Some Simple Advice To Help You Be A Better Blogger. Part 1.
This is the first in a new series of 4 posts on blogging. I will publish a new post every day this week. Please feel free to share them with anyone you know who wants to write better blogs, or get started blogging.
There are a lot of people out there who complain about the lack of quality in most of the blogging that gets done on social media.
This might be considered just a lot of bitching if it weren’t for the fact that it is true. Digital marketing has forced everyone to become a blogger on one level or another. And since millions of people and companies have drunk that Koolaid, I’m not going to tell you that this is all bullshit.
Instead, I’m going to share with you some of the insights I have developed as a blogger with close to 20 years experience. Hopefully it will help you become better at it if you do it yourself, and or be helpful in hiring the right kind of blogger for your business if you don’t.
A Little Background
I wrote my first blog in 1998. Well it wasn’t a blog. It was an email based review of the movie “The Blair Witch Chronicles”.
This column which contained this review was called “The Couch Potato Chronicles”. I wrote it for 11 years and during that time, created about 450 articles, expanding it to write about movies, TV series, the entertainment industry, books, music, advertising, sports and a bit of politics, whenever I got pissed off about something.
At its peak, the Couch Potato Chronicles was reaching in excess of 7000 people regularly. Which, back then, wasn't too shabby.
In 2009 I moved it over to a WordPress blog site and eventually phased it out, because enough was enough.
I continue to write mini reviews on Facebook. But mostly now, my blog is about communications and providing information and insight to the small business community. Like I’m doing right now.
Since I switched over in 2009, I have written over 600 posts, and have lots of followers, scattered across the social media landscape.
Pros vs Amateurs
Because I am a professional communications writer, and I like to write every day, blogging comes pretty naturally to me. But for people who aren’t professionals, that’s not always the case.
This lack of writing skill makes them hesitant, tentative, and in many cases forces them to get other people to write their posts for them. If this is not done right, it can severely impact your authenticity.
And, frankly, when it comes to certain types of blogging, authenticity is paramount.
If you look at a platform like LinkedIn Pulse or beBee, you can identify several different types of bloggers. And some writers fit into a couple of different categories.
The Op/Ed Bloggers: That’s people like me, who tend to work with storytelling to make points about life, business, politics, science…whatever their particular agenda might be. This group also includes some journalists who blog for different online publications.
The Diarists: These are people who basically tell stories about their past or somebody else’s but don’t necessarily turn it into something useful. If they do it well, however, it’s an interesting read, but with a small takeaway. You find more of these people on WordPress than here.
The Listers: This is the vast majority of bloggers on LinkedIn. I fall into this category from time to time. Like now. These are people, generally, who are trying to dimensionalize a specific point. Ghost writers, who tend to write for the exalted LinkedIn Influencers, love listicles, because all they have to do is crib information from the book of whoever they are promoting. This stuff can be very insincere and, in a lot of cases, cliche ridden junk, that most people already know.
The Reporters: These are basically people who tell you the news. And they are kind of useful because they keep you informed on certain business developments. But though this is an often used blogging technique, it just barely classifies.
The Analysts: These are people who write about events and their impact. They’re sort of like the reporters, but better writers.
The Promoters: These are people who promote products by writing blogs about them. They usually work for software and app developers and explain the latest and greatest to the great unwashed (Us).
The Critics: These folks attack issues. The big assault these days is on the US Government and the Pinhead who got elected president. This is what most writers call shooting fish in a barrel. I do a fair bit of this, mostly because it’s fun. But also because it’s important to make people, especially in US, aware of what what a huge mistake this was. (IMHO)
There is a lot of deeply impassioned writing that goes on in this area. Sadly however, there is a lot of singing to the choir.
The Profilers: These are people who write about other people, dead or alive. What most of them are trying to do, in my opinion, is see what lessons can be learned from the way those people lived and did business.
There are probably more types of bloggers out there. But I don’t want to get too micro about it.
So your very first step is to identify the type of blogging that you actually do or want to do. Because staying focused is the key to your credibility and the building of your following.
What I Know And Generally Tell Small Business People About Blogging
1. Fear Is The Mind Killer: Everybody can write. Not everybody can write eloquently. Not everybody can make a cogent argument and resolve it in their post. But most people can basically write and if you make it a point to write every day, you will get better at it. But it requires commitment and reading the blogs you like with an eye to how they are structured. Soon you will start to figure it out. It’s not rocket science, but the key to it is in between your ears…if you believe you can get better at writing blogs, you will.
2. Write About What You Know: I know a good deal about the sports I like, the TV series I like (I’ve abandoned movies), my family, my friends, politics and my business, which is communications. And I have written about all of that.
Now I mainly write about communications. I don’t do a lot of research, because people who know me have told me that reading my writing is like listening to me talk. So I just talk about the things I know and the things I believe. This is a healthy way to approach blogging. And it's both fun to write and relatively easy for people to absorb.
The idea is to build yourself into an expert on whatever it is you do. I’m building my expertise in communications, which is basically combination of the creative and the strategic, and that’s the underlying reason why I write these blogs. The surface reason is to share the insights I have learned from years of doing communications on a high level.
3. Every Good Post Starts With An Idea: I have a list in the notepad of my computer that just contains ideas for posts. I write them down whenever they strike me. And this year, I have built up quite a formidable inventory.
You should do the same, because what most people struggle with is what to write about on their blogs. This is because they don’t think of their blog as an ongoing project and really make it a part of their life. Keep your eyes and ears open for ideas that you can transmute into posts. They really are everywhere.
4. Don’t Be afraid Of Self-Promotion: I know that a lot of digital marketers tell you it’s all about the conversation and engagement and all that other good soft stuff.
But it’s really not. It’s about letting people know how smart you are so they will consider hiring you to do stuff for them.
A blog post is as much a dissertation on a certain topic or expansion of a certain idea as it is a piece of advertising for you. You don’t have to be all up in their face with it, but they need to know that your skill sets or your products are something that they could need. Because if you don’t tell them, they might not figure it out and take that away with them.
5. Length Really Doesn’t Matter: There are some people out there who believe that people don’t read more than 500 words. Well maybe that’s true if they are reading the same old crap over and over with a different slant. But if you make your posts interesting, they can be as long or as short as they need to be to make your point. If it’s interesting and tells them something, either factually or through your opinion, they’ll read it. And hopefully enjoy it.
6. If Possible, Write Your Own Stuff: I have a couple of clients that I write and edit blogs for. They write the basic draft or point form the content they want. I go through it, fill it out, make sure it’s in the ‘voice’ that reflects their company character.
Regardless of how you get your blogging done, you need to be actively involved in shaping its form and function.
7. The Only Blogging Rule Is That There Are No Rules: Some blogs are all words and really long. Some are all words and really short. Some have lots of pictures. Others have lots of diagrams and business info. Still others are all pictures or videos. And every permutation in between.
The only things that matter about blogs are that they are interesting, informative and that they reflect the personality of the blogger. Anything else is just bullshit digital marketing stuff.
Please bear in mind that this is strictly my opinion, because what else would it be? I have always tended to challenge whatever conventional wisdom was being touted by the digital marketing community. Why? Because despite all efforts to corral it, the Internet still is a relatively untamed frontier, where rules are really made up as we go along.
Digital marketers make rules to create the processes they sell. But I have created my own process and if you create yours then we’ll all live happily ever after in the blogosphere.
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