Over recent years, blogging as a medium has been declared largely dead. But I am convinced that reports of the death of blogging have been greatly exaggerated. I am sure that there is a still a place for blogging going forward.
I am occasionally asked how people can get going on a blog. What should they do? How can they build up an audience? What are the key things to think about? I know this sort of article is normally reserved for new year, but I figure if you are toying with starting a blog, beginning it in the new year isn’t a bad idea, so you may want to think about these things now. So, in no particular order, here are some things to think about.
Find yourself a good host. There are several options that will allow you to have a free account, so you needn’t pay. There may be good reason to pay later on for various features, but I would counsel against it when starting out. Begin writing for free first, see how it goes and you can always upgrade your plan later if you feel the need for whatever features they offer. In my personal opinion, WordPress offer a simple platform with good hosting and nice design that is easy to setup. I started on blogger and moved to WordPress later on. If I was starting from scratch today, I would go straight to WordPress.
Again, you can pay for a domain name if you want. However, again, when starting out there probably isn’t the need. But if you do, consider whether you want to link the domain name to the title of the blog or whether you want it to be something more personal to you. The benefit of linking it to the blog title is that it makes it easier to find for people and there is a level of consistency. The downside comes if you decide to change the name of your blog, you are locked into changing your domain name as well.
Time was that somebody could post up almost anything and gain some sort of audience. That, frankly, hasn’t been true even since I started blogging nearly 15 years ago. Instead, you need to work out what kind of content you want to post. That can still be quite broad, but it is helpful to readers to know what kind of thing to expect. Most people interested in a photo blog, for example, aren’t going to tune in for political opinion. It helps to work out the broad thrust of your content and stick to it (even if that is fairly broad or covers a few different areas).
One of the most important things when starting a blog is to set a workable schedule and stick to it. That could be once per month, once per week, one a day or several times a day. The specific frequency is not so important. What matters is that you create a workable schedule and you stick to it. It is generally better to start with a slower schedule – once per month or once per week – and build that up if you have capacity than it is to attempt writing every day and find that you simply can’t maintain the commitment.
It may also help you to have a one or two specific days/weeks where you run a feature. For example, this blog has a podcast that posts every Saturday and a rundown of other people’s blog content every Sunday. This builds in set posts that require less thought and do not require the kind of original content creation that other posts need.
This is key. You cannot expect to build up a large audience within a matter of weeks or even months. There are certain variables that will affect the size of your readership and the speed with which it grows, but ultimately you need to be patient. You may spend years blogging for a handful of people (think tens or maybe low hundreds) before things really begin to grow. Building up your readership will take time and you need to recognise that things typically won’t grow very quickly.
Unless you are already a well-known figure, you will not have a ready-made audience. In the early days, the chances are that a handful of folks who know you will be your core readership. But one way to build your audience is to engage with comments. That means putting your blog in places where people might read it – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, etc – and then responding to comments when they come. The more you engage with people, the more likely they are to return and talk to you about other things you write. Few people will bother commenting if they know that they won’t ever get a response if they do.
Just write something
In the end, the best thing to do is simply to write something. After all, a blog is a place for your to post your views and opinions so that others can engage with them. The more you write, the more people will engage. The more you write, the more your writing will improve. The more you write, the more you will get a sense of what interests you.
It is best not to write what you think people will want to read – that is a moving target that can never fully be hit – but instead write about what interests you. Share your opinions, views and insights on the things you find interesting or the things you are doing. This blog is mainly about theology, politics, church life and Oldham because they are the things that I like and interest me. If I was assuming what most people were interested in and attempting to write about them, those probably aren’t the things to pick! But writing about what interested me started to interest others. So find what interests you and write about that.
In the end, a blog is your opportunity to share your particular angle on things and if you find it interesting, chances are someone else will do too. The best way to start blogging is just to get on and write something, whatever that happens to be.