I used to teach my first graders a really fun game to learn about how plants grow. Each student would get a laminated “secret identity card” (sun, soil, water, air, seed). The seeds (excitable first graders) would travel through the air (run from one side of the blacktop top the other) looking for the elements (other excitable first graders) needed for their growth. But the elements were not so easy to acquire.
The seeds had to ask individual elements one at a time to reveal their secret identity. They did this by running up to a student on one side of the blacktop and just asking, “Are you air?” If the element was indeed “air” that student would link up to the seed. Then, together as a connected team they would run to the opposite side of the blacktop to acquire another element. As this went on you can see why we moved the game to grass as kids became winding chains with all elements needed for plant growth.
This game was fun, but more importantly the kids learned very quickly what environmental factors affect seed growth (sun, soil, water, water). The fun for me came in rigging the game so some little seed couldn’t grow. It would always a good way to get conversation flowing about why plants do NOT or CAN’T grow.
So if a seed requires sun, soil, water and air to grow. What environmental or external factors does your blog require to grow and succeed?? Let’s take a look…
(1) Foster community interaction
(i.e. Neighborhood Wiki, Q & A Forum, Instant Messaging, Local Sponsors & Interviews, etc.) To maximize your community interaction try integrating a feature that requires readers to get involved. Invite dedicated parents or business leaders in your community that want to contribute to your blog, help out with a wiki, or become regulars in a Q & A forum. Create a directory of “best” neighborhood services and get testimonials. Volunteer and provide updates for the local food drive or school walk-a-thon. Schools, by the way, offer a fantastic avenue for connecting with your community.
(2) Provide additional content, features, or tools to supplement your voice
(i.e. Podcast Advice, IDX MLS Search, Mortgage Rate Widget, Calculators, Neighborhood Maps, School Scores & Info, etc.) I’ve met very few people (if any) who are experts in EVERYTHING! (Okay, maybe Martha Stewart!) Whatever your expertise, share it. Then supplement your voice with content features that provide additional information in other areas of expertise. Here are a few ideas for you. Zilllow just released some bomb digity mortgage rate widgets. Consumers love searching for homes online, so give them the opportunity to do it freely from your blog. Integrate school scores for your niche market, transportation schedules, neighborhood maps, etc. Invite a great lender to contribute weekly updates, rates, and tips.
(3) Integrate social media with your blog
(Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Zolve, Real Seekr, Trulia, Zillow, etc.)Adding any collage of social media features to your blog provides transparency and creates a cross-over effect. Create profiles at your favorite social networking sites and then be sure to add links or a “connect with me” section to your blog. Give interested readers the opportunity to connect with you via networks they are comfortable with, as well as get to know YOU as a person. Some readers may prefer sizing you up and communicating using their preferred media. Then once your new connections warm up to you or become fans, their newfound trust may result in an increased level of participation on your blog. It’s the cross over effect…don’t deny! Click here to learn more about social media.
(4) Regularly podcast or vlog
While this may not be a comfortable strategy for you, it’s definitely one that can get you noticed. Besides, not every person enjoys their information in the same form of media. My teaching experience led me to develop several modes of communicating lesson plans as people tend to have preferred learning styles (i.e. audio, visual, kinesthetic, etc.) This is the age of the iPod afterall, so why not make yourself available on iTunes with regular podcast advice and tips for buying and selling in your market area. Click here to learn more about podcasting. As for video, well, I’m still taking baby steps myself but here’s a great example of a provlogger.
(5) Create a call or action/Capture leads
(i.e. email newsletter, IDX MLS Search, e-book sign up, drawings or contests, etc.) Create a way to collect email addresses or contact info via your blog. Don’t be too pushy or require info for all your great blog tools and resources. But offer an opt-in email newsletter. Create an e-book (market tips, mini relocation guide, school score report, etc.) and give it away for free via email sign-up. Hold a monthly contest or drawing with local business giveaways. If you have a particular expertise people would find helpful (investing, short sale coaching, school info, etc.) consider holding online trainings. Invite readers and/or clients, but require a RSVP via email.
(6) Share content in a way that nobody else is
You are unqiue! So think long and hard about what makes you unique! And then create a way to share content on your blog via your uniqueness. For example, I focus my uniqueness around education. I enjoy sharing information and teaching, so I choose to write many of my blog posts in a how-to format. Additionally, I know that researching ideas and topics can sometimes be a bitch! So I don’t want to make readers look for their next resource, I want to be the next resource. Well, I aspire to that anyway! We all have to have a goal!
Plants…blogs…they all require a combination of environmental factors necessary for growth and success. Consider your plant type and feed accordingly!
Stay tuned for the last article in this series: The Secret to Your Blog Success