This question, posed to bloggers taking part in the WordCount Blogathon, got me thinking about what I would do differently if I was starting over.
I launched my blog in October 2009. In that time, I’ve written 100+ posts that attracted just under 135,000 page views, according to my Blogger analytics page. My all-time most popular post, with 555 page views, was “One writer’s take on 9/11, the death of bin Laden and Obama’s defining speech.”
I’m pretty happy with my blog’s focus – namely, writing and storytelling. It fits my interests and the focus is broad enough for me to always have things to write about…from book and film reviews, to my journey as a writer, to interviews with authors and other storytellers. I haven't been shy about showcasing different perspectives and experts. This week, I featured "Orphans of Apollo" filmmaker Michael Potter. I consider that a huge coup since I'm a space geek, and I also have been lucky to interview authors Jedwin Smith and Jeffrey Stepakoff.
Nevertheless, here are five things I wish I'd done with my blog from the start:
Better define my unique “voice.”
This is a toughie…but it’s critical if you want to stand out in the blogosphere. I think that’s why my bin Laden post was so popular…it definitely had a point of view. One blogger who really has mastered "voice" is Guy Bergstrom, who writes the Red Pen of Doom (the evil secret to all writing is editing), and appeared on my blog last Thursday. Writer Jeff Goins, in a guest post on ProBlogger, suggests a good exercise -- to brainstorm a list of 10-20 personality attributes that you want your blog to have, and then cut it down to three to five key aspects that represent your blog’s voice.
Show up more often.
I am bad about dropping off the radar unless I have the accountability of a blog challenge or something that I really want to say. I know I need to be more present to build an audience and have them want to come back.
Take more risks.
This goes hand in hand with building your own voice. But, I also mean editorially speaking, putting yourself out there more: Be provocative. Take a stand. Use humor (when appropriate).
Embrace guest blogging.
I first tried this out last year with two guest posts. This year I’ve tripled that number and am appearing three times on other people’s blogs. Guest blogging is a great way to minimize blog burnout, while introducing new voices and broadening your exposure.
Really leverage social media.
book review of The Mermaid Chair to Sue Monk Kidd, and she tweeted back, saying she agreed with my takeaway of her book. A week later I posted a link to my blog on Les Egerton’s Facebook wall indicating I had quoted him. He immediately left a comment on the post. I’m still not good at using “hashtags” that mark a keyword or topic in a tweet. I’m probably missing audience members by not using hashtags every time I tweet a post. The next phase of all of this would be building an online community like Michelle Rafter has through this blogathon...really engaging your target audience and making them part of the dialogue.
What lessons did you learn as a first-time blogger? I’d love to hear them.