I started blogging about two years ago, and I honestly had no idea what it was all about. I just thought it sounded like something I wanted to do. You see, when I was younger, I came to the conclusion that columnists had the coolest career in the world. They get their own space to write about whatever they want, and someone pays them for it. Perfect gig, right? Well, it would be if you didn’t have to, you know, actually get hired on somewhere as a columnist.
When I found out about blogging, it didn’t take me too long to draw the parallel between “columnist” and “blogger.” I could sign up for a free account, get my own web address, and start writing immediately. And I could put ads on the blog, too? Hot dog! I’d be able to quit my job and make a living writing in no time flat!
Well, no. Not exactly.
If that’s what blogging sounds like to you, then you and I aren’t so different. Great minds and all that, I guess, right?
The thing is, though, there’s a lot more to this whole blogging thing than you might have thought about at this point, and that’s what I’m here to help you with because I didn’t think about it, either.
Starting out as a blogger is hard, and there’s an awful lot of it that you just have to figure out on your own. But whatever tidbits of advice I can give you, I will. Whatever nuggets of usefulness I’ve come across in the past couple of years, I’ll pass on to you in this handy-dandy series I call Blogging 101.
What is Blogging?
Before you think about anything else, you need to think about what you’re getting into. You need to understand just what a blog is.
The term “blog” is a catchall phrase these days that encompasses a lot more than many people think.
“Blog” is an abbreviation/portmanteau for “web log,” which is just a part of a website that gets regularly updated. So even from that, you can get your first idea at what being a blogger is like: regular updates.
Blogs are not static, and your readers will expect you to maintain at least the pretense of a regular schedule. If you establish that to be once, twice, eighteen times a week, that’s fine; just stick with it.
Setting your schedule is very important, but that schedule also depends on what kind of blogger you are. Later on in the series, we’ll discuss the different types of blogs and whether you’d be best suited as a text blogger, video blogger, microblogger, podcaster, or photo blogger. Luckily, there are still quite a few steps before you have to make that decision.
The Most Important Question is “Why?”
Like I tell each and every one of my students, the most important question that you can ask (and answer) is “why?”
Answering that one question is the one thing you absolutely must do first. After all, you can’t really go any further through the process of starting a blog if you don’t know why you want to do it, anyway.
Maybe you think you understand some universal truth that the Internet masses need to hear about. Or maybe you think that you know more about underwater basket weaving than the next guy. Perhaps you just think it’d be fun to have your own personal plot of cyberspace. Or heck, you might just really like Top 10 lists. Whatever the reason, you need to narrow it down. You need to find out what is going to drive you through the next few years of writing/posting on a schedule.
There are a lot of reasons out there, so here’s a handy-dandy, survey for you to fill out to narrow it down.
Do you want to blog because: (check all that apply)
- You like keep a personal journal/diary of your life?
- You are the most important person ever?
- You like to post pictures of your kitty?
- You think others want to see pictures of your kitty?
- You bring a unique perspective to your hobby/profession?
- You have a product to sell?
- You want to create a product to sell?
- You have information you want to share?
- You are smarter than everyone else and need to let us know?
- You want to teach your readers something?
- You want to review some of your favorite things and discuss them with others?
- You want to make money?
- You want to post risque pictures of your kitty, charge people a membership fee, and become the robber baron of kitty pr0n?
Joking aside, think pretty hard about why you want to blog and what you want to write about because you’re going to be doing it a lot. And once you figure out what you have to say and why you have to say it, you’ll need to figure out who is going to care.
Really, Who Cares?
Unless you’re writing for an audience of one (that one being you, of course), you must remember that no matter why you want to blog, someone out there (probably many, many someones) wants to read it. An audience exists for everything. The hard part is just finding it, tapping into it, and letting them know that you’re there.
Because let’s face it, with all the blogs being created every day, you have to try pretty hard to get your noise to stand out above everyone else’s. It’s possible. But the only way that it’s possible is by knowing specifically who you’re writing for. You might be writing for people who need to be taught something, or for people who have ridiculous amounts of disposable income.
So keep in mind that who you’re writing for is just as important as what you’re writing. Even if you only post pictures of your cute, fuzzy kitty for your close family members, you have to know that so you can give them what they want. Waxing philosophic about politics or even how good last Monday’s episode of Castle was just won’t please them. And if you’re not pleasing them, you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. Then they go elsewhere, leaving you with no audience, shouting into the night.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of blogs out there that just shout into the night. And it’s those blogs that really give the rest of us bad names. Just like how the millions of lines of cliched, melodramatic poetry makes everyone cringe and overlook the genuinely talented teenage writers out there, banal blogs and Tweets that amount to little more than “I have to poop” make it so that legitimate bloggers aren’t taken as seriously as they perhaps should be.
So in order for you to stand out, you have to think about it a little. Understand why you want to start blogging. Understand who you want to start blogging for. Then, and only then, will you be able to generate quality content.
For me, I started blogging when I realized that my job as a college English teacher gave me a unique perspective because of how much I love pop culture, geek media, science fiction, and television/film studies. When I put all that together, I realized that my blog could be different than the other pop culture blogs out there. I knew that I had something unique to say, I was opinionated enough to keep stocked on ideas, and I was just vain enough to think someone (or lots of someones) out there would care.
Sound like you? Then maybe you’ve got what it takes to pass Blogging 101.
Continue to Blogging 101, Part 2: Six Types of Blogs