Disclaimer: This is not a post about SEO or cracking the code to social media algorithms. It’s designed to help you develop a sustainable DIY approach to promoting yourself online.
With so many different website and social media platforms to manage, marketing and promoting your self-published work online can feel like a daunting task. There are entire industries dedicated to finding the best way to promote yourself online, so it can be overwhelming if you try to do it all single-handedly. If you have the budget, hiring an SEO or online marketing team can certainly bring you results. However, many independent creators don’t have these kind of resources.
The good news is, there are still plenty of things you can do on your own to promote yourself online, without the help of a dedicated team. As with any complex undertaking, breaking it down into more manageable bits can help you figure out where to start. Check out the tips below for some thought-starters.
1. Prioritize Your Goals
You won’t be able to do everything on your own. Think about what you really want to accomplish by promoting your work and focus your efforts there. Increasing sales is a common objective, but there are many other reasons to promote yourself online. These include spreading awareness about a particular cause, building clout, creating a community, or maybe just garnering fame and influence. Once you determine your objective, define how you will measure your success, i.e. higher revenue, more comments on blog posts, higher traffic to your website, etc. Write down your goals so you can hold yourself accountable to them and track your progress.
2. Define Your Audience
Now that you’ve figured out your goal, you’ll need to decide who you are interested in speaking to. This will help you focus your plan of action even further. Oftentimes, quality matters more than quantity, and it’s better to reach 5 people who are already interested instead of 500 who will find it irrelevant. Once you’ve determined who you want to advertise to, think about where these people are most active. What tools and platforms are they already using?
3. Pick Your Channel
Once you decide who you want to reach, start thinking about how you are going to reach them. Is it through long-form blog posts on your own site where people can leave comments and questions? A short and quippy email newsletter that directs people to your site? A curated Instagram feed that offers a unique peek into your creative process and builds your reputation as a maker? Are there any online forums that are widely used and respected by your target audience that you can contribute to? Remember to keep in mind the objectives you’ve set for yourself in Step 1.
4. Study Up
Due to the data-driven nature of the internet, there are likely some esoteric technical skills that you will have to learn, to give yourself the best chance at promoting yourself online. SEO, Email Marketing, Social Media Marketing, and Content Marketing are just a few of the ways that companies of all sizes are promoting themselves online. Pick one or a few that will benefit you. There will likely be quite a bit you can learn for free just by researching blogs and articles online (including on the Blurb blog!), but it may also be helpful to take a more focused online class.
5. Set Realistic Goals
It’s great to be motivated and have high expectations, but the best way to avoid burnout and disappointment is to set realistic goals from the outset. Firstly, be honest with yourself about how much time you are willing to spend promoting yourself online. It’s also important to have sensible expectations regarding what type of engagement you will receive from your audience, so you don’t get discouraged or disillusioned.
6. Create a Steady Flow of Content
Using your online presence to make announcements and advertise discounts and sales to your loyal audience can be a great way to boost sales and increase traffic. However, “promotional fatigue” is a legitimate phenomenon that occurs when people get tired of seeing the same type of promotional content over and over again. Make sure to share plenty of engaging content that is genuinely interesting to your audience. It builds goodwill for your personal brand and can help establish you as a thought leader in your industry. Additionally, if you do offer a special promotion or discount, it will stand out even more.
7. Give Credit Where Credit’s Due
If you reference other people’s work on your own website or social media account, make sure to tag and credit them. Not only is this a common courtesy to other creators, but it can also get your work seen by your role models. For example, if you post someone else’s work on Instagram and “tag” them, they will be given a notification that will link back to your account. Additionally, being transparent about your influences and inspiration is a good way to build a brand that is perceived as authentic, collaborative, and trustworthy. Although you can never control how others respond to your content, the internet is generally a much friendlier place when you are kind and honest with others.
8. Start a Conversation
No matter your objectives and priorities, finding like-minded people who you have common interests with, will help you build relationships that will help you promote yourself online. Are there any groups or forums that are relevant to your work? When possible, make sure you’re commenting and giving feedback on other people’s work, and not just waiting around for people to reach out to you. Conversations are a two way street, and people may be more inclined to respond than initiate a conversation with you out of the blue. For example, you can comment on other author’s projects in the Blurb Bookstore. Why wait? Try reaching out to a Blurb author who inspires you today!
9. Stay True to Yourself
Produce and share content that is genuinely interesting and inspiring to you. For many independent creators, the whole point of promoting yourself online is to share a piece of yourself with the world. Many social media platforms can make it dangerously easy to get caught up in a rat race of chasing likes and followers. But constantly comparing yourself to others can be a hugely detrimental distraction from creating your best work. Ironically, people love to see authenticity and passion, so you might be surprised to see just who sticks around when you focus on what matters to you, instead of what you think will be most popular.
10. Be Patient and Don’t Give Up
Remember that building an online presence doesn’t happen overnight. It takes persistence, dedication, and oftentimes a little dumb luck. However, the more prepared you are, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to make something of the opportunities that present themselves. Stick to it!
As you can see, there are many different ways to approach promoting yourself online. It doesn’t all have to be about popularity contests and data analytics. Hopefully, this article has given you some inspiration on creative ways you can share your work with others, because your work deserves to be seen!
Let us know in the comments if any of these tips resonate with you, or if there are any other online promotion tips you’d like to share.