This is part two of a five-part series I’m writing. The five parts are homework, being mindful when writing, mechanics, promotion, and follow-up. The first installment also has a bit more of an introduction that sets up the what/why of this.
Here we talk about the things to keep in mind when thinking about and writing a post. This section in particular (and some of the other sections), and my line of thinking in general has been influenced by others in this space that I follow. You can read more about that here.
- What’s your angle? What’s your point? What are you trying to do, convince, persuade, or achieve?
- It’s OK if (on occasion) you want to get a thought out there just to stir conversation, or if you want to plant a seed for a later blog post (foreshadowing). You can use one blog post to tell a back-story; then when you get to the meat of your point, you don’t have to lay it all out – you can reference back to a prior post.
- A good rule of thumb for blog posts is a few paragraphs. If you need more specificity, go to six different blogs now (ones you have bookmarked, or use http://blogsearch.google.com/ to search for some). Pick one post from each and skim it. Is it too long? Too short? Keep in mind your own consumption habits: when you read a blog post (or any online article), after how much text do you find yourself saying, “wow, this is a lot of text”? – use this as a guide.
- Advanced tip: after ten or so posts, poll your readers. Ask them what they like about your blog and where you could improve it. This content vehicle is as much for them as it is for you.
- Once you find your style, every so often change it up for one post. Write something very short. Write something very long (break it up with headings and white space; better served for technical reference pieces). Embed a slide show (that’s hosted on http://www.SlideShare.net ). Embed a video (an interview with someone, or a video response to questions). Embed an audio file (podcast). Cross-post somewhere else and link to it. Invite in a guest blogger. You get the idea. Find a theme and stick to it for consistency. But every so often, change it up to keep it fresh. Chris says it much better here than I do.
- Link back to some of your other, previous posts. This helps spread your news (look at your blog dashboard or Google Analytics to see what other links people are clicking).
- Or, link to other blogs in your company (if applicable). Or, link to other company content (that isn’t blogs). Or, link to other external content. Try to have at least a few links (this is not hard and fast rule). This is more art than science.
- A rule of thumb: pretend your blog post is part of a cocktail party conversation; in the conversation, you mention a term or phrase that, say, 20% of the people listening might not know. Where might they go to get a summary of that point so they won’t be lost for the rest of the conversation? This is the kind of content that can be linked.
- Add images to blog posts 98% of the time. This increases the eye candy of posts tremendously.
- Sites to get images:
- http://images.google.com/advanced_image_search?hl=en (on the ‘usage rights’ drop down, pick ‘labeled for re-use’)
- In every post, from no matter where you got the image, give image credit and attribution. Flickr offers a great way to do this through it association with Creative Commons. I use that when I can. Other times, I usually do it as follows: in smaller text than the rest of the blog text, and at the very end (after my question or call to action): I write: “image source: xxx”. If applicable, I’ll hyperlink the xxx text to the site from where I got the image. I might not link to the actual image, but instead link to that user’s page or photostream (it helps promote their content).
- Sites to get images:
- Blog titles are important. Consider that many people (especially if they are reading Internet content in an RSS aggregator) will decide from the title alone whether or not they open a post to read it. Picking a snappy title is much more art than science.
- Here is a good article on how to write snappy headlines/titles: http://www.copyblogger.com/magnetic-headlines/
- Consider ending your posts with a call to action or a question. This is where the ‘social’ part of social media comes in. This is especially easy if you write a controversial / opinion piece. (“So, that’s my take on the issue. What about you, readers? Let us know in the comments.”). It’s a bit more challenging if you offer up a viewpoint and don’t have a natural way to ask feedback. Asking people to share an experience that is parallel or against what you discussed is an option. Opening up the comments to ask readers to share links to sites is another (e.g., your post is about eating well when traveling, but you complain that it’s a challenge to find good food on the road; you ask readers to share what sites and services they use to do so).
- Conclude your blog post (and every few posts) with something to the effect of: “— If you like what you’re reading here, consider subscribing to the RSS feed to be alerted when more new posts are added.” Also push that they might want to stay in the loop via the e-mail subscription.
- Even though the links to do so for each will be prominently displayed on the blog, it’s OK to remind people that they can stay on top of things this way. Once your blog readership is in the thousands, you can do this much less frequently.
- Each blogging platform is different, but many have the option to categorize and tag a post. Categories are big, general buckets of what the content is about. An analogy to this is the ten or so divisions of the Dewey Decimal system (Is it fiction? Is it cooking?). Tags are a more granular way to separate content. Tags can also span categories.
- Don’t go tag crazy. Don’t “reach” for a tag title. If you don’t make a fairly explicit reference to a topic or tag in your post, you probably shouldn’t be tagging it as such. Like titles, tags are more art than science.
What other high-level things should be kept in mind when writing a post? Please add them below in the comments section. Up next is part 3: the mechanics of posting.
image source: Wikipedia
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