Last Christmas, having taken a month or so off from the day job, I decided to take up blogging so that I could work out for myself what all the fuss was about. A year later and into a fresh year, I thought I’d take a look back at the past 12 months and see what I’ve learnt, after all that was the whole point of the exercise.
1. Content is king. This is my number one rule for all media and it applies to blogging as well. Unless you have appealing content, nothing else matters, unless your content to tap out pieces that only your mum and your dog will read.
2. Good blogging takes time. Lots of it. When I was most fervent in my blogging, I was spending up to three hours per day to do all my reading, posting comments and writing up two to three posts per day. I got the results, but it absolutely wiped me out after a while.
3. Stats are addictive. During this period, I got compulsively addicted to checking my blog stats. It’s easy to say stop caring about them. But when I did, I tended to stop caring about blogging.
4. Blogs are the best social network. I’ve tried MySpace, I’ve tried LinkedIn. Neither have made a squat of difference to me. My blog on the other hand, has led me to make connections with a huge number of smart, interesting people and have opened up some wonderful opportunities for me. For me, social networks are just mini-blogosphere’s waiting to grow up.
5. Aggregators are key. If you’re trying to build up your traffic, then techmeme, reddit, digg are the best possible means for getting your content out beyond your current band of readers. If building traffic is your game, you need to understand how each of the aggregators work and how they can be used.
6. Success can be built quickly. On my second blog post, I was lucky enough to get linked to by Robert Scoble. It was only a matter of months later, that I managed to achieve something I never thought would have been possible – to knock Scoble off the top of the WordPress.com blog list. Longevity is great but people are always looking for a new voice.
7. Stand for something. If your trying to build a blog, then you’ve got to have a tagline? If you don’t have a meaningful tagline, it probably means you don’t really stand for anything. Which means you’re not really giving the reader a reason to subscribe to you or keep returning to your website.
8. What’s your niche? Mainstream media should be afraid of blogs because they can never compete at a niche level with blogs. Again, if you want to build a successful blog, find a niche you can own and be recognised for.
9. Participate. Don’t just blog. Post comments on other people’s blogs. Participate in the wider blogosphere. Outside aggregators, it’s the best way to market your authority and therefore your blog. Again, it takes time, but you’ll be a better and more successful blogger for it.
10. Your blog will always love you. I’ve had a couple of periods that have lasted months where I just haven’t blogged at all. Generally, they’ve all coincided with big MediaConnect launches. Blogging is a distraction. Don’t try and kid yourself that it’s not. Don’t let blogging eat into time that you really should be spending with a) your family or b) your work (if blogging is your real job then that’s you’re excused and yo should probably never take time off) because your blog will be there when you return. And thanks to the wonder of RSS, you’ll probably have more readers than you think that are just happy that your back in the saddle.
There you go! Nothing earth shattering or anything that hasn’t been said before but I figured having racked up a year, it was a worthwhile exercise to look back and see what I’d figured out about this blogging business. I like to blog. I learn from it. It a useful career tool, as well. In both my career roles as an entrepreneur and journalist, it’s something I should be doing. But if I don’t worry about traffic, anymore and if I can’t blog, I can’t blog. If your a non-professional blogger, with little desire to go even semi-pro, then that’s probably where most of us get to in the end.
It’s all good! I’m looking forward to 2007, I think it’s going to be awesome!