Some people think that blogging is for the isolated, or the dysfunctional: that it consists of alcoholic finger-jabbers or political obsessives firing their opinions into cyberspace regardless of the audience.
There are plenty of blogs like this! But it doesn’t have to be like that.
You can create and build an audience for your writing and get immense satisfaction from it.
How to begin, then?
You need first and foremost to choose your style and subject. Some generalised blogs reach a wide audience, but if that’s what you want, stick to a particular topic or group of topics. Politics is the most well-known one, but you will need the stomach for a lot of argument and debate if you choose it! Other blogs focus on domestic life or literature, or culture: whatever you choose to focus on, your blog needs an identity and readers need to know what to expect when they check out your blog. Writing on hundreds of different topics may seem like a good way to attract hits but it won’t necessarily build an audience.
You need to decide on your style: comic, controversial, laid-back, intelligent – what will your online persona be like? Although there is space for variation, if readers log on and suddenly find splenetic, drunken rantings where they expected discussion of the arts, they will not be impressed.
To build and sustain your audience, you need to comment constructively on other blogs and to link on yours. You can blog without allowing comments, but a few exceptions aside, this is not a great way to become known. You need to get your name – or online identity – known widely and commenting on well-known blogs is a great way to do this. You need to do it thoughtfully and intelligently, though. Just leaving one-liners or trolling (deliberately provoking the readers of that blog) is not helpful to you. Engaging in argument and making good points is helpful!
The most well-respected bloggers behave ethically, through not trolling, responding appropriately to comments and keeping just the one online identity if they choose not to blog under their real name. It isn’t your opinions as such which count, it’s how you behave and how you write. It is sometimes said that bloggers are the perpetually outraged, preaching to the converted. This is just not true. The best blogs involve wide-ranging discussion as well as well-written content. A blog which attracts dissent and on which well-moderated debate takes place is one which will earn a lot of respect. That doesn’t mean you can’t write your foul-mouthed outrage, just that that alone isn’t enough.
It’s also often said that you need well-written content first and foremost. This is true. But lots of great content is out there and unknown. You don’t need to be Shakespeare or a Pulitzer Prize-winner to blog well. You just need to write clearly, researching your topic and having proper support for any arguments you choose to make. Your style must be accessible. Posts should be detailed where necessary but not essay-length all the time. There’s also space for quips, random thoughts and jokes.
Joining a blogging agglomeration can be useful in building an audience. There are many of these, based on political affiliation, nationality or religion (for example). There are also blogging directories, which use your url and a few words to describe the blog, and which can be used by readers to search for the types of blogs they might be interested in. It goes without saying that the more links you have, the better.
One of the reasons that blogs do come and go is that blogging for an audience is hard work. You need to post regularly (several times a week, though not necessarily every day) and you need to keep up the quality of your posting and commenting. It can involve a commitment of a couple of hours a day or more. The rewards for this are twofold: satisfaction at becoming well-known, and financial – blogs with lots of hits can earn money from advertising and lead to the blogger being invited onto mainstream media outlets for discussions or interviews. Before you embark on this process, ask yourself: do you have the time and energy it takes?
Finally, don’t believe what you might have read elsewhere. Blogging is not dead, nor is it dying. Twitter and social networking sites are complimentary to blogging. You can, for example, post your tweets on your blog. In fact, blogging is only just coming to maturity. In the UK this year, a blogger forced a political resignation – the first time this has happened, and before the mainstream media could act. Bloggers break stories, start and maintain campaigns, try to raise awareness and keep a vast online debate going. Through the well-known blogs, people come to new art forms, read books they did not know existed, even learn how to cook!
Millions of people blog, all over the world.
Joining that community and taking part in its arguments, campaigns and laughter can be really satisfying.
Take the plunge!