Open Salon is a valuable forum for writers, but you reach a point where you need to find audiences beyond the hallowed OS doors. This is where StumbleUpon may be useful. See the little icons above each of your posts on your blog page? The squiggly SU symbol is StumbleUpon, and in a nutshell, it’s a way to build networks of folks with similar interests and in the process, share your own work and the work of others. It’s all built on shared interests.
For example, my primary interest is food writing, but I also read some family stuff, and I enjoy travel stories and mommy tips. When I encounter a story or bit of information that I find valuable, I use the Stumble toolbar "I like it!" icon to bookmark the piece in my stumble log. My followers will have the opportunity to read and rate these stories; this is called "stumbling." For the stories that I really love, I share them with individual stumblers (versions of this process go on through the private messaging system at Open Salon). Stumblers can share their own work, although most experienced stumblers will tell you that is problematic. It's considered better form to set up networks of friends and rate, review and stumble each other's work.
I've stumbled for a couple of months, since hearing Christy Jordan of the very successful Southern Plate blog attribute stumbling for the early success of her website - she now has 15 million pageviews per month. I've managed to attract more traffic to my blog, A Cook and Her Books, although not nearly in Southern Plate's sphere.
As I built up a network of followers and shared posts through Stumble, I realized how spoiled an OS reader is - there is so much quality writing and creativity on this site. I decided to stumble a few of my favorite OS writers: Bellwether Vance’s poignant story of her daddy, Linda Shiue’s Hawaiian vacation French toast, and Felicia Lee’s cholesterol and Portuguese-Chinese sweets story. I wrote a one-sentence review for each, and shared them with my followers, and kicked the stories into the Stumblesphere. Within four hours, Linda’s post received 1,800 Stumble hits. I checked her OS numbers, and sure enough, hers was the most popular post of the day according to views, with about 1,000 more than the next closest. Felicia’s post got a very respectable 120 views, and Bell’s I’m sorry to say was about 15. I think that’s due to the lack of a photograph at the top of the story – the thumbnail picture is a big draw to the Stumble reader. Because the world needs to be reading Bellwether Vance, I decided to stumble Bell's pimento cheese story from last spring, still the funniest minner cheese story ever written ("a teal taffeta bridesmaid’s dress with a buttbow the size of a treasured carp"). I just checked and 12 days after stumbling, the story has received 2,568 additional views, making it her most-viewed story. My most-viewed OS stories, even a year after publication, hover around the 2k mark, so I consider that a stupendous stumble.
I understand that viewership is not the favored currency in OS-land, where ratings and comments are the ego-feeders of choice. Views don’t get you added exposure on the front page. Readers outside of OS only occasionally rate and comment, due to the additional hassle of signing in and the unfamiliarity of the rating button. But outside OS views can lead to larger regular audiences, and possibly more writing opportunities. And regularly viewing and rating other writers' work outside of OS is a great way to get ideas and improve our own writing.
There are a few rules to keep in mind on StumbleUpon - the best advice I've come across is to "stumble" 10 random pieces for every one that you share. The more you stumble ("like"), the more you share with your followers, and the more "likes" your stumbles and shares receive, the more exposure your picks will receive. (I really hope that last sentence makes sense.) Every primer that I've read about Stumble warns Stumblers to be careful of constant self-promotion, because it can turn off followers. I think Open Salon writers already familiar with the built-in network here will find that stumbling can be an effective method of generating traffic to your blog.
Let me know if you Stumble, and if you want to give it a try, find me there - "acookandherbooks."