On bloggers and self-promotion, or the art of commerce

Yesterday on Twitter, a mostly polite (save for the totally useless THEIR JUST JELUS! tweets) but passionate discussion broke out about my recent post about mom bloggers and marketing inspired by Lindsay's post about the same. It centered around the question of leaving your business cards on store shelves or other random places, and why I think that's not the best idea.

I guess there are several basic premises I've come to around the discussion and I thought it would be easier to put them here instead of limiting myself to 140 characters--which I can't even do when I'm discussing Rock of Love let alone marketing.

Ads are fantastic! Buy ads for your blog. Do banner trades with friends. Make postcards about your website at the local copy shop and hand them out at kids events. Stencil your blog name on the sidewalk and carve it into trees. Do barter for space in your preschool auction program. Sign up for blogrolls and blogrings and blogcovens or whatever else is out there these days.

Heck, rent the Goodyear blimp. If you want to tell the world about your blog, then go for it.

You are not your blog
. When you're getting the word out, you need to think really hard about whether what you're promoting is your blog, or whether you're using your blog to promote yourself.

That distinction is everything.

Business cards are not ads. Ads are designed to reach many people. Business cards are designed to start relationships. When you throw business cards with your name and contact info on it around the coffee shop, the zoo, or the proctologist's office, it looks amateur at best.

You could argue an exception for people offering personal services - guitar lessons, house painting, exotic pet grooming. Even so, has anyone here ever gone with a tax accountant who pinned his card up on a bulletin board at the community center? Eek.

Business cards as a form of advertising do not offer a good return on your investment. Save them for people you actually meet and hand them out to people who actualy want them. Because the person making the most money off your cards is most likely to be the manager of Kinkos.

Add a little art to your commerce. Cutting through the clutter isn't just about SEO, it's about creativity. Something tells me that if Jenny the Bloggess created a t-shirt to promote her blog it would be worth wearing. Then soon after, everyone would be wearing t-shirts to promote their blogs and you'd need to do one that really stands out. Or better yet, don't do a t-shirt. Do branded pasties.

(And with that, I've probably just become the top google hit for "branded pasties." Awesome.)

Don't be cheesy
. However you self-promote, do it with class, dignity, and pride. It's not enough to be proud that you're promoting, be proud of how you're promoting.

The converse of my original statement is true too: Nothing kills a great product faster than bad advertising.

The blogworld is not closed to new members, or even new superstars. I know that it may seem like there are a whole lot of blogs and it's hard to get heard above the noise. But Finslippy came after Dooce. Motherhood Uncensored came after Finslippy. The Pioneer Woman came after MU. The Wind in Your Vagina came less than a year ago and it's freaking hilarious and gets damn near 100 comments on every post. Surely there's some incredibly brilliant mom blog that started this very week that is rockeing to stratospheric popularity as we speak.

But I still stand by my original premise that content is king. Put more of your energy into writing well and being relevant to your audience and they will spread the word for you. Now this doesn't mean the best bloggers always rise to the tippy top or that there aren't some lame bloggers that get decent enough traffic. Life isn't always fair that way.

Which brings me to my last thought.

For every rule there's a brilliant exception. Which means all of the above may be total BS. In which case...carry on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kind of want some Mom-101 Cola now. And I don't even know what flavor it is.
I can skip the branded panties though, thanks.
I have to agree with the bad advertising thing wholeheartedly. Lately, on Twitter, it has been driving me nuts. If you spam me with your product in annoying ways over and over again, I'm going to get annoyed and NOT read/buy/care about whatever you are pushing.(I'm totally looking at you, skittles)

3/3/09, 11:07 AM  
Blogger VDog said...


3/3/09, 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, as usual. I have to say the part I kind of hate about blogging is the self-promotion (of myself and when done blatantly by others). If people want to read what I have to say, that's great. If not, I have a cool high-tech scrapbook of the last 4 years of my life, and have made friends with some great people I wouldn't have known otherwise.

3/3/09, 11:12 AM  
Blogger Kim Tracy Prince said...

I agree with Glennia. The best I can do is tweet the posts I really like or share them on Facebook. Promoting my blog does not come naturally, so I just sit back like a wallflower and wish that people will find it. It works to tiny level, and in the end I'll have a body of work that reflects the days of my life. As long as I back it up.

3/3/09, 11:27 AM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

OMG, I'm loving your ads.

I understand why people want to make money off their blogs---it's an intoxicating thought to become the "next" Dooce and pull down $40k a month (if that is even remotely true). But, like those contestants on American Idol learn, not everyone is going to be a star and sometimes it's a mix of talent, luck and being in the right place at the right time that makes someone a "star".

3/3/09, 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband sticks my business cards in strippers' g-strings.

Along with a dollar bill of course.

I mean, I'm not cheap!

3/3/09, 11:57 AM  
Blogger Issa said...

This is why I keep coming back here. Because you seriously crack my ass up. That and I don't want to be called a commie bastard. I may be one, but I don't want to be called one. :)

3/3/09, 12:07 PM  
Blogger Poppy B. said...


I'll stop leaving my business cards under people's windshields.

Instead, I'll hot-glue them together to build a life-sized statue of Britney Spears. Then I'll ship it to Perez Hilton. Unless you think Martha Stewart would like it more.

3/3/09, 12:10 PM  
Blogger momranoutscreaming said...

Branded pasties huh? Very creative and eye catching I would think. Do they come in glittered variety? Is anyone doing a session on how to tactfully promote your blog at Blogher'09? It sounds like some people need it. I had no idea business cards would even come in to play with a blog. Silly me.

3/3/09, 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would I buy ads for my blog?

3/3/09, 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never mind. I read that as, "Pay for someone to advertise on your blog." not, "Take out ad space on someone else's blog." Duh.

3/3/09, 12:27 PM  
Blogger TheOneTrueSue said...

"Surely there's some incredibly brilliant mom blog that started this very week that is rocketing to stratospheric popularity as we speak."


OK, so maybe I didn't start it this week EXACTLY. And maybe stratospheric is stretching it a LITTLE. But if you mean, "a mom blog that started two years ago that has some people who read it," then - Yes. That's me. Thank you for the shout out.

As for the rest of the post - yes. I agree. The end.

3/3/09, 1:12 PM  
Blogger Wicked Step Mom said...

Are you trying to say drinking Mom-101 soda will not make me sexy?

Okay, I wish I had something intelligent to say about all of this, but you pretty much did that for me. So, I will just say that I agree with you.

3/3/09, 1:13 PM  
Blogger Mahlers On Safari said...

Seriously there's a blog called The Wind in Your Vagina. I have to check that out.

3/3/09, 1:32 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Great post! I'd also like to add that if you're meeting someone for the first time, do not hand them your card before introducing yourself. It comes off as desperate and just... desperate. The last few times I've been to blogger meet-ups or functions the business cards came before the "hellos" which... is... tacky. At least tell me your name first and allow me to tell you mine before you force your cards into my hands. Thank you. Now pass the Mom-101 soda, please.

3/3/09, 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ads are hilarious!

I suppose people can market however they wish, but we all have to be cognizant of how we're ultimately perceived. And you're right, I've never given my business to anyone whose card was posted on a grocery store bulletin board or by the register at Subway (saw that yesterday -- heh).

3/3/09, 2:00 PM  
Blogger @sweetbabboo said...

Thank you for sharing these tips. I'm a nobody blogger but that's mainly because I just can't bring myself to self-promote. Thanks for sharing ways to get my blog out there without belittling myself in the process.

Now off to find some churches who will broadcast my blog address on their boards right below the line on "knee mail".

3/3/09, 2:15 PM  
Blogger Jenny, the Bloggess said...

True story: I put my Bloggess business card up at Starbucks (the one that says "It's only offensive to a--holes") because all the other things on their community board were about Jesus and recycling and I thought there needed to be balance. I came back a week later and the male cashier was all "YOU! You are the Bloggess!" I thought I was going to get arrested. Turns out they read my blog and named a drink after me.

I'm tempted to do the same thing with church bulletin boards but I don't go to church and also they are unlikely to name drinks after me. Also, I ran out of business cards.

PS. Now I'm totally craving Mom 101 soda.

3/3/09, 2:25 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

Dooce only knows me because of the trampoline bit. So I say to hell with business cards. All you need is a trampoline, a video camera, and a big mouth.

("vagina" in the blog title doesn't hurt.)

3/3/09, 2:27 PM  
Blogger Meg said...

Brilliant post, as always. I will post links to my posts on Facebook and Twitter occasionally, if I think they're even remotely worth reading. But the rest of the time I'm like KTP and I just sit back and hope that people find me.

Honestly, my best "promotional tool" so far is to comment on others blogs. If I comment, they might come read me. If they like me, they'll come back. If not, oh well.

I don't want to make money, I just like the feeling of knowing that someone in outer Siberia might be reading my stuff.

Now, where do I get some Mom-101 cola?

3/3/09, 2:30 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Jenny: Thanks for exemplifying my "brilliant exception" point.

Very well taken. What was in the drink?

3/3/09, 2:32 PM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

As always, thanks for this great post (and the FAB photos!)

Just as with everything else, it's also about balance. We're all trying to promote something with our blogs, but what that is is different for each person. But since blogging is about more than that, it's important to walk the fine line between doing good work, connecting with a community AND doing some promotion, or hoping that the work WILL act as the promotion.

Just like with everything else in life, it's finding the right balance. And next time I see Motherhood Uncensored, I'll try not to put my business card in her nursing bra.

3/3/09, 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the visuals!

I'm not big on self-promotion in general, unless your blog is your money-making business. But if I was into self-promotion, I would definitely take your advice. Great post!

3/3/09, 2:55 PM  
Blogger Jenny, the Bloggess said...

The drink: Mocha frappacino lite with extra ice. Then they drew angry, shocked faces on the tips of a bunch of straws and put them all in the drink. They were supposed to represent all the people who saw my business card before the baristas noticed it and took it down.

It was kind of awesome.

3/3/09, 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post.

In the blogosphere there is a fine line between lame self promotion and advertsiing.

Back links from lame comments, spammy comments in your blog and now business cards on counters?

hey whatever works.

3/3/09, 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, you are funny... I really mean it.

3/3/09, 3:41 PM  
Blogger Marketing Mommy said...

There was a moment earlier this week when I came thisclose to shutting down both my Twitter feed and my blog because I didn't want to be lumped in with all those mommybloggers pimping their blogs and themselves to anyone who'll fund a product giveaway.

I may still sign off of Twitter, but I love blogging too much to give it up. I'll just wait patiently for all this nonsense to die down. And it surely will.

In the meantime, everything you're saying makes a lot of sense, Liz.

3/3/09, 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this just in time. I've been toying with the idea of printing up business cards for ... oh ... the better part of a year now. And now that I've found my way back to the computer I was dangerously close to following through. Thanks for the expert tips.

3/3/09, 4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want me some Mom-101 Cola. I hear it makes you sexy! ;-)

I'm following this discussion with interest. I'm at the point where I'm sort of wondering what I want to do and where I want to go with it. Your thoughts are really helpful, so thanks for sharing them.

3/3/09, 4:17 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Rebecca, nothing wrong with business cards. At all. Just make sure they're cute. Cool Mom Picks has a few suggestions...

just saying.

3/3/09, 4:32 PM  
Blogger Brigetta Schwaiger said...

I would wear a shirt with the mom-101 cola on the front. It's that retro type shirt that is hip right now! Thanks for the tips! I am just enjoying being able to write for an audience, small though it may be at this point! It is better than staring at page 123 of my novel wondering if I will ever be able to finish it, let alone get it published while raising 4 kids. Keep on writing mamas!

3/3/09, 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love, love, love the ads! and points well taken, per usual.

my latest (somewhat related?)quandary as a newbie to this world is this: so, is it bad, or is it good marketing, that my blog title sounds like a porn site? halp, please?

sincerely asking for advice.

3/3/09, 5:02 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...


it sounds more to me like a shopping site which isn't all that bad, right?

The truth is, there's no good answer. Mom-101 does not sound like a porn site. And yet some of the people who end up here? Yeah.

3/3/09, 5:07 PM  
Blogger Juli said...

Thanks for this post. It's good advice, esp for those of us who are new to the blogging game. And struggling to combine identities. For the moment, I'm not putting up any ads. But some day I just might, say, advertise my favourite coffee...

3/3/09, 5:31 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Hey! The branded pasties are MY thing!

*wanders away grumbling*

3/3/09, 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd offer you billboard space on my nipples.

It won't get you as much traffic as if Salma Hayek did it, but my husband might start reading...

3/3/09, 10:14 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

Those magnetic ribbons on the backs of cars? I'm going to get some made that say "mothergoosemouse.com" and go around sticking them on cars.

Preferably in the parking lot of the monstrous church up the street.

3/3/09, 10:25 PM  
Blogger CAG said...

To some just starting her own blog. This is great advice. Thanks!

3/3/09, 10:30 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

A great post with lots of good ideas.

Sometimes, I just step back from the whole bloggy world, try to look at it objectively, and laugh a little at it.

3/4/09, 1:10 AM  
Blogger mymomshops said...

Hi Liz- I've been checking out your blog (Momocrats, too) since we met at Isabel's. They're great! Thanks for the good ideas in this post. Hope to see you again soon. Joanna (fellow Bristol Palin theorist).

3/4/09, 10:54 AM  
Blogger Gray Matter Matters said...

Speechless. Except to say you are so brilliant I will now cut off my hands, smash my keyboard with my feet and use my nose to cancel my blog account...which by the way is www.graymatter-matters.blogspot.com

I bow at your feet.

3/4/09, 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so wait, does this mean i have to stop giving my grandmother my business cards so she can pass them out when she goes to play Pinochle? oh man :(

3/4/09, 4:05 PM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

I wrote about this recently. I think you and I have divergent views on the issue. I think commercialism has ruined the blogopshere. But I've said it before, so that's nothing new to you. I can, for the most part, ignore ads if I find a blogger worth reading. I don't confer any kind of immorality onto a blogger who uses ads. It's just a difference of opinion. That said, it makes me sad to see how it has changed the blogosphere.

My comments have gone down the tubes because I unjoined all the groups I joined, took myself off all the lists, and stopped commenting just for the sake of visibility.

But I feel like it has freed me a bit. I was definitely beginning to tailor my writing to my audience. I don't suppose that's exactly a bad thing. But it wasn't my thing. I was compromising my own ideals because I got caught up in the dazzlement of blog fame.

Eh well. I don't know if I even have a point here except that I don't like marketing and I don't like promotion and I don't like branding, that of myself or others.

But I like blogging. And I like your writing. That's it. :?)

3/4/09, 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

see, i knew i was asking the right person.

i think i have a new favorite post of yours ... someday, i hope i have grown up x-rated google searches for my site, too.

(thanks for the response.)

3/4/09, 6:40 PM  
Blogger Sarah Rath said...

u make me :)

3/4/09, 11:28 PM  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Very well said. Er, written.

3/5/09, 8:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dude... I don't read Chinese!

Genius. You are pure genius.

3/7/09, 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Posting dude ....you are simply awesome

3/9/09, 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG those photos are hilarious! Especially the headstone. Not sure if it's a Korean thing but my family loves big crazy headstones. And also taking the family photo around them. Clearly, you should pose (or photoshop in) your children around that to improve marketability. :-)

Excellent post too. Whenever my entire body cringes when I read something (re: leaving business cards on grocery store shelves) I know it seems like a questionable idea. -Christine

3/10/09, 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was good read. I especially feel like such a beginner to even get noticed. So much of the clickiness even in the bloggy world.

It was good to have another reminder to stay content focused.

I will, and hopefully someone will actually read my blog.

3/13/09, 9:25 PM  
Anonymous dirtydiaperlaundry.com said...

this was great. I am just starting and I feel so weird trying to "network." I love blogging for fun but any $$$ would be a bonus. I feel like soms of the other commenters, having fun but someone notice me please!

4/10/09, 9:28 PM  
Blogger Elisa @ Globetrotting in Heels said...

brilliant post. Even more brilliant? The graphics. Never thought of advertising on the side of a truck ;-)

5/28/09, 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

I have to agree with you on the business card thing. (This comment may be a little behind date as I didn't notice the posting date when I was reading.)

I sold insurance for a short stint and used business cards to promote myself. And I say myself, not the company I was working for, because the reality of it is that is what I was doing. People don't want to buy something as personal as life insurance from a COMPANY. They want a person they can TRUST and call on with questions. They won't buy from you if they don't like you. Period.

I bought a book not too long ago and found a small flyer in it when I got home. It was from a lady selling Avon and wanting me (or whomever happened to pick up that book and buy it) to join her team. She was gonna show [bookbuyer] how to make some money and build a business. I was quite annoyed. Who was this woman? Was she even successful? And, how does she know the brand of person who will respond to her. This is the whole reason that doing that was such a bad idea. It was impersonal. She had no idea what sort of person would respond because she had no personal interaction. And I certainly wouldn't contact someone who didn't care about the quality of her "team members". The same could be said for blogging. Most bloggers post about similar topics. Some write about their kids and home life while others write about politics or their sexuality. Throwing your card around everywhere isn't a good way to find people who would actually be interested in what YOU have to say.

Good post. I am really new to the blogging scene myself as I used to only post on MySpace. Now that I'm staying at home with my new baby, I needed more content.

(Ps. Sorry that was so long!)

6/24/09, 3:05 PM  
Anonymous Clair said...

Came across your site via Kat at Rock'n'Roll bride. Great post! Loving the ads - just started up my own blog and loving all the handy tips and pointers to get me going in the right direction.

Thanks, C

6/17/10, 5:11 AM  
Anonymous Maybe Lady Liz said...

This was great. I JUST quit my job to pursue the blog-thing full time and was considering printing up some business cards. My gut was telling me it felt too car salesman-esque, and I think this confirmed it. I'll save my pennies for REAL advertising.

PS, as a fellow writer named Liz, just wanted to say I love your posts!

1/23/12, 4:22 PM  

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