Starting a blog can be indimidating. I remember when I first started, I’d considered it more of an exercise in writing commentary than something I was writing for an audience. That was mostly because I never thought anyone would actually read my blog, and I had no idea how to get people to read my blog. I also wondered: will I have anything worthwhile to say, or enough to say? I sure wish I’d had some of these resources to look at when I first started my blog!
A good thing to figure out — something I really didn’t do before I started blogging — is WHY you’re blogging. Frank Paynter, of IT Kitchen, asked his readers that very question, and listed the thirty-five answers — some eloquent, some funny. The discussion continued on his personal blog here and here. Take a look at that and ask yourself what it is you want to get out of blogging. Knowing the answer to that will help you narrow the focus of your blog. Some people keep their blog to a very narrow focus, say on IM reference or academia or teen programming. Others have more general blogs where they intersperse posts about professional and personal issues. It’s all about what your interests are.
Dennis Kennedy (a legal blogger) created a great list of DON’Ts in his post What are the Most Common Mistakes a New Legal Blogger Makes?, which could easily be applicable to library bloggers. I agree with his suggestion that people should become familiar with the blogosphere they’ll be writing in before they start writing. You can very quickly learn the do’s and don’ts by just seeing how bloggers write, their common rules of ettiquette, and how they deal with people who defy the blogging ettiquette. Another good tip is Kennedy’s tip #4: Being overly-familiar with existing bloggers or taking pot-shots at existing bloggers to make a name for yourself. It’s one thing to link to A-list bloggers when you’re starting out, but another to pretend to be friends with them or to trash them. Making worthwhile commentary about A-list bloggers’ posts will probably get you more readers, but bloggers and blog readers know shameless self-promotion when they see it. In addition, I agree with his opinion that the biggest mistake is not using full-text feeds. There are very few blogs where I’m willing to click through to the blog from my aggregator. I have to be REALLY interested. A lot of good bloggers still don’t offer full-text feeds for those of us who use aggregators, but it’s just a pet peeve of mine. [via FeedMeLegal]
On the DO’s side is B. L. Ochman’s post on How to Write Killer Blog Posts and More Compelling Comments. Though her post is designed primarily for business bloggers, it offers some great advice on how to develop a blog-writing style that will get people’s attention. Also useful is her advice for writing comments on other blogs. Commenting on other people’s blogs can help a begining blogger to develop a voice, credibility, and an online social network.
Jessamyn of Librarian.net also had some good advice for new bloggers in a comment from one of my very early blog posts:
It’s interesting that you mention Aaron’s blog Walking Paper because it’s a relatively new entry in to the librarian blog scene. He’s been a regular contributor to LISNews for a long time now [a good way to get people knowing who you are if you can’t bring them to your own blog] and then started a blog with one fairly specific focus so that he would become the “go to” guy for that: IM in reference and wired stuff in libraries generally… You’re on the right track though [of course]: reading other bloggers, cross-linking, being involved in the library blogosphere. Basically it’s like public speaking, finding your unique voice is so much more useful than just parroting the peanut gallery.
She’s right. You really need to find your voice and your reason for blogging. It may change as your blog evolves, but it’s always good to continually take stock and ask yourself: why am I doing this? I know my own blog isn’t particularly focused — a major understatement — but I hope when I finally get a job the blog will become more focused based on whatever sort of library work I’m doing. My blog is pretty reflective of my life situation right now. So, for the sake of my blog, let me know if you have any fabulous job leads! 😉 hee hee!
Great advice! Gives me plenty of links to go through. Hmm, maybe I will have to start my own blog…