Nerf guns are fun. Nerf guns are a LOT of fun! Nerf guns are so much fun, you want to share your enthusiasm with others--and what better way to do that than to create a Nerf blog, website, or YouTube channel, right? Right! I've been where you are, and I've done exactly that. For 2 years, I ran the world's most-visited Nerf website: BlasterLabs.com. With nearly 250,000 views every month, Blaster Labs became the go-to source for Nerf news, Nerf reviews, Nerf announcements, and other... blaster miscellany for both fans and the industry alike. But success didn't come overnight, and I learned a few things on the way to becoming a successful Nerf blogger, both at Blaster Labs, and now as the Nerf Expert for About.com (including the fact that we never call them Nerf guns--they're "Nerf blasters," thank you very much).
As in any field, one should never stop learning--and I learn something new about Nerf and other blasters from the Nerf fan community nearly every day. But for those looking to launch their own Nerf blog, Nerf website, or Nerf YouTube channel, I wanted to share a few tips to help you get things going in the right direction. All too often, I see enthusiastic individuals launch a new Nerf YouTube channel (most commonly), only to see it get utterly destroyed by the fan community, simply because a few, fundamental elements were missing or poorly executed. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, as they say, so in the rush of excitement over starting a new channel, it's important to keep a few key points in mind. Here are the most important lessons I've learned on my way to Nerf blogging success. Hopefully they'll help you find equal amounts of success on your path to creating a new website, blog, forum, or channel for Nerf fans to follow.
01 of 08
Do Something Different
When I originally came up with the idea for Blaster Labs, it was because I felt as though the Nerf community was lacking a certain level of professionalism, and it needed a more mature representation for the serious hobbyist. And I reasoned that by creating a website of higher quality than most, I could more easily earn the trust and respect of manufacturers that would, in turn, hopefully provide an opportunity to make the voice of the fan community heard. With the help of some very-talented... friends, I believe Blaster Labs was able to do just that, and that legacy continues here on the Nerf channel at About.com.
What's my point? You need to launch your Nerf blog or YouTube channel with a vision. You don't have to change the world or do something huge, but you do need to figure out how you can be different than everyone else. After all, there are a lot of very popular Nerf channels out there already, so if you're not different, you're just one of the herd.
02 of 08
Know Your Stuff
Recently, an enthusiastic Nerf YouTuber posted a link to his new channel on the Nerf sub-Reddit, where he requested feedback on his endeavors from the community. And boy did he get it--most of it negative. But it wasn't entirely unwarranted, because this young chap came on the scene pretending as though he knew more about the topic than the rest of the community, right down to telling everyone how "NERF" was actually an acronym for "Non-expanding Recreational Foam." And he... was dead wrong. Not only is Nerf not an acronym, that old wive's tale has been debunked far and wide, and anyone who has been in the hobby for any amount of time knows this. It's a minor point, to be sure, but getting a very basic (and very easily researched) fact like this wrong quickly ruined this person's shot at building any kind of authority in the community.
The lesson here is simply to do a little research before posting something online. Everyone makes mistakes (I've made my share), but failing to research basic facts or doing your own first-hand research before posting an opinion will make it far more difficult to earn credibility. And if you don't know what you're talking about, for the sake of everyone involved, just don't say anything at all!
03 of 08
Pay Attention to Production Quality
Along with knowing your stuff, details matter. And while that often means taking measurements, calling products by the right names, understanding what is compatible with what, knowing which products were released when, and numerous other particulars that may seem trivial, there's more to it than just knowing facts and figures. Beyond product knowledge, it's also worth striving to get the details of your particular endeavor nailed-down. By that, I'm referring to production quality.
Yes,... production quality matters. It doesn't take much for a YouTube video to go from good to great by simply providing adequate lighting, clear audio, and stable video. It also helps to have some idea what you want to say beforehand, so users aren't forced to sit through awkward periods of silence or drawn-out, poorly-prepared diatribes that are lacking a point. And the same goes for text on a web page--context is helpful, but try to stay on-topic.
And while we're talking production values, consider working with someone who knows what they're doing. The YouTube channel Out of Darts is a great example (he's a filmmaker, and it shows). But for Blaster Labs, I simply recruited a handful of friends that had talents in design, social media, and web development. Their contributions went a long way toward creating the feel of professionalism for which Blaster Labs became known.
04 of 08
Give Credit Where It's Due
This should go without saying, but don't rip-off other people's stuff. And that doesn't mean just re-purposing their content without attribution (though that's definitely part of it). In the Nerf space, giving credit it where it's due often refers to providing a link or at least a mention to whatever site, blog or YouTuber first discovered and posted information about a new product. Certain YouTube channels, in particular, have lost a lot of credibility due to frequent lack... of attribution for other people's findings, instead claiming the "Nerf news" for themselves. While this may gain followers in the short-term, it doesn't go unnoticed, and it's a sure sign of an amateur. Besides, you wouldn't want people doing it to you.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Correct Your Mistakes
Along with giving credit, be humble enough to correct your mistakes when they're pointed out. It's inevitable... if you talk long enough about something, eventually you'll make a mistake. In fact, you'll probably make lots of mistakes. Possibly all in the same piece (I'm speaking from experience, here). But the key is to accept correction from peers, learn from the mistakes, and offer gratitude for someone having taken the time to help improve your work in the first... place--after all, if someone is correcting you, it means they've actually read or listened to what you had to say. So return the favor by considering their correction. And if the correction seems invalid, ask for evidence that supports their claim. Because sometimes the peanut gallery gets it wrong, too (but not often).
06 of 08
This could be one of the more difficult aspects of the online content creation game to master. But building relationships with other Nerf bloggers, Nerf YouTubers, content creators, and in our case, manufacturers and their reps, can make or break your site or channel. Knowing what everyone else in the space is doing can help inform you of current trends and hot topics, and it can help you find opportunities to cover topics not already addressed. Sharing information with friendly bloggers and YouT...ubers can also be useful, if both parties agree on how/when to share whatever new information they've learned.
In the Nerf space, in particular, building relationships with manufacturers and their representatives is of particularly special importance, since they are the primary source of official information. It's here that I've made a name for Blaster Labs and About.com, having built relationships with key individuals at over a dozen different blaster companies, including the top folks at Nerf, BOOMco, K-Force, and the other brands. This is not easy, however. To-date, for instance, I'm the only well-known Nerf blogger to have deep contacts with every blaster company and their PR firms, which regularly gives me access to information no other blogger or YouTube channel has, and/or gives me access to information more quickly. And just as importantly, all of the information is official, not second-hand, sourced from Far East factory leaks, fuzzy imagery, or mere speculation. Any site can publish a leak, but having a trusted relationship with a manufacturer can pay dividends when it comes to being the first site to provide the world with official information and quality imagery.
Lastly, don't forget about building relationships with other fans. While generating traffic to your new site or channel is important, don't make all of your social media or forum posts about only the things you've personally done or written. Comment on what other people have done, share experiences, or find content you can share exclusively with the community. And take time to provide replies to community feedback or questions. In my case, I often take the input or concerns of the community to manufacturers directly, and likewise report on any official responses I receive. Not all of this makes it into blog posts--much of it is just for the community. As it should be.
07 of 08
Keep Things Up-to-Date
Nothing kills a blog faster than a lack of fresh content. While I typically write 2-3 pieces per week, some of the best blogs online write 2-3 pieces per hour. Of course, the bigger blogs have paid writers on-staff, so they have an inherent advantage. But even as a part-time, after-hours endeavor, striving to provide up-to-date content is critical. Just think about the sites you frequent yourself--how often do you visit the ones that aren't updated very often? Exactly. More content is... better, but don't try to produce so much that your work gets sloppy, thin, or off-topic. Even if you can only produce a single article per week, if it's good, that will be enough to get people checking back. And the same goes for YouTube videos--one well-done video can have a good shelf-life, but more videos more often will help ensure people come back to your channel on a regular basis.
08 of 08
Have Fun With It!
This is the single, most important piece of advice I can possibly give--if you're not having fun doing this, stop doing it! If you're simply looking for a payday or some free blasters, don't bother. The amount of work involved in maintaining a well-run site or channel will far surpass any small amount of income of free product samples you might hope to receive. With the exception of the top 1-2% of active Nerf blogs and channels, none make any notable amount of money, and ALL of them... spend enormous amounts of time and personal funds to support their hobby.
Because that's what this is--a hobby. Launch a Nerf website or channel because it's fun, and because you have something you want to share with the world. Do it because you can't not do it, and because you have a burning desire to do something in this category that no one else is doing. Do it because it genuinely puts a smile on your face, and because you like connecting with others who also have more than a passing interest in toy blasters. When you launch your Nerf blog or channel for these reasons, the sky is the limit to your success!