I was at a blogging event recently and arrived a few minutes after it started to find a slightly unusual dynamic had emerged:
An older American lady sitting in a chair, surrounded by young English bloggers – some of whom are still very new to blogging. The American, who had never been to one of these events before, was dominating the conversation and had been from the beginning of the session, and it soon became clear that she had *no* experience of writing or publishing for anonymous readers, blogging in general, commenting, networking, social media accounts and in fact, had little experience of the internet as a whole. She had decided that she was going to use this event as a “learn how to blog in an hour” session, and wanted to learn *everything* about blogging, whether or not that’s what the event was about.
I got the impression that she had the belief that it was “build it and they will come” when it came to blogging and that she would have to do very little work in order to get lots of hits and comments – and that they would all be positive. “What happens if someone says something horrible?” “Well you can either delete it, or accept it if it turns out to be correct. Or just not allow comments. If you delete it, you will still have to read it however, so If you’re not ready, don’t allow comments”. I think she soon began to realise that there was more to blogging than she realised, that there was a lot of work to be done, and the experienced people in the room had been doing this for several years.
So I’ve decided to brush off some general tips to those thinking of starting out in blogging – no matter the platform and no matter the niche.
- Write about what you know and enjoy. Readers will be turned off if they think you’re not sincere. It will also make it easier to keep going when it seems you’re posting into the void
- Do NOT think that writing one post and telling no one about it will make you a star – your post will be lost mere seconds after you hit the “publish” button, and no one will find you, so you have to get the word out.
Time and effort
- Blogging takes a lot of work. At the minimum I will spend a couple of hours a week promoting posts, doing admin etc. A post can take several hours and multiple edits before it makes the light of day, and even then I will spot a spelling mistake only AFTER I publish.
- Be regular with your posts, even if it’s once a week, or once a month. People won’t come back if they don’t know when you will post next, but they just might if they know there will be a post on the third Friday of each month. I used to post every other day, but that’s because I had the opportunity of building up a decent backlog of posts and have them scheduled. I’m now publishing less regularly, but still get similar levels of traffic, but that’s in part due to my back list of posts still getting hits.
- Keep some kind of tracking tool going. I have a basic spreadsheet that I got free off the internet, where I track which posts are scheduled when – which is really when scheduling posts well in advance (e.g. I’ve written a holiday related post). Other people track how diverse their reading is . My books – and where I got them from – are tracked using Goodreads, for the simple reason they have optional tags.
- You don’t live in a vacuum. Get out and socialise in the internet community. Take part in challenges like Bloggiesta; follow other people’s blogs; Comment, without spamming (no “nice post, please follow my blog” type of comments); Tweet; use Facebook including group pages; use Google+, including communities; Pinterest, Instagram.
- Learn comment etiquette – don’t be rude, don’t flame someone else. The rule stands: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. However, there are always trolls and spammers around so you have to develop a thick skin, delete and move on. Too many authors and bloggers have made a name for themselves for have a meltdown over something innocuous and have ended up as a laughing stock. If you think you cant cope with negative comments – don’t allow comments!
Reality can suck
- Don’t expect to quit the day job tomorrow. You will not generate enough money to be your sole income in the next 6 months. Or perhaps ever.
- Benefits come in more shapes than money. Making new friends even if it’s “only” online; Free books; free random gifts (I’ve had knitting needles
and a ball of wool from a publisher before now); free beauty products for beauty bloggers. If you are talking about something you’ve received free in exchange for a review, you need to disclose the fact in your post. Mostly it’s good manners but in the US I think it’s a legal requirement that you do so.
Sharing is caring
- Make it possible for others to share your posts. Include social media buttons on your posts so that others can tell their followers about what you’ve written.
- Include a “sign up via email” option for those who don’t use the same blogging platform as you do.
- Follow your favourite publishers, authors, brands etc on what ever social media works for you.
- Remember to include the related brand when sending a review out. If they thank you for the review – have the decency to thank them back, at least for the product. You never know where the conversation may take you!
- Unless you have a massive following (and even if you do), your voice will be very quiet in a very big room. Use software like Hootsuite, tweetdeck or Buffer to schedule your updates and promotion links at times when people are likely to see it (Follow the dawn and dusk?)
- Subscribe to sites like Problogger and DailyBlogTips. Not all tips will be appropriate to you, but once in a while you’ll find some tweak that’ll help you out.