Like many budding bloggers, I too have read several tips on blogging. Most of the advice rang true for me, especially after a few months of regular blogging. I may not offer anything new, but herewith an unsolicited listing some of the most relevant lessons:
1. Be clear on why you blog: this may seem obvious, but is a fundamental question that needs to be clarified in your head. I started off like most people do, with a post saying something to the effect of ‘My first blog post. Come back more for soon’. Forget the readers, I didn’t go back to the site for a year. I then decided to narrow the topic down and very ambitiously decided to set up 2 blogs; one on Apple and the other on Advertising. I was even quite thrilled with the titles: Mac Love Not War and Adwala.
I soon realized that I have bitten off more than I can chew and decided to focus on just one blog – focusing ‘vaguely’ on things that interest me. But the fundamental issue isn’t resolved in my head – do I want to chase readership, lists, blog rankings and followers (which have their own compulsions and implications) or am I satisfied with just writing for the sake of writing? Frankly, I don’t have the time or the expertise to achieve the former. And I am not satisfied with just being the latter. Which kinda leaves me in a no man’s land.
Being clear about just wanting to express your views through your blog could sometimes mean writing for an audience of one. It could mean living with an almost anonymous blog. Unless if you are an exceptionally talented writer – have a unique perspective on things and are able present that in an engaging manner. But most of us are average writers and our take on things may not be unique, sought after and result in loyal readership. One can still command a dedicated readership through sheer perseverance.
When visitors and comments start coming in, it’s a high. And you end up wanting more of that – which essentially means writing more often, ‘marketing’ your blog and so on. I dabbled in both – wrote almost 2 posts a week and attempted to ‘popularize’ my blog. Both of which is hard work and unknowingly one begins to focus on getting posts out as often as possible. Result? Quality of posts may suffer – which in turn affects readership. When the results aren’t spectacular, you tend to go right back into ‘WTH? I might as well write at my own pace, about things that interest me and not make a ‘commercial’ venture of it. Only to sorely miss the high of increased visits and comments. Some Hindi film producers are clear that Box Office is the only success criteria. Those who want a successful movie which is loved by critics and get awards for it usually have a tough time.
So if you are comfortable simply expressing your thoughts through your blog, don’t get too hung up about unique visitors, Twitter mentions, Feedburner subscribers and number of comments. Just concentrate on writing fairly regularly and attempt to provide your views and perspectives through your blog.
2. Know thy audience: in my case, my audience would predominantly be from the advertising & marketing world. But my ramblings on Apple and New Media on the site may not appeal to the same audience. Not a good approach since I run the risk of not appealing to 50% of my audience with every post. I am toying with the idea of just focusing on one topic – be known for one thing. Personal blogs need not be focused on a topic and present a view of ‘things around us’ – an eclectic mix of every day life, politics, news etc. But when focused on a single topic -Hind films, let’s say – it doesn’t help to include posts on Linux. That’s precisely what I am doing. Avoidable.
3. Promote your blog: leave insightful comments on popular blogs, high traffic sites which have a common audience as yours; use Twitter and Facebook shamelessly to promote your blog posts. Use a good, SEO friendly theme (if you are on your own site) and use plugins like Google Sitemap Generator if on WordPress. And I would certainly recommend buying a premium WordPress theme with a good technical support.
4. Have patience: the world’s most popular blogs are mostly written by an army of writers and a huge team is perhaps working behind the scenes. Personal bloggers need to be more patient if they seek popularity and readership.
5. Post regularly: there are some blogs that I follow where the number of posts in a month would be 2. But those 2 posts would be so widely looked forward, read, commented that it will be all worth it. Each post would get comments by the hundreds, thanks to great quality writing. But most of us are average writers. And we need to maintain a discipline of writing posts regularly so that the blog becomes a habit.
6. Consider alternatives: when used well, Twitter can be a great platform for short, pithy takes on life around us. And less time consuming than writing a blog. Why not build a base of followers there?
Gawd, that sounded mighty preachy – I was just trying to put down lessons I have learnt – not give any expert advice. Ok. Lesson No. 7 – don’t be too preachy.