10 things to consider before you start a blog…

You have something you want to share with the world. So, you set up a blog and start writing. After a few hundred words, you start to wonder, “is anybody really going to read this?” Ok, maybe your quirky aunt or your best friend will read it and tell you how interesting it was, but as much as you love support from your family and friends, the whole purpose of your blog is likely to connect other like-minded people – so that you can share what you know and engage in an on-going conversation.

To blog or not to blog...?

Image: public domain

Alright then, let’s back up. BEFORE you begin a blog and write 5,000 words that will simply disappear into cyberspace, you might want to consider the following:

  1. Begin by asking yourself why you are writing a blog and who it is that you’d like to connect with. Think about what you hope to achieve by starting a blog. Write a mini-mission statement for your blog on a post-it note and stick it above your computer. While writing, you can look up at the note and ask yourself if your post is working towards that goal. If you are writing a blog for your business, it will be especially important to strategize and set serious goals and objectives for the blog so that you will later be able to measure the results. Shannon Paul and some of her contacts have some great comments on social media strategizing here.
  2. Once you’ve decided on a theme for your blog, realize that your content, whether big or small, should enhance the lives of your readers in some way. Will your posts help them to solve a problem or learn something new? What is the benefit to the reader?
  3. Are you planning to treat your blog like a community? Remember that you’ll need to make contact with your readers and engage with them. Exchange ideas, tips or whatever you’d like in order to get a conversation going. Get to know one another. Afterall, the people go online and visit blogs because they are looking for a sense of belonging. It’s amazing to see how many people might share your similar interests or passions in life.
  4. What about connecting with your readers? Will you give them enough points of contact to get in touch and stay in touch with you? You want to guide your readers back to your blog. Why not try a newsletter or mailing list? (if it’s appropriate). Foster a two-way form of communication. If you’re simply planning to spew out information, refusing or failing to notice the feedback you get from readers, it is unlikely that you will succeed in building a community.
  5. You should be asking yourself at all times if what you are planning to write will be of value to your readers. Is it worthwhile for them to read? If your readers aren’t benefitting from what they are reading, chances are they will not come back.
  6. Let’s say you’ve written an epic first post and you are ready to share it. Great, but who will you share it with and which tools will you use to promote it? My suggestion (though I realize I am a social media fledgling) is to build up some followers on Twitter (which is, in my opinion, the best way to connect with influencers – however you should assess which tools align best with your personal or corporate goals). Begin a dialogue with these influencers before you publish your blog. Submit comments on their blogs, re-tweet their articles (sincerely, of course); start a conversation with them. Then, once your blog is ready to go, you can share your latest posts with your new audience. Perhaps you can ask them if they’d be so kind as to take a look at your blog provide you with some feedback.
  7. Blogs need regular updates (I’m trying to take my own advice, here). Surely any blogger can attest to the fact that it’s not always a snap coming up with articles that people want to read…so why not draw them to your site by seeking out the hot topics? There might be a way for you to work popular subjects into your blog. You can use tools like Monitter, Social Mention and Google Alerts to help you identify what people are buzzing about.
  8. If you are writing a blog on behalf of a business, your superiors will certainly want to know how the blog is contributing to the bottom line. This means you need to consider how you will measure your blog’s ROI. Setting goals and objectives is crucial to measuring success (refer to point #1). Perhaps the goals you originally laid out were of a qualitative nature…for example, ROI on conversations: “are we moving from a running monologue to a meaningful dialogue with customers?” or “what are our customers saying about us online?” Many social media pros advise hiring an agency that specializes in analytics to help you uncover the ROI in this case, however I still believe you can do a fair bit of research on your own to answer these kinds of questions. Now, if your original goals were more of a quantitative nature (measuring traffic on your site, number of followers, etc), some bloggers recommend using free online tools such as AideRSS, Google Analytics and Feedburner. There is also, of course, the breakthrough software, Radian6. (If anyone has tried Radian6, I’d be interested to get your take on it).
  9. Last but certainly not least, you should really consider the amount of time you have each day to work on your blog. (Somebody, please tell me it gets easier and faster after you’ve been doing it for a while…?) Part of your appeal as a social media consultant is that you have the time to work on a blog – precious time that the company who outsources to you does not. Allocate a certain amount of time per day to work on your blog. It would be unfortunate to garner the attention of a few qualified readers with your first ten posts, only to drop off the face of the Earth a few weeks later. Plan to be consistent and follow through. (Easier said than done, but not impossible by any means!)

I hope these tips are of use to you as you begin your blog…Please share your comments with me. Bon courage!

Thank you to: Darren Rowse, John Welsh, Mashable and Shannon Paul for your valuable insights on successful blogging and social media strategizing.

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