A Note from Fatty: My sister Jodi (formerly known as the Errorista) has an awesome new blog: Pistols and Popcorn. I recommend it, naturally. Anyway, a couple days ago, Jodi announced she’s forming a Stand Up 2 Cancer team. She’s trying to raise $1000 by this Friday. Please head on over to her Team page and help. Thanks!
In just a few short weeks, I’ll be going to Interbike, for the first time ever.
To prepare, I am getting my best suits cleaned and pressed and have caught up with all the latest tie-tying fashions, so that I may be prepared for any impromptu, semiformal events. to which I may be invited.
Even more importantly, however, I have had my tuxedo (baby blue, indigo velvet trim and cummerbund) let out so that I may be appropriately dressed for my participation in the Interbike Web 2.0 & Social Media Panel.
Yes, that’s right. I will be participating in a panel, and I will be sharing the kind of wisdom that can only be gleaned from a blogger who has built his reputation on fake news and opined on the sublime nature of avocados, clementines, and farts (but not the combination of the three).
Seriously, I really will be part of a panel. And I’m supposed to be able to talk about “What You Need to Know About Web 2.0.” Which means, I guess, that I’d better hurry up and learn what “Web 2.0″ means.
And also, I need to learn whether, in 3+ years of writing this blog, I have learned anything worth sharing.
But first, a shameless appeal. If you’re going to be at Interbike, email me. Let’s meet. And then I’ll give you a Fat Cyclist t-shirt, provided you promise to wear it at the panel I’m speaking at, and cheer wildly whenever I say anything. Especially if it makes a little sense.
Stuff I’ve Learned
Here’s the thing, though. I think I actually have learned a few things while blogging for 3+ years (and am currently violating one of the main things I’ve learned: don’t blog about blogging).
- It helps to have a really specific audience in mind. When I write, I’m generally trying to entertain Bob, Dug, Brad, Rick, and Kenny. I write most of my entries as if it were email to my friends. And then I imagine them writing back, usually with a response like, “This is stupid. Please stop emailing me so often.” And then I’m glad I have a blog, because you’re all much nicer than my friends.
- Cherish your readers: If you’re lucky, some smart and interesting people will find your blog and will start contributing, either with comments or email feedback or whatever. Treat these people like gold. By which I mean: keep them hidden in a vault, and then sell them when market conditions are favorable. Also, maybe try melting and making little figurines out of them.
- Plumbing doesn’t matter. The water running through the plumbing matters. People ask me about what I’ve done to increase my Google juice, to increase my bounce rate, and to otherwise increase my web visibility. My answer is: nothing. Ever. I have a hard time believing that anyone is going to permanently increase their site’s readership through search engine optimization. Eventually, people who share your interests will find and bookmark you, because there are 7,000,240,812 (plus or minus 3) people using the Internet at any given moment. A certain percentage will find you compelling. A larger percentage will find you compelling if you give them free stuff. (Note: In spite of everything I’ve said on this topic, I still get a lot of satisfaction in what happens if you do a straight-up Google search on Rock Racing.)
- Write often. But not too often. Write every weekday. Take the weekends off, and Fridays if you don’t have something extra-compelling to say. Save your best stuff for Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Don’t write multiple posts per day, because your readers will begin to suspect that you don’t have a real life, and they’re probably right.
- If you run out of interesting things to say, ask a question instead. I can’t believe how many times I’ve used this gimmick, nor how well it works. Click here for an example.
- Even if you haven’t run out of interesting things to say, ask questions. It turns out that people like to participate in conversations even more than they like to be lectured to. I know, that’s a weird and new theory, but try it out sometime, both on your website and in real life. Ask what other people think. And then read their responses. Hey, look! You’re no longer speaking, but talking instead!
- Don’t talk about stuff you shouldn’t talk about. If your site isn’t specifically about religion or politics, don’t talk about either. Because — especially if your site is about something (like, for example, bikes) that can be interesting to a wide variety of people, there’s a good chance that folks who had gotten along really well for years and years will start duking it out. Case in point: For the past 3-and-change years, I have not related one particular bike-related story, because it’s impossible to tell without going into religion. So I never tell it. Even though it’s the cause of a really interesting scar I’ve got.
- Use lots of paragraph breaks. I really believe the main reason my blog has more readers than some others is that I have a lot of paragraph breaks. I’m very generous with paragraph breaks, especially considering that I don’t really even know what the rules for paragraph breaks are. I think they have something to do with separating complete thoughts, but I thought that’s what periods are for, too. I do know, however, that if you’ve got more than three sentences without a paragraph break, your paragraph becomes horrifically unwieldy.
- Walls are really good at keeping people out. In real life, I don’t demand ID before I let people talk to me. So, in my blog, I don’t make people register to comment, and I don’t make people try to interpret obfuscated characters. To date, Akismet has caught nearly 700,000 spam comments in my blog, but it’s rare that a human sees one of them.
- People like free stuff. If you want to cheat your way to a large audience, have a contest. If you want to cheat your way to a perpetually large audience, have a lot of contests.
- If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything. It’s better to not post than to post that you have nothing to post.
- You’ll get better. At first, it’s hard to write something every day. But it gets easier with practice, just like everything else.
- Don’t be mean. Unless you’re Bike Snob NYC. Then be as mean as you want. But not to me.
Oh, and one more thing. Be sure to include pictures of cats with badly spelled captions. Those things are hilarious.
Of course, that’s all stuff you already knew. I just put that in there for filler. The real reason I’m going to participate in this panel is to schmooze. I have certain questions and comments for the other panel participants.
Andy Pemberton, Publisher: VeloNews
Me: Hi, I’m Elden “Fatty” Nelson.
Andy: Why does that name sound familiar?
Me: No reason, I’m sure.
Andy: Hey, waitasec. You’re the jerk that’s always trashing our ads! (Assos, Cannondale, Lew)
Me: Um, it’s all in good fun, though, right? No hard urgghghlelghr (sound of Fatty being punched in the throat).
Rick Vosper, Rick Vosper Marketing Services
Me: Man, you’re one lucky guy.
Rick: How so?
Me: Well, it’s not everyone who gets hired to work at a company that has the same name as that person himself!
Rick: (Says nothing, walks away while shaking head.)
I predict I’m going to be extra extra popular at Interbike.