Wednesday, 02 December 2009 12:34
New to blogging? No problem! Here are some tips and tricks for getting your message across, your name in lights and, of course, the hits.
Blog comes from “weblog” which was initially a list of interesting websites you kept on your home page. Somewhere along the line that developed into what we know today as the blog - a regularly updated website containing posts in chronological order (with the most recent at the top of the page) that are interactive (allow commenting, voting, polls etc.) and are usually run by one person.
There are many different kinds of blogs. Some are personal diaries, some are travel logs, some are records of interesting pictures. You get written ones, video ones (vlogs), audio ones (podcasts) and even multimedia ones. At MyDL we feature two different categories of blogs: Digital and Lifestyle. Digital blogs are focussed around technology and Lifestyle blogs allow you to speak about whatever else is on your mind. They are all displayed on the website homepage and then archived under “Blogs”.
There are three stages to writing a blog post: Researching, writing and promotion.
Researching aka “don't look like an idiot”
The first thing you need to decide is what you want to write about. MasterNewMedia.org's blogging guide suggests “find yourself a niche”. This means that you must think about something you're an expert on and write about that. If it's cellphones then you can keep on top of what's hottest, if it's the experience of a university student living on a limitted budget, then you must write about that. It's the old addage: write what you know.
But just because you know about the niche doesn't mean you know everything. The best blogs are always those that are well-researched. And besides, you don't want to look like an idiot.
Once you have decided what you want to write about, hit the search engines or even go to the local papers or library. You'd be surprised how useful old media can still be! Be careful when quoting from blogs or wikis. The information may not necessarily be correct because anyone can write it, so double check it. Make sure that you get all sides of a story. Even if you are going to write a rant about how terrible something is, you need to be prepared to defend yourself if comments come back telling you you're wrong.
NOTE: You do not have to be objective! Blogging is not the same as being a news journalist. Pick a side and stick to it! This will encourage people to comment on your blog, interact with you and, most importantly, come back to see what else you have to say! However, though, being subjective is not the same as being an idiot.
Writing: aka “don't kill your reader”
Your title should be two things: descriptive and short. Wit is a bonus but not necessary.
A descriptive title is important because you want people to get what they expect when they go to your post. If your post is about shoes and your title hints it's about the latest digital camera then people may go to your blog, but they will be upset at being misled and likely not come back. Short blog titles stand more chance of being picked up by search engines and, believe it or not, people. People tend to glance down lists, skimming titles. And if they're required to read something long and complicated they likely just won't.
Known in journalism as the “lede”, the intro should also be short and descriptive. The idea is to hook people's attention – think of it like this: they see your title and they lean in for a closer look and then you grab them by the nose and lead them through the rest of the post. The general length for a lede is 25 words or less.
If you still have that image of you pulling some poor fellow along through your post by the nose, hang on to it. Now you're leading him over stepping stones across a rushing river known as “information overload”. If he falls in he will drown. So it's up to you to make sure he doesn't. The only way of doing this is by making sure that the body of your blog is well structured. Use linking sentences and linking words that show the relationship between the previous paragraph and the next one. Like stepping stones across the river.
Research has shown that, when reading online, people's attention spans are rather short. Make sure you use lots of little paragraphs and that your body is not too long. If you find it growing out of control do what they call “chunking”. This means dividing your body into smaller pieces, making use of subheadings (for example, this post). Subheadings are usually one or two words long and help divide the river of information into managable sizes. Readers can then skip over sections if they so desire. You may feel this is an insult to your writing, but if it means they get to the end of your blog in one piece then bravo.
You don't want to leave your reader hanging on the last stepping stone. Help them onto the shore at the other side and point back at the river saying, “Hey, look at what you've learned”. Use the conclusion to summarise your point of view and why you have it. Also encourage people to leave comments. Once people leave comments they will likely come back to see if anyone else has replied – which is exactly what you want them to do.
REMEMBER TO PROOFREAD: spell-check is your friend! Read through the blog before you post it to make sure you haven't left out any words or made any embarrassing mistakes. This will also serve as a test of how easy your river is to navigate. If you fall in you know there's a problem. If you're unsure, give it to someone else to read. Second set of eyes and all that.
Promotion aka “get hits”
Once you have written your blog and posted it, you should feel proud of yourself! You're almost done. In fact many people stop at this stage. However, you don't want your blog to just sit in cyberspace. You want people to be able to find it, read it, comment on it and maybe even be deeply emotionally affected by it. This means you're going to have to get people to come visit.
The first thing to do is tag your entries. Tags are just keywords associated with the entry, but all search engines look for them. Try use terms that people are likely to search for – names or topical issues. Make sure they are relevant.
Once you have done that, submit your blog to aggrigators such as Digg, Afrigator, Muti or Amatomu. These are places where people go searching specifically for intersting blogs.
Where would we be without friends? Post your blog link on Facebook, Gmail, Twitter or Myspace and have them come and visit. If they like your blog, they might get their friends to visit. Their friends might, in turn, get their own friends to visit and so it spreads.
And that's it. Soon you will be famous! Have more tips and tricks? Why don't you blog about it!
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