40: What Kind of Blogger Are You?
Posted on: August 13, 2009 /
You’ve read it, too: there’s a pot of gold under the blog rainbow. It’s difficult enough to weed through the millions of blogs, trying to find content that’s worth your time or even accurate information. The tidal wave can make it seem like your contribution will get drowned in the throng. Business magazines (and blogs themselves) tout the benefits of the blogging entrepreneur. With all the competition on the Internet, how do you carve a niche for your words?
The first step is determining what you want out of the blogosphere—what’s the end game, the reward for the investment? Is it discovery, influence, income—or maybe something else? With this premise clarified, you next need to determine what kind of blogger you will be. As with advertising, if you try to be everything to everybody, you have to compete with everybody. But if you can be the Pied Piper of a few, they will march behind your product. One of the following blogger types probably best suits your ambition.
You might be a blogger and not even know it. If you use sites like MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, or Facebook, you’ve contributed to what is categorized as “micro blogging.” Rather than post to your own site, you’re sharing content via a collective platform, where others can interact with your pictures, videos, links, and notes. This is a great venue for learning and teaching, as well as cultivating friendships. And it’s a good test to see if you can regularly generate popular content, to see if you might have blogging potential. Because not all online relationships are created equal, take full advantage of security and filtering features. Be real. Be yourself. But control the parts of your life that others can see.
Most entrepreneurs looking to earn business off blogging go this route. If you can write knowledgeably about a topic, you can develop an “expert” brand that people will trust. Before you pronounce yourself a columnist, develop a list of all the topics on which you can competently write (or record in audio or video). You might even want to pre-write a couple handfuls of them before publishing the first one. Use visual examples, if you have them; and don’t be afraid to purchase stock photography. Edit carefully (multiple times), as poor grammar contradicts the professionalism you’re trying to convey. Simplify steps with bullet lists; and highlight links to similar articles, including any sources you might use.
You don’t have to be the source of knowledge to be considered an expert. You just have to know where to find insight for others. If you can save others time in sifting through the Internet haystack to find the needles that interest them, your resourcefulness will make you a place they check first or regularly. Some, like I do, will subscribe to your updates. The challenge is to find the content others can’t quickly find themselves. Technology like google alerts can help, but you’ll need to spend a lot of time doing the research you’re trying to save others. Don’t forget that local stories might have a broader appeal and that international sources may shed new perspective on domestic topics. Try to post at least daily, if you want people to frequent your site. All stories become old stories on the web in a matter of days (if not sooner).
Blogging has democratized journalism, just as the MP3 democratized music. To get noticed, you’ll need to scoop some significant stories and be able to verify sources. It may be easier to report on local issues or trade news than regional or national stories. The key is to get that information online as soon as possible, especially if you’re competing with a print publication and/or its web site. If you’re reporting on an event that is broadcast, consider a live blog on location. To gain credibility, make sure any subjective material and/or commentary is well separated from the news part of your site. Stick to the facts, even if that results in small posts. Cross-sell your stories via email subscription, text messaging, and/or social networking sites like Twitter or facebook. Make sure you use images only for which you have permission.
You’ve got an agenda—a cause, a movement, a political party (or candidate), a hot button issue. You want to engage and enlighten people with opposing views. It’d be cool, too, if like-minded thinkers find you as a source of great ammo for the fight. While venting and cheering both prove cathartic, keep in mind that everybody you know (and many you don’t) can read your posts. So, keep it civil, appropriate, and mature. The goal here is to create content with a viral attraction, something people will want to forward to others. To gain a following, stay away from talking points, clichés, and unverified reports. (As soon as your references are proven false, you lose credibility.) New analogies and angles could get you noticed. Satire, if well done, gets shared and spread.
You want to transcribe the moments and impressions of your life but with public access. The possibility that the public might be interested goads you to be consistent. If nobody reads your work, you’re cool with knowing that you benefited from the process. Someone out there connects with life and/or your experience, and you hope they find you. Categorizing your posts and tagging key words will increase your chances of discovery. Renaming your (legally-obtained) pictures with keywords before uploading won’t hurt, either. And living a life worth reading will prove beneficial to you and the anonymous web surfer. If you write through a specific lens/angle, you are more likely to attract a regular audience.
Do you think your slice of the world would make a decent reality show? Is your life odd or interesting—enough that others would find it entertaining? If you don’t mind the shameless plug or you’ve gained celebrity you’d like to milk, make the most of your 15 minutes of fame. To keep readers, include lots of photos and/or video. Create intrigue with teases for pending content. Remember that voyeurs and freak shows come with the territory; so, carefully monitor comments, if your blog includes that feature.
While not always altruistic, reviewing has become a way to establish your thoughts in the marketplace of ideas. Hotels, restaurants, attractions, trips, movies, books, fashion, cars—you get the idea—if you have keen insight and the ability to creatively express it, this could be in your wheel house. The more specific and concrete your reviews, the better. Allusions and comparisons can create effective, polished shortcuts in transcribing descriptions. If you’re posting to your own site (as opposed to a site like TripAdvisor or UrbanSpoon), you might want to collect a few other writers to post with you. Thematic content or posts with a congruent filter will make your posts more readable.
Once you know who you are and embrace it, you’re better equipped to pursue your piece of the readership pie. You may never reap more than you sew into the blogosphere; so, this isn’t a get-rich-quick deal. But in the chaos of an Internet full of self-promoting writers, your words can build your brand with wanted content spoken through your voice.
So many Christians burn out—some even walking away from their faith—because they are trying to live for God the way someone else told or showed them. Too many church leaders preach conformity to a tradition instead of to Christ. The fact is, we’re wired differently; and God did the wiring. We have different evangelism styles. We have different ways of expressing worship and feeling God’s pleasure. We learn and process and love differently. On top of that, we have different personalities and different spiritual gifts.
Throw all of those variables together, and you have tens of thousands of potential makeups. God prides himself in creativity balanced by symbiosis. He wants unity—not uniformity! So, explore what parts of your life flip your God switch. Discover where you feel most connected to what he’s doing in the world. Then run at it with everything you have. When you are all you can be, others will want that vibrance you exude.
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