I’m no expert on blogging but a couple of people asked me to write about how to blog, so I agreed to have a go. I’ll come back to why I don’t think there is a problem with me doing this later…
What is a blog?
As per Wikipedia:
A blog (a truncation of the expression web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web
Usually blogs are written by one person and usually around 1-2 pages long. More broadly, I think it is useful to consider a blog as just another form of communication within the Information Age that we live in. In contrast to emails, blogs have an open distribution (anyone can find my blog, even you!). In contrast to posts on social media, blogs tend to be longer and more considered. In contrast to wikis, blog posts tend not to be updated over time.
Why write blogs?
So if blogs are just another form of communication, why would someone want to use it? For me there are at least 4 reasons:
Writing a blog is in some respects teaching others what you know or think about a particular subject. It is well recognised that teaching is an effective way of learning something, so writing a blog is a great way of structuring your thoughts and getting to know a subject more deeply. You also capture your thoughts about a subject at a point in time which can be interesting in the future.
Blogs always have the opportunity for others to reply with comments (indeed see the bottom of this page) and this allows them to be a great form of crowd sourcing. Having assembled your thoughts on a subject and captured them, others have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion. The result can be a greater common understanding of a subject and a wider network of people with a shared interest.
Blogs are a great way of publicising and promoting something. If you want to others to know about a topic, product or service, an interesting blog post on the subject (providing it genuinely is interesting) can be a very effective way of doing this. As an example, contestants of the X-Factor TV talent show are all currently living in a house in North London. Some opportune person from a property website seized the opportunity to write about this whilst simultaneously promoting an area that they sell properties and attracting people to a page containing their own adverts.
Finally, there is a lot to be said for writing down what you mean in plain English. Slides all too often leave far too much room for interpretation and are increasingly coming under criticism, for example Amazon have reportedly gone as far as banning them from meetings!
How to write a blog?
Writing a blog can be a daunting task. Probably most of us had similar trepidation the first time we used other forms of communication – our first emails, our first text messages etc. The fact is though, once you have a reasonable idea of something you want to talk about it isn’t that difficult.
My most important piece of advice is the following:
You don’t need to be the world expert on a subject just to blog about it. There is nothing wrong with sharing what you know so far and even what you are still trying to find out.
When someone is looking to learn about a subject, it can be very useful to spend a few minutes reading the findings of someone else who has spent even just a couple of days learning about it. They can quickly explain what they wish they’d found out sooner, what they learnt the hard way, and how they got to where they are now. They also won’t have lost sight of the new key concepts they had to get to grips with. This is a great example of a simple, unassuming blog that elegantly describes how the author had been dabbling with the Pomodoro technique.
Obviously all normal rules for writing effectively apply, for example see here.
Picking a title isn’t too difficult, just keep in mind that this is what first draws people to read your blog. Make sure it is interesting and eye catching but if you want someone to follow your blog, don’t mis-sell and cause disappointment.
Keeping things down to one or two pages is definitely advisable. I struggle with this…
Where to write a blog?
Obviously I recommend WordPress.com, but anywhere on which posts are visible to the anyone on the world wide web will do. I started blogging internally for my employer, but I found the transition to posting externally very rewarding. Knowing that you will be reaching an even wider and more diverse distribution, it forces you to think even harder about a topic and in my view write better posts. Be sure to check your employer’s social media policy to keep on the straight and narrow and avoid any unplanned negative repercussions.