While it’s true that there are many ways to build a brand online, some are undoubtedly more effective than others. Once you’ve covered the basics of creating a website, various social media accounts, and building a following by cross-posting content across your platforms, it can be hard to know what to do next.
One of the biggest questions for brand builders—whether they are individuals or small businesses—is how to grow a following. The temptation to buy followers can be high, but the consequences of doing so usually backfire quickly. So if you’re doing everything to drive organic growth, it can be frustrating to wait as your numbers slowly tick up.
However, once your basic online brand infrastructure is set up, there is one step that many people overlook: utilising guest posts to build a following. A guest post is when you or someone writing on behalf of your brand pitches (or is invited to) create a piece of content for another brand. The idea is that by doing some work and sharing some knowledge for free, you can cross pollinate your followers, and each party can help the other grow their brand.
For some people, the idea of creating content for free is extremely unfavourable. Why should they share their hard-earned knowledge without being remunerated in some way? However, if you think about the potential to grow your following—particularly with engaged, interested new followers—as a kind of remuneration that’s as valuable as money, it begins to make sense.
Garnering opportunities to contribute guest posts to popular blogs or accounts is not rocket science—often it’s simply a matter of asking. Here are some of the ways to make sure you start off on the right foot:
Have a solid pitch: The art of the guest post is largely about getting your pitch right. Reach out to your contacts and/or find publications or blogs that are seeking guest contributors (some frequently publicise this on LinkedIn). Next, send an email to the appropriate person outlining who you are, what you want to write, and why you have the requisite expertise to write it. Make sure your idea is original—you don’t want to be offering the same idea to multiple outlets or pitching ideas for content that have been done a million times. Think about what you are uniquely qualified to say given your business background, and craft a pitch based on that. It can also help to send any samples of blogs or posts you’ve written elsewhere.
Think outside the blog: If the nature of your industry is predominantly visual, a blog post might not be so relevant. If you’re keen to grow your Instagram following, though, you can seek out accounts that do “takeovers”. In this way, you create content for a brand or account, and their followers get to familiarise themselves with you, and hopefully give you a follow. To be invited to do an Instagram takeover, you need to make sure that your own account is up to scratch and features the kind of images that would be appealing elsewhere.
Write a stand-out author bio: The author bio that comes after your blog or piece of content is key, as it’s how new readers (and potential new followers) will learn about you and decide whether or not to give you a follow. Make sure from the outset of your guest blogging agreement that you clarify that you will be allowed to link back to your own profiles. And then put time and thought into your guest bio, and make sure it links back to your own social profiles and website.