So you’ve decided to start a blog? You’ve written a few entries, but it’s not getting the responses and feedback you expected when you decided to take the initial plunge. You don’t want to give up, but quite honestly you can’t understand just why blogs are such a big deal. What’s all the fuss about? And why does everyone talk about blogs in such reverent, awed tones?
The word blog is an abbreviation for Web Log. Described as an online diary, a blog gives its writer the freedom to express his or her personal thoughts and opinions to what is potentially the biggest audience in the world. The freedom and accessibility of the Internet means that anyone in the world can access any blog at any time. Theoretically a blog has the potential to be read by more people than any best selling book. It’s a disturbing, yet exhilarating thought.
Blogs are virtually the ultimate soapbox, and the true success of a blog depends on how the writer wants to reach his or her readers. There are a number of different ways in which to write a blog, and the content supplied needs to be considered according to the audience you want to reach. There are many different kinds of blogs, and I’ve selected the ones I feel most relevant to a personal blogger.
Some of the most popular blogs are cultural. These attract a wide audience, and discuss different cultural activities, ranging from sports to theatre and films. One way to use a cultural blog is to write a book or film review, or share the experience of attending a live concert. Imagine being able to share the experience of attending a concert given by a popular entertainer like Madonna with readers from all over the world. Imagine being able to compare your concert experience with people on continents who have seen the same show. That’s why cultural blogs are so popular.
A topical blog is more specific, in that it focuses on a niche market. Local blogs, covering events in a neighbourhood, a town or a city fit this description. The people living in the specific area featured in the blog are actual participants to all events and happenings in the blog. Another type of a topical blog is one that covers a specific subject rather than a physical area. For example: a patient living with cancer can share many aspects of the condition with readers. He can share his daily feelings as he undergoes treatment and the reactions of his family and friends with readers who may have the same medical dilemma. Organizations covering human rights abuses in a specific country can blog about their findings, making people all over the world aware of the situation in which they’re working. On a lighter note pet owners have written blogs from their pet’s point of view, allowing their animal to narrate the entries. Animal lovers all over the world can contribute and share their own experiences with their owners in a light hearted, humorous style.
A political blog is dependent upon the media and the news, and the blogger will combine personal observations with links to other blogs and articles on the Internet. A more serious politician will feature his or her own beliefs and comments, with links to supporting blogs and media articles. Political blogs can inspire fierce and enthusiastic debates among readers, which makes them extremely diverse and interesting. A warblog focuses upon news event about an ongoing war or military action, although these types of blogs have been accused of supporting war rather than remaining neutral.
Perhaps the most common type of blog is the personal one. Popular with students and those wanting to share their experiences with family and friends, entries are usually written in a personal diary format. Although growing in popularity, it’s more difficult to attract large reader numbers to this kind of blog. For example: a student living in a country in Africa will probably not bookmark a blog written by someone from a country like Scotland. The cultural and environmental differences between the two are significantly diverse. Another consideration is how long can diary entries about family and friend’s activities hold anyone’s attention if he’s never met them – and isn’t likely to anytime in the future?
If the writer pays attention to each entry, applying good grammar, humour and writing in a style that makes readers want to know more about the featured characters there’s a chance a few may return. However part of the appeal of this blog is the personal approach, and there’s a very real risk of losing the chance to build on the interaction between a crowd of people who have a physical connection rather than one formed in cyberspace. The best approach in this instance would be to write each blog entry as though it’s a chapter in a book about the characters.
Personal blogs can be used in other ways too. Some people use an entry to write a poem, a chapter in a novel or a short story. Others will debate their religious, political or other beliefs. Some will write about their thoughts and feelings on current news items, others may use them to describe personal feelings during a crisis, such as coping with an illness or death of a loved one. In this instance writing the blog becomes a cathartic experience, and the support of readers can help the writer cope with a deep, personal issue or crisis.
As most blogs are personal there are a number of ways in which the blogger can maintain and possible increase his or her audience.
Be Diverse – vary your entries every day. Share an anecdote about a friend or family member in one entry, then follow it with a story about your pet. If you’ve read an interesting story on the news dedicate an entry to it. Share a joke you received on an email from a friend. You could write a book review or share your thoughts on a film or DVD you’ve just watched. Think Forrest Gump: Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.
Be Candid – be truthful, frank and straightforward. Know your facts. If you’re commenting on a topical story or issue research your facts before committing them to the blog. Explain the reasoning for your beliefs, and back them with proven facts.
Be Neutral – don’t scorn, condemn or criticise those who disagree with your beliefs. Accept that everyone’s entitled to his or her opinion. It’s an idea to reflect both sides of the argument in an entry, taking care to avoid criticising or berating others. That’s the basis of democracy, and it’s a good point to remember when debating a “hot” issue in a blog.
Be Friendly – acknowledge those who take the time to read and contribute to your blog. If someone’s left a comment in your blog with a return email or blog address, send a message. Or better still pay a visit to the relevant blog. It could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The visitor may tell others about your blog, and their visits will increase your blog’s popularity – not to mention your viewing statistics!
Be Entertaining – use your sense of humour, don’t take yourself too seriously. Sharing thoughts, ideas and experiences in writing is the same as sitting in a room with a group of friends. Just because you cannot see their faces doesn’t mean they’re not like you. Your blogging friends are special people, who’ve taken the time to respond to your words. Share some of yourself with them, and you’ll find your blogging circle grows.
A blog is a powerful communicative tool, and it needs to be handled properly. A well written, interesting blog has the ability to be read by people from all over the world. There are now more than 60 million blogs on the Internet, and that number is increasing daily. Self publishing house Lulu recently announced the winner of the inaugural Blooker Prize. Julie Powell wrote a blog about her attempts to cook all the recipes in an old French cookery book. Her blog was turned into a blook and to date she’s sold 100,000 copies.