I was jazzed when GLAAD contacted me to sit on a panel to talk about how to create engaging content for blogs as part of their New Media Training Institute at the Creating Change conference.
The panel featured me, journalist Phil Reese, blogger Jeremy Hooper, blogger Daniel Villarreal, and blogger Zack Ford. We were each asked questions about our writing; what do we think makes it engaging, how we know that what we’re writing is yielding the results we want, and what advice we have for others who are thinking of starting their own blog.
Given the limited time of the panel, I felt like there may have been some questions that were left unanswered. Because of this, I wanted to write this quick post covering my top five tips for people looking to start their own blog.
1. Write what you’re passionate about: This is the most important piece of advice that I have to extend to anyone seeking to start a blog. I encourage you to write what you’re passionate about. If you think kittens that yawn are adorable and you want to share your thoughts on this with the world, then I encourage you to write about it. If you think this idea is absurd, check out this blog, which assesses who’s cuter, actor Ryan Gosling or a puppy.
For me, I love social media and have ever since I opened my America Online chat account (now closed) in the late 90s in order to meet and connect with likeminded people. Because of this, I knew I wanted my blog to be about social media. In addition, I’m an advocate for full LGBT equality and have been ever since I started my high school’s gay-straight alliance, so I took my passion for advocacy and my love for social media and made my blog.
2. Write when you have something to say: I often see bloggers write content to keep their site’s page visits high; some for personal gratification and others for advertising revenue. I think this is a fine approach if you’re looking to make money off of blogging. I’m not, so I only write when I have something to say. It’s not often that you’ll find quick posts on my blog. Most of my content includes my ideas coupled with secondary research that I could find on the topic I’m covering. I enjoy writing and I enjoy the process of spending the time needed to write a well-crafted post. I encourage any newbie blogger to take this approach at first and then eventually scale your content (meaning write more) once you find your blogging voice.
3. Find a good blog platform: There are lots of blogging platforms available such as Tumblr, Worpress.com, WordPress.org (if you feel comfortable with HTML), and Blogger. Choosing what platform comes down to what you want to achieve with it. Do you want it to be a text blog? Do you want a photo blog or video blog? Different platforms offer different functionality, so it’s important to think about what you want to post. Here’s a great link to some of the top blogging platforms to get you started.
4. Don’t get buried in the numbers: I don’t write to reach and engage millions of readers — I’ll leave that to the pros (see panel list above). I write because I like to and because communicating how the LGBT community leverages social media, marketing, and public relations is something that I’m passionate about. If you’re just starting out, I’d highly recommend not looking at the numbers for the first few months at least (or ever if you can.) Just write about what you love and over time, you’ll start getting indexed higher in the search engines, linked to by other bloggers, and perhaps picked up by various other media outlets.
5. Protecting your privacy: This came up a lot in the panel and it’s something I think should be elaborated on, especially for those in the LGBT community. When you’re starting out, I highly recommend really thinking about what it is you want to share and what you don’t want to share about yourself. There’s no harm in taking a piece of paper and really writing this out in order to set some boundaries for yourself – I promise, it helps!
There’s also nothing wrong with blogging under a pseudonym to protect your identity. As I mentioned on the panel, there are things that I keep private in regards to my family in order to maintain a significant level of protection. I encourage you to check out one of my favorite media scholars, danah boyd. danah writes about why forcing people to use real names on social platforms is an abuse of power.
I hope that you find these tips and links to various resources helpful. I wish you the best of luck on your blog. If you need additional insight, don’t be afraid to tweet me at @leonekraus.