A small-business owner with a PR background asked me the other day if I had any blogging don’ts that I could share with her. I had to pause. I’m accustomed to giving people advice couched in positive, actionable ways starting with a verb…much like the piece pictured to the right called “Rules for Living” by Houston-based artist, Carlos Hernandez. “Go to Sleep,” “Wake Up then Watch Cartoons,” “Make a Costume Change”…these are all things that we can do, that we WANT to do even. But don’t tell someone “don’t do this” because nobody puts baby in the corner!
It’d be cheap of me to just turn these guidelines, which contain some of the essentials of blogging do’s, into don’ts. It was tempting. On the other hand, this was someone I’ve known for years, who has a PR background, who was not looking for some generic answer. Fine. Make me work for it. This one’s for you. You know who you are. First lesson is don’t forget everything you already know about headlines, top-loading your article in that inverted pyramid, and meeting deadlines. But we won’t count that as a blogging don’t — nor will we count the corollary below.
1. Don’t Stop Believin’
One thing I’ve learned in the last 18 years (gasp) of being in the Web industry, it’s this: People are voracious consumers. They want to be educated and entertained. They want to share their discoveries. They want to believe and they want to help. Give them something they can work with, something that they want to share or talk about — and they WILL. It might take a while. You might be ready to give up because you got your mom and a few of her friends to start following and no.one.else. But don’t stop believin’ and don’t stop blogging.
Corollary: Don’t Just Tell Your Folks
Have you ever read Gladwell’s The Tipping Point? He talks about how you need Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen all to endorse you in order to help you reach the general notoriety you’re seeking. Who are the Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen in your industry who would be educated or entertained by what you have to share? What about outside your industry? Dig deep, think broadly, and put aside any self-esteem issues you may have. Let them know you exist. See next “Don’t.”
2. Don’t Write to Your Target
We talk and write about “target audience” a lot. (Honestly, the term immediately reminds me of the term “collateral damage” for some reason.) It’s actually difficult to write to a target audience. It’s a lot easier to write to my married friend with a PR background, a miracle baby, and a budding business who uses social media in a limited way. I know Her. Even if I didn’t know her, maybe there’s a Connector/Maven/Salesmen that I don’t know but I want to intrigue. Given social media today, it’d be pretty easy to learn about them. Fashion the post to that specific person. Make it something worthwhile for them to spend their time on. While people are voracious consumers, they are also discriminating and easily bored ones. Don’t make your post one that makes them mutter “ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat” and move on.
3. Don’t Fret
You can waste a lot of time fretting about your topic, your audience, your editorial calendar. While each of those things are important, they’re nothing to fret about so just stop. Try to stick to the do’s. Try to be consistent. Try to set KPIs (key performance indicators) and analyze your metrics. But don’t fret if you don’t, you’re not, and there are no metrics to analyze yet. Allow yourself to develop a rhythm. Allow yourself to adjust your blog topic if the original concept just isn’t working or to tweak your editorial calendar as you learn more about yourself and your audience. The beauty and the challenge of this medium has always been it’s incredible flexibility and the short memories (or forgiving) audience.
There are a lot of articles out there with good advice. Here are three that you may appreciate:
>> The 12 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Blog by Brian Kiems
>> 14 Dos and Don’ts of Blogging by Shanice Cameron
>> 8 Simple Scientifically Proven Ways to Improve Your Writing by Belle Beth Cooper