A Conversation about Blog Exposure
When I was just starting to make a (dis)grace of myself on the interwebs, I wanted a way to boost my traffic, boost my subscriber count, boost my stats and boost anything that wasn’t boost mobile (IB cease & desist letter?). So, I looked at what some of my favorite bloggers were doing. Chanson and Main Street Plaza had the Outer Blogness roll: an expansive, yet sometimes daunting list of ex-, post-, former, and “Mormon Alumni” blogs. Faithful Mormons have several blog portals, and so do atheists. These various rolls and portals interest me because I am in some way a part of these niches and communities.
But, just as well, there are more aggregated listings, like Technorati and Blog Catalog. The difference between the former and the latter is, IMO, tailored exposure vs. general exposure. I have memberships at both kinds. But recently, I’ve wondered: can there be exposure at any cost?
Recently, I’ve been receiving emails like these.
You have to understand what it’s like for me to receive these messages. I’ve received 7 of these to date in less than a month’s time span (they started on July 19th). They come from people like AngieA, TonyB, and as seen above, “exposeyourself.” Each message is nearly the same: (Blogger) has exposed their blog (Blog Name). Expose yourself! As far as I can tell, the messages are sent unsolicited, indiscriminately, and in bulk.
What does this sound like? Heck, read the email above, imagine receiving 6 others like it, and then tell me what it looks like.
Spam. The unsolicited bulk mail kind, not the food product.
I explored and found a few things. 1) On the Blog Catalog discussion forum, quite a few people are talking about this Expose Yourself. Many people originally suspect, as I did, that it is spam and that AngieA, TonyB, and others should be reported. 2) On the contrary, Expose Yourself actually is sponsored by Blog Catalog, and anyone can sign up for it if they pay a measly $5.
At this point, my image of electronic canned meat changed into an image of a pyramid. So, I started tweeting my thoughts.
Within a short while, I started getting responses from @BlogCatalog, which I have to say, I love whenever I have a comment or concern about some project and someone involved with the project responds. That immediately gives me a plus with the brand, even if I disagree with their direction.
@BlogCatalog (account run by the TonyB of before) explained that Expose Yourself is a tool to provide exposure to its bloggers. How could anyone — especially someone like me, who is nowhere near an A-list blogger — dislike this? And the price? A bargain. A steal!
I pointed out that I can see the value proposition in providing publicity. But I thought the implementation could use work. To put in in a Steve Jobs-esque way, “If you think it’s spam or a pyramid scheme, they blew it.”
I don’t have analytics like Tony B has…but my thinking was, if my first reaction to receiving these messages and shoutouts on my BlogCatalog page was immediately to block TonyB and AngieA, and if I was so easily able to find others who were skeptical about the feature, then this could be a sizable problem. Who knows…perhaps lots of people do click the links and perhaps the featured bloggers do get tremendous exposure? (Then again, lots of people fall for phishing schemes too.) But my critique of the service was, and is, that there are certain…I dunno…best practices…of exposure and publicity that could increase the effectiveness of a service like Expose Yourself.
First, I want previews. The Expose Yourself system, as it currently works, tells me nothing about the subject or content of a blog within the shout-out. Why should I click on a link just because x user exposed him or herself? I hear of some guys (ones who wear trenchcoats) who’d like for someone to click on their links when they expose themselves, but the only links that click for these guys are the ones that go on their wrists.
Not saying that Expose Yourself is like public exhibitionism. And I guess public exhibitionism would be a case against sneak previews of content…so let’s just move on to the next point…
Second, I want something that hits my interests. The reason I am a member of the Outer Blogness and the Atheist Blogroll, and the reason I pay attention to Bloggernacle listings is because these are my interests. But, as far as I can tell, the Expose Yourself messages reach one and all indiscriminately. If I knew that the blogs going my way fit my interests, I’d be far more likely to click. I realize that sometimes, it’s hard to track these things (for example, our blogs have tags…but I have far more interests than the ones with which I have tagged my blog…I don’t blog about all of my interests.) But still, from a credibility standpoint, interest targeting would go far.
Third, I want something more personal. Tony did well in contacting me on Twitter throughout, and perhaps I should have been more active on the BC discussion groups (because there is an active community), but despite these things, my initial thoughts were, “Who the heck is TonyB?” and “Why should I care about these formulaic promotions?” I love Chanson’s Sunday in Outer Blogness feature and the idea of blog carnivals in general because each link promotion is given a context, a story, and a personality. Chanson doesn’t just say, “(X blogger) has now put (X blog) in Outer Blogness!”
Now, I’m not an expert at blog promotion. I’m not even all that good at it. I probably should leave things to the experts. Nevertheless, I feel like what I have been learning about this tangled online social web we weave could help Blog Catalog become even better.