Meta: Establishing a Blog

I'm John Fischer and I've been blogging for nearly ten years. In honor of that, I'd like to share what I've learned about how to do this sort of thing and what I wish I knew then. In the previous post, I've went into detail on how to get started blogging. Today, I want to go into establishing your blog. This will go over issues such as tone, ideas, schedules, promotion, and more.

But first, I will repeat my biggest piece of advice:

Make the blog something you would want to read.

OK, let's jump right into it - assuming you've read the previous two posts.

Setting and Keeping a Schedule

This goes back to why I harped on knowing your own situation; how much you can honestly spend blogging. I know, it's ironic that I write this over a month and a half since my last Meta post. However, you want to build, sustain, and/or grow your blog to be something others want to read, I find it best to have regular content. The kind of content will help draw out what regular really means. For a sports site, having something up around games or other big days (e.g. free agency beginning, the trade deadline, etc.) makes some sense. For a photography site, it could be as often as you take pictures. It'll depend. The important thing is that you set it to what best fits the content and what best fits your life.

In my case, I can easily talk, opine, write, and overthink about the Devils for hours and days at a time. However, I want my posts to be based on something more than just a thought. So I do research; I pull data; I try to come to some kind of conclusion; and so forth. It takes time. Because I want to do that while also maintaining a day job and a personal life, I can't write every day. And that's fine. I do have to make time for the site, but I try to keep it regular to best fit it in. And given that I'd like to have posts up every day; when this site was popular enough, I reached out to the community for help. Help that has been integral to this site becoming bigger while meeting my desire for something to be up here just about every day. So you, the reader, have a reason to keep coming to the site; and I'm not stretched too thin.

No, you may not be able to get voluntary help from the start. But I was able to build an audience by at least making sure I had something up for games like a preview and a recap. I would make a post when significant news would happen. I eventually made a regular post that allowed for analysis. The important thing is that I set a schedule for when content should be up and I made the adjustments in my life and in my writing to meet them.

Do you need a hard schedule for your blog? It depends on what it is, really. But I believe that having some kind of content to keep drawing people to visit and come back is the way to go. Unless I was writing some exceptional material that no one else really had; I doubt this site would have grown to where it is otherwise. I know I wouldn't be a reader of a site, if I would go visit and nothing was there as expected. So I cannot stress the importance to sticking to something to get started as you build your blog.

How to Promote a Blog

One of my biggest weaknesses is self-promotion, both with the blog and in life. I either come across too strong or, more often, I am so passive about it that it barely registers. If nothing else, it's one of the reasons why I and the site is not bigger than it is. The reasons are multiple. I'm not terribly interested in using some of the platforms, I'd rather work on content, I don't think I'm good at it, and so forth. Because of this, I can't really offer much advice that will help. I can say that if you're interested in having your blog be popular in your area that you're interested in, then you should heed my errors.

As you start a blog, I recommend knowing, understanding, and being a part of "the scene" of whatever your blog is about. This is good for a number of reasons. It'll help with understanding what's being discussed and what people may be interested in. This will make it more comfortable to promote what it is your doing on your site. You can learn what works and what puts people off. You may even find it to be fun. With the growth of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other such sites, it's easier than before to jump into a community. You don't need to find a set of message boards or other sites (though if they exist, at least be aware of them).

I would suggest not to get too wrapped up into the communities such that you ignore the blog or others not necessarily plugged in. The idea is to promote a blog, not find a replacement. And you don't want to spam the space with links to your posts. Some are more forgiving than others - Twitter, well, just Tweet all day long; Reddit has rules about it. But you'll get a lot more credibility by being a member and stating, "Hey, check this out," more than just jumping in going "THIS IS THE SITE TO READ."

Lastly, I will offer some appreciation to SB Nation for providing tools to make promotion easier. So this way there's a system that makes a Facebook entry, makes a Twitter card, etc. You may not have such tools; but don't be like me and ignore them entirely. Learn how they work and incorporate it to be a part of what you do as part of posting something up.

Findings Ideas for Posts

When I got started, I had a lot to say and it felt like I could do this without issue. After all, it was in the middle of the season and I was excited. Eventually, the season ended and the excitement faded a bit. So I ran into some Writer's Block. In high school, I received some good advice on how to avoid it. Namely, keep writing. Something. Anything. It's better than nothing, even if it's irrelevant and not something to publish. That helped. But what helped me more was having a set of ideas.

I've kept a mental list - occasionally I'd write them down - of things I would want to write about. Given that I blog about the Devils, breaking news or more recent events will take precedence. What do I do when there's none of that? I go to the list. Hence, I save up bigger projects for "down" periods like the offseason. Such as reviewing every goal allowed by the Devils to see which ones were soft. Or tracking every single penalty kill by the Devils. Or simulating the Devils season in a game just to see what would happen. Or digging into some hard data that I could not get into during the season. I've been personally trying to do this for less intensive posts; something I think I could take care in a day or two. I would recommend having a list - physical and/or mental - so when inspiration strikes, you can capture it and "release it" when you're searching for something.

I also would recommend reading. By reading other blogs, other sites, other communities, and so forth about your area of interest, it'll help spur your mind as far as what to write about. If what you're blogging about is your passion, then you probably would do this anyway. It's important to do. It can be a reaction to something else. It can be applying a methodology to something you're more interested in (e.g. WoodMoney applied to the Devils). It can be inspiration for something else completely. All the same, this will help keep the creative juices flowing that will fuel the blog.

It is crucial that you always link back to what you've read, used, and so forth. It is only right for the original creator - as well as showing your readers where you're coming from. And never plagiarize someone else's work; that's just wrong and disrespectful to the original offer.

Be Involved in Your Own Blog

Posting content is crucial for a blog. It's what the blog is made of. Many blogs lead to communities forming around them. They can be extensions of a larger fanbase of the topic at hand. They may be focused on what it is that you do. If you're planning to have a blog that's part of a larger subject and especially if you are an active part of the community (or communities) surrounding it, then you'll need to take care of what goes on within your blog. That means comments. That means emails. That means responses on social media. That means anything where a reader can reach out to you.

I'll go into more detail about dealing with an audience in a later post. However, just as much as there is value in being active in communities, there is value in dealing with direct feedback. I'd say it's more important as it's someone reaching out to you. So if someone has a legitimate question, then go and answer it. If someone sends you a constructive or complimentary email, respond - even if it is only to say "thanks." The same applies on social media. By responding to the messages that are worth responding to - that's a crucial point - you are communicating more than what your response is. You are communicating that you listen to others. You care, to a degree, about your readers. And that's vital. Your blog will be nothing more than a journal without the readers. So treating them as part of the larger community as opposed to just plain readers helps it grow. You still are in charge of your own blog (assuming it's yours) and you shouldn't necessarily let the crowd dictate everything that you do. But you shouldn't just ignore or keep them away all the time either. These acts, more than any set of rules or statement, make your blog an inclusive place for the people who want to read it. More than most actions, it says that you respect and care about your readers. Therefore, I try to keep up with that.

Granted, if you prefer not having comments or provide a means for people to contact you, then that's understandable. And this may not be applicable. But if/when someone has some feedback; as in actual, constructive feedback, then you're missing out. To that end, setting up a blog specific account or email address helps keep your personal and work stuff away from the blog; as well as keeping your own life away from the larger readership. If your goal is to have a blog where there is some kind of community, you'll need to provide some kind of outlet to let that happen. And then nurture it as you see fit. Content is king for a blog. Community is its queen.

Setting the Tone

What you blog about will help drive your tone. Tone is important as it relates to the "voice" of the blog. What you write is one thing; how you write it will drive how it is read (or heard). Starting out, I would not be too concerned with it. If you are starting out, then you were like me. It's the first time you're writing beyond a set community like a message board. You'll learn what you are and aren't comfortable with in time and practice. Practice is crucial; the more you write, the better you'll get in terms of what does and does not work. And even more technically proficient - which is something I struggle with. I've found that unless the wording is so confusing and difficult to read, most people will overlook a mistake here or there. Of course, that doesn't mean improvement isn't worth seeking. I'll keep trying, people.

What you want to achieve with the blog and what you'd like to read will help guide what the tone of your site will be. For example, if you want a place to rant about the news of the day, then ranting, by its nature, will lead to a more aggressive or at least more pointed blog. Your personality will also come into play. If you're prone to ranting and such, then you'll likely want to write in that manner. It is certainly possible to write against how you may speak, though. For example, I'm not a clean-mouthed person. Call it a lack of class, a lack of care, a lack of cleverness, being from the greatest state in the country, or whatever. It is what it is. But I do keep my writing clean on this site because that's the kind of site I want it to be.

Related to this, there's the notion of bias. By its nature, blogs will have a bias because of the person involved. I'm a Devils fan. I have a Devils blog. I'm going to focus on the Devils and I'd like them to win. Even when I'm being negative, it's because I know it can be better - which is what I ultimately want out of the team. Because I'm a Devils fan, I rightly think the Rangers suck. Even when they are objectively a better team; they just inherently suck. I am especially pleased when the Devils beat them. (Aside: A part of my perfect world would be the Devils winning as many Stanley Cups as they can. Ideally before the Rangers complete the 54-year period required to win another one, except their 54-year period becomes forever-plus-one.) At the same time, I don't think the blog is some kind of land of posts that boil down to Devils rule, Rangers suck. It's because I've made a point of it to write with some kind of rationale behind it. This means focusing on the facts, going to great lengths to detail where I'm coming from with my point and why you might care about it, and even willing to swallow my pride when I turn out to be wrong or the Rangers perhaps, maybe, don't really suck as much as I think they do. This leads to a dryer tone and that may not be what some readers want. I have a bias but I'm keeping it real about what that is and where I come from with what I write. And, as needed, I'll explain and discuss further in the comments. But I'd rather have that than just be a sunshine/dark cloud-pumping partisan. Because at the end of the day, my main piece informs this as well as the other topics in this post: Make the blog something you would want to read.

I think we'll leave it here for now. With these concepts as well as continuing to make content, you should be able to really establish the blog after starting it. From there, it becomes a habit more than anything else to make content, keep up with the community in and outside of the blog, and come up with ideas to keep making more content. With persistence, you'll be able to get more of a handle of what your blog is and what you want to do with it.

Next post, let's deal more with the audience. How do you deal with them? (In more depth than the larger point I made in this post.) What rules should you employ? What's the best way to deal with trolls, bad behavior, and criticism? I know at least a little bit about all of that, so let's go over that in the next meta post. Thank you for reading.

All FanPosts and FanShots are the respective work of the author and not representative of the writers or other users of All About the Jersey.