Bella the Blog & Jacob the Podcast
If my original blogging style were a character in a novel, it would be Bella from Twilight. Now, I only read the first book, and I admit I skimmed the last quarter of the novel to get it over with, but my lasting impression of Bella is that she’s selfish and completely oblivious to anything beyond her own experience.
That was my blog until about a year ago.
Since I haven’t read the subsequent books in the Twilight series, I can only wonder whether Bella begins to notice that there’s a world beyond high school and that actions have consequences. I doubt it (especially based on the recent exploits of the actress who played Bella). My blog paid just as little attention to the world at large as Bella.
Older posts on this site (the high school years as it were) took inspiration from reverb 2010, a month long reflection through daily blog prompts. By nature, these posts were personal yet written as part of a larger community so they didn’t live in complete isolation, just the narrow clique of other reverbers. (Maybe there’s a bit of Cher from Clueless in this blog as well.) I enjoyed the experience so much, I continued writing posts in a similar style on a regular basis. Over time, I added recipes and reflections on education and social media, but the community around my blog remained those I met through reverb.
Then finally my blog got a wake up call last November and learned that it’s not all about me.
It’s about you, the reader.
Last fall, Bella the blog met Jacob the podcast. In the first book of the Twilight series, Jacob’s a minor character and according to the author wasn’t meant to be much more than a device to move the narrative along. Much like Jacob, my podcast was originally intended to be a minor player in my online bag of tricks. I started teaching a class in new media last year, and while I know how to do the technical aspects of a podcast, I’d never actually recorded one myself and released it into the wild. I introduced the podcast to the blog and in turn found another audience, still small but very open to the podcast’s format and content.
Over the past 10 months I’ve produced 13 episodes and participated in one video episode, the Podcaster Hangout. During that process, my podcast taught my blog 4 valuable lessons:
1. Math is not the enemy. Bloggers should pay attention to their stats not to see how many hits and page views they’ve received (those numbers are as deceptive as a vampire), but to discover how and why your readers land on your site. Reviewing my stats, I learned that the vast majority of visitors came for the food and vegan recipes, and by far the most popular segments on the podcast are, you guest it, all about food. The book reviews run a close second, so when I revamped the podcast in July, food and books became two of the three main segments of the podcast. I also began to include more blog posts about cooking and dining out this summer as well as a few book reviews and giveaways, and my traffic has doubled in the past two months.
Don’t fear the numbers; they’ll help you build your audience and turn them into fans!
2. It’s not about me, it’s about you. Sounds simple, right? So many blogs are just public diaries of their authors’ thoughts and experiences, and there’s certainly an audience for that type of writing, but just as Jacob made Bella consider Edward wasn’t exactly who he said he was, my podcast made me realize that I wanted to reach a larger, broader audience than my personal essays attracted. By providing information of interest to my audience written by myself and guest bloggers, I’ve changed the focus of the blog from introspection to information. That’s not to say there’s no room for reflection; after all, the post your reading is a reflection! However, the days of diary entries are over here at VoxpopNJ.
3. If you build it, they won’t even notice. I have a relatively large Twitter following under my private account which I created in 2008 and have attempted to run multiple accounts in the past. Unlocking that Twitter account is still not an option, so this summer, I decided to create the @themarketvegan account in order to publicize the cookbook and reach a new audience for the podcast and blog using informative tweets rather than what I’m having for lunch tweets (or snarky tweets about the closing ceremonies of the Olympics or the antics of the Republican Party).
Each day, I make sure I tweet a recipe or informative link once an hour from late morning to early evening. Interspersed in those tweets are 2 or 3 about following the blog, buying the cookbook, or listening to the podcast, but the majority of tweets attempt to educate followers about the vegan lifestyle and eco-friendly living. With close to 300 followers in less than 2 months and a nice growth in readership and listeners (see #1), this approach proves that if you build it using great content and show potential visitors the benefit to finding you, they will come.
4. It takes a village to raise a podcaster (and a blogger). The reverb community encouraged and inspired me to start this blog, but after the event ended (and the founder departed), most members of the community went their separate ways. Yes, I still chat with and read the blogs of a few folks from that time, but it’s nothing like the conversation and support I’ve received from fellow podcasters.
Women like @venusfueri of Subway Knits, @CraftLife, @CaithnessCraft (who’s podcasts got me through the worst moments of Hurricane Irene last summer), @imakeGuernsey (aka “The Enabler” without whom there would be no cookbook), and @aplayfulday not only inspire me to continue podcasting but provide encouragement and assistance when all doesn’t go as planned. Even @shinybees, a newbie podcaster, provides some much needed encouragement via Twitter and her enlightening use of Afrikaans vocabulary!
Blogs, like podcasts, need support and encouragement. I’ve yet to discover a blogging community quite as close knit (pun intended!) as the one that’s grown up around my podcasting niche, but I’m still looking. Maybe I just have to start my own!
So, dear reader, our story ends with Jacob the podcast teaching Bella the blog to pay attention to the world around you, start a conversation, get involved with a community, and don’t be afraid of math – it’s not nearly as scary as that stalkerish vampire!
If you’d like to see the village in action, check out our next Podcaster Hangout on September 8th at 11 a.m. East Coast time on Amanda’s CraftLifeInMotion YouTube Channel. At the time I write this, the topic will be “When Tech Attacks”, a rather fitting choice based on the content of this blog post!