With a new year come new film blogs, which is a very good thing. When it comes to opinions about movies, the more the merrier. I’ve been in this business for almost a decade, so I thought I would share seven tips for newcomers. I hope they help and best of success in your endeavor!
Create a Mission Statement
Why should people read your blog? What is your killer feature? What sets you apart?
It’s okay if your answer is simple. “I want to share my love for 1970s biker films” is a perfect response. That’s your mission statement. Remember it whenever you’re not sure what to write. “What can I do to share my love for 1970s biker films?”
My mission statement, in case you were curious, is also pretty simple: Make silent films relatable and fun by swinging between nerdiness, goofiness and quirkiness.
What do you hope to accomplish with your blog? I want more people to enjoy silent films. Maybe you want to engage in nerdy discussions about science fiction tropes. Keep that in mind too and dust it off whenever you’re not sure what to write. “How can I start a nerdy discussion of science fiction tropes with what I write today?”
Examine Your Own Reading
I was enormously inspired by the now-defunct Silents Majority website, which was always fun, smart and boasted an impressive selection of silent film reviews.
I also have always been a voracious reader of film reviews. How many tweens had a favorite film critic? I did. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. I wouldn’t just read them, I would study them, examine how the critical process worked with films. Even if I had zero interest in a title, I would read every single review.
Distill elements you love in the writing of others and figure out ways to incorporate them. Don’t mimic or replicate but try to channel some of that good stuff into your work. If a review really sells you on a film then try to take that review apart and see what appealed to you.
Build a Cushion
I have seen too many blogs go down due to illness, vacations, weddings, events big and small. It helps enormously to create a small cushion of posts ahead of time as you can keep your site running seamlessly despite life intervening.
It was exhausting but before I spent a month in South Korea, I wrote one month worth of posts, one for every single day. My site continued humming along while I was gone and I did not lose readership during my long vacation.
I’ve been caught flatfooted, just like everyone else, but a post cushion makes it a reasonably rare occurrence.
Work Out a Schedule and Announce It
Whether you’re a daily or monthly blogger, readers like to know they can arrive at your site and find new content when they expect it. Successful vloggers often include statements like, “New videos every Tuesday and Saturday!” as a helpful reminder of when to expect new content.
I’m a daily blogger (and reasonably hyperactive) but I know that schedule doesn’t necessarily work for everybody. If you can manage once a week or once a month, say so up front. There are some sites that I dutifully visit every month for their new content. You can make it easier for your readers to find your new content by posting announcements on your social media accounts. Instagram is a great place to build a following but you are only allowed one Instagram link in bio. To get around this, use Linktree or bio.fm to link to multiple places with just one URL.
Learn How to Screencap
Creating your own screencaps can take your film reviews to the next level. Google Images? Ha! You can make your own and highlight the exact second of film that you wish to discuss.
Be a Good Citizen of the Blogosphere
If somebody helps you or you use their stuff, links and/or permission are important. It shows that you are an ethical blogger, it makes your source happy and it’s the right thing to do. Trust me, nobody will think less of you for giving proper credit but failing to do so will annoy your fellow bloggers no end. (See Screencap section.) Do it to the same blog too often and you’ll come off as a creepy Eve Harrington and who wants that?
Adding credit for tips that lead to articles is a great way of acknowledging commenters, social media followers and others who help you out. I like to use (h/t: Jane Doe) for tips and tidbits and a more formal “Thank you” in the post for more extensive help.
h/t is shorthand for hat tip, just a nice little acknowledgement. It’s not much but it builds goodwill, which is always a good thing.
Obviously, nobody gets it right 100% of the time but trying our best makes blogging a little friendlier.
Don’t Fear the Comments
One of the things that really scared me as a newcomer was the comments section. My blog didn’t even have comments open for the first couple of months. What if… people were mean? Or scary?
Over the years, I have gotten my share of mean comments. Not harassment or threats or anything like that but just plain rudeness. However, these comments are in the minority. Most of the comments have been upbuilding, encouraging, interesting and informative.
Yeah, the first mean comment on your blog stinks. I still remember mine vividly, a toxic combination of bullying, gaslighting and snippiness with a garnish of “Do you know who I am?” You get a pain in the pit of your stomach thinking that somebody could dislike you that much. Sure, I repeated all the bromides: They’re the ones with empty lives. They’re probably hurting if they’re this hurtful. They don’t actually know me.
It still stinks. All I can say is that the positive comments make up for the negative ones. You’ll be told that your reviews are unfair, you don’t understand the genre, you don’t know how to blog but you will also get little notes of appreciation, tips on finding rare films, people sharing their own joy in the movies. The negative ones still hurt but the positive ones are precious and will do a lot to encourage you to keep blogging.
Also, don’t feel guilty about banning or blocking abusive, rude, mean or awful commenters. You’d never put up with the constant putdowns in real life, don’t tolerate them online. You don’t owe anybody a conversation.
I hope these tips are helpful! Best of success, once again, and remember to have fun!
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