A blog offers you the opportunity to share your voice with an online community—as broad as your circle of closest friends and colleagues, or as wide as anyone with Internet access. Best of all, it costs very little to nothing: many of the most popular blog-hosting sites are free, and you can post and publish your thoughts as frequently as you’d like.
However, as with many things, it may be simple to start a blog, but it takes some knowledge and practice to do it well. Below, we’ve shared some insights from Mary Ellen Guffey and Dana Loewy’s Essentials of Business Communication, Ninth Edition, which we’ve adapted for educators and librarians. Whether you’re interested in accounting, archiving, EdTech, automotive repair, or foreign policy, these tips will help you create and manage a blog that interests and informs your desired audience.
- Consider your desired readership. If you hope to cultivate a particular audience, then it helps to keep your posts focused on the specific topics that interest them. For example, if you want to develop a group of followers who care about developments in educational technology, but your posts often veer into topics as varied as travel, favorite fiction books, or pet care, then that can be confusing to readers, and you’ll find it more challenging to develop a consistent and devoted community. Instead, consider the variety of angles from which you can address EdTech, and try to stay within that range.
- Choose a blogging platform. Some popular hosts include WordPress, Blogger, and TypePad. (If you choose WordPress, be sure to review Cengage Learning author Ken Baldauf’s helpful tutorial, Ken Teaches WordPress.) You can also use software or a plug-in that will publish your blog posts to your existing site, if you have one.
- Keep your audience in mind as you write. Develop original, timely, and thoughtfully written posts that will capture and keep their interest. (And, this should go without saying—but don’t plagiarize others’ work; be careful to cite and acknowledge your sources, if you have any.) Read others’ blogs within your same area and respectfully comment on what they have to say as well. Eventually, your visitors will come to recognize you as an engaged member of a community and appreciate your fresh and informed take on the subject.
- Post frequently. Publishing new posts on a regular basis keeps your blog current and relevant and helps readers recognize that you’re up to date on the latest research, topics, and trends in your field.
- Include relevant keywords in your posts. Much as search terms will help you find relevant articles within an online database, use of relevant keywords can help people find your blog on the Web. Be sure to include those terms in the post title, as well as within the body of your posts. In general, the appropriate keywords for your site should arise quite naturally from the topic area you’ve chosen for your blog as a whole.
- Include a “blogroll” on your site. Per Guffey and Loewy (2013, 121-122), “’Blogrolling’ means that you provide links to other sites or blogs on the Web that you find valuable…” and that directly relate to the topic of your own blog. The authors also encourage bloggers to “[r]espond to other bloggers’ postings and link to them” (122)—by so doing, you’ll become known as an engaged blogger on your topic of choice, and you may increase traffic to your own blog as well.
- Observe your site’s “traffic patterns.” Keep track of how many people visit your blog—and also take note of when they visit. (You can see this information within the “Admin” section of your blog, which will be private to you.) If a particular post garners a good deal of interest, consider what else you might have to say on the topic. If you notice that you aren’t getting many visitors, try mixing things up a bit, or research some new, related topics that may interest your audience. Also consider sharing your posts through your social media networks; your connections can discover your posts, and perhaps share them with their contacts as well (121-122).
A couple additional, critical notes before you begin:
- Check your institution’s policy about blogging. Your school or library may have requirements or guidelines that either govern or restrict your ability to blog or the topics about which you blog. Be sure to follow their guidelines carefully, and garner any necessary permissions before you officially launch. And whatever you do, don’t turn your blog into a virtual roman à clef featuring the annoying tics, habits, and exploits of your friends and colleagues. Once someone finds out what you’re doing (and they probably will), you could get into serious trouble!
- Choose your topics and comments wisely. Though you want your blog to be thought provoking, you won’t want to court controversy through inflammatory, overly provocative, or (of course) misleading and false information. Furthermore, any negative may reflect on your institution—which, in turn, could result in disciplinary action or termination. For this reason, it’s also wise to stay away from embarrassing, overly personal, or outright rude discourse (122).
Though we can’t guarantee that taking these steps will lead to a huge following within days of launching a blog, we do think these tips will help you create a site with strong, relevant content that resonates with other like-minded people!
Reference: Guffey, Mary Ellen and Dana Loewy. 2013. Essentials of Business Communication, Ninth Edition. Mason, OH: South-Western, Cengage Learning.
Do you run or contribute to a blog? Do you have any additional suggestions to offer to others who are hoping to do the same? Share them in the comments.