How do run a writing blog this well? Because I’ve just started up a blog called ‘Ink Inspiration' and I'm looking for tips.
Well, I’m flattered you think we’re well run!
I guess that the tips depend on what you want out of a blog—whether it’s a lot of followers, or to connect with a community, or to have something respectable to put on your resume. But I think Yeah Write does all 3, so here are my tips*!
1. “I Don’t Really Care That You Like Cats/Dr. Who/Ryan Gosling Gifs”;
Your personal blog & your writing/thematic blog should be completely separate.
Something that really bugs me when I come across a new blog is when the URL is something like “nameofbandlivialoves.tumblr.com” but then you go on and realize that yeah, there are a lot of posts about Band Livia Likes, but whatever 15 year old running the site is also publishing all of her messages from her friends and reblogs of stuff from other fandoms.
I know that Tumblr went through this big shift a couple of years ago so that people could more easily find specific posts related to their interestes, as opposed to entire blogs, but people still want followers, and people want to follow blogs that publish thematically consistent content. So on my personal blog, livituppp, I reblog interesting posts about typography and clothes and politics and other shit I like. But on Yeah Write, I only post about writing. I used to even post more about reading/books, but filtered it down so that now most of our posts are directly related to writing (also, see point #4).
Something I really regret not doing when I signed up is making Yeah Write a completely separate Tumblr account, not just a secondary blog under one account (ie, as it stands, I log in with one email address and one password to access both my personal blog and Yeah Write). Because Yeah Write is my secondary blog, I can’t message people or follow people as Yeah Write—and when you only get a certain number of characters, having to always start an ask with “Hey, this is Livia from Yeah Write!” is super annoying. If I’d known that Yeah Write was going to become as big of a part of my life as it has, I would have made a separate account so that I would log out and then re-log in as Yeah Write.
I will never understand why Tumblr doesn’t let you switch your primary blog, though, or why you can’t toggle between blogs when you’re messaging someone. That would be the easiest.
2. “You Are A Factory, Not A Recycling Center”;
Create as much unique content as possible.
Obviously I reblog things from Tumblr onto Yeah Write. But I also have been trying really hard to make as much of our content unique as I can. And when I can’t, instead of reblogging stuff, I try and pull in other resources from the internet and elsewhere to share with you guys. I’m always hearing stuff on NPR that I want to link to Yeah Write, and I read websites like Publishers Weekly, Writer’s Digest, and Poets & Writers to see what they’re up to. The ultimate goal is to put new stuff into the Tumblr-sphere (which at times can feel counter intuitive!).
3. “I Feel Prettyyyy, Oh So Prettyyyy”;
Make your blog preeeeetty, and unique.
There are all kinds of Tumblr theme codes on the internet. Learn how to make yours your own. Everything I’ve learned about editing my theme I’ve learned by Googling “CSS how to make rounded edges” or “Tumblr theme how to show notes”. There are huge threads out there where people are answering each other’s questions about modifying Tumblr themes. You learn by doing. It can be frustrating at times, but there are also a ton of great people out there who are willing to help you if you get stopped up when trying to edit your code.
I also try to create unique and cohesive graphics for original posts we do, like Short Short Week or Livia Writes a Novel or calls for submissions for the magazine. Branding continuity, people!
And remember, clear and organized and simple are always preferable when it comes to any website.
4. “Cause We’re the 3 BEST FRIENDS That Anybody COULD Have”;
Once you’ve done steps 1-3, find all of the other Tumblrs/blogs/websites that are similar to yours & make friends with them.
I feel like I say this all of the time, but the #1 way to gain visibility (read: amass followers) is to reach out to other Tumblrs and ask them if they’ll promote you. I also tell this to people at my work who want more traffic to their sites—I could go on and on about how in this age of Google and being able to look into everything before you commit to buying/following/etc-ing it, endorsement from trusted sources are key. if your writing blog’s content is good, people will want to share it. Plus, they already possess the audience that you want to reach out to.
When I first started Yeah Write they had a different way of cataloging blogs, but I messaged all of the Tumblrs in the Creative Writing section and said, “Hey, I just started this Tumblr where I publish a writing prompt every day, will you share my link with your followers if you think they’d be interested?” and the followers started absolutely pouring in.
I’ll never forget that, so now I try to do the same for new writing blogs who are just starting out (speaking of which, check out the Ink Inspiration link that Becky sent in, that’s a sweet site). Right on our submit page I have directions on how to send us a promo so that we can publish it right to YW.
Also, I don’t consider other big writing Tumblrs “competitors”—we’re all trying to do the same thing, so I’m happy to share their posts, send people their way, etc.
5. “Hey Girl Heyyyyy”;
Answer every message, but only publish the ones that would be relevant to everyone.
I don’t know about you guys, but I find it sort of annoying when other “thematic” blogs—writing or otherwise—post all of the asks they get that are very procedural (how do I submit this, where did you find your theme, etc.). And I think it’s even worse when they post all of the “Omgz I love your Tumblr!!!1!1!!” posts. It’s great to get positive feedback, but don’t clog our dashes up with it… it’s kind of like posting all your Valentines on the front of your locker door or something (you go Glen Coco aaaand none of Gretchen Wieners). Instead, copy and paste all of the nice things that people write to me onto our semi-secret Praise page, which isn’t linked anywhere on the actual blog, so that I can remember the nice things people have said. Then I reply to the writer with a big private thank you.
A lot of the time the questions I’m answering are ones that people could’ve answered themselves by reading our FAQ or About or Advice page, but let’s be real, not everyone is going to read through all of that stuff before hopping on the Ask train. So I always just answer with those links, depending on where the answer can be found. Or, if I can’t answer a question, I let the person know as much and do my best to point them in the right direction. I want YW to seem reliable.
When someone asks a question that I think all followers could benefit from reading the answer to, I copy and paste it into a post like this very one, the reason being that then people can reblog it (whereas answered asks are only like-able).
6. “The Peanut Gallery”;
Have one. Let people refute what you say.
This is definitely more specific to a writing advice blog like Yeah Write, but a lot of time I’m spewing how I think someone should do something, but art is subjective so really what I’m giving is just my opinion. So at the bottom of advice posts, I always put a link so that people can write in and say “Actually, in my experience…” or “Hey, you’re full of shit!”. Then I copy and paste their testimony right to the bottom of the original post.
7. “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That…”;
Actually, yes they do! Source your stuff—it’s just good internet etiquette.
Okay, I’ll admit, for a long time, I didn’t do this. It’s really hard. But then I discovered that if you go to Google image search and click on the little camera symbol on the right side of the search bar, you can paste in a URL of an image or upload one and Google will show you all of the other places on the internet that that image has appeared. It takes a little searching sometimes, but usually you can find the original artist’s page. Then I just hyperlink the image so that if someone clicks on it, they’re taken to the source.
However, I do try to put images on as many posts as possible. They’re eye catching, and here on Tumblr, we’re not big on big blocks of text (or any text at all, for that matter).
8. “Hater’s AIN’T Gon’ Hate”;
TURN OFF ANONYMOUS ASKS.
I cannot even tell you how much frustration this has saved me. I once, once, had someone actually find my personal blog so that they could tell me anonymously that Yeah Write was a bunch of bullshit or whatever, and I couldn’t help it, it made me sad! This isn’t a personal blog, it’s a community blog with a somewhat professional purpose, so we don’t need that drama. Besides, sending a message to someone through the internet is pretty much anonymous anyway—displaying a link to your Tumblr isn’t exactly exposing yourself to the world (I mean, it depends on what you have on your blog, but if you don’t want other people on the internet to see it, it probably shouldn’t be on da internet anyway). And people should be accountable for their own words.
Trust me—unless you’ve got nerves of steel, this’ll make you feel a lot better, haha.
*Note: These are mostly tips for running a blog like Yeah Write that’s thematic—they could also apply to running a photography blog, or a fandom blog, or a cat blog, etc. What these tips aren’t about is creating a writing blog that acts as your writing portfolio. The best advice I can give on creating those is to point you to my portfolio website, www.livianelson.com, which pretty much includes what I think you should include, haha.
If anyone else has tips for running a successful blog (writing or otherwise), send em in!
This post will be indexed on our Advice page, under the first heading, “The Writer’s Life”.