Blog Tips 4: Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto! (Image posted onFlickr by James Clark -- http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=james+clark&m=text)

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto! Let’s tell our story…. (Image posted on Flickr by James Clark.)

This is the final installment of a four-part series on blogging. The full set includes:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

Fulbright’s sponsors encourage the students and scholars who receive Fulbright grants to blog about their experiences. They want to publicize the Fulbright program, the work we (their Fulbrights) are doing, and the cultural nuances we are discovering. They want us to share who we are and what we learn. Why not generate as much good publicity as we can?

If you’ve gotten your Fulbright blog up and running, you are ready to publicize your work. (If, on the other hand, you haven’t gotten started blogging because you’re still feeling overwhelmed by technical issues, you may want to check out Daniel Piechnick’s Website Setup Guide 2013: The Dummies’ Guide to Setting Up a Website.)

Based on past blog tips I’ve posted, you may have determined what level of privacy you desire. This matters because everyone in the world will be able to see what you post on a public blog site.

You may have shied away from being very open or very public about events in your life, but even if you don’t want to be highly public about everything you do, you will probably want to your friends and family know about your blog. In one fell swoop, you can notify them of the blog’s existence and invite them to receive automatic emails of everything you post. (If you are using WordPress, you can find the tools on your Dashboard — just look for the “users” button and then “invite new.”)

If you’re feeling ambitious, you may want to invite everyone in your contacts list.

Today we've got new technologies. (Image downloaded from Tumblr -- http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/telephone%20game)

Today we’ve got new technologies. (Image downloaded from Tumblr.)

And if you’ve decided to “go for the gold,” and to use your blogging efforts to full affect, you can generate a wide audience. The following tips can help:

  • Register with Google, Bing, and other search engines so you show up when people use them to search the web (WikiHow can help, as can the WordPress “Publicize” page).
  • Sign up to receive automatic mailings of your own postings (in other words, invite yourself to be a “user” so that the system will automatically email you a copy of each post). This is a good way to keep records for your files. Doing so can help when you go to compile formal Fulbright grant reports.
  • Once you receive an email about a post that mentions a person, organization, or business, forward a copy of it to those people. Doing so helps people know they’re appreciated and it increases interest in your site.
  • Forward a copy to other people you think would be interested.
  • Set your blog platform to automatically load notification of each blog post to Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, and the like. (I’ve chosen to upload to Facebook manually, because I want the option to select which photo Facebook posts.)
And they can help us spread the word. (Image downloaded from Toastmasters -- http://www.toastmasters.org/ToastmastersMagazine/ToastmasterArchive/2008/September2008/ThePowerofPublicity.aspx)

And they can help us spread the word. (Image downloaded from Toastmasters.)

You can load notifications to your personal page in Facebook, or you can set up a Fan page for your blog. You’ll need the Fan page if you want to enable visitors (to a WordPress blog) to click “like.” Keep in mind that only people who have “liked” your page will see posts you stream to that Facebook page. As a result, I chose to stream posts to my own personal Facebook page which has far more “friends.” (And, thus, I’ve not yet made good use of my Fan page.)

Jonathan Kennedy (the spouse of a Fulbright) clued me into the value of using Facebook “likes” to tag businesses and organizations you want to become more involved with in your new Fulbright home. I subsequently realized that I could increase interest in my blog by posting links on the Facebook pages of those businesses and organizations when I mention them in a post.

WIth today's Internet you are always "On Air." (Image from National Publicist -- http://www.nationalpublicist.com)

WIth today’s Internet you are always “On Air.” (Image from National Publicist.)

There are many good sources of help on line. For instance, WikiHow has a post about using social media to create interest in your blog. It recommends (and explains how) to:

  1. Interact with other blogs.
  2. Cross blog! (As in, posts links to your past blogs in your new blogs, which I frequently do.)
  3. Submit your posts and links to your blog on tools like forums, discovery engines, peer-sourced news feeds and social networking sites.
  4. Write great headlines and subject lines.
  5. Step back and analyze your blog as objectively as possible.
  6. Stay consistent. (As in, post frequently.)

Regarding search engine optimization, WikiHow discusses:

  1. Research “Search Engine Optimization” which is also known as SEO.
  2. Consider manipulating your content to include more key words.
  3. Link to popular blogs you like and websites relevant to your topic.

In signing out, I’ll mention one last, critical point about Fulbright blogging:

It goes without saying that in everything you do as a Fulbright, and particularly on the on the Internet, you’re a cultural envoy. Your job as a Fulbright is to facilitate and grow cultural understanding and respect. That means, of course, that you need to consider what you post from multiple perspectives and stay positive in what you post about your hosts.

Flimerz explains "you can draw viewers by connecting with your audience." (Image form Flimerz -- http://blog.filmerz.com/producing/?target=209&entry=Drawing+Viewers+By+Connecting+With+Your+Audience)

Flimerz explains “you can draw viewers by connecting with your audience.” (Image from Flimerz.)

Anil Dash provides "A Blog About Making Culture." (Image from Anil's blog site -- http://dashes.com/anil/2010/02/the-power-of-the-audience.html)

Anil Dash provides “A Blog About Making Culture.” (Image from Anil’s blog site.)

Blog Tips 1: Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?

The Communications Director at the Fulbright Commission in Ireland asked me to provide some tips on blogging to share with other Fulbrighters.  I’ve created a series of four blog posts on the subject:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog
Fulbright header

Header from a CIES webpage.

So then, why blog?

Blogging experts say the main challenge is to continually generate new content that’s of interest to others. With blogging, they say, you have to stay very active and load new content regularly or you’ll lose the attention of your audience.

We’ve all seen stale, dormant blogs.  That is a viable way to go… if you simply want to meet your grantor’s wish that you blog about your experiences without investing much of yourself in the process.

I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled at the request to blog when it arrived.  I’ve never followed blogs and didn’t see the merits or the potential for growth.

As a Fulbright, you have content that’s of great interest to others.  Blogging provides a quick and fun way to share this content. It can provide an opportunity to learn more from your own experience and also learn about writing for a real live audience. You can track your statistics to see what interests people in different parts of the world, for instance.

So, who’s your audience? My own has grown over time. It includes people I’ve known a long time and the folks I’m meeting here each day.  It includes regular visitors from across the US and Europe, and occasional visits from people in Africa, Asia, and South America. Watching the statistics page on WordPress gives me some idea of who I’m reaching and how often they visit.

The notion of sharing in this way comes fairly naturally to me.

When I lived in Switzerland in 1997, I emailed many dozen friends and relatives each day.  They were interested to know about what I did, saw, and thought while living alone in a foreign land. They’d send questions and encouragement. That helped me feel support during a challenging time in my life.

Blogging is an even better platform for me to do what I was attempting then. It lets me share photos and ideas with many more people, and do this very quickly. Most of all, it lets me address the goals of the Fulbright program by promoting the work that I’m doing and the cultural exchange I’m experiencing.

My cousin lived in Paris for a year in 1993. She wishes she had Internet tools then. They make staying in touch AND growing your social network so much easier.

A few parting thoughts for this introductory blog:

  • Choose your blogging platform and template carefully. Some are easier to use than others.
  • Watch tutorials about your platform so you can learn the tools quickly.  You’ll need to develop your own set of approaches over time, so that blogging doesn’t consume too much of your time.
  • Craft a catchy title and consider purchasing an easy-to-recall domain name for yourself.
  • Determine your level of desired privacy so you can adapt your activities accordingly. You can keep your URL under wraps and share it with select friends, or you can go public and connect in to search engines like Google and Bing.
  • Learn to keep some content in reserve (saved in draft form) to pull out when you don’t have time to generate text but you want to get something fresh posted.

If you’re determined to do this well, then you might as well learn to enjoy blogging and to see it as a way to document, reflect, and share. Just think: in the end you’ll have a beautiful log of your experiences. It will help you remember and record all you’ve done. Best of all, it will help you stay connected with people back home as well as those you’ve just met.