As I gear up to teach another semester of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media at the University of Toronto, I think about our students and how they will react to the course requirement to publish online.
Some are thrilled at the idea, others a little nervous. Each term, as we discuss the personal and professional aspects of content creation in general, and blogging in particular, I think about my own early days as a blogger, although the social media landscape has changed a lot since 2004. Imagine life without Twitter and Instagram!
Here is some of the blogging advice I’ve accumulated since then. If you’re a new blogger, I hope you find it useful.
Blog about a topic where you have both knowledge and passion. If I did a football blog, it would be pretty awful, since I know zilch about the sport. Yet, I love writing about podcasting, social media and communications. Bonus: You are much more likely to carve out time to blog when you care about the subject matter and you want to help others. That helpful mindset is important!
Know what you want to accomplish with your blog. If you just want to ramble or express yourself creatively, go ahead and have fun. But if you want to generate leads for your consulting business, you need to publish solid, useful content. (One of my students last semester snagged a $100,000+ contract for his agency, thanks to some well-written blog posts about PR.)
Write for your ideal reader. Try to picture her. What kinds of content would she care about? Keep your search engine optimization (SEO) keywords in mind, but always write for people. (And please don’t think you can outsmart Google. You can’t.)
Create an editorial calendar. If you plan several weeks’ or months’ worth of posts, your blog will have structure and cohesion. And this up-front work will save you from sitting each time wondering: “What the heck should I blog about today?” Yes, you can still add ad hoc content to discuss breaking news or developments in your industry.
Craft compelling headlines. Your potential readers see an almost endless supply of interesting content every single day, so be sure to grab them with headlines that scream “read me!” without resorting to clickbait, which will turn people off.
Curate. Your blog is not all about you. Be sure to share smart thinking by other people, and don’t be afraid to add your own thoughts.
Add multimedia. Have you thought about publishing audio or video? At the very least, include a photo in every post, to attract eyeballs. Studies show that people are more likely to click on your content and share it if it contains a visual element.
Amplify your content with social media. Only your regular readers, especially if they subscribe to your blog, will see your content unless you promote it, so use Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook to share. In general, subscription numbers are falling, and many would-be readers will find you via Twitter or other social platforms, so don’t be shy about sharing your content.
Publish elsewhere. There was a time when bloggers published only on their own properties, and seeded links to their posts on social media. I think you should still link to your posts (see the paragraph above), but you should also share full versions of your posts on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook Notes. These days, with more and more people consuming content on mobile devices, and spending time on Facebook, you want to catch them where they are already hanging out. If your reader is on Facebook drooling over his friend’s Florida photos, he may read your content while he’s already there. He might be less likely to click on a link that will take him outside Facebook. Ditto for Twitter.
Check your stats but don’t obsess. It’s always fun to see an uptick in your statistics, but don’t waste energy worrying that your numbers aren’t climbing quickly enough. Your measure of blogging success should not just be about numbers anyway. Go back to what you were trying to accomplish, whether that’s book sales, speaking gigs or something else. Is that happening? And if what you are doing isn’t work, recalibrate.
Engage with readers. Read and respond to comments, which encourages people to return to your blog, and might just build a sense of community over time. That being said, today many comments occur on other platforms – especially Twitter and Facebook – so they won’t be seen on your blog. That’s life; don’t stress about it.
Get the technology right. You don’t need to become an HTML expert, but be sure to get the basics right. For example, enable comments, be sure photos are tagged properly, and embed all links, including videos.
Know your terminology. A blog is the overall publication. A blog post is an individual entry. Say, “I wrote a new post today,” NOT “I wrote a new blog today.” Confusing these terms detracts from your credibility as a publisher.
Is there a blogging tip I missed?