I need to take a break from anything related, even remotely, to EMC World. I had a conversation with an old friend yesterday. He was thinking of starting a blog, or two, and asked for some advice. I thought I would share that advice with everyone else.
Ask Yourself Why?
This is important. Why are you starting a blog? Do you want to:
- Contribute your knowledge and expertise to the collective knowledge base of the Internet?
- Share your opinions with the world, and maybe become famous in the process?
- Work towards some sort of change?
- Advance your career or improve your company’s image?
No matter the reason(s), you want people to read what you have to say. If you don’t, just go start a private journal.
The easiest blog to write is one that shares your everyday exploits with friends and family. It is like an easy website that people can go to in order to see pictures and find out what you and the family is doing. Your readers already know you, so you can just be yourself. If you put something on your blog that makes you look like a dork, they already know if that is the exception or the rule. Your life is your content. The only concern here is maintaining your desired level of privacy.
Family/friend blogs are the easiest to write. If that is what you want to create stop reading and fire away.
Whatever your reason, Know What It Is. That reason will directly impact what happens next. The rest of this post focuses on the non family/friend blogs.
A Blog is Work
There are 52 weeks in the year. If you want to achieve many of the goals suggested above, you probably need to average at least a post a week. The more you post, the more people will come and read what you have to say. Even at one a week, that is 52 posts. That is 52 things to say.
If you only have 5-10 things to say and just start saying them in different ways, people will stop reading. If that is the case, look at posting articles on a common site. For Documentum people, soon there will be the new EDN.next where you can post just a few entries.
People always start blogs with things to say. The key is to not have a few things that you want to share that you want, but a goal. What is it that you want to communicate to the rest of the world? If you want to post a blog on technical things that you have discovered, you can post less frequently and become a reference site. Just make sure that you add entries occasionally or you will just become another orphaned blog.
I started off by wanting to rant. I discovered a message, ECM SOA Standards are needed. I have since added a goal, Build a community around ECM and Documentum. I still share information and expertise. Those are simple stand-alone posts (Except for my massive volume of posts on EMC World). What keeps me inspired is taking experiences and applying them to the message and the goal.
It is still a lot of work. I probably spend two hours on the average post. I want to present a positive image. That means reading my posts over for typos and refining my words so that they are clear and somewhat concise. I track-down links and put them in my posts to help describe underlying concepts and to share what others think on a particular topic. I have to review submitted comments regularly and reply to them when necessary. I have look to see what sites and blogs are linking to me so that I can see what they are saying, and in what context.
That leads to my final point…
Blogs Start Conversations
People may link to your blog and comment upon it. If they seem rational, start a dialog. This provides more value to your readers as they can see your ideas being challenged/validated by someone else. It also allows for refinements and improvements to your ideas. Some of the readers at the other site may even become regular readers.
On the flip side, to really get some dialogs started, you need to look at other blogs that talk about similar, or interesting, topics. See what others are saying and write your own posts commenting on them. Be sure to add to the conversation and not just re-phrase, or copy, what is on the other site. This dialog and linking brings in those other writers and you can start a nice dialog.
In the ECM world, there aren’t a lot of bloggers. Many blogs are technical in nature, which doesn’t lead to dialog. Finding opportunities for dialogs can be challenging and sometimes the other writer doesn’t participate. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t start a dialog. Just try again with another post.
Not everyone will like you or agree with you. That is the nature of the beast so don’t worry about it. Defend your points, but don’t get bogged-down in an endless fight.
What I Told my Buddy
He wanted to start one or two blogs. One on Real Estate, where he does investments and buying/selling, and one on Technology, where he used to do quite well with as a consultant before moving on to real estate. I gave him two pieces of advice, one for each blog.
The Real Estate blog is a professional blog. That means drafting and reviewing and trying to provide value to the readers, otherwise they won’t come. I told him to look at some existing bloggers and see what they were doing. We discussed his audience and agreed that potential investors and partners were the most likely readers. Many home buyers aren’t going to take to the blogsphere to find an agent. The blog could help him on that front, but the returns would be worth the effort if that was his intended purpose. I advised him to invest in a domain name for the blog and to write a few entries in advance of going live. That would help get him a jumpstart on the whole process. Finally I told him that it would be a lot of work, but if done well, potentially rewarding.
The Technology blog is more of an interest for him at this point. I told him, Dude, no way! (Yes, I say dude). He might have a few topics, but his day-to-day work wasn’t going to lead to a plethora of things to discuss. The amount of work to write a post after his initial first few posts would be excessive. If he does the other blog for over six months and it is going well, only then should he even entertain the idea.
So Why Do It?
Blogs are a lot of work. They can also be extremely rewarding. I haven’t made a dime from my blog, but I have met a lot of good people and engaged in a lot of good discussions, both online and off. These have helped me do my job better, made my blog better, and thus helped my clients and readers. Plus the warm fuzzy that I get when I see that spike in hits is rewarding. :)
I’m sure that this post isn’t going to lead to such a peak. If it helps you there start a blog, it will be worth it.
Blogging can be a lot of fun. It is for me.