Part 2/2: Top 10 Ways to Kickstart Your Blog…
Just as important as establishing your point of view is realizing that things change, you’re going to change, your point of view is certainly going to change at some point, and so: it’s ok to experiment! Experimentation is freedom. And freedom is what it’s all about. Think about it. Why do you go to work every day? If you’re unemployed, why do you search for work? If one of your answers is: to make money, why do you want money? To afford your rent, food, things for your loved ones to survive, and even luxury items when you can. Being able to afford those things is FREEDOM.
This is just an example, but the point is, if you’re not having fun, why are you doing it? If blogging becomes a chore to you, you need to slow your roll and take a step back. Figure out what you can do to keep your interest. Experimenting is a great way to rekindle that lovin’ feeling over and over again.
Here’s an example: after a year or so of blogging nearly every single day, I started to get bogged down by the pace of it all. While I was making some money from product and advertising sales, the blog certainly wasn’t my bread and butter financially, and I’d started to get a bit burnt out. I found myself in a difficult position because I didn’t want to stop blogging completely and let down the now thousands of readers that were visiting each day, but I also didn’t want to write something for the sake of filling space and time. Life is too short for all of that.
Because I had published a music magazine in the past, I knew that I was completely in love with interviewing people. The whole interview process was my favorite part of being a magazine publisher. Once I realized I was losing interest in my current situation, I experimented a bit and started including ‘celesbian’ interviews. To take things a step further, I invited my blog readers to submit their questions. This made things interactive and exciting again. It also served as a great promotional tool of course, so it really was a win-win.
It can really be something small or major that you experiment with, even down to the font type and color choices. But whatever you do, keep yourself interested, because if you’re not, I promise you your readers won’t be. And sometimes it’s in those experiments that you find awesome surprises. Some of the interviews I did 5 or 6 years ago still get LOTS of hits to this day.
“Keep it real, and then keep it weird.”
I think I have a unique way of expressing my opinions, and something about that interests some other people. My kindred spirits are the outcasts, the underdogs and the weirdos, because I am all of those things and PROUD of it! If I had a very straight forward (no pun) way of looking at pop culture, human behavior and every day happenings, I don’t think I would have had 1/10th of the blog traffic I’ve enjoyed. It’s your personality and your own spin on things that will MAKE your blog. Don’t try to water it down or mold it into something you think people will respond to. Just be you, even if that means being weird.
Here’s the thing: there are 100s of thousands of blogs on the internet right now and hundreds are created each day. So it’s probable that whatever theme or topic you’re wanting to write about has already been done a hundred times. What will set you apart — what HAS to set you apart — is your unique voice. There is no one else on this earth that is exactly like you. Even if you have a twin. Even if you have a soul mate, that person is not YOU. If you’re weird, let your blog get weird! I’m just saying you can’t put out an ordinary blog and expect to have thousands of readers knocking down its door. BE UNIQUE!
You may start a blog just as a hobby and have absolutely no intention of making a dime off of it. That’s awesome. I started a few blogs after Your Daily Lesbian Moment for that exact reason. Just a hobby…an experiment, if you will. You may start a blog and hope that you can eventually sell ad space on it once you get your traffic up. You may want to sign up to affiliate programs (like Amazon) and make money anytime someone from your site clicks on the link and then makes a purchase. You may have a unique saying that you sell on shirts and buttons and stickers, and sell those on your blog. Maybe you know how to knit really well and have some cool things you’ve made. You may start a blog about your favorite things to knit, and then put up cute 5 minute video tutorials teaching others your techniques so that they can make their own version of your item. Then you could charge for the items themselves, or for the tools and materials needed to MAKE the item. You may just want to use your blog as a way of networking with like-minded people for work or play.
There are literally thousands of blog ideas and possibilities. A major thing you want to think about after you’ve created your blog and have been at it for a while, is to always evaluate the state of the blog. Is it adding value to your readers’ online experience, or is it just taking up space?
To the naked eye (and lots of times, you ARE naked when reading my blog), YDLM may seem like a bunch of make out vids and funny commercials and me announcing to the world for the 1000th time that Katharine Mcphee is my wife (since she so obviously is). But since Day 2, each post has been carefully thought out and crafted. There’s been purpose behind everything I’ve posted. Usually I’m inspired by the idea of simply making a few hundred people smile on that particular day. That has a value to me that can not be quantified or calculated. Sometimes a post is meant to educate, sometimes to inspire, sometimes to titillate. Whatever it is, if I don’t see at least one person getting something from it, I won’t post it. That’s one of the reasons my daily lesbian moments have become more like bi-yearly lesbian moments. I insist on quality over quantity.
“I heard about you from my cousin’s best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s ex girlfriend’s current girlfriend…she heard about you, from YOU.”
If you’re reading this, it means that you heard about it from me on one of my blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, homing pigeon, personal air-writer, or the sumo wrestler’s belly I wrote about it on with eyeliner. Let’s face it: I promote the HELL out of myself and my projects! That’s no secret…by way of design. Obviously, there can be too much of even a good thing. So I’m not saying you should write 15 facebook updates every day pointing to your new blog that has 2 whole posts about bacon on it. This will only annoy your friends and it’ll either make them ‘hide’ you from their newsfeed altogether, or it’ll make them show up at your front door and whack you in the neck with a newspaper. Either way, it would be hugely counter-productive.
But I also don’t think you should go to the other extreme of being mousy about your accomplishments and about things that are important to you, hoping that someone will happen to see the link on your ‘info’ page 4 months later and casual click on over. Find a middle ground. You’ve gone through the trouble of starting an account on Medium or or Tumblr or somewhere and you’ve written a few well thought out blog posts. You’ve added pictures and links, and made your tagline really clever or cute or snarky or whatever. You’ve done all of that, and it’s good enough that you didn’t immediately delete the entire blog in shame. So why keep it hidden in some closet on the interwebs. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: come out, come out, wherever you are!
Don’t be afraid to make your own hype! Tell people a couple of times that you’ve got a new blog and that it’s really cool and interesting and they’ll love it and they should at least give one post a go. Get them to the site and let them decide if it’s something they want to continue reading. If you don’t, who will? Don’t take for granted people’s time and attention, either. They have millions of choices of how they could spend each and every minute of their online time. If they’re kind enough to take a look after you’ve explained to them why they’d be crazy not to, don’t waste their time!
Live up to your own hype! Make those posts as interesting as you claim they are. If you notice people are coming to your blog but are never returning, or there’s no traffic on the days that you don’t raise the roof with your virtual hype hands, something is not…clicking. Something isn’t landing. So step back again and reevaluate. Maybe even take a little survey of 5 friends. Have them give you some feedback, and listen to it. Doesn’t mean you have to appease their every whim or make it cookie cutter to fit the mold (cause remember, we’re against that). It just means that maybe something can be improved, added upon, reigned in, tweaked, experimented with, or you may even have a lightbulb moment where you realize there’s a huge thing you can change that will make all the difference.
Whether you’re creating a blog from scratch or just wanting to revamp your current one, doing your research will ALWAYS be helpful. This means researching your theme/topic so that you stay on top of trends. Even if you are bucking those trends, you have to know what they are in order to strike them down and be the badass original unique star you are! Research also means figuring out who your ‘competitors’ are and keeping an eye on them. Don’t copy them, because then you’ve lost the ONE thing you always have going for you: your uniqueness. But by keeping up with what they’re doing, you can be sure not to duplicate, and it’ll keep you on your toes as far as brainstorming new ideas for your blog. Keep yourself in the loop! Never stop learning, because once you think you know everything there is to know, you’re done. You’re boring, and if you’re a boring blogger, your blog is dead in the water.
“If I know anything, it’s that I don’t know anything.”
What you’ll find out while you’re doing your hours of research each month, is that no one — including you — really knows anything. Like, at all. At the end of the day, we’re all winging it. When myspace first came along, we didn’t know myspace was going to be as huge as it became. While myspace was happening, we could have never guessed that facebook would be as huge as it has become. And right now, somewhere in the world, there’s a young kid who’s programming a site that will be worth twice as much as facebook one day. In 5 years, we may look back and all laugh at ever using facebook, kinda like we do now when someone mentions the parking lot that is myspace.
No one predicted these things. One of my favorite movies are in the Back to the Future trilogy. Think about the 2nd installment when they travel to the future. Hoverboards, 16 television screens in one, a talking door that welcomed you home, flying cars, hot young Elizabeth Shue/hot ‘old’ Elizabeth Shue. The movie is awesome. I could watch it every Saturday for the rest of my life and never tire of it. It was made in the late 80s and tried to predict 30 years into the future. While it was magical and a couple of things were really on point, overall it missed the bullseye on almost all fronts. Some of the most inventive and brilliant minds in film and technology helped create that movie, and they got it ‘wrong.’ The reason is that no one can predict what’s going to be the next great thing. No one can tell you what’s going to make your blog successful or not.
If someone had told me in February 2006 that my girlfriend was going to cheat on me with her entire college female soccer team, and that shortly afterwards, somehow in my hungover and miserable state I’d write a paragraph that would spark 2.1 million visits, I would have probably told Doc and Mcfly that their little story was cute, but I’ll take my hoverboard back now, please. There’s simply no way to predict. Thats why you just have to stay true to who you are, and your point of view, and have fun with it.
Wait, lets back up. I want to make sure you heard the most important point here: HAVE FUN WITH IT! At the end of the day, only a small percentage of the vagillion blogs that are out there in the blogosphere are actually making any sort of profit. My own blog has gone from making a profit, to being completely pennylesss, to it even COSTING me money to continue.
So even if you are looking for a way to profit off of your blog, you really have to be getting something else out of it initially and as it progresses, or you’re going to lose interest fast. Do it for smiles and education and joy and networking, and maybe the money will follow.
I’m the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, a seed investment fund that backs high-potential, underrepresented startup founders. I am also a tour manager, currently working with New Zealand Music Award winner Janine & the Mixtape. Not braggin’, but I have been called the “Lebron James” of venture capital (by my brother).
For interviews or to set up one-on-one “office hour” sessions at your event, email ARLANhamilton@gmail.com with the subject “interview request,” or “conference appearance request,” etc.