2018: ‘The Story of Us’

 In Nashville

“I know, I know. There’s been a lot less dick jokes, and a lot more sentimental nice posts this week. But, what can I say? It’s the season of reflection, season of thanks, and season of love. All of those things that Hallmark makes millions of fucking dollars exploiting. You know the drill.” -Me, in 2017.

Oh, if only that dude who wrote this same piece a year ago knew what 2018 had in store for him. Yes, I am me and I wrote that post last year. It’s a time honored tradition here at SoBros Network for the Editor In Chief (me) to sit down and type out a nice thank you and provide an update to all of our friends (I hate calling people who support us “fans” or “readers” – I feel like we’re good about making real connections with people that go beyond that) on the current state of the SoBros Network, what we’ve accomplished, and what we’re setting our sights on next year. What defined us in 2018?

The Boring Shit

The year started off with a bang, as January was our biggest month to date in terms of pageviews. We set a goal last December to reach 20K pageviews in a month and to have one article reach 10K pageviews. We knocked out both in the first month of the year, as we had nearly 33K pageviews. I was beyond ecstatic – that was up 1,892% from January 2017. Things dipped in February, but we rebounded. Now I can say we hit our initial goal not just once, but EIGHT TIMES. We said we wanted to do it just once, and we ended up averaging 20K pageviews a month for the entire year.

Pageviews are just under 300% in terms of growth, and we only need 9,700 more to hit that 300% mark. Now, we’re setting a much loftier goal of 50K in a single month in 2019 – that’s the sweet spot. It’s taken us over three years to get to where we are now. But, we’re doing the things it takes to keep this number trending upwards.

We covered more events than ever in 2018 – live or otherwise. I wrote 100+ articles in a given month seven different times this year, as the site averaged 143 articles per month as a whole. That blows my mind – I wrote well over 1,000 articles this year alone. We recorded more podcasts than ever, broadcasting at a nearly weekly rate from July-November. I’ve done more videos, we’ve held more live events, we’ve reviewed more places than ever before – it’s all up.

Everything is up.

But, this team worked really hard to get things up (that’s what she said). We took the time to figure out what we wanted to do, set goals, and for the most part, we reached them. That’s something to be proud of – just figuring shit out and creating something on your own. I made the decision to give up all of my other writing gigs in April of 2017. I rolled the dice and so far, things seem to be working. I’d say the biggest difference in my mindset between 2017 and 2018 boils down to:

2017 Me: “I’ll give this a shot and see what happens.”

2018 Me: “Holy shit, we have something that works here.”

We made a concerted effort to get out and about more in 2018, and it paid off. Not only were our events successful, but we made a lot of friends and strengthened a lot of relationships in the process. From the first annual SoBros Comedy Invitational to the Past Their Prime Combine, we learned that we can put together a live show and produce something that people like. I’m still blown away by that comedy show – my first foray into hosting stand-up comedy. Major thanks are in order to Buffalo’s Billiard for letting us pack 50 people in their back room for that show, and to Has Been Sports for helping us out with the combine back in the spring.

We sponsored the inaugural Making Towns Classic at the Nashville Fairgrounds in May. It was pretty wild to set up and work at a place that is essentially hallowed ground to wrestling fans who grew up in the region. So much of what we do is a major balancing act. We can look back at it and laugh now, but we were stressed out that day. Brandon was working the Nashville Film Festival simultaneously. We had an interview lined up for the site, and had to leave the show, sit out in his car and record the interview.

My hope is that it’s the little things like this we’ll remember as things continue to grow – having to leave wrestling shows to sit in a car and interview someone, holding phones up to microphones to record, having to share articles to Facebook groups or else no one would read them. Those late nights of grinding out content for 12 people to read.

But, we also learned that we have quite a few friends who enjoy our company enough to drive for nothing more than a night to sit and hang out. Our watch parties were a ton of fun. We had 30 people show up to our Preds watch party in February and about 14 for our Titans watch party in November. The Big Hang was nice, and my birthday party, along with our subsequent revival of the Hawaiian shirt, was a blast, too. So many good memories that we don’t have from years past because we didn’t branch out and do more until this year.

I look at our numbers from two years ago and it just blows me away. We used to celebrate getting 1,000 pageviews in a month. Now, we’re getting nearly that on a daily basis. In March of 2016, we had 291 hits all month. Now, we’re averaging 20K a month. WTF?

I know I’m just throwing around a lot of metrics. But, my hope is that you’ll see that if you just put in the work, the results will eventually begin to come.

Thank Yous and Recognition

There are so many people to thank and so many people who deserve special recognition that it’s hard to keep up. I think “Nature Boy” Brandon Vick deserves a round of applause – he covered two film festivals, live and in person, this year, he upped his production to just under 20 posts a month, and was the first member of the SoBros Network to get a legitimate media pass. I guess technically he’s our only bona fide credentialed media member.

We hit our sales goal to the tune of 211% in 2018 – we went from making $9.56 a month in 2017 (lol) to making $167.25 a month in 2018. But, balancing SoBros work and every day life is incredibly difficult right now. Day jobs are still funding this company by and large, so we had a couple of dry spells when we couldn’t get to the work. So, if you take out those dry spells, we averaged $256.27/month when we added new stuff to the SoBros Shop. That is what’s encouraging me. That figure is up like 2681%. If we keep that up, we’ll be making over $184,000 a month by 2020!

(Please, any potential investors or advertisers understand that that was only a joke and I’m well aware that’s not how business works – I can add some humor to this piece, can’t I?)

But, my larger point here is that the SoBros Shop was built on the back of Cadbury, who took it upon himself to learn how to screen print t-shirts in his garage so that we wouldn’t have to outsource the work (yet) and give a large cut of the profit away to a third party. We wouldn’t be here without him. But, Cad also does a lot of little things behind the scenes that people who read the site may not realize. From building a stage for our comedy show, to filming and editing a lot of our videos, he does it all.

Mose is another dude who does it all for SoBros Network. I’m ecstatic that he came on board in 2018, and am grateful for his work on a daily basis. Poppa Bear is every bit the ambassador to the brand that you could ask for. Herbie Brooks continues to write big pieces for us, and we even launched a new Preds podcast, Talking Preds, this year. Then, there’s Smokey – our CTO who handles almost all of our back end stuff. This year, he undertook the huge task of migrating our site to AWS, which you can read about here.

These people have all been godsends to me, and in many cases, much earlier than 2018.

That’s not even taking into account the work and support that Rubber Rooster has given since joining the team in 2015, or the potential of our new class of rookies (Joshua Huffman, Beta Ray Greg, and Stephen Jensen).

I say it all the time, but I truly believe we have a culture of success and support that rivals any team in the world.

Also, I have to give a special thanks to Brett Ison for his help this year. In 2017, we covered our first independent wrestling show live. No one knew who we were, and no one would give us the time of day. Flash forward to 2018, and now guys are generously giving us their time for interviews and content. But, Brett took things a step further. If you had told me as I was sitting in that gym in Chattanooga in 2017 that we’d be producing a wrestler’s merchandise in 2018, I would’ve called you crazy. I just didn’t see it coming.

But, Brett gave us that opportunity. We produced the ‘Street Justice‘ t-shirt, and it’s become our second best seller of the year already. It’s opened up an entirely new branch of the business that we never predicted. Plus, Brett’s just a good dude – he’s going to blow up in 2019 because of his talent, his work ethic, and his dedication. That sure as fuck sounds like “the SoBros way” to me. This year wouldn’t have been the same without his help and his faith in us.

Then, there’s the team at Southern Underground Pro wrestling – Righteous Jesse, specifically. We’ve gotten more out of working with SUP than in the hundreds of dollars I’ve spent on Facebook marketing. I appreciate the good times, the work, and the spirit of the grind. Another relationship I never saw coming, but am incredibly grateful for.

The SoBros Spirit

This is all an incredibly long-winded way for me to say that I’m incredibly proud of what this team has accomplished this year. And, I’m incredibly grateful for the folks who helped push this thing uphill alongside me. It shouldn’t be a secret that this company means everything to me. This is my life. This is what I’ve dedicated my time on this Earth to.

But, I wouldn’t, and couldn’t do it without your support. We’re doing things the hard way, folks – we aren’t writing clickbait to lure in pageviews. We aren’t writing the type of stuff you’re going to read in scholarly journals. And, we aren’t out there spamming your feeds with hashtags and giveaways that mean nothing. We’re authentic people writing how we’d talk to you if we were sitting at a bar pounding drinks. We’re making genuine connections with people.

That sort of thing takes time.

So, I appreciate all of your support – it’s why we’re doing what we’re doing the way we’re doing it. It’s reassuring to hear and read that so many people are getting that message (especially if you’re famous…we love hearing about famous people liking SoBros Network). It’s what keeps me going, and it’s what makes me think that this thing can ultimately work. My goal was to be doing this as a full-time job by 2020, and that looks as likely as ever thanks to all of you.

But, perhaps what I’m most proud of is how we gave back this year. We raised over $1,300 for charity this year – whether it was for our dudes at Steven Whitehouse and Friends and the causes they work for, or the Nashville Humane Association. This team answered the bell, several of our readers answered the bell. One of our biggest goals is to help uplift the community around us. I feel like we did that in 2018.

You put it all together, and we have this beautiful story of a group of people trying to entertain, trying to do good in the world, and trying to make it. I love the way we DIY. Our greatest hope is that one day someone will look at us and say, “those guys did it. So can I.” At the very least, we just hope you enjoy the time you spend on this site or with us in person. Everything can be boiled down to making people happy, and that’s our chief mission here.

Thank you all for giving us that opportunity. Now, be better and get shit done.

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Alabama Crimson Tide football, the WWE, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley

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