Social Media Sunday: Some Thoughts on the Direction of This Here Blog

My quarterly stats are past due. The old stats page that I was using to take the simple screenshots and do quick-and-dirty trend analysis went away (thanks a big fuckin’ lot for that, WordPress gods!), and I’ve just not had the time to crunch numbers lately. I’ll discuss how we’ve done here this summer at some point. In general, we’ve taken a traffic hit and our engagement is down since June. That’s mostly because I’ve not been around enough to keep up the chatter.

social media

Today I am more interested in discussing what’s worked here over the last 21 months and why. This is important because we’re one quarter away from our two-year blogiversary, and because I think we need to do more of what’s worked best.

What’s Worked Best

Batman

Worked because Jeremy blogged Batman (an insanely popular character) here every week for almost eight months, and he did a good job saying interesting things about Batman characters.

The Walking Dead Recap/Reviews

Worked because Luther is one of the most entertaining bloggers around, TWD is very popular, and we timed his reviews to catch people at the right time to offer them a recap of the previous episodes before the next one aired.

Penny Dreadful Season 1 Reviewspenny-dreadful-ep-6

Worked because Diana is just plain good at writing about anything involving monsters, has an engaging, easy-to-read style, and picked a winner — a show with a small but engaged audience as it was airing for the first time.

Marvel Comics, especially Marvel Cinematic Universe blogging

Worked because Marvel is growing in popularity and David’s made good choices about what to focus on. Agent Carter and Guardians of the Galaxy both did very well; and Melissa’s Ant-Man post has also done well.

Sourcerer’s 11 Interviews

Work because they’re fun, easy-to-read, entertaining, and are good for capturing the attention of both this blog’s normal audience and the friends/readers of whomever is being interviewed.

A Handful of Blogging-Related and Social Posts

survivor-atoz_by_RetroI’m thinking of the Geek and Greet post, some of the A to Z organizational stuff, and a few of my Blogwanking posts. The Geek and Greet worked because I offered to do something for people who joined in and the event was an opportunity for people to get their blogs seen by other bloggers. The rest worked because they grabbed the attention of bloggers who are trying to up their games — and I say this a bit. Whomever else your target audience is,  it’s mostly bloggers who read and share blogs.

What’s Not Done as Well as Expected

Doctor Who Reviews

Will reviewed the latest season here at the same time I was reviewing it at Part Time Monster and Hannah was writing about it at Things Matter. That was a lot of fun, and it didn’t do so poorly that I’d rule out more Doctor Who. But it didn’t do what I expected, even though we timed the posts well. I think that’s because Doctor Who is so well-established that the competition for audience is just too intense for us to handle.

Penny Dreadful Season 2 Reviews

Again, not so poorly that I’d rule out a third go. But it didn’t do what the first season did — especially not with search traffic. Lots of reasons this could be. Penny Dreadful hit us just as we were wrapping up A to Z and neither Diana nor I had time to do much in the way of interacting because of offline stuff. But I think either a lot of people lost interest after the first season, or a lot more people were writing reviews this time around, and so we had a tougher time getting into searches.

House of CardsHouseofCards

Diana and I just plain played this one wrong. Everything about House of Cards says we should be able to work it for traffic. We got the timing wrong and we shouldn’t have done extensive recaps. I think the time to post about a Netflix series is either immmediately after it’s released, or AFTER everyone’s had time to binge on the whole thing. I don’t see episode reviews being an effective way to blog about series that are delivered all-at-once. Because no matter when you choose to publish them you don’t have a weekly timeslot generating internet buzz on a predictable schedule. I think the way to go with these is to do one to three posts per season and publish them either on Mondays or Saturdays.

Arrow

The performance of these reviews was the biggest surprise to me in all the time I’ve been doing this. I expected them to do way better than they did, because I know a lot of people who love this show, but the audience isn’t absolutely huge. And I don’t think the problem has anything to do with Melissa’s blogging. Everything else she’s published here has done just fine, and she usually gets good comments. I think we timed them wrong. We didn’t have a lot of choice, because we had to work around the UK air date. But Friday morning has always struck me as a bad time to post long-ish, serious posts. That’s why I mostly do music videos on Fridays. I also think we overestimated our ability to compete for searches, and we expected too much, given that Arrow was into its third season before we ever started blogging about it.

Actual Music Blogging

I’m not talking about the posts where I share a YouTube video and write a paragraph or a personal note about what it means to me. Both David and I have tried serious music blogging, and it’s just never worked for us. Could be that we’d need to blog about music once a week for a year to gain the traction to make it worthwhile. It could be that music blogging is just not a good fit here, or that people who like our comics and tv posts have different taste in music than we do, so aren’t interested in what David or I have to say about music.

Arrr, mateys!

Arrr, mateys!

Everything else has been within the bounds of my expectations. I don’t always make content decisions based on the traffic I think it’s worth. Sometimes I approve things for the fun and the mischief value. Sometimes I just want to give another blogger the chance to step onto the stage here and try to find a few new readers, which is a game of ones and twos no matter how you go about it. But I always have some idea what I think a series of posts should do, traffic-wise. I don’t approve things that have no chance of getting read, and when a post does exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly, I try to figure out why.

The Takeaway

Consistency, not Content, is King

Content quality and topic selection are vital, but the most important consideration, if you are trying to build an interest-based audience, is to offer the quality content on a schedule and do it so consistently that people just come to expect it. The most successful thing we’ve done here is comics, and we blogged about Batman every Wednesday for the better part of a year, then once the Batman run was done, we moved into Marvel without missing a beat just as the MCU was getting crazy-good. There’s no coincidence here.

Timing is as Important as Topic

It’s true that you have to write about things people are interested in if you want readers. But you also have to publish when people are looking for it. This is the lesson of The Walking Dead, Penny Dreadful, Arrow, and House of Cards.Arrow-arrow-cw-fanpop

Consider the Competition

If only a handful of big sites are writing about something, it’s possible for a blog the size of Sourcerer to get a slice of the search traffic (see Penny Dreadful above). But if everyone from io9 to the New York Times entertainment section is writing about a thing, best make sure you’re getting a lot of personal enjoyment out of your own writing, or bring friends along (see Doctor Who above).

Multiple Voices are More Compelling Than One on an Everyday Blog

If I had to, I could shut down my personal blog and run Sourcerer by myself. I could even keep the focus on pop culture and do comics every Wednesday. But if only I had been blogging here these past two years, I’d not have seen even the modest success we’ve achieved by publishing contributions from 12 to 15 bloggers.

What’s Next for Sourcerer?

Tl;dr version: Do more of what’s worked and less of what hasn’t.

Keep it up with the Comics

Comics is obviously the core interest at this point. Maintaining the quality of our Wednesday posts and finding ways to expand our comics offerings are the smartest things we can do for this blog over the next year. Since both comics and significant content from me are essential, it makes sense that I should find a way into comics. I’ve not written much about them here to this point because we’ve had so many contributors here who are better-versed and better at writing about the comics than me. That’s gotta change.

Get Smarter about the Television

I’d like to move away from blogging tv shows just because we like them. The time to blog about a tv series, honestly, is during its first season, unless you have a lot of advantages to work with (like we have with The Walking Dead). This means, for example, that while I might blog the next season of Doctor Who, I’m not twisting myself in knots to give it a prime posting slot, I’m looking at as a “just for fun” series, and I’m not asking anyone else to do it (though I’d certainly consider volunteers, because if someone else blogs Doctor Who here, that frees me up to do the same at Part Time Monster and we can link to one another in our posts).

I think we need to concentrate on Marvel Cinematic Universe series and promising new series (see what I said about Agent Carter and Guardians of the Galaxy above), and we need to figure out how to blog Netflix effectively. TV viewers who also read blogs are moving decisively to a “binge on instant video when you can find the time” way of interacting with television as opposed to the old “drop what you are doing and watch at the same time every week” pattern.

I’m thinking the way we’ve been blogging tv is eventually not going to be a sound scheduling strategy, no matter how well we do it. We’re approaching the point where the behavior of our tv audience has changed so much that posting a review the day after a tv episode runs, in and of itself, doesn’t get us anything we couldn’t get on our own by sharing on Twitter and Facebook.

More Book Bloggingtolkien2

Our book blogging has always been sporadic, but given that we’ve never done it consistently, it’s been successful. Some of our most popular posts in 2014 were book lists written by a variety of contributors. Rebecca Bradley’s reviews did well here, and the fact that our first few Sourcerer’s 11 interviews were author interviews timed to coincide with releases has helped that feature a lot. All this tells me that people who read and follow this blog are interested in books — and interested in the same sorts of books we are. This is our easiest and most promising area for real growth. There’s traffic here to be had for the asking, and we’ve not fully tapped into it yet.

Marvel Movies, Please

It’s just essential for this blog that we review every Marvel movie from here on out within a week of its release, publish those reviews at a prime time, and share them around, for as long as we continue to hang together. Absolutely essential.

More Collaborative Posts.

See the Hannah-Melissa collaborative review of Age of Ultron. That’s a sweet post — quality-wise, one of the best we’ve offered to date. And this is something we can do that very few blogs can. We’ve got a dozen contributors, easy ways of communicating with one another behind the scenes, and this blog to post on. Collaborative posts could be a thing for us, and I think readers will love them. This is a genuine advantage. It’s something we have that almost no one else does, and it’s compelling.

Sourcerer’s 11 Reorganization

SourcererCollageEventually, I want to have more than one interview per month. For now, though, I just want to keep them going. They’re good, but the “tag, you’re it!” model just isn’t going to work for a feature that comes around once a month. We set these up from the beginning so we could not only interview authors to coincide with book releases, but could also sometimes interview interesting bloggers who don’t have books publishing. I’m starting the blogger interview thread of these next month.

What we need for this is a pool of contributors who like to do these interviews, and we need to have a once-a-month discussion about who’s doing the next one and who they are interviewing. If, on occasion, I want to offer people we’ve interviewed an opportunity to interview someone else, I will. But just not something we can do with every interview, because it puts too many constraints on the schedule and limits the pool of potential interviewees.

More Contributors

Not a lot more, but a couple. People come and go here. We’re in a phase now where a lot of the people who have contributed over the last year are ending runs and have other projects they need to prioritize. We have a rule that contributors come and go as they please, and that once you’re to the point where I trust you to schedule a post, you’re free to pitch future contributions to me at any time — a week from now, six months from now, doesn’t matter. We’re ok to get through the fall as we are, but I’d be a lot more comfortable if we had another blogger or two in the mix here.

And that’s it. This is where I think this blog is, and this is my vision/direction statement for the next phase. I thought I needed to do this today, because we’re certainly moving into the next phase.

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Social Media Sunday: Facebook v. Twitter

It’s no secret around this place that we spent the winter and spring invading Facebook with our WordPress army. That’s been a success, but a somewhat costly one. I’ve spent the last ten days or so taking stock, figuring out what we’ve accomplished, and deciding where to go from here.social media

From July through November of last year, Sourcerer averaged 11.6 Facebook referrals per month and Part Time Monster averaged 20.2. During that time, I was barely using Facebook at all — just publicizing to some pages and using PMs and groups to chat with a dozen or so bloggers — and Diana was mostly using it the way non-bloggy folks use it. From December through May 12, Sourcerer averaged 71.2 Facebook referrals per month and Part Time Monster averaged 88.2.

Now, those are huge increases but they are tiny numbers. Since our pages have been doing exactly what they’ve always done this whole time, I am assuming the increase is coming from our personal timelines and shares in blogging groups.

If I’d gone big on Facebook for nearly six months hoping for a huge traffic increase, I’d be disappointed. But that’s not what it was about. It was about two things.

  1. Making friends with enough bloggers to make posting a status update on my personal timeline worth the time it takes to compose one, and
  2. getting connected with contributors and collaborators so I didn’t have to do planning stuff on the front pages of the blogs and ask people to visit and read.

That’s been a success, and has made the whole thing worthwhile to me.

Now here’s the rub. I’ve neglected Twitter this whole time. I’ve publicized links and shared and retweeted things from @Sourcererblog as I could. But I’ve barely looked at my personal account and have been lousy about answering notifications for the last few months. And Twitter is STILL outperforming Facebook in the referral department.Twitter-icon-the-bird

I’m adjusting my priorities. I’m friends with plenty of bloggers on Facebook now and happy to be friends with more, but I’m not actively looking at this point and not joining more groups. I’m using Facebook to keep up with the bloggers and groups I already know and getting back to the business of blogging.

I just figure, for the amount of time I’ve sunk specifically into various link-sharing activities over the last five months, the return isn’t that great. Not when a fairly modest Twitter following that I have given almost no engagement to over that period of time is just as happy to click my links as they’ve always been. The conversations are great on Facebook, my friends over there are awesome, and a lot of coordination is going on in Facebook groups, but the sharing of the links, in particular, seems like an inefficient use of time.

So, a goodly portion of my Facebook time is reallocated to Twitter and to the blogosphere. I addition to not doing a good job with my Twitter notifications, I’ve also not been great about hitting my WordPress reader nor about visiting commenters lately. That has to change.

Here’s my plan through October.

  • Keep delivering the content.
  • Grow on Twitter, get more engaged, and do a better job encouraging my followers over there to get to know one another.
  • Remain active in the Facebook groups, share things on my timeline, answer my threads, and do just enough keep up over there until I get the Twitter sorted.
  • Once the Twitter is straightened out, go back to Facebook and form a group. The invitations to that group will originate on my timeline. I’d hoped to be setting up a group next month, but I’m not experienced enough with administering groups, nor do I have a clear enough idea of what my friends would want to feel like that’s a smart use of my time and energy just now.
  • Once the Facebook group is up and stable with 40+ members, have a serious conversation about StumbleUpon. I’m already Stumbling a few things now then and to build up a history.

In the meantime, I’m setting up my Twitter accounts to tweet around the clock at two hour intervals and I’m checking my notifications over there at least every other day. Here’s where I am with @Sourcererblog on Twitter right this minute.

twitter_S_05_15

That spike in the middle is the increase from my last big push in the fall. It’s an increase of 2,000 followers over a two-month period, and I know exactly how that is done. Note that even though I’ve not been actively growing this account since November, nor paying much attention to it, it’s still trending up. Since I shifted to Facebook at the beginning of December, I’ve seen a net increase of 800 followers without even trying.

Now I know what publicizing my links, sharing to hashtags for others on the weekends with a following of 5K, and doing minimal engagement are worth. I want to see what ramping up the engagement and getting smart about sharing our own links will do for the blog. And I want to know what it’s like to manage a Twitter following of 15K. I’m curious.

The Good, the Bad, and the Stats: The #GeekPastiche A to Z Reflection

A-to-Z+Reflection+[2015]+-+Lg

Last year my reflection focused on basic lessons I learned as a first-timer. It was too long and posted too late, because I barely survived the 2014 Challenge and it took me a month to get back into my normal routine. This year’s reflection is about things we did right here at Sourcerer, things I’ll do differently if I blog A to Z next year, and what A to Z did for our numbers in April.

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Quarterly Blogwanking: Spring 2015

I pulled the quarterly stats Sunday morning, so I’ve not captured the entire month of March, but I decided to go ahead and do this before the A to Z Challenge starts so we can see where we are going in. As always, I’m not bragging nor complaining. I do these because I always learn things when other bloggers share their stats, and I have friends who like this stuff.

We’ve had a stellar quarter both here and at Part Time Monster. I knew January would be good, but February and March have exceeded my expectations and compared to how we ended 2014, the Monster is absolutely killing it. I am curious about two things going forward:

  1. What’s the A to Z Challenge going to do for our traffic and engagement?
  2. Is the increased traffic we’ve seen this quarter sustainable, or are we in for a huge dip later in the year like we saw in 2014?

Here are Sourcerer’s monthly views. I went ahead and included them all so we can compare them to last year’s.

Sourcerer_Stats_2015_03_29January of this year was comparable to January of 2014, but we didn’t see the huge drop-off in February and March this year that we saw last year. That’s because January of last year was a lucky month — we had the Zero-to-Hero Challenge, a weekend where the entire southeastern U.S. was snowed in to binge on the Internet, and some lucky Stumbles. This year, we got the numbers in January by blogging consistently, and we’ve been able to maintain that consistency for the entire quarter.

I don’t expect to reach 3400 views for March, but it’s going to be close. I’m interested to see what we get the first week of April. I think we should see a nice bump, but I don’t know how much of the traffic growth I’m expecting in April we’ll be able to hang on to. We didn’t do A to Z here last year, but it got me my best month of 2014 at my personal blog.

The traffic at my personal blog settled back to the normal level pretty quickly once April was over last year. That doesn’t mean much, though. A to Z took so much out of me last year I had to shut my personal blog down for a couple of weeks to get Sourcerer back on track. I’m hoping I’ve done a good enough job with the planning this year to just keep rolling once April is over.

Now, Part Time Monster’s monthly totals.

PTM_Stats_2015_03_29The Monster’s last three months are the best quarter Diana and I have had at any of our blogs since we started, and it’s the #WeekendCoffeeShare that’s driving this increase. March looks better than it actually is, because Diana got more than 800 views on March 12-14 from someone Stumbling one of her posts, and that’s not a predictable source of traffic. Even when we correct for that, though, the Monster’s had a good month.

Sourcerer and Part Time Monster have run neck-in-neck for views most of the time we’ve been blogging. We’ve rarely ended a month more than 1,000 views apart. When one pulls ahead, the other always catches up. I’ve said several times that I thought PTM was pulling away and been wrong, but I think it’s happening now.

Just in general, the Monster is a better blog for getting views because Diana gets the same amount of traffic for a lot less work than I put into Sourcerer, which is a bit of a high-maintenance operation. Just to give you a frame of reference, PTM has published 550 posts since we started. We’ve published 775 here.

The #WeekendCoffeeShare has made me a believer in the power of linkups, so once A to Z is done, a Sourcerer-appropriate weekend linkup is my next project. And as for the StumbleUpon luck – that’s not going to be luck forever. We will learn how to use StumbleUpon effectively, even if it takes me all of next year to figure out how. And that’s likely the last network I’m going to need to solve.

This is not to suggest that you should run out and get yourself a linkup without thinking about what you’re hoping to accomplish. Linkups have to be well-crafted to appeal to a lot of people, and they have to attract people who actually visit the other blogs on the linkup. Otherwise, they’re just more work for very little gain. But I’ve seen enough good ones to put one together for this blog and have a chance at success with it.

In the meantime, I am interested in seeing how April plays out for these two blogs. Here’s why.

  • We have consecutive list placement and a lot of mutual friends who are near us on the list, and we typically post an hour apart.
  • We’re both doing A to Z with contributors, and we are writing posts for one another, but Diana has fewer contributors than Sourcerer.
  • We’re both planning to visit the same number of blogs, but Diana will be visiting more because she’s a helper, and so she has extra ones to visit.

I am curious to compare our daily totals, and to see how the #WeekendCoffeeShare, which will continue in April, plays into the numbers. Here’s a brief run-down of our quarterly referrals and top posts.

Sourcerer’s Top Posts

  • One of Jeremy’s Batman posts that gets Google search hits every day,
  • A big bunch of Luther’s Walking Dead recaps,
  • Rebecca’s review of Disclaimer,
  • Natacha’s post on Star Wars and long-lasting franchises,
  • David’s Agents of Shield post that ran during the break in Agent Carter, and
  • the A to Z reveal. Nothing else generated more than 100 post views this quarter.

Sourcerer’s Top Referrers

  • Search Engines (3,200)
  • The WordPress reader (500)
  • Twitter (360)
  • Facebook (260)

No other single source generated 100 referrals.

Part Time Monster’s Top Posts

I’m not going to run them down, but PTM has 20 posts that generated more than 100 views for the quarter. These fall into several categories.

  • Old posts that generate consistent search traffic.
  • Weekend Coffee share posts (nearly all have generated more than 100 post views).
  • Event-oriented posts like the two Feminist Fridays, Diana’s #1000Speak post, and her A to Z Theme reveal.

Part Time Monster’s Top Referrers

  • Search engines (2500)
  • StumbleUpon (652, but this number looks low to me and the stumbled post was viewed more than 800 times)
  • WordPress Reader (560)
  • Twitter (500)
  • Facebook (250)
  • Email (175)

Interestingly, Part Time Monster received about 1000 more front page views than Sourcerer this quarter. I’m assuming a lot of these views are repeat visits from people checking the coffee share linkup periodically on the weekends. Just as a bonus, here’s the traffic spike from the StumbleUpon hit on March 12-14.

PTM_spike_2015_03_29Since this occurred Thursday-Saturday and coincided with the coffee share linkup, it got Part Time Monster our two best days ever for views.

Happy April! Best of luck with A to Z if you’re participating. If not, stop by for our A to Z posts. In general, our April posts will be our standard fare, only the posts will be shorter and we’ll have two posts on a few days of the week that we generally only have one.