We’d like to say a massive thanks to Dan for offering us this opportunity to share our story.
Being newbies to the social media scene we were unaware of the possibilities that were opening up to us and, thanks to Dan and so many of our supportive followers sharing invaluable blogging tips, we launched our blog on the 12th July.
The Chopster (aka Andy Webb) and myself, the Bonster (aka Bonnie Jennings) live in the UK, although a distance apart. The Chopster lives in the lovely country village of Shrivenham, Oxfordshire and I live about 2 and half hours’ drive away in the historical town of Rochester, Kent.
We met each other for the first time, only three years ago, when our mutual friends Milli and Richard (aka. Lord Blakeney) invited us to a 1950’s night of Jazz and Burlesque in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. At that time, we had no idea that we had ignited a lasting friendship that would lead us to what is now known as the Monster Voyage.
It was a year later, at the Chap Olympiad, held every summer in Bedford Square London, that we discovered how much we had in common as we started talking about working together and our love of horror movies.
1. How long have you been blogging?
In truth, Chopster and I only started blogging a month ago. We both love capturing our adventures together through photographs and video and adding this new dynamic, writing, has brought out the storytellers in us.
I don’t think either of us realized how much we’d enjoy telling our story and sharing our experiences.
2. Are you a full-time blogger or do you also have another job/career?
Blogging has become a big part of our lives but we still both have jobs and full-time blogging is not on the cards right now, however much we’d like it to be.
Chopster is a web designer/programmer and I own two companies; one that focuses on project management and incorporates web design and the second is an online business to business training platform.
We are both busy most days so it’s the evenings and weekends that we dedicate to our catch-ups and blogging. Neither of us is shy of hard work, in fact, I would say we both cover the profile of workaholics.
3. What got you started into blogging?
When we decided to take on the Monster Voyage Route 66 road trip in 2020, we decided it would be a great idea to document the trip and create a blog that we hoped would inspire others to follow in our tire tracks.
We had no intention of launching a blog until the trip but, after receiving such an incredible response on Twitter, we thought it would be a great idea to get practicing and share our experiences pre-Route 66.
We have been overwhelmed by the reaction we’ve received to our account with over 1000 organic followers made in the first month and nearly 40 new followers joining every day. We have now reached over 3,000 followers in just over 11 weeks.
4. What is your blog about and how does it help others?
The blog is all about creating unforgettable experiences. The Chopster and I love getting right in the thick of it, by that I mean, we love meeting new people and our weird, wacky and wonderful adventures are really aimed at getting everyone involved.
It’s not just about us having a great time, but others as well. Whether it’s staying at a hotel, dining at a restaurant, or going crazy at a festival, you can be sure that Chopster and I will speak to everyone and genuinely create a Monster vibe wherever we go.
Making connections is what we love, and we hope that, through our social media accounts and blog, we will be able to connect with locals along Route 66 and destinations for all future travel adventures.
We want to inspire others to do the same and, if those reading haven’t already got the travel bug, we hope to infect them.
5. What is working for you and your blog? Why?
It’s difficult to say right now with the blog very much in its infancy. However, there is one thing that is definitely working, picture tweets with a link to the blog.
The difference between engagement on tweets and shares with only text against those that include a photograph is significant. We needed to enable the card functionality from within our blog and ensure that we would create a buzz through inspiring photographs.
Another important factor is how we built our blog and the ease with which we can create content. To have an admin login and the ability to create style templates within the blog for pictures, quotes, and random thoughts have meant that there is a standard, clean structure that we can build within.
I am a bit of a perfectionist, which can be to my own disadvantage, but having the blog created in the way that we have done, means I have less work to make it look good and can focus on the content and structure of the blog.
One of the first things we did, after launching the blog on the 12th of July, was to enable Google Analytics. Having the ability to see how many active users are reading our blogs after sharing them means we can see what is and isn’t working. Are certain pictures more engaging than others and is the wording of our Tweets and Shares exciting enough to make people want to read more?
Last, it has been really important to tell people who we are. We had seen this feedback in a number of tweets from others who were about to release their blogs where they had asked the question “What would you most like to see on our blog?” The answer was, “We want to know about the people sharing their experiences”.
This is why it was so important for both Chopster and me to create a blog about each of our journeys. A difficult task to cover 37 and 40 years on this incredible earth, but really important. It was amazing to see what we’d both done and found writing the blogs enlightening and humbling, especially seeing how many people we have been able to share our experiences with thus far.
The next important blog post was to share our story, how the Bonster and Chopster met, what sealed our friendship and how the Monster Voyage came about. By the time we’d finished this blog, we couldn’t stop smiling.
We’ll have to check back in, in a couple of months or even a years’ time, to tell you more about what we’ve found works. We really want to help others create and share their stories as we have.
6. What did not work out so well for your blog? Why?
Again, a little difficult to say because we are still so new to this.
It has been a real journey for Chopster and I and it’s sometimes difficult to find enough time to write a blog that we’ve been happy with.
I am, as I mentioned above, a perfectionist, which doesn’t necessarily serve me well with regards to time, but I am passionate about making the content informative, visually pleasing, fun and engaging.
We mentioned above that a Tweet or share with a photograph is much more powerful and creates far more engagement than just text. This is why we enabled the card functionality for both Twitter and Facebook directly within our blog and, although this ensures that every time our posts are tweeted or shared that the thumbnail image is included, it can be a limiting factor with regards to engagement. Not everyone has the time to read a blog, and we appreciate that.
Because of this, we have changed our tack. We want to appeal to both blog readers and those wanting to be inspired through imagery.
What we have done instead of using Twitter and Facebook cards is to revert back to creating Tweets with text, a link to the blog and a main photograph or two. This means that nobody is obligated to read the blog but can still engage with the imagery.
7. What tools are you using that you can introduce my readers to?
Luckily enough I have been blessed with, in my opinion, one of the most talented web designer/programmers, my brother. My brother and I work together on a day to day basis, in fact, he created my online business to business training platform.
When I approached him with the idea of creating the Monster Voyage blog, I gave him only a brief description of what we wanted and left the creative side to him. There was no pressure and no restrictions, all I said was have fun… and he did.
The main aim was to create simplicity not only for us but for the end user. Navigation around the site is intuitive and straightforward, we don’t want people to leave because they are lost and don’t know how to find what they want.
Since the site is still in its infancy and we only have a few blogs at present, the intention is to build in search and filter functionality that will again improve the reader’s experience.
The tools we can’t live without are the easy to use creator tools that my brother has built into the Admin section of the website. He has provided us with a number of style templates which, when selected, insert placeholders for pictures with logos, Monster icons or room for descriptive text, quotes, random thought boxes and product placeholders. We even have the option of adding in file attachments which we plan to use when we provide details of how we budgeted for our Monster Voyage Route 66 road trip.
As well as having style templates, we can also include embedded YouTube videos, again in a specifically designed placeholder so the structure is kept neat and tidy.
Something that has also provided real design quality to our site is the ability to add thumbnails, headers and main photographs all of which are used to create a fun and engaging platform filled with imagery.
8. What piece of advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting a blog?
Great question! If you have something interesting to share, then you should definitely share it. Writing is a great way to share your ideas, experiences, adventures, and advice. We find it therapeutic knowing that what was hovering in our heads is now on paper and can inspire others.
It isn’t always easy finding the time to share so, our advice would be to dedicate specific times of the day or days of the week when you have time to sit back and relax without being disturbed.
The most important thing is to enjoy every moment. Writing should be fun and not a chore. If you find yourself under pressure you will be less productive, in those instances, step away from the machine/tablet or any other device and go and get yourself some fresh air or a cup of tea 😊
We love reading blogs where the content comes from the heart, where you feel part of the story or want to be part of the story. This is when your blogs come alive.
9. What do you have planned for the future of your website?
Our hope is that, in the future, we will be recognized in the Travel community as an interesting if not wacky blogging site for people who want to step into the weird, wacky and wonderful world of adventure.
In an ideal world we would like to gain a following in the US so that when we arrive for our Monster Voyage in 2020, we will have made contacts in all the states and can meet up and learn more about the places we visit. We want to have an unbelievably fun time whilst we’re there, by getting involved in what the locals do.
We have never been the types of people to only do what the tourists do, not that there is anything wrong with that, but we do like to do things out of the ordinary.
If we’re able to get any sponsorships for our trip, well that would be amazing, a nice to have not a must have.
We have a plan to share and promote the places we visit, if, of course, the experience was what we’d hoped it would be. We also want to promote some of the main sites that offer unbelievable deals and help travelers make the most of their trips with the funds they have.
Our future plan is simply to inspire with our adventures, create experiences and lasting memories and inspire others to do the same.
As we said above, if you haven’t already got the travel bug, the Monsters hope to infect you.
10. Where can everyone find you?
Blog URL – https://monstervoyage.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/monstervoyage/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/monstervoyage/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/monstervoyage/
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/monstervoyage/
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