Wednesday, July 20, 2011

7 Things Your Mama Always Told You About Blogging

Your Mama didn't teach you how to blog? Mine neither.  But perhaps her advice would have been along these lines...

1) If You Can't Find something Nice to Say...
I was reading a blog-building site the other day, and some of the commenters were whining  expressing intense frustration at how slowly their blogs were building.  Never, ever, publicly (and comments are public) use a negative tone about your own blog, even when commenting on another blog.  If you can only find negative things to say about your own blog, better to say nothing about it at all. 

Gerbil photo via Wikimedia Commons

2) Life is Like A Box of Chocolates, You Never Know What You're Gonna Get
Oh, wait, that wasn't our mama?  This is a very true saying, but we're pretty safe to assume, when we get a box of chocolates, that what we're going to get is... chocolate.

Some bloggers have grandiose ideas that they want to blog about anything and everything, and that's what it says in their header or intro.  Sorry, but I'm pretty sure I'm not qualified to write about everything - and neither are you.  Pick a theme, any theme.  If I'm buying a box of chocolates, I don't want to be surprised by a tennis ball, a sports cars, three caramel truffles and a pet gerbil.

This blog is about writing, and no matter how far I have to stretch, it will tie back in some way, to writing, in every post.  If your blog is about chocolate, and there's a gerbil in it, he better be eating chocolate, named Chocolate, or dipped in chocolate.

3) Stick To Your Own Kind
Once you decide what your theme/niche is, find other blogs in your niche.  Don't passively wait for readers to stumble on your blog.  You have to hunt your own Snipe, and that means going where the Snipe are.  Online magazines.  Facebook groups.  Twitter searches. Try going to Google, click on "more," then Blogs.  There's even a choice Find Blogs on your favorite topics.

Look for Yahoo chat groups.  Bulletin boards.  BlogHer and SheWritesPinterest.  "Your people" are out there, you just have to put in the effort to find them.

4) You Can't Go Out To Play Until Your Homework is Done
Read other blogs in your niche.  Read them voraciously and relentlessly.  Pay attention to what works.  Pay attention to what doesn't work, either in terms of growing followers, or doing things that annoy you.

Apply similar ideas/points to your blog, and then start leaving comments.  If you don't "give good comment," yet, work on that part of your writing skillset.  Read other comments.  Which ones make you want to go check out another blog?  Which ones make you want to run in the opposite direction?

5) If You Want To Have a Friend, Be A Friend

The point of commenting on a blog is to 1) Engage with the author of that site, to let her/him know you appreciated a point or points s/he touched upon, and 2) connect with other readers of that site, perhaps to lure them to your fabulous site, out of curiosity and interest.  If you leave intelligent, thoughtful and  interesting comments on other people's sites, they are much more likely to come check yours out.  If you whine or leave comments with a negative tone, they may come once to see the train wreck, but they probably won't want to hang out with you.

Photo courtesy Dreamstime

6) You Catch More Flies with Honey...
Links can be like a trail of honey leading back to your blog. Get a WordPress account, and an Intense Debate One, and a Disqus one, even if you're a Blogspotter like me.  (Don't give me that sass, just do it!)  Make sure they all show your name, include a link to your blog, and your happy, smiling face or an interesting gravatar

Yes, it's a nuisance, but once you do it, it's done.  It's part of building your brand, it's something you do need if you plan to be active in the blog community, and it really takes very little time.

Have you ever seen somebody's comment, and at the top you see their name, and at the bottom or somewhere in the post it has a link to their blog, and you wondered, "How'd they do that?" I certainly did, until YA writer Charmaine Clancy of Wagging Tales showed me how.  It's not so hard (especially if you write it on a cheat sheet.  Copy-and-Paste is my bestest friend ever. )

Here's the HTML code for this blog:
<a href="">Writing in Flow</a>  Substitute your blog URL for the, and your awesome blog title in between the > and the </a>.


If you want it to go to a particular post, the first part can get rather lengthy, but it's still not crazy scary:  <a href=">Why Do We Follow - Or Not Follow - A Blog?</a>  (The easiest way to get all that code is to open another tab to that blog post and copy it from the URL window.)

When you insert a link in with your comment, you're making it easy for a reader to jump right over to your blog.  (Are the beds made?  Is it clean and nice and ready for company?)  Often, I will see a great comment on a blog, click on the link to the person's name, and find they write or contribute to 95 different blogs, and none of the titles gives me a clue as to which blog would interest me.  Meh.  I could try visiting them, one by one, to see if there's one I want to Follow... or, I could do something else. 

Guess which decision I most often make?

Mind you, if you are blatantly just commenting to drive traffic to your blog, this can be off-putting, so use linking back with discretion.  Make sure your comment offers some kind of value, first and foremost, to the author of the blog on which you're commenting.  A trail of honey, not a bucket of it.  Honey buckets are not so inviting.

7) There Will Always Be People Who Don't Like You, and That's Their Loss
Don't take it personally if  people outside your niche don't choose to follow you. You might be the sweetest  human being and nicest Blogger in the whole wide world, but I don't want to trade basket-weaving patterns with you, or lasagna recipes.  Not.  My. Thing.

This is Metaphor, all 22 pounds of her. 
Yes, she's on a vet-supervised diet. 
No, it hasn't helped.
Nor are dogs.  Mind you, I love dogs, dogs are great (though I now have a cat who's bigger than many dogs.  And I do Follow Charmaine because she writes about dogs and shares great writing and blogging tips.)

This is why sticking to your own kind - picking a niche, and looking to grow your blog among those most interested in the subject - makes sense.  There are so very many blogs out there, and only so many hours in the day.  We all have to make some tough choices.  Later, you can look to expand outside your niche, because your writing is so amazing that it naturally draws in readers.

Finally, when it comes down to it, you've got to channel the wisdom of Ricky Nelson, and make sure your blog makes you feel happy and proud.

(Is it just me, or was RN a handsome, handsome man?  Just sayin'.)

What tips would your mama have given us about blogging?
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P.S.  Did you see I'm hosting a Blogfest?  Click here for details on how to join in.   

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