Monday, 12 March 2012

Top 10 Tips: Getting started with blogging

Image from ken, under a CC
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works license
Since this is a new blog for us at the University of Sheffield to share what we're doing with learning technologies it's got me thinking about what it means to start a new blog and some of the hurdles you have to get over to be a successful blogger.  Over the years I think I've written well over 1000 blog posts (of varying quality!) and I guess that by successful I mean a) that you can get some posts out there, b) you can keep getting those posts out there, c) that you write content which will engage your audience and finally d) that you yourself engage with your audience. 

How can you move from 'nervous practice' to 'part of your normal practice'?  Here are my top 10 tips for getting going with blogging...

1.  Decide who you're writing for
This sounds straightforward, but finding your 'voice' is hard at first.  If you think about your audience, it's much easier to imagine speaking to them and get that conversational tone right.

2. Decide what you're writing about
This makes it easier to spot content / ideas you'd like to share on your blog.  Don't make it too restricted though - not at first.  You may find that you discover a niche for yourself as your blog progresses, but it's better to let that emerge than to tie yourself up in knots by exhausting the subject too early!

3. Write for those people and and about that subject
Now, I know this is very similar to the last two points, but you really have to combine that audience you've imagined with your subject each and every time you blog.  Stay focused and you'll start to build a reputation and connection.

4. Blog regularly
If you can make it habitual it's far more likely to stick and you're far more likely to build up an audience.  Using bookmarklets to easily share links from within your browser can be a quick way to share content and create blog entries where you comment on whatever it is you've shared.

5. Don't over-think it
It's okay to write a blog post which says 'I'm just starting to think about...' or 'I'm not sure what I think'... the comments you get can help shape your thoughts - blogging is a great reflective activity after all.  Even if all you do is start by sharing a link / resource, that can kick start your reflective thinking and get you writing.

6.  Include an image
I know this doesn't seem that important, but the process of thinking about how your blog post looks again helps you keep it focused.  It also makes it more visually interesting, gives you thumbnails for blog posts which will stand out and it helps to break up the text.  Do not infringe other people's copyright, however - there are loads of CC licensed images out there or just take and use your own shots!

7.  Don't aim to offend
This also sounds obvious, but occasionally you might find that others take offence at something you've written.  If you haven't set out to be offensive, it's far easier to engage with the comments they've made on your blog post and this really helps resolve any issues.  Never write blog posts in such a way as to make an angry point - especially not targetting individuals.

8.  Proof read twice
Read your blog post once for yourself - checking spelling, grammar, punctuation, layout etc.  Then read it  again to check for any points where you might be misinterpreted or misrepresented, make sure you haven't breached confidentiality, copyright etc... and you're good to go!

9.  Tag your posts
This makes them far easier to find and aggregate / reshare.  It can also help you make clear your perspective - if you're trying to be funny (and be *very* careful with this one!), then tag it 'funny' to help clarify that's where you're coming from.

10.  Respond to comments
Collecting comments isn't what blogging's about - it's about sharing ideas and engaging with people.  Initiating a conversation and then walking away is kinda rude, so acknowledge replies, thank people for responding and participate in the conversation that follows.

What top tips would you include when it comes to blogging?  What have I missed from the list above?

Sarah

5 comments:

  1. Another tip: Get your posts out there - feed them directly to Twitter and embed the posts in other places, such as web pages and start pages.

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  2. That's another great tip, Andy. You have to help your content get out there and Twitter etc is great for that. I use ifttt.com to automate some of that sharing and it makes life lots easier on that front.

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  3. Any tips on how to link the blog posts directly to Twitter and other channels? G

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  4. Hi Graham, as I mentioned to Andy, ifttt.com is brilliant for just that sort of thing - you create triggers for actions which then happen automatically, ie when a new blog post appears on x rss feed, send out a tweet saying y thing etc. dead easy to do.

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  5. Excellent thanks Sarah. I'll have a look at that soon....

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