Monday, 24 October 2011

Write a blog you'd want to read!

By: TheGiantVermin Licensed under Creative Commons

Ok so you've deliberated and chosen a platform to use for your new blog and it's now time to WRITE your very first blog post... "Whatchu talkin bout Willis?" lol! Yes it's time my dear friends and I'll help you, so no sweat!

Using this example, I had to decide how I would lay out this post and how best to convey the message I'm trying to write to you.  In this instance I decided to open with an image to grab your attention, and I decided the best way for me to lay out my tips and tricks on writing 101 would be a bullet list - as it's a good way to organize and visually lay out text so that the reader does not become bored or fatigued.  These are just some of the thought processes that should be going through your mind when deciding how best to write a post that is read worthy.  See what else I learned on my fact finding mission;
  1. Write in the first person:  This requires creating a character.  You need to come off real, honest and trustworthy therefore if you do not know yourself, your writing will reflect it.  Your writing needs to sound natural.
  2.  Writing should be in a conversational style:  Pretty much means you need to write like you talk.  You can practice this by asking a friend to read your writing material to figure out whether it sounds like you.  I'm still having a challenge with this as I feel obligated to write in a more formal way...but don't worry we'll get there.
  3. Write with the reader in mind:  The old marketing adage "What's in it for me" rings true here.  If your objective to start a blog is to convey your opinions, comments, share knowledge to the WWW then it is important to be conscious of this throughout your writing.
  4. Keep it short, simple and clear:  Now I know what you must be thinking but I have an obligation to write 500 words per blog so never you mind ;)  People have short attention spans so it's recommended to keep to one concept per sentence - also sentences should be clear and short as well.  People shouldn't have to decipher what you are trying to say, they don't have the patience for that and will easily click out of your website to something more interesting...
  5. Asking a question:  Stimulate your readers to respond, share and converse.  You can gain followers this way and begin following other bloggers in return. After all, isn't this the definition of social media?
Chris Brogan, social media Guru and bestselling author of "Trust Agents" (which I'm currently reading and would recommend if you plan on learning more about social media) breaks it down pretty well  in his article on Writing Effective Blog Posts.  Please take a read - it's worthwhile!

If you are interested in learning more on Chris Brogan and Julien Smith's (co-author of "Trust Agents")  ideas on social media, see an interview by ABC News Radio below;

Remember, just be yourself, practice a little with a friend or family, read some news columns and get a feel for how the professionals do it, read other blogging posts, proof read your material and most importantly make sure you bring value to the reader who is taking the time to read your blog!

Do you feel ready?  Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

What will I blog about? What free tools could I use?

I assume that in reading this post, you have decided to take the leap into exploring the great big world of blogging so let's get started!
I'd like to spend a little bit of time on this post discussing your thought processes when choosing something to write about. As I initially explained, picking a topic took me more time than I would like to admit but finally the light bulb sparked so let me make it a little easier for you.

Firstly you need to make sure you are very interested in the topic you pick? Why?
Well, firstly you will be publishing content on this topic for years to come, that is if you plan to gain a sizable following, and you want to be sure that you will still have interest in the topic years down the line.

Do you have an audience for this topic?
Using a search engine like Google to figure out whether there are people who are interested in your topic. You can also review social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to give you a pulse on people interest and participation.

Do you have any competition out there who are blogging about that same thing?
If the topic you've chosen is popular your chances of gaining a huge following are slim to none. You can search blogs by choosing the blog tab/feature on Google. If you look at the top left section of the Google homepage screen, click the more button which will show a drop down menu of additional features available by Google. Once you've clicked the word Blog, you can search for the topic you are interested in and take a look at other bloggers who are talking about about the same subject. If you find the topic you've chosen has too many "experts", use the engine to decipher whether there are topics which aren't covered much by bloggers, which you have an interest in.  If you are able to find a niche and a need that you can fill, then you on your way!

Will you have enough content?

You must make sure you are able to write on this topic for years to come and keep it "fresh" all day everyday. This is why it's so important to have a genuine interest in the topic at hand. Another tip to stay on top of current events, is to use search engines like Google News, Technorati , Blog Pulse and Yahoo News for the latest in news.

From my research I've found that there seems to be about three platforms which are most popular. The platform I'm using Blogger , WordPress and Tumblr.

  • Blogger's strength lies in its ability to monetize by allowing ads to be advertised on your site, thereby earning you revenue. The catch however is that one must apply for an account with Google Ad sense as not everyone is eligible to participate.
  • WordPress strength lies in its vast selection of themes and while Blogger is great for personal posts, WordPress is great for building blogs on specific topics.
  • Tumblr is essentially a micro-blogging service which is great for quick upload of videos, photos and text and good for just a paragraph or two only. If you have the ability to engage with other Tumblr uses, you can follow each other and have your posts re-blogged throughout the community.

See Mahala's YouTube video discussion on the best platforms to use for blogging;


Where to begin?

My first course of action to blogging was to truly understand the definition of blogging and after trying to find the best description possible, I settled on the following by WordPress;

Blog is an abbreviated version of "weblog," which is a term used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other Web sites, usually presented as a list of entries in reverse chronological order. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects. Many blogs focus on a particular topic, such as web design, home staging, sports, or mobile technology. Some are more eclectic, presenting links to all types of other sites. And others are more like personal journals, presenting the author's daily life and thoughts. 

 For a look at the ABC's of blogging, watch this video by Common Craft who are brilliant at taking complex ideas and making them easy to understand;

It was a wise decision to do a little research beforehand as I had originally felt quite overwhelmed by blogging, as I foolishly thought I had to be an "expert" in a particular subject, or at the very least be highly opinionated about a particular topic whether it be current events to politics or something else highfalutin... This is not my thing as I'm sure you've gathered by now.

My next step, (if I had not taken a social media course) would be to figure out whether blogging is for me. Even though I skipped this step, it doesn't mean you have to. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean you have to... feel like you back in high school yet? Just kidding. I was tempted to say lol but I'm not sure if this is appropriate language for blogging. We can cover this topic in a later post :)

Do you:
1- do you enjoy spending time on the web?
Ask yourself how many hours are you spending daily on the web, whether it's reviewing current news, or connecting with family and friends on Facebook, or spending time learning about your favorite subject
2- do you like to write?
Do you keep a diary or journal that you are committed to writing in? Did you enjoy writing essays in school? Do you enjoy exploring your language and enhancing your skills in writing? Do you feel comfortable voicing your opinions, revealing your true self? Are you thinking creatively about how best to approach a topic that would be received well by your audience? If your answer is no, then this may not be the right hobby for you.
3- is there a topic you are passionate about?
It's advisable to be deeply interested in the topic you blog about as it will make the task of writing new/fresh stories each time easier, as well it should be something you want to spend your time on. If writing about the topic does not make you happy then this may be a reason to start thinking of a new topic, or at the very least a different angle to the same topic.
4- can you commit to blogging weekly?
Do you have a family who keeps you busy after work? Are you holding down two jobs? Are you studying and work? How often do your work over-time at work? Do you have other hobbies/interests which would take your time away from this endeavor?

Spend some time thinking about these questions and if you are still interested in exploring blogging, check my next blog.