Hosting a blog tour has been a lot of work, and a lot of fun. I’m really grateful to everyone who has been involved – as writers, readers, commenters, and linkers (tweeters, retweeters, e-mailers, facebookers and people who linked to the tour page and posts in other ways). Without you, we could not have had well over 6,000 blog page views, and hundreds of brief e-discussions about them. Thank you for all of your wonderful support!
It sounds as though gifted awareness blog tours will happen again, both in New Zealand and overseas, so I have decided to record some of the lessons learnt while they are fresh in my mind. They may also be of use to people in other advocacy movements.
- Approaching people to blog creates awareness, whether they end up blogging or not. People who don’t currently identify with the field of gifted education, but who clearly have a lot to offer, are fabulous people to approach in this regard. If asked to express an opinion, people will consider what they may have to offer, and even if they decide that they are unable to contribute at the present time, greater awareness and some rewarding conversations result.
- The international community will support you, and will make up a substantial proportion of your audience. Blog posts can share the local situation, as this will interest others, but posts do best when written with a global audience in mind. Some local people will discover your blog tour because someone on the other side of the planet has forwarded a link. Working with this wide readership is not just exciting, but remarkably strategic in terms of getting noticed locally as well.
- Some bloggers do not know how to link to the tour page. This means that while they draw readers from the blog tour, they do not direct readers back. A link can often be added in a comment, but not everyone reads the comments, and not every blog has a facility for them. Next time I would ask prospective bloggers whether they have the skills (and are willing) to link back to the blog tour home page from the body of each blog post before listing them on the blog tour site. If not, I would host their post on my own blog even if they had a blog of their own. I would introduce them as a guest blogger with a link to their regular blog. This way they both gain from and give to the blog tour.
- Be flexible – people will offer to blog after the tour is started, and some people who desperately want to blog will find that life gets in the way. Having several people booked to blog each day evens out some of this.
- In our three week blog tour, hits on one of the blogs I can monitor peaked at the beginning of the third week, while on the other they peaked at the very end. I had originally planned a one-week blog tour – this would not have drawn many readers, as it happens. We were very lucky that one of our Members of Parliament blogged before we were expecting it, and that enough of you helped out to fill in the gaps between her post and Gifted Awareness Week. Longer is better with blog tours.
- More hits came to the two blogs that I can monitor via facebook than via the next highest referring site, which was the blog tour home page. Twitter came in third. Use facebook to promote your blog tour, and do it well.
- Images show on facebook links (as new posts, but not as replies to posts) and inspire hits. For this reason, images that look good at thumbnail size should be used in as many blog posts as possible. Sometimes you have to pause in the process of adding a link until facebook detects the new image you have carefully added to the blog post, but it almost always comes up as a thumbnail option if you are patient.
- Some blogs (like the WAGC blog at the current point in time) show tags and categories above the main body of the post. If you have a blog with post tags at the top, and it is not easy or convenient to change the set-up so that tags and categories appear below the post, add your links to facebook BEFORE you add categories and tags to your post. This way, your well-chosen opening sentences will display on facebook alongside your thumbnail, instead of your highly functional but less enticing list of categories and tags. (The WAGC blog is getting a new theme soon, as it is the easiest way to reposition the tags on a WordPress blog). Test how links from your blog display on facebook before you start the tour, and have other key blog tour participants do the same. Also check how key blogs look with your proposed blog tour buttons and badges, especially if you have transparent image backgrounds.
- Attend to other matters of canny blog-keeping to the best of your ability. See if you can find settings to display links to a good number of recent blog posts near the top of your side panel. Tag clouds and category lists will also help people to find other great recent posts when the posts are coming thick and fast. Naturally, I learnt to make these adjustments on the very last day of the three week tour.
- Layout matters. Blog posts with lots of hits have large chunks of text rendered accessible to the skim-reader by subheadings or key phrases in bold text.
- Calls to action, personal anecdotes, descriptions of great programmes, literary flair, indigenous issues and posts by children and young people get high numbers of hits. Informative posts only get a few hits unless they have one of those things going for them. This post will not get many hits, but it is really only written for a select few who plan to run blog tours of their own. Posts with a lot of complaining only do well if the non-complaining sections are emphasised by bold text. Posts with any hint of advertising one’s own programme tend to do badly. Do your work well and hope that someone spontaneously and genuinely says good things about you. It will get about five times as many hits. If you find yourself hosting two posts with a lot of overlap in their material, use bold type to highlight novel ideas in the second post. It seems to help.
- If you have a lot of posts to promote in a short space of time, you will feel like a spammer (especially if you are promoting real-world events at the same time). Just promoting the blog tour home page would work if you changed its images daily, but posting one link with one thumbnail repeatedly doesn’t generate clicks, so I promoted each post. The more gifted groups and pages that people promoting your blog tour are already known and active contributors to, the more you can spread those links around and avoid feeling as though you are flooding the conversation in any one place. I will be more connected before next year!
- I suspect we had too many posts at a time towards the end of the tour. I had enough posts to spread them over another week, but I didn’t have the energy for another week. If your blog tour is going to last for more than two weeks, I recommend having at least two “blog tour conductors” who will host, do layout, source CC licensed images and promote for new bloggers. Your blog tour home page may be somewhere that only one person has editing rights, but other jobs can be shared around.
- Be prepared to discover and celebrate unexpected greatness! Statistically speaking, our best blogger was a first timer. Don’t restrict yourself to the known.
This image, by Flickr member Mark Brannan, has attribution, non-commercial and share-alike licenses.