As I tweeted (twittered? twitted?) on yesterday, I’ve known for a while that I needed to make substantial changes to my blog, but I hesitated for a number of reasons. Not the least of the reasons was how to recreate a blog, move all the work of the past three years and build a new set of subscribers. The recent online ministry conference I recently attended was confirmation of what had been marinating in my mind and spirit for months now. Though I’ve not blogged with the explicit purpose of ministry, I have stumbled—I use that word intentionally as it was largely by accident– into this vehicle that has allowed me to advise as best I could, to encourage, and to inspire. During the conference, there were several nuggets of truth that I could not ignore if indeed I was to fulfill this blog’s potential:
1. Readers are more attracted to blogs that are not “busy” in look and feel. Keep it simple.
2. Words inspire, but a picture or two (or a few hundred—LOL) allow those reading your blog a more intimate look into your life and its happenings.
3. Blogging consistently is critical to maintaining and increasing readership. If you plan to be away for a while, let people know.
4. Your blog should be easy to navigate—this includes labels/categories, connectivity of information, and access to meaningful content.
5. Just as you have focal points in your home, make sure the focal point on your blog is the content. Avoid distracting, overly done “blinkies” and other decorative items.
6. Be willing to be transparent; if your blog constantly tells of how you have it all together, no one wants to hear about it.
1 There are other tips, and thankfully I am not guilty of all of these, but these are the ones that stuck in my memory. Of course, the immediate pushback, and the one that I offered as I’ve heard these and other tips, is that you don’t blog for the purposes of getting others to read your blog; you blog for you, and if no one reads it, that’s just fine. I think this is true, but as my blog takes on a different purpose than was my original intent, I needed a change.
My original intent in blogging was to reach other African-American homeschooling parents to 1) market A Blessed Heritage, and 2) to share, through our own experiences, that this is a viable educational alternative for African-American families, and more specifically, families like ours—led by two former “yuppies” living our middle class
financial nightmare dream. Why so narrow a focus? It started from a common element that we separated ourselves from when we began homeschooling—others like us, though unlike us, actually felt a certain amount of satisfaction in being one of few blacks in their public school systems. Also, I have concluded after several years that there is a common thread of uniqueness to African-American women who homeschool, though some of the same could be said about any homeschooler. Many women I’ve met are college-educated sisters who’ve walked away from a “good” job, much to the dismay and scorn of parents who’ve sacrificed for those higher learning opportunities. I should also mention that older relatives who can remember integration of public schools also consider you a Benedict Arnold. We all struggle to find history products, among other tools, that include more of us than Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington (maybe), George Washington Carver, and Martin Luther King,Jr.
Though I’m by no means the first African-American woman to homeschool, I set out to capture our days—good, bad, and ugly—in a way that celebrated our home and communicated our determination to stick with home education. I sought to describe, minus my own limitations, what we did and how we did it. Finally, I wanted to acknowledge what I know is the experience of many of us when we seek to find others who share the same struggles that I mentioned earlier: isolation. Rather real or perceived, this sense that “I’m the only black homeschooler on planet Earth” is more detrimental to our kids than to us, and it is a cancer in even the most well-planned homeschool environments. So, with all of that in mind, I started my blog, “With a Taste of Chocolate.”
Fastforward three years. There are a number of African-American women blogging, many with blogs that shame mine. That’s not a spark of competition, just a statement of fact. My audience is a larger, much more diverse audience than I thought would be interested in my blog (and that’s a good thing!). Finally, as I continue to educate myself on the full potential of blogs, Twitter, and other social networking tools, I have to admit that I am guilty of several of the items I’ve listed above. As just one example, I felt pretty good about allowing my creative side to blossom via my chocolate-themed blog categories, “cocoa,” “fondue,” “mousse,”etc. Some found them cute, but even I forget what the difference is and sometimes place items in the wrong category.
(Thanks for hanging in there with me so far). I’ve had another awakening about the blog as a marketing tool. I’ve purchased caladiums from the same farm in Florida every year. The owner faithfully writes an annual letter to all of her customers—a very personal letter discussing her family, her farm, and everything that’s happened in the last year. I thought this was a bit silly when I got the original letter—I didn’t know this woman! I realize now that she was blogging in the pre-blog era—allowing her customers to meet her past her products. And that has now become a part of my education. In marketing a business, people don’t necessarily buy your product; they buy you. Suffice it to say that I needed a better marriage between the blog and the business website.
So, in short (as this post has become ridiculously long), I believe that I can accomplish all of this without moving my blog and its 200+ entries—at least, not for now. There are more changes to come. At any rate, I was obedient to the Lord’s urging, so we’ll see where it goes. God bless you.