All Change At Platform 6: New Theme, New Plans

MikeachimStorytelling, Travel, Writing4 Comments

Eurostar at Gare du Nord, Paris, France

mikeachim on Instagram - Google Chrome 22032014 195601 Okay, where is everything? After 2 years of using the Canvas theme from WooThemes (kindly installed for me by John O’Nolan, and tuned to perfection by Chris Richardson of RTW Labs) – things have changed round here rather dramatically, as you can see. Welcome to version 6 of Fevered Mutterings!

Here’s why it needed changing.

1. This Year I’m Doing Things Differently.

(More on that in a minute).

2. This Is Now More Than Just A Blog.

I’m now running a consultancy business from this website, and with the old theme, I couldn’t blame you for not being aware of it. Now I’m promoting it properly.

3. It’s A Desperate Midlife-Crisis-style Attempt To Look Young And Hip (Which Is Obviously Doomed Because I’m Still Using Words Like “Hip”)

Oh god. Okay, mainly 1) and 2). That’s my hope. 1) and 2).Yes.

If you’re confused about how this all works – I’m trying to send visitors in two main directions.

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If they want to read my least worst stories, cackle at my many misfortunes and eventually end up on this ‘ere blog, they go here.

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And if they’re wanting to check out my storytelling consultancy work, by way of a new landing page that is somewhat, dare I say it, hip (oh god), they should click here.

This overhaul is partly because of the consultancy work. I’ve been helping bloggers sort out the stories they’re telling, both in their websites and with their website. Have you ever analyzed what makes a successful website? A big part is how quickly it tells its core story to anyone who arrives. Another big part is knowing where to click first. That’s why I now have a “Start Here” page, explaining what Fevered Mutterings is all about…

Kinda. Because here’s the other thing I found from doing my consultancy work: my own story needs some work.

At Christmas, I decided I was tackling this year rather differently, separating out my writing income from a part-time job. Implementing that plan is currently hampered by the fact I’ve stuck around and will be sticking around a while longer to look after my Ma while she goes through corrective surgery. After that? I’m free to roam – and roaming has been the plan from the beginning, ever since I turned Fevered Mutterings into a (sorta-kinda) travel blog. My core story, the one that pushed me to quit my job in York, has been to find a way to write for a living while travelling. The writing came first – always first – but now that side of things is progressing nicely, it’s time to look at the other.

Here are some of the changes I’m making. 100_3130

1. Summer Travel

I couldn’t run a travel blog if I didn’t travel. And over the next few months, I have various madcap and probably mishap-strewn jaunts planned. I look forward to conveying to you how fascinating, life-enriching and truly horrible those experience will feel. I’m also planning a trip or two to Europe, especially to Paris, because the Metro and I have unfinished business to attend to. Ditto Hadrian’s Wall. As other opportunities / schemes / potential disasters present themselves, I’ll throw myself at them. It’ll be that kind of summer. But first? Cycling the 207 miles of the Trans Pennine Trailmikeachim on Instagram - Google Chrome 30122013 213909 …which starts here in Hornsea and stretches across the waist of England to the Irish Sea. That will be a fine adventure, and barring 7-10 days off work and supplies for the journey, it’s a supremely cheap one too. Maybe I’ll do the full route west and then take the train back; maybe I’ll cycle the whole 400 miles there & back. (Gulp.) We shall see.

2. I’m Giving You Lots Of Free Stuff

So, here’s the thing: I run a business here. On top of freelancing , I work as a consultant and mentor, and I’m going to be trying to sell my own books – fiction and non-fiction. I’ll be letting you know about all these things as I go along (probably involuntarily because I am having so much fun writing books that I’m cursing myself for taking this long to do it properly). I will be aggressively pursuing business as usual.

And I don’t expect you to give a damn about any of it.

Oh, it’d be very welcome if you liked my commercial stuff. I would be thrilled. But that’s not what the “misadventures in travel and storytelling” side of this website is for. If you’re a longterm reader, I’m expecting you’re here to learn something about travel writing and about seeing the world differently, and to laugh at me when I get into trouble. I want to remain true to that. You’ve graced me with your visits and comments because (I believe) that’s what you want as well. That’s the unspoken contract we have here. And it’s not selfless of me (far from it). You’re helping me find things people care about, and that will feed into my commercial work. For that, I want to thank you by continuing to write for free.

Deal? EveryoneLovesMike

3. I’m Getting Smarter With Social Media

When it comes to selling books, spending a huge amount of time building a social media following is a waste of time.

Tim Grahl

I’m starting to think this is true outside book-selling as well. Tim makes an excellent point: the vast majority of people who have huge followings on social media didn’t get that way because of social media. And a large proportion of those that did have no power whatsoever.

(If someone has a large following on Twitter and I want to check them out, the first two things I look at are the ratio of Followers to Following, and the popularity of what they’re tweeting. When the F’er/F’ing ratio is around 1/1 and nobody’s replying or retweeting their stuff, they have no “social media following”. It’s a sham.)

Ploughing your energy into growing your audience at the expense of doing the work you want an audience for . . . is broken thinking. It’s backward thinking. It’s almost always best approached the other way round. The most effective course of action is: create first. Don’t create in a marketing vacuum, but do create first.

Here’s what Twitter is really great for: connecting with people. Not broadcasting endlessly to the faceless masses in the hope of getting massively retweeted onto the front page of Mashable. Connecting with people. For someone like me who isn’t the least bit famous and has a modest social media following, it makes no sense to act like I’m BBC News or CNN.  So while I’ll continue to share anything I think will be useful to anyone following me, I’m most interested in hanging out with those people, engaging with them directly, picking their brains and helping them out where I can. I want to be that person.

(Again, not entirely altruistic: I also think this is the best way to reach a wider audience. In 2011 I engaged with something @NASA said about the last Space Shuttle mission – and they retweeted it to a million people. If you show you’re truly listening, your words get shared further.) Mike Sowden - Google Chrome 22032014 163223 I’m also getting off Facebook.

I love goofing around on Facebook. On my personal account, that’s not going to change. I’m staying put and posting things at anyone who connects with me on there. (Feel free to do so! I’m not putting “private” things in there, because…private? On Facebook? Really?)

But for my Fevered Mutterings Facebook page? I’m stopping posting – and the reason is that I don’t trust Facebook any more.

You may have seen the  fuss about Facebook throttling organic reach for brand pages – the percentage of people following you who will actually see your posts on their Facebook wall. The word is, it’s about to get much worse. If you’re a company that has invested in building a huge following on Facebook, this is an incredible kick in the teeth: you’re having to pay Facebook more and more money to get the same results as before. Not to improve on those results. To get the same.

Some people are saying this was inevitable and everyone should have seen it coming. I see it as a broken contract between Facebook and the companies that invested their time and energy into it and, in doing so, helped Facebook grow. I also see it as approaching extortion. Facebook has positioned itself as a powerful middle-man and then announced it’s going to hurt everyone’s business until they pay up.  That’s vile.

Luckily for me, I suck at Facebook. I don’t have an enormous following for my brand page. It’s relatively easy for me to up sticks and move elsewhere, in the hope that some of those people will follow me. And so that’s what I’m doing, before I get to the point where Facebook can squeeze money out of me.

This is one of the places I’ll be.

And for folk interested in the storytelling side of things, this is another. _MG_0732

4. I’m Leaving

Back to that core story of mine. The best place for me to get a decent part-time job right now . . . is elsewhere. Not just outside of Yorkshire – outside of Britain. And now I think I’ve finally found a way of doing it. If all goes to plan, come the last few months of the year I’ll be living and working abroad for a while. It’ll be an enormous challenge – and I absolutely can’t wait. More on that soon.

Thanks for sticking around so far. Now it gets really interesting.


ps. The WordPress theme is kinda swanky, right? I have sketching storyteller Candace Rose Rardon to thank: she recently updated her site and passed a spare theme along to me – one of the dazzling range from Theme Trust. I’ll be talking more about Candace’s work in an upcoming post (she doesn’t know it yet – keep it quiet). Right now, Fevered Mutterings v6 is something of a Beta version. Plenty still to add and tweak and wrestle into place. Don’t be surprised if things look a wee bit shonky here and there. I’m on it. Ta.

Images: music5one and Mike Sowden.