Five online skills you must master BEFORE you start a blog

Author: John Welsh

 When did people mistake blogging as a platform from which to mouth off their opinions?

 As a result of being asked to read one too many this week, I am launching a new two-part campaign. Five online skills you must master BEFORE you start a blog – community, commenting, connectivity, collaboration and content.

Make sure you’ve mastered the Five Cs before you start a blog. When you do at last set up that blog, it will be so much better for the effort.

(I should know. I launched without a thought.)

If you are a journalist, you can use your website for practice.

If you aren’t a journalist and don’t have access to a website, I’ve added simple alternatives.

Don’t let me down.

Community

Have you identified a community for which to write? Can you refine your community even more? For example, if it is a blog for the commercial property sector, why not focus on agents. And why not those specialising in office rentals?

Go further still. Why not only the bosses?

Write for the commercial property sector and few of them will know your blog is for them (one post out of 10 might be of interest).

Write for the bosses of commercial property agencies specialising in office rentals and, by god, they will soon know that is worth coming back for more (since every post will be for them).

Now you’ve identified your target readers, use Twitter to help you develop skills to cultivate that community.

You don’t need a blog to spot a potential online community and start cultivating it.

Commenting

Your blog won’t attract comments unless you make the effort to comment on other blogs. Go and comment on newspaper websites and blogs in your sector. There are several ways to find blog about your chosen subject when starting from scratch.

Remember, the etiquette is to “join in the conversation”. So don’t barge in with a new argument. Use your experience and knowledge to take on the blogger’s subject.

When asked for a web address, leave the URL of an article from your website that adds something to the discussion. Don’t worry if the article is a few months old as long as it still brings something to the conversation.

Or, if you don’t have a website,  leave the URL of your LinkedIn profile if it shows you bring professional expertise to the debate.

You don’t need a blog to learn how to comment on websites.

Connectivity

You don’t look at the navigation when you book a flight online. You click from one page to another, ending in a successful conclusion by actions embedded in a page. 

The future readers of your blog will want to do the same, reading one post and clicking through to another. So, stop worrying about the navigation and start making links between your stories or other content on your site. Set yourself a goal of having made one link to a previous story by the second paragraph of every story you write.

If you don’t write for a website, go and comment on a blog that allows you to put in a link to another website. Better still, one that allows you to do so with simple HTML so you leave a word linked to a site (like this) rather than an ugly URL (like this http://johnwelsh.wordpress.com/about-you/).

You don’t need a blog to learn about connectivity between articles.

Collaboration

You would be amazed how much the web will help you with what you are doing. You can start with one question and receive so many responses that you soon have another idea for an article. But you will only receive that reward if you yourself have helped others.

Go and help people’s initiatives using collaboration to build communities. Add a name to someone building a list. Contribute to Wikipedia. Sign a petition.

You don’t need a blog to benefit from online collaboration.

Content

In print, only an editor gives his or her opinion in the leader. Everything else is supposed to be content that helps the reader. A blog should be no different.

Think what information might be useful for your community. Practise finding core information on other sites. Turn it into lists of tips.

If you are a journalist, try adding a list of tips with links to useful sites as the penultimate paragraph of  the stories you write online. 

If you don’t have a website, go and leave your tips on other people’s blogs or forums. See how people respond.

You don’t need a blog to learn how to create great online content.

In part two I will be writing about another five more online skills you must master before you start a blog. What skills do you think people need before setting up a blog?

If you think your followers/community on Twitter would be interested in this post, show them your value by reTweeting it to them!

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