How blogging and sharing are best friends

Guinea pigs sharing a carrot

© ryancr, Sharing, via Flickr

Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember how sharing your toys or sweets with your friends contributed to a much happier, more sociable life?

And it's the same with blogging. It is essentially a sociable activity, something you should share with others. Writing only for yourself will soon become a thankless task, with no incentive, no feedback, and no indication you are doing OK.

Whereas the majority of bloggers crave a response to their work. They write for their readers, wait patiently for comments, and revel in reactions that arrive from any quarter.

You have to give to get back

Gone are the days when all you had to do was to press the publish button and readers spilled in like a waterfall, showering comments in their wake.

Now you have to work to get results. If you want a response, you have to earn it.  You need to think carefully about why, how, where, which, when, who and what about sharing, and how you can use this to your best advantage.

And all the time being aware that 'sharing' is the best thing you can do. Altruism rules in the blogging world.

Why sharing is good

First, you need to be happy with your blog and want to share it. Your lovingly written posts contain all your best work, so why shouldn't you have more readers reading them. You know your content is good, the subjects are worthy, the information is helpful and true.

You will have written your blog with your reader in mind. Carefully considered research will have pinpointed exactly what they want to read. Your posts are composed to deliver this to the best of your ability. You know that sharing this content will benefit your readers and make their lives better.

Sharing the kind of information your readers can instantly use will place you in higher esteem. It also helps to showcase your knowledge as an expert in your field. By highlighting your willingness to help, you be seen as the go-to-specialist within your chosen subject.

Your approachable demeanour will contribute towards relationship building, either with your readers as potential clients, or with other influential bloggers you could form alliances with in the future.

How to make sharing easy

The most obvious design feature of a blog to encourage sharing are the social sharing buttons:

social sharing buttons

You can see these at the bottom of each post and sliding up and down on the left. They are meant to act as both a call to action to encourage the reader to share your post, and an incentive to make the process much easier for them.

Another method to get your readers sharing is to ask them. There's nothing wrong with adding another call to action at the bottom of your posts, enticing them with a reason to share, and reminding them of the benefits of doing this for you.

Demonstrate goodwill and best practice by visiting your readers' blogs and sharing their content. If you don't know who they are, just share any excellent post you come across on social media. The blog's author will soon realise and as a result may become another reader of your blog.

Where sharing can be done

The most obvious place is on social media. The social share buttons introduced above allow your readers to share your content on their social media profiles.

However, you can share your posts yourself on your profiles, and also elsewhere. Take advantage of the sharing element of social networking. Join various groups, pages, communities and forums, but not as somewhere to dump your blog post's link. This practice is viewed very poorly in the social networking world.

You share your post's links to encourage people to click on them to read your content. Unfortunately, unless you are incredibly famous, most passing audiences won't bother. Therefore you need to capture their attention by providing an incentive to notice you, and a reason to investigate what they see or read a bit further. This is done through an attractive headline, an enticing introduction and a relevant description which accompanies the link.

Then you need to engage or sociably interact with those that respond. Write as if you're talking to them. Create conversations. Incite discussions. Share your wisdom. Make someone's day. Provoke a healthy argument. Accept a connection. And if you're canny, make sure your activities are based around the subject of your latest post. Readers will click its link if they're suitably interested.

Which sharing tactics should you encourage?

You can promote your content through other channels, such as bookmarking websites. Again this will work better if you make the effort to share other people's content as well. It's worth finding a couple of really good blogs and then regularly sharing their posts. This will draw the blog author's attention to you, who may share your posts in return.

On WordPress.com blogs there is a button for reblogging. This is another way of sharing great posts. It works by republishing other posts on your blog, but in a way that doesn't provoke any duplication issues with the search engines. It exposes worthy writing to your readers, and enriches the information you share with them. This shows you read widely and enjoy promoting good content that benefits your audience.

Linking to other posts as a reference within your post, or mentioning a post, or even quoting a section of it (with appropriate acknowledgement) create pingbacks and trackbacks. These are notifications sent by either the blogging platform or generated by the search engines to let other bloggers know you are sharing or recommending their work. It can also work the other way in your favour.

The more sharing you do, the more likely this will draw attention to you and your blog.

When sharing should be restricted

In your enthusiasm to share all your content with the whole world, this may result in you being interpreted as a nuisance. Remember, not everybody will be interested in your posts, so share bombarding will only annoy them. You need to be selective both where you share them, and how often.

Not all social networking websites are the same. Twitter is a fast moving medium, where a tweet doesn't hang around for long. Here you can share your content as many times as you like. But duplication is restricted. Vary how you promote your post to attract the passing audience, and use different 'tinyurls' (when your post's web address is reduced to a few characters) to avoid repetition issues.

Other platforms have different criteria. LinkedIn is professional, so you need to adapt your promotional tactics accordingly. Updates in groups have a longer shelf-life, and followers respond better to reasoned discussion points around various subjects. Also select your groups wisely to avoid your blog post being seen many times by the same people, who may be irritated enough to class you as a spammer.

Sharing on social groups requires a change in approach. There may be certain days when you can directly share your post's details, but otherwise you should share your knowledge and expertise in response to other people's updates. Draw attention to yourself by helping, encouraging and sympathising. If your contributions are always worthy, readers will want to check out your profile and from there your blog.

Who are the best at sharing?

Do what I call 'lurking and learning' on social networking websites. Read what other people are saying. Notice the ones that get a lot of responses. Read the conversations that happen. Analyse what makes them exciting, read-worthy and compelling.

Even if the subject doesn't interest you, there are still lessons to be learned in how to share. Empathy, understanding, enthusiasm, encouragement – these are all attributes that make a sharer more noticeable. People also welcome sharing information that improves their lives. Remember by sharing 80% of what we know means we can charge more for the 20% of value we retain.

Spammers think that excessive commenting is good sharing tactics. Unfortunately they fail at this because of their insincerity, irrelevance, persistence, badly constructed sentences and inappropriate vocabulary. Therefore, even with your best intentions at heart, make sure you are aware of who you are sharing with and what you provide is appropriate for them.

Sharing should be spontaneous, not necessarily calculated. Altruism comes from the heart. If you can't share a complimentary or constructive comment, don't bother. If you can't strike up a relationship with your readers, you will need to think again about your sharing tactics. Sharing is the basis of being helpful to others, and it's wise to remember that.

What prevents sharing

A lot of people are hesitant about how they are perceived on the web. Self-esteem may have something to do with it, such as feeling what they contribute isn't worthy. Or they are unsure about sharing their material, as they feel it is their property and sharing it will undermine its value.

If you don't share what you've got to offer, how will people know what you're capable of? Blogging is all about self-expression and sharing your knowledge. It is how you communicate with your readers so they get to know you better. You should feel free to share you content so that others can enjoy and benefit from it.

However, one thing you need to be aware of, is not to always expect people to reciprocate your sharing goodwill. Not everybody is as unselfish as they should be. Maybe it's a lack of awareness that sharing makes the world go round. Maybe they are unaccustomed to the kind of altruism that ought to abound throughout the web.

Also it's a good idea to have your guard about you, so you don't get taken for a ride. But as long as you develop a good idea of character, and make wise decisions in your favour, increasing your sharing abilities can only be for the better for you and your blog.

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Alice Elliott writes the Beginner Bloggers blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She specialises in simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Why not also visit her award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog to learn some more.

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