I have been known to rush in where those so-called angels fear to tread. But virtue and vice aside, there’s nothing like a little risk taking when you’ve got nothing to lose. The economy may be down still, but blogs are cheap or even free, and, despite the fear they invoke in some would-be bloggers, are a great way to get your name out and promote yourself and/or your business, especially when times are tough and you may be stuck with more time than money.
The way to start blogging (happily for those who are a little timid) is to just read.
- Use services like Technorati, which rates blogs, to find those that are interesting.
- Search using Google or some other search engine to find individual blog posts that fit with what interests you.
- Pretend you are a potential customer looking for a product or service like yours.
As you search and read, jot down ideas that occur to you on a notebook or spreadsheet. Click on the links in blog posts, too. They’ll lead you to some great places. There’s also Stumble Upon, which makes suggestions for blogs based on criteria you set. Overall, in this phase you just want to explore the landscape without worrying too much about you and how you’ll stack up once you start to write.
The next step, once you’re comfortable with what’s being said and who is saying it, is to start writing comments. Like all social media, blogs are opportunities to create conversation, and comments are opportunities for readers to get involved in what is being said. As a commenter, don’t worry if you’re not noticed right away. It takes time to establish yourself in a community no matter where you are, online or off. Don’t try to shortcut the process by saying things just to insight controversy or to undermine others. It’s not necessary to agree or even hide your outrage. Just consider that the people you are talking with online are people you could just as easily be talking with in person. Be nice and think about what you are saying before you press the post button.
This is also a good time to start writing blog posts. You may not be ready to post yet. Starting to write even without posting allows you to establish a routine and to create posts that may or may not make it onto your blog in the end, but will certainly help you get your ideas to a place where they can be refined and edited. If you don’t know what to write, you might start by telling the story of what led you to your business or area of expertise. Write all you need to get your story out, but then be sure to edit. Brief posts–those that are 300 words or less–are more likely to be read. If something in a post is unclear, revisit it in another post to explain in more detail. You can also use installments to break up longer posts into logical sections.
Remember as you write, that your intention should not be to pitch a product, service, or even you and what makes you so great, but to provide people with information they may find useful. For this reason, you’ll want to write pieces that demonstrate rather than describe your knowledge or expertise. Keep doing posts like this and people will recognize your value without you having to tell them.
It is tough waiting for business to come in, but blogging has made it easier than ever to establish your presence in the marketplace and especially to target your market. Sure, there are lots of blogs out there, but by choosing topics that pinpoint customer concerns you can cut out a whole lot of that competition, and be there with fresh content and worthwhile ideas when your customers search the Internet.