By Bob Morse
With the rise of microblogging services like Twitter, website sharing sites such as Digg, Reddit and Stumbleupon, and the massive appeal of Facebook, some people have claimed one of the oldest forms of social media has lost its purpose. After all, blogs started out mostly as a way to share and comment on new information found on the web and that’s what many people use these new services for. One of the oldest blogs that I used to follow avidly in the early days of blogging, called Robot Wisdom (robotwisdom.com) was, and still is, mostly just a list of links with minimal commentary. But now I get a much wider range of resources sent to me from a large number of different people on Twitter. So is the blog dead? After all, Paul Boutin declared the blog old fashioned and unnecessary in Wired back in 2008. (http://www.wired.com/entertainment/theweb/magazine/16-11/st_essay)
It’s true that many blogs have been abandoned in favor other means of expression. But the blog persists in many forms and, if tended properly, can still be a great forum for thought and a powerful marketing tool for businesses and non-profits. A blog, in fact, can become the hub for a complete communication system that takes advantage of all the other social publishing services to reach new audiences. If you have a blog, or are thinking of starting one, here are some recommendations for making it an important vehicle for your organization.
Be provocative or at least interesting
This may seem obvious, but there is nothing worse for a blog than writing long, boring essays with no real insight into something readers might be interested in. Try to frame even the most technical information in a personal light. This will help draw in people who may not be interested in your central topic at first glance.
While it can be difficult sometimes to come up with topics it’s important to keep your blog active. Lapses of many days, weeks or months will lose your audience and make your blog irrelevant. Keep several posts in the works. Have some complete to fill in when you lack inspiration. Use tools like Evernote to store notes and websites that can be used as inspiration for blog posts.
Keep it brief
Everything is moving so fast. Information flashes by. Few people have time to read long articles. Blogs should be brief and concise. Longer than a tweet, briefer than an essay — 250-500 words is plenty. Write in short paragraphs, and short sentences. A wall of words is intimidating.
Along with brevity, it’s really good to add at least a single image that is somehow thematically representative of your post. It breaks up the text and draws the eye. Think about placement. Don’t just stick an image at the top of your post. If you have a slightly longer post, break it in to sections and use good headings that label each section. This is helpful for both the reader and for search engine optimization (SEO).
If you have a blog, I hope you allow comments. Yes, trolls abound. But any good blogging platforms allow easy management of comments. Without them you don’t have a social media site. You just have a web page. Now that’s old school. It’s often good to ask a question, or encourage comments in you post.
Make sure your blog is connected
A good blog is more than just a web page that allows comments. It’s also an application that makes it easy to tell the world about itself. Be sure your blog allows site visitors to subscribe through Real Simple Syndication (RSS) and/or e-mail. A good blog application will also allow you to automatically post notice of new articles to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN and other social media sites where you have accounts automatically. Who has time to visit all those sites every time you write a blog post? If not, use an application like HootSuite.com that allows you to post notices to multiple services with a single message.
So what’s the point?
The idea is to build an audience, generate trust, create credibility and drive traffic to your site where you want people to become customers or supporters in some way. Blogs are really good for SEO. Google loves blogs and will return more often to index your site and follow links if you are consistently creating new content. And by sharing your blog posts on the various social media sites can help you spread your brand exponentially.
Content is still king. Make your blog the hub of a content and traffic generating engine. To learn more, I’ve gathered a number of blog improvement articles and posts on my own blog. Visit http://talkingtech.net. Feel free to comment, add your own ideas or resources.
If you’re interested in participating in the further development of technology on the north coast, visit the Redwood Technology Consortium website: http://redwoodtech.org and consider joining.
Bob Morse is a web developer, consultant and owner of Morse Media: http://morsemedia.net.