Writing And The Meme-Ing of Life

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Over the past year, I traveled into the bowels of the internet.  (Like, seriously, I’ve seen stuff about bowels and I can’t un-see it.)  During these forays within the interweb, I discovered “MEMES.”

What’s a meme?  According to the Urban Dictionary, it is:

“an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)

Blah, blah, blah.  In my middle-aged, formerly project management mind, a meme is just a few sentences on a PowerPoint slide.  The best memes contain funny or provocative thoughts or images.

Who cares?  Why should this matter to a writer?

Because these days, every opportunity to market yourself matters.  And memes are a fantastic way to market your writing.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been studying other parenting websites for the past two years.  Memes generate A LOT of traffic on these blogs.  In fact, most of the memes I’ve seen generate tens of thousands of “Likes,” as opposed to hundreds of “Likes” from their 900-word articles on these sites.

That’s right.  TENS OF THOUSANDS versus HUNDREDS of “Likes” on the site.  As writers, we’d be crazy NOT to harness this meme power for our blogs.

I don’t claim to be a meme expert, but I’m learning how to use them.  Here are my initial thoughts on meme marketing:

BREVITY:  My eyes glaze over on long-winded memes.  Especially with teeny, tiny font.  (Okay, this may also be because I need new glasses.  But I still think this point is valid.)  If you want to write an article, then write an article.  But don’t shove a paragraph from your article onto a meme.  No one will read it.

IMAGES:  There are plenty of great memes with just words on it.  But life and my Facebook newsfeed move fast, so memes with funny images are better at catching my attention when I’m scrolling through Facebook.  The greatest challenge is finding images without copyright restrictions.  Right now, I’m taking pictures in my house.  But I’d rather find a good site with free images for public use.  If I find one, I will share it on another blog post.  With a lot of new memes.

BRANDING:  This takes some thought.  If you want to use memes to market your blog, there should be something like a logo that ties all of them together and leads people back to your site.  At a minimum, your name or site name should be on the meme.  Applying the same font size and type to all of your memes is another way to create a consistent brand.  If your meme is branded properly, someone will be able to just glance at it and know that it comes from your site.

BENEFITS:  Why even bother with memes?  Because people have limited attention spans.  (Look!  A cat just walked by!  I’m sorry, what were we talking about?)  A 2-3 sentence meme with a funny image is an efficient way to deliver a customized message about your writing to your readers.  For example, try Googling David Hasselhoff memes…….  I laughed until I cried the first time I saw these.  (NOTE:  For copyright reasons, I don’t recommend loading them on your blog.  Unless you received The Hoff’s permission to use them, of course.)

TO ANYONE READING THIS:  So, what do you guys think?  Have any of you tapped into your meme potential?  Please let me know!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the art of MEME-ING.    

DAY #18: A Modified “NaNoWriMo” Challenge (Write 15 Minutes of Garbage Every Day)

I had some good news today.  It turns out that one of my essays, “I Am The Daughter Of Foreigners,” is going to be published on a popular parenting website called Scary Mommy.  This website has over 1.3 million followers.

It’s still hard for me to believe.  This journey to get published on this site feels like an eternity.  In reality, it has only been six months.  I actually have an entire category on this blog devoted to my rejections from this site.  Why don’t we take a brief stroll through what I affectionately term my “Rejection Diaries?”

After that last rejection, I lost the motivation to submit anything anymore.  I tried to motivate myself with pep talks about famous authors who had been rejected multiple times before achieving success.  I told myself that rejections in my past have always led to better things.  But the truth is that rejection SUCKS.  It just does.  So I walked away from submitting articles and focused my attention on this blog.

I think it was inadvertently the best thing I could have done for myself.  When I stopped chasing publication, I started writing with joy.  The irony is that the piece that they accepted was something I wrote for myself.  I had no audience in mind when I wrote it.  Odd, isn’t it?

So, for all of you who are struggling with rejection and wondering when you’re ever going to get a break, please don’t lose heart.  Sometimes, it helps to walk away from your project.  Sometimes, things will come your way when you least expect it.  Just keep on writing and love what you do.

My essay, “I Am The Daughter of Foreigners” will be published on Scary Mommy on Monday, October 19th.  I am especially excited that this particular story will be shared with such a large viewing audience because it honors my parents and other immigrants who left their homelands to pursue better opportunities.  The thought of all of the sacrifices that my parents made to give my sister and me a better life is what drove my response to the racist couple that I encountered in this essay.

Please stop by and check it out.  All “Likes” are appreciated!  And again, please don’t let rejection cause you to lose heart.  Keep on writing.

DAY #17: A Modified “NaNoWriMo” Challenge (Write 15 Minutes of Garbage Every Day)

So, at the beginning of October, I started what I call my “true” author’s blog.  I had been toying with the idea for a while, but wasn’t sure if using a pen name or some other alias was better for me.  But then, I read another post on Kristen Lamb’s blog about the importance of using your real name as your author’s brand.  Hence, the “Taara Datta Donley” blog.

Starting a second blog is interesting.  I’m approaching it with so much more awareness of how things work this time around.  “A Writing Mama’s Journal” is my first attempt at a blog.  I was stumbling around in the dark, just trying to figure out how to approach content creation and getting views.  It wasn’t a very enjoyable experience.

My approach on this second blog is different.  I’ve stopped worrying about views, likes, etc.  I’m just putting up content as I feel like it.  And the most amazing thing has happened.

I’m starting to meet some really cool people online.  Not that I didn’t when I first started “A Writing Mama’s Journal,” but it just wasn’t my focus.  I regret not paying more attention.  I hope to rectify the situation.

So, I actually wanted to give a shout out to some fellow bloggers who have made writing an enjoyable experience for me over the past week:

Steph Mignon:  She’s a fellow stay at home mom who loves writing.  The two of us have enjoyed a good dialogue about the challenges of juggling parenting and writing.  I admire the truth and honesty with which she tells her story.  Her article, called “Weaning Woes” will appear on Scary Mommy on October 20, 2015.  Please stop by and check it out.

Damyanti Ghosh:  I haven’t actually had the pleasure of a conversation with this lady, but she has liked just about every one of my “NaNoWriMo” posts.  I was incredibly humbled when I discovered what an amazing writer she is!  Damyanti is an award-winning freelance writer whose work has been published by major firms in the U.S., India, Malaysia and Singapore.  Her website is filled with advice for aspiring writer and bloggers.  Please stop by Daily(w)rite and check it out!

Paul Davis:  This gentleman was the first person to comment on my new blog.  Once again, when I visited his site, I was incredibly humbled by his visit.  We share an interest in writing stories that are based on mythology, but I had no idea how amazing his work was until I visited his site, “Lands of Volden.”  His world-building is UNREAL.  It’s really worth your time to stop by and check out his work.

Nicole Mazavello:  This young lady stopped by and we’ve enjoyed a good dialogue about the upcoming NaNoWriMo challenge in November.  I’ve only had a few conversations with her, but her drive and determination hit me like a brick wall.  Nicole has signed up for the NaNoWriMo challenge AND she’s working on a book!  AT THE SAME TIME!!!!!  Unbelievable!  Please check out her work on her author’s site (Nicole Mazavello).

There are many other people that I could add to this list, and I think that is what I would like to start doing.  Thank you for all of your support and encouragement.  I’m looking forward to getting to know each of you.

A Lesson Learned About Blogging

Over the weekend, I finally had time to go through the Kissmetrics data about the ideal time to post something on a blog.  (NOTE:  You can click on the link above if you want to look at the data yourself.  Maybe you’ll have better luck with it than I did.)

According to the Kissmetric data, the average blog receives the most traffic as follows:

Day of the Week:  Monday 

Time of Day:  11 A.M.

Aha!  I’ve finally uncovered the magical posting time, I thought gleefully.  I should post my latest story at this time.  They’ll come to me in droves.  Woo-hoo!

So, I did.  And what were the results, you ask?

NOTHING.  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.  JUST MORE CRICKETS CHIRPING.

Hours later, when I was able to jump back on-line, I was horrified to realize that I had just sent my story out into the blogosphere to die a horrible death.  It was gruesome.  In four hours, I received only one view from a nice lady who probably took pity on me.  (You know who you are….Thank you!)

I’ve never only received one view on a post.  Even on my very first post, when I didn’t understand the importance of tagging for key words, I received more than one view.  So, while I don’t claim that this story was the most spectacular thing in the universe, I do think it warranted more than one lonely view from a nice lady.

After picking myself off the floor and scrambling to recover the body of my poor little story from the WordPress feed, I tried to figure out where I went wrong.  I noticed that my story was crushed under the weight of hundreds of other posts.  It was so far downstream in the feed that even after scrolling for ten minutes, I still couldn’t find it on my screen.  I had to use special means to extract it.

Here are my thoughts on what may have gone wrong.  I hope you other bloggers can save yourself from the same utter humiliation and despair:

CONTENT TYPE

Most of the blog content that I’ve encountered falls into one of two categories:  educational or entertainmentSome blogs are admittedly a fantastic hybrid of the two, but I’m trying to make things simple right now.  Let’s just assume for the sake of this discussion that most blog posts fall into one of these two categories.

The story I posted earlier this morning would definitely fall under the “entertainment” category.  I wasn’t trying to teach or inform my readers.  It wasn’t a news story or an essay on how to be a better writer (or blogger).  It was a story about a bridesmaid who had fallen in love with a groomsman.  Some people may argue that studying other authors helps them to improve their writing and that’s great.  But I’m not a Pulitzer Prize winning author.  I don’t claim to possess an ability to teach through my storytelling.  I just wanted to entertain my readers with this story’s content.  So I’m sticking to my guns and calling my stories entertainment.

I would consider this essay about blogging “educational” content since this information may actually help out another blogger.

POSTING TIME

Let’s talk about the demographics of blog readers.  I don’t have data to support this, but please hear me out on my thoughts.  I think certain groups of people visit blogs at certain times of the day.  For example, let’s call people in the office “Enterprise Users” and people at home “Leisure Users.”  (NOTE:  The two groups of users may actually contain the same people.  For example, John would be considered an enterprise user while he’s at the office.  But once he’s at home, John becomes a leisure user.)

Let’s assume that these two groups of people search for two different types of content.  Obviously, there may be some overlap, but to keep it simple, let’s keep the two types of content searches separate.  I know that when I used to work for a Fortune 500 company, I wasn’t allowed to visit entertainment websites.  I could only search for content on professional sites.  Under this assumption, when John is at work, he will only visit a blog if he’s searching for content that will help him out in his profession.  In other words, educational content.  If his company has a more lenient policy, John may get to visit entertainment blogs during his breaks.

When John goes home, he may have a hobby.  Maybe he’s a writer or a photographer.  During the evening, he may go on-line and visit an educational blog about his hobby.  Or he may visit an entertainment blog to get the latest dirt on the next Kardashian train wreck.

LESSON LEARNED:  MATCH CONTENT TYPE WITH THE APPROPRIATE POSTING TIME

The bottom line is that it is important to align your content type with the appropriate time of day.  I think that my mistake was posting “entertainment” content during the time of day when most people are searching for “educational” content.  It was at 11 A.M. on a Monday morning.  People are trying to catch up after being away from the office during the weekend.  Even at lunch time, there may not be much time for perusing “entertainment” content.

So, what are your thoughts?  Have you discovered the magical posting hour for your content?  I think I’m going to try re-blogging my story again in the evening.  I hope to target as many “leisure” users as I can.  Hopefully, I’ll hear more than crickets chirping this time, so stay tuned….  I’ll keep sharing what I learn from my mistakes.  Happy Blogging!

Things To Consider When Creating Your Blog

I wanted to jot down a few things (in less than 900 words!) that I’ve been considering as I develop my blog.  I hope that some of my “stream of consciousness” thoughts help out some of you other bloggers too.

CONTENT

Why do you read someone’s blog?  And what makes you return to one blog more than once, but never return to another blog after the first visit?  It boils down to value creation.  You’re getting something of VALUE from the blog that you continually visit.  Most of the blogs that I’ve come across offer value in one of two forms:  Education or Entertainment.  The best blogs offer some magical combination of the two.

Let me be perfectly honest.  I’m an aspiring writer who is also a stay at home mother to two small children.  I don’t have a lot of time to write, much less read blogs.  So when I do get 10-15 minutes to jump on-line, I want to make every second count.  That being said, I am more inclined to spend my precious time visiting a blog that teaches me something about the craft of writing in an EFFICIENT manner.

All of us are busy.  All of us are juggling work, family, school, etc. and trying to squeeze in writing.  But blogging is the ultimate test of the “Law of Attraction.”  You have to give something to receive something.  So, what does your blog offer to the people who were nice enough to visit your site?  What can they take away that will help them on their journey?  What will keep them coming back for more?  Offer them something of value.

TARGET

Some authors and writers may scoff at what I’m about to say.  They may say that great storytelling transcends contrived genres.  Well, for some authors, that may be true.  But I don’t claim to be J.K. Rowling.  I want to increase the odds that my content will fall into the hands of someone who will actually care about reading it.

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that you’re a fantastic chef.  You have created a health food blog with simple recipes.  Anyone who can pick up a spoon and stir could easily replicate your delicious concoctions in the kitchen.  But you send these recipes to a forum of 100 fast food junkies.  Do you really think anyone who dines out all the time, especially at a fast food restaurant, will follow your blog?  I’ll be honest.  I’m the leader of that fast food forum.  Your kale smoothie may be awesome, and your healthy friends may love it, but there’s no way in hell that a take-out queen like me will ever make that in my kitchen.

It’s all about targeting.  Make sure you have the right target audience for your great content, otherwise your blog is destined to generate nothing more than crickets chirping.

DELIVERY

So, you have awesome content and you know who you want to target.  That’s great, but how do you connect the two?  How do you deliver great content into the laps of your target audience?  I touched on this a little in a previous post, so bear with me if some of this is repetitive.

Post Timing:   Study the analytics that WordPress offers and make sure you understand when your blog is receiving the most views.  Is it Monday morning at 9 A.M. or Wednesday night at 10 P.M.?  Posting your content at the wrong time could mean that you send it out to die.  If you are brand new to blogging, as I am, try experimenting.  I am currently playing around with the timing of my posts, which is why some of you following my site may be subjected to spam.  (Sorry!)  There’s a website called Kissmetrics that helps companies time their corporate blogs.  A personal blog will be slightly different, but I think the data on Kissmetrics is a good place to start.

Post Frequency:  Most people just post their content once and then forget about it.  Big mistake.  Do you think Coca-Cola is just putting their commercials on television just once?  I don’t think so.  While you don’t want to annoy people with spam, you also don’t want to just post a great essay once and forget about it.

I’m not suggesting that you spam the WordPress Reader every day, with every single thing you post.  No one cares about what you had for breakfast or how the sunlight hits the leaves on the tree outside your window.  Pick something that you are proud of writing, that offers value to your readers or that will emotionally resonate with the widest audience.  Post it two times during a 24-hour period – maybe once in the morning and once in the evening.  This will also help you to determine your target audience.  Are people reading your content at work or at home?  The time of day and day of the week will guide you.  If everything that you’re posting is getting read on the weekend, then that’s when you need to post your content.

Post Tagging:  One last thing!  Make sure you don’t forget to tag your content properly!!  You will find a category called “Tags and Categories” on the left side of your draft post.  A tag enables search engines to highlight your essay if the search is for a subject that you are discussing.  For example, if you are writing about blogging, make sure the word “blog” is tagged!  I also use “writing,” “journal,” and “mama” as tags anytime I post something.  People will never find your content if they can’t search for it properly.

Well, I just crossed 950 words, so I’m going to sign off here for now.  Best wishes to all of you!  Keep on blogging!