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14 Things I Learned in One Year of Blogging

1candle

Happy Blogiversary to me!

October 1, 2014 was a very important date for me. It was my one year blogiversary!

In the last year, I’ve learned quite a lot. I started this blog at the same time as, and as part of, my author platform. I knew it’d take time to build, and even though people said, why do you have a blog or who’s going to listen to you if you’re not published, well… they did. So here are 14 things I learned in one year of blogging and platform building.

1. It’s Not Enough to be on Social Media
That’s important—critical even—but you have to have a place to send people, and that’s why you need a web site. You also need a place you “own” and if you only put content on Facebook, you’re putting your valuable words in the hands of some corporation that can (and does) change its policies whenever it feels like it.

 

fresh right now

 

2. You Need Constant Fresh Content
You want people to come back to your site over and over, right? Well, there’s not much reason if nothing much changes. If all you do is add a book signing event and information about new releases, there’s really not much to make your readers visit again in the future. But put up a new blog post and boom! They come to read it.

3. Provide Value for Your Readers
Why is Google one of (if not) the top web site of all time? It provides huge value to its visitors. Value brings people back and makes them stay. Give people a reason to come to your site, give them a reason to come back, and if you’ve done a wonderful job, give them a reason to follow you on every social outlet there is because they can’t get enough of what you have to say.

4. Blogs Connect You to Your Readers
You can look at some one’s list of publications and it may be impressive, but what do you know about that person? Yet, in blogging, the author’s personality and bits about them come out. By reading my blog, you’d know I also used to have a nail blog and post bookish nail art pics from time to time. You’d also probably hear me talk about some of my awesome writer friends, my writing groups, my daughter, my husband, my cats, etc. When people feel connected to you, they’re going to be more involved with you in every way.

5. Set yearly goals
As soon as my blog was live, I did a very important thing. I’ve been listening to all those who’ve talked to me about goal setting. I know it seems like one of those things you heard about in high school or undergrad and never bothered to do, but trust me, it is actually important. You’re much more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down, make them specific and realistic and find a way to measure them. My goals range from number of posts to number of followers.

Here are a few of the goals I set and how I actually did:

GOAL ACHIEVEMENT THOUGHTS
Post twice a week (total of 104) Posted 92 times I was 12 short of my goal between Octobers, but this is acceptable to me. I missed a few when I was out of town and skipped an embarrassing 2 weeks when I had surgery, but otherwise, I stayed on track and I know this will improve next year.
200 Subscribers (email + Bloglovin) 40 subscribers So, this one fell pretty short. But, I also had a plan in mind that I have yet to put into place, so the failure in my book is in not doing the plan more so than not gaining subscribers.
Post views of 500 top – 1600, average – 100 My regular post views are a little lower than I’d hoped for, but I had a post go viral (in relation to my blog) and get a huge 1600 views, so I’m pretty happy about that. Plus, my numbers continue to grow, so that works for me.
3 giveaways 3 giveaways I’ve done this one right on target. The last giveaway starts today!
1000 Twitter followers over 30,000 followers This one I totally blew away. I was hugely active on Twitter and ended up spending really, all my social media time there, with great rewards!
3000 Facebook likes 1272 likes This one didn’t quite make it, but also, a few months into blogging, I realized that Facebook isn’t benefiting me much because of the way they handle pages, and I put less effort in. I see this more as a decision to adjust goals rather than not hitting one.
500 Google Plus fans 556 fans Even though I did hit this goal, I haven’t put a lot of effort into Google + either, for similar reasons as Facebook.
Post 12 videos to YouTube posted 2 videos I wish I had done better with this, but this was always a long shot. This was more of a pie-in-the-sky-that-I-might-be-able-to-pull-off goal. Still, I posted 2 of my own videos, I have footage for many more. If I can count the fantasy vs. sci-fi video I was in for the Dragon’s Rocketship, the one coming out later this month also for TDR, and the video of my short story coming out in Bad Actors audio magazine, then I’m actually at 5.

6. Goals Aren’t Only About Numbers
Goals also help you learn about yourself. For example, I learned that trying to do a video per month is probably more than I have time for. So, if that goal is important, when I do my goal planning for next year, I’ll have to make other adjustments. Like maybe have more guest posts so I can still hit my twice a week post number. Goals motivate you and give you something to aim for. They have to be realistic and achievable, but I’m also not broken up over the ones I missed. Some had good reason and conscious decisions, like my Facebook page, but others have shown me where I need to improve and where I have excelled.

7. Having a Schedule Makes Life Easier
I had heard people suggest blogging schedules, but never had one. About halfway into the year, I finally made one and everything changed. The stress of my Thursday night freak out over what the heck will I post tomorrow, disappeared. I made a list of things I wanted to talk about or had a post started about. I plugged them in. I put in important dates. For example, this one-year post I knew I wanted to do from the beginning. I have posts scheduled for during NaNoWriMo, I have my end-of-year post planned. This not only takes away the stress of not knowing what to write, but gives me time to plan for more time-consuming posts.

8. Scheduling Isn’t Just for Blog Posts
I have a schedule for my Twittter, Facebook, and Google+ posts, too. There’s a certain strategy I use and I schedule them in Hootsuite. Hootsuite is great because you can schedule stuff far in advance, but you can always change it. Scheduling posts just takes some of the pressure off. I don’t have to remember to do it, I just get to go and interact, which is the fun part anyway.

9. Consistency Matters
When I look at my Google analytics, it’s amazing to see what happens if I miss a blog post. It might seem like no big deal to skip one, but I have a fairly predictable view pattern, until I miss a post. Then it all goes down for a few weeks. being consistent really does matter. it gives people a reason to come back and and they know when to come back. There are certain hashtags I use on certain days and everything. Plus, there’s the whole habit-forming thing. If you always post on Tuesdays and Fridays, your mind is more likely to make it happen once you’ve made it a habit.

10. Guest Posts Are Important
For a few reasons, you should have somewhat regular guest posts. I initially aimed for once a month, but I only ended up doing about half that (because I did the first half the year with no schedule!). Not only does this free you up for a week (unless you’re swapping posts and writing something for their blog), but it brings a new voice and fresh content to your space. You get their followers coming to your blog and your followers are introduced to someone new. Hopefully, they will return the favor and let you post on their blog sometime. It’s also a great way to meet people and make connections.

 

best friends

 

11. Engagement Matters!
People want to know you’re not shouting at them, but are there to talk to. I often tweet when I finish reading a book and let me tell you, I remember which authors tweeted back. Some of them are big names, even (Maggie Stiefvater and Rainbow Rowell!). It’s exciting as a reader and it shows me they care. When I think of them or their books, there is a little warm place in my heart. And guess what that means. When their new books come out, I am going to buy them and read them with excitement. Beyond warming people to you, it’s just fun. Sure, there are trolls everywhere, but mostly people are decent and fun. We all want to be heard. If you respond to a tweet, it just might make that person’s day.

12. Use Proper Etiquette
Every community has it’s own etiquette. On Twitter, Google, and Instagram, people often follow back. In fact, many people will unfollow you if you don’t follow back. On Facebook, it’s often frowned upon if you’re in a group and only post links to your bog without interacting with the members of that group. Learn the social media network, it’s quirks and the expectations of its members, and try to follow it. You’ll have better results if you do.

13. Social Media Will Help You Meet People
In the end, the reason you’re doing all of this is to make connections. No matter if your end goal is to publish and sell books, have a popular blog, or just for fun, you need people. Social media can help you do that. This is where engagement pays off. I’ve made so many friends and connections through Facebook and Twitter. They’ve become everything from confidants to beta readers to partners in bigger projects. You might be tempted to think those relationships aren’t the same quality as your in-person ones, and maybe they aren’t the same, but that doesn’t make them lesser. People are important. Go meet some!

14. Don’t Limit Yourself
Lots of writers talk about writing and books. I think most writer blogs are about that. And there’s nothing wrong with that because writers are readers and you want readers to visit your blog. But! Don’t feel like that’s all you can talk about. In fact, adding in a side topic can attract followers you wouldn’t otherwise have. My most successful post this year had very little to do with writing and nothing to do with books. It was about depression and suicide. The post had 7 times as many views as my next most successful post. It touched people and I had many great conversations because of it. I made new friends online and in real life because of it. And in the end, as writers, we want to touch lives and create emotions. Don’t be afraid to bring in your other interests to do it!

 

thank you

Thanks!

Thank you all for an awesome year! Looking forward to even more amazingness in the next :)

Denise Drespling

12 Comments

  1. Denise, this is your best post EVER! Keep up the good work, and keep keeping us informed. Love watching your journey. Love your generosity of spirit.

  2. I think, and I’m learning the more you approach it as you would a job – the more growth you’ll see from it. Thanks and good work on the blog and the list.

    • Thank you! And yes, unfortunately, you have to see it as a job–or at least give it the same amount of planning–if it’s something you want to be successful at.

  3. thank you sharing your experiences and insights from your first year. I am on the brink of doing a blog, and is heartening to hear how you acheived it.
    Anita

  4. Thanks for this post. I really appreciate you putting up “real” numbers in your goals. That is so refreshing to see, especially that it is okay not to hit a goal now and then. Good luck with all your future goals!

    • Glad it helped! And you’re right–a goal is something to aim for, and if you don’t hit it, you know you need to adjust some things to make it happen :)

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