I’ve been blogging for over a year now and have found the experience beneficial. When I share with people that I have a blog, they often ask me why I do it. Some express their desire to start one as they think it might be good for business. They aren’t quite sure, however, about the return on investment. Millions of blogs are launched into cyberspace weekly on every conceivable topic—many on no discernible topic at all. The question is, with all that’s out there, should you start a blog?
First of all, why do I blog?
I started a blog for a few reasons. As a communications professional, I need to have a working knowledge of strategies and tactics to reach various audiences. Social media is a fast growing communications vehicle. I felt that I needed first hand knowledge about using it before I could recommend it to my clients. The best way I knew how to do this was to dive in myself.
I also started a blog because in my relatively new role as a communications consultant (as opposed to my previous role as paid employee in a particular sector), I didn’t have a deep pool of past and present clients or a comprehensive portfolio. Having a blog allowed me to display my writing style as well as my knowledge about communications planning and practice. It provided me with a source of credibility.
Blogging has definitely helped me achieve these broad goals.
So, should you start a blog?
The first thing you need to do before undertaking any communication tactic is to figure out the goal of the exercise. What do you hope to accomplish? Do you want to reach potential customers, donors, supporters, your employees? Are you looking to build community around a particular issue or cause? Get specific—it will help you to define your blog and will make it easier to write.
Blogs are well suited to reach niche audiences because you potentially have the whole world of Internet users to draw from. There may not be a lot of people in your town or city interested in the finer points of collecting and appraising antique buttons but you can bet that there is enough of an audience on the World Wide Web to draw traffic on the subject.
Blogs can also be a way to boost a community of supporters for a nonprofit or to communicate with customers who are passionate about your brand. There are lots of worthwhile reasons to start a blog.
Some tips for blogging success
Starting a blog is relatively easy. Maintaining a blog takes discipline and expanding a blog audience involves more than just making sure you have interesting content. Here are my top five tips.
- Define the scope and audience – The tighter the parameters of your blog the better it will be. Rambling posts on any subject that comes to your mind will generally not recruit a loyal audience. If your goal is simply to have an online diary, however, this might be fine.
- Set a schedule and commit– This is the biggest hurdle to blogging. There are a ton of blogs out there that fizzle out after 5-10 posts. Writing a blog takes discipline. You have to write even if you don’t feel like it or can’t immediately think of something to write about. Bloggers build an audience when they have a regular, reliable posting schedule. If you only post once every few months, it’s difficult to maintain the interest of an audience.
- Use your own voice – Social media culture and mores dictate that transparency is not optional. It’s not considered acceptable to have someone ghost write your blog. If your name is on it, the blog needs to reflect your thoughts and ideas. You also can’t pretend you’re someone that you are not or get a friend posing as a customer to post fake positive comments. There are very strong feelings about this in the blogosphere.
- Be ready for feedback – There is some debate about it but most bloggers agree that if you don’t allow comments to your blog, it’s not really a blog. The “social” part in “social media” means there is a conversation taking place. So, be prepared to allow positive and negative comments. If you can’t handle this, don’t blog.
- Promote for success – Posting a regular blog will not gain an instant audience (unless you’re already well-known/famous perhaps). You will have to cultivate a following. This means, posting comments on other blogs relating to your topic/sector. It also involves making your target audience aware of your blog in the offline world as well. Promote it among existing customers, in print publications and during your general interaction with people.
Finally, there are a number of great resources out there to help you get started including the new “Blogging for Dummies” book depicted in the photo above. I’ve also found some great blogs on blogging. “Write to Done” offers guidance about writing in general as well as specifically for blogs. “Copyblogger” is also helpful.
What tips am I missing? If you’re a blogger, leave a comment explaining why you started and what the benefits have been.