Blogging For Noobs :: Think

You have a ton of posts all ready to go after the last portion of our Guide, and now you want to publish them all in one hit. This is where I put up the single finger in a kind yet firm manner and say NO, do not do this with your work. The temptation in the early blush of creativity is to share everything immediately. This is perfectly normal and I see it happen all the time: the problem then comes a month later when you’re struggling for stuff to fill your space and creativity appears to have evaporated. That’s why this time around, I’m going to ask you to wait, and start planning ahead. Remember that blank calender I left you with last time? Here’s where the fun of Learning to Organise begins.

schedulea.jpg

I’m going to be rebranding this site next month as the Internet of Words (for those of you paying attention) and that means that I need to do a couple of things before that happens. Once I’ve followed my own previous step and worked out what will qualify as content, I’ll need a week to make sure that I have graphics for everything made and ready, and there are spaces in the web design to accommodate what I’m doing. That’s the 14th to the 19th for me, which is my Pre-Planning and ‘Back End’ phase. In that time I can also write posts in anticipation of my launch (June 1st) but not publish them until I know my redesign is working properly. In your case, it could just be getting yourself comfortable with blogging to begin with, and you have a week of playing with layout and posting until you’re comfortable with both.

typinghanks

I’ve then scheduled a Testing Week, which will basically act as my migration period for all the old content, deleting the stuff I don’t want to keep, and getting everything ready to roll. As you can see, after my launch date I’ve got a load of +1 and +2’s marked: the latter indicate days when I’ll introduce a facet of the site, the others marking down that for the first month, I want to generate a post a day. To do that will require me to organise in advance, to have ideas ready to roll, and once I obtain that early impetus it will be important to ensure I have a plan. That’s why I’m writing on Post It notes, scribbling in a notebook wherever possible, and keeping track of things I think are important or interesting going forward. It is why this weekend will be devoted to thrashing out many of those scribbled notes into fully-formed topics to form part of my site.

planttotheface

The key, of course, is to have a lot of content to go, but there are days when I undoubtedly do my best work from a cold start. Today was a case in point: I didn’t expect to create a logo or start a Twitter account for the redesign but both of those happened. I’d simply planned to day to explore the possibilities of both, but you’ll learn in time how inspiration strikes, and when to make the most of it. This is where organisation truly becomes invaluable, because in those creative-rich days, if you can get words down they can be kept and scheduled for days when you’re out of ideas. It also means you are never totally beholden to your site either, and can take holidays or time off without it appearing you lost interest in the project.

punch1

You will find, as time goes on, that if you set aside a set time each day to write, this will also aid enormously with productivity and creativity. For me, I do my best work on non-fiction before lunchtime, whilst fiction always works better in the evening. That means I’ll be able to balance my time effectively around other stuff and still aim for a set result at the end of each week. You may wish to plan ahead on a spreadsheet programme, and there are plenty of time management tools/apps that can help you out, but for me I am at my best with a Moleskine Diary, pen, pencil and ruler. In fact I’d be utterly lost without them now. My planning for the week is either done Sunday night or Monday morning, and this dictates the entire workflow for the next seven days. Find the system that works for you, and don’t be afraid to mix and match until you’re comfortable with the result.

intothedoor.gif

The biggest trick however is not to panic when you’re out of ideas. That’s why you have a notebook, its why you plan in advance… and its where Social media can save the day. Current events, personal interests, what other people are talking about, the latest complaint/beef in your friends circle… all of these are potential topics to start a blog post. For me, I have a ton of projects in various states of completion to consider, a vast array of topics on the Internet of Words that all have a potential place in my planning: but the trick is not to obsess too much about all the possibilities. I’ll be picking a couple of the best ideas to work with at the start, and we’ll go from there. Once the framework is established and has run for a while, I can look at analytics to see where the interest lies, and work from there.

Organisation really is everything if you want a professional looking site. It also doesn’t all have to happen straight away. Just because I’ll be doing a post a day means it will stay that way. We’ll see how things work, and the trick in these early stages is to listen to other people very carefully. Many will give you feedback, and if it isn’t great, you’ll need to be ready to act accordingly. Next time, we’ll talk about how you keep people interested whilst they read, because that will matter long term just as much as your content.

The Big Sky

Now I’ve said in public that I’m launching a Patreon, there is of course no going back.

What that means in the larger scope of how I write however is still in a reasonable state of flux. I have ideas, of course, or else things will have never gotten this far, but right now they don’t include serious augmentation of either my personal site or indeed the Warcraft one. Those two now run fairly autonomously of each other and that’s not about to change any time soon. Most of the evolution is going to fall here, because here is the site that has the best domain for pimping, and well… this is where I should write.

There was a thought about launching a 4th portal but really, truthfully, it isn’t needed. However, I am giving fairly serious consideration to a site redesign, mostly because I’m not 100% convinced this layout is fit for purpose going forward. Therefore, over Easter (between bouts of cleaning) there will be some poking of the back end and an attempt to find a layout that is both cleaner still than this and more multi-media friendly. It also means that this site will be the first one to be updated to a business account so I can gain access to SEO facilities: not simply to continue the Social Media Experiment, but to get the domain up the top of the search listings.

chuckthumbsup

After that, the Devil is in the details, and I’ll be keeping a lot of that under my baseball cap for the weeks that follow. There’s already one project outside the scope of new planning that I’ve pitched to someone else which looks like could fly, and I’m going to be sending some DM’s this morning on that front. Mostly, the future is very much full of possibility, I just need to get organised enough to capitalise on them all. Because this is now business I’ll be making sure to keep you fully appraised of all the details, as and when it is necessary.

Trust me, you’re going to love every minute of it.

GSME #7 :: The Old Songs

Last week, as those of you who follow my other blogs will know, was not exactly me on top mental and physical form. As a result, you would imagine that my experiment might suffer. Instead, I’m beginning to see some genuine return from the good foundations being laid.

100417twitter

The bars may be down, but in reality engagements are up, coming close to 25k a day. Slowly but surely that rate is staying above a certain threshold too. It is a combination of curation, sharing and an increased use of the visual via artist sharing and Instagram that has helped, but also understanding that if you pitch the right things at the correct audience, amazing things will happen.

The bald guy top left in the picture set here is my mate, and he opened the shop named after his hobby at the weekend. His son is in my daughter’s year at school, and we had many conversations on the School playground before Secondary education sent our children their separate ways. I know he’s given up his old job to make Retro Gaming his full-time profession, and as a result deserves as much help as I can give him, so on Saturday I took some pictures on the phone and sent this out onto the Internet, making sure it hit a few of the right people along the way. This is now my third best performing tweet of the last 28 days, and is living proof that a) pictures sell posts and b) they gain more views if you ensure the right people see them.

retro1

I screenied this last night, yet this morning people are still picking this up and bouncing it around the Retro Gaming community. I get nothing at all out of this either, which is the bigger point to make: I have only a passing interest in Retro but I’m more concerned in getting @TheRetroHunter the exposure I can offer, being at the intersection of where past and present overlap. As of time of writing, this has topped 6k views and at a point on Sunday was exceeding an almost mythical 20% engagement. Having one in five of your audience being interest is truly the stuff of legends, people. If you know the right people to talk to and the correct places to target? Twitter really is an incredible tool for advertising.

b5fcc-thesubs

The key here, of course, is that nobody paid for anything. It is proof, if it were needed, that the best advertising is word of mouth and altruism. Having said that, paying for the right things also does have benefit. Behold my boost on CoPromote from last week, which I managed to generate without any purchased ‘reach’:

newreach.png

Up for 3 days, it bounced around for a while and got me 130k views but, yet again, the physical return for my effort appears to have been negligible in actual interest. This week, therefore, it is time to look at what content I can provide that will retain more of an audience, including a greater use of Twitter Cards in my ‘advertising’. This is one part of the free advertising toolbox I’m criminally underusing, and as a result we’ll be all over the process until I see you again. For now, if you like a retro game and wanna help my mate out, go visit his Facebook page 😀

GSME #6 :: Fade To Grey

As is sometimes the case in Experiments, this week hasn’t exactly gone as I’d planned. However, before we begin, let’s look at the old Engagement scoreboard:

030417

There’s a few things to mention, most notable of which is that in the last seven days I didn’t use CoPromote at all and still the numbers are up. That will change this week, as I’ve almost built up 100k ‘credit’ to use on something worthwhile, but it is as much about writing a decent post to hook people in to reading long-term as it is just churning out rubbish, which seems to be how some people view Twitter to begin with. The plan going forward had been to boost myself using Twitter’s own range of ‘advertising’ tools and last night I cleared a block of space and time to do just this.

options1

The range of options is pretty decent: I can, it appears, pay money to get followers (recommended for accounts with an audience of under 1000, I’m told) plus be charged in any myriad number of ways. This was the first thing that put me off: what I could manage for the cash I have available was woeful at best. Obviously the more you pay, the better your chances of reaching people, though it would be unfair to say that’s the only way this works, because it isn’t. An awful lot of Twitter’s advertising however expects you to not only specifically identify and target an audience, but understand how that works to begin with, and I can see this putting off huge numbers of potential smaller users.

budget1

The fact remains, that if paying a tenner A DAY for what might only be seven clicks is not, it must be said, the optimal use of my cash. In fact, if I’m honest, CoPromote’s reach function did more than that, and I pay $19.99 a MONTH. The only difference is what is promised in terms of Impressions, and I can make that happen myself via persistence and little grey cells. Maybe this is part of the reason why Twitter as a company fails to make money but continues to win in terms of being the most organic and accessible of mediums. Perhaps if they tweaked their selling model for smaller sellers, there might be an upswing in interest.

followers6

It doesn’t take a genius to understand how the basic principles operate, but the work involved for me in identifying a niche audience (which is effectively what I am, like it or not) is not currently worth the return. If I were a Warcraft streamer, however, this could have some genuine merit, or indeed if I was trying to sell my product in a larger market. In that regard, and because I know a number of people have been waiting to see what I think of this, I’d say it may well be worth the effort if you have the cash to back it up. It will also help if your market is well known, and can be easily targetted using specific keywords. I have so many applicable keywords right now for what I do, and as I currently refuse to refine those terms? This is a service I can happily leave well alone.

In fact, you’ll probably get far more out of this completely free guide to optimising your account than is ever going to result from a small business using Twitter ads. As is also the case with Facebook, these companies seem to only be interested in those prepared to spend big in able to make their point, and that effectively prices me completely out of the marketplace. More importantly, I get to help out a friend by granting her post a few extra views, which I’d far rather do than chuck money at a huge company that doesn’t seem that interested in my business to begin with.

Sometimes, your answer means not taking the obvious route.

Blogging for Noobs :: I Love You

It is time, finally, to write stuff. Are you excited?

excited-baby

Number one in our Ten Things to Learn guide is, I’m afraid, NOT how to write gud. That I can try and help you with but, to be honest, you are mostly on your own. If you’ve reached this stage anyway the desire to write already very much exists (which remains half the battle on any given day) but developing a strong, individual style takes both time and effort to perfect. If, like me, you write for other people, their style will vary greatly from your own. That’s why learning to be your own Editor is great practice for when you end up having to deal with somebody else critiquing your work. There are however, certain things you really shouldn’t do, and it seems only fair to provide a list of those:

  • Take the first person out of your work. I did this and I did that is perfectly acceptable, in certain circumstances. The first person pronoun makes for a deeply personal insight, but often not for great writing. I’m going to use myself as an example of this: I think this post would be far better re-written without the excessive use of ‘I’ within it. The content’s sound, but the execution needs work. Using ‘we’ is a better idea for a lot of reasons, and it will make your whole blog resonate better with people you do not know.
  • Use a spell checker. Most blog interfaces provide one as standard anyway. Try to avoid abbreviations or excessive use of jargon/abbreviated speech. Imagine you’re talking to whoever you know personally who doesn’t have a clue about all this stuff and make it so they’d understand what’s going on. If you want people to notice your work, it isn’t just about what you write, but as much about how it is presented. 

    hiaustinpowers

  • Don’t make it personal. There’s going to be a whole week on this, because there’s been some notable legal events in the last couple of months that prove if you are libellous or slanderous to people, there are consequences. I’ve notably used a blog post to stop someone stalking me, but I can attest this is not to be recommended, especially not in the current climate. If you can’t keep it civil and pleasant, don’t write it. Go shout at people on Twitter instead… no, don’t do that either. Just be nice.
  • Explain yourself properly. The point of good blogging, at least for me, is making one point per post. After that you’ll find the retention rate of your audience tends to drop dramatically. Sure, you can make long complex arguments in blog posts, but the best work is when you set yourself a question to answer in X words, or you show your reasoning for something in Y words. Don’t waffle. Learn to work out what is useful in a sentence, and what’s just repeating the same point again.typing3.gif
  • Formatting is everything. If I had a business WordPress, which may well happen by the end of the year, SEO is a thing. If you have no idea what that means, here’s a guide Google made explaining how Search Engine Optimisation works. That, coupled with using formatting for improved readability (which the business version of WordPress will also offer as an option) gives you a better chance that people stay with your article and read until the end. For now? Don’t write massive blocks of dense text. Split it up, and stick pictures in between.

Having said all of that, I told you that ideas matter a great deal, and they do. A combination of information, entertainment and inspiration seems to be why people keep coming back to what I do. There’s stuff on daily events, things that matter to those playing the same games as me, and who maintain a comparable set of interests. I use the GIF as art, whenever possible, as a cheap laugh or to reinforce a bigger point. The fact I’m attempting self improvement via exercise, and that I suffer with mental health issues that I’m happy to discuss and dissect all form part of a complex landscape, that has become an online extension of my real-life self. I’m not expecting you to do all this when all you want is to help people play a game better or share your art. However, there should be a distinct part of you in every word you write. The passion is what matters most.

dramatickangaroo.gif

The enthusiasm and passion is what keeps the desire to write moving forward, even on the days when you seemingly have nothing to offer. For me, I’ve found a way to counter my lack of enthusiasm by creating a series of weekly ‘topics’: a banner headline under which I can write about an aspect of the general subject matter. That means, that once a week (unless a more important topic supplants it) I’m writing about my time in Warcraft, chronologically, from beginning to the present day. I have the headline, under which I’ve planned several months worth of potential subjects. What this gives me is a chance to both think ahead and know I have work to do even if the game is not particularly active and I don’t have a lot to say. This is a great way to keep your enthusiasm for work moving forward, by planning a larger subject to break down in parts. In fact, this Guide itself is being written on the exact same principle: weekly parts that will form an overall whole.

charliebrownspecial.gif

The other way that blogging is incredibly effective is if you have something in your life that you can react to/talk about. That trip to the end of the Earth, your battle with cancer, the problems starting a business, becoming a successful writer… all these things are subject matters someone will want to read about. It might be something that happened to you in childhood, or perhaps your attempts to find meaning in an increasingly complex world. If you have the time to talk to someone, you could write it down. If you find yourself spending more than three tweets in a day ranting about anything on line? That’s blog material, right there.

10514-inmyheadsurreal

Blogs can do many things, the only limit being your imagination. If you have ideas, the best thing you will ever do is not just jump in without giving them form and focus. In fact, planning may sound utterly pointless but it is more likely to keep you from just giving up and not bothering. It is, for me, the very foundation of effective blogging. You have the passion to write, and all the ideas required to do so and now it is time to give yourself a framework on which to hang them. In that notepad that you’ve been using for recalling inspiration, you now need a planner on which they can be placed

calender

Feel free to copy this and print it out on a sheet of A5/A4 or whatever size your notebook is. This is your first month of blogging. The launch date for your blog isn’t top left either: next week, using April 1st as our start point, I’ll show you how to prepare and plan a Blog launch in advance: from scheduling posts to engaging an audience before a word is even written. I hope, by suggesting this as a way forward, I’ll be able to keep enthusiasm going well past that first four weeks, and help you create and form good habits for years to come.

GSME #5 :: Big Time

This last week’s been quite the revelation for Social Media use, especially when it comes to the notion of popularity. When I show you the bar graph, it should be noted that I’m actually down on impressions for the larger period. However, what I got from the last seven days is very significant indeed:

2703stats

I told you that I’d dropped some cash to use CoPromote, which is a sharing platform to allow content creators to reach a larger audience. It was developed initially to allow musicians to increase their reach on various platforms, which includes Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr. My main interest however is Twitter, and I boosted two posts in the last seven days. The results in terms of increasing reach were, it must be said, pretty extraordinary:

Boost1_final

This was the first boost, which I ended yesterday, and as you can see, the stats are pretty impressive. However, you really need to see Twitter’s own figures to put those massive percentages in a proper context:

boost1_Twitter

CoPromote tells me I reached over half a million viewers, yet the tweet itself only garnered a shade over 6 thousand impressions. Of those, a palty TWO were media engagement. This means, effectively, half a million people utterly ignored this blog post. I know that’s a fact too: I can show you the WordPress stats for last week that effectively prove that point:

the_truth

Last week, with TWO active boosts, I almost hit 100 views on Friday, with almost being the operative word. The only reason that happened was because I had two active boosts at that time: here’s the second, with its Twitter stats alongside for comparison:

Boost2_final

boost2_Twitter

In effect, $19.99 has done nothing for my aspirations of reaching a wider audience that reads my work. What that money gives me, however, is the ABILITY to reach half a million people a month in the hope that I can convince them with one, possibly two tweets, that I’m worthwhile engaging with. What I buy with that subscription, I now grasp, is not an instant audience, merely the possibility of one. To make the most of this new-found ability isn’t just a case of firing the same shit out over and over again. I read reviews of this service saying it has no usefulness because you can’t get people to pay attention, but I know that’s not the case. You can make an impact, but only with the right content.

This effectively gives me a month to plan ahead until my $19.99 restocks the Karma bank. To explain what that means, we need to look at how CoPromote works:

account1.jpg

When you first join, a reach score is calculated for the number of Twitter followers you possess, plus any other social network sites you choose to connect (in this case I’m just using my Facebook page to begin with.) Then, my Subscription allows a 500,000 Reach to be automatically applied to the account as a starting point. Every time I share someone else’s post? I get Reach added (green numbers above) and every time someone else shares my post, their Reach on Twitter is deducted from my overall total, hence the Karma aspect. You can, of course, do this for free, but you need to share a PHENOMENAL number of posts in order to build enough reach to justify the action.

The system of filtering and picking posts is not great, but perfectly acceptable: the problem, at least for me is finding content that is relevant to my interests. More importantly still, to make this worthwhile I would have to fill both Facebook and Twitter pretty much daily with content I know full well my current readership would have absolutely no interest in. CoPromote seems to assume that the reason why you use their system isn’t to engage, but simply to advertise, and that’s not why I do social media to begin with. Sadly, this is the mindset of too many people, including Twitter themselves, who are more interested in making money from the platform than promoting the altruistic benefits.

nobodycares

I’m yet to be convinced this isn’t worth my time however, and so we will continue the slow drip of building Karma again until I have something worthwhile to highlight. My next 500k ‘boost’ will be on April 20th and by then I will have not only have had the chance to refine the searching process and build up a group of other Promoters with interests that better mesh with mine, but to present content that will engage more readers and invite them to read my content, not simply scroll on by. A good workman never blames her tools, after all: it is how you use the things you are given in the best way to produce the most effective results.

This week, as a comparison to this process, I intend to boost the same blog post using both Facebook and Twitter’s own advertising tools. I think I’m more nervous about this than I have been about anything done for a while, but unless you take risks, you’ll never know the benefits.

The only way to find out is to try.

Days Go By

You and I need to have a chat about how my creativity’s effectively vanished.

typinghanks.gif

It isn’t like it has disappeared completely or anything, and there’s a distinct vein of fictional thinking going on in my head right now. The problem, such as it is, lies with the amount of work I currently consider ‘in progress’ that’s not finished. As I begin the process of sorting out everything else (and on that front, things are going remarkably well) this is the place that suffers not because I don’t want to write, far from it. I just can’t work out what to put to bed first. I have, in various states, nearly a dozen long form projects and about the same in short form. This is the problem when you get seized by an idea, commit yourself to it, and then lose confidence in the ability to complete something worthwhile.

The first step I realise in dealing with the problem is to not write anything fictional, and then realise how much you miss it.

typinghard.gif

Using the Mindfulness ‘concept’ I’ve been learning in the last week, I write fiction for sensation and problem solving. Once the issue I had has been dealt with, that the ‘story’ in my head was created for to deal with, it is left aside. Going back to work that was written therefore with this in mind, it can sometimes prove difficult to recreate the same enthusiasm for the project I had at the time. What now has to happen, I realise, is for me to look critically at everything sitting unfinished on my hard drive, and make some tough choices on what I can and cannot complete. I also needed to write this down somewhere public too, so I can’t pretend this revelation didn’t happen. Now I’ve grasped that? Time to start sorting through the files.

typinghamm.gif

I’m going to, whilst I do this, admit defeat and take out the links to the non-fiction essay page, and my Erotica selection. Part of my issue right now is pressuring myself into things that simply aren’t happening with the timescales available, especially with the push I’m making to being truly organised elsewhere. Yes, I suspect they will happen, and when I have enough pieces of work to justify filling them, they can be re-introduced. However, what I want to do now more than anything else is write long-form, and that means re-arranging my workplace to accommodate the change.

Thank you for understanding, and for continuing to support me on this journey of discovery.