Guest Post By Sonya Spillmann of Spilling Over
I started blogging backwards. I wanted to write for over a decade, but never had the guts to start. Last year, I decided to start my blog if I got published first.
As a challenge, I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother, a performance where writers read their written work in front of a live audience. My essay was chosen, and it was exactly the kick in the pants I needed to start my blog. But instead of being elated, I panicked. I knew nothing about blogging.
I quickly became a disciple of Beyond Your Blog and I’ve enjoyed writing for my site as well as getting published on larger platforms. In talking with friends and family, I’m still surprised by their eagerness to be supportive, although they don’t always know how.
If you’re new to blogging or still find yourself explaining why you spend so much time with your computer, this post is for you to share with your people. I focused on those of us who like (or want) to write for an ever-growing audience.
Here are 13 things a new Blogger wants their friends and family to know about blogging:
1. Not all blogs are created equal.
This doesn’t mean one blog is better than the next, but that every blog has a unique voice and purpose. We all have different personalities, and as writers, our voices and style reflect our individuality. Our goal is to connect with a group of readers who enjoy what we write and appreciate why we write it.
2. We all write for different reasons.
I started writing out of a deep desire to share my words for my kids. Some bloggers start with a book deal in mind. Others write purely for a creative or emotional outlet. Feel free to ask us why we write and what we want from it. (And don’t be surprised if we’re still figuring it out!)
3. Regardless of our reasons for starting a blog, the answer is Yes.
All of us would love to make money from our blog. Besides our words having measurable value…I’ll explain it with three words: computer, couch, comfy pants. Need I say more?
4a. Connections = Value.
We all define success differently, but at the heart of blogging, we want to connect with readers. Even if I never make a dime from my blog, I’ll be happy if I’ve helped or encouraged someone by sharing my words.
4b. Connections = Currency.
The more connections we have (i.e. the more followers we have on any given social media platform) the more value we hold. A blogger cannot entertain the possibility of making money unless they have a following. Whether it be through selling ad space or attracting a literary agent, a blogger needs to prove their value with a pre-existing market.
5. If you love us in real life, “Like” us online.
Many bloggers separate their writing from their personal lives and create Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook pages for their blog. Some of us have no qualms about inviting 800 Facebook friends to Like our blog page. But there are those of us who feel awkward extending an invitation to a former-4th-grade reading-buddy-turned-Facebook-friend. (Am I the only one who feels this way?) If you keep up with us online, and you’ve given a “Like” to your favorite sushi place or yogurt brand, we’d appreciate your Like on our page, too. (Refer to #4).
6. SUBSCRIBE to our blog.
(Sign up with your email, we promise not to sell it!) Hands down, this is the best way to “follow” a blog. Unlike our website, we don’t own our Facebook page (and can’t control if you’ll see our posts, see #7) and subscribing guarantees a way to connect with you. You’ll never miss an entry because they’ll arrive directly to your inbox.
7. Your Likes/Comments/Shares help us stick it to the man. (The man being Mark Zuckerberg).
No offense to Mr. Z, but Facebook has some dirty little secrets. Unlike a personal page, a blog’s FB page provides statistics on Reach (how many people see a post). Depending on the number of followers and the whims of magic FB fairies, a single FB post can reach 38 people or 600K. (For big sites, Reach is in the millions). This means you may not see our post, even if you’ve Liked our page. (But guess what? For a small fee, we can pay FB to increase our reach!)
Bloggers spend countless hours trying to improve Reach (without paying), and although there are some tricks, no one really knows how it works. EXCEPT for this: There is a positive (and exponential) correlation between Reach and the amount of Likes/Comments/Shares a post receives. Your Likes/Comments/Shares matter!
8. “Sharing is Caring.”
If you like what you read, and you feel someone else might like it too, please share it on social media. Sharing increases our possibility for connections (see #4, again). The goal isn’t for 4 billion people see our words. The goal is to connect with readers who like what we write (and the chances of that happening are much greater if 4 billion people see it).
9. That being said, we don’t expect you to Like/Share/Comment on everything we write or post.
We know we can’t be all things to all people. My hardest (but best) writing is honest and deep. I write about life through the lenses of faith, grief, and motherhood. I love all my people, but I’d never expect my agnostic childless friends to like/share an essay called How Jesus Influences my Parenting.
10. Don’t think too hard, just comment.
(Engage!) My sister-in-law recently told me, “I read everything you write and I want to comment, but I never know what to say. I spend so much time thinking, I end up not writing anything.”
It’s intimidating to write publicly and we’d love some (positive) feedback. Whether it’s on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or the blog itself, it means a lot to connect with you. Don’t overthink it. “I liked this!” or “Made me laugh/cry/hug my kid!” is great. We appreciate knowing you’re in our little corner of the online world.
11. For those of us who craft stories with our words, getting published “beyond our blog” is a huge deal.
A year ago, I thought editors read endless random blogs and re-published what they liked. (So naive.) In reality, writers submit directly to certain sites in hopes of being chosen for publication. It’s intimidating and nerve-wracking. It can also be incredibly validating.
When you see our writing “beyond our blog,” it means someone other than our sister thinks our writing is worth reading and we’ve made it through an editorial process. As with applying for colleges, every blogger has a Safe Bet and Stretch Goal publication sites, based on interest and abilities. We’d love for you to ask us what publication we’re shooting for—and celebrate with us if/when we “get in.”
12. Getting published on Huffington Post isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Almost every blogger wants to be published by Huffington Post because of name recognition. Everyone knows HuffPo, even our 79-year-old neighbor.
So what’s the rub? For one—they don’t pay. Also, because of the enormity of the institution, a post can get buried pretty fast. Many bloggers see zero increase in traffic to their blog or Facebook page after a HuffPo publication. (HuffPo does not automatically equal more connections.)
Then why keep submitting? Plain and simple: Ease. HuffPo doesn’t mind re-publishing content and, like the rat who keeps hitting the lever, we hope one day a big chunk of HuffPo’s 6 million eyes will land on our words.
13. Not every conversation we have will end up as a blog post.
I consider myself a writer with blog and I’ll often think about a writing idea for weeks (or months) before I write it. I love to bounce ideas off my friends but I don’t use every interaction we have as blog entry fodder.
Yes, bloggers enjoy writing relatable and meaningful pieces online and increasing our “following” but nothing replaces our In Real Life connections and conversations. We’re thankful for your support, and we wouldn’t want to share our words with others if we didn’t already have these special relationships with you!
There’s so much more to write. What else do you want your friends and family to know? Leave it in the comments!