It's been almost two years on the nose since The Bent Musket launched on SB Nation. In that time, we've grown exponentially over two full New England Revolution seasons. The traffic numbers speak to that, of course, but the more important metric for us is consistent audience participation. Our loyal roster of readers and commenters has grown, and that's what it's all about.
With this increase in community comes the realization that there may be a lot of you out there unfamiliar with the various functions and features here on The Bent Musket. Thus, I've decided to put together a bit of a TBM "How-to" so I can show everyone how to make best use of this site and community. Specifically, I want to give everyone a lesson in FanPosts, FanShots, and using the Recommend feature in those two areas and in commenting.
The best way to describe a FanPost is to say that it's a way for you guys to become bloggers in your own right. If you have an opinion or something you want to share with us and you need 150 words or more to do it, the FanPost is your medium!
There are about three or four places on the home page that will let you write a FanPost, so it shouldn't be too hard to find the option. From there, your screen moves to a simplified version of our own story editor interface. The easiest thing to do from there is to just type into the field and follow the other instructions listed. A window just below the text field should let you know how to insert images, connect with social media, tag for SEO, and all that. Think of a good title and publish!
You can always count on either me or one of the editors to edit your post and spruce it up with any extra features that might be missing once we see it. If we think it's particularly well-written, insightful, pertinent, or just plain funny, we'll even move it to the front page layout so it appears with the rest of our stories in the cover and river. We ask that FanPosts at least be soccer-related, with a preference for Revolution and MLS material, but if it's something you really want to share, feel free.
FanShots are similar to FanPosts in that they offer you a way to put content up on the blog and initiate your own interactions with us and with the rest of the community. However, they aren't really meant to be blog posts per se. A FanShot is a way to share a link, image, tweet, quote, or video with everyone else.
Sharing a FanShot is really easy. There's actually a button you can drag to your browser toolbar to share FanShots on the fly without having to go back to TBM first. Basically, though, all you do is place the link (in the case of a links or certain images and videos), embed codes (for certain images and videos), tweet link or embed code, or just a quote itself into the appropriate place. Some of these shots will ask for titles/headlines, which you can edit, and descriptions, which really shouldn't be more than a paragraph.
You can tag teams, players, and other miscellaneous keywords in FanShots to make them more searchable, and as with FanPosts, if we see a FanShot we think merits the treatment, we will absolutely bump it into the river.
Once again, we ask that FanShots be at least loosely topical.
Using the Recommend Tool (Rec'ing)
Here's something that I think is woefully underused on TBM (although I guess the same could definitely be said for FanPosts and FanShots, too). On SB Nation you have the ability to "recommend" FanPosts, FanShots, regular posts, and comments that you find especially witty, correct, insightful, or whatever. Basically, if you feel that post or comment is something you would want to show to other people, or you want to reward the author, then it's a good idea to recommend it.
Now, recommending has a function as well. If a FanPost, FanShot, or comment is rec'd three or more times, it becomes "recommended" (the three-rec minimum is something I chose as a limit, some sites do a 5-count or more, it's up to the blog manager). In the case of a FanPost or FanShot, "recommended" items are displayed at the top of their respective sidebars under a "recommended" heading. Thus, instead of cycling out chronologically, they stay visible on the front page until other recommended posts replace them.
In the case of a comment, recommended items go "green." Basically, the comment itself is given a green background and is recognized as "recommended." On the old platform, there used to be a keyboard shortcut to skip ahead to recommended comments. I'm actually not sure if that functionality remains. At the moment, a recommended comment doesn't do much other than announce to everybody that this particular comment is a good one. Still, it feels good to say something and have other people recognize it as good or funny or whatever, so don't be shy about using it!
The moral of the story here is this: please use FanPosts and FanShots more often, and don't forget to use the recommend tool! These are all major, major parts of fan and community interaction, and we really appreciate having you participate. We know you all have opinions, and we know you all visit other websites besides TBM. Share what you think, what you feel, what you see, and talk to each other about it in the comment sections!
This 101 guide is also available on the TBM 101 page, under the "Library" drop-down menu.