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Before you start a blog…

When I started blogging, I really had no idea why I was doing it, except that I could see beyond the inane babbling about every little aspect of my, for the most part, uninteresting life, to the point when you can sift wisdom out of the pile.

One of the most common complaints, when people talk about blogging, tweeting, etc., aside form the inane babble and “my life is not interesting” is the matter of time to do it – or more like that they simply do not have the time to dedicate to doing it. Some people rush in any way and they give up after a bit of time (6-8 months), after the newness and “fun” of being a “blogger” has worn off.

Writing a blog is not always an easy proposition. It is much easier to drop your random thoughts into Twitter, Facebook, Friendster, FriendFeed, or whichever Social Media service you prefer, than to sit down and compose something longer (and hopefully more considered) for your audience.

Think about this:

…those networks capture and own your content, and in fact capitalize on your activities. Your content helps them become a destination. Yes, micro interactions are important and can help you increase the number of connections you make exponentially – and faster than a blog.

However, if you start your own site or blog, you can:

  • set up your credentials as knowledgeable in a field
  • take ideas in new directions
  • connect with people with whom you share a common interest
  • begin to build a community of colleagues or fans

By controlling your own content, you can reap these benefits in ways unattainable in social networks.

With a blog, it’s important that you plan for content. In addition to the rainy days and times when you won’t be able to post – you may be traveling, or booked solid – you will want to share meaning and purpose with your readers. For a blog to be successful you need to think that content is not just yours.

Before you get started, you should know the following 3 things:

1. Your content will have legs

In other words – if you do a good job and your audience like it – it will be shared, discussed, potentially quoted, forwarded, tweeted, and sometimes flat-out copied without attributing you. The best part of all this is that your words will have legs and people may use your wisdom for their betterment. You may get comments letting you know that they liked/used your advice or disagreed vehemently, or you may not. Accept that though you created the post and passed along the information, once the content is out there, it’s out of your hands.

2. Participation is also content

Comments and conversations, on your own blog AND on others’ blogs are out there and will be read and scrutinized by readers, fans, and detractors alike. You decide when and how to take part, but you cannot control how the participation is referenced afterward.

Personally, I tend to pass along tips on my blog as well as share stories I have written. I use Twitter, Buzz, and Facebook to promote my blog and share remarks or the occasional “aha!” moment. Others may use talks, books, and workshops instead of engaging with comments at their blog.

Though your content will go places you may not follow, you can decide how you will present it and at what level you want to engage with your community.

3. Think about where you’re going

Most people, in the beginning, experiment with the design, format, layout, etc. of their sites until they find something which presents them comfortably. If you are able to decide on some firm goals, you will have more freedom to figure out how to get there, instead of having to alter things when a new whim strikes. The goals will help you focus on those evenings, after a hard day, when you really don’t have an idea what to write.

Some professionals use their blog as a sort of library of interesting things to think about – an example of that is Herd by Mark Earls. Others use the blog as a companion to the research and thinking they’re putting into a book, like Gretchen Rubin with The Happiness Project. For others yet, the blog becomes the focal point from which they solidify a project or line of thinking that becomes a book.

The point is that they are all outcomes and they are all there because there was some effort placed into understanding goals. It’s becoming a bit ridiculous to hear that a blog will be useful for your business to drive customer engagement. You need to want engagement in the first place, the blog can be one of the ways to do that if you’re engaging in it.

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