With only about a month and a half before I begin my third year blogging here at WinExtra I’ve been thinking about some of the illusions and preconceived notions that I came into this with. As well I’ve noticed over the past little while some of the newer bloggers that I keep an eye on starting to voice some of those selfsame things. I have in the past written about new blogger expectations and why they might need to take a reality check but it was more of a general type post rather dealing with any key points. So considering it’s a Sunday afternoon and I still have a few hours to go before my Sunday podcasting duties I thought I would take a look at what I think of as some key points for new bloggers.
These points I want to talk about aren’t directed to all new bloggers but rather those who have come into this to make it a serious primary hobby or as a stepping stone to a career. I should also say that the points raised and talked about may not have any importance outside of the tech blogosphere. This is because my primary blogging interest has to with technology rather than other subjects like ecology, lifestyle or politics. Plus you can take what I say with a grain a salt because everyone’s intentions with blogging are different.
We all like to think that in real life we know who were and that we can have wide ranging interests that we have no problem keeping up with. Myself I am fascinated with computers but that doesn’t change the fact that I love going fishing with my wife or sitting with a good sci-fi book. When my wife and my health was better it was nothing for us to spend all day out on the lake in our canoe fishing and talking away the hours. Nor is unusual for me to pick up a book and not stop until it is done – sleep be damn.
Unfortunately this diversity while it is a natural inclination in the real world doesn’t necessarily translate to the blogging world. Part of the reason for why this is the case is that it makes it very hard to consistently write about everything that interests you without becoming overloaded. This is because as you write about all the things that interest you you also start reading more and more about those things. So in essence it becomes a time management issue as you struggle to keep up to date with your interests and write about them – and still have a life.
The other problem with this approach as well is – your readers. While some maybe interested in one of the things that you are writing about chances are they won’t be interested in all of them. They might drop by once or twice in order to read something but once they feel that the ratio of interesting to uninteresting has become too unbalanced for them they will stop coming back. I’m not suggesting that this multi-area style of blogging won’t succeed or get you known but it is a very hard road to travel. The only person I know of personally that has been able to pull this off is Jason from webomatica.
The one way around this is to have separate blogs to handle your different interest but this isn’t something that I would recommend to someone just starting up. It can be hard enough trying to maintain a single blog in the beginning let alone more than one. I know this from practical experience from trying myself to have multiple blogs and having put them on the back shelf for the time being. It is best in the beginning to settle on one; maybe two at the most areas of interest that grab you the most and build your main blog around them. This whole point ties in as well with the identity you want to promote for yourself and your blog.
Not everyone can be a Robert Scoble or TechCrunch or Doc Searls especially overnight. People; or blogs, like them have been doing this since almost the beginning of blogging itself and they have spent a lot of time and effort building up their readership. They have become
extremely identifiable within the blogging world and have in most cases become a brand based on their identity. That isn’t to say that given time new bloggers can’t achieve some sort of brand recognition but they need to have some sort of identity that readers can feel comfortable associating themselves with.
Creating that identity and then down the road the brand around it definitely helps make you more noticeable in what has become a very crowded field. For some it can be as simple as the very style of their blog itself. Others though; like myself, who tend to change their blog themes more times than they really should this obviously is a good way to create an identity. In other cases it can be as simple as the logo you use for your blog or your style of writing. For example let’s say you like reporting on business. Do you use a lot of charts and graphs, do you prefer doing interviews or how about humorous conversational style?
The style in which you do things on your blog are a part of your identity so once you find out what is clicking with your readers stick with that – expand on it – improve on it – take it for yourself and make it a strong part of your identity. Then take that identity with you where ever you go on the web.
Getting Out There
When I first started blogging all these current early adopter social media tools like Twitter, FriendFeed; or any number of other ones, didn’t exist. No one is denying that these can be very handy tools now that we have them but for new bloggers they can also slow down your blog growth if you concentrate too hard on just them. At the time when I began blogging RSS feed readers were the main source of constantly fresh news and information but it could take some time to build up a good repository of blogs to follow. It also meant that one could spend a lot of time going to other blogs and making comments about posts thereby creating in some way a link back to your own blog for people to follow.
In many ways this commenting was a way that bloggers introduced themselves to each other – to let them know that there was someone else interested in the same thing. This was also done by the traditional method of linking back to other blogs from within your posts. Either way you had to get out there and do the ol’ meet and greet in some fashion or another in order to promote yourself.
Many will say that the best way to promote yourself is by getting your posts on digg or StumbleUpon or reddit but the fact is that while you might get great spikes in traffic the long term benefits are questionable. Whereas your comments on blog posts that are getting attention or will always be relevant to a large number of people can have longer term benefits. A good example of this is one of my own posts about Vista that because I linked back to it in a comment on a post got over 30,000 hits in a couple of days. Of that only a couple hundred or so were from digg and maybe a few hundred more from StumbleUpon. The large majority of traffic came from that one comment and it still brings in traffic to this day..
This won’t happen every time – especially in the beginning – but the fact is that you need to get out there and promote yourself. The problem is now that many are getting caught in the social media tool trap thinking that this will bring all kinds of traffic their way. The reality is that even as big as we might like to think things like Twitter and FriendFeed are they are still a very minor part of even the tech blogosphere let alone the wider web.
Blogging is a great endeavor to undertake and I don’t regret for one moment any part of the last two years of doing it. There will be disheartening times for anyone deciding to blog seriously. You’ll go through periods watching anxiously to see your visitor counts increase because that is after all one of the reasons for doing this all – getting people to read something you think is interesting or important. We’ll check our Technorati ranking, our Feedburner subscriber counts and our Google Analytics looking for those jumps that give you that boost of ego and satisfaction.
There will be times when you are on FriendFeed and you can’t figure out why no-one has Liked a singlepost in days. You wonder why no-one has made any comments on that killer posts you worked for hours on. You might even question all the decisions you made about your blog and whether you should try something different or whether you pissed of the wrong people. These thoughts are nothing new and I am sure there isn’t a blogger around who didn’t wonder those things as well in their early days – I know I still do so take a deep breath – step back – and don’t stress the small stuff.
Welcome to the technology blogosphere – it can be a real bitch but then it can also be the best thing since sliced bread.
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