Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Blogerific

Now that blogging, and in particularly, scriboblogging, has been officially endorsed as a positive way to promote yourself, it’s interesting to see more and more people willing to tip their toes in the blogging waters to see what it’s all about. Is it geeky? Needy? Pointless? Who reads them? Who writes them? How? Why? What should I write about? How do I get people to read? Will I get any work from it?

Over on TwelvePoint, Jason recently did the definitive guide to all things blog, and the subject has been mentioned in several other articles and sites, too, all reiterating the same thing really: blogging is good. So, yep, come on in, the water’s warm. If you’re a non-blogger, it would be easy to have a casual glance around and think that it is geeky, needy and pointless. But it depends what blogs you read. If you’re tempted to blog but your main motivation is “Will I get any work from it?” then your blog lifespan is likely to be short.

Blogging - good blogging - is about regularity. Intelligence. Wit. Honesty. Triviality. Community. Sounds a bit highfalutin, but it’s true, all the best blogs give generously with their time and text, building their audience with their regular posts and useful comments. If you’re just starting out a blog and feel a bit daunted by the task, then here are a few tips to see you through:-

1. You
What’s your blog about? If you just want to share the highs and lows of your writing experiences, then great. Most scriboblogs take this approach. It gives us that sense of community and support but, if you want to be a bit different, think of a particular new tack or tone for your blog, and stick to that.

2. Getting to Know You
Nobody reading your blog? Well, they don’t know you’re out there yet. The most basic way of raising your profile is to make comments on the blogs that you read the most. Don’t just hit and run, either. Make an appreciative comment, or add something to the debate. And then do the same on a few other blogs. People will recognise your name, like/dislike your comments, check out your profile, which will lead them conveniently to your blog.

The best way to get noticed is to get a link or a mention on someone else’s blog - hello Jonny Quest! - but this is usually an unexpected bonus. It’s blog etiquette to return someone’s link if they have you on their blogroll (their list of links) but it’s not so cool if you specifically request a shout out just for a quick hit on your site.

3. Slow Build
Once they’ve seen you have a blog, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll come back. To ensure repeat hits, you have to blog. Which means you have to write new posts. Fairly regularly, especially at the beginning. The internet hoovers up content. You have to keep providing it. 3 posts per week would be a good place to start. More if you can manage it. Anything between 1-3 per week is fair game once you’re up and running. You’ll soon discover if blogging is for you; whether it’s an inconvenience and irritation to write something or if it’s a natural impulse to post an update on what’s happening in your little corner of the internet.

4. Quality
Anybody can whack up a YouTube video or share a joke, or the details of a course, and it counts as a post. This is all fair enough but if you really want a blog that stands out from the crowd, you’ve got to try to make each of your posts useful. Or witty. Or intelligent. Or different in some way. If you’re going to review a film or something you’ve seen on TV (another way to easily generate a post), don’t be lazy about it. You’re a writer. Have something insightful to say. Don’t just slag things off or be sloppy with your prose. Check out Dan’s Media Digest to see how it’s done.

5. Work
It’s important to remember that your blog is on the internet, and can be read by anyone, anywhere at anytime. If you’re a writer, and you haven’t set up an anonymous blog (which have their merits but nameless rants can be wearisome), then it’s likely that an exec will Google you at some stage, and check out your blog. And if that coincides with your latest post where you have a flaky meltdown about the way your career is going, then that’s not going to be good, is it? (I heard that someone slagged off an exec they had met, and the exec read the post, heavily offended.)

The blog is your shop window. Your professional face to the world. While it’s great to be honest and truthful about what’s going on, there’s no need to show that it’s turning you into an emotional wreck. Everybody gets rejected and has frustrating experiences. Blog about it, absolutely, but don’t become a raving loon.

Will I get work from it? Possibly. It all depends on you, and what you write about, and how you present yourself. It’s all a knock-on effect, really. Having a positive web presence will help build your reputation, and could be the final clincher in someone thinking of you for a writing gig. Personally, I’ve got three paid gigs from having the blog. But it’s not a straightforward process of someone seeing your blog, liking it, and offering you a job. In my experience, they’re read the blog, got in touch, kept in contact, and then thought of me when the time was right.

There you have it. Some tips to get you started, or back on track.

11 comments:

Kevin said...

I just like having my corner of the interweb to post things my friends and family will read. I get about 150-200 readers a day and I'm fine with that, but I'm guilty of everything you say. I throw up Youtube videos, post quote's from other people's blogs I find enlightening and write insanely short "Poster Quote Reviews" to movies I've seen and enjoyed. I generally just share things that make me laugh or others who know me might find interesting. I know that when I don't have something worthy to say I feel it's best to say nothing at all. Fortunately, I'm not concerned with stats. I just know that when it's out there it's out there forever. So I never slag anyone off, (apart from the odd gripe about visas and Indiana Jones' sequels) and I only write about things I think won't reflect poorly on me should someone find them later on. I do try and avoid having the standard flaky meltdown post, and in the past when I've written a woe is me entry I tend to delete it within the hour, but then I realise google reader has made a log and I can't it back. Oh google reader, thou art a heartless bitch.

What I have discovered lately though and this may shock you is that while I can control the content on my blog, and edit my posts a million times if I wish, I can't do the same with what I write on other people's blogs. Funny that isn't it? So for instance when I slagged off an aspect of Diablo Cody's rise to fame on your blog a few weeks back, that opinion is now out there forever dancing round the internet waiting to peek-a-boo should someone google my name. So in ten years time if I work with Diablo on that lesbian zombie monster truck musical she might stumble across what I said and beat the shite out me with her dominatrix style dildo stilettos. Stranger things have happened.

So recently, I've come to the conclusion to stop commenting on other people's blog using my full name because a harmless snarky comment this year, a silly snarky comment that year and suddenly there's a digital trail of shite that follows me around google like a bad smell.

All in all though, in this day and age, having a blog is a handy convenience for people to find you. I would just hope that what they find paints a positive picture over anything else. So in closing, SNOW FIGHT!

Danny Stack said...

No snow here! *grumbles*

Blogs can be about anything at all, of course (and there's nothing wrong with links, videos etc as handy posts), but I think if someone sets up a writer blog, then they should treat it carefully. Like an interactive business card that also shows off some personal characteristics. A positive picture over anything else, like you say.

Dan said...

Wow. A link from the great Danny Stack? To little ol' me? This is unexpected and very flattering, as it was your blog that got me interested in blogging to begin with.

Some find points in your post, too. Content and personality are the two things I'd recommend any blog have in spades. You'll rarely be able to compete with other sites in gathering news, or posting links to funny stuff. Some of those sites are proper business with teams who get paid.

But, we all have opinions and personalities (one would hope), so try and make people want to read about what YOU think about something everyone's watching, talking about, reading, or listening to. Obviously, it helps if you're a semi-expert in whatever you blog about, too. :)

Lucy said...

I started blogging simply to write articles on screenwriting that I could link to for my script reading clients so I wouldn't end up saying *exactly* the same thing over and over. I never really thought about how blogs were useful or how they looked until a certain Christopher Stack (no relation of Sir Daniel) kicked my ass for apparently having rubbish, eye-straining colours on my blog (it was rather purple at the time with pink text). He directed me over to blogspot and I recall emailing him back saying, "They look very nice, but I can't afford websites like that" and he tells me blogspot is FREE!!! I couldn't believe it (though it was a good while before I got on to Blogger, in those days their templates were gobbledy gook too far advanced for me!). I read the American ones first - I found Billy Mernit and One Slack Martian almost immediately but it was a good while before I found the UK bloggers... I think James Moran popped up somewhere on a US blog and I followed his link back to his site and then Danny's. The rest is history. Now I can't imagine life without my blog - it's opened doors for me and made me friends. Sure people slag you off too but one wonders why they bother reading if they think you're a tit; clearly they have nothing better to do and are tits themselves. I love blogging!

Kevin said...

Plus, how did we ever procrastinate without them?

Third World Girl said...

Thanks for this way useful post.

I'm a newbie just sticking my toe into the water... but so far, gotta say, it's pretty cool having a place to put all my "mental sausage", and a good way to keep friends and family in the loop.

Jonny Quest said...

Hi Danny,
Well wow, I didn't expect a whole article based on my question and I certainly didn't expect a shout out with in the article. A big thank you for that!! Cheers made my day to find my name in one of your blogs.
Secondly the article itself was very enlightening and has spurred me on to enhance my blog somewhat, although I still need to get my head round some aspect but will check out the other sites you suggest in the article to find this stuff out. Cheers though this article for a newbie is amazing.

Peace
Jonny Quest

Andy Phillips said...

I've finally gone real-name. That's a whole other issue. Bloggers often have funky pseudonyms, but can tend to defeat the whole self-promotion idea.

Word verification: troson. Sounds like a He-Man villain.

AdrianReynolds said...

Youdothatvoodoo clearly isn't my actual name, but I like it a lot, and there are several people with my actual name doing things like book illustration that would confuse things if I had adrian.reynolds.com. Once you get there, it's clear enough who I am and what I do.

Jane said...

Thanks Danny, that was a very helpful post. It reminded me that all the bells and whistles on a blog don't distract from poor content. And the blogs that I regularly check out are ones where I really like the quality of the writng as well as empathising with the subject. It's like having a little window into someone else's world.

xxJane

Stephen Gallagher said...

"So in ten years time if I work with Diablo on that lesbian zombie monster truck musical she might stumble across what I said and beat the shite out me with her dominatrix style dildo stilettos."

On that basis I'm composing my own Diablo slagging-off RIGHT NOW...