So You Wanna Start a Blog
We recently discussed personal branding in one of my OB classes, and ways that your online presence can add or detract from your personal brand. There were a lot of questions about blogging, from how to get started, to the benefits or headaches of having a blog. I had one in-depth conversation about starting a blog, and I figured it would be helpful for anyone else that is considering a blog. So, here’s a few questions and tips to consider if you wanna start a blog:
What’s your goal? First, what are you trying to accomplish by starting a blog? Are you trying to position yourself as an expert in your field? Catalog your thoughts, phases of a specific project, or stages in life? Are you trying to help people with your expertise? The goal of the blog will drive the content, posting schedule, and tone, so you want the goal to be fairly broad. You also want to make sure it’s adaptable to different platforms and styles. This part of the principle comes from the book, “Built to Last”, which discusses how great companies use a flexible goal to keep pace with changing times. Google’s goal wasn’t “control the internet”, it was “compile and deliver information”, which means that if search engines become obsolete, Google won’t stray from its mission about information by moving to a new platform. Similarly, “position myself as an expert” is a much better goal than “write 800 words per day about the subject of pricing in retail markets”.
What kind of format? Sometimes a traditional “blog” format is not the best way to deliver your content. If you’re looking to help people by sharing your expertise, “how-to” archives might be a better fit than a daily or weekly blog post. If you’re looking to exchange ideas with people in your industry, a forum might best meet the needs. It’s wise to consider whether you intend to post regularly on an ever-changing topic, post static information on standard best practices, or respond to reader questions and comments. Many of these methods co-mingle, so you don’t have to pick just one. However, you need to consider each format and plan your approach for content delivery.
What’s the perspective? Are you planning to post anonymously, under a pseudonym, or under your real name? Do you plan to discuss personal, professional, or mixed topics? These questions are directly linked to the goal and format of the blog, but the answers can change over time. Many bloggers have started out as anonymous posters discussing professional topics, but eventually outed themselves as the owner of the blog. Others started posting professional topics, but later wove in personal stories. There’s no right or wrong answer, but you need to decide on the tone of the blog before you get started.
What’s the posting schedule? One of my biggest mistakes when I started my blog, was not considering a posting schedule. I figured I would just post whenever something popped into my head, and as a result, sometimes I had 1 post per month, and sometimes I had 20 posts per month. Your goal and the type of content you choose will drive your posting schedule. If you’re posting on a subject matter with very little change or new information, it will be pretty difficult to come up with new material for daily or weekly posts. Again, there’s no “correct” posting schedule, but it’s best to set expectations for your readers. Should they plan to stop by every day? Can they ignore you for 3 months and then show up to one new article?
Prepare for launch. I also made the mistake of launching my blog with no material! I hit the “go live” button, and then let it sit for a few days with no articles, no links, nothing besides my “hello world” post. This is a bad idea, particularly if you start publicizing your blog immediately. I highly recommend creating at least a month’s worth of content, and posting a few days’ worth of content before telling the world that you have a blog. Also, how are you planning to tell the world you have a blog? Are you intending to link to on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? Is it going to become a line on your resume? Are you planning to use word-of-mouth for publicity? The amount of content and type of publicity prior to launch will be driven by your goal, format, and posting schedule, as determined above.
I jumped into the deep end when I started my blog, and I didn’t really consider ANY of the questions or tips that I presented above. Because I was wandering aimlessly, it took about a year for me to gain any traction in readership and brand-building. There’s no right or wrong way to answer any of these questions, but if you wanna start a blog, I highly recommend taking the time to consider each question in detail!