The internet is a big place. Blogs are popping up everywhere, on all sorts of topics. Some people do it for fun, others to highlight issues, and others for profit. And there are so many tools out there that allow you to set up a blog and get started. These days it has never been easier to set up a professional blog site, and there are numerous tools and plug-ins that you can use to harvest information from your readers, and to disseminate those all important blogs to the wider world via social media and mailing lists.
Even so, writing doesn’t come easy to everybody. Content, like inspiration, sometimes takes time to produce and develop. Sometimes that big idea will hit you straight between the eyes, roll down your face and hit the keyboard in a big happy mess, while at other times, your typing fingers and your ideas are like lead balls rattling around your uninspired head. Content takes time to create.
Blogs can come in many forms and sizes. If you fancy starting your own blog, there are many ways you can do this:
Arguably, the number one blogging platform out there. It can be integrated into an existing website, allowing the user to push out bespoke content such as photo albums of their latest work, and has a great editor. It takes a while to get used to themes and how to manipulate them, but once you get into how it functions, most users are avid converts. It also has a growing online community of users that contribute help pages, data, scripts and themes that really make this the platform of choice. We use WordPress for this site, because it’s nice, quick and easy to use.
Tumblr was the first true multimedia blog. So much so, Yahoo took a punt on it and bought it for $1.1million last year. Indeed, it seems to bridge the divide between social media and blog. Particularly popular with the younger generation, Tumblr enables users to customise and share content with ease, and is now used increasingly by companies for content management.
It has a simplicity to it and a beautiful interface allowing users to rapidly develop and create content. Not available to all yet, and there isn’t a commenting system – yet. But we think that this is one to watch due to the elegant design and increasing user base.
Blogger was around before WordPress and had a dedicated hardcore of users that have remained loyal to it to this day. Very easy to use for the first timer, it does however lack complexity and was recently bought by Google. It’s days may be numbered by the advent of Google Plus (Google+).
Not originally designed to be a blogsite, it has the profile functionality that allows it to behave like a blog site. It has an increasing userbase, and Google behind it. It allows you to create communities based around the circles that you control. Owing to the acquisition of YouTube by Google recently, the ability to utilise the social media feeds on Google+ make it ideal for musicians, artists and filmmakers to engage their audiences with new content.
We asked the experts…
I’ve always written a lot and enjoyed writing so a blog (Lennybunsmusings)seemed to be a natural progression from that. I began it three years ago when I left the teaching profession and was setting myself up as a freelance editor. I thought it would be a great backup to the periods of quiet that I was told freelances experience, giving me something productive to do. I don’t update it very often!
WordPress looked like the main blog hosting platform three years ago and I noticed a number of people used it. I had also proofread a book on computing ‘for the older and wiser’ that recommended starting a blog and talked through WordPress as the way to do it.
Having had to research that to check the copy read sensibly, I was already familiar with it. I do agree it’s not intuitive to use at first but you do get used to it and I can update the blog using the mobile app too. Since I’m not a frequent blogger, I’m quite happy with that.
Things that grab my attention when blogging? To be honest, it’s more about time than anything else. There is a ton of stuff that I read about in the press and hear about on the news each day that I could write about but I don’t get chance to. This is probably for the best though, as the blog might become one great receptacle for all my half-conscious ranting-at-Radio4 each morning. I use it more to publish music lists and information to Twitter to be honest, an altogether friendlier and fluffier activity. There’s enough political shouting from ill-informed twits without me adding to it.
The perfect blogging conditions in my opinion are: A quiet morning, lots of caffeine and a really contentious issue. Or someone asking for my Top 50 albums from the 1970s.
As for it’s evolution, I haven’t got a clue. Ideally I would update it more often and get more people commenting on it but who knows?
I don’t really read other people’s blogs often, certainly not those of authors or the famous, I don’t have time. I write very much as I want to and how I want to because I do so much that is controlled by house styles (I edit material for various scientific publishers as my day job) that it’s nice to have the freedom.
However, I don’t write exactly what I’m thinking word for word. I’m mindful of making sense and also of being unnecessarily offensive. It’s not useful to chuck down all your mind salad because you could regret it later: people would judge you and it could influence your future prospects.
The most intimate blog I wrote (about bullying) was a sensitive subject, which hasn’t affected me for a good many years and doesn’t now, but I found the response to it unsettling. The number of people who took the trouble to speak to me face to face about how upsetting they found it made me really sad.
I think I got the angle wrong and it wasn’t supposed to be an exercise in ‘feel sorry for me, isn’t it awful’ but rather ‘who cares? You can get on with your life. Take ownership of what happens now.’ So it’s unlikely I’ll write like that again.
A blog I do admire is that of Mick Wright (@brokenbottleboy on Twitter) who now runs The XX Corp (amongst other things) and blogs for The Daily Telegraph.
He writes on a range of subjects extremely well. He’s regular but not irritatingly prolific, is well informed and, above all, witty. Nothing worse, in my opinion, than a boring blogger. So I guess that’s the secret. He has time to do it, or makes time at any rate, and writes well. I don’t always agree with what he says but that’s never an issue.
I don’t think that anyone starts a blog for any reason other than because of the need to tell the whole world about what is on their mind. It’s a case of, “Me! Me! Listen to me!” I guess every blogger is a shameful egotist.
The title of my blog is Sad Music, Dark Literature and Positive Thoughts 2: I was trying to sum myself up. I listen to music with depressing lyrics and I read novels that often delve into the darker side of the human psyche. However, I walk into work on Monday literally with jazz hands and a smile. Just ask my colleagues at work as I know that that’s very hard to comprehend.
My original blogging platform was MyOpera, which was shut down a few years back. MyOpera was damaged towards the end by some of the blogs that started to appear on the platform. The ones that I’m talking about carried pictures of models in various states of undress. They just didn’t fit on that platform. MyOpera was traditionally a Linux programming hangout platform due to the Opera browser’s historical connection with Linux. WordPress doesn’t have this same atmosphere so it isn’t really the same. WordPress is a reliable platform but the community feel of MyOpera isn’t really there as it’s quite an all inclusive community.
I think Facebook is likely to go on for a long time as it’s run by some astute guys. I left Facebook because of a lot of the people that jumped onto the platform and ruined the experience for me. Man, I sound like such a snob.
I love a bit of humour. I also love to read about bands or solo musicians, novelists and current affairs. Popular culture tends to turn me off, though.
I get fired up when countries such as the UK and USA invade other countries for oil and the media, including the BBC, peddle lies about why we are there. I also get fired up by the exploitation and the subjection of girls.
When I am in the mood to blog, I don’t have any rituals. I just post a blog when I feel that there is something that I wish to share. I write it, have a quick proof read, add a photograph and then post.
I’d recommend every blog that I follow on WordPress . There’s a variety there from which to choose from photography to religion to programming to irreverence…well, you get the idea. It’s hard for me to pick out one in particular. Check them all out and see if one of them interests you. All of the blogs that I follow are run by friendly people who would welcome new comments.
Angela’s top tips for blogging
Here then, are some ideas for you that you can take into your blossoming blogging habits, and hopefully enabling you to have a happier, more productive blog habit. Posts and articles have to be shaped into content, and that often takes time. Ideally, you want to take your readers on a little journey, where you are the guide and you’re showing them the sights and sounds of your thoughts and memories.
1. Don’t rush it. Good posts take time. And lots of coffee and chocolate digestives. Not a guarantee that you’ll get it right, but it does help if you are relaxed and enjoying the blogging process. That usually shines through to your readership.
2. Choose a catchy title for your blog and your articles.
3. Define your topics…or not. You could go on a mad rambling monologue like Ronnie Corbett used to in his oversized armchair with a shaggy dog story, as long as you don’t go too far off topic. Or bore your readers, which is literary suicide. Your opening line had better be a good one to catch your reader’s attention. Draw them into your world. Make your post matter to the reader.
4. Review and revamp. Ask yourself if you can add more detail to your post to give it some more depth and substance. Put ideas and concepts into your readers heads that they can run with.
5. Calls to action. Get your readers to do something practical, for example, sign on to an online petition, follow your video blog, or like your Facebook page.
6. Spit and polish. Make it look good, check your spelling and your grammar. Choose pictures carefully from your own collection of photos, or from reputable photo library sites. Free ones can be found with Creative Commons Licenses (CC0) on sites such as Pixabay.
7. Time the publication of your posts so that they have the most impact with the biggest potential audience that you could have at any time.
8. Don’t be afraid to promote your post on social media. The odd Facebook advert to get your post seen by the right audience at exactly the right time is often a good way of getting your readership up, and interacting with your audience and other bloggers can always be useful, even if all it does is help you refine your material. Dialogue with others is what makes blogging worth the work.
Hopefully these hints and tips, and the thoughts of the above will help you get your blog off the ground, or out of the doldrums. We’re only too happy to set up websites for bloggers at a reasonable rate, so if you’re waiting to burst out of your shell and onto the internet, maybe you should get in touch.