So You Think You Can Blog
This particular piece is a response to questions I received via inbox about blogging, along the lines of how to run a successful blog. I love reading blogs and have consistently read a few blogs for the last few years including my favs; OfiliSpeaks, NaijaHusband, SisiYemmie and EurekaNaija (I recently found a ton of new/awesome blogs, so this list will potentially grow). I have a strong preference for bloggers who publish original content, for the simple reason that anyone can repost something they’ve seen on the internet, but intelligence and dedication is required to sit and pen down original ideas.
Reading a blog feels like a conversation to me. It is interesting to see what catches the blogger’s attention and how they are able to communicate those ideas in 500 words or more (or less). The experience is even better when the blog is well designed/organized in such a way that articles are easily accessible, and you can jump from one post to the next with ease. While I don’t necessarily feel qualified to offer advice about how to become a successful blogger, I can tell you what catches my attention on every blog I visit.
Content is King
What are you talking about and how are you conveying your ideas? Whatever you decide to blog about, be consistent, put out quality pieces and keep it original where possible. Consistency might involve developing writing goals (e.g., post once or twice a week). It is okay to reblog and feature guest writers from time to time, but for the most part, try to write your own material. Of course there are always exceptions, e.g., if you run a contributor style blog like Omojuwa.com or knotsvilla.com
Read Other Blogs
This is a necessary step to becoming a good blogger, because it provides a visual experience that will inform the way you design, organize and write on your blog. When I decided to start The Versatile Nigerian, I looked at various blogs and examined their content, templates, layouts, menu headers etc. It helped me organize my thoughts on what kind of blog I wanted to have and how I wanted to structure my website.
Whenever I find a blog, I tend to linger, read a few articles, leave a comment and just generally enjoy the experience. Sometimes this enjoyment is cut short when the “about me” page is left blank or contains this excerpt:
“This is an example of a static post page. Add content that best describes your business or conveys your idea to your readers”
Nooo!!! How dare you not tell me everything about yourself? Okay, maybe not quite so dramatic, but it does leave me a little disappointed when the “about me” page tells me nothing about the author of the blog. Readers will always be curious about the person behind the words they read. Develop your “about me” section and talk a little bit about what inspires your writings. You don’t have to pen an epistle or “so long a letter”. A simple narrative will do.
Let’s say I recover from the shock of not being able to find out more about you, and continue to read your posts. Maybe something fascinates me and I’m moved to send you an email. Lo and behold, no “contact me” page. What? Sacrilege!! Are you saying you do not want to hear from your greatest fan? Why evils?
Seriously though, every blog should have a “contact me” page. You can leave out your email address and use a web contact form if you are worried about privacy, but give your readers an avenue to communicate with you directly.
Are you on social media? If yes, widgets and site badges are your friend. Place these buttons strategically on your site to make it easy for people to connect with you on the various social media platforms you use. Social media is fast becoming a resource tool for gathering information and learning. Readers want to be able to connect and converse with interesting people. Don’t deprive them of the joy of connecting with you through various channels (well you can; your choice).
Love your blog
This may seem like a random point, but if you love your blog, you will always look for ways to make it better. You’ll care about the quality of pictures you put up, the formatting of posts (paragraphs, spacing, headers, etc.) and the general appearance of the blog. Your blog is an extension and reflection of who you are as a person. You never know who is reading your material and what opportunities may arise from your writings. If your blog is the first means through which people meet you, why not put your best foot forward and create something that is intellectually stimulating and visually pleasing.
More importantly, blogs are also being considered as part of professional experiences. It is not uncommon to have employers do a google search on prospects they are interested in. A well-organized blog is a good testimonial for the blogger. So show your blog some love by making sure it is "on point".
Alright, those are my go to lists on every blog I visit. For those of you who asked, I know these are not tips on how to become a successful blogger, but I think this insight is useful in thinking about what you want to present to your readers. I’ll leave it to the pros (checkout my favs list in the second paragraph) to offer advice on how to excel at blogging.