The curious case of the unexpectedly popular blog entry by @unshaunsheep

A case study in blog traffic, Twitter engagement and suddenly having a large audience

Thanks to an interestingly worded Tweet, I found myself looking at a slideshow by @vahva which detailed her Top 10 Tips for Increasing Twitter Engagement. It transpired that I was already doing many of these, but my viewing was timely. I had just had the most amazing week as a blogger, partly as a result of doing what @vahva had suggested.

Here is what happened… Up to May 20th, my most viewed blog entry was at about 160 views – and I was quite happy with this figure which seemed like it made blogging worth the effort. This “most viewed’ย  post was one entitled ‘Being There’ which chipped in on a popular Twitter debate on remote sacraments and the extent to which online ministry is ‘real’. This already was following a few of those top tips. On May 21st, I noticed a number of Christian tweeters including Ruthie Gledhill and Churchmouse scratching their heads about a densely-worded press release from the CofE regarding the Women Bishops legislation. A common Twitter theme was ‘What does this mean?’ and ‘I don’t understand what this is actually saying.’

I managed to get sight of the press release and, within an hour, did a very basic blog posting in which I tried to translate the release – or at least unpick what I believed it was saying and having a stab at the attempted tone the press release was trying to convey. It was a very dull blog posting with little in the way of reasoning or commentary. I posted the link to it on Twitter and set Tweetdeck to repost the link in the morning a few times at well-spaced-out intervals. For Tweets linking to blogs, this use of timed (and reworded) Tweets at intervals is useful so long as it is not overdone so as to annoy people. It just means regular readers have a good chance of being aware you’ve posted as I suspect few people actually scroll through their entire Twitter feed every day.

The subject matter turned out to be of interest to a number of my Twitter contacts who reposted the link. It snowballed. Already I had followed some of those top 10 tips: my tweets had context – they indicated the content of the blog I was linking to; it picked up a controversial topic; I’d thought about the feelings of those who might read it – making it a neutral tool in the debate so both sides could take the conversation forward; it picked up on breaking news – I believe I was by far the earliest poster responding to the press release, other than the “What does this say?” style postings.

As I rushed out to work the following morning I checked Tweetdeck on my phone at about 7.30am. My blog’s counter of visitors had doubled overnight. That is to say, as many people had visited overnight as had visited it ever before. There was much more traffic over the following days. A week on and the view count was more than 6 times the total traffic to my blog to May 20th. Image of Nick's blog I followed up this posting with another which gave my reasoned and reflective opinion on the legislation in question. New followers came and read it and it is now easily the 2nd-most read posting in the blog. My archdeacon has been complimentary about my blogging and even name-checked me in her own blog.Other blogs started to link to my blog. The number ofย  @Unshaunsheep Twitter followers doubled over the course of a week, though this still remains relatively small. To build on this, I need to continue to post interesting content and make sure I vary the content and links. So my top tips which echo and add to those of @vahva are:

  • if you provide a practical resource for other bloggers to use which can help them take the debate on a subject forward, it is likely that lots of people will read it

  • be aware that many of these readers will now also follow you and some may read what you say next, especially if this is on the same subject, so make your next blog post relevant to that subject

  • make it interesting and more engaging than the resource you previously posted

  • engage in the conversation in other people’s blogs and on Twitter

  • remember to love and pray

What happened next was also interesting. The discussion broadened and I followed it on Twitter, retweeting the contributions of others and sometimes commenting in their blogs whilst signed in with my blogger ID. Having reflected on what I’d read, I ended up posting a third, related blog. This was even more of a surprise to me as the blog I intended to write actually came out with entirely the opposite conclusion to the one I’d gone in to write. I suspected the Holy Spirit was at work since that is entirely the kind of humorous jiggery-pokery I’ve come to expect over the years. Sometimes, in engaging online with a wide divergence of views, by coming to a divisive subject late in the argument I believe the Holy Spirit can use our fresh eyes and speak fresh words – or already expressed words in a fresh way – into a situation where they are needed.

About Nick Morgan

Nick Morgan, Church of England ordinand based at a welcoming, bijou-sized northern Cathedral. Writer and composer. Tweets as @Unshaunsheep