When I was told I had to write a blog on a topic that interests me, I was honestly at a loss. I’ve tried to keep a blog or two (or twelve) in the past, and I always let life give me reasons not to update it on a stressful day. That one day turns into a week. Next thing you know, it’s been seven months and you wish you could wipe the blog off the face of the Internet and pretend it never even existed.
Well, I knew this blog would be different. Mostly due to the fact that it was for a grade, so it had to be done. Yet, I thought, the motivation not to fail this class might actually give me the necessary oomph to really delve into my writing. It sounds contradictory, but I haven’t had much creative freedom as a journalism major. Sure, words are wonderful and encouraged, but having professors focusing on hard news instead of editorials means just knowing how to plug the right pieces of stories into the right spots before deadline, kind of like an intellectual Mad Libs puzzle where you’re racing against a timer. Having a required blog would help me break my usual mold and get back to enjoying the way words flow from my fingers. There was just the problem of what kind of words I wanted to focus a semester-long blog on.
I sat down to ponder this and decided a list would do. The forerunners on it were fashion, food and reading. As much as I like books, I feel accomplished when I manage to read the four magazines I subscribe to before the month’s end, so there went the idea of trying to read ten books to blog about. I’m barely making ends meet and haven’t been worry-free shopping since this summer, so I crossed off fashion. That left food.
I like to eat, so I thought, “Food it is.” Then, I realized I was in a bit of a stump. I live in my sorority house, so I don’t have a kitchen to whip up crazy Pinterest recipes or the cupcakes I’m slowly mastering on each trip home. Again, this thoughtful elimination left what I eat on weekends, which is when I have to find places to buy prepared food that satisfies whatever cravings I’m experiencing. So, I would blog about restaurants.
Alas, Gainesville Grub was created to document my weekend noshing. However, don’t let my internal conflicts on blogging deceive you. No, they were also external. I also would talk about it with my friends, wondering if it was a good idea or would even work or if I would magically manage to become a healthy eater and be able to subsist for 48 hours on salads I could create from Publix’s raw veggies. Obviously, none of the above happened and the blog occurred.
It turns out people are actually interested in a food blog. When I would be at a restaurant with friends, I would mention something like, “This is so good! I’m going to put it in my blog!” This would cause initial questions of me having a blog, and after my explanation, them telling me it was neat in a nonsarcastic tone. Though face-to-face interaction is always a great selling technique, I don’t know if that ever prompted anyone I spoke with to actually look up Gainesville Grub. I’d like to think that they didn’t forget – they were only distracted by their intake of delicious food.
Facebook was definitely my greatest marketing tool for my blog. The virtual version of my meal outings, I would be Facebook chatting with friends and mention that I was working on a blog post. They would ask about it, and I would send them the link. This sometimes would garner a few hits in a day, at best. It was at least nice to know if a friend actually was interested enough to click into the site, rather than go back to playing Angry Birds or whatever Apple’s best game app currently is.
My greatest success in gaining views was to post my blog link as a status saying what restaurant I wrote about. I would simultaneously do the same on my Twitter account. Then, I would sit back and watch my stats climb. I found out the best time to do this was in the evening, after dinnertime. I can guess that people were trying to settle in to do schoolwork but were looking for excuses to procrastinate, which I know I’m guilty of. Ridiculously late status updates and tweets would get maybe 15 views at most, as people were probably sleeping or focused on the project they had due in the morning. My daytime statuses and tweets got 30 views one day, but were normally half that. I imagine people are on-the-go during the day, rushing to class and completing study guides and whatnot.
My highest hits in a day was 55, I am proud to write. The post-dinner crowd was plentiful and especially eager for reading, I suppose. The most rewarding part of using social media to spread the word on Gainesville Grub was the comments I would get back under my statuses on Facebook. Even simple things like “I read it!” would make me happy. A freshman commented that she had never heard of the sushi place I reviewed and she really wanted to try it now. What’s more, a senior who had befriended myself my freshman year commented one night, saying she was excited to know where the good places to eat in Gainesville were because she graduated so long ago.
It turns out this project was twofold in its outcome. I really was able to experience the social aspect of social media. Instead of using Facebook to look at someone’s photos or Twitter to read their sarcastic thoughts, people were able to connect to what I was doing, at my own urging. Getting feedback through comments made me feel great, and it turned the experience into a rewarding one. Secondly, I discovered how much I truly missed sitting at a computer to write at my own free will. It felt like I hadn’t done much creative writing since high school, and I missed it. Now that I let myself get a taste of blogging my thoughts and feelings, I have a hunger to write more. Pun intended.