A year ago, Timothy Ferriss was a relative unknown. If the serial entrepreneur was known at all, it was likely for being the only Princeton University guest lecturer who has also been a Chinese kickboxing champion. Since then, as the author of the best-seller The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferriss has become a business-world phenomenon and a media darling sought after by everyone from Maxim magazine to CNBC. How did that happen? Ferriss credits his blogging strategy.
I met Ferriss just as he was beginning his efforts and have taken notes over the last year as he put his strategy into play. Here's what he and others have done to get serious results.
Go where the bloggers are. A few months before his book debuted in April 2007, Ferriss wrote the names of a few dozen bloggers on his whiteboard and said to himself, "I want to get to know them." He then attended BlogHaus at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, where 700 bloggers and journalists hung out for a week. There, he made dinner plans with bloggers he had targeted. I attended one such dinner hosted by Teresa Rodriguez Williamson — the author of Tango Diva, a blog for women who like traveling — where Ferriss regaled us with fun stories about his travels.
Want to know where to find bloggers? Look at Upcoming.org's event calendars frequently. You can figure out which events a preponderance of bloggers say they're attending and keep track of them through the service.
Read the blogs of the people you want to cover you. Ferriss regularly demonstrates that he's reading a blog by sending a note within minutes of a posting, linking to that blog from his own blog, and adding public comments to posts. Not only does each blogger get to know him, but their readers do too.
Send bloggers interesting stories — especially about other people. Buzz Bruggeman, cofounder of ActiveWords, regularly directs bloggers to news items that he thinks they would be interested in and sends them links to interesting new blogs or videos. When he has something about his own business to announce, those bloggers are more receptive to him than to some PR firm that only flacks for its clients. No wonder Bruggeman got more downloads of his software through blog mentions than he did with a four-star review in USA Today.
Start blogging. When Mike Arrington, founder of the blog TechCrunch, hears an interesting story, he goes to Google and starts searching other blogs so he can read more about it. His prime bit of advice to the startup looking for a golden nod is to tell its story on its own blog. That way, Arrington will have a resource to help him decide whether to write about the company — and the background material when he does.
Don't send press releases. The blog world is built on relationships. Ferriss met bloggers personally and created a memorable impression by telling interesting tales. A couple of months later, when he asked those bloggers for permission to send them a copy of his book, most said yes. Within a week, he had dozens of blog reviews — because he got to know us first rather than just firing off a pitch. That's the thing about the power of blogs, a fact that too many businesses take for granted: A guy with a handful of readers can do as much to help or hurt you as someone with a million. So what's your blogging strategy?
A version of this article appeared in the April 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine.