Writing in Public: A Reflection
Over the past nine weeks I have been focusing on creating and curating blog posts on a variety of topics relating to media, audience and place. This subject was challenging in that it was quite prescriptive in terms of the blog topics compared to other subjects which allow for more freedom. Initially I felt it left little room for creativity. However, as the weeks went by and I was encouraged to interview and observe my family and friends, I found that I still had a strong, individual voice when it came to writing about the weekly topics. With reference to the feedback I was given after the first assessment task, this text will reflect on the process I went through to create content for my online presence and evaluate the strategies I have experimented with to build readership.
Nicholas Hookway describes blogs as “the new guardians of democracy” (Hookway 2008). In terms of research, blogs are now quintessential for qualitative media researchers (ibid). The reason for this is that it has the potential to overcome such feats as censorship and traditional ideas of space and place; thus Hookway’s research draws a strong parallel to themes discussed in the subject Media, Audience, Place (hereon referred to as BCM240). This subject enlightened me to the many forms, uses and sources of qualitative audience research. The opportunity to publish qualitative data I observed from talking to and watching my own friends and family has changed the way I view digital and social media. Everybody experiences the media differently; this makes data collection and analysis increasingly difficult. However, the stories and experiences which are revealed have a certain beauty about them. This has been the most rewarding aspect of undertaking BCM240. Studying ethnography in terms of social media is a practice I am determined to continue further through my university career. There is much numerical data available from ‘social media giants’ (Ray 2011) because such a large portion of society is active online. Combining this numerical, or quantitative, data with qualitative data provides a special picture into society. My understanding of this phenomenon has increased since receiving feedback from the first assessment task.
My tutor requested I incorporate more secondary sources into my blog posts to accompany my interviews and observations. Since doing this, my understanding and appreciation of the topics we have studied has increased exponentially. The incorporation of hyperlinking relevant sources and examples into my blog has increased my understanding of the weekly topics.
There are two main areas of reader engagement I have focused on this semester; attracting a wider readership and increasing the engagement from the readers I already have. One of the most frustrating aspects of my blog readership is that the majority of it comes from students enrolled in my course. Whilst I enjoy that we support one another, it has been my goal this semester (and beyond) to try to increase that readership to viewers throughout the globe. I have used tags to do this, on both WordPress and when I advertise on Twitter. I have found that using current examples, and tagging them, has increased my traffic flow as it allows non-UOW internet users to read and connect with my material. For example, in my blog on censorship and regulation, I used the film Blended, due to its popularity and well-known actors, to both illustrate my argument on how the government attempts to censor social issues in film, and increase my traffic. The use of hashtags also increased my search engine indexing and allowed new readers to reach my blog. In response to this strategy I have noticed a larger percentage of my viewership contains non-subscribers who access my blog through Google, Twitter and Reddit.
Whilst this has no doubt been effective in improving my readership, I believe that readership is not limited to my hit counter. With this mindset I have attempted to increase the interaction with my readers through my blog design. The feedback from assessment one reinforced the importance of blog personality. I updated my ‘about me’ page and made anecdotes a regular technique in my weekly posts. I made a stronger effort to keep my posts light, humorous and sarcastic, whilst maintaining their academic integrity. As a keen writer and poet, I attempted to make my blog reflect this. Twitter has been the featured widget on my blog for months and I am now beginning to use Twitter to share personal images and links I find interesting instead of limiting it to my studies. The power of Twitter and other social media platforms in building blog traction in building a following is immense (Fishkin 2012). More recently I have been reading and commenting on the blogs of other students in BCM240 to build a relationship with them and continue a discussion on their ideas.
Unfortunately my blogs in this subject have not attracted many comments, however I am hoping that if I continue my commenting, others will jump on board and do the same. Earlier this semester I removed my email follower widget and replaced it with a simple button. This makes it much easier for people to follow my blog and as a result I have seen an increase in followers. I have been experimenting with polls also, and have found that adding ratings and questions to my posts has increased the interest in them. Similarly, adding humorous memes, gifs and YouTube videos, particularly in response to my Grandad’s humorous “there’s more to life than the internet!” view, have increased the potential for interaction.
This semester I have experimented a lot in terms of the design of my blog and the aesthetics of my writing. It’s still a working progress; I do strongly believe that a piece of writing is never fully complete. Therefore I pledge to continue improving it and to carefully monitor my dashboard in order to determine which elements work and which do not attract readership.
Fishkin, R 2012, 21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic, Moz, accessed 29.9.16, <https://moz.com/blog/21-tactics-to-increase-blog-traffic-2012>
Hookway, N 2008, Entering the Blogosphere: Some Strategies for using Blogs in Social Research, Qualitative Research, vol. 8 no.1 pp. 91-113, accessed 3.10.16, <http://qrj.sagepub.com/content/8/1/91.abstract>
Ray, M 2011, How to Conduct Research with Social Media, Social Marketing Writing, accessed 2.10.16, <http://socialmarketingwriting.com/how-to-conduct-research-using-social-media/>