Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Blogging 101: Back to basics

posted by Andy Leff
Over 70 million blogs now populate the blogosphere, and thousands more are started every day. Some are successful. Others are not. But all have become an integral part of many people's daily lives.

And if they haven't yet, they should be. Yes, I obviously drink the blogging Kool-Aid. But I believe blogs will soon become an unavoidable tenet of online life, so everyone should be clued in.

To that end, I have taken a step back from my usual level of blogging advice, and developed five guidelines for blogging beginners. (If you're more intermediate, check out last month's post on making your blog pop.) Here goes:

1. Blogs are easy to understand, and even easier to start.

A blog is like an online journal, or weblog (the origin of the word blog), where you write your thoughts about anything. However, this journal has no lock and key, and is wide open to the public.

Getting started takes minimal effort. All you need is a blog template, which you can download for free from sites such as Blogger or Typepad. Once you choose your template, you can customize the colors and design to reflect your personal Web site, current mood, corporate branding, or however the spirit moves you.

2. Pick your passion.

Now that you have a workable template, what's next? Write about a topic that draws out your creativity and passion. It's easy for anyone to write about their day, but who out there really wants to read an hour-by-hour account of your life, starting with what you ate for breakfast last Thursday morning? Even if that breakfast was amazing, I guarantee no reader will be as excited as you.

Once you find your peg, blog daily. Also, make sure your writing skills are up to par, your message is clear, and your thoughts make sense. If you type blog posts with enthusiasm, that relish will rub off on your audience, and actively involve them in reading and commenting on your posts. Which brings me to my next guideline ...

3. Cultivate your audience.

Let’s tackle where to find an audience. Web 2.0 has created an abundance of new technologies that help bloggers network and build followers. Look for readers on social networks such as MyBlogLog, Technorati, Digg, and MySpace.

These sites are free to use, and paves a path toward meeting people with common interests. If you interact with them on these sites, they will interact with you on your blog. Through it all, remember blogging's golden rule: Create something of value for your readers, or they will not return.

4. Sidestep common stumbling blocks.

There are a couple issues many new bloggers encounter. One is information disclosure. Always remember that your blog is a public journal, so any information that you put out there can be read by thousands of people. As such, don't post any information you wouldn't share with the average Joe.

An important subset: Avoid blogging about your job. Blogs' universal access means that if you're griping about your boss or belittling a coworker, your chances of being discovered increase.

The second problem is lack of direction. If you use your blog to talk about the rainforest, then talk about the rainforest -- not the score of the Yankees game from the night before. Scatterbrained blogs turn readers off.

The last issue is accepting criticism. Many bloggers become uncomfortable when people critique their blog, and simply give up writing. Imagine if you did that in the offline world -- you'd eventually have nothing left to do or talk about! The fun part about blogging is that you can start an online debate, and embrace feedback and criticism. It can only help you and your blog grow.

5. Reap blogging's benefits.

Believe me, blogs are awesome. Here's why. They open the door to meeting new people in your daily life, seeing where readers come from, and hearing what they have to say.

And the feedback you get from your readers will expand your own horizons and thinking process. View your blog and other blogs as a place to learn more about yourself and your community. Plus, blogs get you to do research on the Internet, and explore new avenues that might have intimidated you before.

Blogs can even be a source of revenue. You can place Google AdWords or other advertising on your blog, and get paid for it. That way, you are not only writing and sharing your thoughts with tons of people, you're making a couple of bucks on the side. And if your blog becomes really popular, you can take blogging on as a full-time job.

So if you're a total blogging neophyte, or are on the fence about starting one, I hope I've shown you it's not as intimidating as you originally feared. Sure, blogging takes some elbow grease, but it's also FUN. And the rules for it are still being written, so it's the perfect opportunity to leave your digital mark.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?