Summer Blog Social – Advice for Others

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Finish the phrase, “Before I began blogging, I wish I had known…“. Feel free to substitute “blogging” with “joined Twitter” or whatever other social media phrase is appropriate.
Before I began blogging, I knew nothing. And I kind of like it that way. Everything I've learned in the six years since, about everything from content to memes to writing prompts to design to sponsored posts, I've figured out on my own as I've gone along. I own what I know, and it makes me eager to learn more!
Before I joined Twitter, I wish I'd known how addictive it was! I started my account a year ago, because I thought it would be the easiest way for my family to keep people updated throughout the day of my kidney transplant. I set the “Tweet by Text” number in my cell phone and handed it to Jamie with instructions to “Send a text to that address with updates please” and that was it. I think he tweeted only two or three times the whole day! I wish I'd known more of the etiquette; hashtags, Twitter parties, #FF… all of it. But, like blogging, I also like that I'm learning as I go along!

If a real life friend approached you and said, “I want to start a blog. Can you give me a list of helpful tips?“, what 10 (or more) things would you tell your friend?

  1. Start small. It's OK to have a basic template at first. Don't get so caught up in making it pretty that you forget about the…
  2. Content. You will want to post constantly at first, and that's normal. It's really easy to schedule posts, so you can write a bunch at once, and then have them go public over a few days.
  3. Turn. Off. Captcha. Word. Verification. Immediately.
  4. Ignore the trolls and assholes.
  5. Don't write anything you aren't prepared to stand behind. If you take a strong stand for or against a potentially controversial topic, there's a good chance someone else will have an equally strong stand on the other side of the aisle.
  6. Aim for a balance of pictures and words. The occasional “camera dump” is fine, but really, only you and your mom want to look at a dozen pictures of little Suzy eating Cheerios. Show me one picture, and use words for the rest of the story!
  7. Don't be afraid to take a break. You aren't a “bad blogger” if you don't post for a few days, or even weeks! Sometimes real life gets in the way, and that's OK. Unless someone is specifically paying you to blog (See #8) it's a hobby, not a job with a real commitment.
  8. Get your feet wet before you start searching out advertisers and paid blogging opportunities. Spend some time building a community of readers and THEN look for some dollars.
  9. Have fun!
  10. Join Twitter. It's an amazing tool for building both your readership, your brand and your knowledge base.

When you visit a blog, what areas – besides the main post – do you check out? Do you visit the Nav Bar pages? Look at the sidebars? Check for a list of categories or tags? Talk about the elements of a website that are most important to you.
As a graphic designer, I look for a clean, easy to read layout. I'm skipping over purple text on a lavender background. If there are a thousand flashing ads and crap, I'm out. Music? It wouldn't be possible for me to close that tab any faster!
When I visit a blog for the first time, I'll read whatever post brought me there, and then usually the About Me page. I love having a face to go with the voice I'm reading, so I love a few photos and some bonus info about the person behind the blog. I'm also a sucker for those “Suggested Reading” widgets at the bottom of a lot of posts (I should TOTALLY add one of those here!) And can get lost for quite some time reading over those.
I don't seek them out, but if I see a button for a group (Clever Girls, The Red Dress Club etc) I'll take note and maybe seek out a post related to that, since we have something in common.

What activities, practices, features or events have helped you most in terms of blog or social media growth?
If I was going to link it to a single event, it would totally have to be joining Twitter. Last Novermber, I heard about a project called Reverb10, which was a daily writing challenge for December. I'd been wanting to do more writing and less camera dumps, so this seemed like the perfect thing; I had half the month off still, post-transplant, and a slow time at work, allowing me to write.
And I was hooked! After meeting some Reverbers on Twitter, I was introduced to #wineparty and The Red Dress Club, and through those two things, I've met 98% of my new blog friends, and it's because of Twitter that I'm going to BlogHer next week.
It's allowed to me build an audience outside of people I know in real life, and the amazing people I've met there have changed me in a million ways. As a person, as a writer, as a mom.
So yeah, Twitter.

I'm linking up with Liz from A Belle, A Bean, A Chicago Dog and Jessica from Four Plus an Angel for this Summer Blog Social; she provided the prompts and I'm writing on as many of them as apply! Click below to join!

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  1. Wow! You did a lot of prompts in one post. Good for you. This post was full of great advice. Music and flashing ads should be banned. Seriously.

  2. You are seriously WORKING the prompts, girl! LOVE it!

    I am 1,000,000% with you on Twitter! Well, I agree with everything in your list of 10, too, but – man – Twitter has changed SO much for me. Everyone needs to be on Twitter.

  3. Great advice! Your list was my favorite. Very short and to the point. "Ignore trolls and assholes" was my favorite line.
    And I totally agree with you about Twitter. Changed my bloggy life.
    Glad to meet you here, I knew this linky would lead me to some great new blog friends!!

  4. What amazing tips! Twitter has really been where I have connected with a lot of other bloggers and learned a lot quickly.

  5. Great tips. I'm with you on blog design. The really flashy, cutesy stuff turns me off.

    I also look for the about page pretty much right away – I want to know who someone is, and I look for their story. Everyone has a story. If there isn't one, I'm WAY less likely to browse.

  6. I agree…I like that I've learned everything on my own, rather than already knowing about it. And I don't mind a little flashy on templates, but a whole bunch of stuff just gives me a headache. Well done!

  7. What amazing advice! I love it all! I totally agree about word verification and music! For the love of all things holy, turn that crap off! Love your insight on design as well! I think when it comes to design, the cleaner & simpler the better! I am so excited about the SummerBlogSocial & getting to read posts like this all week! Yay!

  8. There is just so much you do not really know about blogging until you get started. And twitter (which I love) is a whole other novel, but just a wonderful network of people! I have found that sometimes I am really moved to write and other times it is really hard to come up with ideas. How fantastic that you did it for a month and how wonderful you found that you enjoy writing. Have a great time at BlogHer! Can't wait to hear about it when you come back! -Laverne

  9. Didn't link up, but cruising through some of the blogs listed…good tips. Can't wait to click around your place some more. I love the about me pages too.

  10. Great, great advice! I highly agree with using Twitter as a way to get your blog out and meet others!

  11. These are all awesome tips and you covered a ton of ground in this post! I love that you mention about wanting to post so often but not neglecting content. That's so very true. I always try to remember quality over quantity when it comes to blogging. Sometimes I forget. Isn't it funny when we look back to see how we found out about things like TRDC, wineparty, etc. Funny how we all somehow find each other!

  12. I had my twitter account for a long time before I got into public blogging. I seriously had no idea how it worked. But now? I get the shakes if I don't have my phone nearby!

  13. Your top 10 list? Awesome. I agree with each and every one of them. And the music and blinking ads? They should be banned from the internet world completely.

    Twitter has changed my life! Seriously. Aside from people such awesome people on there, it has helped my site grow too. I think it's one of the best tools out there.

  14. Great advice!!! I completely agree with your top 10 list, and I wish I had joined twitter sooner. It is really a great place to connect with others. I'm still learning and hope to join in on a #wineparty soon!

  15. Great advice – totally with you on the music. I just don't GET that! And word captcha – I don't GET that either! Found you from #SummerBlogSocial. It's going to be fun – I'm a new follower of yours.

  16. Great post Lizz. Full of awesome advice. I love that you suggest getting your feet wet first before going after dollars! I also love your design tips!! My eyes often hurt when I view some crazy colored blogs.

  17. Stopping by from Summer Blog Social! I totally agree with you about the Twitter stuff. I am pretty new and learning as I go too! 🙂

  18. I second the no music policy. Totally no music (unless you are a musician). I also love the Suggested Reading idea. I'll have to think of some and add it.

  19. You touched on so many of the issues that I thought of! Especially the music and word verification. It just needs to stop.

    Also, my work computer sucks and won't let me comment via my google account. If you want to email back it's 🙂

  20. Such good tips and advice! Especially twitter. And captcha.

    I also adore how you're embracing the learning curve- you're right they're all good lessons that you just have to get through!

    P.S. See you SOON!! XO

  21. Great advice! and I hate visiting a page with music, always seems like the baby has just fallen asleep when I open one of those and his head is right next to the speaker…

  22. Wow, these are all awesome pieces of advice! and especially about twitter. I wish someone had told me about it earlier!

  23. This is awesome! I totally agree with you on the music thing. Drives me bonkers.

    I'm also a Bay Area Mom… but a total newbie up there. 🙂 Loving it so far but I have a sneaking suspicion I might be in a tad more rural situation than you are :-). Come check us out!!!

  24. Great tips!!! I really hope everyone blasting CAPTCHA makes an impact somehow. PLEASE DEAR LORD ABOVE MAKE THIS TRUE!!!!

    I include "Photobomb" in all of my picture-heavy posts so that people who don't care can be forewarned & so that my family & friends can easily search out the pictures of Klaw. I don't even do it once a week…

  25. I'm a little late to the party (because I was so busy writing posts myself I guess), but this was a great post with great advice.

    I've been slow to catch on and I too am proud of how I'm finding my way.

    I noticed you said you've had a kidney transplant. My husband had a kidney and pancreas transplant at UCSF back in 1996. It only lasted 6 years though, and hesn't received another yet. I hope you are doing well!

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