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Wed, May 23rd - 7:43AM

Blogging 101: Comment, Comment, Comment
In the world of blogging, nothing quite beats the allure of a comment. All you have to do is visit a blog, read the content or look at the pictures, and then follow it up with a comment. Now, don't go using the comment to randomly promote your blog or website. This is considered spamming. Instead, your comments should be insightful, fun and non-offensive.

How Comments Can Help Your Blog
More often than not, people backtrack the commenter, checking out their blog. If you post a comment on a blog at least one person will check out and possibly comment on your blog. In turn, many of these commenters may also add you to their list of fellow bloggers, quite often found in the sidebars of blogs.

Leave Insightful Comments
Anything that shows thought on your part, or anything that shows you actually read the blog works well. For instance, if someone is speaking on the Truth as presented by an almighty God, you may provide comments like:
  • "I'm not sure there really is any 'Truth,' only truths as constructed within cultures."
  • "I saw the Truth of God and was saved. Thanks for all the good work you do in spreading his word."

Be Polite and Courteous
This is a basic maxim lost on many using the internet. Just because someone can't reach and throttle doesn't mean you should flame. Remember what your mama told you? "If you don't have anything nice to say..." Of course, this doesn't mean you can't engage a fellow blogger in heated debate. Take these two comments, for example:
  • "I don't think you're really speaking from a place of any real knowledge. The way I've always understood the political system is that it runs a system of checks and balances. Are you a totalitarianist, cause it sure sounds like it the way you think the president shouldn't have to answer to anyone. Come on, be a patriot and not a sheep!"
  • "You &$#@ing idiot! The 'president' sucks @#$!!!"
Which of the above opens up discourse, and which simply offends? And better yet, which comment would you prefer on your blog?

Beware the Comic Effect
There's no question that humor is an effective form of engagement. But done the "wrong" way, you can end up receiving online harassment emails. This hearkens back to the whole Know-Your-Audience idea. Does the author of the blog present a sense of humor? Are they satirical or slapstick? Then yuck it up. Does the blog have a general sobriety to it? Don't chance it; either provide an insightful comment or move on.

Above all, don't be like the "First Poster" guy:

Now that you know how to attract more "flies," so to speak, get out there and start commenting away.

Next: The Power of Questions

Comment (486)

Wed, May 16th - 6:14AM

Blogging 101: Original Content Rules the Day
Less than 20 percent of all blog content is original.

I can't rememeber where I read that, but spend about a half hour cruising the web and you'll believe it. From blogs that clip a portion of news then link to the complete story, to blogs that review and recap other blogs, to advertising blogs that merely clip content from the business's main website...It's tough to find anything original on the blogosphere.

Online searchers can spend hours hitting the same content over and over again; same content, different blog. Granted, hot news stories lifted from CNN or The Onion are going to provide something engaging and interesting for your readers, but how do you make the content yours. How do you move your blog from newstand to newsroom status?

Take a Stand
Go ahead and post that news article on MicroSoft's latest lawsuit or PETA's drive to outlaw bullfighting worldwide. Once you've clipped and linked to the story or paraphrased the details, tell your readers where you stand on the issue and why.

Offer Solutions
It's really easy to point out an issue from the news. But, what are you bringing to the table by offering up the issue? Provide a solution without regard for the reaction you think you might receive from your readers. Nothing opens up discourse better than when you claim to have the it right or wrong.

For advertisers, find those clips in the news that will allow you to offer your product or service as the solution:
"Do you die to stay ahead of the fashion curve? NeoGothicPunkHippyPrep has the clothes and accessories sure to keep people thinking you just stepped off a Parisian runway."

Share Something Only You Know
Never believe that the stories running through your mind only have a place there.
  • Does your neighbor's ant-extermination practices fascinate you? Write a story about it.
  • How about that crack in the wall, staring you down day in and day out? Blog it. Who knows? Maybe a "crack in the wall" support group will fall right in your lap.
  • Does someone in your community work tirelessly to clean the runoff ditches, but no one takes note? Honor them on your blog.
Remember, original content rules the day. The more original your blog, the more valuable it will be in the longrun.

Next: Comment, Comment, Comment

Comment (7)

Wed, May 9th - 5:10AM

Blogging 101: What's Your Theme?
Themes establish expectations. Think of them as a costume party or a movie genre. You can play within the theme, but deviate from it too much and your audience will go elsewhere for the flavor they're seeking.

Switching Themes Can Kill Reader Base
Bob Dylan notoriously spit in the face of his loyal fans on a frequent basis. After the media screamed his accolades for his talent as a folk artist, he switched to electric guitar wailing. After he gained electric guitar fans he switched again, each time leaving his fans shaking their heads and feeling betrayed. Historically, we can look back and view his constant shift a bit more objectively and recognize it as experimentation. But from a marketing standpoint, Bob committed a major sin.

Switching Themes Can Increase Reader Base
Think Woody Allen. His over-the-top anxiety-ridden love stories grew stale, with the same plot devices and characterization becoming cliche. So, he moved into the realm of detective mysteries. His lifetime fan base enjoyed his first foree into the detective genre, but when he repeated it, they turned their backs to him. As a result, he began to take on the role of supporting actor and put his personality into someone else. Did you see "Scoop"? Note how well the gorgeous Scarlett Johannson pulled off Woody's characterization in his new detective theme, and note how many new fans he gathered in the process of switching themes.

Themes Can Be Broad or Specific
When deciding on a theme for your blog, you must first ask yourself the following questions:
  1. What is my purpose in creating a blog? Is it to simply journal my daily life or woes? Is it to share guerrilla marketing techniques? Is it to sell crochet patterns for doll house wares?
  2. How focused do I want my blog? In the example of guerrilla marketing techniques, you could simply let a news feed pore in stories from around the globe, or you could dial it in to focus on guerrilla marketing your latest comic book. The news feed will most likely attract many more readers, but will they leave your blog satisfied and with knowledge they can directly apply to their own guerrilla marketing efforts?
  3. How much flexibility do I want in my blog? Do you want to force yourself to write about something specific? In the creation of my WebRing blog, I decided that this would present the perfect opportunity to discipline my online writing into helpful tutorials on writing blogs. There's not a whole lot of room for flexibility in that. But in regards to my rogue writing blog, I can write about anything that fancies me that day...from poetry to political commentary to discourse on teaching poetry to kids.
Once you've delved into the questions above, you're ready to decide on a theme. But, what do you do with that theme outside of letting it guide your writing and thereby your readership?

Play with your theme and turn it into the title of your blog. The title of my WebRing blogs, for instance, is "Blogging 101." The title sets up an expectation that this blog will provide instruction on blogging, much like a school course. Clever titles can get you in trouble if they're not specifically tied into your theme, but don't be afraid to explore and be inventive with it.

Choosing a theme for your blog not only sets up expectations for your future reader base, it also helps guide your writing. Choosing a theme keeps you from having to stare at, as Hemingway calls it, the  "White Bull" each day.

Next: Original Content Rules the Day 
Comment (4)

Thu, May 3rd - 8:52AM

Blogging 101: What's your message?
With the launch of WebRing's blog system, WebRing members now have a simple-to-use platform for disseminating information on the Web. What's your message?

Do you want to:

  • Share stories otherwise missed by mainstream media?
  • Provide advice or tips on something like childcare or grantwriting?
  • Publish poetry and fiction onto the Web?
  • Post photos and videos?
  • Rant about an issue that pisses you off?
...then blog about it!

Blogs are a tremendous tool of empowerment. They allow you to say what you want and need. They help you draw in supporters of your cause or to rant about something that bothers you or to find friends by providing a sample of who you are through your writing.

So what are blogs NOT best used for?

Unless you provide something substantial, merely saying "Buy my product" is tantamount to abuse of blogs. Blogs are a terrific way to advertise, but only if you provide something substantial such as a tip or advice. A good way to advertise with blogs while maintaing relevancy is to search for articles that validate the need for your product. Do you sell water filters in LA? Look for the latest LA Times article on the ever diminishing water quality in the Valley, clip a short quote, link to the full story and then offer your product as the solution to the problem.

One-time Greetings:
Saying "Hey, look at me! I got a blog" is fine as a first post, but follow it up with something else and keep following it up. Blogging creates audiences and audiences demand engagement. This means continually providing them content to read. If you don't think you're going to blog more than once,  resist the urge to start a blog. A single Web page may better suit your needs.

That does it for this issue of Blogging 101.

Next: What's Your Theme?


Comment (2)

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