Yeeeeah boyyy! (source)
A few folks have asked me in the past to talk about blogging from both a personal and professional perspective, and being me I feel like there’s so much more to learn and that I’ve really barely scratched the surface. But hey, we gotta share what works and what doesn’t, so I thought I’d start this first post on the topic with some key lessons I’ve learned over the past five and a half years.
My blog has definitely evolved, by the way. In late 2008, someone I worked with encouraged me to start a blog when I was dealing with the impending death of my father. She knew I liked to write, and while I was very technically averse in my writing (yes, it’s true, hard to believe looking at how prolific I am now here in blogland) because I love the feel putting pen to paper (pencils have always driven me crazy, don’t know why), I thought, anything’s going to help. And with the fact that I type ridiculously fast, what started out as sharing some random thoughts, memories and emotions during that time has ended up becoming one of my comfort zones as I can type almost as fast as I think, which helps me get out the words and give that callous on the inside of my middle finger (from a lifetime of journaling and academic papers and letter writing) a rest.
(But I still have a journal and write in it nearly every day. Some things come out easier from the pen, and I don’t like hucking my laptop with me wherever I go)
Anyhow, here are just some of my suggestions for bloggers just getting started, or for those who have been blogging and might not have thought about these things…
Start out with a free blog site before you pay for anything. I spent my first three years on Blogger, but found that the templates weren’t as user friendly and the customization tools were limited, so I’ve been on WordPress for the past two years and am (fairly) satisfied. It’s not the greatest thing in the world but the spam filters are much more effective (I only have a few that make it through each year, and it captures hundreds and trashes them, so that’s awesome), the templates are in abundance, and the mobile app is rad.
Commit to blogging regularly. I stop subscribing to blogs if I don’t see them writing something at least once every couple of weeks. If you’re closing down the blog or taking time off, then just put a blog post at the top that says this, so folks know if they should follow you or if this is in essence an archive rather than an active site. In our information overload society, I know I personally can’t subscribe to more than 20-25 blogs without my head feeling like it’s going to explode 🙂
If you’re using others’ content – ALWAYS credit the source. Would you like it if you found something from your blog, whether it be a photo or written content, on another site with no mention of you or your blog to be found? Not only is it rude, it’s plagiarism. I see so many bloggers just lifting photos they find on Google with no mention that they’re not actually photos they took, or using graphics that they didn’t create themselves and not giving any credit to the source. (For me, if I see it over and over again, I stop following the blog.) It’s SUPER easy to give credit – add a hyperlink to the image or article (for me, I like to put it in the caption as “source”). Not only is it good blog ethics, but adding hyperlinks will often let the person with that link know that you exist as well, and that can lead to increased readership!
Comment whenever possible on others’ blogs you subscribe to. Not only is it good karma, but it is a great way to interact with people on different topics, find new blogs you’ve not heard of, and put your stamp out there for others to come find your blog! Now of course I have a personal bias because that’s how my fiance found me as we were both commenting on another blog. It is also how I met my good friend City Girl as I saw her comments on an international blog, was immediately intrigued by her writing, and after finding out she lived here in the area, convinced her to join me at a spoken word event where we both got on the mic and read some of our work aloud. She was even the officiant at my wedding! Kinda awesome where things have led from this blogging thing! (I’ve also met other friends through the blogs, including my amiga Sarah who I met in person last spring in DC, and the wonderful Maurie who I’ve gotten to hang out with both here in Portland and in her former Seattle digs)
Don’t afraid to be diverse as a blogger! Many folks think they have to focus on one category in their blog, especially in professional blogs, and I couldn’t disagree more. Show who you are. Show you have different sides. I remember a past employer told me I was not allowed to blog about anything not related specifically to recruiting. And you know what? Once I stopped sounding like a human being, the rapid increase in followers slowed, the interactions lessened, and suddenly I was just some robot rather than an interesting person people wanted to not just get to know, but work with at my company!
Don’t blog about anything you wouldn’t be okay with having in the newspaper. You’d be amazed at who’s reading you out there and sharing your sites via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. I started my blog out anonymously, but found that the more I wanted to share, the less anonymity actually ended up serving me. So I deleted the more personally explicit posts and found ways to share my stories, thoughts, and discoveries without feeling like my privacy was at risk.
Guest bloggers rule!! Not only will inviting folks to guest blog help lessen your load trying to regularly blog, it also creates great relationships and shows your readers more about you through who you choose to have guest blog. Make sure their content aligns with the message of your own blog, and work with them to ensure it’s the structure and format that will benefit both of you. And on the other side of the coin – offer to guest blog on other sites and help out a fellow blogger (not to mention get more of an audience!).
Be cautious of overly advertising products, too many giveaways, etc. People want to read what you have to say, and if you’re constantly doing product reviews or sending people to other links to win things, you could be sending a negative message. Like this BlogHer article says, “What you want is readers who LOVE reading what you write about, not readers who sign up because they have to in order to enter the giveaways. That’s not how you build an audience."
Understand how the comment approval process works from the reader perspective. Make it easy for folks to comment while also protecting your security. I’ve found the spam filters so much more effective in WordPress, that I don’t have to put six different steps like I did in Blogger for people to comment. While I’m not thrilled that WordPress’s comment feature requiring an email address is actually demanding registration on their website as well (I’ve recently updated my comment preferences to remove this, as I didn’t know this until a friend shared that she couldn’t comment without registering), the spam filter keeps me feeling pretty secure.
More questions? Ask away! More suggestions you want to share with readers! Go for it!!