10 Things I’ve Learned After a Decade of Blogging — Part 2
This past Friday, February 7, 2014, was the tenth anniversary of the first post here on ‘Patrick’s Place.’ Last week, I posted the first part of a look at 10 things I’ve learned in a decade of blogging. Here’s the second part.
I appreciate the kind words over the past week as this blog reached the milestone of its tenth anniversary. Many blogs sort of peter out after a year or so. Some go for a few years then just fade away as if their owners forgot they’d ever existed.
Some go on, stubbornly, when there’s never a comment left by a reader.
I’ve been very fortunate. I had readers engaging with me from the beginning, when this blog was running off of AOL’s now-defunct Journals platform; it was those early readers, a handful of whom still stop by, who encouraged me to keep writing and taught me that blogging — and interacting with people because of your blog — can be a very rewarding experience.
So that’s where I pick up in my list of 10 lessons. (If you haven’t already, check out the first five.
Lesson #6: Building community takes effort…but it’s worth it.
There are so many blogs out there these days that it’s not enough to just write good content. (I don’t know that it was ever truly enough to provide good content alone, but if it ever was, those days are long gone.) You have to have a strategy to get people to come to you.
And more importantly, you have to make it pleasant for them when they arrive. Your audience should know that it is valued, that its opinions are valued. And that you appreciate every moment that they spend on your blog. If they leave a comment, acknowledge it. If they ask a question, answer it. If they reach out, do everything you can to reach back.
You know that Golden Rule thing? Do unto others? Yes, that applies in blogging, too.
Lesson #7: You can write about controversy without being controversial.
Please understand that this comes from someone who has spent more than 22 years in television. I know more than I ever hoped to know about Nielsen ratings and how to pull in viewers.
Many bloggers seem to think that they have to be as controversial as they can to build a loyal following. Controversy works to a point, I think. But here’s the problem with being a “shock jock blogger:” you’re already outnumbered. There are so many people just trying to get noticed that they’re grabbing on to the latest trending topic or hot controversy just to ride the bandwagon.
Can you offer a perspective that’s fresh? If not, can you at least be entertaining in your interpretation of what the debate is about? For me, I’ve attempted the common sense route: I believe that whenever there’s a fight between A and B, the truth usually is found somewhere in the middle, in a gray area where we find not only common sense but compromise. That’s what I try to do here.
Lesson #8: How well you write is at least as important as what you write.
It may seem easy for me to say that, since writing is a major part of my “real” job and because I like good grammar. But it always bothers me when I see bloggers act flippantly about good writing.
I’m not saying that an occasional typo will kill your blog. As much as I’d love to tell you it never happens, it happens in my writing, too.
But I believe readers are smart enough to tell the difference between a blogger who is committed to writing well and a blogger who’s just too lazy to bother. And it’s that latter group that’s conveying a lack of respect to their audience.
I don’t want to be part of that group.
Lesson #9: An editorial calendar makes a world of difference.
Do you have a posting strategy? Mine used to be to “post as often as possible.” Early last year, I decided to move to a daily posting schedule. Believe me: it was a long time coming.
But in doing so, I decided that using theme days (or theme buckets) would be the best way I could manage daily posting. That brought me to an editorial calendar, which allows me to see, in calendar format, which posts I have scheduled for which days, and how far ahead (or behind) I am on keeping the schedule going. Plus, when there are specific days on which I want to post something, the editorial calendar allows me to plot “dummy” stories, placeholders to remind me to write those posts on those dates.
In my case, having an editorial calendar has allowed me, at various points, to get days ahead of schedule an, once in a while, a couple of weeks ahead on certain categories. For example, every Tuesday, I write a grammar post. If I have three ideas for grammar posts, I can write them all, schedule them on the calendar, then see on one page that they’re done, allowing me to spend the time I’d have written the next ones focused on posts for other days of the next two weeks. It takes pressure off when you’re feeling those deadlines on your back.
Lesson #10: Four of the most important words in the world are ‘Tell me a story.’
Don Hewitt, creator of 60 Minutes, was fond of telling everyone who asked him for advice to keep those four words in mind. We all have a story. Every situation one could blog about has a story behind it. When we are so focused on one narrow point that we forget to frame it around the human experience, we lose the opportunity to have an impact.
Obviously, some situations lend themselves to storytelling better than others. But if you can use concepts of good storytelling (versus just a fact-dump) into your writing, you humanize your posts and make them more relatable to the reader.
Those are the ten things I’ve learned. How about you? What are the biggest blogging lessons you’ve learned in a decade?