Last week, I spent a day in Bath at a Digital Essentials Masterclass
organized by the Society of Authors
. I was partly drawn to going because the speaker in the afternoon was Shoo Rayner
, a children's writer and illustrator whose blog was one of the very first I followed way back when I was thinking about starting my own. I was chatting to Shoo in the lunch break and trying to pin down exactly when that would have been. A bit later I checked and I realized I'd just missed my tenth anniversary as a blogger ... my very first post on this blog was in September 2006.
In Shoo's workshop, he reflected on his own experiences as a writer in the online world - blogging, on social media, setting up his own YouTube channel and even dipping a toe into the world of crowdfunding. He spoke about experiences that had been rewarding, time-consuming, exciting and frustrating ... sometimes all at the same time. He also asked questions about how useful it had all been, especially in terms of reaching his target audience, i.e. people who might actually buy his books. Which got me thinking about why I blog and just who my target audience is.
I think the reasons I blog have probably changed over the years. Back in 2006, I'd already been working as a freelance writer for a few years and although work was ticking along okay, it was a pretty solitary existence. Before the advent of social media, my contact with other freelance colleagues was limited to a handful of freelancers who happened to be personal friends and a yearly visit to the IATEFL conference. I spent most of my time working away on my own and I missed having people to chat to about work. So I initially set up the blog as a way of chatting about things that interested me professionally either to do with my actual work in the field of ELT or concerned with the job of being a freelance writer. Back then, I had no idea who might read what I was putting out there - although I just spotted that Diane Nicholls, a long-term, freelance colleague and friend commented on my very first post, thanks Diane!
Nowadays with plenty of freelance and ELT chat going on via social media and more opportunities to meet up in person through the likes of MaWSIG
, the blog has become more of a space for writing about stuff that's just too long for Twitter or a Facebook post - it's more of an extension of my social media presence than an entity in its own right
So who reads my blog ... who are you reading this now?! (Answers in comments welcome!) I know from comments - either on the blog itself or via Facebook - that lots of my readers are those freelance colleagues who I guess I was originally reaching out to. I'm always pleased to get comments from people I've met at events or on teacher training courses. I also know that I occasionally manage to reach different groups of people with specific posts. Sometimes I give a talk at a conference and put a link to my blog at the end of my slides so I can write a follow-up post aimed at the folks who attended. From time to time, I've also written posts about something connected with a particular group, such as MaWSIG or BALEAP
, and they've shared the post more widely. I guess with each post I have a particular target audience vaguely in mind, but I also aim to be of interest to anyone who might happen to stop by.
So has it all been worth it? Have I ever got work directly as a result of a blog post ... probably not. Has it sold more copies of my books ... I very much doubt it. What it has done though is helped me to feel part of a community and to join in the general chat about my profession. I've lost count of the number of times that I've been talking to someone at an event and they've mentioned they've read one of my blog posts - it makes me feel more connected and so long as someone out there's interested in reading my occasional ramblings, then I think it's worth it.
Thanks for reading!