Lessons From This Side of the Camera
What I’ve learned after being a fatherhood blogger, vlogger and podcaster for 5 years
This week AfroDaddy turns 5! That’s right, five years ago I posted my first video (click the pic to watch it). I honestly didn’t think I would do anything more than just that one video, but here I am 5 years later with a vlog, blog and podcast!
I have created a LOT of different kinds of content about fatherhood, so I thought it might be fun to see if I’ve learned anything along the way. Turns out I have:
Creating content for this niche audience is hard, so pivoting was important:
When I first started the Youtube channel, my goal was to create content exclusively for dads, which was my first mistake. At the time, dads, especially South African dads, were not engaging with online conversations about fatherhood, so after a few months I decided to pivot from content for dads to making stuff about dads. That was a subtle change, but it meant that everyone was included in the conversation.
As it is now, I’d like to think I do two things: advocating fatherhood to non-dads, and encouraging engaged fatherhood to dads.
There were other decisions that I don’t regret that did make my life harder:
Not wanting to vlog too often: People like to feel like they see “behind the curtain”, which requires regular family blogs about our life. I wasn’t prepared to expose my family in that way, nor could I afford the time to do all that editing!
No like/share/follow to win competitions: I HATE having to like and share content to enter a competition. I think it is a hack way to build an audience, and that audience are real followers anyway.
Keeping it useful, fun and not sensationalist: I can repost a lot of my content from a few years ago, because I wasn’t trying to keep up with whatever the current trending topic of the week was. Occasionally I would make content over something topical, but only if it really related to parenting.
Taking breaks from the blog: The common knowledge is that you need to be posting regularly and frequently to maintain and build an audience. I found trying to do that, while working and having a family to be anxiety-inducing, so I took regular breaks to refill my energy reserves - especially around the end of the year madness.
Keeping some parts of our family away from the camera: Look, everything I talk about on
AfroDaddy is real and honest (at the time, at least), but that doesn’t mean I am a completely open book about our lives. I make sure that everything I create is something that won’t embarrass my family or make them feel uncomfortable...which has limited what I can talk about.
Although all these things limited my ability to grow my audience, it did mean that almost everyone who liked, subscribed and followed AfroDaddy on any platform generally was a proper fan, who really liked the content. Also, not trying to hustle in this way is part of the secret why I’ve been able to keep going without burning out.
We still don’t know enough about dads:
The research we have about men who should hold the title of “father” is limited to mostly census data. We don’t know much about who they are, what excites them, what scares them, what their goals are and what they need to be positive and engaged. This means we end up treating all fathers as a monolith: “Dads are like…”, when that just isn’t true.
Get the wife, get the dad
It’s no secret that the VAST majority of my followers are women, mostly moms. I’m talking like 80%. I think that because women are generally on social media more, but also because parenting is still a gendered issue, where women are more interested in content about it - even if it is focused on fatherhood. So sometimes you have to interest the mom, and encourage her to bring in her children’s father into the conversation.
Honesty is the best policy:
I wanted to make real connections with my audience, and that required complete honesty about our lives and my life as a father. I didn’t want to hold myself up as some prime example of a dad, but rather wanted other dads to feel like if this AfroDaddy guy can be honest about his shortcomings, so can I.
The times I was most brutally honest (about my anxiety and depression, for example), were usually the times I got the most support and engagement. The content always did better - I think because we live in aon online world of fakeness, so when we see a bit of honesty, it’s a breath of fresh air.
You don’t want to go viral:
There have been one or two times something that I’ve made has gone viral in some way, and it almost always ends badly. One time I was so engrossed with replying to online editors who wanted to share the story that I got hit by a bus. True story.
Other than that, going viral opens you up to a huge group of trolls and mean people who don’t get you, or understand your content, so I got quite few mean comments about my looks, my hair and, of course, about being a “weak” man who controlled by a feminist agenda. That was a real lesson in ignoring the haters.
Dads are coming along in leaps:
Over the last five years, I’ve seen the conversations about fatherhood develop and grow at an exponential rate. Men who are becoming fathers now are much more engaged with and excited by the idea of being a dad. I think there have been many people who need thank for helping men change the way we think about fatherhood - their work is definitely reaping fruit.
So I am encouraged and hopeful about the future of fatherhood in this country. There is a lot of work still to do, and we all need to go a lot further, but we are trending upwards and gaining momentum. So...if you are a fatherhood advocate like me, keep going!