity to speak my mind without any trepidation. Coincidentally, so did about a gazillion other people. Blogs are the new black.

I learned fast that the competition is fierce. But I'm a writer dammit. My MFA says so, and when I started my blog I wanted readers, and I wanted them instantly. (We are a society of instant gratification right?)

The question was how do I drive traffic to my site? Real traffic. Significant traffic. Not 10 to 15 readers at a time. And I didn't want to work for hours researching blogs to generate readership.

So I did it. I went from zero to 200 + readers a week within the first two weeks of creating my blog. I now have an average of 1000 hits a month, and I've only been blogging for three months. My readership is steady and growing.

Want to know my secret?

I incorporated a new tactic: I linked my blog to my profile on a social network called Tribe.net.

It's similar to myspace and friendster, but with one significant difference: tribe.net offer users the opportunity to become high profile "celebrities" by utilizing conversations within numerous "tribes" to allow you to become a significant voice within the context of various subjects.

Once my profile was well recognized and I had accumulated over 250 "friends" my tribe profile became visible to everyone linked to me. All I had to do was keep my audience interested.

For instance, I'm part of "tribes" for bloggers, rock climbing, writers, life coaching, outdoor sports, actors, business gurus, etc. You name it, it's there.

After a few months of posting and commenting on various topics everyone knew who I was.

My catchy nickname was easy to remember and easy to follow. It's a nickname I've had for years (my parents even call me Zigzag) and I created a "brand" for myself: Ms. Zigzag. My URL became www.mszigzag.com.

Then I bought a membership to typepad and linked it to my domain name. After that I linked my tribe profile to the URL. Wala! I had 200+ readers and they keep coming back for more.

My personal blog tips:

I have found that a good catchy headline for each blog entry helps. And I mean really catchy. Who wants to read about a trip to the new Costco in your neighborhood, or a hike in Yellowstone? Booooring.

Tell people something more specific like, "Woman buys 75 boxes of tampons and I had to stand behind her in line," or "The Moon fell out of the sky and landed on my head at Yellowstone."

Also, pictures have been key for me. I use a picture for each of my blogs. Most people like pictures. It gives them a visual cue to what is being offered.

You have 7 seconds to grab them and a picture is (forgive the cliche) worth a thousand words and it can also add a bit of humor. People like to laugh even if the subject matter is serious.

A catchy banner also reels them in. Especially if you have a good slogan.

My banner is "Ms.Zigzag: exposing the unexposed." My pitch is that I offer people the truth by offering good info into the private world of my life. I actually tap into universal "truths" that hit a chord with the public.

The trick is to make it useful to other people.

Most people avoid the average personal blog because the average personal blog avoids most people. Incorporating universal truths that speak to the soul of the public is key to getting readers back.

And don't be afraid to speak your mind. I teach writing workshops and I always say to write like your parents are dead. Go for it, whatever it is, but make it useful.

And yes, writing about sex helps, but if your blog deals with technology or business trends this might be difficult.

The bottom line is that it's all about communication. We are writers and we want to be heard, and sometimes it's necessary to reveal yourself in ways that are specific.

The real juice is in the details, and exposing yourself as much as possible.

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