Over the past nine weeks, I have been running my WordPress blog, ‘Besides The Point’ (witty title, I know). Blogging is a brilliant way for individuals to easily share personal opinions with a wide spectrum of potential readers. It is a great way for students to portray themselves as up and coming professionals in their chosen field. As I am undertaking a Bachelor of Communications & Media, this provides a great platform for me to show off not only my research and design skills, but my enthusiasm for learning and for digital media. Check out this blog post by George Couros (2013), author of The Innovators Mindset; It is an interesting read about the benefits of student blogging, including literacy development, the provision of a student voice and open reflection.
Speaking of open reflection – this is mine. This post will act as a self-reflection of the different strategies I have been utilising to make my blog more readable, user friendly, and engaging. I will go into detail about the techniques I have used, how I have put them in place and how I have continued to maintain a positive online image for my blog.
I believe the design and layout of you blog is really important to capture reader engagement. If I come across a blog that I find unattractive and/or difficult to navigate – I am out of there! No matter how engaging the content may be, if it is not easy to access or is difficult to search through, most readers will not waste their time trying to read it. I spent a lot of time trying to edit my blog with the free version of WordPress, but ended up upgrading to the paid version so that I could have more control over design and customisation. I have gone with a simple look and plain colours, making it easy to read and to ensure that blog posts stand out. Through the integration of Twitter and Instagram feeds on the side bar, I can entice readers to follow me on other social media outlets, as well as add a bit of colour and depth. As I only have nine weeks’ worth of content, I have kept it simple with only two page tabs – About Me and Blog Posts. This is all I need at the moment, until a time comes where I have more content for people to navigate. I received positive feedback from my tutor regarding my first assignment, detailing that my design was easy to navigate and promoted me as a future media professional – this let me know that I was on the right track.
An important aspect of blogging is to provide added media to your written posts. The additions of elements such as videos, photographs and images makes blogs more interactive and engaging for your readers. I strive for continuity in my posts, ensuring each has at least one embedded video and image. I found freelance blogger Ritika Puri’s post ‘7 Refreshingly Simple Ideas to Make Your Content More Engaging’ helpful in developing some new strategies for reader engagement. She suggests to write your blog like you are talking to friends. Although my blog is serving as a student media portfolio, I have taken this advice on board and attempt to exhibit a friendly and easy going blog environment, often throwing in the odd joke or pun to lighten the mood when talking about in-depth research. Throughout my blogging, I have also provided hyperlinks to webpages that I thought may be interesting for readers, or as a way to reference where I have sourced information. YouTube is a great resource to find videos, and was particularly useful for my post ‘Stand For The King – A Thai Cinema Experience’. I was able to find a video posted by a YouTuber that illustrated my experience perfectly, as I myself did not have any footage from my visit.
Ensuring I always allocate my posts to specific and relevant categories, I can keep all my data organised and easy to navigate. Using the tags feature also enables me to enter key words, giving my work a higher change of being located and read.
Interacting in the WordPress community has also helped me to improve reader engagement. I have followed a number of other UOW BCM bloggers, some of whom have returned the favour. Through commenting on the blogs of others I have tried to keep active in the WordPress community, although I admit that this part has been somewhat challenging. I have struggled to have other bloggers engage through commenting on my posts, and with a bit of research have found this is a common problem that modern day bloggers face. Even if posts reach a large audience, comments, likes and shares usually take place on social media platforms, rather than on the blog itself. For example, I posted about some of my blogs on Twitter and received likes on that platform, but no likes on the actual post itself. Check out the video below which I found quite relevant, ‘The Death of Blog Commenting’.
As a researcher writing in a public space, I understand the need to be sensitive and sensible. Whilst always feeling that I can portray an open opinion, I am always sensitive in the way I do so and do not try to be overly provocative in any of my research or opinions. I also understand the importance of referencing, and always ensure I cite my sources clearly and in the correct style using the UOW citing guide. To upkeep my reputation as a proficient and professional blogger, I always proof read my posts and sometimes ask a friend or family member for their opinion before I hit the publish button. When writing online, I feel you need to be concise and to-the-point to ensure readers stay engaged. If a reader starts to lose interest half way through reading a post, they will probably click the back button and not finish reading the article. When posting, I try to split my text up into paragraphs, placing video and images in between to make reading less monotonous and not so clumped together.
Overall, my blogging experience this semester has been an enjoyable one. I feel I am constantly developing new skills, particularly in the areas of research and content creation. It is a valuable skill to be able to engage other readers, and I hope that I am able to continue to grow my blog over the coming years.
Couros, G 2013, 5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog, The Principal Of Change, weblog post, 13 March, viewed 29 September 2016, <http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3721>
Puri, R 2016, 7 Refreshingly Simple Ideas to Make Your Content More Engaging, Positionly, weblog post, date unavailable, viewed 29 September 2016, <http://positionly.com/blog/content-marketing/engaging-content>