November 24, 2010
Blogging is not complicated, but it is hard. It’s the same theory as lifting up a car – the action is a simple one, but it requires a great deal of effort to pull off. At the root of it, blogging is as simple as can be. The blogger logs in, writes a piece of appropriate length touching on a relevant topic, then posts and all is done. However, it is painfully clear that most blogs don’t survive the inception phase, and even those that do manage a few opening posts don’t tend to last more than a few days or weeks.
There are a number of mistakes that beginning bloggers make, blunders that compromise their blogs and kill their chances of developing an interested audience. On the other hand, there is far too much criticism and far too little specific advice on the web. With that in mind, here are some of the common opening mistakes new bloggers make, followed by specific steps that can be taken to avoid them.
Blunder #1 – The Text Wall
Rooted in the dialup age and the period where text was the only truly efficient medium of communication online, this kind of post is increasingly inappropriate for the online environment.
Broadband is widely available, having become the norm in many places rather than the high-priced exception. Cable connections, DSL and fiber optic specialized systems are all available for reasonably affordable prices, so more multimedia content can be included in every kind of post, and this most definitely includes blog posts.
Avoiding the Trap: It isn’t hard to find images or videos related to a blog topic. Search engines include video and image functionality in their search terms as a matter of course, and YouTube is full of material that can be accessed readily. For smaller posts, a single link or video will probably do the trick, but for a more involved entry, one image per paragraph is certainly appropriate. Don’t include more than one video unless the post is specifically about a particularly engaging video series, however.
Blunder #2 – The Deaf Ear
The audience defines the success of a company. If people aren’t buying, the product is a failure. If people aren’t visiting, the museum is a failure. If people aren’t reading, the blog is a failure. This is an inviolate, absolute principle of all marketing, and yet there are many blogs that shut off user commentary or fail to interact with the audience as a matter of course. Censorship is ineffectual in any case, and self-censorship is an exercise in absolute stupidity. The blog that fails to take advantage of the opportunities offered by an active and positive comments section will not succeed as much as one that embraces the community mindset.
Avoiding the Trap: Cultivate commentary by rewarding thoughtful contributors. For example, if a visitor posts in a particularly eloquent and informed fashion, invite them to make a guest post on the blog and expand upon their ideas. Consider making the guest slot a regular feature of the blog. In a stroke, this will reduce the overall workload on the blog’s primary writer and show the more informed readers that their words are reaching the authority behind the blog. This also helps quell any din raised by agitators and malcontents.
Blunder #3 – The Rote Post
Regular content is the key to a successful blog; this can’t be disputed. However, it also can’t be disputed that some writers simply hit a slump and can’t go on producing without cessation.
Sometimes the inspiration simply isn’t there. A blog oriented toward news-style stories covering a specific industry might suffer when the industry simply isn’t providing any new stories, for example. Forcing a post at times like this will be a bad idea almost universally, because people can tell when writing is forced or uninspired.
Avoiding the Trap: This is another area where the video function can come in handy. If a topic just isn’t presenting itself well, a blogger can look up a video series on the topic of their choice and post it. It’s often easier to post a video and add some commentary on the issues discussed than it is to come up with an article whole cloth.
Blunder #4 – Missing the Point
This issue ties right back in with the idea of audience feedback and participation in a blog, as well as finding alternative methods to rote updating. Consider the idea above, where a writer strapped for ideas posts a YouTube video related to the blog’s mission and makes a post commenting on it rather than devising an entire post of his or her own. Suppose this video comment is one of the most popular posts by traffic and commentary compared to any others, even though it took the least work. Why would a writer not take advantage of this? Sadly, this is exactly the case, and many bloggers miss the opportunity to pick up a new idea.
Avoiding the Trap: If a crazy or half-baked idea somehow becomes more popular than the default or normal pattern, consider making it a series and running with it. This is why observing metrics such as traffic and the user comments section is such an important skill to develop. The net is alive, vital and adapting.
Keep a finger on the pulse of it, and be prepared to react to sudden inspirational shifts.
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 www.BrandSplat.com/ or visit our blog at www.iBrandCasting.com