September 9, 2011
Maintaining a blog is about much more than simply presenting the latest news in the life of a person or a brand. A good blog is about conveying the writer’s personality and interests to his audience. To that end, the comments section should be one of the liveliest parts of a blog. In addition, there should be an array of links available to promote similar or interesting sites for the readers, and the content should be on-topic and creative.
One of the most interesting things about the web is the ease with which people can organize events. Flash mobs are a great example of this: A quick handful of tweets or SMS messages, and kids show up at a public school to perform an elaborate dance routine in protest against bullying. Blogging can take advantage of this same phenomenon, using the web to advocate causes or interests that appeal to their readers, increasing readership by making waves in the online pool.
The original signature blogging event, and likely the one that did the most work in bringing blogging to the mainstream that it now enjoys, Blog-a-Thon is an annual, 24-hour event. Bloggers sign up, then write posts continuously for 24 hours in order to raise money for charity. Rules vary, such as writing a post per hour, or having to write a guest post on another blog every third hour. Donation schemes also vary, with some readers contributing set amounts and others paying per post.
Above all, this is a charity event. But at the heart of it, Blog-a-Thon is also a significant publicity tool. People used to coming by a blog just a few times a week can check in constantly with their favorite blogger. It’s a creative challenge for the writer, as well, both physically and mentally. It can do wonderful things for a blogger’s career, allowing them to exercise their mind in unique ways and open up a kind of pressure valve that overwhelms writer’s block in a wave of pure content.
Blog-a-Thon took a hiatus in 2010, but is slated to return this summer.
A blogging circle is very similar to a writing circle. A handful of bloggers, typically at least 5 but potentially many more, get together and agree to write on a particular topic. One begins the chain, putting together the initial post on the topic, and “tags” the next blogger at the end of the post. They pick up the chain and run with it, and it goes on and on as the thought evolves.
This is a great way to develop some cross-audience interest between blogs, encouraging the readers of various blogs to look into new places and grow the audiences of each. That’s one of the interesting things about blog audiences — they aren’t like political party members, only able to help one entity. If the same 500 people read 4 blogs, each of those blogs has an audience of 500. So share those readers, and try out a blogging circle.
National Novel Writing Month is an interesting event. For 30 days in November, participants are expected to write continuously, about 1,700 words a day, until 50,000 words are reached. Depending on the focus of your blog, taking advantage of NaNo can be an interesting change of pace for your audience. It is particularly popular among creatively minded blogs, though brands focusing on activism of some stripe may also find it enlightening to participate as the blogger crafts a story about the topic the readers are interested in.
The idea here is to post either excerpts from or the entire contents of the day’s writing output. This brings the audience along in the formation of the story, very similar to the serial format of novels Charles Dickens was so famous for.
Again, this isn’t for everyone. Nuts and bolts blogs about home repair or market analysis will probably find little overlap with NaNo’s mission.
Inside the Box, Outside the Box — Whatever You Do, Think!
The idea isn’t that all or any of these events is necessarily appropriate to any given blog. Each one has its merits, but our aforementioned market analysis blog may not find any of them particularly useful. However, most blogs will, and even those that don’t can find some manner of event to participate in that can gather the attention and promote new interest from its readers.
The key is to be willing to innovate and try new things. Blogging isn’t a hard-and-fast science; as said above, it’s largely personality-driven. Talk to other bloggers and gain their insights about such events. Consider organizing a miniature blog-off of your own, or try out the writing circle idea every Friday for a month. If someone suggests a different type of event you haven’t heard of, give it a try.
The audiences on the web have a reputation for being unforgiving, but that’s only half the picture. People like routine and will stick around for their favorite sources of information even if they try a few experiments that don’t quite work out. The key is to be honest about things, and to always try to engage your audience with any particular experiment.
Enzo F. Cesario is an online branding specialist and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, articles, videos and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. It makes sites more findable and brands more recognizable. For the free Brandcasting Report go to http://www.BrandSplat.com/ or visit our blog at http://www.iBrandCasting.com/