Blogs have been around since the late 90s. Given their evolution both in terms of technology and the space they occupy in the online world, it’s an interesting moment for anyone working in digital communications to take some time to evaluate. What is the role, the impact and the usefulness of blogging as a weapon in your arsenal? On top of this, we know how quickly social media moves – have other platforms made blogging redundant, or is it more important than ever?
The advantages of keeping a blog:
- Writing practice: It’s a basic one, but an important one too. Having to produce quick, engaging content on a regular basis is a good skill to hone, and loosens up your writing.
- Target and inform: Blogging allows you to develop a niche and do it well, suiting your content to a target group that are really interested. Hand in hand with social media, a blog gives you a platform to get your information out quickly and effectively – and also hopefully in a way that comes up in a Google search.
- Show your expertise: Blogs give you the opportunity to really show how much you know about a subject, or shed some light on your involvement in it. Giving your more space than a tweet and more flexibility than a website, you can write about your work, share you knowledge with others and hopefully become a source of insight and influence.
- Networking and community building: Whether it’s through engaging with comments, guest blogs or being able to refer real-life contacts to your blog, it gives you the opportunity to build or join a network of other people in a similar field, and this will undoubtedly be useful both for feedback and future opportunities.
- Show transparency: Transparency is key, especially when it comes to institutional communication. It’s not a magic solution, but blogging helps bridge the gap between the audience and the policy makers or academics, and lets you talk as openly as you can about policy issues.
- Humanise your content: A blog, which should be relatively informal and have a real person/people clearly behind it, gives you the opportunity to humanise your content.
Of course, these advantages come with a price. Now, let’s say that the 6 points mentioned above make you want to start a blog. Your first challenge will be to keep your blog alive.
Keeping a blog alive shouldn’t be a struggle for survival. Here’s a few things to think about and ideas that might help.
- Blog because you want to: First and foremost, you should open a blog because you really want to do it, and you believe it’s important for what you’re doing. Do it because you feel the need to write, to explain and to engage with other sharing your interests, passions and expertise. On the other hand, blogging is a commitment. Nothing kills your readership (or potential readership) more than seeing a blog that hasn’t been updated in two months. Making sure that content is published regularly is absolutely crucial for the survival of your blog
- Read other blogs: In order to understand how to do it well, you have to read other blogs. No shame in reading others to get inspiration on the content, the layout and type of engagement you would like to put. in place. Discover the blogosphere and use it to inspire yourself.
- Find a niche: WordPress hosts 63 million blogs worldwide with 40 million pages viewed a month and five hundred thousand new posts added each day. Within this huge numbers, specific niches develop.This is relevant for your work for two reasons. Firstly, it means that there are communities out there who are already blogging on your issues, so it is good to research and read them, Secondly, it means that it is both possible and important that you focus on a specific angle, area or topic that will appeal to people seeking content that they can’t easily find somewhere else.Finally, your blog should have a theme, a purpose. People should have a specific reason for wanting to visit and read your blog, whether it’s informational, opinionated, or promoting business. To make a comparison, Facebook posts can be random, mundane, or spontaneous. However, this doesn’t really matter because in this case you aren’t trying to attract an audience – you are interacting with friends. While there is potential for overlap between Facebooking and blogging, it may be best to draw boundaries and let your audience be your audience and let your friends be your friends.
- Engage: Building relationships with other bloggers talking about issues of relevance to your work can be very fruitful in terms of both helping to reach the right audience with your message, and hearing what interested parties and experts are saying. Just like developing a good relationship with a journalist, engaging with influential bloggers can be useful to alert them about what you’re working on, and why it might be interesting for them to write about. Your stakeholder organisations may also have blogs that they use to reach out to their own networks, and these could be a very valuable source of comment and insight. Engaging with other bloggers can take the form of simply leaving a comment on the blog, perhaps linking to some useful information, getting in touch by email or phone call, or if you’re on Twitter, tweeting to the blogger to tell them that you enjoyed their post. Just like one-to-one contact or networking at a conference, it’s not about broadcasting your message but about a two-way conversation and a mutually interesting relationship. You might contribute a post to their blog, for example The network you build like this might not be big, but it can be very effective and targeted.
- Promotion: Engagement is a very effective way to boost promotion. But also don’t forget your usual channels. Use your social media as a booster but don’t become a spammer. Although you could share your blogpost on your social media, you should avoid sending the same promotional tweet to hundreds of people. It will damage you on the long term. You might get a lot of visits at first (because of the bulk promotion) but it will then be very hard for you to take the “spammer label” off you.
Blogging in the #socmed sphere: still relevant?
With the abundance of social media options out there, communication experts have multiple ways to increase their exposure. Social media is without a doubt a pivotal part of helping communication grow. While generic social media gets all the attention, blogging still attracts massive amounts of traffic.
Blogging is more personal. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and all other social media kings, blogs were built to actually write. Taking the time to write a blog post to your audience, shows that you have made the effort to craft a message to either offer them something or to better relate to them. You can still Tweet, and indeed you have to get the message out about your blog, but having your own platform lets you get more technical, more curious, to ask for input. If you want people to see you as an expert within your field, writing well-crafted blog posts is still incredibly valuable – and there is still strong potential for it to be widely shared.
Write posts with confidence but also let your personality shine through. It is the ability to identify yourself with your audience that brings real value to your posts.