TL;DR: If you’re starting a blog, just write what you have to write and experimenting with your tech as you push your posts out. Listen to your followers and you’ll figure out the best way as you go along.
I’m really trying to write more.
By writing, I mean “blogging” and by “trying” I mean, “I have a list of about 313 ideas and links I’d like to write blog posts on, but I’m feeling really self-conscious about coming across like an idiot.”
I have the NYPD to thank for the encouragement to pick up my toy megaphone and say something somewhat meaningful, as opposed to simply tweeting vines of oddities in the art world, pictures of my cats or other such nonsense. I’m fortunate enough to have a decent following on Twitter, mostly due to emceeing a lot of hacker events since before Twitter existed. With a few thousand followers and some righteous indignation, I began figuring out how exactly to get my words out to more than the handful of people internet stalking me.
I wrote that post only a few days after having experienced it. I went through an initial edit, posted it, then let it sit for a while. Then I spent a few hours a day through most of February brushing up on the strategies and tools of this week’s social media landscape, along with a little bit of Facebook/Twitter consultation on the topic. After all that, I settled on the following:
Platform: The Writr theme for WordPress. It’s clean, sans-serif, and not incredibly boring looking. There are some more impressive themes out there, and I’ll test those out when I actually have some posts to test with. In the mean time, this gets the point across and is less likely to be buggy.
Comments/Engagement: Livefyre. One of the most consistently annoying things is having to engage in three separate conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other random places. I really hate how it’s difficult to bring really awesome threads from each venue, and nearly impossible to bridge conversations. I believed Livefyre would solve this inherent problem and get folks talking all these platforms.
Analytics/Post Scheduling: Buffer. My idea was to write as many posts as possible on the weekends, then share them spread out at varying times throughout the week.
Sharing: I’m using 2 Click Social Media buttons. My goal was to have no trackers at all, but the theme implements Gravatar and Livefyre is a tracking nightmare of its own. Ah well.
I also turned off post duplication between Facebook and Twitter since it seemed best to engage these audiences entirely separately.
Having put the finishing touches on that post and pushed it out there via Buffer…I learned 10 things really quickly:
1) ALWAYS double check the link to your blog post. This was the first thing I botched. I accidentally Buffered the link to the draft, rather than the link to the post itself. Which led to tweets like:
@Nickf4rr Link b0rken
— Aaron Muszalski (@sfslim) March 2, 2014
2) You don’t really know how to do social on your site until you’ve actually reached your audience. Turns out most of my East Coast US friends took to Facebook right away, and most of the West Coast folk and people I know in Germany took to Twitter. However, most of my traction came straight from Hacker News, which led to a very vibrant comment thread. On that note…
3) If it’s at all hackerish, use Hacker News for comments. I didn’t even know that my post had shot up to #7 on Hacker News until Ryan clued me in via Facebook and that’s where the most intelligent commentary has emerged from. I should have listened to him when he suggested it via Facebook and now I’ve learned my lesson. I’m also removing Livefyre’s trackers in the process.
4) Comments are overrated. There’s basically no point trying to bring comment traffic back to your site if people are actively engaging elsewhere.
5) Don’t duplicate within or between social networks. I thought I had disabled Facebook duplication of my Tweets, but I found out I hadn’t the hard way. After realizing the same post was showing up four times in my facebook feed, I managed to somewhat bring everyone’s comments into the same post by reference…but the results were messy and many likes were lost.
6) If you’re blogging about security and social justice issues, use secure tools and avoid trackers. I use a Ghostery plugin, so I was aware of the Gravatar, Livefyre and other trackers present on my site. I shouldn’t have put myself in a position to have people point it out to me. Comments aren’t that important, and I’m handling everything social through other services, so I shouldn’t have any trackers. Unfortunately, Gravatar is pretty deeply embedded in WordPress and it’s the last remaining tracker. It’s a pretty benign, but in the interests of a perfect privacy score, I’m going to have to go digging into the WordPress code at a later date.
I’m sure there’s a ton of other lessons I’ve got to learn in the mean time, but I’ll gladly accept any others you’ve got in the interim. For what it’s worth, I know I had a pretty good post that hit a lot of buttons and interest. I know I’m going to have to keep stoking the commenting fires on Twitter and Facebook over the next few days to broaden the reach a bit. I know my time in the HN spotlit has faded.
All that being said, having knocked out two posts in the past two days, I’m only 58 posts behind my goal of hitting one post per day in 2014!
As always, please leave your comments on HN.