I recently got an email from a new reader to my personal blog. She said I inspired her to start her own blog (perhaps my favourite compliment of all time), and then asked me for some tips.
I was amazed by how quickly I rifled them off. So I thought I should share them with you. Many moms are looking for some mental exercise (especially while on parental leave) and blogging is a fantastic way to add something of value to your resume to cover those gaps in employment. By spending a bit of time on blogs and/or on Facebook and Twitter, you'll gain skills in social media, while keeping Grandma in Cornerbrook up-to-date on your growing family.
Tips for Beginner Bloggers:
1. Write like no one is reading. In the beginning, this will be easy. Because, hey, no offense, but no one will be reading at first. You need to build and audience, which leads me to...
2. Let everyone know about your blog. If it's meant to be private and anonymous, then you'll have to go a different route. But assuming you're posting your thoughts on a variety of PG-AA14 subjects and just practicing your writing chops, then it's safe to post your updates on Facebook, Twitter and/or even send an email letting your contact list know that you're broadcasting your thoughts in an accessible way.
3. Let every stranger know about your blog. Whether you want your blog to be anonymous, (and don't delude yourself, it's really hard to do this) or not -- it's crucial to build an audience of strangers. Otherwise you'll just be posting your thoughts to your Mom in Medicine Hat every week. The best ways to build your audience are:
3A. Read as many blogs as appeal to you (and are similar to you in interests) and be sure to comment on them regularly. Many popular bloggers are busy. But if they see that you've commented they might click over to sample your flavour. If they like your flavour, they might comment back. They might continue to come back. You might become friends. They might add you to their blogroll and tell all their readers about you. And so on. This exercise (one that this writer is admittedly bad at) is the most cumbersome but important way to build relationships and readership through blogs.
3B. Add your favourite blogs to a blogroll. Reciprocal linking is crucial for two reasons: 1) it's free advertising, and 2) the more reciprocal links you have (meaning you link to a blog and they link back to you), the higher your Google ranking and the easier it is for other potential readers to find you.
4. Try to write 3 times a week. If you want to build an audience -- assuming that's your objective -- you'll have to work up to that amount. If your objective is just to play around online and write stuff when the mood hits, then don't worry about this, but don't expect to be a crazy popular blogger either. Set realistic expectations based on the amount of effort you're willing to put in.
5. Don't get caught up in the numbers. This goes back to point #1. Once you get caught up in who is reading you, your daily statistics,etc. If you do, then you'll start changing your style and life to attract readers. Be true to yourself. If you write it well, they will come.
6. Include more paragraph breaks than you would if you were writing in a Word document. One's eyes get tired faster reading a computer screen. Break up the paragraphs more than seems natural, so that you don't lose readers before you've made your point.
7. Include images when you can, but don't steal them. Use your own, or check out Stock Exchange for free photos (though they're not the greatest always), Flickr's Creative Commons licensed pics and iStockPhoto (small fee per photo) are usually best for stock imagery. Check the rules on whatever site you use to make sure you're following protocol and not stealing someone's artwork.
8. Practice, practice, practice. The craft of writing improves the more you read and write. Keep doing it. As they say, do what you love and success will come.