"I’m sorry, did you say blog?"
I don’t remember the first time I heard the word “blog” but I do remember finding it a very odd choice of terminology. So, let’s start with the name and other common terms associated with blogging.
Blog: Short for Web Log, a blog is a website that is updated often with articles or written thoughts and organized to display the most recent item first. So, a blog is a place to publish and log written works that are organized in reverse chronological order. Most importantly though, a blog is managed by software that allows the average person (with no technical expertise) to manage the layout, design and content very easily.
Post: The individual article/thought that is published. Each new item published is considered a “post.”
Blogging: the act of writing, managing or promoting a blog
Blogger: author or owner of a blog
Blog Archive: All blogs are organized to display the most recent posts first. All older posts are organized through an “archive” somewhere on the blog. The “archive” allows blog readers to view any previous postings by month, week or day.
Blogosphere: used to refer to the thousands upon thousands of blogs in existence and the people who are influenced by them
Why read blogs?
People read blogs because they are conversational and in most cases, opinionated. People follow a blog because the blogger provides an interesting perspective on relevant topics and can speak freely. The most successful blogs are completely independent from any large company that would require them to play politics and be careful about what they publish. Though this “freedom of speech” makes blogs more interesting to read, it also means that you have to be more skeptical about the accuracy of the content.
Overall, blogs are great because they allow people to share their expertise with the world. Before blogs, there were only websites which were difficult to update and had no functionality to make publishing and “archiving” simple.
Why start a blog?
The most obvious reason to create a blog is to share your expertise with the world… and in so doing… promote your business. For decades, a strong public relations strategy was to establish a level of expertise on a specific subject with the local media. This allowed you to get quoted in the media and establish yourself as an expert in the market. In much the same way, a blog bypasses the media and allows you to publish your “quotes” as often as you’d like!
A blog is a great way to keep in touch with current clients! Share new insights or provide educational information to help your clients on a regular basis and stay top-of-mind.
Also, if your content is targeted to your area of business, search engines will start to drive relevant traffic to you and your website thereby increasing your exposure in the marketplace.
“Microblogging:” as if normal blogging wasn’t good enough!
Microblogging is basically a mini-blog that only contains short and sweet posts. Made popular by “Twitter” and the “What are you doing now?” phenomenon that allows people to keep their friends and family updated on where they are, what they are doing and what they are thinking.
The appeal of microblogging is both its immediacy and portability. Because posts are so brief (typically 140 – 200 characters), a microblogger can update her microblog often enough to keep readers informed as events, whether large or small, unfold. Anyone with a cell phone can send and receive updates any time, anywhere. Users can send messages as text, video or audio. I’ve seen this used most often when a blogger who has a lot of readers in a specific industry attends an event and posts thoughts or learnings as they happen via cell phone.
How to start a blog.
There are many websites offering user-friendly blogs for free. Blogger.com is a great place to start. Over time, as you desire more sophisticated features, you may want to upgrade to a paid account with a site like typepad.com but for entry-level bloggers, you can’t beat blogger.com.
Some tips for getting started:
Pick a specific subject that you want your blog to address: i.e. fashion, finance, marketing, sales… whatever interests you or supports your business objective for blogging.
Commit yourself to posting something new at least once a week. Your readers will come back for updates as long as you are consistent. If taking a 4 week hiatus (which I've been guilty of at times), publish a post letting your readers know when to expect fresh content.
Keep it personal. People will read your blog because of your personality. Don’t be afraid to be informal or inject your opinions.
Use interesting images whenever possible to enhance the subject of a post. You can find free stock photos at http://www.sxc.hu/index.phtml.
Let search engines know you exist. You can “ping” many of them by entering your blog address at http://pingoat.com/. “Ping” means to send the search engine a message letting it know you have posted something new. It will put your site in queue to review and include in search results.
Track your success from the beginning. Google offers a robust and surprisingly free stats package that allows you to see how many visitors you’ve had and from what sources (along with many other details). Set-up a free account at http://analytics.google.com and they will give you some code with instructions for pasting it into your webpage/blog.
Allow visitors to receive your content in their email. Use feedburner.com to add a “subscription” box to your blog. Feedburner will automatically send your posts to all subscribers keeping them engaged with you and your content.
If you have any questions about blogging, please post to comments and I’d be happy to respond!
Next article in this series: Social Networks – Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace
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