Ready to Blog for Biz? Research Before You Leap!

Blog post-itIf you’re ready to blog, do you know how to get started? If not, read on.

Your first priority is research. There’s a lot to learn, so I recommend you get to know the terrain right from the start.

You need to:

  • Know what other people are doing with their blogs and websites, both in your market/area and in general. Already an avid blog reader? You could be well on your way.
  • Identify target audience groups for your blog, then look at blogs you think those groups may read.
  • Assess how other bloggers are communicating with your various target audience groups. What’s their overall message?
  • Blogs come in text, audio, video, and photo flavors right now, and most blogs benefit from combining flavors. Can you identify the customary approaches in your area of interest?
  • Right from the beginning, start thinking about what you want to say, how you want to say it, and how you will add value to the larger conversation.

RSS readers can make reading blogs easier and more rewarding, if you set up an RSS reader before starting this exercise, you can add valuable blogs to your reader when you find them. Check out this post on using feeds to keep up with business news to get more ideas.

Please schedule at least 90 minutes for this exercise to give yourself some room to explore—it could go faster.

Blog Assessment

View at least 20 different blogs, both related and unrelated to your profession or proposed blog topic. (Google Blog Search and Technorati are your friends on this mission.)

Keep useful notes
on your answers to the questions below.

When you first get to a new site, pause and note the overall feeling you get from the blog. What instantly strikes you as obvious? What tone do you expect in the posts? What is obviously important? Can you tell where they want you to focus your attention? Are you focusing there? If not, where?

Record what you like and what you don’t like about each blog. That means keeping an actual list. It will teach you a lot about what other people are doing and what you should or shouldn’t do yourself.

Open at least one post at each blog. Read it. Try and pick something that interests you so you don’t start off bored or annoyed.

If you feel inspired to leave a comment, do it.
Many bloggers recommend commenting on blogs before you start writing. I’m less concerned about when or if you start by commenting, and more concerned that you realize comments are tracked and linked to your identity in different ways online. So be aware that what you say could represent you to many people in indirect ways?even before your own blog gets going. With that in mind, do what comes naturally.

Once you’ve read and assessed your 20 blogs, start writing about your take-aways and don’t stop for 15 minutes. NO MATTER WHAT. A free-write session is all about seeing what comes out when you put time into writing, it’s more like brainstorming that way and the same “suspend your judgment” rules apply. Do it soon after you finish the 20 blog assessment so that everything is still fresh in your mind. If you think you have nothing to say, just keep writing “I have nothing to say” until something else comes up. I bet something will.

Finally, make some coherent notes about what you learned from your efforts and what you think you want for your own blog.

Thinking ahead? Identify some of the blogs you plan to read regularly. If you haven’t found them yet, keep looking.

Whether you plan to write one, or more, reading other people’s blogs is an essential step on the path to developing your own voice as a blogger.

Have fun! Also essential.

So you want to get your blog strategy together and take the leap. What next?Your first priority is research. There’s a lot to know and figure out, but you have to start somewhere and I recommend starting off by getting to know the terrain. You need to:

1.    Know what other people are doing with their blogs and websites, both in your market/area and in general. If you’re already an avid blog reader then you’re well on the way.
2.    Identify the target audience groups for your blog, then look at blogs you think they may read.
3.    Assess how other bloggers are speaking to your various target audience groups and what they are saying.
4.    Start thinking about what you want to say, how you want to say it, and how you will add value to the larger conversation right from the beginning.

RSS readers that make reading blogs easier and more rewarding, if you have an RSS reader set up when you start, you can easily add valuable blogs to your reader as you find them. Check out this post on using feeds to keep up with business news for some ideas. http://www.chaostoclarity.com/blog/2009/04/using-rss-feeds-to-help-you-keep-up-with-business-news/

Homework, please schedule at least 90 minutes to give yourself some room to explore.

View at least 20 different blogs on related and completely unrelated topics. (Google Blog Search http://blogsearch.google.com/ and Technorati http://technorati.com/ are your friends on this mission.)

Keep useful notes on your answers to the questions below.

When you first get to a new site, pause and note the overall feeling you get from the blog. What instantly strikes you as obvious? What tone do you expect? What is obviously important? Can you tell where they want you to focus your attention? Are you focusing there?

Record what you like and what you don’t about each blog. Keep an actual list. It will teach you a lot about what other people are doing and what you should or shouldn’t do yourself.

Open at least one post at each blog. Read it. And do try and pick something that interests you.

If you feel inspired to leave a comment, do it.
Most people recommend commenting on blogs before you start writing. I’m less concerned about when you start commenting and more concerned that you realize your comments are tracked and linked to your identity in different ways online. So be aware that what you say represents you to many people in indirect ways.

When you’ve done all that, start writing about your take-aways and don’t stop for 15 minutes. It’s important to do this soon after you finish so that everything is fresh. If you think you have nothing to say, just keep writing that until something else comes up.

For your next assignment, start thinking about which blogs you’ll read regularly. If you haven’t found them yet, keep looking. Reading blogs regularly is essential to blogging well and building community at your site in the future.