Everything I’ve learned about blogging (June edition)

I shall begin this post with a bit of alliteration for my own amusement:

“Hello, honorable humans.”

Now, down to the crux of it: This post will no doubt get long, but I think there’s a lot of value added for ANY blogger. I’ve been developing and testing blogging strategies since I began this blog in May. I’ve learned a lot, and decided to compile it monthly in hopes that it will help others who are aspiring to build their network. I won’t take information away each month, I’ll just highlight new gouge so that people who have already read previously published portions can skip to the good stuff. This time, nothing needs to be in bold because it’s the first iteration. Here are some simple blogging strategies to help develop and expand your readership:

  1. Be predictable. What if I told you that this post about blogging strategies is an example of a blogging strategy? (Pretty obvious, many of you are thinking.) Anyone who has been blogging for long can tell you that a lot of what we do is about “value added,” and someone might follow my blog exclusively because they want to see what lessons I learn in the future that they can then apply. Once they’ve followed, they can decide whether they’re interested in my core mission, which is contributing to the fight on mental health issues. I think it’s nice to have a couple of “repeat posts” scheduled (ones where the theme doesn’t change but additional value can be added with each iteration). To that end, I’ve decided to do this (blogging strategy) and one other on a monthly basis. The other is a free networking opportunity for people to summarize and link to their blog in the comments of my post.
  2. Diversify within the confines of your brand. In addition to the scheduled posts mentioned above, I plan to VLOG once per week (the rules build upon each other, remember to be predictable) and post a song periodically (I don’t really have a schedule planned for that – this isn’t my full time job and I need to make the plan somewhat flexible to account for that. See rule number six.) Since my theme is essentially self-help, I can use different TYPES of posts to diversify within that brand. I write poetry to draw in the poets, music to draw in musicians, blogs to draw in old school bloggers, and VLOGs to attract people who prefer video to text. Figure out how you can impliment that idea for your brand. (As a self awareness point, I really need to get better about graphics/charts/etc.)
  3. Don’t migrate your previous work over all at once. When I first started TQV, I’d already been writing weekly articles on LinkedIn for some time. I decided that, in order to professionalize my portfolio, I wanted them all to be available on the site before I shared the link. Realistically though, few people have 6 hours to go through all of your work. Many will keep up with you if you post consistently, but only a few are going to really delve deep into everything you’ve written all at once. Instead of vomiting your life’s work onto your site, follow rule number four.
  4. Schedule posts! This one is SO SO hard for me because, when I write something I’m proud of, I want to share it to see what you guys and gals think. But if you’ve already posted, it’s much better to schedule it for the next day or so to make sure you have consistent content. If you want to maximize readers from this strategy, follow rule number five.
  5. Time matters. I’m not talking about the time you invest into your blog, though that clearly matters as well. I’m referring to the time of day. Since your blog posts are most visible during the first few hours after you post them, you need to try and learn when people are most likely to be reading. It’s probably not going to be 3AM, depending what time zone you’re in. For me, it’s ended up being early morning or around lunchtime, but be mindful of where your audience is and when they might want to peruse other peoples’ work.
  6. Be forgiving of yourself. As a recent writing friend of mine always says, “Writing is HARD.” It really is. This rule is honestly more important than any of the previous. You’ve got to cut yourself some slack. Remember that you’re doing this because you (presumably) love writing. Don’t push so much that you stop loving it.
  7. Don’t use ad income until you’re ready! I was using it. Totally, I was using it. I’m thinking, “Hell, the amount of time I invest into this thing, I may as well make what I can…” FALSE. I realized that I was spending more on my domain and advertising than I was making from ads. (BY A LONG SHOT). Why would you spend 50-100 bucks on your blog, and then distract new readers for the opportunity to earn a penny or two? My new strategy is to build the network first, and then implement some ad income and affiliate links.
  8. Don’t overthink your brand. People are so huge on branding that, often, bloggers will start multiple domains because they don’t want to break their brand. Your readers are dynamic, REAL human beings. They know you’re multifaceted. Don’t be scared to explore that with them. Or maybe I just get a pass on this one sense I essentially write about what it is to be human? Not sure.
  9. Help your supporters! This can be as simple as liking or commenting on posts, sharing a blog, or, as I learned just today, displaying your recent commenters on your home page. (Go check those people out, man. They consistently support me and I’m so appreciative.)

Okay, thanks for sticking with me so far. In addition to writing what I’ve learned about blogging, I also want to use this space to ask questions that I need help with. If you CAN answer, kindly do. 🙂

  1. Are hashtags still relevant?
  2. Have any of you hit a “wall” with viewers? I haven’t had much new action since I got into the seventies and I’d really like to break the infamous “100” mark.
  3. How important are graphics and photos?
  4. I’ve slowly connected with a few bloggers that are really kindred spirits (Peter, Nida, Cristian, Em, Nadine) …How do you find blogs that REALLY are concerned with the same mission as you? Is it really just being patient and “collecting them” over a period of months?
  5. If any of you would like to take a look at my site and offer any suggestions, I’d appreciate it and will return the favor (though I’m a total rookie, so I may not have much to suggest).

Lastly, I’m really starting to feel welcomed and accepted in this dysfunctional culture of awesomeness. I’m realizing that I can just be myself and support the healing of others, and that the world really is ready to accept that as a brand. Thanks for reading all this and following along, and I look forward to seeing ya’ll on the other side of the 100 follower mark.

-TQV

The Ethics of Blogging

Ah, success. Over the course of a month, I’ve gone from writing regardless of whether anyone was going to read it to writing with a fairly consistent expectation that they would. It’s been a fairly natural progression built on one thing: caring about people and my craft. I do believe though, that I could’ve been wildly more successful if I was willing to do so in an ethically questionable way:

  1. I’m fairly confident that if I clicked like on a thousand posts every day without actually reading them, at least a few dozen would follow my blog. Some of them would later find real value and connectedness within the community I’ve built, and I could eventually find time to really delve into their work.
  2. Is it ethically questionable to trash and re-post early blogs? When I first migrated my initial group of articles from LinkedIn, I didn’t know anything about blogging. I didn’t know about scheduling posts or posting during blogging “rush-hours.” The ones that didn’t get much attention because of HOW I posted…I’m inclined to delete and re-post in a more strategic way. Both to build a following and so people can benefit from the concepts I write about.
  3. I totally paid to have something re-blogged. It worked really well – Cristian Mihai (who is a must-follow for all new bloggers) sells the opportunity to have your blog shared with his 220k+ followers. It helps him to keep writing full-time, and you get to share your message with a larger group. Something like 90 people “liked” my post on his page, and a few even followed me! Serveal of them really benefited from or related to the the mental health concepts I wrote about (Here).

Anyway, do you guys think it’s okay to build your network in an ethically questionable way in order to achieve your larger long-term goals? Or do you think the slow, honest, organic path is the way to go? Which method do you think the hyper-successful folks have used? I never want to get to the point that I reply to heartfelt comments with a pre-formatted and impersonal blurb – but I do want to reach the maximum amount of people whose lives I can contribute to and learn from.

Thanks for your thoughts!

-TQV

My Blogging Experiment Worked and Tripled My Following! Here’s My Next Strategy.

A little over two weeks ago I wrote a blog about a forthcoming strategy that I hoped would increase my following – I actually predicted that it would double it, but instead, it TRIPLED!

Don’t be too amazed, yet – I’m still new to this (to blogging, not to writing), so “tripled” really only means that I went from ten followers to thirty, but if you read The First Blog, you’ll see that I have a relatively high confidence level moving forward. What it really seems to come down to is culture, and the study of culture has been a lifelong passion of mine. I’m happy to say that many of my followers have consistently interacted with my posts (which I hope means they have found them impactful), but the really amazing thing about the growth is that it was done ENTIRELY on auto-pilot.

I was on a vacation to get married at the Grand Canyon, a magical experience that you can read about Here, and simply scheduled a poem to be posted each day at the same time while I was gone. During the brief moments that I had service on my vacation, I followed the folks who had interacted with my posts with intent to further check out their work when I got home. That’s it! So, it’s true that blogging is about consistency.

My next strategy actually comes from the wedding post linked above. In the interest of “branding,” I’ve primarily kept my “travel writing” separate, but I was shocked at the number of folks who liked my Grand Canyon bit within the first few minutes, so I’ve decided to migrate some of those blogs over in time as well. I’m slowly discovering that, as someone who hopes to use written language to inspire and heal others, my “brand” is fairly flexible. Write impactful, honest shit. That’s my brand. Done.

So, I have a plethora of travel and personal blogs that I will migrate over, and I bet I can get to a minimum of 55 followers by the time that’s done. They say the first 100 is the hardest – I hope to hit that number by the end of July. Blogging is about consistency, “the grind,” and honestly caring about your impact, not just the numbers. I promise that I will succeed at this. Follow along for more strategy updates, or to be inspired or encouraged in your battles to overcome adversity. I will share each and every success, but more importantly, I’ll always share my failures.

Much love,

Dustin Stitt (The Quiet Visionary)

P.S. I always welcome any tips in the comments! My initial mistake was importing a bunch of content at once – remember that your posts are the most visible during the first few hours after posting! Also, use appropriate hashtags, and always link to other work. Finally, write about things you are honestly passionate about – don’t force it. Any tips for me?

Cutting through the B.S. (A Blogging/Content Experiment)

Throughout my life, I’ve studied a number of cultures, and most recently I’ve become a member of the blogging community. It’s been about a month, and I’ve gained a grand total of about ten followers, but I think I’ve hit a pivotal milestone. It’s happened with every culture I’ve been emerged in, and evidently this one is no different – it even took around the same amount of time in the cyber world that it takes during foreign travel.

After a month of immersion and study, I’ve gained confidence that I know how to navigate this place! It just so happens that I’m also scheduled for a rare and exciting opportunity – a two week hiatus from my “real job.” So, I’m going to use that time to conduct a content/blog growth experiment which you are more than welcomed to join in on.

My two weeks away from work will be spent hiking and camping in the Southwest with little signal, so I’ve scheduled some posts in advance. Let me set the scene for you by sharing a couple of lessons I’ve learned, along with my predictions going forward:

  1. It seems to me that the way this blogging thing works is that people who are passionate about writing attempt to use their craft to influence or inspire others. In their efforts to gain a readership (and often, to genuinely contribute to the community of other writers) they slave away and get down into the weeds with their feelings, giving 100% of their honest effort to provide quality content.
  2. It also seems to me that, as someone endeavoring to contribute to the community of others while growing my own, I set the bar pretty low for who I’m going to follow. It’s like, if they have decent grammar and their blog is basically professional, I hit them with a follow and hope that they will be marginally inspired by my work like I am by theirs. I also make a note of the blogs that I REALLY want to read, so I can stay up to speed with their content. This guy is presently at the top of that list. (Note that it isn’t dishonest when I follow blogs I’m marginally interested in, I just have faith in their ability to grow over time and want to help them do so.)
  3. Another important lesson I’ve learned is that “branding” is evidently important. However, as a freelance writer whose “brand” is simply using the written word to provoke and inspire contemplation, I think I largely get a free pass on this one. All I want to do is write impactful shit – so that gives me a pretty wide range to work with.
  4. While I thrive on persuasive writing (particularly, articles on idealism and leadership), I’ve also been a poet for as long as I can remember. I have hundreds and hundreds of poems already written, but breaking into articles and content is new for me.

All that said, I’ve scheduled some of my favorite (self-healing/self-help) poems to be posted once per day at 0800AM until my return on May 28th. Cristian Mihai said in one of his articles that consistency is more important than almost anything when it comes to blogging, and I believe the guy! Your content is the most visible during the first few hours that you post it, so posting something new consistently is bound to yield more followers.

I guess the ultimate goal of a blogger is to first build your network using whatever strategies (authentic or otherwise) you can, and THEN once that community has been built, try to maintain it by inspiring them, hoping that you’ll be able to hone it down to people who are honestly impacted by your work. And strangely, I’m okay with that. If I get a thousand followers, and then 80% decide that my work isn’t for them, then I have gained 200 followers that I can honestly engage with and learn from.

My prediction is based on two factors:

  1. That, in general, the poems I’ve scheduled over the next couple of weeks will attract an audience that is genuinely interested in all of the things I write (I observe life’s subtleties and draw larger lessons from them – that’s essentially poetry).
  2. That I will be able to gain more of an audience by not being so attached to the idea of growing one. The things I’ve written have impacted me – there’s no reason I need to check a hundred times per day to see if they impact others.

I’m betting I’ll be able to at least double my number of followers during this experiment. And if I don’t, I promise to be straight forward about my lessons-learned and redirection of course when I get back. Click follow to see how it goes, and know that I’m genuinely thrilled by the idea of building my organic, honest community, and learning from your contemplation as you learn from mine.

If you stayed with me this far, you must be intrigued. Here’s an example of what to expect each morning.

Much Love,

Dustin Stitt (The Quiet Visionary)