You learn by listening (build a blog #1)

63320671 I spent part of last week with a client team who is about to enter social media by launching a blog.  They asked me what the most important thing they could do to ensure that their blog was a success. 

I said…anyone with a computer can launch a blog.  Few are going to do it right.  And few will still be blogging in 6 months.

Why?

The software is easy and in some cases, free.  If not free — then cheap.  I pay a whopping $15/month for my Typepad account and I have the high powered, design your own version.

But just because you can click a few links and have an empty blog doesn’t make you a blogger.

Before you can do it right, you need to have some idea of what right looks like.  And you learn that by observing others who are already successful.

When we create/launch a blog for clients, the first thing we make them do is listen.  Think of all the important things we had to learn throughout our lives.  Walking, talking, reading, riding a bike.  The first step in any of those efforts was to see it being done.  We had it modeled for us.  Then, we slowly began to mimic that behavior until we were able to do it on our own.

Blogging is no different.  You learn by listening/reading those who are already successful.  So if your company (or you) are thinking about launching a blog, start right.  Start by making a list of 20 blogs in your category.  Pick some of the big, popular ones and some less well known. 

Begin noticing (and recording) some of these elements.

  • How often do they publish new content?
  • How do their posts look?
  • Do they use visuals?
  • How long are their posts?
  • What else, besides their posts, are on their blogs?
  • Do they have advertising?  How does that impact your reading?
  • What’s on their sidebar?
  • Who do they link out to?
  • How often do they link out?
  • Who links in to them?
  • Do they allow comments?
  • Do they get comments?
  • Who/from where are their commenters?
  • Do they respond to comments, if so…how?
  • Do you see any pattern or themes in their posts’ content?
  • Do they use multimedia like video clips or slideshare?
  • Who is on their blogroll?  Do they have one?
  • What do you like about their blog?
  • What don’t you like about their blog?
  • How well is their blog branded and tied back to their business?
  • Does their blog seem self-serving?

You get the idea.  Listen.  Observe.  Question.  That’s step one. 

8 comments on “You learn by listening (build a blog #1)

  1. Dennis says:

    Drew
    I am sure you won’t mind if I disagree with you 🙂
    But I don’t think the path top success is learning from others and then doing the same. The philosophers who learned at the feet of their masters, must all eventually come up with their own ‘school of thought’. Copying ‘success’ does not necessarily make for success.
    It may have been your intention to highlight the ‘principles. like consistency, discipline, creativity etc. but that would go for ANY venture, don’t you think?

  2. Dennis,

    Disagreement is always welcome. But I think you are misunderstanding me.

    I am not suggesting a novice blogger do everything exactly how others do it. I’d like to think that the original writing alone would help them stand out. But there are some best practices that serve a blog well. And the only way to learn what those are is by watching and noting which will work for you and which will not.

    Blogging is an inherently unique proposition because we’re talking original content. But that doesn’t mean you need to completely re-invent the wheel.

    I know for me, when I was launching this blog, I was able to ramp up much faster because I learned from some of the greats!

    Drew

  3. Alanna says:

    I’m with Drew. Almost no one is great starting out. Great comes later, when you’ve developed your skills. You’re doing well if you start out at good, and learning from others will get you to good a lot faster.

  4. Darcy says:

    I think it is definitely important to look at other blogs in with similar topics and ideas, just to get a feel of the scene. Innovation and originality are important in creating a “buzz” but if you stick to a similar template as others in the same category, you will most likely pick up some of the other blogs loyal followers.

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  5. Alanna,

    And in today’s lightning fast world…you want to get good as quickly as possible. Odds are if you lose a potential subscriber, they’ll find what they need somewhere else rather than coming back.

    So anything that helps you ramp up seems like a good plan to me.

    Drew

  6. Darcy,

    If you are going to blog and stick around for any length of time, your content better be engaging and fresh. That to me, is where you shouldn’t copy others.

    But there are some “standards” in terms of widgets to include etc. that you can decide if you like it, based on how others are using them.

    As I said to Alanna — getting good quickly is smart.

    Drew

  7. All writing is like that. You have to learn about the form first – before you can make it your own.

    No one’s going to write a great sonnet without studying how Shakespeare did it, or the next great American novel without reading the great literature.

    Blog posts have a style and voice that’s all their own. Sure, some people are going to hit the perfect tone all on their own, but most of us need to take a look around first and learn what works.

  8. Katie,

    Exactly. The voice and the content is all ours. But we can learn so much by observing the masters before (or even while) we dive in.

    Drew

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