Saturday, 26 February 2011

How to be a Better Blogger?

As I was walking to work from the bus stop, thinking about stories and writing and blogs, I happened to think about various conversations / questions I had from new bloggers. I am by no means an expert, and this post - like all posts here - is only my opinion. It may work for some people, but not for others. You can only figure out what works for you by experimenting yourself.

These suggestions are for people who want to attract audience to their blogs. Some people may not care about that, and are happy to post their thoughts regardless of who, if anyone, reads them, and that is perfectly okay too. It's your blog. It's your choice. But if you do want to increase readers, these suggestions are based on the evolution of my blogs, as well as what I - as a follower - look for in other people's blogs.


In 5 simple steps


Blog about specific topic(s) - Target an audience 


For me, this is one of the most important things. My first blog was called, "Lost Wanderer's Random Blog" - and as the name implied, it was about random topics.Variety of topics. It was fine, but it didn't attract much audience. There are many people who keep a blog where they write about anything they want. There are various kinds of people in this category.

Some of these people are celebrities, so people want to read about them. They have already established an identity, so the audience is eager. For example, those who follow Neil Gaiman's blog, are happy to read about his pets, or wedding, or kids, or writing. Because they are interested in knowing more about an author they love.

Others are regular people, who want to share their opinion of everything. Some of these blogs do become very successful, because these authors have amazingly unique voice that appeals to an audience. But majority of these blogs get a small, but loyal following of people who know/like the blogger. Friends, family, people who come to know you in other areas, and then want to know you more. I follow some of these blogs myself.

Majority of blogs I follow fall into "specific topic" category. When I go to these blogs, I know what to expect. I know that if I want to read publishing, writing related post, I will find it there. Or if I want to read about art-journaling, I will find on this other blog. If the writing blog I follow suddenly starts posting about fishing, I am lost. I might go there a few more times to check if it's back on topic, but a few more fishing posts, and I won't bother. It's a waste of my time, clicking on it, expecting to read something I am interested in, and seeing something I am totally not interested in. I could have read another post by that time.

From personal experience, people who enjoy my journaling blog are not the same people who enjoy this writing blog. It's a different audience. If I combined them both, it would more than like annoy both of those audiences. One part of that audience is interested in my experiences/trials as a writer, and the other part as a journal keeper. Offering your audience a clear understanding of what your blog is about creates reader expectation. They know what to expect, so when they want to read about that topic, they know they can come to you, and you will deliver. That doesn't mean that you are restricted. You can, and most people do, post about random things now and again, and most followers enjoy that glimpse into their personal life. The key is not to lose the focus, and more or less to stay focused on the theme of your blog.

If you do have more than one interest, have separate blogs. They are free. And it is not much more effort, posting on two blogs than on one blog. Put yourself in your readers' shoes - if you pick up a Harlequin Nocturne Book, you know you can expect sensual paranormal story. If you end up with a wuss of a heroine who doesn't do anything more than bat her eyelashes, you are going to be annoyed, because that's not what Harlequin Nocturne markets itself as. The theme and focus of your blog is what you are telling your readers they can expect. If they don't know what to expect, they might not bother wasting their time.


Blog regularly


I am actually quite guilty of breaking this rule - but that doesn't mean it's not a good rule. This doesn't mean you have to blog everyday, or even five times a week. But ideally, you should blog at least once a week, though much better would be two or three times a week. There are millions of blogs out there, so you need to make sure people don't forget about yours. It is easier now, with Facebook, Twitter, all the other social networks to remind people when you have a new post, but it is still a better practice to blog regularly.

I may get to that eventually. I have some good periods, but when I get really busy with everything else, my blogging slips.


Share something worth reading

This comes back to the theme and focus of your blog. Some blogs are specifically created to give people advice on a particular topic. In that situation, you have a professional, or some sort of expert, who shares their knowledge. For other blogs, people are sharing their personal experience about something. On this blog, I share my experiences as a writer on the path to publication, and the process as I learn it and develop it. On my journaling blog I share my journaling process, prompts, tips etc. My hope is that people would find it useful, perhaps to avoid the errors I make, or to try what I do and see if it works for them, or simply read entries for interest.


Respect your readers

Don't patronise your readers. Believe them to be capable, intelligent people. They might have different opinions than yours, but that doesn't make them inferior in any way. Respect them as people. Respect them as readers. Don't insult them by preaching, or by insisting that your way is the right one. I hate posts where people absolutely insist that another point-of-view is the wrong one. More than like it isn't. All it is, is different than yours. Always remember that what works for one person may not work for another. This is especially true in writing industry. Think about all the successful writers, the ones that you admire. Now pick two or three of them - do they follow the same process? Have their writing come from same experiences? For same reasons even? I doubt it. We are product of our experiences, as well as our DNA. We are all different, and while basic motivations and driving factors could be summed up in psychological terms, at the core, what makes us tick is different. If you want your blog to be about one particular opinion, one political side etc. fine, do it. People who follow that same issue will be your audience, but don't expect those with different opinions to think just as highly of you or your blog.

Readers are spending their valuable time reading your posts. They could be reading someone else's blog. They could be spending that time with their child. They could be watching TV. They could be reading a book. They could be doing a million other things. But they are there, on your blog. Appreciate it. You don't have to fall over in gratitude, but take some time to reply to comments. If your blog gets hundreds of comments, of course you won't have time to reply to all of them - but for each post, at least reply to a few. Make people aware that you are aware and appreciative of their contributions. Let them know that you value it.

That's it. These are the things I try to follow. For me, blogging is about enjoying this process of sharing, and not a chore. That's why I refuse to make timetables for my blog posts. But I still hope, and work at, becoming a better blogger so that my readers would find satisfaction when they read a post.

What about you? What are your views about becoming a better blogger? What turns you on or off about blogging, or about visiting blogs?

5 comments:

  1. I dislike blogs that are too busy, with so many widgets that the page takes forever to load. And I don't like musics or videos that automatically play.

    And I like posts to be of a moderate length. If it's too long I don't feel like reading or commenting.

    The best thing I did was visit many blogs to get a sense of what blogging is all about.

    Those are my two cents. :)

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  2. Medeia,

    I agree. I especially have a HUGE problem with music and videos that automatically load. Nine times out of ten, I will just shut the window without even waiting to see the rest.

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  3. Those are great tips. Blogging regularly-or at least on a schedule of some sort--is key.

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  4. Thanks Jennifer. My next goal for at least this writing blog is to try and sort out posts in advance. I don't know if I will get there soon, but hope to get there eventually.

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