So. You want to start a blog. One of my MSPs (Microsoft Student Partners) – essentially one of the campus reps that I work with – recently asked me for advice on how to be a better blogger. I’ve been blogging for about 7 years now, in one way or another, so I had some thoughts of my own. But I decided to do a quick search online to validate, and when I was through I had a pretty comprehensive framework. I decided it might make sense to share them with you.
- First thing: READ. You’ll learn a lot from reading how other people blog. Figure out what you’re intersted in, and then figure out who’s blogging about it. Bloggers link to one another in blogrolls, so once you find one blogger, you should be able to find a community. You’ll be suprised how many communities there are on the most obscure topics. You’ll be surprised that some of the most famous people in your area of interest are avid bloggers. Once you have a target audience, reading will help you learn how to become relevant to them, how to pick a more narrow subject area that you can become an expert on. You’ll figure out what people who are already passionate about your space are already talking about.
- Use a Feed Reader or News Aggregator – once you start reading many blogs, you’ll need a way to manage them. A feed reader pushes new posts to you, rather than making you go out to many blogs every day to pull the latest post. There’s a second purpose here – Feed Readers are how most avid blog-readers consume their reading. And understanding how people consume their reading is important to helping you figure out how to grow your readership. There’s a feed reader built-into IE and Outlook, or you can try one of a million others – to help you subscribe and stay up-to-date on many blogs
- Pick a subject area that you want to become an expert on – I picked tech, marketing & social sciences – www.dailydoseofpras.com – but that’s a little over-broad. Maybe you care about the intersection of healthcare & technology. Maybe you care about the emerging Indian art scene. Maybe you are a huge Twilight fan.
- Create a blog. Easiest platform to work with is a Windows Live Space, a Blogspot, or WordPress. Some advice on blog construction, paragraphs, hosting, and aesthetics, from the point of view of a poetry blogger, here.
- Don’t be afraid that blogging isn’t right for your subject area. If you started by reading, you probably found bloggers in your field. You may have even found famous people in your field who are bloggers. I was debating the merits of blogging in the world of poetry, and my friend tried to convince me that the realm of poetry frowns upon blogging. That it just wouldn’t work. So I did some searching online – read this.
- Every post should have a single topic. No rambling. NO complaining. If you’ve ever surfed Xanga or LiveJournal and found teenage girls recounting what they did that day, and complaining about life and being bored, you know that this is where blogs go to die.
- Humanization – Don’t be afraid to show some personality, to talk about your personal life, people like it. It’s humanizing. Especially when you’re blogging as part of a company – it’s important to put a face to it – to demonstrate that you’re a real person with real passions and this is what you’re choosing to do with your life. The rise of blogging, for some, is linked to the rise of YouTube & reality TV – there’s a voyeuristic component to it – that we want to connect to real people, to see real people live real lives
- Be Relevant & timely -Write about your own passions, write with an audience in mind, and write about what’s going on right now – when it’s linked to what people are talking about today. You’re also much more likely to get linked-to if you’re talking about something current
- Be brief, tell a story, and update often. More from another blogger – Chris Brogan – here
- It’s a conversation. Comment on other people’s blogs – this helps to grow traffic, encourages them to comment-back, and turns it into a conversation, which is the whole point. Hoarding comments on your own page is not the goal of blogging. It’s a conversation, which means since you’re the new guy, you gotta go out there and start some conversations. This is actually part of a bigger issue. Web 1.0 was all about one-way communication – you and me were reading what other people had to say. Web 2.0 is about crowdsourcing, about sites engaging their readers, about harnessing the power of groups, about participitation. We need to re-train ourselves to particpate. To write on a wall when we look at a profile. To write a comment when we read a blog. To turn online interaction into a two-way communication. It will take time to change these habits
- “Big blocks of text are intimidating.” Chris Brogan adds. Keep paragraphs short. Don’t complete sentences. Go back, cut more.
- Think strategically. Who will you want to show this blog to later-on. What do you want to get out of it. My MSPs are marketing to students. So maybe they want to position themselves as always providing the student-deal-hunter-time-saver spin on everything. Or maybe you’re writing for design-oriented people, always searching for the most beautifully crafted hardware
- Link to everything you can – anyone you talk about, any blog you reference, any news story, any book. Link back to your blog off your Facebook, in comments you write on other blogs
- Make sure your URL is everywhere
- Fit it into your life. Writers always have something to write with. Keep a notebook, a scratch pad, or, in my case, a OneNote notebook, that you fill with ideas, partially written posts, and links. Buld them into stub posts that you can quickly fill-in and publish so that you’re always keeping things fresh. Then, pick a time – every day – or at least once a week – that you blog. perhaps it’s in the mornings right after getting up when the world is at peace. For me, in college, it was 2-4AM, right after coming home from partying, every weekend. Now, it’s 6-8PM, after the work-day has ended, while I’m still at work, and have some peace and quiet.
- Always leave them wanting more. =)
If you start a blog after reading this, I expect to see the URL plastered everywhere, and I expect you to coomment back here. =)