In June of 2010, while getting ready for work, my wife conjured up the idea that it would be interesting to celebrate a holiday every day for an entire year. It sounded a little crazy at first, but after some discussion we realized this was the perfect opportunity to start a blog. That early morning idea has evolved into what is likely to be one of the most memorable years of my life. Enter theyearoflivingunofficially.com.
In our 6 months thus far of creating and managing a blog, we have learned a few key lessons. The process of starting a daily or themed blog can be daunting, to say the least. But, when done the right way, the experience can be extremely rewarding. Here are our tips for getting started on the right track.
Prepare for the Time Commitment
I can’t count the amount of hours spent scouring the internet verifying the surprisingly large amount of “unofficial” holidays out there. The stress of maintaining a daily blog takes its toll, as this year has, no doubt, been the most non-stop year of my life.
Expect the Unexpected
One of the earliest questions we asked ourselves was “how will we keep track of all the holidays we came across?” Google Calendar has proven to be an enormously helpful tool throughout our process. It didn’t come without a few bumps in the road, though. A few months into our research, we lost all of our calendars due to a Google server issue. The Google team was very responsive, but unfortunately they were unable to retrieve our lost calendars. In the grand scheme of things, this had a positive outcome for us – we were able to more efficiently restructure the way we organized our data. But ultimately, the biggest lesson from this mishap was that we needed to make frequent backups. We learned the hard way that, even when information is on “the cloud,” things can go wrong and information can be lost. Fortunately, we were able to recreate most of our lost data, but that isn’t always the case (i.e. photos, documents, etc).
Communicate with Your Audience
The next question we had to answer was “how will we interact with our followers and build our fan base?” It didn’t take us long to realize that Twitter and Facebook would be a couple of the best ways to keep people in the loop. Twitter has made the process of sending out quick updates a painless task. A quick search makes it easy to find others who are celebrating alongside us and may want to see what is in store in the days to come. The ease of interaction between WordPress and Facebook has been extremely beneficial in encouraging followers to visit our site on a daily basis. With apps such as NetworkBlogs, it is possible to publish new blog posts to Facebook and show fans a brief excerpt along with a thumbnail from the post. Facebook has proven to be a great resource for connecting with the organizations responsible for creating the holidays we’ve been lucky enough to celebrate. Because of Facebook, we were able to connect with Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and even participated in an interview on one of their weekly Oddcasts.
In addition to teaching us important lessons about the ever-changing world of social media, the blog has been motivational. We are only a little past the halfway point in our year of living unofficially, and already my eyes have been opened to the fact that with a little bit of dedication anything is possible.
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