(Photo credit: Carl Heyerdahl / Unsplash)
Are you stuck writing a blog post? Are you staring at a blank screen, the cursor blinking?
Does the Blog Project – “Write a Compelling Blog” in Level 4 of Pathways feel insurmountable?
This is the second post in a series. In my first post, “How to Write Blog Posts for TM Clubs and Beyond: First in a Series”, I covered the first two tasks in the list below, namely, choosing blogging options and choosing a template.
- Choosing Blogging Options
- Choosing a Template
- Privacy and Sensitivity
- Engaging With Readers
- Promoting Your Blog
Let’s dive in now and consider the other aspects of the project.
Privacy and Sensitivity
I don’t need to add much to the Pathways Project description of privacy and security considerations. Generally, be careful what you reveal about yourself online, even if you feel pressure to “put yourself out there”. Content creators are encouraged to show vulnerability when writing or posting, and while this does draw in readers and interested parties, be mindful of the fact that once on the internet, these details will be searchable for a very long time. The Wayback Machine, for example, (tinyurl.com/2p8aba8v) maintains an archive of over 662 billion web pages. Even if a site is no longer currently on the web, there may well be an archive of it.
Gaining the consent of the people, businesses, or organizations you mention in your post is key. In general, I limit myself to positive remarks about others. Some writers, of course use their blogging platforms to offer critiques of others but that is unlikely to form part of the mission for the blog in this project.
Engaging With Readers
In my first post, I touched on the need to build an audience. I did say that it takes time to build an audience and that it might take longer than the prescribed eight posts of the project to build an audience.
Once you have an audience, you can engage with your readers.
To receive some quick feedback, you may simply ask a few club members to read your posts and comment on them there. That might give you inspiration for further posts.
Promoting Your Blog
Based on my experience, the best way to find readers is to promote your blog. Blogs can be promoted in a variety of ways.
Via social media
Post your blog on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, or other social media sites. Make sure that your posts themselves contain social media links at the bottom and top of the pages so that readers can move back and forth easily between blog post and social media site.
If you can, encourage social media readers to sign up for more posts for you by email. That way you can maintain a list of their email addresses and you can send the readers more posts over time.
Building an email list takes time and there are some regulations to follow – sites such as Mailchimp (https://mailchimp.com) and others explain these requirements to you. There are many other email marketing software platforms too, so it is wise to check them out and compare features. Many of them offer free packages – Mailchimp, for example, allows you to maintain a list of up to 2000 email addresses before you must upgrade to a paid package.
Via hosting platforms
WordPress and other blogging platforms offer you the option of engaging with readers directly on the platform itself. By adding tags to your blog, you can attract readers who find you through search engine optimization (SEO). Another way of promoting your blog there is to read others’ blogs on the same platform, comment on the blog and build relationships with those bloggers. In time, you may be asked to guest blog for them, or vice-versa. Guest blogging makes other audiences aware of you as a writer. Visit the blogging platform of your choice to learn more about promoting your blog, including guest blogging, and building your audience.
You can write blog posts and distribute them via email without using social media sites. You might start by emailing your posts to some friends or family. Ask them to forward the post to others and in that way build your audience. Once your email list is large enough, you can use an email service to organize and even automate your posts.
Responding to comments
You can promote your blog by responding to reader comments. If your blogs are posted on social media, you can respond there. When you respond to commenters, they likely feel ‘heard’ by you. They are then more likely to read other posts on the blog or recommend the blog to others. In time, your readers can become “evangelists” for the blog if they get excited about its content. They provide free marketing for you! How many times, for example, have you recommended that a friend read a particular blog? There! You’ve served as a “blog evangelist”, and you didn’t even mean to!
Comments on social media the platform itself, or email
Readers may leave comments directly on the social media platform. Also, the platform post may direct someone to your blog and readers might leave comments there. If you send your blog via email, you may get responses via email or on the blogging platform of choice.
As with Toastmasters evaluations, it’s helpful to take a non-defensive approach when receiving feedback. As much as possible, try to understand the ‘what I saw, what I heard, what I felt’ part of the feedback. Try to see the blog post through the reader’s eyes and see if the feedback makes sense. Respond to the reader. That tells the reader you heard them and encourages a relationship with them. Building audiences is all about building relationships. In some instances, though, you may receive abusive comments. Unfortunately, this forms part of the online landscape. Some bloggers respond to these politely; others block the commenter, others report them.
On some blogging platforms, ‘bots’ may respond to your posts. There are tools in the platform to help you figure out if the response has been written by a ‘bot’ or by a real person. If it is a bot, you can block it and ignore it. There are also plugins to block bots.
I hope these tips have helped you think about the Blogging project in Pathways. I’ve only touched on some of the blogging subjects – with a quick internet search, you can find many more resources with more detail than I’ve given here.
The most important thing is to not worry about all the details and start blogging. As you blog consistently, you will find ways of solving the problems that come up. Consistency and regularity are the key to success!
Created by Bryn Snow Immediate Past President Milton Escarpment Toastmasters 2021-2022