I’ve had a lot of colleagues of mine ask how to go about starting a blog. After helping a few of them get started with varying results, I would have to say that these are the five most important things to keep in mind when starting a blog:
Get your feet wet. I equate becoming a blogger to moving to another country. While in this country you can speak whatever language you like, there is a very specific culture that you have to understand (though, not necessarily follow) in order to be successful. Once you start reading blogs regularly, and more importantly, commenting, you’ll better understand the ethos of the blogging culture, you’ll have an easier time fitting in and becoming part of the conversation.
Worry more about being good than getting traffic. While the blogosphere isn’t exactly a meritocracy, it’s very difficult to be popular without being good. Don’t try to get Seth Godin to link to your site before you get your second post up. Start slow, and build a depth of quality posts before you start aiming for link exchanges. If you’re good, people will recognize you.
Start with success in mind. Okay… this one sounds like self-help pop psychology, but it’s important. Social media is simultaneously easy and virtually impossible to measure. Google Analytics is free, and will give you a depth of stats that would make an economist nervous. For the same reason, it’s very difficult to know if your blog is successful unless you know what success is going to look like from the outset. Is 1,000 visitors a month good? Is 100 RSS subscriptions your goal? Are you trying to move a product, get a job, establish yourself as an expert? Decide that from the beginning, and the rest gets easier.
Write for your audience. The obvious thing to keep in mind is that you need to start a blog with a purpose. If you’re just writing about yourself, then “success” is fairly irrelevant. If you’re writing about your business, your industry, your band, or your upcoming film, you need to decide from the outset the type of content you are going to write about, how often you’re going to write and the voice you’re going to take. If those things are inconsistent or incongruent, you’ll lose your reader, you’ll lose recommendations and your blog will be less successful. Audiences want some level of predictability. If you write about advertising almost exclusively and then start writing about your cat, people will get confused and annoyed. Confused and annoyed readers do not stay around long.
Don’t write cheques your ass can’t cash. A former colleague of mine who works in government relations (code for “lobbyist”) put it best when he said to me, “a blog is like a bird feeder. It might seem like a great idea, but if you can’t keep it maintained, you’re doing more harm than good.” If you’re going to leave the blog sitting static for a month at a time, don’t bother starting it. Blog success is based on momentum. Traffic in motion tends to stay in motion, and once it is at rest, it’s hard to get it going again. Call it the first law of blogging physics, if you like.
These have all been said before my much smarter people than me. Anyone else have anything they’d like to add for neophyte bloggers?