It has tickled me to no end that my planned post about blogging has been rather a difficult one to write!
More than a few times since I started doing more regular marketing work within the yarn and fibre industry I've been asked to put together blogging tips for my clients. Figuring it would be most helpful as a blog post of it's own, I've been collating various thoughts and ideas for a while now.
Perhaps not surprisingly, because this topic is work-focused instead of knitting-related, it's a harder one to write as I try and navigate the balance between the two. Which brings me to the caveat that I don't consider myself an expert on blogging by any means. C&Q has always been my space for capturing personal projects - what I'm working on or inspired by. I don't have thousands of daily readers and I'm lucky if I blog once a week nevermind daily! (And how marketers are often too busy working for their clients to take the time to blog and market themselves is a whole other post for another day...)
We are all blogging "experts" to a certain extent: we read blogs regularly or semi-regularly - enough to recognise what resonates with us, what interests us, what works and what doesn't. Even if we might not be able to articulate it, we can tell when we're reading something if it's a "good" post or not. Hint: it's what makes us want to share it, comment on it, talk about it with our friends...
So with that caveat in mind, here are some of the tips that I've learned over my time as a blogger and marketer, that I've shared with others and others have shared with me:
Personality: just be yourself
I think people get a little bit stressed out about finding the right "voice" to have on their blog when the best thing is to let your own personality shine. You wouldn't hide or apologise for who you are in real life, why do that on your blog? Affecting a voice that isn't your own can come across as stilted for a reader, and will be harder for you to write because it's unnatural to you and won't come easily. Unless of course your intention is to write completely as a separate character or alter ego, then by all means!
Writing is still more formal than speech though, so take care not to use too many colloquialisms or write in shorthand or "text speak". A good mindset is to pretend you're writing a letter to a friend, or your grandma! That will also (hopefully) keep the right amount of distance and professionalism between you and your readers (and keep swearing and over-sharing too much personal information to a minimum or non-existent).
Know your audience
Just like you should have a good sense of who you are and what you're writing about, you should also know who you're writing for. Is this a personal blog and only your mom is going to read it (hi Mom!), or are you writing your blog as an extension or your brand or your business? Do you want your audience to look up to you as an expert or is your blog meant for people just looking for a laugh and interesting content?
Keeping your audience in mind when you're writing helps to set the tone for your blog and allows you to focus on sharing the information that is the most relevant to your readers.
Take the first step, or make a new one
Often, the hardest part of the blogging process is just sitting down at the computer to write. There's something intimidating about that cursor flashing on a blank white screen! It makes it easy to put off writing when what you really need to just sit yourself down and have at it.
Luckily for us in the digital age it's easy to edit, rearrange, or even delete our thoughts once we're into the flow of things. Don't feel like you need to be married to what you're writing - never, ever underestimate the power of a solid edit! If it's helpful, save your draft and walk away for a bit and come back to it with fresh eyes.
If you're still finding it difficult to actually sit down and start writing - come up with a plan or an outline for what it is that you want to write about. Remember how our teachers used to make us write outlines before we wrote our papers in school? Same principle applies. Beginning/intro, middle, end/conclusion. Lay it all out with bullet points and then fill in the gaps.
Likewise, coming up with a content plan if you've got multiple blog posts in a week can help you stay on track so that you're focused on what you're writing about from one post to the next.
I sense a theme here...
It must be the project manager in me, but I love plans, themes - anything to that helps content hinge together. Do you have a focus for your blog or regular topics or ideas that you write about on a regular basis? Having a regular feature on your blog can help make things easier when generating content: if it's something familiar, it's easier for you to write about, or, it can provide a hook or focus for friends or colleagues that you might ask to guest blog for you.
Regular features are also a great way to build brand recognition for your blog and give people a reason to keep coming back for your thoughts and expertise. Depending on the size of your following, this could also be an opportunity to monetise your blog through sponsorship and/or advertising revenue.
Passion and authenticity are engaging
What are you passionate about? What motivates you? What gets you excited? What inspires you? A blog post is engaging if you are engaged in what you're writing about.
This also connects back to personality and being yourself. It's hard to fake authenticity. People can tell! Share without oversharing. Get excited. Be happy. Be sad, or frustrated or disappointed. Be honest with your writing. If you are, it will resonate more with your readers. Content that resonates is the content that makes us pause and reflect, share it and comment on it and chat with our friends about it.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Maybe you're not the greatest writer but you take the most amazing photos? A great photo can often do the talking for you - keeping the writing to a minimum or at least giving you a place to start. Even tutorials are more interesting with more photographs, and can even alleviate the need for step-by-step instructions at all.
One piece of advice I was given early on was to have photos fill the width of your blog. It grabs the attention of your reader and helps to pull them in. And like any other rule, it can be broken to suit you or your blog, depending on the situation. Sometimes if you've got something important to say it can be just as effective to not have a photo at all.
Practice, practice, practice
When it comes to blogging I don't believe that practice makes perfect. There is no "perfect" because there's always room for improvement. I whole-heartedly believe that the more often you do something, the easier it becomes and blogging definitely fits into that category. You may not be a "natural writer", but many writers aren't either. They've developed their skill and way with words from writing, and writing often. If helps, try keeping a journal to train yourself to become more used to the act of writing. Or if journaling isn't your thing use a notebook to capture thoughts and ideas when they occur to you. Looking back over your notes can often trigger a topic for your next post or perhaps even inspire a new theme or regular feature for your blog.
Finally, remember that you're the boss of your own blog. It's okay to change your mind! Experiment with your style and keep writing to find the groove that feels right for you, and your audience. And of course, keep reading other blogs. Pay attention to what resonates with you about posts and be inspired by them.
There's so many good tips out there. Won't you please share some of yours with me in the comments?