Know your audience: 6 steps to a better blog
This is a guest post by Laura Sams
The beauty of blogging is that it’s just about writing, pure and simple. It’s a way to form an intellectual connection with your readers, sharing wisdom through the power of language. What’s more, you can work on your own terms, be your own boss, choose your own hours, and use nothing more than the knowledge in your head and your faithful laptop. According to statistics, 60% of the blogging world is doing it for the pure joy of it.
At least, that’s the appeal of blogging. However, in order to be really productive and blog to the best of your ability, there’s a little more involved. You need to really understand what your readers are interested in, how to engage them, current market trends, how other bloggers are working, how to create a professional and attractive user interface, and make sure you’re using the best tools of the trade. Otherwise all your creativity is going to waste.
Here, we give a quick rundown of some ways in which you can harness technology to make better blogs:
1. Understand your readers
It’s not enough to simply write about what you’re interested in. You need to tap into what other people are interested in – both your current readers and potential readers – and shape your content to reflect this.
Download Facebook and Twitter apps onto your smartphone, and regularly check up on what is being discussed – the best indicator of what people are interested in is what they’re talking about.
Another great way to understand your readers better is to encourage them to comment on your blog – direct feedback from the people who matter the most. Ask for feedback on a post and then respond to these comments in a follow-up post so that people feel their concerns have really been addressed. In turn, they will be more likely to comment on future posts.
2. Research blogging techniques
The best blogs don’t just write a piece of text on a topic and leave it at that. Pictures and attractive layouts add interest to the piece, while questions and polls will encourage readers to interact with the blog and leave comments.
If you’re using a blog server such as WordPress or another popular server, it is easy to add a poll widget into a post. Alternatively, a poll can be included manually using HTML.
The popularity of multimedia sites such as YouTube and Pinterest proves that people are interested in more than just words, so include some multimedia in a post to tap into this interest. You can find images and videos on the Internet (just make sure you check the attribution conditions), or take your own. Infographics are also hugely popular at the moment, and their popularity is only increasing. Just a little bit of extra work could really add something to your blog. Why not try replacing one post with just a video? This is a great way for your readers to get to know you a bit better, too.
There are plenty of “blogging blogs” all over the Internet, full of tips and tricks to optimize your blog content. You’re making a good start by reading this post!
3. Understand the market
Keeping abreast of current news stories, particularly related to your industry, is a great way to stay relevant. Again, you can do this by following appropriate sources on Twitter. Alternatively, online news sites are free and convenient, but offline newspapers work just as well.
4. Know your bloggers
You’re not blogging in a vacuum – thousands of other people are blogging as well. Some of them are doing it better than you, and some of them are doing it worse. This means that there’s a lot to be learned – both what you should be doing, and what you shouldn’t. Set up a RRS reader or news aggregator to provide updates from selected blogs, so you can keep on top of what’s out there. Google Reader is a great choice.
5. Get the tools of the trade
No good workman blames his tools for a poorly built structure, but no one ever built a house using a plastic bucket and spade, either. As technology develops, there is more and more on offer to provide us with everything we need. A tablet computer is a great tool for bloggers because it allows you to perform all the tasks necessary for writing great posts – research, writing and publishing. Most importantly, all tablets are light and compact enough to take with you on the go, so you can scribble down your ideas when the creative inspiration strikes. It’s worth reading iPad, Nexus and PlayBook review sites to work out which is the perfect tablet for you, because they all vary in small but important ways.
6. Look professional
This point is particularly pertinent if you’re blogging on technology or design, but applies to any blog. What you’re saying will be taken more seriously if it’s well laid out on a page that has a modern and attractive design. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has left a site without reading any of the content, simply because the user interface looked clunky and out-of-date – it gives the impression that the content will be clunky and out-of-date, too. If you do use a tablet to blog, there are some great apps around designed specifically to help you. WordPress has recently released an app bringing the favorite online platform to tablets, for free. TouchUp is an image-editing tool that allows you to crop, resize, and add a few extra touches to photos. This means that you publish them, they’ll look great.
The techniques above will allow you to channel your love of blogging into a product that’s the best it can be, so that you can focus on the creative side. Because after all, creativity is what blogging’s all about, right?
About this post’s author:
Laura is a digital consultant and social media expert living in London. She can be contacted at [email protected].