Blogging vs Other Social Media

It’s a fight to the death!

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Well, okay, not quite that, but bear with me for a bit longer.

The other week I gave a short talk to my writing group on reasons a writer should be on social media and, more importantly, why they needed a blog. I’m not going to go into this in any detail now, but I promised I’d summarise what I said in bullet points, and then thought it might be worth putting up here to see if anyone felt like adding anything to it.

So…

Why?

  • As a writer, you need to have a social media presence to sell books, to get known. Even if you are a published author.
  • On a social media platform, you are aiming to get shares for your posts. The more shares, the more people will see them.
  • It’s all about engaging with customers, fans and critics.
  • There are a huge number of platforms, but just a few examples that I have experience of:
  • Facebook is the biggest, and the most active, with a high rate of engagement. Having an Author Page is a good way to engage through backstories, questions, surveys and daily updates (yours or your work), ‘Behind the scenes’ articles.
  • Linkedin has many users, but a low rate of engagement. A business page can be useful.
  • Twitter is short and succinct. A sort of ‘Marketing Lite’. Posts appear fleetingly and then are essentially gone, though, unless they generate lots of likes and retweets.
  • Goodreads is like ‘background’ media – people need to seek you out to find you.
  • But the number one way to be found is through blog posts.
  • Like all good social media, blogs encourage visitors to return. Unlike ordinary websites, they are updated regularly and the reader can be alerted to each new post.
  • There are many other reasons to blog, viz:
  1. Teaches you to write more professionally – you have an audience
  2. Discipline
  3. Practice
  4. Feedback from people outside your usual circle
  5. Networking with others
  6. You can upload links to other social media
  7. There is space to write more in-depth than on other social media
  8. To review work for other writers
  9. To explore ideas and get feedback on these
  • A blog is simply a website with posts being regularly replaced, although the old ones are still on the website to read.
  • There are many blogging platforms, but I use WordPress.
  • One advantage of WP is the ease by which readers can see you have a new post.
  • Whichever platform you choose, it should have clear instructions and / or tutorials to help you set up.
  • It should also allow you to block spammers, remove adverts (by upgrading), monetise your site, and change the layout. In other words, have as much control as possible over its appearance.
  • It can be really helpful if the platform provides diagnostics on data such as page views, visitors, likes, comments, and links to and from your site. This helps you plan and refine how you run it.

How?

  • Purchase your own address! It is not very expensive, but it makes your blog more personal, more professional, and the address more memorable. And the host cannot arbitrarily close it down, which might happen with a free site.
  • Start by going and looking at other blogs, to find what you like and might work for you. then use your Site Builder Tool to create your site.
  • Once you begin writing your first post make sure you are using a clear font that stands out.
  • Keep the post around 500 words, certainly under 1000. When you have a decent following, you may get away with more, but new readers will be put off by longer ones. (As a guide, this post has 945 words).
  • Add a picture or two to help it stand out and look less daunting, but not too many. And not just dozens of selfies, unless you are an established celebrity. It’s a real turn off.
  • Make the post interesting! Put some good stuff in first, to get the readers’ attention. And don’t save all the good stuff until the end, as readers might not otherwise get there.
  • Use categories and tabs on each post to help new readers find them.

Issues

  • Don’t feel under pressure to post to a fixed schedule.
  • Don’t be afraid to change the subjects you post about – it’s all under your control and there are no rules on it. Let it develop organically.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a break if you need to. It’s very easy to get into a mindset where you think you need to do all these things to a rigid schedule.
  • Don’t obsess about the number of followers you have or likes / comments you get. Chasing them is counter-productive.
  • Find some blogs YOU like, and follow them, commenting when you have something to say. That way you will begin to get visits in return and then, hopefully, follows back. It is pointless following a blog that doesn’t interest you, just hoping to get a follow back. You want followers who will be interested in what you have to offer.
  • And on that subject, if a new follower has a site that doesn’t interest you, there is no obligation for you to follow them back.
  • And don’t feel obliged to comment on / like / or even read every post on blogs you follow.
  • Do remember that copyright law applies exactly the same on the internet as it does in the real world. If you copy a photo or article from the internet without permission and post it on your blog be prepared for possible legal unpleasantness. I always use my own, just to be safe. I think it looks better, too.

The Liebster Award

Goodness, what’s that?

Checking my emails, I noticed that I had a new message on the comment thread of my most recent post, from Dave, the fellow who blogs at Plying Through Life

Dave comes over and leaves a comment on my posts every now and again, and in return I go and look at his regularly, because I enjoy his tales of scuba diving, travel, and life in general, told with a dry and droll humour. He is also the only person that I have come across so far who really does herd cats in the course of his work.

Anyhow. I went and took a look at his comment, and found that he had nominated me for the Leibster Award.

Goodness, what’s that? You ask.

See, I’ve got you at it, too, now.

leibster

Well, I’m going to nick Dave’s explanation, because I don’t think I can better it: ‘It’s an Internet based award, given by bloggers to other bloggers.  It’s intended both as a way to recognise the work of bloggers you enjoy, and by publicizing links to their blogs help others discover those blogs too.  The emphasis should be on newer bloggers.  The nominees are also put on the spot, as the nominator can ask them any questions they find interesting, which helps us learn a little more about the blogger and extends the sense of community. The payback for this grilling is the nominee can then nominate other blogs they think are deserving.’

Then there are the rules, or guidelines. Again, I’m going to nick the wording from Dave (really sorry, Dave!), mainly because a large chunk of it is technical detail that he has laid out clearly:

1) Thank the person in your post who nominated you for a Liebster Award and link back to them.

2) Answer the questions he/she asked you.  Or don’t, if they make you uncomfortable.  Or emulate Mark Twain: “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.”

3) Nominate other great bloggers for a Liebster Award, and notify them by leaving a comment on their blog, with a link back to your nominating post. Not sure how to put a link in a comment?  Type the HTML for links in as follows (the HTML tags will not show in the posted comment):
<a href=”insertYourURLhere”>Your Linked Text Here</a>

4) I’ve seen anything from 3 to 11 nominees recommended.

5) Some variations suggest the nominees should have less than 200 followers, as the intent is really to showcase newer blogs.  How do you know how many followers they have? The best way I’ve found is to use the Manage Followers page in the Reader.  (You are following these people you like, right?)  Then, click on the title for the blog you’re interested in (not the web address), and you’ll be taken to a reader page for that blogger with a list of their posts and how many followers they have noted at the top.

6) Give your nominees a list of questions you’d like them to answer.

7) Include the award guidelines in your post.

8) Include a copy of the award logo in your blog.

9) Recipients have the option of declining the nomination.

So, I suppose that I had better answer Dave’s questions. Here goes…

What inspires you?

I am inspired by all sorts of random things. I tend to read or see or hear something, and my thoughts fly off at an odd tangent and by the time that I’ve caught up with them they’ve begun to wander down all sorts of alleyways and dodgy looking side streets that I wouldn’t normally even dream of going down. And by then it’s too late to do anything about it, so I just have to go with the flow and I find myself writing all sorts of stories or political pieces. Of course, I suppress a lot of them before they can get out and do me any lasting damage.

What got you started blogging?

I’d been thinking about it for a while, really since I had made the decision to self-publish the novel that I‘m currently editing. I knew that I had to start the process of promoting said book, and so it began as shameless advertising and self-promotion. Naturally, I then found that there were all sorts of things that I wanted to write about and share, and so it grew from there.

Which are your 5 favourite blog posts?

Now that’s really putting me on the spot! I assume you mean ones written by other people and not ones what I writ. In which case, I’m going to cheat and just suggest that you take a look at any post by each of my nominees – they will all repay the trouble!

What’s been the most rewarding part of becoming a blogger?

That’s easy; it’s the connections that I’ve made with other bloggers. Once you begin to follow comment threads on both your own posts, and those of other bloggers, you get drawn into conversations and quickly find similar like-minded bloggers. I don’t think that it is an exaggeration to say that you begin to forge friendships.

Name 3 things on your bucket list

1) Publish my first book; I really will do that within the next six months!

2) Go back to India and Nepal yet again. Each time I come back from a trip there I think that the next time I get an opportunity to travel I ought to go somewhere completely new, but by the time that I do, I always have this overwhelming urge to go back.

3) Take more photographs. I love taking photographs, but never seem to have the camera with me at the right time. I know that I really need to set time aside to do this, but…hey, where did that time go?

What is a favourite quote?

I could name quite a few, but one that has been in my mind rather a lot recently has been the quote from Edith Cavell, the British army nurse who was executed by the Germans in the First World War for helping prisoners to escape:

‘I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.’

I think that a lot of people would do well to muse on that.

What is a favourite book or genre?

I don’t think I could possibly answer that; I read and enjoy so many genres, and my favourite book changes frequently. At the moment, if pressed, I might answer ‘Siddhartha’, by Hermann Hesse. Or ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Or ‘The Old Ways’ by Robert Macfarlane. Or…you get the idea, I’m sure.

Name one place or person you’d like to visit

Well, if I could possibly tear myself away from another visit to India or Nepal, I do rather fancy visiting Ethiopia. I’d love to see the highlands there, and the Coptic churches.

And I’m going to cheat by also suggesting a person, and I’m assuming that this is intended as one of those ‘if you could meet anyone who had ever existed’ type questions, and admit that I would love to have had the opportunity to sit down with Gandhi and talk politics, philosophy and religion.

But…even as I write that, I am reminded that no one ever learned anything by surrounding themselves with people who thought like themselves, so perhaps I should plump for a long talk with someone who had a totally different outlook on life to myself. I have had a few such interactions on blogs with other bloggers, and we have managed to keep the discussions civil, and so I think that we have all learned a little about the others’ points of view. Maybe no one was converted to anyone else’s point of view, but I like to think that at the very least we came away with a little more respect for the others.

Have I twisted around this question? Sorry…

What talent do you wish you had more of?

Lots, really. But if I’m only allowed to choose one, then I suppose it must be writing.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on a vacation?

Trekking in the Himalaya. Definitely.

And now for my nominations. So many of the blogs that I follow have been running for a long while, and have many followers. And many of the others that I would have liked to have chosen either blog only rarely (too rarely!), or have blogs that are not structured suitably for the award, specifically just blogging episodes of a longer tale. So I have tried to pick out some newer ones that I have found. With one exception.

And so, my nominees are:

The Eurphoric Single Mom who blogs on her struggles to lead a normal life as the single mother of 2 young children, one of them autistic.

A year of living kindly. At the beginning of the year, Donna embarked on a year of consciously using kindness to change the world about her.

Yesterday and tomorrow. Another blogger who writes on her struggles to live a normal life after life has administered a good kicking. I have nothing but awe and respect for these amazing people.

Bun Karudo’s Scribblings  This one is the exception. It has been running for some while, and how it has not had this award so far is completely beyond me. I just hope it’s not because he hates the idea! Bun’s blogs are a most humorous antidote to feeling down.

So, nominees, I hope that you accept the challenge, and these are the questions I’ve set for you:

1) What do you find most difficult about blogging?

2) What would you like to learn?

3) So what inspires you?

4) Have you got a philosophy of life?

5) Any big event on the horizon for you?

6) Have you a favourite place?

7) Couch potato or Olympic athlete?

8) Name 3 things on your bucket list.

9) Have you had a life changing experience?

10) Name 3 people you would like to meet.