The first thing to say about blogging is that it is for anybody. And not just for anybody, but for any aspect of your life. And, that is not all…blogging can be done as frequently as you like – daily, weekly, monthly – it really doesn’t matter. What is important is that you are sharing a little something of yourself to a global audience. Sounds daunting ? Yes, it does, I agree. But, follow these steps and it will be easy, and fun, and liberating, and possibly life-changing…
Step 1 – Know your purpose
Identify what you would like to write about. Ok, this might sound rather banal, but choose a topic (or topics) which interest you, which you might like to express an opinion on. Keep you options short at first; you can easily expand your site over time as you write more posts. Obvious topics include: your job; a hobby; your social life. Look up other blogs you admire and consider what they are writing about, and how.
In short, your blog can be about anything, but from your personal perspective.
Step 2 – Choose your blog tool
There are an enormous range of blogging tools available. The obvious ones include WordPress, Blogger, LinkedIn. Type in a search for ‘best blogging tool [your year]’ and you will arrive a list, such as this one, which offers a daunting array of choices. Most are free and most offer similar functionality, so you only have to pick something which most appeals visually to you. My recommendation is to check out blogs you like, skim to the bottom of the page and you will find in the footer the name of the blog tool.
Signing up is relatively pain free, though you will quickly be confronted by the first of a number of mental challenges: what name to give it, what will it look like, what widgets to include. See the next step…
Step 3 – Design your blog
The design of your blog will probably consume an enormous amount of time.
First, you will be required to choose a domain name and title of your blog. Most blog tools will offer suggestions based on an original name or phrase you provide. The domain name will be shown within the URL of your site and it is therefore to make it consistent with your blog title. Your name is an easy starter, but it is unlikely that you will be allowed to have johnsmith.wordpress.com, rather johnsmith_2 or johnsmithblog27. There is an feeling of alchemy in getting a unique name or phrase which is accepted. Keep trying and don’t accept the first options you are given.
Next, you can select a theme to your site. Depending on the blog tool, you will be offered a selection numbering into the 100’s. Try to filter on the free ones at first, as there is usually a large enough range to choose from. Also consider whether your site will more visual or text based. For example, if you are wishing to present a range of cake designs, you might choose a portfolio-style, whereas a series of personal reflections and stories would better suit a newspaper or diary style.
Finally, you can modify the design and layout of your theme. This is my favourite part ! This where you can change the header title and subtitle, add a background image, and design your menus. You can also tinker with left and right sided menus, throwing in ‘widgets’ or chunks of information, and adding panels of bios and explanations. This stage really makes your site come to life and makes it look like it is made by a professional.
It is important to remember too that all of this can be tweaked and added to throughout your blogging career, so dont feel that any decision here will be final. My recommendation is: throw stuff in, leave it a few days and take it out if you dont like it. But, err on the side of ‘less is more’…
Step 4 – Write your first post
Everybody find their first post a rather daunting experience. However, the first thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter…nobody knows about you blog until you tell them.
Start with a simple introduction from yourself. Explain why you are writing the blog, how you intend to post in the future, and the sort of topics you will cover. Secretly, this is more about you than anybody else and it is a useful reflective exercise to rehearse why you are doing this.
Once you have written something, save it as ‘draft’. This prevents it from being published to the public. It also gives you the time to review your first masterpiece.
One approach which many take is to write many posts as ‘draft’ and release these on mass once there is sufficient volume and you are comfortable with your tone of voice, and your subject matter.
When you are ready to tell the world, click ‘Publish’, give yourself a pat on the back and treat yourself (tea/coffee/chocolate/etc).
Step 6 – When to post
There is no rule of thumb for knowing when to post. Some need schedule to spur them on, whilst others will post when they have something useful to say. The reality is that you can follow whichever schedule you please. This may depend on your original purpose for posting and the audience you are seeking to attract (if any). Take time to think about what feels right for you – then stick to it. Lapsing is inevitable as we all have busy lives with competing demands, but the blog will always be there to come back to when you are ready.
Step 7 – Be part of a community
Most successful bloggers find the most rewarding aspect of blogging is from being part of a wider community. Writing a blog alone can be extremely rewarding from a personal and professional perspective, giving greater time and expression for ideas. However, being connected can bring reward through shared ideas, experiences and friendships.
Three simple tips for becoming better connected are:
- ‘Follow’ other blog posts. This is easier when using common blog tools, such as WordPress, but expressing an interest in another Blog will often trigger them to Follow you back;
- Broadcast your posts to the world through Twitter. If you haven’t already got a Twitter account, set one up and even if you only announce the publishing of each post, you will reach an enormous audience by typing only 140 characters;
- Comment on other blogs. Reading other blogs and offering praise, questions or comments is an invaluable way of getting the attention of another blogger.
I hope this has been a useful introduction to starting a blog. It really isn’t difficult once you get started. The most important advice I can give is: enjoy your blog posting; keep at it; let your style evolve; be reflective; be reactive; be opinionated; and be yourself.
…And for a few more tips, check out: Sue Beckingham’s excellent post on ‘10 tips to develop or enhance your blog‘
Some inspirational blogs (mostly educational, and highly selective)
Tony Bates – http://www.tonybates.ca/
Sue Beckingham – http://socialmediaforlearning.com/author/suebecks/
Doug Belshaw – http://dougbelshaw.com/blog
Donald Clark – http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.co.uk/
Catherine Cronin – https://catherinecronin.wordpress.com/
David Hopkins – http://www.dontwasteyourtime.co.uk/
Simon Lancaster – https://lancaster.withknown.com/