Social Media Sunday: The State of the Blogs

Normally, I’d share stats today, but I need to think more . . . globally right now. We’ve had a great quarter but a not-so-great month. April and May saved us, thanks to all the people who contributed a volume of posts that allowed us to publish every day while I spent most of my internet time working for traffic.

I think the poor June is partly about the time of year, but is mostly due to my absence from the Internet. When I’m not religiously answering threads, our engagement suffers. When I’m not tweeting consistently, our referrals suffer. When I’m not in a position to guarantee a post per day, we live entirely on search traffic. Etc.

I’ve seen this effect before on more than one blog, and it’s predictable. It’s not a cause for concern, and I’m not even thinking of it as a setback. It happens. Moving right along.

It’s the July 4 weekend. Last year I overextended myself engineering a good July to the point that we tanked in August and didn’t really recover until late September. Not doing that this year. Of course I’ll maintain communication with all our contributors and do my best to make sure we have a post per day, but for the next two quarters, we get what we get while I reorganize a bit and figure out what 2016 looks like.

If you read my #WeekendCoffeeShare post last weekend, you may have noted that I used the word “monetize” in a positive way. And that I said Sourcerer will be just what it is — a noncommercial WordPress.com blog that thrives on contributions — for as long as it remains in operation. The rest of this builds directly from that post.

Periodically, I take a look at all my social media, evaluate it, and re-prioritize my Internet time to shore up the most valuable ones when they need it. This is a requirement for me, because I’m always experimenting, looking for new friends in out-of-the-way places, and goofing around on networks where I’m weak to figure out how they work. This blog is the most valuable social media space I own, and it’s not in terrible shape, but it needs some shoring up.

I’ve poured a ridiculous amount of time and energy into building Sourcerer. Almost two years in, I am ok with that, because it pays dividends for me and for others. Here are some of the dividends it pays.

  • It’s a safe, welcoming place for a diverse group of bloggers to publish about things that they’re interested in but that doesn’t necessarily fit on their blogs, to mingle, and to form friendships with other bloggers who share their interests.
  • It’s capable of generating crazy-good engagement for its size when circumstances are right.
  • It’s supported by a Twitter account that’s valuable for introducing people, generous about sharing links to other blogs, and positioned to grow.
  • It’s a key part of a much larger social network that is good for generating project ideas, though the brainstorming rarely happens on the blog itself these days.

Here’s something to note about these dividends: they are all social. I’ve privileged the formation of meaningful relationships over other benefits from the beginning, and that has worked well. As long as we can maintain a contributor base and keep bringing the content, Sourcerer is just too good a blog to let go of, or to move to a self-hosted model. It stands or falls on WordPress.com. Its purpose is to get bloggers other than me read.

Here’s the problem. I’m maxed out on the ability to keep growing by putting in more time and energy. It’s taken a lot of luck along with help from many of other bloggers to build it to this point. I am happy to be here and believe I can maintain this blog over time, but I think growth, in terms of increasing page views, will be be slow from here on out.

That has two consequences. I have to get more efficient with my internet time, and I need a source of revenue to spend on marketing. Since I’ve ruled out monetizing this blog, and I can’t build another one on the Sourcerer model without a LOT of administrative and editorial help (because who could run two blogs, each with this many contributors?), I need something completely different.

So, I’m in the process of transitioning all my activities on WordPress to Sourcerer and to the blogs I contribute to and guest post for. Just Gene’O hasn’t performed in a while and there must be better options for a personal website — options that allow third-party ads and are more friendly to affiliate links. Also: options that provide better analytics. So, here is my new-and-improved long-term plan.

1. Phase out Just Gene’O over time. No project I’m supporting with that blog requires it for support at this point. #WeekendCoffeeShare will be just fine without it as long as I have someplace else to publish those posts. The Feminist Friday Project has the infrastructure now to keep right on rolling, provided I continue to coordinate it and find someplace else to archive the public schedule, to index the links and to publish my own contributions. I just don’t know yet what this new personal site looks like, nor where it will be hosted.

2. I need a better personal brand and I need site I can use to get a lot more traffic with one or two updates per week than I’m getting from Just Gene’O at that frequency. If I can generate even $15 per month that isn’t coming out of my (very modest) family income, I can use it as a development fund for the larger project. The question at the moment is how I get there.

3. While I’m figuring that out, keep doing the coffee posts and feminst posts at Just Gene’O and pour more attention into Sourcerer and @Sourcererblog.

4. Make smarter choices about how I structure the next site I build, what I commit to doing with it, and where it’s hosted.

5. Keep making friends.

6. Get lucky one more time.

7. Keep Sourcerer posting, maintain my contributions to the other blogs I post at, and be primed to explode from the starting blocks again in January, the same way we have for the last two years.

That’s it. All my thoughts for today. World domination is still very much on. I just need to find more resources to work with.

What do you think about all this?