Something very strange has been happening to me recently. People have been asking for my advice on blogging, like I’m some sort of expert! The first time I wondered why are they asking me? However, as time has gone on, I’ve realised that having 12 months blogging experience seems to really count as something these days – especially in Asia Pacific. It’s all been a bit baffling, but quite motivating as well.
And then last week I had a meeting with a serious digital marketing professional – 15+ years of experience – and told him what had been happening and he said absolutely: your experience is really valuable, share it, that’s what people want to know about, especially as you’ve been doing it long enough to learn a lot, but also not so long you forget the earlier challenges.
So it’s gotten me thinking about all of the things I’ve learnt, as well as the aspects I’ve found challenging, and you know what, he’s right, there is a lot to share and maybe I could help someone? It’s important to mention that I am not for a minute suggesting I “know it all,” however perhaps what I’ve learnt can help you move quickly into blogging, if that is something you want to do? Because that is the question people are asking me – how do you even get started?
It would be GREAT if others more experienced than I reading this would be willing to share what they’ve learnt as well? We all know that blogging is only going to grow and become a fundamental part of the marketing arsenal for business, so it would be great if we pooled our experience and expertise. I definitely see professional blogging as a teaching and sharing best practise platform, so let’s use this blog as a teaching and sharing conduit to support this growing community? Let’s face it, one of the first learning experiences of blogging is getting people to support and promote what you do!
I started blogging officially about 12 months ago and now have two blogs. My first blog is a personal blog with a goal to build my profile to get books published one day. I haven’t achieved that goal yet, but when a publisher comes knocking, I’ll have 12+ months of content to show them and a platform to “launch my personality.” Therefore, the goal of that blog was to create a platform to support my publishing ambitions. I’m not going to put a link to it here, because it’s a very different message to the SAJE blog, and I’m planning to keep them separate – as much as you can keep things separate online. Both blogs are just designed for completely different audiences and it focuses on things like cosmetic surgery, social issues, motherhood, and the like. It’s very different.
When I started that blog, I didn’t launch it officially for the first few months. I wanted to populate it before I went public, and I only shared it with a handful of great friends to get their feedback. Therefore, it’s only officially been out in the world for more than six months and in that time, I’ve had more than 6,000 hits. I reckon that’s pretty good considering it’s just the thoughts rattling around in my head. Suffice to say, I’ve been really happy with how it’s grown and evolved, plus people have been extremely positive about what I’ve written – great. But the experience has definitely taught me some amazing lessons.
Then in December I officially launched our SAJE blog on the corporate Website. The problem is I am not technical at all, and I didn’t know how to add the tools and widgets to push people on to the site – things like Tweet buttons, LinkedIn buttons, Facebook “Like” buttons etc… so it was practically impossible to drive traffic to the site. I posted up a few blogs, but as time went on, I realised I either needed to get the technical skills VERY quickly, or look for another blogging platform to launch the blog. And that is where you are right now. It’s a WordPress platform, and I am very happy with the functionality it offers me. I’ll speak about blogging platforms later.
I officially “launched” the blog on the new platform last week and got over 300 hits in the first couple of days, as well as a blog published on Economywatch.com – an online publication with over one million global readers. That is a really great result for someone like me, launching it essentially from scratch. One thing I know is that I got great support for my “new” blog because I’ve already been building my profile as a blogger with my other blog. This is something else I’ll talk about, being patient as your audience grows.
Now I have two blogs on the go, but the SAJE blog is not just going to be me. It will include blogs from my business partner, Steve Johnson, and guest blogs from people we admire around the world. Our goal with this blog is to speak about things from a communication perspective and get companies and business professionals focused on being better communicators in all that they do. We will do this by sharing our experiences, profiling best and “it could be better” practises, featuring interviews with people who have something worthwhile to say, and we’ll include guests who can further build out the communication story in relation to their area of expertise.
That’s my/our story, but how can we help get you started and focused on the best steps to take for blogging success?
So let’s get started
What’s your blog theme/topic?
The first thing you’ve got to determine is what is the theme of your blog? What is the central topic that you will “wrap” all of your blogs around? Focus is very important, especially if you want to build your profile as an expert in one area.
SAJE’s theme is to discuss everything relevant to communication within a business context.
Then you’ve got to ask yourself, what is your goal? For example:
- Do you want to use this blog to build your profile as an expert in a certain field?
- Do you want to use this to build your profile to generate greater employment or promotion opportunities?
- Do you want to build your profile so you can make different employment decisions? The sort of decisions that allow you to live and work with more freedom and flexibility?
- Do you want to educate and teach your target audience about something you think they should know more about?
- Do you want to challenge conventional wisdom on an issue?
- Do you want to create a leadership position in a new field that people don’t know much about?
- Do you want to generate new business opportunities by delivering a platform that enables prospects to understand your area of expertise?
- What else?
There are a lot of reasons for launching a blog. Some want to raise their professional profile internally or externally, while others want to educate and excite. Having a goal for your blog is important.
SAJE’s goal is to speak about things from a communication perspective to get companies and business professionals focused on being better communicators in all that they do.
By achieving this goal, we are also hoping to generate new business opportunities as people come to see us as experts that can help them achieve greater success. So ours is definitely business driven. The other thing about this blog is our writing has to be superb. We are offering professional writing services as part of our “product” portfolio, so if we aren’t writing well here, we’re going to struggle attracting business. At the same time, if we write well, we attract business. I hope I caught all the typos in here!
Most small business organisations tend to use blogs to grow their business and the statistics show that SMBs will be one of the primary growth sectors for blogging, as SMBs see it as a business generating platform. Bloggers within bigger organisations have different goals, usually focused on building their profile and creating a forum for direct customer engagement.
Getting a clear goal in mind is important. It helps keep you focused.
Launching a blog can be a very anxious process. Some people can’t wait to shout their expertise from the rooftops, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll sit there squirming with embarrassment because you really are “putting yourself out there” for the first time. You also open yourself up to judgement and criticism, and this is something you’ve got to accept before you go public. If anything, embrace it and use the judgement and criticism to your advantage by opening up discussions around whatever is said. It’s alright for people to disagree with you, in fact, if they do, you’ll probably get better results. The other option, is control comments and only post what you want. You have that option. I prefer mine to be free flowing.
It takes a lot of confidence to step over the line and become a blogger, but if you really believe in it, go for it. With that said, why not ask a few people you value for their feedback on your idea? Define your topic and goal clearly and “sell” it to them?
Feedback from people you respect is always great HOWEVER, one warning: if you are in a field, or surrounded by people who don’t really appreciate what blogging can achieve, they may be quite negative. I now have proof that blogging achieves something in line with my goals, but when I started I didn’t know for sure. One thing I did know is some people thought I should be using my time more “productively” but I had to ignore that and move forward anyway. I’ve been proven “right” so you’ve got to weigh up all of the feedback then decide.
You’ve also got to beware of negative feedback coming from people who may not be as aware of the benefits as you – and as always, if you know someone who is generally pretty negative, or only “in it for themselves,” they’re probably not the best audience to ask. It’s important to be selective if you want feedback, but equally, don’t just ask “ass kissers” either. You get the drift right?
The important thing to always keep front of mind is if you believe in what you want to do, and understand the reasons you have for doing it; don’t let obstacles get in your way.
I didn’t need to ask permission to do my blog, but a lot of professionals do. Sometimes, when asking your CEO for permission, he or she will say “no, why would you want to do that? That’s marketing’s job.” I wrote a blog entitled “CEOs it’s time to Wake Up and Smell the Social Media Coffee” - if you want to explore at least one of the challenges great people are facing, read that as well.
So how do you get permission and do you really need permission? Some of you will be working with progressive companies who understand the value blogging can bring to your business. In your case, you might need to make the appropriate people aware, because a company who appreciates the value will help promote your blog and they’ll probably offer great training. Additionally, if there is a corporate blog, they may include some of your blogs there and add your blog to the blogroll – further extending your reach.
However, for those who do not have support and are getting a big firm NO, here are a few ideas:
- Get together a selection of blogs, relevant to your industry, and show your boss – include the audience the blog is reaching. Start sharing these types of blogs with your bosses now to generate some momentum. A quick email with a link, or through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, is a good start. Get them aware
- Reference any competitor blogs and highlight where they are being successful – the competition doing something progressive ALWAYS fires up the boss
- Put your blog together but do not publish it, and show them before you take it to market – you’re already there, they just need to say yes. Seeing what you have in mind will help sell what you want to do
- Tell them this is something you WANT and NEED to do for your professional happiness and tell them why – be honest, except if you want to use it as a platform for a new job – that might not go down too well in support of your argument
- Get together some statistics on blogs, the business benefits, how prolific they are, etc… and sell the story internally
- If you don’t have policies and procedures on this sort of thing, make a start at getting some together – the more serious you are, the more support you’ll get
If you want to get an idea of policies and procedures for social media from companies large and small around the world, this is a very impressive place to start Social Media Governance - if I come across anything else interesting, I will share it. In the meantime, you know your audience, so you’ve got to sell the idea. If you’re company is not open to this opportunity (or even a little scared of it,) defining the social media policies is only one part of the process. Getting them sold on unleashing the beast is usually the greater challenge.
If they don’t bite, what are you willing to do? That is the question you have to ask yourself, because a company that closes you down can really limit your potential. Is it time for a new job? Or do you just have to work harder to convince them? Be aware that many CEOs and executive teams, as well as marketing teams, are terrified of this stuff. It’s not centrally controlled anymore, and that makes people uncomfortable. How can you ease their concerns? The first step is find out what they’re concerned about because, once you know the concerns, you can address them, binging you closer to your goal of becoming a blogger.
I’ll see what else I can get together to support this aspect of launching a blog, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, pass on this WSJ article as a starting point.
Deciding on a blogging platform
The platform you use actually becomes very important, so do your research. I can only comment on two – I have my personal blog on Blogger, and this one is WordPress.
Blogger has been great EXCEPT everyone keeps telling me it’s impossible to sign up to my blog. That is a big issue, because if it’s too hard, no matter how much people like you, they will not take the time to sign up. I am hoping Blogger sorts it out and makes it more user friendly, because my experience shows that people really do not take the time these days.
Blogger has all of the widgets you need to push your blog out – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc… and the templates are good enough. The great thing about Blogger is its commercialisation aspect – companies can advertise and you can make money from advertising on your blog. This is also good if you want to advertise on your space to promote your business, to generate sales, etc…
WordPress does not have the commercial aspect, but I find it a much better platform – especially as I have no technical know-how. The templates are much more professional, the bits and pieces you feature on your site are easy to drag and drop, and it’s easy to manage and develop. So I am a fan. Additionally, today they’re advertising a writing support component, which is great for those who struggle with writing. WordPress is continuously improving the site and it communicates changes and additions on a regular basis, without overwhelming you.
I like both for different reasons, but get some feedback on the best platform for you based on what you want to do. For example, if you want to do a lot of graphics, videos, podcasts, etc… then you need a platform that can handle that. So the platform is an important part of the decision.
Check out this link for the five best blogging platforms at Lifehacker.
And here’s Appstorms top 10 recommendations.
Starting a blog is a very exciting but also a “holy-hell-what-am-I-getting-myself-into?” experience. I have found with both blogs that there is always something I want to write about. Once I got started, I found myself walking or driving along, thinking I need to blog on that! The important thing is that you do blog and do it regularly. Most commentary recommends once a week at a minimum, which I believe is a realistic aim for a professional blog.
People who succeed with blogs know how to keep the momentum going and getting people back and commenting. So it’s a big commitment. If you know once a week is realistic, set aside time for it and do it. But if that day is Sunday morning, it’s probably not the time to promote your blog. I’ll talk about that shortly.
So it is important to be committed and to regularly post up blogs. People will look out for it if they know it’s coming.
Now that you know you’re going to write a blog at least every week, what are you going to write about? Defining a content strategy – at least three months out – is a good place to start. Have a little black book, or use your mobile memo pad, and write down blog ideas as they come to you. Alternatively, if you’re struggling to come up with ideas here’s a suggestion – start your blog but don’t launch it. Once you start writing blogs, more ideas come, so use this as your way to develop a content strategy. Trust me, once you start, ideas will flow.
The other thing is listen to the feedback you get AND write blogs that answer the common questions you’re asked. That’s why I’m writing this blog, because people are asking me this question. If 10 people want to know, there’s a chance many more do as well.
I stay open and very flexible with my blog topics. I’ve got a few months of ideas together, including Steve’s soon-to-be-published blogs, but I also make changes when I see something else is really top of mind with my “audience.”
Blog on the important things to you, but also write about the issues your audience wants to know more about. If you do both, I believe you will succeed.
In addition to what you write about, you also need to determine a tone for your blog, and that tone needs to cross over all aspects of your social media strategy. For example, my tone with this blog is as professional as I want to be. I’m a pretty informal person, but this is a professional blog, so it needs to be professional in its tone, but it still needs to be me and not some false “creation” of me I want out there in the world. I believe in being true to myself always, so hopefully that is the tone I am setting. The tone I use also includes all comments and discussions, how I promote it on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc… My other blog is far less formal - it’s cheeky and forthright - so for that I also need to keep true to its tone in regards to everything I do in relation to that blog and I work hard at not mixing the two – having separate Twitter accounts and so forth.
It’s about being professional and relevant to your audience. If you are going after tradespeople, it’s probably best to be informal and in line with what they care about. If you’re going after engineers, they require a tone that is more formal, as well as lots of proof points. The corporate types in traditional “older” organisations probably prefer formal, well written, engaging content, while “trendy” companies want fun, funky, perhaps sexy, but also informative information, presented in a way that will really teach them something new.
What is your audience and what tone will you use?
What’s the best time to post blogs?
There are all sorts of ideas around this, but the common advice is Thursday or Friday between 2-4pm (in your target audience time zone) is the best time to post a blog. It’s the end of the week, people are looking for distractions and they take the time to look.
That’s the typical guidance; however I have a global audience. Having lived in the UK (working across Europe,) as well as Boston (working across North America,) and then living and working in Australia + Asia for the past 10 or so years, that’s a lot of time zones to factor in.
When I launch a blog in the morning, I get attention from West Coast US folks wrapping up their day, and some attention from Asia and Australia if people aren’t too busy. But I miss Europe and East Coast US, as well as busy people in this region. With that said, Asia Pacific is my primary audience, so I try and make sure that I post blogs at a time that works in this region – which has to be around 2pm if I factor in ANZ – an important market for me.
So for me to get the word out to everyone I hope to reach, a best practise would be early morning posting, 2pm in my time zone and then 8pm for the final audience. I haven’t done the triple promotion yet, because I don’t want people getting annoyed by me over-doing it, but it’s an important bit of guidance to keep in mind.
Remember, the time you push out a blog and the day of the week is important. So factor this in to what you are doing to ensure you succeed.
Get networked and get active
Long before you launch your blog, or even if you’ve already launched your blog, you’ve got to get really active online – and this takes time and commitment. If you haven’t done it, sign up for LinkedIn, create a Facebook fan page (especially SMBs), get a Twitter account, and whatever other platform people in your community are using. If you’ve already got them and they’ve been starved of attention, start feeding them again. Share links to great things you like, post interesting comments, ask questions and shake things up.
The other important activity includes making comments on posts you like, supporting blogs you like by sharing them with your community and becoming an active member, as well as joining discussions (with links back to your blog.)
The more active you are, the more successful you’ll be in getting your word out beyond your own community – and that is the aim of any successful blog.
Links, links, links
If you don’t know this, fill your blog with links. Link to every company you refer to. Link to articles you like. Link, link, link! It’s a really important part of your SEO strategy (Search Engine Optimization, which means getting picked up in Google searches, etc..) and it takes you to a whole new level of reach – so link and link often. You’ll notice all of the links I’ve placed.
Registering your blog
One of the jobs I haven’t done effectively – mainly because when I looked into it I needed to cut and paste code somewhere in the blog template and didn’t have any idea how to do it – is registering you blog in blog communities. If you’re on Facebook, Networked Blogs is a great place to start. Networked Blogs is easy and if you’re already active on Facebook, it gets you immediately linked to your community. Both of my blogs are up there.
But here’s the other blog communities I found. I’m sure there will be more, but it’s a good place to start. Maybe you’ll have more luck than me? Although I definitely need to do this:
I have to apologise in advance if any of these are not appropriate or the links don’t work. As I said, this is still on my to-do list.
One of the challenges I’ve faced is that people I know and care about don’t always appreciate their role in helping me be successful – I mean not one member of my immediate family has signed up for either blog. It’s tough stuff. I believe this is because many people are still not aware of the role they play in helping you succeed – YET. It’s changing and I have a small circle of professional friends who are constantly promoting my work beyond my community, but it can be quite disheartening in the early blogging days.
For example, you’ll launch your blog and no one will comment, no one will sign up and no one will share your link. You’ll find yourself scratching your head, wondering where you went wrong? Asking yourself is it really that bad? Then you’ll be invited to a BBQ and 20 people will comment on your blog and you’ll say “what, you’ve read it? Well sign up then or at least post a comment!” But many of them will not follow-up. They’ve just got other priorities, and like I said, they don’t appreciate the role they play in supporting what you’re doing.
Some people are really great at promoting their blog. They happily ask friends to retweet, post, like, comment, and so on. While others – me being one of them – just struggle to find a comfort level with this. I can’t help it, I’m just very uncomfortable asking people to promote “me,” and I’d much prefer it if people WANT to do it. I’ve definitely got to change my attitude and overcome this anxiety about promoting myself – I think I got that from my Dad. It’s not easy to do.
The good news is things are changing rapidly and people are becoming aware, but not all communities are. I am in a more social media savvy world. I know my role in helping other’s succeed and many of the professionals I work with do as well. If you are in a conservative business, where blogging is a new thing, you might need to select a group and educate them on how they can help you. If they like what you’re doing, they should be supportive – it can be awkward though.
Patience is another thing you have to master. When I started blogging, Blogger didn’t have any statistics, so I didn’t know how I was doing. They introduced stats a few months ago and now I know how widely my blog is being read. Additionally, when I do Google searches I find it posted on other Websites when a blog topic is relevant – very cool. But it takes time. You need to build your credibility and appreciate that people are swamped these days. This means you’ve got to think about how you can make your blog phenomenal. Let’s accept something very important – your blog has to be something special to be the cream that rises to the top, because the competition in blog-land is only going to grow. Why would your audience choose you over the competition?
That’s all great, but I can’t write!
Unfortunately this is true for many professionals – it’s not everyone’s skill. Some people have amazing knowledge in a particular area and they can talk about it ‘til the cows come home, but they don’t have the skills to put the words together to really resonate with their audience. The obvious, but not a quick-fix solution, is go and do a writing course! Another of my tips for writing is read everything you write out loud and you will see if it makes sense. Trust me, this works. I do it all the time. If there’s a pause in the words, it probably needs a comma or a full stop. Basic practises really help.
For those in bigger organisations, who are being supported internally by your business, you’re in a lucky position, with a marketing team to support you. Just make sure they don’t try and “control” you or your style too much. An ideal scenario is for big companies to hire editors to help with the growth in this sector.
But SMBs don’t have this benefit. What can you do? One thing is “outsource” your blog and have it ghost written by a professional writer. Many do not agree with this, as they believe someone else can not capture another’s style or tone. I am 50-50 on this point, because one thing I do offer as part of my business is ghost writing blogs BUT I only think it works if you find someone who is able to write in your style and who understands where you’re coming from. I only suggest it to people I know I can work with, as well as get on with – like-minded folk. So select your ghost writer well and make sure they’re the sort of person you jive with.
Also, don’t forget, ghost writers will add time to getting your blog together, as you go back and forth with approvals/feedback, and that can be an added challenge, especially in the early days when you’re keen to keep things moving.
If ghost writing is an option you want to take, choose wisely and always take the time to read the final content and change words if it’s not how you would say it. Your blog is an extension of you, so own it as much as you can, even if writing isn’t one of your talents.
I despair to think of the genuinely brilliant people out there who have so much to share, but don’t have that one talent needed to enter this world – the ability to write. As with all obstacles, there are ways around, so find it, otherwise people who don’t know as much will be getting their version of the message out, and it won’t be as good.
There’s a good reason newspapers and media outlets have editors and sub-editors – they are the voice of reason, the objective people who can shape a story into a more powerful piece. With blogging, you don’t have that benefit and a lot of the criticism towards blogging comes from this. You won’t always make wise decisions, you won’t always give your blog the most catchy headline, and many times, content will go out full of typos. That’s life. It doesn’t matter how good you are, mistakes slip through.
Depending on how prolific you are, finding people to edit your work in the timeframe you want it done, can be challenging. But if there are people whose feedback you value, and others’ who do have editing skills, take advantage of it if they are willing. However, be aware that it can be a burden for others, who already have another job to do.
Editing really needs to be forgiven in the world of blogging, but bloggers do need to put their best efforts into delivering the highest standard of content – I personally don’t enjoy reading badly written content.
Finally, there is another aspect to editing. Sometimes your judgement will be off and you’ll post something that hits a nerve with someone. It’s not your intention, but you don’t have anyone to run your ideas by and these things happen. It happened to me once, but I learnt a lot. So don’t criticise people, don’t mention names unless it’s really relevant, don’t criticise the competition and try not to be negative. You can be constructive, but being negative is rarely ever necessary – if something or someone is annoying you, don’t just criticise them – put a case forward with an alternative point of view. That’s always more powerful.
You are the writer and the editor, so make sure you really think about what you are putting out there. It’s a tricky balance I’ve got to admit. A good tip, if it doesn’t feel right, don’t publish it and get feedback.
Unbelievably this is the longest blog I’ve ever written and I know there’s a lot more to say! If you’ve gotten this far, well done. I’m impressed. I promise never to write another one this long, but then, how can I make a promise like that? Here’s me thinking I didn’t have all that much to share, but maybe I do? I truly and sincerely hope it’s been useful and will continually try and present blogs that really help my readers achieve their goals – be it blogging or any other area of expertise I have in my tool box. And I’ll keep my eyes open to include further thoughts (from other professionals) to help great people who want to blog get going and get going smartly.
In the meantime, if you like what you’ve just read or found it useful – SHARE IT, COMMENT, TWEET IT, LIKE IT, SIGN UP TO THIS BLOG, follow SAJEIdeas on Twitter, like our Facebook page find me on LinkedIn + whatever else you can think of to support SAJE in its goal for global domination in the communications sector – that’s what it’s all about after all, or am I now being too pushy?
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