months, 91 posts, one post per day except some Saturdays and Sundays. Here is what I have found out in 3 months of having a photography blog.
Thef8blog is actually my very first blog ever, if you don't count the doomed previous versions of the blog. I don't claim to be an expert blogger, but I think that I have learned some things during 3 months that could be useful for others. Views will of course evolve but here's what I've found so far:
Blogging is fun, I love blogging. It's like your personal radio station or something and I always look forward to writing posts and showing off photographs.
It's hard work
While fun, blogging is hard work. It is going to depend on the kind of blog that you want (I wouldn't call a diary blog hard work) but if you are serious about it, it's lots of work. Research, designing images, taking, editing and resizing and optimizing photographs, writing posts, it's more than it looks like. My 6 part camera comparison was so much work it took me about a week and not enough sleep. I had to go and take pictures for the RAWS, edit the jpgs, resize, keyword them, upload the images, ftp the raws, link to the raws, etc.
Wow, even the tiniest posts takes a while to do, I wake up at 7 and it is sometime 12 and not done with publishing anything. A lot of times its things around the posts that are time-consuming like rename, resize, tag and uploading images.
Costs a lot
Since blogging takes a while, it costs a lot because you could be doing something that gives you direct income. There are direct costs (hosting) and many indirect costs (renting stuff for review, gas to go shoot, shipping stuff, time spent blogging etc) that make blogging cost a lot of money. That is why I set up a donation and support system, it's not to make a quick buck like I use to think. Of course it all depends on what kind of blog you have.
A blog must be defined
The question in photography is why take a picture, the question in blogging is why blog at all. That is the primary question all potential bloggers must ask, WHY does the blog exist at all?
There is a humongous amount of blogs out there and interesting or not they have a defined reason to exist, whether it is a diary substitute, hair tips for women, food travel experiences, etc. While a blog could be up without being defined at first (starting with travel and only focusing on the money aspects of it for example) it is better to steer it in a defined direction from the start, in order not to alienate your readers too much (like starting with movie reviews and ending in financial tips).
I started my blog with the idea of a platform for my stuff, but I am opening it as a platform for other photographers to share their experience and art as well, like a cup of coffee between photographers that love the craft. So expect podcasts, interviews and other great contents by good photographers (they will also be selected, don't expect fashion photographers on this blog 🙂 ).
Feel the fear and do it anyways
English is not my first language, it's the third after creole and french. So you can guess that writing in english sometimes create hurdles for me as I am trying to convey the best I can my ideas in writing. But sometimes this hurdle actually becomes a full fledged pillar to hide behind in order NOT to blog. That also happens to me when I select my photographs and second guess myself (is his face to hot or not enough?, is it balanced?, etc, etc) so what I do is I take a step back, take a deep breath and click publish in order not to rationalize too much. You know you are rationalizing too much when it's your 5th revision of a text or 5th edit of a photograph, I tend to polish my stuff but I don't let it become a stumbling block.
There is no blogger's block
One post per day actually kind of freaked me out, wouldn't I run out of stuff to say? Well no, if you are prepared that is. I have a file on my phone that has all the posts that have to be written, ideas, concepts, drafts… and since these ideas come from time to time out of the blue, the bin is never full and I will always have something to say, lucky you.
Make your blog unique
I'm a photographer, but a photographer in a sea of millions, and a blog amongst millions. The only way to distance yourself from the crowd is to make your stuff UNIQUE some way somehow. What do you do differently? What extra stuff do you have that others don't? My demarcation is in my presentation, I am a photographer but I also come from design. I quickly understood that my blog would be lost in a sea of others so I designed my own blog (many can't), my own illustrations (many can't), my quotes (many can't), my own buttons (many can't) so that I can instantly grab attention. I have many other unique ideas that will comes up, but your uniqueness does not have to mean design, it can be sticking only to one type of photograph, like this japanese woman who only has pictures of people frozen in the air.
Post series are great
Post series are great, they are like tuning in your favourite TV channel and knowing what programs they feature. It creates enough repetition (a design principle because people like expected things) while creating enough diversity to keep things fresh (people do get bored when there is too much repetition). I have a couple of series of posts for now “Quotable Quotes” (where you can expect illustrated quotes), “Friday Morning Randomness” (with random links here and there), “Photographs of” (series of photographs from a location), “Single photographs” (self explanatory) and many more to come.
People do not leap between social media
I have a youtube video that is going towards the 15000…. I barely had 10 clicks to the blog from it. I have a website and people barely go to it from the blog. I have a Google+ and people……. You get the point! So far my experience has been that people do not jump to all of your online stuff, nice cool buttons like mine (on the right) don't do zip.
Different platforms, different content
Since people do not cross the platform as easily as you want to, each social media platform must have their own content. Facebook, twitter and G+ can't be used as storefronts for your blog, they must be a full-blown franchise by themselves. It is 5x the work, but you only went to McDonald's once to trust all of the out there right? So upload unique stuff on each of your social media platforms, so that you won't look as a lazy bum that posts the same link everywhere.
You want converts
Google drives all kinds of people to your door, but believe it or not it's not this kind of people you want, what you really want is a convert. A convert is the reader that knows your bog by name, and checks it from time to time, they are not here to grab what they need and scramble, they actually read/like/enjoy your stuff. These are the people who make it worthwhile to blog, especially when they take their time to email you and compliment your blog, saves you from blogging despair (“Nobody reads anything!”). So personal thanks to Jason, Eliot, Matthew and Don…. and my other faithful readers that I have no clue you like my blog 🙂
A trick I have found to calculate your convert numbers: When you look at your analytics, take your total number of visits for the day and remove the number of clicks you got from google or other sites…. that number of visits is potentially your number of converts, because it presumes that they got to your blog by name.
I made a review of an ebook and linked to the author's website. He contacted me and actually was very pleased to get sales from me. What do you know? People DID read the review and DID buy the product because of my review. What do I have to show for it? 0 Comments. There is two extremes when it comes to comments, not enough or too many. You do not want to go to an empty restaurant and you do not want to go to an overcrowded restaurant….0 comments is a turnoff (“Nobody's commenting, so I'm not!”) and 255 comments is a turnoff (“So many comments…. my voice won't matter”). How many times do we regularly go to a blog but never leave a comment? Same goes for your own blog, comments do not indicate blog health, blog quality or reader enjoyment.
You get google's crumbs
When you are a young blog you get Google's crumbs, whatever people search for, they are taken by the first page, and most likely the first 5 results. When I look at my analytics and see people ending up on the blog by certain searches, I try them out, only to wonder how the heck Google pointed them to me. Google ain't your friend when you start, you only get the crumbs that fall off the table. Your real way out is comments and SEO but we all know how that works.
It's polarisation marketing
Some companies (like Apple) use polarisation marketing, they set themselves up not to please the whole crowd but only some and repelling some. If you yelled about USB and SD card reader on the ipad, chances are you are not their target and you got repelled. Blogging is basically a polarisation game, you get your traffic and you attract those who you want to attract and repel those who are not targeted. I am sure the people who googled “asian french” (don't ask) sure ain't reading me anymore, unlike someone who got me from say “Epson RD1”. That same basic principle will be multiplied by your traffic but will still stay the same whether you are number 1 or 1000 in Google.
And that's about it about the stuff I learned in 3 months, here's to many more!