Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Three things I learned about blogging

guinea pig blogcademy blogging
Does my blog look big in this? Randy checks out the Blogcademy mug.

What’s it like running a blog with three to four hundred THOUSAND unique visitors a month? I found out when I attended the Blogcademy in Sydney.

The two-day workshop is the brain child of Kat Williams (RocknRollBride), Shauna Haider (aka Nubby Twiglet) and Galadarling (aka Galadarling), who teamed up to teach people the ins and outs of blogging.

Their sites aren’t vet or animal sites, but these are giants in the blogging world, and their experience is valuable to anyone navigating the world of blogging – whether it’s a bona fide blog or microblogging via social media (Facebook, twitter, Instagram etc).

I don’t intend to blog to that scale, although it was fascinating as a consumer of blogs as well as a blogger, learning about how much advertising money that sort of readership attracts, and what it allows bloggers to do (quit their day-job, develop a travel budget, collaborate internationally, dictate to advertising and PR companies the angle a post will take and not be dictated to).

Meeting Kat Williams, Shauna Haider and Galadarling - some of the biggest bloggesses on the planet.
Blogging is on the rise. One delegate, a journalist, summed it up in a nutshell.
“I work for a major newspaper and you guy [bloggers] are taking over our job.”

They may be from different continents and different professions, although they share a mutual love of sequins (alas I'm yet to find a veterinary job that incorporates sequins).
Here are a few points I took home from the workshop.

  1. Blogging = work, work, work. Good bloggers are accountable, post at the same time each day, week or month (ahem), and help their readers. Galadarling, who blogged for free for ten years before she made money from it, works on her blog and its associated bits and pieces (social media, email etc) for around ten hours a day. She has a blogging agent. Shauna, who does it on the side to promote her design studio, does 3-4 hours a day. These ladies command massive audiences – but they are professional bloggers. Their work ethic is impressive. Even at the conference they burned through content with a single break in the middle for lunch – when they workshopped people’s blogs. There’s no fast-track to international blogging success – stuffing your posts with key-words or monetising before you have an audience are things that will turn readers off.
  2. A good blog has a clear purpose. Bloggers should constantly audit themselves – why did I start this blog? What problems does it solve? Where is it going? Who is its ideal reader? (Kat Williams suggested that your ideal reader might be yourself, five years ago). The most popular blogs teach people something, and the most popular posts tend to be DIY guides, how-tos, advice, behind-the-scenes glimpses or problem solving posts. As Galadarling said, “People using their computer [to read blogs] really want to get off their computer and use their hands.” Or play with their cats.
  3. .   Design counts. I’m not a fancy-schmancy person, but Shauna convinced me that looks count a LOT. Once they land on your blog you have around 2.5 seconds to get someone’s attention. More, not less, white space is recommended. She recommends using a maximum of 6 colours (including black and white) and using colour palettes. Using your own images, and creating those images in your own style, is an important part of your blog’s tone.
  4. .   Be ethical. I am being a bit naughty here as I said I learned three things, but one thing these bloggers have in common is that they make an effort to do the right thing by others. If they have a sponsored post, a) they disclose it and b) they make sure that post is helpful to their readers. Rather than just advertise new hair pieces, Kat gave her readers a how-to hairstyling guide for bridesmaids using those pieces. They also don’t advertise anything that goes against what they stand for. For example, Galadarling writes about self-esteem, so won’t advertise products that play on people’s anxiety. Kat is inked, and won’t advertise tattoo removal services. They don’t erode their own privacy by exposing their inner turmoil, but they give readers a glimpse into their own lives. They don’t rip images or posts of the sites of others. Even watching these girls work together was positive – they respect and support one another, and they know each other’s work inside out. In fact their role modelling of ethical collaboration, though it wasn’t on the program, was the highlight for me.

cats blogcademy
Michael is going to process all this new info and aid in the implementation.

The above represents the tip of a Titanic-sinking-sized iceberg of notes I took down. To find out more about what I learned, keep checking in over the next three months and watch SAT morph.