Over the course of last year, I was aware of Blogging Awards and friends promoting their Blogs, gaining national recognition. One day, in that poetic parallel universe where children are in school reliably, hospital appointments are rare and fleeting and life rolls along calmly I will be a writer. I love writing, and would love to write more and for different purposes. So, following this dream I decided to put myself - or rather my Blog(s) "out there".
Self publicising is not for the faint-hearted. You need a good dose of confidence, at least superficially. You need to be connected online, and I have bravely got to grips with the Social Media forms I had to date avoided. (You have NO idea how stressful claiming a presence on Google + was, too much room for error with Picasa, previous accounts etc.) You then need to consider registering with various community hubs - like Mumsnet Bloggers, The BritMums community and the Tots100 Index. They are all different, each with a unique focus. (It really pays to have a proper read of their ethos and aims.)
There are various other ways to promote yourself and in a kind of "experiment" I've tried most over the past three months. I've been a featured Blogger on Mumsnet for several weeks (which I valued HUGELY as their focus is on good content, not advertising in any way) and had some traffic via Britmums. I've been published on Parentdish and have been asked to write for Jump! magazine and it's lovely. In a toe-curlingly, embarrassed from top-to-toe kind of way I'm chuffed. Really chuffed. Because for the first time since I became a Mum I'm also achieving as ME. It's a good feeling.
Along with this increased publicity I have learned a great deal about the Blogging community.
Firstly, that there are some wonderful Bloggers out there. I've made a lot of new online friends and I've read so much more - which in turn inspires me to write. I have also learned a great deal - other people's perspectives are so valuable. You can't Blog in isolation - not if you want others to relate to what you write. Writing needs to be dynamic, reflective, interactive - otherwise you might as well make it private. So it's been a massively positive experience for me.
What has amazed me though, is the large number of people Blogging for an income. I had no idea about this before. PR companies actively seek those with high exposure/ranking and ask for reviews as sponsored posts. Given that this is a valuable income for people, everyone in the Blogging community pulls together and helps out - by linking up, following each other and commenting on each others' Blogs to increase ranking and exposure.
It's a little bit like taking in washing - hence the title. It's a community created by, driven by and sustained by the Blogging Community.
It's incredibly heart-warming, seeing this support funnelling everyone upwards in a vortex kind of way. But the cynic in me is also ever-so-slightly sceptical about the whole thing.
Apparently the Tots100 index is out of 10000. All those part of it support each other and the reciprocal back-patting creates everyone's success, creating what is actually a "closed market" for the PR companies' promotions. Bizarrely this means (apart from the hugely popular Blogs) we are both creating and fulfilling a market which has little to do with anyone outside it, content within it and it's being funded (or not in my case as I don't do PR) by companies who are under the illusion that a Blog's success is dependent on promotion outside the Blogging group - when the reality is the opposite.
You don't even need to write good content. You barely even have to write. It's all about getting connected, being "out there", visible and vocal. It's about linking up, sharing and supporting. In many ways this is wonderful, and a fabulous example of community spirit. Except it's also just a little bit farcical, at least in the context of the PR companies paying out to feed this chain of support.
Or is it? Because actually, the PR still happens, publicity still occurs. I've commented recently on sponsored posts which have informed, interested and excited me. Stimulated me to write, think and even on one occasion - buy.
So perhaps, this is a real success story, where "Big Business" are actually financing one of the biggest exercises in community spirit and action with little hard gain for themselves outside it. Makes you think of Cadbury's Bourneville village - supporting those who you rely on. And that's a GOOD thing.