I’m flattered to have been invited to @geekspeak tomorrow to talk blogging, with a specific focus on 3rd sector blogs. Here’s some thoughts and useful tools for new and budding bloggers.
Now, proper blogging can be quite a boring process. There’s the research, the putting your thoughts together, finding images and making those tweaks to make it look good. Then there’s the tagging and sharing… With all of these steps involved, blogging can be quite time-consuming. However, with a love for the subject you’re covering and use of some of the tips and tools below, your shiny new blog could be the start of a nice little hobby.
Some Thoughts on the Content Research side of things…
Work out a method to save material for future reference. Pinterest, Bundlr, Instapaper, Pocket, Diigo, Evernote, Delicious, reminder apps, and twitter favourites - each serve slightly different purposes, use whatever works best for you. I guarantee getting into the habit of properly saving material for reference will save your stress levels 100% as compared to simply leaving browser tabs open.
Mobility is vital nowadays, and good-old Google’s Drive is brilliant (when you’re signed-in to Google, in the black strip at the top, hit Drive or Documents), as is Dropbox (anyone want an invite?!), BOX and SugarSync.
Some thoughts on Content…
Content is what you put in. There aren’t really any tools to transfer knowledge and well-thought opinions from your brain to the desktop. Sorry. There are some tips to help keeping your content flowing though!
1. Keep your focus.
Think about what it is you want to achieve with your blog. Then work out the best way to achieve it - research which platform is best suited etc… *Then* do it. Just like you wouldn’t set off on a new route somewhere without a map, don’t start blogging until you know where your blog is going, then you can work out the best route to get you there. I’m not going into the pros and cons of the different platforms here; the best advice that you can receive is to explore them for yourself.
Having a defined concept will help keep your content focused, and so make it easier to find / generate consistent content. Mix original content with existing content. It’s very ok to do that! Just make sure you attribute your source.
2. Ensure it is visually appealing.
I’m not suggesting you become a Photoshop pro overnight so you can create awesome custom graphics, or do a crash-course in HTML to be able to customize templates, but I am saying consider the visual impact of your blog. From the overall, to each post and how they fit the overall flow of the blog.
The usual tips apply, use images, but try to keep them consistent, use clear font sets etc. etc. Space is good. Space is our friend! Make sure your blog has lots of space to allow the content to be visible.
Explore worlds beyond text-based content; use photography, animation etc to engage your audience. Tell stories using different tools.
3. Be social
I assume you’re putting this stuff out there to be seen. So make it visible. Tag your content (if you don’t know, find out what this means). Allow comments. Talk to the people that leave comments. Develolp relationships with your readership by exploring their content. Build your community of interest. If your comment feature is a bit naff - I’m looking at you Tumblr - you can easily install something like Disqus.
Connect your conent to other platforms selectively. Don’t FLOOD EVERY PLATFORM EVERYWHERE IMMEDIATELY ALL THE TIME! You will piss people off. Each platform has a slightly different function, and will give you a slightly different audience - it’s rare that everything is suitable for every platform. Plus, for anyone following you in more than one digital space the noise can be sometimes be unbearable… Aim to find a nice balance between content, conversation and promotion.
Shareaholic, Feedburner, TweetDeck, Hootsuite, bitly, Netvibes, & Google Analytics will all help you manage and monitor content sharing, manage incoming information such as stats and news feeds (DO get savvy with RSS) and a million more things too.
Zemanta looks to be an interesting platform with its promise to connect bloggers who write about similar topics…
And whilst talking about talking to people, things like survey monkey & poll daddy are quite useful in the 3rd sector digital world for polling opinion. Maybe you want to crate a e-newsletter to cascade your content to people beyond your blog audience? No problem. Say hello to Mail Chimp!
People get all het up about search engine optimization. All I’m gonna say on this is that tags and social platforms are fast becoming the key drivers in SEO, so tag all your content to within an inch of its life, keep putting it out there and the right people will find it.
That’s it for now I think. Agree / disagree? Let me know what you think. What are your indispensable blog tools and tips?