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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Special - Anniversary Week - Blogging Tips and Lessons Learned

After blogging a year, here's what I'd pass along to anyone seriously considering starting a blog. There’s no shortage of web articles on the topic, but these lessons have been learned directly from writing one:

Know why you’re going to blog – Before starting, determine your reasons for blogging. Knowing it is for the discipline of writing a book sustains me while building an audience.

Establish rules for yourself – Guiding principles simplify decisions and your effort. I knew early I’d cover general work-related topics without mentioning my employer specifically. Additional guides include the number of words (generally under 300), how often to publish (daily except holidays), and topic categories (limiting content to 20 topic areas).

Write for a month before publishing – After deciding how often to publish, write a month’s worth of posts before putting something online. This provides three advantages:

  1. You’ll discover how much effort blogging will take and can adjust your frequency to ensure you’ll sustain it.
  2. It will help refine your writing skills.
  3. You’ll have a backlog of material for when your creative juices run dry.

Create an editorial calendar – Get a big desk calendar, some small post-it notes, and plan out a few months worth of topics. Knowing where you’re headed is helpful and the flexibility of modifying where you’re headed (by moving the post-its around) is essential. Another hint – after 6 months, throw out any still-unwritten topics to freshen future content.

Capture ideas all the time – Always have something to write down blogging ideas. Never lose a potentially viable idea. Ask yourself daily what happened that might have blog potential. It’s a great relief later to thumb through a notebook of starter idea fragments.

Keep a hidden blog – After setting up your main blog, establish a hidden one where you can experiment with graphics, pre-publish posts to see how they’ll look, and work out bugs as you experiment with blogging.

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