At the Cardiff Journalism School we’ve attempted to tackle blogging. We -newspaper, broadcast and magazine alike, created niche blogs as well as that which you currently find yourself on, which aims (but perhaps every so slightly fails) to cover lectures at the University.
We developed a ‘blog strategy’ to focus our blogs in a certain direction and help manage content and promotion. Mine was of course full of ambition. Like a child on the first day of school-it was full of hope and potential. But despite this child making good progress and at times showing initiative, they failed to be the oxbridge candidate their parents so hoped for.
My niche blog is called The Graduate. It’s aimed at students and particularly graduates and looks to inform and entertain. It’s been running since October 2010, has 12 posts and has been viewed nearly 1,000 times.
Has It Worked?
Yes, I think in many ways it has. The purpose of the blog is to reach and inform and it often does, although unfortunately not often enough.
Time has been a major factor. Ideally I would have invested more time in my blog as I enjoy what I research and write about and get good feedback from its visitors. A very busy university schedule meant the blog has often found itself in second or third place to other commitments. In my strategy I seem to have been overly ambitious, suggesting I would blog twice a week. This did not happen, despite wishing otherwise.
To try to bypass the time problem I started to profile recent graduates- asking them to detail what they’ve done since graduating and putting their story together with a short introduction from myself. I spoke to people who I thought would have interesting stories-like those doing internships or struggling to find work. What followed came as a surprise as these posts often received the most hits.
It seems the trend to nose into someones life or discover what those in your shoes are doing is not something really touched upon in the media for graduates and this may be why it attracted such attention. Realising this I started to recruit other people to write about their experiences and it’s something I will continue to do- It involves less input with greater gain (a faster option to meet the demands of a faster paced world)
By setting up a Twitter account (@TheGradTweets) for the blog (as promised in my strategy) I soon saw my stats rise. By following people who I felt would be interested in the blog it drew their attention and many started following back and becoming regular visitors. The Twitter account usually gets a new follower each day, which means there’s always someone visiting the blog. It was a way of targeting a specific audience, which soon paid off.
Using Facebook (the site originally designed for students) also worked in terms of getting more people to the blog- just as I had hoped in my strategy. By posting blog updates on my wall it automatically went out to more than 500 people, most of whom were target audience for the blog. I received most of my traffic from Facebook.
The Highs and the Lows
I allowed for a rating system on my blog which gave the reader the opportunity to rate posts out of 5. They were also able to comment on them. Not every post received a rating or comment but a number did, all of which were positive.
The most popular post on my niche blog in terms of stats was ‘The Career Ladder’. I had spoken to a girl who received a first class degree from a good university and was struggling to find work. I knew her situation was similar to many recent graduates and so profiled her. It was apparently a message many could relate to.
The post that received the highest rating was ‘The Day I Bought a Big Issue’. This was not directly related to the target audience but my thinking behind it was that many students/graduates are known campaigners, activists and volunteers and would hopefully appreciate a post like this-it appears they did.
Posts which attracted less attention were those like ‘The Best Things in Life are Not Fees’. It was still viewed but attracted less attention. This could be down to a number of things. It may be because I posted this before setting up a Twitter account for the blog or it could be because I get more hits when the posts are graduate related rather than student, as I shall go on to discuss below.
I now truly understand the importance of social networking sites in terms of attracting and targeting audiences. If I had more time, I would tweet more on the blogs Twitter account as this always seems to attract people to the site.
Its been interesting to see how people pick you up on your grammar and spelling. It’s certainly worth having someone look at your work before publishing as little things are important to readers and can damage your credibility.
Tools like YouTube and Audioboo have allowed me to make the blog more interactive and interesting-although admittedly I’ve not used them to their full potential or often enough. I would encourage any blogger to make better use of YouTube than I currently do as there’s a big audience out there who search on it; businesses have tapped into this and blogs can too.
There’s certainly a lot to gain from linking with other sites/blogs. The Graduate has made its way onto a number of blogrolls like a student travel blog for example. I have an RSS feature for other related blogs but more can be done. It’s certainly a way of increasing hits but also gives those visiting your blog a better experience. There are millions of blogs out there and the reader needs something extra special and to feel nurtured to ensure they come back again. bit.ly has also been useful in terms of linking to other sites.
Ensuring a post has a number of correct/relevant tags and categories has also directed people to my blog who otherwise wouldn’t have found it.
One of the main lessons I’ve learnt is that I need to reign in what I want this blog to achieve and the audience I want to reach. My stats rise when I feature or talk about graduates or graduate related issues. I initially set out to reach potential students, students and graduates but now realise this is too broad. There are so many student blogs/websites out there, which have the time and resources to do what my blog attempted but on a bigger scale.
There doesn’t seem to be much out there for potential/future students but that’s an area I’m moving further away from as time goes by in terms of knowledge and understanding. However the graduate world is something I truly understand and is one that doesn’t seem so powerfully represented or covered by blogs. This is the audience I will focus on in future and this will hopefully make the blog and its audience more consistent and focused.
Someone who I think targets and writes for the graduate market well is Tanya De Grunwald, for her site graduatefog.co.uk and in her tweets (@graduatefog) Her work is interesting, relevant and up-to-date.
A Week Behind the Music in Cardiff shows how things like YouTube and Audioboo can be used to make a post more interesting.
An example from this blog is Daniel the Digital Storyteller, which shows how linking within a post and good tags can attract people to your blog, make a post more interesting and offer more to the reader.