Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Techy Tuesday: So, You Want to Start a Blog

Following the Blogger Q&A at the Expo on Saturday, I've been thinking about blogging A LOT.  I've also had several people asking me about my take on blogging so I thought this might make a good post.

I started my blog shortly after returning from Nike Women's in 2010.  I had spend the last 6 months chronicling my training journey - though not in the same detail I do it nowadays - and had enjoyed writing the posts so much that I didn't want it to stop.   But I wanted more.  Running wasn't just who I was.   I loved the mommy running blogs I followed.  I loved the book lover blogs I followed.  I was about to embark on NANOWRIMO and to abandon Facebook.

Just like that I could see the kind of blog I wanted begin to evolve.   Read.Write.Run.  My 3 "R's" as it were...The rest is history.

That's not to say I didn't have growing pains.  For a few months, I didn't have many subscribers...I just wrote.  I wrote for me.  I wrote to share my adventures.  But slowly, I started to connect with people. I became bolder about posting the address of my blog when I commented on others.  I took some pride in the appearance of it.  I bought a domain name.

and my following grew.  

I started posting my blog posts to twitter and my followers there came over to check it out and share their experiences.

and my confidence grew.

I didn't go into this blogging thing with much of a plan.  I just needed an outlet to pour my thoughts into and this one seemed to resonate.

At the Blogger Q & A at BMO Vancouver Marathon this past Saturday, they asked us what advice we would give to someone who wanted to start a blog.

My answer?  Just DO it.

If you want to blog, you can take the leap and hope that someone out there will relate to what you write.  But have a focus and know your boundaries. 

That brings me to another question from the Q & A - where do you draw the line between sharing just enough and sharing too much?
I tend to share a fair bit...but I do have a line I will not cross.   I don't post the names of my kids or my hubby (though I do occasionally post pictures of them) - in fact, I don't have the same last name as them so they are doubly protected.  I don't write anything I wouldn't say to someones face and I always try to make it clear that I am relaying my own experiences.  I don't claim to be an expert.  I let my friends know if pictures I take will appear in the blog and I don't use full names unless they say I can or if they have a blog of their own out there to link to.  

This past weekend, I almost broke a cardinal rule of social media safety, though.  I had drafted an entire post, detailing exactly where I would be for events this weekend...and deleted it before I hit the publish button.   I need to draw the line at anything that might affect my safety.  I'm sure my followers are nice people who I would become fast friends with upon meeting them...but I have put myself into the public eye and I haven't met everyone who visits my blog.  

The topics I write about come from whatever adventures I am having or conversations and experiences I am going through.  I write from my heart and have found it really resonates with people.   JS passed a comment this weekend about my becoming a "celebrity" and I laughed it off.   I'm just a mom who writes and may be a bit too obsessed with reading and running.  It still amazes me daily that there are people out there who want to read my ramblings and I am so appreciative of all of the connections I have made through this. 

My tips for new bloggers:

  • Find the blogging platform YOU like.  I hear a lot of bloggers really talk up Wordpress and I've used it in the past for self-hosted blogs, but when it came time to choose for my own, I chose Blogger because it was easy and it's connected to my Google account that I use for practically everything anyway.  For this blog, I didn't care if I self hosted.  I know enough about graphic design to work with the layouts to make it my own and I don't like the photo uploaders for WP. I have also had bad luck with WP in the past because I usually got a lot of comment spam. Your mileage may vary but ultimately, you are more likely to stick with it if you find one that is easy for you to use and won't be painful to update.  There are other platforms as well so find the one that works for you.
  • Have a focus.  Unless your blog is going to be your journal about everything, you'll find it easier to write is a) you are passionate about the topic and b) you don't try to be everything to everyone.  Your readers are looking for someone they can relate to.
  • Play with your settings - there is a lot you can adjust to make your blog easier to read
  • Remember that your blog should be designed around the READER - make it easy for them to subscribe, follow and comment. 
  • Don't truncate your feed.  Most people who follow blogs, do it through a reader program (I, personally, use Google Reader) and a truncated blog is my biggest pet peeve.  I quickly unsubscribe if the feed is truncated because I just want to read it all from my reader.  If I have to click over to the blog itself - it is too much work and I won't do it.
  • If you want to interact with your readers, turn off the word verification for commenters.  Having to fight with that is a pain.  
  • Post at least once per week.  I post often because I have a lot to say.  I will sometimes post more than once per day, but only if I have something worth saying and sharing.  I don't post the minutiae of my day every day.
  • Love it.  A blog shouldn't be hard work.  It is a labour of love. I wouldn't do it if I didn't love the writing.  If I don't have something to write - I don't...but , as you all know, that doesn't happen too often.  My head is just too full of things to share :)
Edited to add (thought of 2 more):
  • Post photos.  It breaks up the text and adds more interest to your posts.  Even if they are terrible Blackberry self-portraits
  • Don't be afraid to post about your struggles.  If you only post when things are sunshine and lollipops, and disappear when things get rougher - you stand the chance of losing the opportunity to relate on a different level and people won't be able to help you through your trying times.  I can't tell you how many times the advice of a commenter has helped me through.

Have you ever thought you might like to start a blog?  Let me know if you end up doing it so I can check it out!

4 comments:

  1. I like this post because when I started it was just for me, I wasn't sure if I'd ever tell anyone about it. Then came the confidence and although I share my life with my family in person, I wasn't as open about what running meant to me until I started writing about it on my blog. Anyhow, I love it and I do it because I like to. I would love some critique or advice on my appearance etc. as I know I'm still using pretty standard layouts etc.

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    1. I actually really like your blog because it is so simply designed. So often, I see people who don't know much about design go really over the top and make the decision to put as much visual clutter as possible into the design and it becomes really distracting. On yours, your posts get to shine :)

      I am working on another post for next week on "reading blogs made easy" to introduce people to feed readers. If most people are using feed readers - then it doesn't really matter about the design so much as the feed :)

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  2. I love how the blogging world is developing. I'm still pretty new to it, but like you say it's definitely best when you post things you're passionate about. I'm sure new visitors to my blog must think it's a bit disjointed, but it's actually more that I write about what I love when it happens - it's more fun that way :-)

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  3. Thanks for the fabulous tips Cori! I first stumbled across your blog in a Google Image search of a Half Marathon medal (Hypo? Last Chance? Drumheller?) and liked your human down-to-earth approach to blogging. Like you say, you posted about your struggles (something everyone can relate to) but your bubbly enthusiasm comes through too!

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