In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 4 great topics, including a new Tumblr experiment I’m running and generating traffic to a website with Instagram.
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- 0:54 – 1. The Tumblr experiment redux
- 5:18 – 2. Instagram as a traffic source
- 9:26 – 3. Fan introductions
- 11:01 – 4. Link blogs
- 15:39 – Pick of the week
DPP033: A New Tumblr Experiment, Getting Traffic from Instagram, and 2 More Great Ideas
Hey, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this podcast is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, including blogging, ebook and video creation, podcasting, and other things relating to internet business and online marketing. You can find a full transcript of each episode of this show at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
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OK, I’ve got 4 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. The Tumblr experiment redux
You might remember that for a few episodes a month or two ago, I talked about the effortless blog. This was an idea that I wanted to test out, and the idea was to set up a simple Tumblr blog for a niche, post a niche-related video to it every day for a few weeks, put an ad for one of my related ebooks in the sidebar of the blog, and see if the ad got any clicks. After those few weeks, I scrapped the project because the ad had only gotten a couple clicks. It was not worth my time.
In the post mortem for that experiment, I said that because of the way that Tumblr is set up, most of the people who follow you view the new updates not on the website or in an RSS reader, but in the Tumblr dashboard, and that means that most of the people who follow you will never see your blog’s sidebar, and so putting an ad in the sidebar won’t do you much good. I talked about how the better solution would have been not to put an ad for my ebook in the blog’s sidebar, but to put a little blurb and link to it at the end of every post. But then I said that that seemed almost like borderline spammy behavior and wasn’t something I was ready to try.
Well, I changed my mind, and the thing that caused me to change my mind was a Tumblr blog at abetterfreelancer.com. It’s run by Aaron Mahnke, who is a freelance graphic designer and one of the co-hosts of a great podcast I listen to called Home Work. A Better Freelancer just links to one article a day for freelancers. That’s it. Aaron has put the exact same couple lines at the end of each daily update, and they include a link to Aaron’s book about freelancing and his newsletter. In an episode of the Home Work podcast last month, Aaron mentioned that the site has 45,000 followers on Tumblr, which is incredible.
So when I saw this site of Aaron’s, I decided it was time to give the Tumblr experiment another try, and this time I would link to my ebook on Amazon at the end of every daily update. The ebook again is my rock climbing ebook, and I’m actually running the experiment on two Tumblr blogs at the same time. The first is one that posts a new climbing GIF every day (which is at climbinggifs.com) and the other is a link to anything climbing-related every day (and that’s at dailyclimbingtips.com). Those may or may not still be around if you’re listening to this far in the future, but you can go take a look at those if you’re interested to see the kinds of things I’m posting to them.
I’ve been updating each site for about two weeks now and the results so far have been much better than in my previous experiment, unsurprisingly. The link to my ebook is clicked 3.6 times per day on average on the climbing GIF site, and about 1.1 times per day on average on the Daily Climbing Tips site. The GIF site currently has 33 followers on Tumblr, and the tips site has 24 followers on Tumblr. I load up each blog each Monday with 7 updates scheduled, so it’s something I only have to think about once a week.
So far this has actually been a lot of fun. Rock climbing is something that’s been a huge part of my life in the past and not something I do these days when I’m living and traveling abroad. It’s too early to say for sure whether this is really effecting the sales of my book, but I’m fairly confident that the climbing GIF site at least will end up being worth my while. But we’ll see, and I’ll keep you posted in future episodes of the podcast.
2. Instagram as a traffic source
I’ve resisted being on Instagram for about a year now. I made an account and posted a couple photos, but it wasn’t something that I was too interested in. Then last week I decided to dive in and give it a try, and I’ve been posting a photo or two a day every day since then. Mainly I wanted to do it as a way to share photos from my travels without overloading my Facebook feed. In my Instagram profile, I included a link to tristanhigbee.com, which just links to all of the various things that I do online.
I checked the analytics for tristanhigbee.com just now and see that I’m gotten 8 visits to the site from Instagram. That’s honestly more than I thought there would be. I only have 30-something followers on Instagram and have only been active on the service for a week, so I think that’s a pretty good number.
But let’s say you actively wanted to use Instagram to drive traffic. What could you do to get more traffic? Well, there are two things I would do. The first is that I would just start following a crap ton of people. They’d be curious about the person following them and they’d look at my profile, see my site listed there, and tap on it. The second thing I’d do is like other people’s photos. In the Instagram app, you can search for and view photos by hashtags. So I could search for photos with the hashtags #travel or #rockclimbing and “like” a bunch of photos that I think are cool. The photo owners would see that I liked their photos, and again they’d come and look at my profile to see who I was and possibly click the link to my site.
And this is exactly what a lot of people and business on Instagram do. They like a ton of photos and/or follow a ton of people. Yesterday I saw that someone I didn’t recognize had liked one of my rock climbing photos. I tapped on the username, read the profile, and saw that it was a company that makes a very unique and specialized piece of gear for rock climbing. I was intrigued and clicked through to look a their website. So that technique of liking random people’s photos definitely worked out for them here. I didn’t buy their product because I am on another continent, but it’s something I’ll think about buying once I get back into climbing more.
To get more traffic from Instagram, you could also put a link to your site or to a blog post in the description of each new photo you post. This is slightly more spammy and isn’t something I’ve seen too much of, but you could definitely try it out and see if it works for you.
So yeah, it’ll be interesting to see if the clickthroughs from Instagram to my site increase over time. If I have anything interesting to say about the increase or lack thereof, I’ll probably talk about it here, so again, stay tuned. And I guess I might as well mention here that if you want to follow me on Instagram, my username is @thigbee.
3. Fan introductions
I watched one of Chris Pirillo’s YouTube videos last week. He’s a prominent vlogger and tech personality, and he has a video series called The LockerGnome Daily Report, cleverly called TLDR for short. At the beginning of each of his TLDR videos, or at least some of them that I’ve seen, he has a fan video introduce the video. It’s a video of the fan looking into his or her camera, saying something like,
“Hello world, I’m John, and this is The LockerGnome Daily Report, or TLDR for short—your daily dose of geek news, gadget reviews, and answers that you can use.”
In the border around the video are the words, “Another fan-tastic introduction. Submit yours to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
I really like this idea. I think it’s a great way for your fans to show their love for you, for lack of a better phrase. I’m sure it’s really neat for them to watch one of your videos and see themselves there where everyone else can see them, too. That’s just neat. If that sounds like something that would fit with your content and your audience, try it and let me know how it works out.
4. Link blogs
I love the idea of link blogs. I’ve talked about them briefly in the past here on the podcast, but I want to dive in a bit deeper now. Link blogs are where a person with ostensibly good taste and judgement sorts through everything going on in a niche and links to the best stuff, with maybe a sentence or paragraph or two of exposition or opinion on whatever is being linked to. The link blogger is essentially a curator.
Link blogs used to be a big deal in like the early 2000s but have since fallen out of favor because of things like Facebook and Twitter, but those aren’t a perfect replacement. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think it’s just too easy to miss things on Twitter and Facebook. I like being able to easily scroll back through a blog and find something, and I like subscribing to a blog via RSS or email and not missing any new post or update on that blog.
Daring Fireball, which is at daringfireball.net, is, in my mind, the premier example of what a link blog should and can be. The site is all about Apple and its products. The guy behind it, John Gruber, is a writer and former software developer, and he’s now seen as THE guy to follow if you’re interested in Apple. He writes longer original pieces and links to interesting and important Apple-related news and articles, and he also links to apps that he likes and stuff like that. I wouldn’t quite call him an analyst, but he’s whatever the humanities equivalent of an analyst is. He makes a crap ton of money from the blog, to the tune of a weekly RSS feed sponsorship costing a whopping $8,500, plus he sells t-shirts and memberships and does speaking engagements. The Loop, which is another Apple-related link blog, charges $1,500 for week-long sponsorships, and also has a membership option.
Before I go on here, it’s important to note that on these two sites, and the same can be said for the other popular link blogs out there, the bloggers aren’t just sharing links. The people behind both of these sites each have years of experience in their fields, and the one sentence or paragraph or whatever of original commentary on each link is a big part of why people follow those particular blogs. Me writing a sentence about a new Apple announcement is not the same as John Gruber writing a sentence about a new Apple announcement.
Having said all of that, I don’t understand why there aren’t more link blogs around in other niches. The other day I was listening to an episode of the podcast Bionic, and they were talking about whether there is a John Gruber for Android or for Samsung, and… there isn’t. Why not? I’m a big fan of Apple, but come on, Apple isn’t so special that link blogs can only be about them if they want to have any hope for success. One of the more popular rock climbing blogs is called Climbing Narc (at climbingnarc.com), and it’s essentially a link blog for climbing. The guy behind it definitely isn’t making $8,500 a week, but like I said, it’s probably the single most popular climbing blog out there.
I think that link blogs provide valuable services, namely human-powered curation and expert commentary, and they’re something I’d love to see more of in other niches. And who knows, if you stick with it for 10 years like John Gruber did, you too will be able to charge ungodly amounts of money for a weeklong sponsorship.
Pick of the week
And that brings us to my pick of the week. This is where I pick one useful thing to share, and it can be an app, a website, a podcast, or anything else I find valuable.
My pick of the week this time is a podcast called The New Disruptors. The host of the podcast is Glenn Fleishman, who is a tech writer and journalist as well as the editor and now owner of The Magazine, which was the first simple magazine app on Newsstand for iOS. The podcast consists of Glenn interviewing people who are creative for a living, with an emphasis on how they actually make money doing what they do. That’s the best way I can describe it. The official blurb about the podcast is that it “tries to tell stories that provide practical inspiration about the way that creative people and producers connect with audiences to perform, cajole, convince, sell, and interact using new methods.”
So in the last episode, Glenn interviewed an independent political cartoonist. In the one before that, he interviewed two guys from the XOXO Festival, which is a festival and conference about creativity and innovation. In the one before that, he interviewed the guy behind the popular card game Cards Against Humanity. And in the one before that, he interviewed the guys behind Studio Neat, an industrial design and software firm. So there’s a good cross-section of people being interviewed.
Again, they’re interviews with people who create things and make money by creating those things. It’s a great podcast that I’ve only recently found, but I highly recommend it. Just Google “New Disruptors” and you’ll find the official site, the Mule Radio Syndicate podcast page, and the iTunes URL for the podcast all in the top few results.
And that’s all for episode 33 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog.
Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. If you do follow me there, be sure to say hi. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.