Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Flog a blog?

Photo: Gaping Void

Blogs and networking sites have taken a strange hue of late. It's interesting to see certain online tangents and cliques that are being made while others stomp their feet over internet trolls who gleefully take a swipe at anything or anyone. Twitter is certainly leading the way in that regard but its micro-blogging service is also reducing the regularity and quality of normal blogs. It seems it's easier to tweet or hang out with your friends on Facebook rather than take the time to write a blog post.

Only this time last year, blogging was being touted as the way to go. But with so many blogs and online commentary available, it's all getting a bit fragmented. Still, I reckon maintaining a good blog is a worthwhile venture. So, an extract from a post I wrote last year, with my humble tips on blogging. For the full post and reaction, see the original post from 29th October, 2008.


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 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’ve read the blog, got in touch, kept in contact, and then thought of me when the time was right.



laurence timms said...

The biggest problem with Twitter (for me at least) is that it just soaks up time like a wad of Charmin. I've backed off Twittering and rediscovered my blog mojo.

Jon said...

I'm glad I wasn't imagining this situation- I'd been blaming Twitter as well.

For various [good] reasons I've never been the most regular of bloggers and I've started to wonder whether they've maybe had their day as everbody Twitters away. But Twitter seems a terribly shallow malarkey.

I don't use Twitter- I neither understand it nor have the time.

Personally, I've never been particularly sure what to blog about- I don't lead the world's most exciting life.

Or Gloucestershire's.

In fact, I don't even lead the house's most exciting life.

I can't catch mice you see. :)

Ellie said...

I started An Blog (three days ago) because I'm in a new bit of life and would write about it anyway. It also means that I don't have to independently TELL my old university friends as much. Whether or not people read it is completely irrelevant to me right now, but I imagine that'll change one day! Imma a collector by nature.

Danny Stack said...

I think if you enjoy it and genuinely have something to say/share, then blogging doesn't have to be just a place for self-promotion. Maintaining a blog can be hard and is not for everyone but that's probably a good thing.

Ellie said...

To be honest, I naïvely hadn't even thought that personal blogging could be a tool for self-promotion. But I guess it must be, a lot of the time. Like when I discovered that an American sitcom writer that I admire writes for the sole purpose of money, I was sort of all "wha-? I thought you were writing sitcoms to make me happy".

^ not being sarcastic.......

Paul McIntyre said...

I remember reading this last year and it was one of the things that spurred me on to write a blog myself.

It might have fallen by the wayside a little recently, but blogging, at least in my experience, has been the most useful tool for meeting other writers and finding people willing to critique a script - you know, other than my mum.

Paul Macauley said...

Some good thoughts on blogging practice! I was/am often concerned about the parameters and style of what I blog, but then I figured as long as I'm honest and not nasty then it'll sort itself out.

And I know where Laurence is coming from; maintaining the kind of output that most on Twitter seem to have can be a tiring exercise. The back and forth escalation of tweets is like an information arms race!

I suppose if you don't have something to say, don't say it. But if you do then take the time to say it proper like. Yeah. Pffpfp fizz out...

Dan said...

Twitter's fine, but it's more a place to make funny quips. I still think that in 10 years time we'll look back and wonder what the HELL everyone was doing on it! :) It's impossible to follow conversations with people YOU follow without following everyone THEY follow -- so it's an impenetrable tangle of text-speak half the time. I have NO idea how celebs with hundreds of thousands of followers cope -- they must get hundreds of people tweeting them every minute of ever day. Total overkill.

I think it's ultimately a selfish and egotistical thing -- the idea that something you write in less than a few seconds can be seen and devoured by "followers" with you as a mini-Messiah.

For me, Twitter's mainly become just another way to alert people to my blog posts and occasionally I have two-way conversations with followers that others are free to chip in with. And yes, it scratches an itch when you have something to say that's not worth posting a blog about. I rarely blog something less than 300 words, see. So rather than work-up a random thought into hundreds of words, a 140-character tweet is a lot easier. And it's by far the best way to interact with the 'net remotely, via phone.