Neeraj Joshi

@jneeraj0807

How a Solo Founder, used Social Media to build a successful Blog Network

PushInterview 06:

The journey of how a Solo Founder, Pradeep, used Social Media to build a successful Blog Network, Slashsquare

More than 2 million blogs are created everyday on WordPress, let alone the whole of Internet.

According to Worldometers, this number was more than 3 million at the time of publishing this blog post. Shocking, isn’t it?

http://www.worldometers.info/blogs/

How many of them do you think are successfully generating business?

In this era that we live in where every second person is a blogger, it has become difficult to differentiate and build a successful Blog Network.

Read through this interview to know:

How Pradeep differentiated in this crowded blogosphere and used social media to build a successful Blog Network.

This is the sixth interview of the series “PushInterview: Interviews that helps you Pushstart powered by Pushstart.

Check out our previous interview on “How I built one of the most active startup communities of India” if you happen to miss it.

🕴Who are you?

Hey Pushstarters! I’m Pradeep Kumar, a Blogger and an Internet Marketer from Chennai. I completed my bachelors in Computer Science in the year 2012.

Hey Pushstarters ! Pradeep here

I started blogging during my school days and took it as a profession after graduating from college with Slashsquare.

Slashsquare is a Web Consulting Media and Indian Blog Network.

🤔 What’s the deal with Slashsquare?

Slashsquare was started as a blog during my college days.
The current version of Slashsquare

Later on in the journey, I registered it as Slashsquare Media Private Limited” and started providing online services like Web Development, eCommerce Setup, Social Media Marketing and SEO.

Currently, these are the 3 blogs on our Blog Network:

HellBound Bloggers (HBB):

We talk about Blogging, Internet Marketing, Social Media, and other related topics here.

MoviesDrop:

This is our portal for film lovers where we discuss about Movies, TV Series, and Documentaries.

DeviceBAR:

Being a gadget freak, I created this platform to connect like-minded folks who love talking about mobiles, computers, and electronic items.

Our upcoming blogs include FoodGravy and BookWritten. We’ll be launching them soon in 2018. Stay tuned.

💯 What motivated you to start Slashsquare?

I started my very first blog during my school days; I think it was in 11th or 12th standard.

At that time, I didn’t have any idea about blogging. I just signed up on Blogger.com and thought that my blog was ready.

But over the period, I learned a lot about blogging. I started to write and share my articles with my online friends. Slowly I started developing interest towards blogging.

Blogging is a medium to share your thoughts, but, at the same time, it’s a weapon to twist human thoughts.

HBB was my first official blog. I decided to write about Blogging so that I can keep track of the things I was learning and also share my learnings to help other similar folks get started with blogging.

Later on in the journey, I realised that I couldn’t control my thoughts to a single blog and I need to expand the list of topics I want to blog about.

That’s when I thought I should start a Blog Network which goes by the name of Slashsquare and launch different categories of blogs under one common banner.

Slashsquare is like a bridge which connects all the blogs.

🛠 What all went into building the initial product?

Our first product was our blog — HellBound Bloggers (HBB).

HBB was not really HBB, when I created my first blog, that should be during the year 2007. I created “helpwithpcs” and “mailexpress” and hosted them on Blogger.com platform.

I remember copy-pasting stuff here when I started out. But over the period of time, I learned a lot of things about blogging. Following ShoutMeLoud and MillionClues helped me a lot. Capturing feedback from my online friends and interacting with other bloggers also acted like a boon.

I started contributing articles properly. I decided to use a custom domain name and moved to WordPress.org. This was when I changed the blog’s name to hellboundbloggers.blogspot.com.

The initial version of HellBound Bloggers (HBB)

We started our journey with a free Web Hosting service as I was not earning any money from my blog. Rather, I was investing in Browsing Center and Domain names.

Eventually, I got an opportunity to review a product and I learned about sponsored posts. I slowly understood how I could monetize my blogs.

After almost 10 years, here we are, with 3 live and 2 upcoming blogs. Our current blogs are designed by 7Span and hosted on Basezap.

🤝 How did you get your initial users?

My journey of building HBB:

Starting HBB was easy for me, but scaling it was tough. I had to think of all the possible ways to survive this overcrowded Blogosphere.

Branding:

HBB is just another blog in the blogosphere. It is not unique or outstanding.

So to reach out to more people, and most importantly, make them remember our blog, we made branding our USP.

You can use branding anywhere, right from your blog’s logo to the URL. We used a shortened URL hbb.me.

You just have to make them remember you once, it’s more than enough.

Social Media:

It is the easiest channel to reach your target audience. Make use of Facebook Pages & Groups.

Start a Page to promote your brand and start a Group to build your brand.

Thanks to our Facebook groups, I was able to understand Facebook better.

Also, try to make the content more Social Media friendly. “10+ Tips to increase your blog traffic” is good, but what about “10 actions you can do right now to double your traffic”? I’m not talking about clickbait here, just reasonable title justifying the content.

If you are an active user of Twitter, try to start a Twitter chat with #HBBTalk or #HBBChat, a hashtag with your brand’s name. This is a good way to showcase your brand and increase your follower base.

SEO:

There is a fundamental misunderstanding about SEO:
Yes, you need to optimize your articles for search engines, but before that, you need to write for yourself, then write for your readers, then write for the people who are seeking solutions online, and at the end, write for Google.

Only if you do it in this specific order, you can analyze the other key factors to get more organic traffic.

Investment:

If you want to make $1000 per month, you need to invest at least $100 per month. Without investments, you can’t get anything substantial in return.

Let them be WordPress plugins or Online tools. Make sure you buy them and utilize them properly.

Public Relations (PR):

If you have a blog, then you are the PR agent of your blog. Work on your personal branding to impact your blog performance.

Whatever you post on social media, it directly impacts the way your audience perceives your brand. So, make sure you represent your brand properly on social media.

This is how I roll on Social Media

Network with fellow bloggers:

We networked with several bloggers throughout our journey. Now they quote us frequently in their articles. This helps generate referral traffic and increase Domain Authority.

Building our blog’s readership:

Find your audience before you start:
We have this habit of starting our Social Media profiles before launching our blog. We build our audience on social media, analyze their needs and then kickstart our blog.

We have already launched a Facebook Group and Page for our upcoming blog BookWritten.

Facebook Group and Page for our upcoming blog BookWritten

This way, it becomes much easier to find their needs and the things they like. This is how we curate our blog articles, slowly, one by one.

Slashsquare’s Blog Network is a combination of what they like + what I like.

💰 What is your business model?

I started my blog without the intention of making money. But, when I decided that this was my full-time profession, I gave serious thought to monetization and prepared various strategies.

When we were starting out, we didn’t really want to monetize our blog without proper content or traffic.

There is no point in bombing your blog with ads and reviews without proper content or traffic.

So, we decided to create an authority and readership around our blog first and then enable Google AdSense.

Google AdSense is all about the people who visit your blog, view the ads and click them. But remember, the visitor’s source plays an important role here.

Google AdSense helped us to make decent money. Eventually, I moved to a paid hosting and started to hire people.

We also experimented with Amazon Associates and other Affiliate programs like ShareASale and integrated them into our blog.

I love the way it works, the whole referral thing. I always had this thought in my mind before:
What if I get paid for the things that I normally do for free? Affiliate Marketing is the answer for that.

We started to keep banners and links and optimize them to get good organic traffic. We did have good conversions during Black Friday & Cyber Monday recently.

We also did reviews for popular brands and got paid for spreading the word.

Our income sources:

Slashsquare (Indian Blog Network):

  • Sponsored/Paid Content: When other brands want to spread the word about their product/service, they approach us and ask for an exclusive review or cover story.
  • Google AdSense: Not an excellent source of income, but when our articles go viral, we can expect a decent revenue.
  • Affiliate Marketing: We promote our products/services via Affiliate Marketing, and get paid.

Slashsquare (Web Consulting Media):

  • Consultancy: When a brand, which is majorly offline, wants to jump into the online world, we guide them in the process. Be it website development or online marketing.
  • E-commerce: We help brands set up their E-commerce portal.

💪 Being a Solo Founder, how do you keep yourself motivated?

It’s hard to find someone who shares the same mindset and passion for a specific thing.

Being a solo founder, I respect everyone’s opinion and advice, but the administrative decision and rights belong to me; I just do the things I think are perfect. Of course, I do my research and analysis before jumping into things, but that’s more than enough for me.

I don’t get demotivated quickly; I’m adamant about solutions.

It’s never about winning or losing; it is just about being yourself no matter what. If you are progressing and learning each passing day, then there is no need to get demotivated.

🏁 What are your future goals and how do you plan to achieve them?

Our future goals are all about expanding Slashsquare so that it reaches more people, who share similar interests and passion.

These are the list of things we are focusing right now:

  • Expanding our online communities: Right now we have active Facebook groups and standalone forums for each blog on our Blog Network. We’ll be making them more interactive and informative; we are planning to rope in experts from various fields, conduct AMAs, do intensive case-studies and make the whole space more engaging.
  • Jumping into mobile: We already have an Android app for MoviesDrop and we are planning to do the same for BookWritten and FoodGravy. Pretty soon we will be launching the iOS version too. Our objective here is to make the app more *useful* so that it stays on the user’s phone no matter what. We are conducting surveys all over the web to make our apps as purposeful as possible.
  • Jumping into YouTube: This is something we haven’t implemented properly yet. Even though I had a YouTube channel and I uploaded my very first video in the year 2009, I didn’t proceed with it further. Looking at the way videos are making our lives easier, we decide to grab this opportunity ASAP and make the most out of it. We will be launching our channel soon. Unlike traditional blogging, video creation will take time and patience, but it’s worth the process.

🌋 The biggest challenges you have faced till now?

The biggest challenge I have faced till now is to build an active online community. We have done a lot of experiments, but at the end of the day, it is never satisfying.

We are happy with the way our Facebook Groups and Blog Forums are running, but is that enough?

What is it that makes a community successful?

A prosperous community shouldn’t need any kind of moderation. It should take care of itself no matter what.
If something goes wrong, other members should take care of the violation and prevent it from happening again in the future.

There is a TED talk titled “How can groups make good decisions?”, I would request everyone to see this video to understand the benefits and beauty of a community.

Right now, we have around 17k members in our HellBound Bloggers (HBB) Facebook group, and these are our stats from the past 28 days:

Engagement stats from the past 28 days

Although this is a decent number, we are trying out the following things to scale it further:

  • Ask more questions: This is a psychologically proven method, because, “?” triggers people to think. If they can think of something and they want to share that, most of them will probably do it.
  • Conduct Giveaways: We already have made a list of things we would like to focus on. This is not for making them more active, it’s more like, giving back to the community for their efforts.

🗒 What is your advice to Pushstarters starting out?

Your startup is like a newborn baby; You can’t comb the hair, put a school dress, make him/her study and expect the baby to get 100 out of 100 marks.

Take your time, don’t fasten the process just because you want to taste success quickly, take it as a learning aka sharing process, I’m sure you’ll reach your stop very soon.

✉️ How can we get in touch with you?

You can reach out to me @ Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

I also blog regularly @ Pradeep Kumar.

Thanks a lot for reading! If you liked it, please support by clapping 👏🏻 and sharing the post. Feel free to leave a comment 💬 below.

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Hey! Neeraj here, the founder of Pushstart, India’s most active entrepreneur community. I release interviews with successful entrepreneurs every week. Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook | Linkedin | neeraj.joshi@pushstart.in | Twitter.

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