Bloggin’ Ain’t Easy

“What the hell are you always doing on that computer?”

Ever since I started my blog and began dabbling in all the corresponding social media accoutrements, that phrase has escaped my wife’s lips on multiple occasions.

I don’t blame her. My wife, bless her heart, is largely ignorant of all things Internet so it’s not surprising for her to ask that question. In her mind I should just write my post, put it online and be done with it. So she’s always surprised to see me on the computer so much during the day, and at all hours of the night. I simply tell her I’m “doing stuff for the blog” and that has always sufficed. But today, for some reason, it wasn’t enough.

“There’s no way you’re spending all this time on the computer just for your blog,” she said. “Tell me what you do.”

So we sat down and I provided her a detailed account of what it’s like being an active blogger. I know some of you are old pros at this and I’m preaching to the choir, but if there’s anyone reading who’s thinking about starting his own site, please allow me to provide you a little insight into the amount of work necessary to even come close to succeeding.

Assuming you have your domain and you’ve set up your Web site (all things my brother Nate did for me), now it’s time to post some content. Some people make a point to post every single day. Others, like myself, spread it out over the week. Personally I only post if I feel I have something of substance to share with you all. I stay away from reviews, giveaways and I try never to bore you with recaps of my day. Content is king, and I work very hard to always make it interesting for my readers. So even though I may only post 2-3 times a week, rest assured I’m spending a lot of time crafting those entries.

But getting to the point where you can hit the “publish” button is just the beginning.

So you’ve written the world’s best blog entry. Congratulations. But if you don’t have any fans then it’ll be wasted on the three family members currently reading your blog. So you need a following. And the quickest way to do that, is via social media.

You need a Twitter account. Facebook is essential as well. Whatever your subject matter is, there’s surely a whole network of people who share the same interest. For some people it may be Transgendered Furries with Foot Fetishes. In my case, it’s parenting. So I would go to Twitter and Facebook and enter a series of search terms for dads, moms, parents, parenting, fathers, fatherhood, etc. You’ll soon find lots and lots of people who are currently talking about topics similar to the one you’re blogging about. So you add them as friends.

I call that planting the seed.

But as anyone with a green thumb knows, planting a seed is just the beginning. Then you need to water it and tend to it as it grows, in the hopes one day you can smoke it. In the blogging world, that means gathering Twitter friends and Facebook fans, and making sure every single one of your posts shows up on both places complete with a link back to your blog. Then you should join a core group of people and follow them and their work. And you can’t just do it half-assed either. You need to really pay attention to these people. You need to go to their sites and leave pertinent comments. You need to “re-tweet” their Twitter conversations to your audience, because they’ll do the same for you. Then you’ll start to appear on Twitter Lists so people can find you easier. Eventually, if you’re really into it and you do things the right way, you’ll begin to carve out your own niche as well as join a group of like-minded people who are all spreading the love around and giving each other more and more hits and unique visitors.

I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Just like in real life only at warp speed.

Eventually you fall in with Web sites such as Dad-Blogs and the Good Men Project, and maybe they’ll accept you as a contributor. Now you have your audience plus their platform as well. So now you’ve got your Web site, your Twitter account, your Facebook page and perhaps some contributing or guest blogging gigs at various sites. You’re hooked up and plugged in.

The only problem is you’re teetering on overload.

I have a full-time job, so I can’t do this stuff during the workday. I write early in the morning, late at night and on weekends. And, from time to time, I have to deal with a pesky 2-year-old and do the whole dad thing. So in my “spare time,” I need to catch up on a day’s worth of 330 Twitter friends, Facebook peeps, see what I missed at Dad-Blogs, comment to the comments people left on my own site and plan out some future content in the hopes of driving my hits up.

And you can’t ever stop. Because even a few days of inactivity will result in a precipitous drop in readership. Your Twitter followers will go down faster than Rosie O’Donnell on Ellen Degeneres. MJ wanted to know if I could totally disregard my blog and all that goes with it next month when we drive down to North Carolina for vacation. I told her absolutely not. Because in this age of instant gratification and a million and one voices all straining to be heard, you will be forgotten if you dilly-dally.

Not to mention, I’m completely and hopelessly addicted. Between my laptop and my Blackberry, I freak out if I’m not connected to the Internet somehow. At this point I have about a month to go before I’m mainlining coffee and sucking down cigarettes outside of a 12-step meeting for online junkies.

When all is said and done, I figure I spend 15-20 hours a week on my blog and related social media. Basically, it’s become a part-time job. Thankfully it seldom feels like work because I love it, and the people I’ve connected with are some truly talented and amusing motherfuckers. But if you really want your blog to stand out and have any shot at success, you need to REALLY work at it. It’s much more work than I ever anticipated, but that’s offset by the fact that it’s three times as rewarding.

How about you experienced bloggers and social media gurus? Any tips or anything to add?


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15 thoughts on “Bloggin’ Ain’t Easy

  1. If you don’t blog for love than you won’t last. It is nice to have the accolades that come from being a successful blogger, but they typically aren’t enough to sustain the effort.

  2. It sure is a lot of work, but it’s worth it for the reaction one gets from what you write.

    My wife and I are going camping in a few months and already I’m starting to panic about what I’m going to do without the Internet at my disposal.

  3. You DO need to unplug once in a while. If you tell your followers/readers/friends what’s up, you won’t pay a significant price. The ones that matter are very understanding of that. And if you’re really concerned about the flow of content, write a few posts ahead of time and schedule them for release (or run some “best of” content or some guest posts). But for your sanity and the health of your connection to reality, take a break once in a while.

  4. I’ve been blogging since 2002, but it has only been recently as I’ve entered the world of dad bloggers that I’ve begun to understand the power of social media and getting your content out there. It’s all well and good to write for the 6 or so regulars that visit, but it feels so good when you check your stats and you see a spike in visitors and more comments than the usual 1 or 2.

    It also does become more work maintaining that. Like you said, people come to expect a certain level and when that level drops there are plenty of other blogs out there that have been updating.

    I’ve been blessed with a wife who is as much, if not more so, invested in social media and blogging, and it has almost turned into a competition. 🙂 One she will inevitably win as she is a much better writer than me. lol

  5. @Jack: Couldn’t agree more. Your heart has to be in it and if it’s not, it shows.

    @Badass: I know what you mean. It just feels wrong not to be plugged in.

    @Ben: The rational part of me knows you’re right, but it’s not that easy. In addition to the blogging and social media, I’m also a print journalist. That means I sleep with my phone by my pillow and I’m always on call, always checking for breaking news and ready to go at a moment’s notice. You can’t just turn that off. Does it hinder my ability to be as great of a father/husband at times? Probably. So while I might unplug for a few hours or maybe even a whole day, the anxiety I feel and wondering what I’m missing ends up driving my family even more crazy than if I’m walking around with my Blackberry. It’s tough.

    @twistedxtian: I think we all know if we’re in a competition with our wives, we will probably lose. No matter what. I married a woman who’s smarter and better looking than me, and I came to terms with losing to her a long time ago! =)

  6. No doubt about it … writing a post is only about 40% of Blogging. You have to put the time in. Well done on getting the balance right and having the talent to back up that effort!

  7. This post is an EXCELLENT bit in setting the expectations for new bloggers. Right on the money. There are times when, for all intents and purposes, blogging takes as much energy to keep up with as a real job.

    And I agree with Ben, you have to find that time to unplug. For the past two years right around Feb & March, I burn out. My post frequency goes to crap, and if I do post the quality is crap too. Like you say, readership melts away. I talk about quitting until my wife tells me to get on with it then. But I’m addicted too. I start to miss the interaction and I fire back up again.

    EXCELLENT Post – can’t say it enough.

  8. It’s hard out here for a blogga?

    Shame on a blogga who tries to run game on a blogga?

    Bloggas with attitudes?

    How far are you willing to go with this? Because it’s Friday and I tend to get a little giddy, lol.

  9. I’ll go all day JEE. You know I’m totally street.

    Did I say that right? Is “street” the proper phrasing in this instance? I was thinking of going with “ghetto” but I didn’t want to offend anyone. Gosh darn it’s tough trying to figure out urban phraseology these days. 😉

  10. Blogga please.

    I’ve been in this blogging game for a minute but the thing that’s been amusing me/bumming me out is that I’m getting the sense that there’s a perception that there’s a “right way” and a “wrong way” to Dad(dy) blog. I’ll admit I’m still finding my balance after two-ish months as a DB, but my advice would be to just blog.

    You’ll get the audience and/or dollars that your efforts deserve.

    You can take the blogger out of the daddy, but you can’t take the daddy out of the blogger.

    (NOTE: Anyone offended by the admittedly facile usage of the word “blogger” herein please know that this brown brother has got nuthin’ but love for ya.)

  11. @Wrath66: Really? See that’s funny, I never got the sense there’s a right and wrong way to blog. I see tons of different styles out there and the thing I like is that unlike Dooce for women, I really don’t see any A-Lister dad blogs out there. Obviously some are more popular than others, but I like how everyone falls into their own style.

    @JEE: Oooooh, skrizzle. I like adding “izzle” to the end of words. That’s really phresh and dope. Ugh, I feel like Michael Scott from The Office.

  12. Right on brother. Right on. I have hit a plateau with my readership because I am not putting in the work like I used to. I need to get reinvigorated.

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