5. Getting the message out

So you've published your thoughts online, using one of the methods from Section 2 or Section 3. If you have a limited audience such as a class of students, just give them the link. Perhaps, though, you want to get your message out as widely as possible. If you're not already a famous blogger, you'll need to do some promotion. Fortunately, you likely already have the necessary tools.

Using online profiles

Your institutional profile, course pages, and profiles on sites such as IDEAS, Academia.edu or Researchgate.net can all be used to link to your blog.

Using other blogs

Comments on a post on the Marginal Revolution blog.

Even if your blog is brand new, there is a ready-made audience for it: the people who are already reading other academic blogs on the same topic. They just need to be pointed to your blog via suitable links.

In the previous section we mentioned trackbacks; automatic notifications that appear on the blogs you link to. When you write your post, look for related posts on the blogs you are interested in, and mention them. If those blogs have trackbacks enabled, they will link back to your blog post.

When you comment on someone's blog, you can suggest a link that will appear with the comment. So taking part actively and constructively in the discussion on another blog can direct readers to your own. Parallel to our advice about guest posts in Section 2, the more your comment connects with the intellectual content of the post, the better. Vacuous comments like "I really like this blog; come and check out mine" smell like spam, and will be ignored or deleted.

It may seem paradoxical, but allowing people to republish your posts is one easy way to get links and visitors to your blog. If your post is interesting enough, other blogs might want to reproduce it with a credit line that links back to the original, so readers get a taster of your writing and a link to find more. Many of the posts on the Impact Blog at the LSE, for example, were originally posted on the author's individual blogs. The easiest way to enable re-publication, while keeping the right to be credited and linked, is to explicitly give your blog a Creative Commons licence.

Using email lists

Mailing lists can annoy all of us, if they get bogged down in long discussion threads that only a few participants are interested in. If the discussion does not need to be private, it can be better to have it in blog comments. That way, the mailing list subscribers just get a link to the discussion and they choose whether or not to visit, rather than having all the messages pushed into their inbox.

Hence it can be a welcome move to head off a bloated email discussion by posting an announcement such as "I've set out my thoughts on this issue on my blog. Comments are open and I welcome responses." Alternatively, "There are a lot of interesting points of view here. I've tried to summarise the different perspectives in a blog post, and I welcome comments if there are points I've missed."

Remember that if you want to quote emails you need to get the author's permission, but people usually respond well to the suggestion that their thoughts deserve a more permanent home and a wider audience.

Using events

When you're returning from a conference and buzzing with new ideas, you probably want to capture a summary that will be easily findable in future. A blog post is ideal: categories and the archive (see the previous section) make it easy to find your report from a specific conference, and people interested in the conference (whether they managed to attend or not) will welcome your perspective.

Draw the attention of the blog post to the conference organisers, and to speakers that you mention. They will usually welcome a quick, thoughtful reaction and will share it with their audiences.

Using social media

Micro-blog site Twitter lets its users post messages of up to 140 characters, and to customise which other users are visible. The 140-character limit is not conducive to deep discussion, but it is enough for the title of your latest blog post and its web link. One purpose of Twitter among academics is to get notifications of new blog posts, papers, or events.

Top tip

Make sure social sharing buttons are enabled on your blog. They make it very easy for readers to share a blog post with their contacts.

If you're already struggling to find the time for blogging, you might not be keen on setting up an account on yet another platform and building up a following. Fortunately, your blog can do your tweeting for you.

Somewhere on your blog is what's called your "feed URL": a web link to a machine-readable version of the most recent posts on the blog. Set up an account on Twitter, create a profile description to identify who you are, then put the Twitter details and feed URL into the free service Twitterfeed. This site will regularly check your blog and, if it finds a new post, will send out a tweet with that post's title and link.

Now you have a Twitter account, post its link on your blog and other profiles, so your readers who use Twitter can subscribe for notifications whenever you write a new post.