Though each participant should play a role in promoting a carnival, the lion’s share of that responsibility must fall squarely on the host. Simply posting the carnival to one’s blog and expecting readers to spontaneously show up is not an option for the host with the most. To generate a big buzz, you’ve got to take off your writer’s cap and put on your marketing hat. It’s time to pound the pavement, knock on doors, beat the bushes, shake the trees, etc. etc. If you’re uncomfortable promoting yourself, think about the other contributors to the carnival. If you’re looking out for #1, think about yourself. Either way, you’ve got to get the word out.
Your first step should always be to alert each contributor as soon as your edition is posted. Rest assured, they are all interested in what you’ve written. This task requires nothing more than cobbling together your mailing list and jotting down a few excited, maybe even grateful words. Remember to include the permalink to your edition. This act alone will set the promotion machine in motion, encouraging contributors to visit your site and tell others to do the same.
An essential key to conveying your message to as many potentially interested readers as possible is to identify the gatekeepers, trendsetters, mavens, and leaders in your targeted community and a few outside of it as well. Blogging is a very interesting activity because it takes the concept of social networking and puts it on paper, or more appropriately, in pixels. Social networks usually revolve around certain hubs, individuals or groups that connect everyone else together. It should take very little effort at all to determine which bloggers are hubs for the groups you are targeting. Identify these influential publishers and alert them as soon as you’ve posted your carnival.
As an example, I’d like to present PZ Myers of Pharyngula fame. Not only is PZ a highly respected science/politics/philosophy/what-have-you blogger and the founder of the much beloved Tangled Bank science carnival, he is also an influential online maven. Pharyngula is a hub for science blogging, liberal politics, and atheism discussion, among other things. The site also serves as one of the fronts in the war against creationism. If you’re hosting a carnival that touches any of these topics, even tangentially, you already know that PZ Myers is one of the biggest boosters of that carnival. I can also tell you from experience that nature carnivals like I and the Bird and Circus of the Spineless have no stauncher ally than PZ or, for that matter, The Modulator, whose Friday Ark is an essential resource to animal-themed carnivals around the web. Gatekeepers like these will help you reach your desired audience so seek them out. Send a brief announcement with your site name, link, and undying gratitude and hope for the best.
Some sites are general resources for every carnival host because they focus not necessarily on specific topics but on carnivals themselves. These metabloggers are fascinated by the thriving internet carny culture. Being drawn to it with a passion, they cannot help but attract other enthusiasts. Bora Zivkovic of A Blog Around the Clock is a consummate metablogger. Not only does he write about science and politics, but he loves to blog about blogs, particularly blog carnivals. Do not miss the metabloggers in your promotional efforts. Also be sure that your link is posted on established carnival directories like Blog Carnival.
Also notify the diversion sites, the omnivorous, all-over-the-map clearinghouses for the best of what a particular blogger thinks the web has to offer. A great carnival is a noteworthy chunk of content, one worth a line or two on any blog devoted to presenting a cornucopia of links. I’m not prepared to give away all my secrets, but I will say that massive support can come from the most unlikely sites. As the phrase suggests, don’t hide your light under a bushel. Share your link with as many sites as possible. If you’ve delivered a quality product, people will buy it (especially since you’re not charging anything, right?)
Last but not least, spread the word outside the blogosphere. For example, we’ve got a world of blogs and a world of forums and bulletin boards, but rarely do the twain meet. If you are an active participant in a forum or board following a topic related to that of your carnival, post a notice. This oft-ignored audience rarely receives the aggressive outreach it deserves.
Pulling together all these links can be a ton of work. Some carnival owners actually pass around a master list of key resources to contact for promotional purposes or, as with I and the Bird, handle it personally. But even if you just notify each participant, some key mavens, and a couple of metabloggers, diversion sites, and external resources, you’ll have positioned yourself and your contributors for success. That is what you want, isn’t it?