The third anniversary is a weird one, isn’t it? First anniversary it’s like, yay! Made it! Second anniversary is, yes, definitely in this for the long haul. But the third year is just another year down. It’s kind of a nothing anniversary.
Anyway, it seems that more and more of you are starting blogs of your own so I thought now might be as good a time as any to set down some of the things I’ve learned about this weird hobby of ours.
Have a plan
Can’t stress this one enough. This is the big one. If this list was a cartoon show it would be “Have a Plan and Friends”. Right now on my desktop I have a list of every movie I’m going to review and the date it’s due to go up until August 2016. “What am I going to write about?” is a question I have literally never had to ask myself. This means I never have to sit down in front of a blank screen and have to figure out what the next post is going to be.
Before you go live, have a backlog built up
You wouldn’t open a grocery shop with only one can of beans. Have a good few posts already written in advance so that when you go live you already have a fairly large body of work for someone to go through (say, four or five posts). When someone reads your first post you don’t want them thinking “That was cool. Wonder what else they’ve written. Nothing. Huh.” And then leaving and never coming back.
Picture this, you’re sitting on a bus and someone sits down and asks you if you want to hear some of their “random thoughts”. How appealing does that sound? Starting out, your blog should have a single focus and be aimed at a specific target audience. A blog that tries to have too broad a remit will always struggle to find an audience because, while I might love your overview of early Tudor drama, that’s not really going to make me want to read your dog-grooming tips. It will however, make me interested to read your overview of early Jacobean drama. This will also help you get a readership with shared interests who will actually want to talk to each other. Commenters are a vital and often overlooked element of what makes a blog a success. I know part of what brings people to my blog every two weeks is wondering what swanpride thought of this movie or what terrifying eldritch Australian hell-beast with a delightfully whimsical name Paper Alchemist will teach us about today.
Use social media
Yeah, yeah. I know. Still, it’s important enough to mention. Share on Facebook, Tumblr and whatever other social media you have. Not Twitter though, I mean, Jesus Christ.
Respond to every comment you can
I fail spectacularly at this, but do try. 1) It’s nice. 2) It makes people feel welcome and encourages them to return. 3) It doubles the number of comments on your site stats.
Best blogging platform there is. Simple as.
Know your limits
Blogging is fun, but it’s also work. When you start out and it’s going well you’ll feel a rush of enthusiasm and you’ll be tempted to post every day, or even more than that. Resist the tempatation. Keeping up at that pace will either kill you or lead to a “Regrettably, real life commitments…” post which is almost as bad. Pace yourself, and make sure you have plenty of time to write around unforseen events. This leads me to…
Pick a schedule and stick to it
You want to post weekly? Post weekly. You want to post fortnightly? Post fortnightly. You want to post monthly? Post monthly. But whatever you choose, make sure you stick to it. If people know that new content will be up on a certain date, without fail, they will be there. If they can’t be sure that it won’t be a wasted journey, you can’t be sure they’ll show up. And if you know that you can’t make a specific post date, be sure to let people know.
Make every post indispensable
For example, a lot of new characters and storylines on this blog are often introduced in the last place you might expect them. The Unscrupulous Mouse was introduced in a small post where I was plugging my brother’s album. A seemingly minor post that doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere might actually kick off an entire new storyline. This way, regular readers are encouraged to read everything I post, not just the reviews.
Be aware that going viral is not all fun
So imagine that you’re at home and every five seconds the door knocks. Everytime you open it, the person on the other side will either give you a hug or kick you in the groin. For every forty nine people who give you a hug, one will kick you in the groin. Despite the fact that your experience opening that door is overwhelmingly positive, as time goes on I gurantee you will get increasingly nervous everytime there’s a knock and ere long your groin will be of no use to man or beast. That’s kind of what it’s like to have a post go viral. It’s only happened to me one and a half times and while it’s plenty exciting I won’t pretend that I wasn’t very, very glad when it all blew over.
Fear no evil
The interent is the most amazing creation in the history of the human race. It is also goddamn crazy and when you put yourself out there with an opinion you make yourself a target for that crazy. Now, I won’t pretend that my experience with Unshaved Mouse hasn’t been almost pure unadulterated sunshine with one of the nicest commentariats you will find anywhere but anyone setting up a blog should remember that there is bad and crazy out there and you need to be prepared for it. On the subject of trolls I will say this:
- With WordPress, no one can post any comment on your blog that you don’t want them to. You have control. If someone is being abusive or insulting you are under no obligation to give them a platform. “Free Speech” does not give someone the right to come into your house, stand on your coffee table and start reading aloud from Mein Kampf.
- With WordPress, you can also edit the comments of trolls to say whatever you want, even the complete opposite of whatever point they were making, thus causing them to experience rage that can scarecely be comprehended.
- This is absolutely friggin’ hilarious.
- You should totally do that.
And that’s it. I have learned literally nothing else these last three years. Best thing is, it’s still as fun to do as when I started out. Thanks to everyone who’s followed the blog over the years, you guys are the best.
Meanwhile, in the secret headquarters of the United Foes of the Unshaved Mouse.
To be continued.