I was recently asked on Facebook how someone should approach starting a wushu blog.
“I thought you’d never ask!” exclaimed my ego.
So, I wanted to write up a quick primer on how to set up a wushu blog and some of the things I might have done differently if I were to go back and do it all again from the start. For those of you who are thinking about blogging on the topic of wushu and want to know what their options are, this might help.
First off, there are some myths about blogging that I want to dispel. Because I’ve noticed that some folks have an idea that blogging, as an act, is rather simple. It’s just writing stuff and putting it online, right? Just set up some wordpress blog and post up your random opinions?
Well, blogging is actually a lot like wushu. You get out of it what you put in to it.
If you head to the wushu guan and just go through the motions without really focusing on what you’re doing, then that’s not really going to help your wushu, right?. But when you hold yourself to a higher standard and try to focus your energy on excelling at the activity, then you will improve.
If you’re going to blog about wushu, then make sure it is a blog worth reading. Opinions are like a crazy cousin – everyone has one. But how you craft that opinion into something people want to read and comment on, is what really separates the boring blogs from the ones that stand out.
Okay, so now that we know that you have to actually care and try to be good at blogging, what exactly are the steps to setting up a wushu blog? It basically boils down to 5 things:
Let’s tackle one at a time, shall we?
Whenever I work with a client on setting up a website this is the first thing I ask them about. Because knowing who you are creating content for is the most important part of the entire process. This is even more true with a blog.
You might think “well, of course my audience are wushu people“, but I would argue that this is too broad. There are a LOT of wushu people all around the world. Are you targeting wushu people in the E.U.? Are you targeting wushu people in their 40’s? Are you targeting wushu people who do it professionally? part time? teachers? students? Taiji or external? Traditional or modern?
The general rule with online content marketing is the more focused and narrow you can identify your ideal audience, the better. It isn’t enough just to say that your ideal reader is “someone like me” because that is also too vague.
When I was really focused on wushuzilla.com, it took me a while to really come to terms with who my core audience was. But once I figured it out, writing suddenly became much easier and the blogging process was more enjoyable. I knew who I was writing for so I knew exactly what I should write.
And who did I target? My main target were English-speaking part-time wushu practitioners in the 15-35 age range who wanted to understand about wushu in China, how to travel to China, and and how to create similar training environments in their own lives.
That is pretty specific, and the benefit of being so drilled down means I didn’t have to concern myself with a lot of people who don’t fall in to that category. That’s why you never saw a “how to start a wushu school” article on wushuzilla.com (although, secretly, I would like to write one).
So, that is the first key to creating a wushu blog. Know exactly what part of the wushu spectrum of people you want to talk to. The more specific the better.
One thing I’ve learned from doing marketing and copywriting for clients is the importance of having a consistent and identifiable voice when you create content. If the first step was specifying your audience, the the next step is specifying YOU.
Who are you as a person and how do you express that voice in writing? Or on a podcast? Or through video? Part of this is branding, but more than colors, logos, typeface treatment and graphics is knowing how you express yourself with words.
Do you swear a lot? Do you use a lot of emoticons? Are you someone who writes with slang or are you more grammatically oriented? Are you sarcastic? Do you have dry humor? Do you like to make puns? Are you angry? happy? too cool for school?
Figure out who you are and how you will express yourself to your audience. When they read what you write (or say) they should think “I know exactly who this person is” and be able to identify with you.
Really, it’s about creating a connection with your audience, and if you know your audience well (since we specifically identified them) then you should know how best to relate to them and how best to express your thoughts and feelings.
Voice isn’t something that stays static either. It changes over time. When I read my blogs from 15 years ago I was a very different person and so I expressed myself differently. But that is the sort of evolutionary journey that your audience can join you on, and it shows a nice organic growth that people can identify with.
Okay, so you know who you’re speaking to and you know how you’re going to speak. Now you have to figure out where your contributions to the world wide wushu web will go.
There are basically three main methods of online expression: blogs, podcasts and video. Each one has their pro’s and con’s and the one that works best for you is really an individual choice.
If you’re not sure, try each one and see how it feels. I’ve done all three, but at the end of the day I find that I prefer writing over videos and podcasts. Why? Mainly because it is easier to produce and videos/podcasts take more time. (Yay for laziness!) But also because I feel more connected when I write out what I’m thinking and feeling. It feels more natural to me.
There are a lot of tools you could use to set up your platform, but for the most part I recommend a self-hosted WordPress site for blogging, Amazon S3 for serving podcast mp3 files with Blubrry plugin for setting up your XML feed and for video Youtube is really the best option, unless you’re doing videos for a private membership site, in which case I recommend a Pro Vimeo account.
There are a lot of options from free to cheap to expensive so it really depends on your budget, and I don’t want to make this post a technical review of blogging platforms.
But really it doesn’t even need to be that complicated. These are just the ways I would go if I was starting from scratch. You could use a free WordPress.com or Tumblr account to set up your blog too. This is really one of those “it depends” situations so think about your own technical limitations and preferences and start from there.
Again, a platform is just that — a platform for expression. And what you say is always more important than the system you use to say it. Heck, go publish a printed newsletter and snail-mail it to people if that is more your style. Just make sure the words on the page are worth reading. 🙂
This is one that I still struggle with. The key to a successful blog is really about consistency and, if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you know that I’m horribly inconsistent with the frequency of my posting. I tend to go in spurts, which is really a killer for a blog’s ability to maintain an audience.
Consistency isn’t so much about the scale of what you are doing. I used to think that to be “consistent” I had to go all out every day. Actually, that is a good way to lose consistency. The important thing is to come up with a schedule of content development that works for YOU and make sure you stick with it.
There are bloggers who publish content once a day, and some who publish once a month. But as long as you are consistent with that schedule and your audience knows when to expect your next blogging gem, then the frequency isn’t all that important.
The main thing is to get in the habit of writing. Not every post is going to be amazing. Not every blog is going to blow people’s minds. Sometimes you have to produce a piece of crap just to make sure you stick to your schedule. But stick to that schedule! Because consistency is the surest way to eventually get out those articles that do blow people’s minds and get a ton of response.
It’s like wushu in that regard (isn’t everything like wushu?) because not every time you go to the wushu guan is going to be amazing or your best workout. Sometimes it is all you can do just to tie the laces on your budosagas. But showing up, more than anything, is the key to long term success with wushu. You’ll have bad days, but you’ll also have amazing days. So stick with it and over time your skills and your content will keep improving.
And finally we are at the last piece of the blogging puzzle. Engagement is essentially how you interact and communicate with your audience, and there are a lot of different ways you can do it.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the more effective methods to engage with your audience:
Newsletters: The number one regret most bloggers have down the line? They didn’t start building their newsletter list soon enough. Just set it up on your site for now and use it later, but sooner is usually better. Mail Chimp is a good, free solution for this.
Social Media: The usual culprits apply. A Facebook page is good for engagement with your audience since they’re probably already there. Twitter is good for contributing to the online #wushu conversation and Google Plus is good to help your SEO rankings. Those are the top 3 and others (Pinterist, Instagram, etc.) are just icing on the cake.
Webinars: It can be as simple as a Google Hangout with some other wushu folks, or you can do the full-on GoToWebinar system, but webinars are a great way to engage with your audience and get their questions answered.
Forums: There is really not much going on in the world of wushu forums these days, but who’s to say you can’t start one? I don’t recommend starting a forum until you already have a certain number of people in your core audience. Otherwise it’s a big empty room with 3 people in it trying to start a conversation. The more the merrier. (And if you have a WordPress site, i recommend using the bbpress plugin.)
Live Meetups: I know, it sounds very 20th century, but meeting people in the flesh is still a great way to engage. If you know you’re going to travel somewhere, why not let your audience know and see if you can meet up? I do that when I travel and it is ALWAYS a blast. In fact, it is how I met the person who originally asked me the question that got me inspired to write this post. How is that for cyclical?
Again, this really boils down to finding the solution that works best for you, your audience, your voice and your platform.
Engagement is about connecting with others. It is about sharing a common bond (of wushu) and sharing a journey of training and exploring this sport.
The biggest key to being successful with engagement is to forget yourself. If you focus on yourself and what you get out of engagement, then you’re missing the point. Engagement is about giving to others – time, energy, information, value, resources – and being thrilled that you’re able to provide a positive impact on someone else’s life.
Don’t argue with people. Don’t feed forum trolls. Don’t bash people online. Rise above that pettiness and focus on helping others and promoting the positive sides of this sport. Those who only focus on themselves and what they can get out of a situation end up losing in the end. Blogging is a team sports, and you need to create a win-win scenario with your audience.
So, I think that pretty much runs down the ins and outs of blogging, at least from my perspective. There are a lot of technical aspects to blogging that I didn’t cover, but to be honest those are all accademic. The system you use (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.) isn’t as important as what you are saying, so focus on your message and the rest will take care of itself.
If you start up a wushu blog let me know. I would love to subscribe and check out what you have to say. There aren’t enough wushu blogs out there (at least that I know about) so the more the merrier. There is more than enough sand in this box for all of us to play together. 🙂
If you have any specific questions about blogging, just post a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them.