“Writing means sharing. It is part of the human condition to want to share things- thoughts, ideas, opinions.” – Paulo Coelho
This sentiment is particularly true to my approach as a writer, speaker and more generally, a member of society. I have always enjoyed exchanging ideas and knowledge with those around me, as both a means of expression and of broadening my own understanding of the world. It is likely what led me to public speaking, and it is definitely why I always have something to say!
What I have found challenging this semester is using this passion to write engaging, informative content as a researcher. Where previously I was simply discussing a concept, I now had to learn how to incorporate ethnographic research and secondary information into my weekly blogs. In doing this, I struggled to find a balance between academic and conversational writing styles. When relating to scholarly references I tended to lose touch with the purpose of my blog – to interact with, inspire and educate others. Instead, I found myself using overly technical language, and losing that spark that had once enchanted my writing. It was only when I had the idea to write personally about my grandmother that I was able to blend the factual with human elements, giving my blogging voice a sophisticated yet humorous tone.
Over the past ten weeks, I have noticed a considerable improvement not only in my writing style but my confidence as a public writer. Where once I would have doubted my abilities, I now confidently and passionately delve into research, producing blogs that I am proud to promote. As a public blog, it is important that I consider my target audience, and employ strategies to engage and retain viewers.
My Current Engagement Strategies, Reach and Readership:
One of my primary goals this semester was to improve the functionality and aesthetic of my WordPress blog to enhance the viewer’s overall experience. I organised my entries into easily identifiable categories and selected new, higher quality cover images. This, along with a theme change, made my blog environment more organised, professional and appealing to a wider audience. I also revised the ‘About Me’ page to include information relevant to my academic interests and uploaded my own photography to complement the description.
I regularly browsed my peers’ blogs for design inspiration and found that many had removed the email subscription feature from their page. I too decided to do this, in favour of a simple press option that reduces the time and effort it takes to subscribe. This has almost certainly had a positive effect, as my subscription numbers have risen steadily since the adjustment. I have also added ‘share’ buttons for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ at the bottom of each of my blogs. While I have not yet seen an increase in sharing, I am hopeful that this will follow as I build up a rapport with my audience and create more relevant content.
One of the more unique changes made to my blog layout was the addition of a personalised banner:
The design of the banner ties in with my interests as a researcher, and complements my ‘About Me’ description. This has made my web page both more cohesive and inviting to current and potential audiences.
A review of my blog statistics has revealed an increase in overall views, subscribers and visitors to the page in 2017:
I attribute this largely to the engagement strategy I have developed throughout the year, which focuses on three categories:
- Engaging and Informative Content:
As mentioned, I initially struggled to create content which was both educational and engaging. Once I discovered my passion for ethnographic research, however, I began to incorporate a personal ‘human element’ into each of my posts, providing a unique insight into the relationship between media, audience and place. In my television blog, for example, I used anecdotes from my mother’s experiences as a child to explore the way our memories are shaped, and sometimes distorted, by where and how we engage with media:
This was further enhanced by a selection of relevant academic sources, which provided my discussion with a credible, factual basis. Within each blog, I utilised a range of visual accompaniments such as images, videos and GIFs to make the blog more visually appealing, and add value to the content.
- Interaction with the Audience and Peers:
Audience interaction is a form of engagement that I have actively worked to improve this semester. In the past, I have found it difficult to self-promote without feeling like a nuisance, however, I now acknowledge this is the greatest way to gain and retain readership. As such, I regularly enhance my content by embedding links to blogs that are topically relevant, and in doing so I encourage bloggers with similar interests to explore my site. This was particularly successful in my television post, where I referred to TV history blog Television AU as a source of further information. This led to a brief Twitter interchange, where they shared my content. As a result, seven new readers were referred to my page in the first few days, widening my reach as a researcher.
After seeing the benefits of peer interaction first-hand, I decided to further this approach and comment on the blogs of my fellow BCM241 students. By providing encouragement and constructive criticism I have begun to build mutually beneficial connections, with both parties gaining increased traffic and the opportunity to improve.
An unexpected outcome of my audience interaction strategy has been the development of an increasingly diverse audience. By sharing and tagging my posts, as well as referring to peer content, I have gained readers from nine different countries:
- Promoting the Blog:
While audience interaction is a vital aspect of blog promotion, I also placed emphasis on sharing as a means of attracting viewership. All posts were tagged not only with the subject title (#BCM241) but with a range of relevant keywords linking to the discussion. This form of categorisation made my content more discoverable and allowed me to attract viewers beyond the subject cohort.
Beyond WordPress, I relied on Twitter to notify those that are not subscribed of new posts. Each weekly topic was promoted using either a humorous tag-line, interesting fact, or a memorable title. In my first blog, for example, I used the uncommon Scottish term ‘Glaikit’, to intrigue and attract a wider audience.
What can I do better?
While I am thrilled with the success of my engagement strategy this year, there is always room for improvement. I have identified two main shortcomings in my practice as a public writer, through both academic research and peer comparison:
- Broader Twitter engagement: For most of my posts, I have only tagged #BCM241 in the Twitter promotion. This reduces my reach across the platform, as the majority viewing this tag are peers in the course. From now, I intend to use a range of tags relevant to the topic, as this will help disseminate my content to a variety of bloggers, researchers and interested parties.
- Multiple sharing: Research from Lindley (2014) shows that one of the most effective ways to increase blog traffic is to share each blog multiple times and on the same platforms. While I do share each blog once on Twitter, this does not reach every follower’s timeline, and many may miss this initial communication. Instead, I will now share each post at least three times, during different parts of the day. To avoid coming across as “spammy” it is important to avoid publishing the same message multiple times. Instead, I will use a range of tactics such as quotations, fact citing and open-ended questions to attract readership.
Over the past semester, I feel that I have progressed considerably as a public writer and ethnographic researcher. My engagement strategy has proven successful, as my views, subscriptions and visitor numbers are continuing to increase. In the future, I hope to expand this readership further beyond the realms of the cohort, through increased sharing and online interaction.
Lindley 2014, ‘Five Killer Tactics to Increasing your Blog Traffic,’ Verve Blog, Accessed 24th September, Available: http://www.vervesearch.com/blog/5-powerful-tactics-to-increase-your-blog-traffic/