Blogging 101: Part 1, So You Want To Be A Blogger?

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


Comments

  1. Beej, you make me wonder if I’ve passed Blogging 101…

    However, I think that my kitty p0rn is both tasteful and creative. I’m calling the website “Untidy Cats.”

    • I think you’d pass with flying colors, Barry. I really like your fears series you’ve got going on. It’s made me think about starting an extended series like that, too, where I count down something, but I haven’t had any winning ideas yet.

  2. Ofc I’m the most important person ever! You can’t deny that there is a hidden exhibitionist within every blogger waiting to be let out. 🙂
    Honestly I’ve never figured out my nieche or the purpose of my blogging. I just… blog. And when I run out of words and ideas to share I reckon I’ll go silent. As simple as that. If I was heading for a huge audience and was expecting to get an income from my blogging, I would obviously have to think more carefully about my unique selling point. But currently I’m enjoying the freedom and lack of responsbility that comes with being just a happy fan.

    • Even in that, Larisa, you have a massive following because of your style. I mean, just recently with your guild drama, the outpouring of support you’ve seen comes from, I think, the fact that your angle/niche is that you’re free to say what you want. I’m sure there’s an ebook to be sold in there somewhere. 😉

      I mean, that’s really the angle that Tobold takes with his blog, and while I’m not as big a fan of his blog as I once was, if the man monetized his site by just writing some sort of “MMO Manifesto,” he’d make quite a bit. I think the same can be said of you.

      I’m going to be getting into this in a later post, but there are two types of brands I’ve read about: topical and personal. You’re the drawing point for your blog, amid the sea of WoW bloggers, you’ve got personality. That’s a lot more appealing than another L2Shadow Priest blog.

  3. Great overview for sure. I also started a couple of years ago and floundered around a bit. I thought I would do witty takes on current events for a bit. I ended up having a completely different focus and even got a much different audience than the college students I expected.

    • Me, too. I started initially wanting to cover mostly MMOs and other games, and what it’s turned into lately has been about writing and publishing since my gametime has dwindled. I still read all my gaming blogs and try to maintain my contacts, but I don’t have the personal experience to stay in that niche like I initially wanted.

  4. I’m interested to see where you go with this series. It’s already making me wonder how I’m doing as a blogger, one year in.

    One of my favorite parts of my blog is that I’ve always had the intention of writing it for me, so I don’t have to cater to an audience. That being said, I love seeing my traffic go up as more and more people follow my blog. It’s awesome to watch.

    My absolute favorite part of blogging is generating conversation and reading what people have to say in the comments or on twitter. To do that I definitely need people to pay attention to what I write.

    • I think you’re doing great, Void. Once you know that you’re writing for you, the audience comes from that. People read you because you’re you, like I said to Larisa above, and that’s how you find your niche.

      I’m with you on the conversation. I love to write and shout into the night, but I like getting comments I can use as conversation, too, instead of the 500 or so the probloggers get that only say “HEY GREAT POST!!!1!!” While I’d love to get that many, give me a dozen thoughtful ones, any day, and I think that’s how you found your audience, too. You approached blogging personally rather than topically.

  5. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate traffic and intelligent conversation in comment threads… but that’s not why I write. I don’t write for traffic, I write because I want to write. I still write for my own consumption, too, and that never sees the light of the internet day.

    The question then becomes “why post anything on the internet?” I make my thoughts available as a way to hammer them out; a trial by fire, as it were. It’s almost a subconscious thing; if I’m writing for an audience, I hold myself to a higher standard. My arguments have to be more cohesive. Maybe I get that from my writing assignments in high school and college.

    When I’m taking notes or just writing bits of thoughts for my own future reference, it’s usually a jumble of phrases in a sketchbook. Getting it all down “on paper” makes me focus a bit more, and often, that makes what I had in mind better.

    Still, that’s almost entirely about me. I want to make my writing better and my ideas better. If nobody were actually reading or commenting, I’d still be writing. It’s the exercise of writing for an audience that’s key to why I bother.

    • I guess It could be said that it’s not so much that I want to “be a blogger”, it’s that I want to be a writer, and a blog is one outlet to exercise that. When I write for an audience I want to make money from, it will be a wholly different experience.

      • I feel you there, Tesh. Blogging is about writing to me, too, as much as it is about community. I never understand people who blog in under 300 words or just post videos. It’s not any less valid, but I can’t find a way to get my whole point across. Or maybe I think, “I could have just shared that video in a Tweet.”

        But maybe I’m doing it wrong, and this blog could use some more short posts.

  6. I’ve been blogging for 6 years now, and a lot has changed. The younger set switched over to Facebook, since their attention span couldn’t last much longer than three sentences.

    About 90% of my fellow bloggers that linked to one another are no longer doing it. I myself took two breaks. My last one pretty much killed my blog.

    My old blog had a theme: the funny side of science. So it had nothing to do with my personal life. Now I blog for a different reason – to help with my motivation to really be disciplined with writing again.

    • I can’t imagine doing it for 6 years! Congratulations on making it so long. I hope to still be doing it when 6 rolls around these parts, too.

      I’ve taken two breaks that I really regret. Both of which could have easily been avoided had I just found the discipline to take an hour a week and write a quick post. I got out of the habit, and because of that, it was very hard to get back into working on it. I kept making notes for new posts, but never sat down to write them.

      The discipline is the most important part. My wife told me that my writing has improved 10x since I started blogging, and she’s right. Just doing it regularly has helped a great deal, and it’s the only way I could get that discipline.

  7. Hi all, I have actually started writing a blog in English & German in May, but ‘officially’ launched it (made it public) in July. Though the blog has seemed to attract quite a number of readers (over 1360 clicks have been registered so far. Is that many or few;-)?), the number of people who have commented on the blog is still a few which makes me wonder why.

    My friends tell me if writing a blog makes me happy then continue doing it, if not, just stop doing it. But it is not that simple. Of course I enjoy writing the articles but I am also curious if they are well received or not. I heard many bloggers quitted writing because of this reason.
    As a new blogger I am still insecure and haven’t developed a thick skin. I become discouraged whenever I receive ‘unfriendly’ responses.

    What do you think I should do? I will really be grateful for any advice.
    Thanks so much for your help!
    C