Friday, September 2, 2011

How to Start Blogging For a Cause

The tool I have chosen to make a difference to my future and the future of civilization is writing - writing about what I believe, about what is right with the world, and what is not, writing to create a network of like-minded people, writing using the tools of technology, of blogging, and of social media on the internet. When I set out ten years back, there was no Facebook, no twitter, no status updates, and no blogger. Neither was there a sense that user generated online content could be used for reasons other than commerce.

Blogs have come a long way from the early days of online journals and internet communities. As blogs have evolved to their modern form, more and more people are wanting to join this movement, using the internet to reach a wide audience with their thoughts and opinions. Platforms and technologies, too, have kept pace, offering the new blogger user friendly and intuitive interfaces. If you have just set out on your journey to become an ace blogger, you will benefit from this collection of expert tips on the basics of blogging.

What are you blogging for?
This should be the first question before you start out. Find a reason, or a niche, as it is known in blogging terminology. Define who you are blogging for and why. This will help you decide what you want to blog about. Choose something that you are either knowledgeable or passionate about or something that you are willing to research and study in the interest of your readers. Future Perfect is a blog that attempts to build up an online community of readers and writers who are adopting simplicity as a lifestyle choice in order to save the planet and our civilization from crumbling under the many-headed monster of decadence.

What will you call your blog?
Naming your blog is critical to how people will see your blog. Another important factor is what name you will blog under. Make it as relevant to your focus area while keeping in mind that it should be something that communicates well across cultures, geographies, languages, and time. What seems of help today, might seem totally wrong tomorrow.  This blog is called Future Perfect since it tries to create the perfect future. The URL of the blog uses the phrase weight loss for the spirit, capturing the essence of simplicity, minimalism, and frugality, as opposed to being pulled down by the burden of modern living, or trying to be a spiritual heavyweight.

What platform will you use?
There are many blogging platforms to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Familiarize yourself with the most common ones, like Blogger, Wordpress, TypePad etc. Keeping in mind what you are trying to achieve with your blog in terms of user features, functionalities, widgets etc., choose a platform that will meet your needs. Future Perfect uses Blogger and is hosted on the blogspot domain. Blogger is a free tool and caters to most blogging needs. Blogger is also extremely user friendly, and has an intuitive interface that is especially easy to use for first time bloggers.  If you have any questions about how to set up your blog and start blogging, feel free to email me at subhorup at gmail dot com.

What writing style should you adopt?
Write in a style that comes naturally to you. Be yourself when you blog, since you really cannot be anyone else. Write in a friendly manner that will engage your readers and make them feel comfortable. As you progress in your blogging effort, you may want to experiment with different styles of writing. My personal style is satirical and dark, but I have learned from experience that this is not a style that is quickly understood by readers, since satire and dark humor works only when the reader is anticipating it. For blogs that have large number of new visitors, a more middle of the road approach is advisable.

What can you get your readers to do?
As you develop a readership, each post that you write should engage your readers in a way that encourages them to answer what is commonly called a "call to action." This can be as basic as subscribing to your RSS feed, or returning to read your next post or it can be something more concrete like sharing it on their social network or entering into a dialog with you and your readers by leaving a comment on your post. I used to hesitate closing my posts with a call to action specifically geared towards traffic and readership, since I felt it was like soliciting or advertising. But as I experimented with different techniques across the different blogs that I write, I realized that a simple "do tell us what you think" at the end of each post resulted in a tenfold increase in reader interaction in the form of emails, shares, and comments!

The secret of successful blogging is simple - be honest and genuine. Write for a reason that will help people and yourself. Promise a pay off and then deliver on your promise. Remember that if your content is not of value to the reader, all the bells and whistles will not keep them coming back. For example, if you are writing a blog about blogging for newbies, make sure it empowers the reader to be able to start blogging with ease and flair and see results. If it fails to instill that confidence in the reader, you have failed to effectively position your call to action.

With these basics in your backpack, you can set out confidently on your blogging journey. Be persistent. Neither Rome nor ProBlogger was built in a day. Blog regularly. Keep your readers interested. Engage them in a dialog. Create content that will add value to their lives, and give them a reason to come back for more. Here's wishing you all success as the blogging ace of tomorrow. Do remember, though, to let us know about it in the comments thread.

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