It’s easy to think that content marketing is just for the big startups and web app companies, but the truth is, a huge part of the content marketing community is made up of solo bloggers. They are writing in the niche they are passionate about, but they have a peculiar challenge that an agency or web app startup doesn’t have: what are they selling?
Solo bloggers are often selling their expertise, and building a platform to do it. Their name is their brand.
They might rely on freelancing gigs, affiliate and ad revenue, or sales of services they can provide. Their blog provides the proof of their skills. They have no one but themselves to do all of the heavy lifting, whether that means getting their content out onto social media, taking photos, brainstorming blog post ideas, editing their own work, managing their website, and publishing.
Lindsay Livingston is a great example of a solo blogger who is hard at work establishing a trusted platform and loyal fan base.
Tell us about yourself, Lindsay.
I’m a Registered Dietitian from Columbus, OH. I work in nutrition communications and am the author behind the healthy living blog, The Lean Green Bean. My husband and I are expecting our first child in October and in my free time I enjoy doing Crossfit and spending time outdoors with our two dogs.
When did you start content marketing?
I’ve been blogging for 4 years. I started because I was looking for a place to store all the recipes I was making for dinner. I started on Blogger and after about 6 months, I made the switch to WordPress. After about a year, I really started focusing on increasing my readership and growing the blog.
Do you have a personal blog outside of your work blog?
I’m lucky that my personal blog has grown enough that it’s now part of my job as a self-employed RD!
What tools and platforms do you use to help you with your content marketing and social media?
I’m self-hosted. Dreamhost is my host and I blog with WordPress.
I use CoSchedule as my editorial calendar and also use it to schedule my blog posts and social media posts. I use Buffer and Hootsuite to schedule the tweets I create to share blog posts of others, news articles, etc. I use Pinterest to pin and promote my own content as well as building boards to gather recipes, tips/tricks etc for my followers to use. I have a blog Facebook page where I share my blog posts and Instagram photos. I use Instagram to share pictures of the food I eat, workouts and snapshots of life. I also use Google+.
How big is your content marketing team?
What is the biggest challenge you have when it comes to content creation?
The biggest challenge is finding time to do it all. There are so many social media platforms that it’s impossible to excel at all of them. I’m working to figure out which are best for promoting my content and engaging my readers.
What changes have you noticed in content marketing over the past year or so?
Pinterest has exploded. It can be a huge traffic driver if you use it correctly. Instagram has also become really big as a way to market your content. I don’t think either of these will go away anytime soon. Visual content is what people like and want more of.
What are the most common mistakes you see people making when it comes to content marketing?
Some people struggle to find a balance between self-promotion and promoting others. It’s a delicate balance but I’ve found that if you spread the love, the love comes back to you.
What were you hoping would happen once you began content marketing?
I was hoping to drive more traffic to my blog. Yes it has happened, slowly.
Now that I’m more established, I can definitely see the general dips in traffic that bloggers experience across the board i.e. lower traffic in the summer, more in the fall and winter. It took several years to grow my audience to where it is now. I’m still working on ways to capture the one-time visitors that come from sites like Pinterest and make them returning visitors.
What has been the most noticeable effect from content marketing?
Using social media and other content tools to market my content has helped me gain new readers and increased my pageviews which has in turn helped me make more revenue from ads and secure opportunities such as sponsored posts.
What surprised you about content marketing?
I didn’t think it would be so much work. There’s always more that you can be doing and it’s exhausting and can easily overtake your entire day if you let it. You have to really focus on what you want to excel at and spend your time on and then set boundaries, do what you can in that time and then let the rest go.
Did you set specific goals as far as to what your content marketing would look like, and what kind of measurable results you’d get?
No. I try to stay away from specific numbers because it’s too easy to get caught up and obsess over them. I just focus on general gains/increased followers etc.
You have an interesting feature on your blog called “Foodie Pen Pals.” How does that work?
Foodie Penpals is a program I started several years ago. I thought it would be cool to find a way to exchange some local foods with other bloggers across the country. It started with about 20 bloggers, then we expanded to readers as well. At its peak there were over 1,000 people participating each month.
The basic idea is that you’re matched up with someone in either US or Canada (there’s a girl that runs the same program over in Europe and matches people over there) and you spend $15 on food/snacks/etc, plus the cost to ship to them. You’re matched on the 5th of the month, have until the 15th to mail and then if you’re a blogger we write a reveal day post on the last day of the month.
We initially started matching you so you sent to one person and received from someone different but eventually decided it was easier to send to and receive from the same person.
At one point it was a great traffic driver on the day we posted our reveal day posts, but it was a lot of work organizing it, so I basically stopped promoting it. People who know about it still continue to sign up…and now it’s usually about 150 people per month.
It’s been a fun way to connect with people across the country and try new foods!
What three things would you tell someone who was thinking about using content marketing for their brand or website?
It can be an extremely effective tool. My advice would be to try a bunch of different avenues, find what works for you and then focus on getting better in those areas and don’t worry about the rest. You can’t do it all.