Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blogging Advice from MicroFocus Group

The topic at the Micro Focus group meeting on 10 April was blogging. Was it worth having a blog for your business? What can a blog do (or not) for your business? What were your experiences with blogging? What advice would you give about blogging? Was it worth having a blog?

About half of us in the Microfocus group had a blog (including myself), which led to very enlightening discussion of the pros and cons of running a blog. And one of the biggest pros we found in having a blog was bringing out our personas. This is particularly so in cases where you run multiple blogs; one for business, one for personal, one for hobbies and so on. This is particularly useful if, say, you want to post your cat pictures, but they would not be suitable for a blog that promotes your business. Or if you have so many things you want to share about so many different topics that could range from your business to drawing for comics.

Is it worth having a blog at all? Interesting question; we found there were no clear-cut answers. One member was on the verge of canning her blog, while another was worried about blogging being overtaken by social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Were they overtaking blogging? The question of Facebook was mixed. Apparently people “are running away from Facebook”, partly because of the perils of “click on” sites which can lead to malware. On the other hand, a lot of businesses are using a Facebook page instead of a web page. I’ve seen plenty of them myself. So perhaps it’s a matter of Facebook complementing blogging rather than overtaking it. What about LinkedIn, then? Unfortunately that will have to wait until next month, when LinkedIn will be the topic of the meeting. But there was one other thing worthy of noting: one of our members has found blogging very useful in using in lieu of a newsletter. This was because a blog takes less text than a newsletter. It must take less time to read as well.

By far the biggest problem we found with blogging was how to keep it running at quality output. Time and energy, how to keep regularly updating your blog, but not to the point where you look like you’re a slave to the jolly thing who is only putting up entries because it’s your duty to keep the blog regularly updated. But by far the biggest problem was finding topics to write about, and keeping up with writing topics. Well, we can’t be the only ones with this problem. So what do you do if you have a blog but are stuck on topics? One member came up with the idea of going down to the public library, grab a book on, say, instant cashflow, and hunt up the content page for topics. Just that – the contents page. Another member said she regularly used the newspaper for topics. I myself suggested seminars, talks, and events like the Business Expo as places to find topics. And of course there must be the good old fashioned brainstorming.

One thing I’ve read, and wanted to discuss at the meeting, is that blogging is one way to make money; some people have made fortunes out of it and there are plenty of ebooks and articles on the subject. But how can blogging raise money? We found several ways:

1.      Have people subscribe to your blog.
2.      Monetise the blog with click-on ads. Plenty available from Google Ad.
3.      Take your blog tips and write a book out of them.
4.      Set up as a blog writer. Plenty of freelance websites advertise jobs where companies want people to write their blog entries for them.

But you won’t make money if your blog has no entertainment value. That's our biggest piece of advice about blogging: a blog must be entertaining. And it must reflect your personality. One of our members found that people kept coming back to his blog because they found it amusing. They didn’t care so much for the information – it was the entertainment that scored the hits. That’s one reason why blogs on cookery are far more popular than blogs on technical tips. So if you can make peat moss entertaining, and keep it entertaining, you can run a very successful blog on it. But if your blog on how to raise money is as dull as ditchwater, people won’t stop by, no matter how useful your tips are.

Now your blog’s entertaining, it’s got personality, and it’s monetised, but there’s one more thing – how do you get it out there? Suggestions we came up with were: comment on other blogs and put a link back to your blog; links on Facebook and other social media websites; have a link on your website (which is what I do); a link on your email signature; and a link on your business card (recommended only for a regular, constantly updated and well-loved blog).

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