As you might know, from any of the times I’ve mentioned it on my blog or via my Tweeter account (@amateurfinance, just in case you’re curious), I recently hosted the Carnival of Twenty-Something Finances. It was an interesting and even, dare I say, fun experience, but it was a little overwhelming. Since it was the first blog carnival I’ve ever hosted, I had little idea what to expect. So, for anyone looking to host a blog carnival of their own in the future, here’s some of what I learned from my experience, which I now pass onto you:
First, get an early start on making up your post. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a bit of a procrastinator at heart (especially now, when I’ve got a night job that throws off my schedule both on work days and rest days), and tend to push things off as long as I can. You might be tempted to do the same thing with your blog carnival; after, you’re just going to be cutting and pasting a bunch of blog posts’ names and web addresses, right? But doing a good job requires more than that; you should read all the posts, get a feel for what they say, try to organize them by topic or type (maybe even picking out a few as your favorites and calling them the best of the carnival) and write a short blurb for each one. Done right, a decent blog carnival can take just as much time and effort as a good blog post (and perhaps even more, especially when there are a large number of entries and/or you decide to go really over the top with your presentation).
Which brings up my second piece of advice: go all out with your carnival blog. It’s tempting to look at a carnival as a freebie post; other people write all the interesting stuff, you just put it all together, slap on a few personal touches, and watch as you get all sorts of traffic from the contributors, their readers, and anyone who happens to mention the carnival in the future. But that’s exactly the opposite of how you should be thinking. If you’re going to drawing all this traffic to your site (and to this one blog entry in particular), you want it to stand out and be memorable. Show the visitors to your blog (some of whom are likely seeing it for the very first time) some of your wit, charm, and intelligence, as you try to impress them and convince them to become dedicated readers. It’s like a first date, so put your best face forward and give it all you can give.
Third, choose a good theme for your carnival. A strong and unique theme can help you stand out from the crowd, provide you with plenty of ‘color commentary’ you can add to carnival, and even help you decide how to organize the posts you receive. (My theme of anime fit pretty well with dividing the posts by topic, while the previous host choose a Major League Baseball theme that worked well with how he ‘ranked’ the articles.) Try to pick a theme that you really like, that isn’t too close to the topic of the carnival (besides seeming uncreative, you might end up stepping on someone’s post), and that doesn’t conflict with the advice in the posted articles (if you’re hosting a weight loss carnival, don’t post pictures and recipes of your favorite desserts with comments about their delicious taste and aroma.) Also, unless your blog specifically covers more ‘risque’ material, themes like your favorite pornos or types of drugs should be avoided.
Fourth, follow the golden rule: treat the contributors as you would like them to treat you when you submit to a carnival. Read through their work, comment if you have anything useful to add to the conversation, write to them if you have any questions or comments, send a quick email letting them know they were included when the carnival has been posted; anything you can do to make the whole carnival seem easier and more fun can help make it that much more popular. Besides encouraging others to act the same way, you’ll also help to increase the chance that blog writers will link back to the carnival and visit it themselves, all of which will help to drive some traffic to your site. (Which is at least part of the reason you’re doing this, right?)
Finally, have some fun with it. Yes, a carnival is a lot of work, hours of time spent reading blogs you might not care about, organizing them, adding comments and pictures, and generally making the whole package that much more presentable. But there’s fun to be had, as well; choose a theme you’ll enjoy, add clever quips to your descriptions of the contents, even drop a few jokes into the post. All this will make it much it much easier to handle all the reading and other work you’ll need to do, and can let you add a personal touch to the post, as well.
That’s all there is to making a good blog carnival post. So go out there (there being the BlogCarnival page, in this case) find a good carnival related to the topic of your blog, and start the hosting! It’s definitely a fun time.