Blogging Basics

A few months ago, I registered for a useful webinar on blogging hosted by TechSoup, an organization dedicated to helping nonprofits become more tech savvy. I learned dozens of good ideas that I'd like to share with you. Here are some tips we can all use to become better bloggers:

Blogger
Designate your bloggers. The people who handle messaging for your other communications vehicles should be the ones posting on your blog.
  • Define your target audience. Main Streeters hear this over and over, but it's true. Focus your events, initiatives, and messages on a particular audience that you would like to target.
  • Identify unique and valuable information that you can share with this audience. If you are providing value to your blog readers by giving them information that your competitors aren't, they'll come back to read future posts.
  • Don't fear commitment! Commit to your blog and make it a priority. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. Determine how much time you will have to work on it and follow a regular schedule. Limited time and resources may prevent you from posting daily, but posting updates every other day or every two days can help you build a loyal following of people who know when to expect new information from you. Three short posts a week should be feasible for most organizations.
  • Designate your blogger(s). Bloggers shouldn't be interns or volunteers who only occasionally come to committee or board meetings. A blog is just another communication vehicle; the people who handle messaging for your newsletter, website, press releases, and other channels should also be the ones handling your blog. You can give them a break a few times a month by inviting a guest blogger to post – ask your partners and active community members to submit content occasionally. Pull Quote
  • Pay attention to tone. You aren't writing a scholarly article; but you are trying to maintain a professional image. Informal tone is appropriate, but be sure to spell check and proofread your blog posts.   
  • Employ bulleted lists. This makes your content easy to read and scan. 
  • Use bold subheads to highlight key points. Use pull quotes to highlight compelling information. Icons
  • Keep posts under 750 words. Anything longer may indicate that you need two blog postings on the topic.
  • Post comments on other blogs in your community or field. You will become part of the blogger community and people who read your comments in other places will probably start reading your blog. Link back to your blog as often as possible.  
  • Use images to create visual interest.  Istockphoto.com offers free photos. Free fonts, RSS icons, wallpapers, and more can be found at Smashing Magazine.

Now, here are some techie ideas to bring out your inner dork. RSS Feed Icon

  • Put an RSS feed near the top of your blog and incorporate it into the bottom of each post. Addthis.com can encourage users to share the blog through 50 other social networks (you would place this at the end of each posting). 
  • Track user statistics. The free Google FeedBurner, for example, gives you the stats on your RSS feed and can tell you how many people are coming to your blog, what they are reading, etc. Tracking how people use your blog will help you deliver more content that they want.
  • Explore different blog tools to find the one that best meets your needs. Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, and MoveableType are among the more popular options. Each has its pluses and minuses, and a quick web search will show you why some people prefer certain ones over others. Some are free, some have more customization tools, some require a bit of html and other programming knowledge, and some have help support for a small fee.

Happy blogging!