My Computerworld blog has been active for over a year now, so I recently took a look back at my experience with it to see was it worth all the time spent researching and publishing articles. Sometimes it has been difficult to get the time as I spend a lot of time on the road, but for me personally the time spent blogging as been very worthwhile.
Blogs have been around for many years now and are still one of the most popular ways of getting opinions across. They can vary in form from short pieces from people like Seth Godin to longer more detailed articles like this one which looks at Internet surveillance.
Some people see blogging as a function of the marketing department, more content for the masses to consume. However, I believe that blogging has a lot more benefits for individuals than what it can do for an organization. Here are 5 ways I believe blogging can help you.
- Improve your writing and speaking skills
I have spent the last 20 years working in IT and during that time my writing skills have gone a bit stale. I can attribute some of this to a reliance on spell checkers and word suggestion technologies which make it relatively easy to put together a paragraph of text.
Shortly after I submitted my first blog post to Computerworld, I remember the disappointment I felt when I received feedback on its content. My grammar was all over the place and there was no real structure to the article. If it was content for an email it would have been fine, we put up with a lot of poor formatting when we receive content this way. However, it was not good enough for publication on a site like Computerworld which reaches out to a large audience.
For me it was a wakeup call. I needed to go back to basics when it came to writing text. Most of my blog posts are in the range of 700 words so I normally write them out on paper first to see if the content and structure works.
- Become a content creator, not just a content consumer.
Search engines have made it really easy to find content now. Just type in a subject and you are almost guaranteed to find what you are looking for on the first page of the search results. This can make us become consumers of content rather than creators of content, which may be fine if you are a student looking for material to learn. However, someone has to create this content, so why not get your own opinions out there. As you create content, make sure you link to other relevant article from within your own. This can help with search engine optimization, as articles get linked to, they become more of an authority on the subject.
- Focus your mind on the subject matter.
Sometimes we think we are experts on a particular subject matter. Most of the time this is true, but try and put it to paper and it can be a real challenge. Most blog articles start off with an introduction, deal with the subject and then come to some sort of conclusion. I would recommend that senior people within an organisation should be able to write such an article on the product or service that they are responsible for. It should be long enough so that an outsider can understand the subject matter but not too detailed -- try to avoid comments with the dreaded tl;dr
- Use blogging as a way to test content for other uses
Blogging can be a great way to see if people are interested in a particular subject matter. If something gets a good response, then this content could be reused for other things like webinars and email campaigns. You need to go beyond how many people read your posts. Find out if your content is been reused on other sites. To do this, use your favourite search engine to search for a particular sentence from the post. See if people are posting comments about the article and check social networking sites like Twitter to see if people are mentioning your posts.
- Start to engage with others
Once you do start blogging, I would recommend that you spend the same amount of time commenting on other peoples work as you do writing your own. Most blogs allow for the posting of comments and this can be a great way of reaching out to other experts in your space. Most blogs don’t allow the comment sections to be indexed by search engines so don’t use it as a way to publish unique and interesting content.
On a final point, you should also pay careful attention as to where you host your blog. Putting it on your own website will give you the greatest creative freedom, but no one will find it unless your site is highly ranked by the search engines. Hosting it on sites like Computerworld will give you access to an instant large audience, but you need to make sure you content is appropriate for them to publish.
Do you find blogging useful? Comments welcome