Ten ideas for the beginning blogger

If you look around the web, there is so much advice about blogging it’s not funny. Still, I’ve learned a few lessons that might help if you’re a beginner blogger and I thought I would give you the inside scoop.

1) The biggest obstacle to blogging is … not what you think. It’s not writing skill or time or ideas. It’s confidence. People are generally shy about sharing their voice.  If you can tell your kids a story, give nurturing advice to a friend or tell a joke, you can blog.  Just Do It.

2) It takes time to find your voice.  Be patient. The more you write, the more comfortable you will feel. Feedback from the blogosphere will trickle in and help massage your style, tone and topics.  Stay with it and you will improve.  Have faith.

3) “I don’t have time” is not an acceptable excuse any more.   The only people who complain that blogging takes too much time never made it a priority.  Chances are you and your business will benefit from blogging or you wouldn’t be reading this post, right?  If you need to blog for your business, it has to be part of your job now, so approach it that way.  Shoot for one decent post a week. That’s doable, right?

4) In the long run, blogging can SAVE you time!  My posts have become a personal reference library.  I’ll bet not one day passes by when I don’t send somebody a link to an old post as a response to a question or to help them in some way.  This has been an unexpected benefit of blogging.

5) Be brief.  Respect your readers. Respect their time. Spend the extra time it takes to write with brevity.  Cut words ruthlessly. Best practice: Seth Godin.

6) Don’t write an academic thesis.  It’s much more interesting to read blogs that are written in a conversational tone.  Talk with your friends.

7) Write about what interests you.  Your audience will find you.

8) Read more than you write. Much more.  If you’re not an active reader of blogs, get on the stick. To be a successful writer, you have to be a great listener and learner.

9) If you want people to support your blog, support them, too.   I just think it is an act of respect to support blogs written by your readers by commenting, tweeting and highlighting their great work.   If you’re part of my community and you have a blog I will do whatever I can to help you. We’re all in this together.

10) If you run out of ideas, go to a LinkedIn forum for your industry.  Find an interesting question.  Answer it.  That’s your blog post. Works every time. If you’re really stuck, go to Guy Kawaski’s blog.  Put it on your record turntable. Play it backwards.  That’s where the secret messages are hidden.

Let’s hear your comments, now.  What advice would you pass on?  Who is setting the standard out there for best blogging practices, and why?

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  • Jim LeBlanc

    This is a nice list and I appreciate that you share your secret sauce Mark! : )

  • Great list, thank you.

    11) If you appreciate comments and if it fits your topic, end your blog post with an open question or an invitation to comment.

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    @Jim You’re welcome!
    @CC Nice! Good addition.

  • Awesome tips, Mark, that are so true – and cute picture! To go with your #10 – try writing a tweet. If it sounds like a good title and inspires you to write more about it, do it! Thanks, Mark.

  • What I love the most about you, Mr. {grow}, is your use of the best dang images around. Always a chuckle.

    So, can’t use the “time” factor any more? I better get on the stick; only something I’ve been threatening to do nearly a year now.

    Thanks for nudging and top-rated counsel. @Soulati

  • Thanks Mark. Great blog as usual. You take the “fear” out of blogging and setting forth these 10 guidelines are extremely helpful. Appreciate all that you generously share.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    @michelle great idea!
    @Jayme you only love me for my baby cheeks?
    @ Diane You’re welcome

  • Polly

    Excellent suggestions. Really helps taking away some of those horrible “beginner fears.”

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    @ Polly and @Diane So what are your fears? They’r probably shared by a number of people. What can I (and others in the community) do to help?

  • Fears??? Great post Mark and important for anyone considering blogging but there are still a lot people really concerned about:
    1. Backlash and retribution about something they say. One day will something I say online come back and bite me?
    2. Fear of saying something “stupid”.
    3. Will anyone read it? And, who cares about what I have to say anyway?

    These and others are examples of the “Shyness” concerns of a significant number of people.

  • Some hesitancy revolves around the fact that it is going to be tied to my website, which I believe is best. My website should be completely updated by mid-February. So that being said, a certain amount of my website traffic will now be generated by my blog posting.

    From all the expert advice, you should get it right the first few times because that is all the time you have. Otherwise, people will not click on the link. I have done about five WordPress blogs but since my website is being rejuvenated to look like 2010, I really didn’t get much feedback or at least I didn’t have the tools implemented to determine interest in my subject.

    So I think mainly I am most concerned about the first several blogs (not to say that every blog shouldn’t be worthy content)and choosing content wisely. I am so fascinated with Social Media and its potential to further business successes. I really want to be a part of it. My promotional product business would be what most would say is successful, but I have clients that look to me for leadership. My goal is to get this right so that I can lead them in the right direction and toward the experts that I learned from as well. However, as you can well imagine, there are the skeptics and if I can’t exhibit to them the importance of setting some SM strategies, it is likely they will continue to do business as usual. Doing business as we have done in the past will not be accepted by most and I cannot sit back and be complacent; nor do I want to.

    As you can see, I have a lot to say. Maybe I should just relax and communicate. Following your 10 suggestions seems to be a great beginning. Thanks again.

  • Love the point about supporting others. Blogging started out as very supportive but I see less linking out than I used to around the blogosphere. “Do as you would be done by” is a pretty good approach.

    As for Blogging Best Practice, my tip would be to plan. Writing down the headlines for the week (or month) gives you an idea of where you’re going and what you’re covering. It also keeps you on topic.

    Oh, and if you’re in the B2B or B2C space, collect your data. It will help you see how you’re doing.

    And finally…Start out by thinking where you want blogging to take you. If you want more customers, work with that in mind. If you want more sales from existing customers, think about that.

  • Thanks for your input Jon. I appreciate you taking the time to read my lengthy commentary.

  • Man, once again I’ve been trumped by the master. Oh you had words of wisdom to share as usual, but I’m talking about the photo. To type LOL doesn’t do justice to the fact I laughed out loud.

    And I thought that photo I had on my guest post at SavvyB2B was funny. That bare butt cracked me up.

  • Mark

    @Steve These would be the same fears you could have about even leaving a comment on a post. Yeah, you do have to take a leap of faith. You’ll never know if people will read uunless you do it. I think the biggest fear a professional might have is doing nothing while the social media world passes them by!

  • Mark

    @Diane Seems like you have a lot on your mind. DM me and let’s set up some time to talk over the phone soon. Maybe I can help with some of your anxieties.

  • Mark

    @Jon So appreciative of the wisdom you bring to our space here.

    @Billy Yeah, the butt cracks get ’em every time. I try to incorporate bare asses in my blog as much as possible. Deflects the attention from the writing : )

  • This is absolutely the best post for the beginning blogger. You hit the nail on the head, especially with No. 1. I could sum up my first few months of blogging in one word — vulnerability.

    Who is setting the standard? You are for sure. What really sets you apart is your uncanny ability to build a network and spark discussion! In my industry (CPAs & CFOs) it’s Jason Blumer, Ohio Society of CPAs, CFO Coach, and Jeffrey Ishmael.

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  • Point number 6 is absolutely the biggest stumbling block for me. I have this compulsion to make a blog post a thesis, for fear of appearing uninformed or worse. It really is a case of taking too much to heart the old saw about how it’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear to be a fool than to open it and remove all doubts.

    Nevertheless…I suspect the only way out of this morass is to march on.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Mark

    @Andrea Here’s a way to think about it. If you are telling a story, or providing an opinion, at a dinner party, do you worry about editing it or having enough research at hand? Remember, a blog is starting a conversation, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the definitive answer! I NEVER have the answer : )

  • Indeed. 🙂

    Andrea aka @scubagirl15

  • Sometimes the answers are so obvious. These are simple tips that are easy to follow and, more importantly, implement. I’m a new blogger and I really appreciate the advice.

    As a professional, you know what you need to do but putting it into practice can be a tough step. Especially when it comes to confidence. It’s a great big web world and it’s daunting to be vulnerable. Putting your voice out there is scary. Thanks for a reminding us of the basics and giving us a little shove.


  • Mark

    @Tracy — Blogging can be very intimidating. Yup, it’s tough to put yourself out there. It can also be a lot of fun! Always keep that possibility in mind, too! : )

  • Jerri

    5) Be brief.
    I don’t totally agree. Good writing is important, but brevity is not always. I guess it depends upon your style, approach, and what you are looking for. Seth Godin’s posts are great–I value them immensely. However, I also love The Frontal Cortex. The blogs do different things for me. If Lehrer tried to be as brief as Godin, it just wouldn’t work. I think this also related to your #6. I like the academic treatise when that is what I’m looking for, although I can imagine sitting with Lehrer, listening to him when I read his blog–many might glaze over in any subject after more than a paragraph or two. If you are primarily into shorter blog posts and Godin-like more limited topics (no insult intended), again, I’m sure you are correct.

    I think you can have a long blog post approach if you write well and your audience knows what your approach is and values it. Of course, I realize it is not as in vogue anymore to read long books, leave voicemails when you can text, etc. 🙂 Overall, I agree and understand with your position, I just think there’s a place for longer blog entries, too.

    And maybe this is a bit defensive as I ready to launch a blog where my partner and I have REALLY long posts in the wings! I guess we’ll see if there’s a readership out there in the near term.

    As always, thanks for your great posts!

  • Mark

    This is a wonderful point of contention probably worthy of its own blog post Jerri! My logic is this: After 500 words, you start losing readers exponentially. I don’t want that to happen, so I keep it short.

    I have, on occasion, written lengthy posts when it is unavoidable to properly serve a topic. However, I find that in 95% of the posts I read that are far too long, it is because the author is self-serving, indulgent and verbose, not properly serving a topic and an audience.

    Sometimes I brutally slash a long draft to make it short. Does it lose something? Probably not enough to make a difference. Another strategy is to break it into a series of posts. It certainly takes more work to be brief but I think it shows respect to my readers and they are certainly worth the effort.

    In the end, your business goal probably involves attracting and retaining an audience, and unless you are an established, celebrity-level blogger, you better strive to keep it short.

  • I love that you’re practicing what you preach here. It’s short, sweet, conversational, and to the point. That’s where I’m aiming. 🙂

  • Mark

    Glad it was helpful!

  • Great article, Mark,& thank you sooo much for the information, AND inspiration! I’m trying to pull my new blog together, & it is definatly a challenge. I will look forward to reading more of your great posts, & learning as I go! Better to make the steps & get started than to never begin at all! Blessings to you!

  • Mark

    I’m so pleased this was inspiring to you in a small way Donna!

  • Excellent points. I think the “read more than you write” point is especially important for beginners. By regularly reading other bloggers, you start to see that your posts don’t have to include elaborate, ground-breaking content…often, short & sweet is what works best. And consistency is key!

  • Mark

    Thanks Kellie. You guys do a great job blogging at Bliss PR. It’s on my regular reading list!

  • Thanks for the great ideas. I put your RSS feed in to my feed reader. Have a nice weekend!

  • NDB

    What you said about confidence is so true. Most people have a unique take on at least five things they see or read every day but just don’t think so. Umm…. that starts with me! Guess I must start blogging soon, then!

  • Ha! Go for it! Thanks for the comment!

  • Mark,

    I’d like to add one more, one that I think is really important. You’re doing it here, with this post:

    Reply to comments.

    Every one of them, if you can. If you’re blogging, you have something to say, and chances are you want to know what others think of your post(s). If readers take time to comment, you should take time to reply. It shows you care about their voice, and they respect that you’re paying attention.

    Reply to comments. Every time.

  • Well said. For me, it’s a matter of respect. I am BLOWN AWAY that people spend the time to contribute such amazing insights on this blog every day. It is humbling and inspiring. They deserve my attention and I will never take readers for granted. People are contributing their precious time to me. What an amazing gift!

  • Ken Rosen

    I think doing #5 well is so powerful I ended up doing a brief post in the magic of brevity while maintaining (or increasing!) meaning. I think of it as my “poetry pass.” In case you’re interested:

    Cheers, Ken

    Ken Rosen
    Performance Talks

  • Sherrill Poland

    Mark, thank you for this list. Recently I was talking with my sister about blogging (she recently started a blog), and we got on the subject of #5 and how she hates reading the blogs that are like #6. I agreed with her. I appreciate the brevity of a blog to the  Walt Whitman Song of Myself blogger, we agreed that we lose interest. In my blog I would often chastise myself for being brief, but I am a to the point person. I have found peace in #7, and fall under the “If you build it they will come” thought process. I think I will pass this on to my sister. 🙂

  • I’m glad this resonated and was helpful. Thanks for taking the time to let me know Sherril.

  • maggie

    i just dont know where to start. i love art, and mostly photography! i want a theme and topic… help?:/

  • maggie sherman

    i want to start a blog but i am just sostuck on being able to find a theme and topic, i love art and especially photography.. i just dont know where to start :/ any help is much appreciated! Please!

  • Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Just start. My blog takes a new twist and turn about every six months. But it will never have a chance to evolve if you don;t start. I think the theme will emerge after a few months.

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