After 2 years, blogging as usually been a chore. An academic duty of sorts. However throughout these 10 weeks of blogging, BCM240 has been a game changer. Not only do I believe that my quality of writing had improved, but so has my overall growth as a researcher in the field of media. Despite my previous experience with blogging in four other university subjects, it has not been until this semester that I have truly evolved the most in the blogosphere and found genuine enjoyment in writing and researching weekly topics.
APPEARANCE / FUNCTIONALITY
Before BCM240, my blog theme was pretty standard, incorporating a nice shade of default. Default theme, default images and default widgets. But I’m proud to say that I’m a changed woman. I took the time to personalise my blog through a new theme, with my own photo as the header image and adding widgets such as a twitter feed and blog roll to increase reader engagement. In fact, I got a bit carried away with my widgets in the beginning and ended up having several placed in my footer that I had no idea about. That is, until my tutor Travis set me straight with his feedback and now I know what a footer actually is!
I’ve also added the convenience of ‘categories’ on my main navigation bar. This allowed me to segregate the blogs I have written for other subjects by their subject name. Undoubtedly, this made my blog much more organised for effective blog structure and quicker user access to build reader engagement.
A further improvement to my blog can be seen through my ‘about me’ page. Previously, if anyone wanted to know anything about me, they would’ve seen a nice blank page. Although I covered the basics, a big part of what defines me is music, so I liked the idea of using lyrics as a strategy to describe myself. In saying that, I decided to use the underrated words of Ringo Starr from one of my most beloved bands, The Beatles. I like to think that it highlights my somewhat ‘unconventional’ side while also emphasising a more serious, metaphorical meaning of escaping the daily grind.
Another goal within BCM240 was to stimulate reader engagement. While it may seem obvious that this should be a high priority, before this subject I never considered anyone else reading my posts apart from my tutors and myself. However, after observing my WordPress statistics, I was pleasantly shocked to find that my work had been viewed internationally within over 15 different countries this year alone!
To encourage further reader engagement, I decided gain the assistance of social media. After creating my very first Twitter account, I made it my mission to follow as many BCM240 students as possible purely to get my name out there and noticed. This was a success to a degree as some of those I followed also followed me back, gradually building my audience. After every published blog, I tweeted about it with a link providing direct access. Not only did I tweet about my blog, but I tweeted about the blogs of others that I found interesting in order to create a rapport with them. Another successful Twitter strategy was the use of hashtags. Every one of my tweets contained the hashtag #BCM240 which allowed everyone in the subject to see them including lecturers and tutors. Perhaps my most successful number of views was the result of a retweet from my lecturer and tutor. On that day alone, I received 35 views of my blog, which contributed to 74 views for the month!
Heidi Cohen suggests that an effective way to increase the productivity of social media sharing is to clearly understand the interests, wants and needs of your audience using ‘killer titles’ to help hook readers in which I have attempted to do to the best of my ability.
Funnily enough though, Twitter wasn’t my main blog referrer. That title is given to the WordPress website itself with search engines coming a close second. Again, I adopted the use of tagging ‘BCM240’ within WordPress to increase the possibility of my blog showing up in searches.
To keep readers engaged, I ensured I broke up long paragraphs of content by inserting graphics and videos where appropriate. Eve Haugen encourages the use of visuals throughout blogs to increase traffic. She suggests that image-to-word ratios have a strong impact on attracting audiences and keeping them.
It was also suggested by Adam Connell to mention other bloggers in your content. Not only can this increase traffic and engagement, but it can also help build relationships with other bloggers. However, he gave caution not to mention anyone if they don’t actually help your audience, which lead me to look back over my blogs to rethink my blogger suggestions. I also used a general blogroll to recommend similar bloggers to my audience to further increase their understanding of media, audience and place.
The use of open-ended questions was a further attempt to increase audience engagement however what was disappointing this semester was the lack of comments. Despite the quantity of views, comments remained low, which leads me to believe that perhaps my readers aren’t reaching to the very end of my blog. Through this revelation, I’ve concluded that although I may have attracted readers to my blog, I need to improve my methods of keeping them there and staying motivated to read it. This may mean I have to perfect the art communicating my message effectively through reduced word limits.
RESEARCH / WRITING
In regards to my research methods, I feel as if my writing has become more analytical while still maintaining a somewhat colloquial voice and style. Throughout this blogging experience I have learnt firsthand the advantages of using ethnography research methods to gather data and the importance of finding additional research to help support personal claims and views.
A further improvement I would like to reflect on includes my referencing of opposing views. Including arguments of both for and against helped strengthen my knowledge of the topic at hand as well as strengthening my opinion by disputing opposing perspectives. Granted, haven’t adopted this approach in all of my posts, however I now feel confident enough to do so more in future.
One last element of improvement involves my use of block quotes. In previous blogs, I never used block quotes, which resulted in the direct words of others being lost in a sea of my own. When writing, I am now more aware of how I cite the work of others, ensuring that that the work of others are clearly distinct and detached from my own work, giving them the credit they deserve. I’ve also found that block quotes are useful for separating words and highlighting key information within my blogs.
Needless to say, there is always room for improvement, and despite my growth as a result of this subject, I’ve still got a long way to go. I’d like to thank all of my readers and everyone involved in making this the most enjoyable blogging experience yet! I strongly encourage others to also take the plunge and discover the self-satisfaction that comes from public writing.