Social Media Magazine

Fail Like A Pro: Lessons in Blogging

Posted on the 28 February 2013 by Linsibrownson @CleverSpark

Recently we (Spark) were up for consideration on a project with a well known organization.  Part of this bid was for copywriting, which required me to submit samples that demonstrate the specific ‘tone’ they were looking for.  I’ve been writing my whole life, from fiction to sales copy, but this project called for a voice quite similar to what I use here on Clever.  Easy right?

I got to work, mining my content from back in the day.  What I found made me laugh.  And then I banged my head on the keyboard.


I have written a lot of crap.

In the lifespan of my blog I have had some really bad ideas, as well as some really good ones that didn’t pan out.  I went through periods where I tried to replicate what I saw on other blogs, and then periods where I clearly didn’t care at all.

fail like a pro - lessons in blogging

And because we’re dealing with the interwebs, it’s public domain and just hangin’ out there for anyone to see.  For a laugh and a lesson, here are some of the biggest fails.


FAIL #1. I used to do a series every Friday called Weekend Project.  It was a simple DIY that could be done in a day or less, with few materials.  Perfect for the weekend crafter.  Sounds nice, right?  Except that I never did the project myself.  Nor did I make it up.  I usually found it on Martha Stewart - because nobody else ever looks there for ideas - and would paste the photo (with credit, of course) and a link to the project.  At most, I would share why I chose that project and end with a “Good luck!”


Hahaha, what was I thinking?  The truth is, I was trying to offer my readers something valuable despite the fact that it wasn’t in my wheelhouse.  I didn’t necessarily want to be a DIY blog, but I recognized that many blog readers were into crafting and I didn’t want to lose their interest.  The intentions were good, the follow through not-so-much.  What I later learned was that I could offer great DIY by bringing in guest bloggers who LOVED doing it.  Morgan and Elissa both provided amazing projects that were fun and interesting. The Lesson: To create something valuable you have to be invested in the outcome.  And seek help when you need it.


FAIL #2. Letting anyone be a guest.  Once I realized I wanted to have a collaborative blog, I set to work trying to find people who would contribute.  I pretty much gave guests free reign to talk about what they wanted, when they wanted.  With very little direction (because they were, after all, volunteering their time…) you can imagine that we were all over the place with content.  Some of our guests were not very good writers, and rather than coach or make them feel uncomfortable, I would just wait until it wasn’t beneficial for them anymore. I also – as you have probably experienced as a blogger – got quite a few offers from media people (who represent companies) to ‘allow us’ to use this great article they wrote.  The email offer always started with “I am a big fan of __________”. Yes, I will admit I was flattered and frequently, for the sake of having content, would publish it.


The Lesson: Very similar to #1, you HAVE to be invested in creating something valuable for your readers.  It may have seemed harsh or even stupid to pass up an opportunity for content, but if it wasn’t helping improve the blog then it was ultimately hurting it.  Who knows how many people found us on a day when were not up to par.  Do you think they came back?  NO.


FAIL #3. I started a lot (A LOT) of posts with “If you’re like me…” and went on to explain my point of view.  Aside from being redundant, it’s really just amateur hour writing.  You can safely assume that most of the people who read your blog are, in fact, like you.  Or they wouldn’t be there.  The genius of blogs is that they thrive when you’re being yourself, because others will identify with you.


I saw a greeting card the other day that showed two dogs reading a blog.
The blog reads “Today I ran around.  Then I ate a bone. After dinner I took a nap.” The one dogs looks to the other and says “It’s like this guy is living MY life!”

Funny and true.  Well, true at least (guess you had to be there).


Anyway, I didn’t need to spell out to readers that I was going to share something about myself.  Derr.


The Lesson: Share your stories, tell it like it is…for you. Placating or over-explaining your point of view is, um, pointless.  They’ll get it or they will leave.  Or they will write a nasty comment (which is also good fun).  But be yourself.  And for godssake, read what you have written recently to make sure you are not repeating the same phrase over and over again. 


FAIL #4. Having terrible photos, or no images at all.  I am a bad photographer.  Always have been.  When I started blogging I honestly thought I could get away with it.  I would pull and credit images from other sites (don’t do this) or photoshop the crap out of my pictures.  But frequently I just could not figure out what kind of image would be relevant to what I was writing about.  So I would leave it photo-less.  Bad blogger.  Bad.



A Blogging HaikuNo picture boringGoogle image search trafficFun pic social shares [Tweet that!]


Did you get that?  You need images for SEO, for your reader’s sanity, for your own record keeping (try scrolling through thousands of posts on the same topic and remembering which was which) and for social media.


The Lesson: Always include an image, even if it’s a stick figure saying the title of your post to another stick figure.  I realized during the Revv it Up series that I would never find the right images for my business topics each week so I decided to start sketching cartoons, and they turned out to be a hit.  Way more people shared my post simply because it had a cute cartoon attached to it.  Clever?  Yeah, I think so.


Am I embarrassed to share with you the worst parts about my blogging experience?  Well, yeah, a little.  But I’m doing it to make a point.  I consider Clever to be pretty great these days.

We have awesome contributors and ever since Nicole came on board as a Co-Editor we have been more clear and more focused than ever before.  But I got to this point by DOING it. Had I been naturally good (or immediately successful) at it, I wouldn’t have HAD to explore what wasn’t working and figure out a better way.  Now I use this knowledge to help other small businesses and bloggers find their way, with a few shortcuts of course.

Final Lesson: Despite me listing off my fails, I would encourage you not to think too hard about what you may be doing right or wrong with your blog or business and get out there and keep doing it.  You’ll realize along the way that there are stupid things and awesome things you’ve done that are all conspiring to make you really good…someday. Linsi Brownson

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