5 June 2015

From Books to Blog: Define yourself Online

A defining part of University experience is, undoubtedly, my involvement with Exeposé, which may or may not be apparent from name drops in previous posts… 

This post focuses on how my (now former) role Online Books Editor, positively influenced my blogging. Not only did I gain editorial experience, but I learnt so much regarding social media and content creation, not to mention the all-important issue of finding perfect gifs…

I hope this post can offer some words from wisdom, from social sharing strategies to content creation, or perhaps encourage others to get involved in student journalism themselves. Read on for all things playpuzz, pinterest, gifs and gaffs… we can't be perfect all the time!

Social Media Matters

As an Online editor, one of my jobs was to promote articles via social media - namely Twitter and Facebook. I always knew of their importance, in our ever-growing digital culture; being a blogger has also opened my eyes to that. Nonetheless, I definitely credit my Exeposé role for improving my tweeting proficiency! Key things I learnt were:

Stay Away from Spam

The wrong kind - aka blasting the Twitter World and his Facebook Wife with the same link incessantly. People will call you out on it - I have been!

The key is to personalise to audience. Tweeting an article that includes a Harry Potter reference? Mention this in your tweet to HP fan pages. Don't simply say "10 books that changed my life" - what is enticing them to read this? Sell the USP. 

Tweet Teases

It's not solely about who you tweet, but how. A couple of effective strategies I found were including photos in tweets. Field-left ones, such as bottom right, capture the reader's interest, as do utilising popular culture - TFIOS and HP I'm looking at you! Another useful punctuation tool is the "…", inviting people to read on.

Meanwhile, being a bit provocative can work. Any 50 Shades fans who are scrolling through the twitter hashtag might have something to say about it coming "under fire" in a Bad Books Bash... 

Content Creation

You can be the most social media savvy person out there; however, if the content isn't good, there's a limit to how successful you're going to be! Think of those contestants on Masterchef who have Michelin presentation skills - if the actual food tastes like dirt, they never wear the white shirt for long…

Literaturally Speaking

Books born and bred, I confess I may have gone a bit overboard with puns and alliteration at times. As our section was Books, our demographic would likely appreciate a bite more  cheese than the wider bland-as-bran crowd. 

Bare in mind too that online is even more of a competitive market, for culture writers, than print. Set yourself apart. 

Section Staples

If you look at the majority of publications, there will be a "regular features section". Humans are homebodies at heart. They like to feel grounded, and magazines are bought as a source of comfort/pleasure. When my co-editor and I took over Online Books, it already featured the regular "creative Fridays", which was a huge success. 

There is always a risk that a new venture will fall flat on its face. This did happen to us. However, one gamble did pay off. Enter Bad Books Bash and A Defence Of… which originated from the title of Percy Shelley's essay A Defence Of Poetry. 

The best moments were when a book crossed both sections, for example To Kill a Mockingbird; as one of my favourite books, putting this in Bad Books Bash definitely put the "impartial editor" role to the test!

In the words of Alan Sugar, you must also "smell what sells". A piece I did last June - "Exam Survival 101: The Literary Edition" - got great analytics, so I developed it into a series.

Gif Gaff

Inspired by the popularity of Buzzfeed, as the year went on we definitely became more proficient in using gifs and memes - something I have incorporated in this blog too! However, the importance with Gifs is to make sure they absolutely are relevant. As a Books section, I did at first run the risk of overusing Film Gifs, so learnt to use them more sparingly over time; I was at risk of forgetting my roots, which is never wise…

Winning with Pinning 

Pinterest. Oh pinterest. Our love affair began mere days into my tenure as Online Books Editor. I needed an image. A featured image; a medley of books and cosy coffee cups. Google images was like a dating website, guiding me to you. I've never looked back. 

Not only have the beautiful photos on Pinterest provided me with great photography for the Exeposé  site, but it also inspired me to get more creative with my own photos! It has given me new ideas, not just with images but content. I reckon more than half my images were sourced from Pinterest, or Tumblr. There's nothing more I love than the marriage of Coffee and Poetry. Pinterest gets that. 

One of the Pinterest images I used for the Books section

Pinterest. It's a beautiful, romantic love affair (To Paraphrase Tay Tay, who I can definitely pin as a Pinterest lover!) This brilliant blog post by Cat Crawford delves discusses the perfection of Pinterest in greater detail - definitely worth a read! 

Open The Window 

The world is your oyster, your mussel, your prawn - there is quite literally a sea of opportunity out there, make your blog/site a stranded island! You have to go out to it though, it won't always come to you. 

I saw the Exeter Poetry Festival was coming up, so I contacted the organisers and secured press passes. I also contacted several poets speaking at the event (via twitter of all places) beforehand and secured interviews! 

It not only gave us a wealth of content for October, but provided me with interview experience and content for the Print Books section too. Last but not least, I discovered the fabulous poetry of Carrie Etter, was able to hear her read and met her afterwards. Go and read her!


Those are just a few of the main things I learnt, many of which I have applied to writing this blog. I am a better tweeter, editor, pinterest-searcher and idea-finder. I have become more innovative, and even gained a whole new appreciation for books - something I never thought possible! 

The Books section no longer exists for Exepose, having merged with Arts to become Arts and Lit. Perhaps controversially, I was for the merge. I definitely strayed into Arts territory, with the Exeter Poetry and Arts On The Move Festivals featuring comedy, live poetry and theatre among other things. I think it will give the section a whole new lease of life; I am secretly quite wistful I am not part of it!

I do have my new role though - Print Features - which is more than enough to keep me busy! It still allows me to do what I love most though, just in a different form: discover stories worth telling. 

Books Love 


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