Words of Advice for Beginning Bloggers

StartLine

Responding to The Bamboo Project Blog

Michele Martin of The Bamboo Project asks her readers, “What advice do you have for new bloggers?” I am responding here in hopes that it will benefit both our readers.

Nonprofit Blogging: Low Barriers to Entry

Like everything, thinking and writing improve with practice. Blogging is a way to refine your practice and assess your thinking about your direct field and beyond.

In the nonprofit/philanthropy field in particular, there is a call for foundations to join the blogging conversation. Blogging is not only personally fulfilling, but helps you promote your organization’s mission and goals, as well as connecting you with others in the field.

I think you would be surprised at how seriously bloggers take their craft and how meaningful online connections can be transferred to real life professional networks.

(I write more about how the borders between on- and offline connections are progressively merging in: “Social Media Networks: Entering the Third Dimension of Connectivity with Web 2.0.”)

While nonprofit resources are infamously limited, blogging is something that has very few physical necessities. All you really need is a reliable computer with a good internet connection, time, energy, and desire.

I also use pens and several notebooks to keep track of what I want to write about in the future, what is going on in my field (in the mainstream news, the Jewish news, my Jewish/Israel niche, and my nonprofit niche). A printer is helpful, but not necessary.

My Advice: A Preview

My advice is divided into 6 different sections:

  1. Study the Craft: Writing for a Blog Audience
  2. Learn from the Experts
  3. Treat Blogging as a Business and Your Blog as Your Brand
  4. Make and Keep Track of Improvements
  5. Give Yourself a Break
  6. Make Blogging a Conversation and the Blogosphere Your Community

Let’s get started.

My Advice to New Bloggers: How to Begin

1. Study the Craft: Writing for a Blog Audience

  • Learn the primary elements of writing good quality posts for a blog audience. This includes scannable content, such as bolded headings, segmented text with bullets and numbering, etc.
  • While you may be an excellent writer offline– you may even be a professional– writing online has a different style and rhythm that needs to be learned to be effective. Knowing how to write a good quality blog entry is the very basis of becoming an expert blogger.

2. Learn from the Experts

  • Determine who the experts are and learn from them. Read both bloggers who write about blogging and experts in your field.
  • People with proven success lead by example. Learn how probloggers craft their entries and structure their posts throughout the week.
  • Look for those bloggers who engage their readers, use a nice tone, are especially good at conveying information or have a special talent that helps them succeed. Examine the appearance of their blog and the multiple ways in which they connect with their audience. What do they do that makes them so desirable? Figure it out and adapt it to your own style. Integrate it into your blog.

If you are looking for best practice examples in one of these areas, leave me a comment and I will suggest some names. Make sure to let me know what you are looking for specifically.

3. Treat Blogging As A Business and Your Blog As Your Brand

  • Give yourself a mission statement, vision, and objectives and stick to them. Refine and reevaluate them over time.
  • Make goals and give yourself a timeline in which to achieve them.
  • Make a posting schedule and stick to it.
  • Write with purpose, keeping in mind your goal and your audience.
  • When you get a new subscriber, think about who she is and her priorities. If you have a blog in a professional niche, your subscribers’ names are often connected to their e-mail addresses. Assess what they care about, their values, their affiliations and connections. Try to incorporate this into your blogging. This is something I care about very strongly.

4. Make and Keep Track of Improvements

  • Track your progress. Keep a notebook where you write down what you’ve done to improve your blog and what you plan to do in the future, both near and far.
  • A blog log is a good way of being aware of and developing your style. It helps you to think about blogging in a conscientious way.
  • Use these questions as a base for improvement: what do you do on a daily basis to make your blog better, more fluid and user friendly? What else can you do to further these efforts? How can you improve the appearance, usability, and the connectivity of your blog?

5. Give Yourself a Break

  • Blogging is hard work. Just by starting a blog, you are taking a big step in making a commitment to yourself and your passions.
  • Give yourself a break once in a while by making a fun post that is offbeat from your usual entries, but interesting and related to your blog’s topic (at least nominally). Your audience needs a break sometimes too.
  • Don’t get disappointed with how energy intensive blogging is. Researching and certainly editing- for me- take significantly more time than writing an entry. It helps to be broad minded about content generation. When you are reading the news or talking with colleagues, think about what real life examples you can incorporate into your posts to make them more accessible to your readers.
  • Give yourself rewards when you achieve your goals. Make your goals attainable in the short term so you can feel like you are making progress. Even a check list where you can cross things off on a regular basis gives you a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Read blogs like Zen Habits that broaden you perspective on life. Include health and fitness blogs in your reading regimen.

6. Make Blogging a Conversation and the Blogosphere Your Community

  • Many bloggers will tell you that the blogosphere is their second home. Treat your blog as your home and act as an honored guest when visiting and commenting on others’ blogs.
  • Get to know the bloggers in your niche through commenting, linking, joining blog communities (like Building a Better Blog) and participating in carnivals (like the Carnival of Giving).
  • Consider your readers’ other sources of information and try to improve upon them. Don’t copy blog or newspaper articles whole: excerpt only, add your own spin and then comment, credit, and link to your source. Your readers want to hear your voice and opinion, that is why they come to you.
  • Credit, credit, credit. Overdo it if you are not sure which way to go. Acknowledge “tip offs” if you get your post idea from another blogger. Link if someone else is talking about what you are and you want to add them to the conversation. Cite your fellow bloggers’ interesting projects and good ideas. I consider it best practice to use the author’s name, the full blog title, and an article link when citing.
  • Treat your blogging colleagues as your friends, even if you do not know them well yet. Blogging is collaborative and, like life, you get good when you do good. If you find a story idea or an interesting tidbit that you think might interest another blogger, drop them a line or a comment and let them know. Keep in touch with your fellow bloggers and try to build relationships among them.

Summary: Getting Your Feet Wet

I will stop here with the basics tenets of beginning blogging. There are many excellent blogs that focus purely on metablogging (blogging about blogging), but as far as foundation blogging and getting started as a beginner, this is enough for now.

Feedback: Be In Touch

As always, keep in touch through comments and e-mails with ideas, recommendations, and what you would like to see me write about.

If this is your first time visiting The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy, take a trip to my “About” page to learn more about my values, interests, and priorities.

If you would like to read more, please subscribe by e-mail or a feed reader using the buttons to on the sidebar.

I hope to see you back again soon.

UPDATE

For more great advice, read how other bloggers’ responses to this question or read my entry, “Link Love: Beginning Blogging, Social Media, Nonprofit Exchanges.”

Photo Credit

Title photo sourced from here– with thanks.

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27 Responses to Words of Advice for Beginning Bloggers

  1. amr says:

    wow…very extensive and excellent advice!

  2. bwright says:

    This is some extremely valuable advice for a newbie and for continuing education. Thanks SO much for this post. I read it and will refer to it again and again as I polish my blogging.

  3. thenewjew says:

    Thank you so much!

    I hesitated to post it because it is a subsection of what I usually write about, but I hope that it will help nonprofits and new bloggers get started. I think it will as it is my hottest post to date and has single handedly blown my stats counter away.

    I see that you are a new blogger. Please stay in touch and let me know if I can help in any way. We are all in this together.

    Maya

  4. thenewjew says:

    AMR:

    I love to see you here.

    Maya

  5. thenewjew says:

    I’ve just added a link in the text, but want to make sure you didn’t miss this wealth of information.

    For more great advice, read other bloggers’ reactions to this question:

    http://michelemartin.typepad.com/thebambooprojectblog/2007/11/advice-for-new-.html

    Maya

  6. Scavenger says:

    Good points. I dont really care if I have much of an audience though. I just find blogging is entertaining, both reading and writing. Some “professional” blogs are boring egotistic and cluttered, and I find many amateur blogs are quite interesting.

  7. thenewjew says:

    Hi Scavenger. Nice to see you here.

    I agree with you that there certainly is a difference between personal and professional blogs. Personal blogs give you a lot more freedom and leeway to write or post about whatever you want. I can see from looking at your blog that you are enjoying yourself and the blogging experience.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Maya

  8. Wow Maya,
    Thanks for this great post. It will be really helpful. We are doing a paper blogging exercise, and wanted to be able to show how blogs can have conversations between them. This will be a great example of that, and of community at it’s best.

  9. thenewjew says:

    My pleasure, Christine. You know that I am a fan of whatever you and Michele do. I would love to see blogs, especially nonprofit blogs, be more conversational, so I am glad to be a part of this and interested to see what we can do from here.

    Maya

  10. […] Words Of Advice For Beginning Bloggers – TheNewJew […]

  11. […] These entries featured my post “Words of Advice for Beginnging Bloggers.” […]

  12. Lela says:

    Maya,
    Great post here. I’ve still got so much to learn, don’t we all? Thanks for stumbling After the Bubbly. Your respect means a lot considering you’re actually doing something sort of… WORTHY! with your blog! Keep up the good work. There’s a lot of great philanthropic info for everybody. And when you need a giggle, come visit!
    Thanks,
    Lela

  13. thenewjew says:

    Hey Lela,

    Great to see you here.

    For all those reading, Lela’s blog, After the Bubbly, can be found at found at:
    http://www.afterthebubbly.blogspot.com/.

    I highly recommend it for some healthy amusement.

    Maya

  14. Michael says:

    With your permission I would like to link and distribute your post as a resource for our staff who will start blogging. Good points and easy to understand.

    Have you also encountered organizations who allow their staff to blog establishing strict policies? There is a debate underway in ours about controlling content and getting approval before allowing staff to post. What are your views on that subject? Would love to see that dialog happen in the blog community.

    Thanks
    Michael

  15. thenewjew says:

    Hi Michael,

    I’d be honored. Please feel free to do so and thank you so much for asking. I do ask that you include my blog name, URL, and my name along with the material.

    I have read and heard about different organizations thinking about blog content, but I don’t have any direct links right now. Tell you what– why don’t I look into it further and plan on blogging about it at the end of this week or the beginning of next.

    If you want to comment here or e-mail me with some of the direct questions and issues you are thinking about, I will keep them at the top of my mind as I explore this question.

    All the best,

    Maya
    mnorton [at] thenewjew.org

  16. Stacey says:

    I learned so much and would like to thank you. I’m trying to “get my feet wet”. I have just started my own nonprofit and trying to find a blog to network or just talk about what is happening. Do you have any suggestions where I can start?
    Thank you again
    Stacey

  17. thenewjew says:

    Stacey,

    You’re welcome, I’m very glad to hear that. I’m sending you an e-mail with some suggestions.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Maya

  18. philanthropy411 says:

    Thanks so much – great advice!

  19. […] Words of Advice for Beginning Bloggers (The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy) […]

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