Straight talk from the sisters about blood, sweat and ink
Guest Post: 9 Easy Steps to Host a Blog Link-Up
We met today’s guest blogger, Diana Gordon of Part-Time Monster, about three years ago. And we met her through a blog link-up, the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Participating in link-ups (also called blog hops or link parties) is a highly effective blogging tool. It can be the fast-track to building a bigger and better blogging community. But hosting a link-up takes the experience to whole new level. It’s hard work, but so worth it. Running your own link-up offers you a creative and unique way to start a conversation with a central topic or theme, and to share that topic over a collection of participating blogs. Link-ups can be recurring blog features, similar to what Diana does, or a one-time themed blogging event. Although recurring flash fiction link-ups are the most common for author bloggers, single event theme/topic link-ups are growing in popularly. WriteOnSisters will host two single event link-ups later this year, the first one in September. And when we wanted advice about running our event, we turned to Diana, who generously agreed to share her steps for creating a successful link-up. Take it away, Diana!
Hello lovelies! I’m so excited to be hanging out today at WriteOnSisters who have invited me to talk to you guys about starting a link-up!
When I started my blog, Part-Time Monster, it mainly focused on books, monsters, and girls. Personal things I wanted to write about, like being a mother, being a graduate student, and having just moved to an entirely new city, didn’t fit the rest of my content. However, I learned I could start a post with “if we were having coffee” and chat with my readers about all manner of things, letting them peek behind the curtain and allowing me to break the persona of academic writer and write conversationally. My coffee share posts seemed to really click with my readers, and some started to use the idea on their own blogs. I’d accidentally stumbled onto something good for a link-up. Creating Weekend Coffee Share was a big task with a lot of moving parts. So here, dear-hearts, are some things to think about if you want to start your own link-up!
1. Pick a theme, writing prompt or idea:
One of the reasons that the Weekend Coffee Share works so well is that it provides an open-ended prompt that can be responded to in any number of ways and then passed along. Basically, it’s a meme I created for the blogosphere. You can go almost anywhere from “if we were having coffee,” and people have!
2. Establish your timeline: Think about when and for how long you should keep your link-up open.
This is dependent upon several factors. You’ll want to consider when you get the most traffic and responses, but don’t let that be your only deciding factor. When creating the coffee share, I considered not just that the engagement on Part-Time Monster was higher on the weekends, but also that there were other blogging hashtags and link-ups in play during that time, like #SundayBlogShare, that could be powerful cross-platform partners and participants without competing for attention–something that I wanted to minimize. I also considered my own schedule, knowing that I would have more time to monitor the link-up and share posts on the weekend than during the week. I started the coffee share with just a Saturday/Sunday opening, but as more people started participating from various parts of the globe, I decided to expand it and start on Fridays, thus giving people more time to link-up and share.
3. Give the link-up a name people will remember:
Long or complicated names probably are not going to work. It’s also good for the name of your link-up to tell readers when and what to expect. Top Ten Tuesday (another popular link-up from Broke and Bookish), is a 3-word title that tells participants that the event takes place on Tuesday, and it is indicative of creating a “Top 10” list—exactly what the link-up is designed to do. Weekend Coffee Share is also a 3-word title, indicating to participants we’ll be sharing coffee over the weekend.
4. Create a strong, shareable graphic:
This is one area I wish I’d put more time into when I initially began the link-up. Graphics have always been my weak point of blogging. My initial coffee share image (to the right) had a few problems—it didn’t have any information about where the link-up took place or on what platforms, for example. I used a stock photo, basic fonts, and a simple free editor, Pixlr, to create this one.
My next graphic (to the left) was a bit better in that it included my blog’s current logo and the information that this was a weekly link-up, but it still did not give a web address, and in looking at it now I do not find it that aesthetically pleasing.
I’ve recently created a new graphic (to the right) that includes my web address, more visual interest, and Twitter/Facebook hashtag information. I used Canva and my own photo to create this one, which is something I should’ve done far sooner in the process!
5. Register your Twitter hashtag:
When I was naming the coffee share, I considered whether it would be too long to use as a Twitter hashtag. This is another reason that long, complicated names are not ideal—they make hashtagging hard. Twitter is the strictest with its limits, but other sites limit characters as well. A hashtag that is too long won’t be useful because you won’t be able to send anything more than the hashtag. After you’ve come up with something you like, search Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other sites where hashtags are in use. See what, if any, content is already being shared under the hashtag you’re considering. If the hashtag is already crowded, you’re probably not going to want to use it because you will not stand out. Once you’ve nailed down what your hashtag is going to be, you can use a site like Twubs to register that tag. (That doesn’t mean others can’t use the tag, of course, but it is a way of claiming ownership.) Even if you decide not to register your hashtag, you should still use it as much as possible and encourage others to use it when they are discussing or participating in the link-up.
6. Now you’ll need to choose a linky list generator:
This will make it possible for users to add their posts to the link-up without crowding your comments section with links. I use InLinkz for the weekend coffee share, but there are some other tools available too, like Simply Linked. Some of these sites, such as Inlinkz, have options for free or paid accounts, so you’ll want to consider how much you’re going to invest in the link-up and whether a paid account is worth your investment.
7. Compile a list of questions and comments for a Link-up page.
This page gives participants (and anyone who wants to write about your link-up!) a place to link to as well as well as answers their frequently asked questions.
8. You’re ready to write an introductory post and get started!
You can see my first post here, in which I introduced myself and the link-up. Make sure you engage with your participants’ posts. Leave them comments, thank them for joining up, and share their posts far and wide. This will create a sense of community and encourage bloggers to return to your link-up.
9. Lastly—have FUN! A link-up can be hard work, but it should also be fun. If it isn’t fun for you, it’s not going to be fun for anyone else, either.
My Weekend Coffee Share link-up officially started in January of 2015, so it just hit its year-and-a-half-old birthday. The coffee share community amazes and surprises me with their honesty and tenacity, and the link-up has been featured on The Daily Post and regularly has between 35 and 50 blogs participating.
I wish you all good luck and a successful link-up!
***** Diana Gordon is a writer and researcher specializing in nonprofit work and pop culture analysis. She spends her free time running the blog Part-Time Monster, where she writes about feminism, motherhood, living life as a liberal in the conservative American South, and monsters of all sorts, including herself. She lives in New Orleans with her husband, son, and a rambunctious rescue terrier aptly named Tank. You can follow her on Twitter @parttimemonster.