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Reasonable Blog Automation for Shameless Self-Promotion

This is no field of dreams. It’s a blog, and the one universal truth in blogging is that the saying, “build it, and they will come” is utter nonsense. “Shameless self-promotion” is required. This is different from “obnoxiously flogging that system for making money in your sleep,” or “shouting out the virtues of your $47 turn-key system for blogging wealth and success, even if you can’t spell your own name.” There are $497 courses to teach you that sort of thing, and I can’t – or, rather, won’t – compete.

What is Shameless Self-Promotion?

Ironically, “shameless self-promotion” sounds like something we should be deeply ashamed of. Something not done in polite company. Something done by anonymous night crawlers hawking specious “systems” and “warez” and shoddy products or products you hope arrive in unmarked brown boxes when your neighbors aren’t around to see.

Shameless self-promotion means getting the word out – telling the world that you exist and you’re alive. It doesn’t mean being obnoxious and tiresome – it means realizing that with literally over a billion blogs out there, readers cannot find your shiny silver needle in a haystack unless you shine a light on it and it gleams back brightly out of the dullness of the straw and the glint of other needles.

Shameless self-promotion means that no one else is going to do it for you.

Shameless self-promotion means not being shy or ashamed to tap a friend or stranger on the noggin and say, “Hey, you might like this thing I posted – would you take a minute and come see?” I know it feels like when you were nine years old, standing at the side of the pool, having just learned how to dive, crying out, “Lookit! Lookit me!” but remember, if you hadn’t, you might’ve broken your neck and drowned and no one would’ve noticed. “Oh, don’t mind me down here at the bottom of the diving well, having the life sucked out of me by the pool’s drain…”

It means being willing to staple a few “Have You Seen This Blog?” flyers to the telephone poles in various communities that dot the Information Superhighway. And what do you do when you have a thousand flyers to post? You hand them out in small stacks with a roll of sticky tape and a cheap stapler. You ask people to share them and encourage their friends to visit. You enlist help, and if you can build yourself a little robot to run around like C3PO to invite people over for a look, you do it. And your friends will thank you, because stapling flyers to people’s foreheads – I mean, telephone poles – is tedious and exhausting after a while.

The thing to remember is that there are good robots and bad robots. We all hate spambots and pornbots and lonely hearts scammers. But who doesn’t love C3PO or R2D2 or BB-8?

This is where utilities like JetPack (for WordPress), IFTTT (If This, Then That), and post scheduling apps like Latergram.me (for Instagram), Hootsuite (for multiple platforms), and Tweetdeck (for Twitter)  come in. If used in a sane, reasonable, and deliberate method, they’re quite useful. Keeping in mind that you can schedule posts on your blog, the following tips will help you to turn your blog into a post scheduler for your favorite social media sites – including Pinterest.

Publicize (JetPack for WordPress)

If you are familiar with WordPress, you probably already use,  or know about, JetPack. It’s a set of plug-ins, all rolled into one – one of which is Publicize. Publicize lets you automatically share your WordPress posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Path, and Tumblr. You can edit the settings with each post:

publicize-post-dialog

I don’t automatically share every post to LinkedIn, since this isn’t a “business blog,” per se. I may selectively share posts there, if I think they’re relevant to the professionals I’m connected with on LinkedIn, but they’d quickly tire of my shenanigans when I’m waxing poetic over roadkill.

I have chosen to deactivate my Facebook account, so that does not appear in the list at all.

Twitter’s where you land, like a bird on a wire, and poop on all the people nailing flyers to the pole. I’m just kidding, of course – I wanted to be sure you were still awake and reading closely. Twitter is like a raucous party line (for those of you old enough to remember what that is). Just blurt out what you’re up to, and maybe some of your followers will have their fancies tickled and their curiosities piqued.

I’m still trying to figure out Tumblr and not quite getting it. But I’m there; if anyone stumbles onto my tumbles, I hope they’ll find their way here. I’m only spilling a few drops over there. Path is similar; you have to be on mobile to get it. But if JetPack includes it in the handful of connections it offers – I will, too! Some communities are harder to

I can uncheck any of the site options shown, if I prefer not to share this post with one or more of them. And while the default text of the post title is usually sufficient, I can customize it – keeping in mind the 140 character limit on Twitter and the fact that there will also be a link and “via @HollyJahangiri” added to the share. The other sites can handle longer intro text, but with Publicize you only get one shot at it – when you first publish the blog.

IFTTT (If This, Then That)

Think of IFTTT as pop-beads made of bits of code, connecting one platform to another. These little utilities (which you can grab, ready-made, or create yourself) are called “recipes.” I have several:

ifttt-recipes

Post your Instagram pics on Twitter as a picture (not a link) – This was a ready-made, public IFTTT recipe. Normally, if you share a post from Instagram to Twitter, it comes across as a link to Instagram. This recipe includes your image as part of the Twitter post!

If new Instagram photo tagged #flickr, then upload to flickr (Public) – This, too, was a ready-made, public IFTTT recipe. I don’t want to share every Instagram post to Flickr. I only want to share really good photos to flickr; whereas I might want to share “fun” or “silly” snaps on Instagram. This recipe lets me selectively share to flickr without having to share twice using different apps.

Pin your new Instagram photos to a board – Another ready-made, public IFTTT, this one shares Instagram posts to Pinterest. I haven’t yet customized it to share only the ones that contain specified tags, but I probably will before using it again.

If new post with tag or category pin on your blog, then add Pin to board – I created this one yesterday, and will be testing for the very first time with this post. (Do you ever read my blog and feel like a guinea pig in a very colorful, chaotic lab run by a demented scientist who’s certifiable but not certified in anything? Good. Stick around. We’ll be testing out cookie recipes soon, I promise. Not those things the EU insists I warn you about, either, but the kind with chocolate chips.) Supposedly, if I coded the “recipe” right, any post I publish here that has the word “pin” as a tag or category will go straight to my board called A Fresh Perspective.

Well, it worked. But two things to keep in mind:

  • Posts sent to Pinterest should be way shorter than this one! (OR, don’t try to include the content of the post, itself – just include the title field!)
  • Right now, the recipe only accepts the first image in the post – not the featured image, as I’d assumed and would have preferred.

But it worked.

And that’s where the “sensible” part of automation comes in. Test each bit of automation to be sure you’re getting the desired results. Have a clearly defined plan that lets you selectively share to each site, so that you are sharing only the most appropriate content in the right places. Indiscriminately sharing every post, every time, gets boring – especially for the few friends or fans who follow you everywhere (the last people you want to bore or run off with repetition).  Also, if you’re not careful in your strategy, you can create an endless loop, bouncing the same post back and forth between two sites ad nauseum. This is why the main blog is the “hub” when automating; you don’t want to sent a blog post to Twitter, then automatically post tweets back to that same blog. Sketch out the plan on a piece of paper to avoid having all your digital activity bouncing around like tiny ping-pong balls in a child’s toy lawnmower.

That’s not sensible automation, that’s just stupid.

Kind of like that time, two decades ago, that Peter Ziebel suggested I make my chat autoresponder reply, “Wow, it’s a Z word!” any time someone typed a word containing the letter Z.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.

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14 Responses to “Reasonable Blog Automation for Shameless Self-Promotion”

  1. Not for now – my head hurts just from reading about all you’re doing!

    ‘Does it bring you potential readers for the fiction you have for sale’ and are they the RIGHT kind of readers is my only current question.

    I have to figure out where the various non-overlapping audiences I envision liking my stories might be – and learn how to attract those readers and not the rest.

    Blog readers are gravy, but I started the blog for the fiction I am publishing, and I have to remain focused or go under: it takes me a long time to write.

  2. Patricia Stoltey
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Holly! I printed this post and took it down to my reading chair to study in detail. Your tech-oriented posts help me a lot in my quest to learn and implement…even though I’m slower than molasses getting things done.
    Patricia Stoltey recently posted…The Joy of Adopting New Furry Friends … by Natasha WingMy Profile

    • 🙂 I strongly recommend testing each step very carefully. I’m revising some of my “recipes” today, based on partially successful, but partially unexpected results. It’s best to think in one SMALL step at a time and be very careful.

      If you saw my Twitter posts last night, you’ll notice some duplicates. There’s one from Instagram > blog > Twitter with the WRONG featured image (my FACE). For some reason, posts from Instagram to the blog are not picking up the defined feature image. So I’m temporarily disconnecting that particular “pop bead.” The others are working well.

      For “scheduled posts” from blog to Pinterest, it’s a bit much to put the blog content in the share. BUT… what if I use the tags in WordPress “incorrectly” to set up a brief excerpt? (Excerpt isn’t one of the options in IFTTT for a WordPress post, but tags are.. :))

      Stay tuned. I’m trying not to inflict too much testing “weirdness” on the Internet at large, but anyone folllowing me on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and here is likely to figure it out. 😉

    • P.S. I’m very glad you find it helpful. LOL – remember when we first met? (Marian, too.) Some people print and peruse at leisure. A few just have their heads explode. I’m trying to hit the sweet spot – Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt and I were chatting about this, too, yesterday. I’m still leaning towards exploding heads. Gotta work on that. 😀

      • Patricia Stoltey
        Twitter:
        says:

        I sure do — good old BBT!

        I find it very messy to go the exploding head route. Plus I’d rather sit in my comfy chair with paper/books to read than park in front of any size or form of computer. I think better in the reading chair.
        Patricia Stoltey recently posted…The Joy of Adopting New Furry Friends … by Natasha WingMy Profile

      • One thing to be aware of when misusing tags like that is that you cannot use commas in the tag (since they’ll just be treated as separate tags) – in the example Pin, “So” is one tag and “the other day I fell flat on my behind and lucked out – didn’t break the Hollys Coffee mug. My Feel the Bern mug is unbreakable. Is that a metaphor for something?” is one tag. They came out in order, but that could just be because they happened to also be alphabetical.

        Still, it’s better than a full post – it would be nicer, cleaner if the excerpt field could be used, and I’ll suggest that over at IFTTT.

  3. Rummuser says:

    I am still on Facebook though very inactive. My shameless self promotion starts and ends with an automatic link in Fb every time I post in my blog. You are more adept at it!
    Rummuser recently posted…Sabbatical II.My Profile

    • Would you believe my blog traffic improved while I was OFF Facebook?

      • Rummuser says:

        I am not surprised. I however have lazy friends who would rather comment on the facebook insert than on the blog itself. So, both seem to function.
        Rummuser recently posted…Return To Chaos.My Profile

      • Yep, and that’s a problem only if you care about blog metrics. And those are a problem only if you want your blog to rank higher and show up higher in search results. Some days, I’m not sure I do. Other days I think “Why NOT?” (I approach all these metrics in a seriously dorky, unserious way. Every year, I kill off my blog for a while just to have the pleasure – and challenge – of resurrecting it. Does that mean I suffer some weird Messianic blog complex? LOL) I do think that if you want new readers, you ought to branch out and “court” other referrers like SU. There really IS a whole world out there beyond Facebook, and it’s kind of interesting and fun. 🙂 One thing I learned during my two weeks off – I didn’t miss FACEBOOK at all. I only missed my friends. And Facebook knows this is how they get you – because you can never just “export” your contacts there.

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