Blogging as a social network

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter!

If you’d like a weekly email in your inbox, please join the newsletter by entering your email address below.

Subscription received!

Please check your email to confirm your newsletter subscription.

By subscribing, you agree with Revue’s Terms and Privacy Policy.

People who use social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., are always complaining about many issues. For instance, battling algorithms, dealing with trolls and hate speech etc. Social media has a lot of good, but there is also a lot of bad too.

Blogging is usually seen as a space for website owners or companies to express themselves and educate their readers. A lot of blogs don’t usually connect to services that allow for comments, followers or shares. However, when you pair WordPress with JetPack, you can create your own social network.

Right now, my readers are free to comment, and they’re also free to like, share and follow. It’s pretty much the basics of a social network, but the website owner controls the moderation. They are in control of how they want to lead their readers.

This is all done through the JetPack plugin and ecosystem. Without JetPack, my blog would have a lot more limits. This is fine if you don’t want any social experiences on your website. However, I think it’s a great addon and can offer more to my readers.

There are also web tools such as Web Mentions and federated networks using ActivityPub.

What are Web Mentions?

Web Mentions are a fairly new feature for websites. It’s an open web standard for mentions and conversations across the web, a powerful building block used for a growing federated network of comments, likes, reposts, and other rich interactions across the decentralized social web.

When you link to a website, you can send it a Webmention to notify it. If it supports Webmentions, then that website may display your post as a comment, like, or other response, and presto, you’re having a conversation from one site to another! Click here to learn more.

What is ActivityPub?

ActivityPub is similar to WebMentions, but it can publish your posts to federated networks such as Mastodon and more. People can then read, like, and comment on your website’s activity. The comments and likes are then pushed back to your website, and it’s a really nice push/pull of data. Click here to learn more.

Conclusion

Both work in a very similar way, but WebMentions can link to Twitter which I don’t think you can do with ActivityPub. However, ActivityPub opens your website data to a lot more open networks.

You still have control over what comments are allowed on your website, and you are open to moderate all comments that come back. This also allows for more potential readers as it opens your website up to the more social activity.

I have experimented with ActivityPub in the past using a WordPress plugin, and the experience was fairly nice. I haven’t used Web Mentions, but I have heard great thing about this too. Again, you can get Web Mentions set up with a WordPress plugin.

Have you used any of these tools? Are you open to having the social addons on your website/blog? Sound off in the comments below.

A screenshot of the Coil homepage. A new way to enjoy content.

Coil Blogging Review

A new way to enjoy content

Experience web monetized content in your browser while supporting sites you love in real time.

Coil.com

Coil is looking to standardise web monetisation. Think Medium, but for every website, including yours. How does that work? You may ask. First, you sign up and use a crypto wallet such as Uphold, and then they give you a little tag that you can place on your website. You can also connect to platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. This means you can monetise third-party platforms without meeting the platform’s “standards”.

Once you connect your platform, you can create content like before. Then when someone who has Coil installed views your content, they will donate some money to you based on their attention. You can also create content on the Coil platform, and connect with other creators on there too. This is great, because it gives you a huge amount of freedom, and you’re not tied down to a single location.

I have been using the platform for a few months, and the creators on there have been supportive. A few posts of mine have been featured too, which I was surprised to see. Recently, I also decided to subscribe for $5 a month. This means, when I view content supported by Coil, I will be donating some of my money to that content in return for my attention. It works similarly to Medium but works on various platforms. It’s such a freeing and fantastic experience.

If you’re looking to create content, and you’d like to be supported by other creators, then I would highly recommend Coil. There are other third-party platforms which support Coil including; Cinnamon, Dev.to, Imgur, Hackernoon, Hashnode and many more.

How much money do you make?

The money can vary depending on how many Coil subscribers read your content. On average, I receive 5 – 10 pennies per reader and have received 66 pennies in total. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but I haven’t been using it for long, and the tech is very early. As more people subscribe and read your content, the more money you will receive.

Should you join Coil?

Personally, I think you should 100% join Coil. The community is super supportive, and there’s a variety of content creators on there and the more, the merrier. You can’t lose on such a platform, and you could potentially meet new, like-minded creators.

There are bloggers, videographers, musicians and many more different types of creators on the platform. You could learn a thing or two, and potentially earn extra income doing something you truly enjoy.

If you join, please comment your profile URL, and I will follow and support your content. Sign up to Coil today!

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter!

If you’d like a weekly email in your inbox, please join the newsletter by entering your email address below.

Subscription received!

Please check your email to confirm your newsletter subscription.

By subscribing, you agree with Revue’s Terms and Privacy Policy.

The 100 + 20 rule

I read an interesting blog post, and it was talking about the different rules you have when creating free and premium content.

Every professional content creator faces a dilemma. On the one hand, you’d love to make your content as widely available as possible in order to grow your audience. On the other hand, you need to make money to pay the bills, so it’s unavoidable to add some friction in the form of paywalls, ads, and exclusive content for supporters. But those speed bumps inevitably turn away some potential followers. Content behind a paywall is less shareable, less searchable, and even users who would be happy to support you may be turned away by the hassle of signing up.

Coil blog

It starts by saying you can use the 5% free, 95% paid rule. This is when you have 5% of your content displayed as a teaser, and you hope to hook them into your content enough for them to want to subscribe and read the rest of the content which is 95%. It can be a good route if you have already built an email list of free members, and you want to persuade them to part with their cash for the extra effort you have put into your blog posts. However, it’s not great if you’re still trying to build some SEO and you’re attempting to rank your blog posts.

Then you have the 100% free and 100% paid plan. You have 100% free content that you use to lure readers in and build some SEO and page ranking. Then you have 100% paid-for content which is linked from your relevant free content. It’s a great way to build SEO, and build an audience, but it also requires double the amount of effort.

It then goes on to explain the 100+20 rule. You have 100% of the content free, but you add an extra 20% at the end. This is the bonus premium content. I realise that Medium, Ghost and Substack don’t have this feature. However, I realise they definitely should because it seems like a big win for both readers, supporters and the author themselves.

They use a recipe as an example. Say you have a recipe for a banana pudding. You would give your reader the entire recipe for free. Now, say you had a great cream recipe that would match the banana pudding. This would be your bonus content which your supporters can read.

It’s a great concept, and definitely something to think about when you write your content for your audience. Also, as I’ve said previously, I don’t think Medium, Ghost or Substack currently have this feature. However, there are two platforms I know who have this feature. WordPress if you pair it with their JetPack plugin and pay for a premium package and Coil which is currently a free platform. I think it will be paid platform at some point, but it will cost $5 a month, which I think is fairly inexpensive compared to other blogging platforms.

Bonus Content: Subscribe to get access

Read more of this content when you subscribe today.

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter!

If you’d like a weekly email in your inbox, please join the newsletter by entering your email address below.

Subscription received!

Please check your email to confirm your newsletter subscription.

By subscribing, you agree with Revue’s Terms and Privacy Policy.

How I got my blog to 3,893 views last month

Last week I checked my website’s analytics and took a lot at how many views I had compared to the previous months. I was genuinely surprised that I managed to gain over 3,000 views. The jump between the previous month was 1,600 difference.

It’s so big that I thought I’d make a post on how I managed to grow my blog over time. Please also be aware that I have been a blogger on and off for over ten years. The views over time aren’t extraordinary compared to other bloggers, but it is a noteworthy achievement.

How did I build up my views?

Last month, I focused on building my social followers. I updated my Facebook page, Tweet more on Twitter. My blog posts have been imported into my Medium profile and also posted to my Coil profile. Last month was also my first full month of weekly posting to my Substack newsletter. And even though I don’t think Substack affected my website views, it’s helped me grow a tight-knit community. If you’re not sure what any of these social networks are. Or you’re not sure how to utilise them, don’t worry, I’ll explain that now.

I haven’t focused on growing my LinkedIn connections, but I have started converting my blog posts into LinkedIn articles. No one from LinkedIn has been signed up to my newsletter subscribers or viewed my website. Because of this, I don’t think it’s worth writing about today.

How I use my Facebook page

For my Facebook page, I’m not sure how many people are people I don’t know vs friends who have liked my page. However, I decided to go to ham on the invite button and invite everyone on my friend’s list, which has helped me from 138 to 142-page likes. I think a handful of those likes have clicked to view my website at some point.

I’ve mostly been sharing my newsletter posts instead of my blog posts on Facebook. This means most views won’t actually be coming from here unless they click on about section which most users won’t do.

How I use my Twitter profile

Twitter is, by far, my most used social network. It’s incredible how you can find so many amazing people and connect with them. I follow people I find interesting and join in their conversations when I feel if the right moment.

Most of my interaction is liking and retweeting, which I think if you’re just starting. It won’t be the best strategy. I feel the best approach is searching for interesting topics, and join in the conversation.

Every so often I’ll chuck in a hashtag or two, but I don’t focus on hashtags. I’ll mostly focus on following and connecting with new and current people within my network. Be yourself and don’t seek out to be something you’re not. If you try to be fake, people will know, and they will call you out for it.

Medium is excellent as an additional source for your blog posts. If you haven’t signed up, I would recommend you do it now and join the partner platform. Once you’re on the partner platform, you will get revenue based on a reader’s read time. The longer you can keep them interested in your post, the more money you can make from them.

My strategy is importing my posts into a Medium story, which will add a canonical link back to your original blog post, and have a link in the footer which says “Originally published at https://michaelbrooks.co.uk“. I’ve joined a couple of Medium groups and participate in any posts where possible.

How I use Coil

This is where I believe most of my new traffic has come from, and I connected my blog to their payments system so I could receive support from their readers, and linked my latest posts to my profile page. A couple of my posts have been featured on their community-supported section which I’m proud of, and the community on Coil has been very welcoming, and I’ve connected to a few people from here on Twitter.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend you take a look at Coil’s website and sign up. If you’re wondering how much I made from here last month, it was around 10 pence, which isn’t a huge amount, but it’s better than nothing, and it helps keep me going.

How I use Substack

My latest blog posts are also created as a newsletter post. Honestly, I’m not sure how long I’ll carry on doing this for as I’m thinking of changing the format of this. What I might do is create links to my latest articles which will be posted to my blog, and new sections such as what I’m currently reading, what I’m listening to and who I’ve found interesting this week.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, then please leave a comment down below, and I’d love to read it. Alternatively, you can @ or dm me on Twitter, Facebook, wherever takes your fancy.

Bonus: How I use Hacker News

Hacker News or HN as others like to call it is a great community of developers, creators and business owners. They offer a lot of advice and support, and overall they’re a fantastic community. I’ve posted a few milestones and updates on there, and have received comments, views and new followers.

I decided to create a new group called “Creator interviews” which anyone can contribute to, but so only I have added content there. I have also linked to my blog where I deemed it was helpful for the topic at hand, and I think this has helped me gain extra viewers on my blog.

Conclusion

That’s pretty much how I use the plethora of social networks, and I’m constantly exploring new avenues and seeing what works, and what doesn’t. As always, you’re more than welcome to comment below and subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t done so already.

The future of blogging is Headless and the JAMStack

I haven’t made a blog post in a while. But as some of you may know, I migrated my website from WordPress to VuePress and moved to host from SiteGround to Netlify. I am super happy with the results and everything just works and won’t break randomly. My site can’t get hacked because everything is completely static and I also get an added benefit of speed.

My site on SiteGround was going so slow. It was in the 20s for mobile and now it’s in the 60s which is incredible. For desktop, it’s around 98 to 100 (Google PageSpeed results can vary). The speed improvements are now down to me to sort out since it’s not the fault of Netlify. This is great because it gives me more control on how to improve my site which I will be working on at some point. Right now I’m looking at moving michaelbrooks.dev and brookspetsitters.com to Netlify. Which will be using Vue (not VuePress) and TailWind CSS as my main assets. Progress is slow due to other work commitments. But it’s going great and I hope to be releasing michaelbrooks.dev very soon.

How I’m adding content

You may be wondering how I’m adding content which is another interesting topic. I could add or edit my posts locally and preview locally before pushing to Git and then deploying to Netlify. However, an easier way is to use NetlifyCMS. You simply add an HTML file into a public admin directory, hook up “Identity” using the Netlify backend. Then create a configuration file which tells Netlify where and how you want your pages to save. Once done, you can then go to /admin and create new pages or posts. Once saved, Netlify will push it up to GitHub which will then automatically trigger a deploy ready for everyone to see.

It’s well and truly amazing, and if you want to know how I got started using VuePress as my blog, you can check out this lovely blog post by Howar31.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. I will try to get back to more of a schedule very soon. Also, I will be constantly updating this site as there are lots of improvements to be made. Such as lazy loading images, a better RSS feed, and possibly a custom VuePress theme.

Gaining confidence to start a blog

I had this discussion on my Twitter to which I said…

To anyone that doesn’t have a blog. What’s holding you back from creating one?

I had a discussion with a lovely lady who said her posts aren’t well written enough. She’s worried people either won’t like them, or they’re too boring and blogging can be very stressful etc.

It’s your blog, you can write what you want, when you want.

The great thing about having your own website or your own blog, you can write what you want when you want. The only stress you gain is the stress you put on yourself. No one demands content from you, and even if they did they can go elsewhere. Because this is your turf, your domain, your property. Your audience is being welcomed in, and if they like what they see, they can stay and even converse.

Start a blog by writing about your interests and enjoy the process. Share it with other who you think will enjoy it, it can be friends, family or someone you speak to online. Let them give you feedback and be open to that feedback. Your first round of posts will probably be terrible, but you will get better and you will gain experiences like no other.

Let me tell you a secret…

My first ever blog wasn’t good, but it was a good start. If you look at my first round of posts on here, they’re probably terrible compared to now. No blog post will ever be perfect, you just have to start and the best time to start is now. You can always build your site as you go, and you can edit your posts if you need to.

As Susan Jeffers has written you should “feel the fear and do it anyway“. Life is too short to be worrying what people might say or think. If you don’t do something now, then when are you going to start?

At the Cost of Your Users — John Saddington

I just read this blog post by John Saddington, and I have to say, I 100% agree. Medium is a terrible user experience. When you visit the site, you get bombarded with signup/login modals and banners.

Let’s not forget the horrible experience with comments. Instead of a nice threaded layout like Reddit, you get “Show all responses”. Then if you want to go further in, you click through and have another “Show all responses” button.

Premium content is also a mess. It starts you off with “3 reads for free”, and then tries to get you to pay. It’s hard to know what is premium and what isn’t unless you’re paying attention. Then it gives you some sort of weird preview and tries to get you to pay again. As if this would really work…

There’s also a work around to reading the premium content for free. If you go incognito/private, then you can read premium content to your hearts content.

You can follow the thread further below to find out more of why Medium is a bad experience.

Scathing commentary on how Medium.com sacrifices their core reading experience to “maximize” engagement and conversion of new users – brutal af (but totally warranted): View story at Medium.com I’ve already shared my own perspective on Medium and how I think their time is desperately running out: Medium’s Time is Running Out Great products do not…

via At the Cost of Your Users — John Saddington

5 important things I learnt when Blogging

1. Don’t just rely on your blog’s RSS feed

Firstly, I used a tool which generates an RSS feed for me, and once I did this, I thought that was it.

Once you have your RSS feed set-up, you should use an analytics feed tool such as https://feedburner.com. You tell it where your feed is, and they will generate a URL for you to use so others can subscribe to you.

Next, you need your blog or website to tell others about your feed. The tools they use tell them where your feed is. When they visit you, their blog will know you have a feed. Take the following code as an example…

https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/RSS/Getting_Started/Syndicating

You will be even more thankful you can now track who subscribes and unsubscribes from your blog.

2. Make sure you can analyse your blog properly

This one may sound pretty obvious, but it can be easy to forget when setting up your blog. You need to ensure you either sign up to https://analytics.google.com/ or https://piwik.com. You can even use any analytics software which comes with your blog, as long as you understand it, and get results from it.

Next up, you need to ensure that you understand the analytics coming from your blog, read up some articles on the subject, and watch some Youtube videos and absorb as much information which they give you as possible.

3. Maximise landing pages on your blog

If you have a specific niche, you need to create beautiful landing pages and maximise your click-throughs.

4. Ensure you have the correct tools set up

We mentioned your feed is the most valuable tool to have set up. You should ensure you have your mailing lists, analytics, and landing pages complete.

You also really need to sit down and think about any others you could potentially need as the sooner you add them to your blog, the more useful they will be in the long run. By this, I mean that even if you feel like a tool might scare people away, or not bring constant viewers, you’ll never know until you implement these tools and test them. I went through this phase with email forms and pop-ups. I felt that people would get annoyed, and I left them for a very long time.

As soon as you feel a tool could be useful, start using it on your blog and test for further validation to ensure it is correct.

5. Don’t lose faith in your blog

Finally, never lose faith in your blog even if it feels like no one is watching, if you give it enough time, the viewers will start to show. Tell your friends, family and start socialising on other media sites.

Even when the viewers start showing, if it doesn’t fit your expectations, you still shouldn’t lose faith. Just lower your expectations and create more realistic goals.


I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please subscribe to hear more in the future and contribute to the discussion by commenting below. Thank you 🙏

5 important things I learnt when Blogging Old

1. Don’t just rely on your blog’s RSS feed

This is probably the most important lesson I learnt when creating my blog and it could be yours as well. Firstly, I used a tool which generates an RSS feed for me, once I did this, I thought I was done and little did I know just how wrong I was. You see, when you have an RSS feed, you don’t have any analytics on who is subscribing and no one can easily subscribe to you, no matter what tool they’re using.

Once you have your feed set up, you need to use an analytics feed tool such as FeedBurner. You simply tell it where your feed is, and they will generate a URL for you to use for others to subscribe to.

Next, you need to your blog or website to tell others and the tools they use where your feed is, so when they visit you, their blog will know you have a feed. Take the following code as an example and place it in the head of your HTML…

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" href="/rss.xml" title="Michael Brooks Blog"/>

You will now be thankful that users can subscribe to your blog, but you will be even more thankful with the fact that you can now track who subscribes and unsubscribes from your blog.

2. Make sure you can analyse your blog properly

This one may sound pretty obvious, but it can be easy to forget when setting up your blog. You need to ensure you either sign up to Google Analytics or Piwik. You can even use any analytics software which comes with your blog, as long as you understand it and get results from it.

Next up, you need to ensure that you understand the analytics coming from your blog, read up some articles on the subject and watch some Youtube videos and absorb as much information which they give you as possible.

3. Maximise landing pages on your blog

This is one which I am still yet to do and I think it’s mainly down to the fact that my blogs are more personal, but if you have a specific niche, then you need to create striking landing pages and maximise your click throughs to get maximum impact and really lure your readers in.

4. Ensure you have the correct tools set up

We already mentioned about your RSS feed which is definitely the most important tool to have set up correctly. You should also ensure you have your mailing lists, analytics and landing pages sorted.

You also really need to sit down and think about any others you could potentially need as the sooner your add them to your blog, the more useful they will be in the long run. By this, I mean that even if you feel like a tool might scare people away, or not bring constant viewers, well you’ll never know until you implement these tools and test them. I went through this phase with email forms and pop ups, I felt that people would get too annoyed and I left them for a very long time and now I regret that decision and wished I tested early and gained concrete data with what works.

Always test tools and if they’re not working for you, stop using it. As soon as you feel a tool could be helpful, start using it.

5. Don’t lose faith with your blog

Finally, never lose faith in your blog even if it feels like no one is watching, if you give it enough time, the viewers will start to show. Tell your friends, family and start socialising on other media sites. You can also share your posts with relevant sites who may find it useful and they may also share it to others.

Even when the viewers start showing, if it doesn’t hit your expectations, you still shouldn’t lose faith. Just lower your expectations and create more realistic goals.


I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you did please subscribe to hear more in the future. You can also sign up to my mailing list for updates in the future and contribute to the discussion by commenting below. Thank you.