One question that I am asked on a fairly regular basis,“how do you start and run a successful blog/vlog?”. Instead of answering this question over and over on twitter, besides it takes way more than 140 characters to really help, I have decided to start a Q&A/Advice category. As previously mentioned, this piece of advice will cover the start up, maintenance and so on of a blog or vlog. It is a bit like Saw, “Do you want to play a game?”
- Come up with a generalized genre/topic that you want to cover (ie. horror, beauty, comedy, movies etc.). Choose something you are passionate and knowledgeable about (this will come into play later).
- Choose a blog/vlog name. It is important to make sure that the name is interesting, you want your name to be as interesting as your content. Another important piece of advice to keep in mind when choosing a name is to relate it to the genre/topics your blog/vlog will be covering.
- Choose a platform. The platform you use to host your blog/vlog is just as important as your name and content. I use WordPress. You want a platform that offers professional appearance and allows you to purchase your domain name. Other platforms include tumblr, blogspot/blogger and YouTube. Do your research before choosing one. It is also imperative that you choose a platform that you find is easiest for you to navigate. If you don’t know how to use the tools available to you, it will be more difficult to produce a great blog/vlog.
- Purchase your domain name. Where this is not entirely necessary, it does add to the professional appearance of your blog/vlog. I pay $18 a year. It is not a huge expense, but this will help you in the long run. Not only will you look more professional, but this will also help potential sponsors find you via Google and other search methods.
- Now that you’re all set up with your name, mission and site, it is time to start cranking out the content. You don’t have to be William Shakespeare or anything, but basic grammar is necessary if you want to be successful. Most platforms come equipped with spellchecker, so is you spelling isn’t your strong suit, it’s not that big of a deal. What is a fairly big deal is knowing the basics like the difference between your and you’re or there, their and they’re. Grammar Nazis will tear you apart if you don’t know those (I will get into dealing with the negative comments later).
- Perhaps even more important than the content of each article is the title of the article. Make sure the title gives a very brief description of what readers can expect in the article. This is pretty much common sense.
- Research your topic. Readers want material that is not only interesting, but accurate and well researched. Even if you think that you know a lot about what your article topic is, do the research anyway. You may find that you are wrong about something or best case scenario, find updated information on the topic. This is where things get a little tricky. Just like those dreaded high school reports, you have to do the research, but you have to put the information into your own words. It is easy, and illegal to copy and paste someone else’s work. Take notes while researching and twist your facts into your own words. While it is acceptable to quote the work of others, and when doing so, put it into quotes and make sure to indicate that you are quoting someone else. If you find a piece of information and do not want to quote it, it is acceptable to use specific words from someone else, but he majority of the sentence must be from your own brain.
- The most important thing to keep in mind when creating the content for your blog, keep in consistent. I am not just talking about staying consistent with the topic for your content, but post consistently. While you do not have to make a post everyday, it is important to post at least once a week, especially when you are first starting out and trying to build an audience.
- Above all else, choose something you are passionate about. Even if you aren’t that great of a writer, if you are writing about something you are passionate about, it will shine through above everything. Even the best writer will produce bad work if there is no passion behind the words they are producing.
Now that you are producing content, it is important to grow an audience to read the material that you have worked so hard on. Much like film making, everyone has a cellphone and some type of social networking site. Use those to your advantage.
- Start off sharing your new work on your personal social networking pages. Never be afraid to self promote.
- Once your friends/followers start to take notice of your work and you build a base following, make a fan page or group on Facebook. Facebook is where I do the vast majority of my selfless self promotion. This helps others on a site like Facebook find your work.
- Branch out. Join other social platforms to promote your work. I am on other sites like twitter which is great for finding more readers, but sites like linkedin are even more important when it comes to making potential business partners (I will cover this more in depth in a bit).
- Utilize tags. Every platform offers a space to plug in keywords that are associated with the content of your article to aide potential reader/viewers in finding your work. This is where trolling often occurs. Trolling is where people add tags to their work that have nothing to do with the content they are about to watch or read. NEVER troll. Only use tags that are relevant your content. Trolling will lead to negative promotion and the loss of your audience.
- Learn SEO. Search Engine Optimization is important when it comes to getting your site and content noticed by search engines. I won’t go to in depth on this, just research it. You do not have to pay to learn SEO, there are plenty of help guides that can assist you in doing this. It will appear pretty intimidating at first, but once you learn the basics, it’s like riding a bike.
Dealing with attention, positive and negative:
Now that you are producing content and getting a little recognition, prepare for the attention that comes with the territory. Not everyone is going to be nice and everyone thinks they are an expert.
- Positive attention:
- Don’t let it go to your head. Don’t think that you are the best just because you got a little bit of positive recognition.
- Respond. Always respond to positive comments. Let your readers know that you appreciate them because without them your work would just be a bunch of words on the internet.
- Dealing with the positive is always very simple, just use the basic manners that were instilled in you as a child and you will do just fine.
- Negative attention:
- Not everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows, but don’t react. The most important thing is not to react to the asshole things that people are going to say. Not everyone is going to like you or your work. Don;t feed into them and absolutely do not jab back. Reacting to an internet bully will make you look less professional and only give that bully more satisfaction in knowing that they are getting attention.
- Do not take the negativity to heart. Excuse my language, but fuck what internet bullies have to say, 90% of the time they are just that, an insecure bully. You have to have a tough skin any time you post something to the billions on the internet. The negative comments sting at first, but they do get easier to deal with after time.
- Know the difference between a nasty comment and constructive criticism. Sometimes the line between these two is very blurred, but you do need to learn the difference. Constructive criticism: “your article was good, but you could have researched the topic more and your grammar was a bit off”. Negative/bully comment (I have received comments like this before): “That article was a total piece of shit. I don’t know why people are reading the garbage you are putting out.” I have even had people tell me to go kill myself before.
- Identify the bullies. Without being a narc, talk to some other bloggers/vloggers on the same site that cover similar topics. More times than not the bully trolls a specific site and searches specific keywords for the soul purpose of being a jerk. Usually, these bullies know nothing about the topic at hand anyway.
- This is more a problem with vloggers, but I will cover it anyway because everyone deals with this sort of thing on a day to day basis. This does not only apply to women anymore. The jerk that has to comment on your looks. One vlogger in particular that comes to mind with this subject is Trisha Paytas (blndsundoll4mj on YouTube). She is clearly a beautiful girl, but insecure bullies cut her down all the time calling her fat and ugly. Again, excuse my language, but fuck them. Who are they? They are usually the people that use cartoon pictures as their avatar or have no picture at all. Maintain your confidence, that gets to them more than if you actually told them to fuck off.
Finding sponsors and making money:
Everyone wants to make money doing what they love. It does take time and will not be too easy.
- Promotion and SEO is the fastest way to find potential sponsors and paying contributors.
- Don’t expect a huge amount of money especially starting out. I am going to be 100% real with you, the pay is not going to buy you a shiny new BMW or anything, but it is great to see income for what you love.
- Offer advertising packages. If you own your domain, utilize the sidebar for paid advertisers.
- Join an affiliate site. Sites like Commission Junction and Share A Sale offer businesses that cover just about every topic you can dream of. Join the site an apply to be an affiliate. Most of the time, a purchase is required by the person that clicks on the banner for you to make money, but there are some programs that pay for the traffic, or by clicks. Some companies offer independent affiliate programs as well.
- Finding sponsors is where sites like linkedin come into play. Join linkedin and find others with similar interests and connect with companies that offer products or services that coincide with your site.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. If a company that has no relation to your field approaches you, it is completely acceptable to turn them down. Stay consistent with your theme. It is also just fine to turn down a company for being too pushy or demanding. Don’t let anyone bully you into accepting an offer, there will be others. You should also never feel bad for turning down an offer you feel is unfair. Look into the appropriate amount to charge for a specific type of work, there are countless sites that can help you do this.
- Don’t rip people off. While it is ok to turn down an unfair offer, it is unacceptable to turn down a fair offer because you want more money. Word does travel and if word gets out that you are being unfair yourself, the offers will stop.
- To help with the confusion, supply a price list on your site. Set prices, but always be open to negotiation. Most of the offers will be from companies that are just starting out, so they do not have a large amount of funds to offer, and many companies have designated amounts to spend on advertising and promotion.
- It is also important to know that more times than not, the offers will not be regular, especially at first. They may become more regular as you get more notoriety.
- Establish good relationships with the companies you work for, if you build a good relationship, they are more likely to come back and work with you again.
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and make the first move. Just like dating, don’t be afraid to reach out and make the first move. It is completely acceptable to email companies about reviews and sponsorship. Just do not nag and be professional about it.
Getting interviews and other perks:
I have somehow managed to go from writing movie reviews about awesome people to interviewing these awesome people. Most of mine are through sheer dumb luck, but I will share with you proactive ways to help this happen for you.
- Always be professional. I can not stress this enough. There is a protocol to contacting someone about an interview no matter how well known they are. Send a professional email. DO NOT tweet them. If you do not know how to conduct yourself professionally in trying to get the interview, they are going to assume that you will not conduct yourself professionally during the interview.
- I get other perks like movie screeners and other promotional materials. Much like everything else, I started receiving these mostly through dumb luck. A good way to get connected with companies like this is to attend conventions. That’s right, it can be that simple. Without acting like a jerk and in your most professional manner, approach companies that interest you and tell them about what you do. If they are interested, exchange information.
Conventions and press passes:
This is probably the easiest thing to accomplish, but I am asked all the time how I get press passes for conventions and events.
- Go to the convention or event’s site. Typically there is a place to apply for a press pass under the ticket section. Just fill out the form and wait on the reply. If you feel you have waited a long time and have not heard back, email the head of the convention or event and ask about it, again be professional.
- If there is not link to apply for a press pass, email the head of the convention or staff and ask if they are available for that event.
I think that about covers the basics of starting, running and maintaining a blog/vlog. If you have any other questions, please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to answer your questions. Good luck!