A lot of people still think that a blog is just a website where people ramble on about their lives. But it’s so, so much more than that.
And while the term “blogging” seems to have fallen out of fashion in recent times, the art of blogging (and all that it means for your career and the online community in general) is more important than ever.
In this post I’m going to share a few thoughts on why this is so, and how we can use our blogs more effectively as tools for ethical profit, social change, and a lot more.
What is a blog?
If you go back and look at this post you’ll see that the definition of blogging is changing as bloggers get more and more sophisticated with their content, platforms and ideas.
Anyone who tells you that it is dead is really missing the point about how blogs work and the function that they now play online.
To me, saying that blogging is dead is sort of like saying that social networking is dead because MySpace went out of fashion… that’s only a small part of the story.
You might host a podcast on your blog, or your blog might be the podcast itself and nothing more.
Blogging has evolved to become something complex and useful and organic. Bloggers might be politicians, social workers, parents, academics, or teenagers who want to see change. And the way their blog looks is really totally up to them, their budgets and their goals.
Why your blog is more important than ever
The world is at a really interesting point in history.
There is a climate emergency that threatens hundreds of millions, there is political turmoil in previously stable systems, there’s social change happening at rapid rates due to A.I. and income inequality at scales we’ve never seen… just to name a few.
And what’s curious about all of these things is that the Internet is playing a central role in how these situations unfold, how bad/fake information circulates and is promoted, and how solutions are then organized through activism, Government pressure, and culture change.
So how does that relate to you and your blog?
- Carving out your own space is important for work
As ideas around work change, it might become crucial to have your own place online that promotes your services or brand, be it personal or business. For example, if you’re a clothes designer you might have a fashion blog that illustrates how your work is different, the successful case studies you’ve had, photos to show you’re a real person, and so on. This might be enough to land you a job when a website-less designer might miss out. Keep building your own personal online real estate that you can use to launch future products, services, or career changes down the track.
- Teaching people to “think” in a fake news era
In a world where fake news is everywhere and people struggle to know what’s real, a quality blog can be so important for getting the truth out there. For example, a climate change blogger might write posts that explain the science, help people understand difficult concepts, and dis-prove some of the fake information that gets peddled by oil companies in order to preserve their profits. These blog posts could have an effect on what people eat, how they vote, and that has huge impacts down the line, especially if you learn SEO and promotional techniques that get facts and critical thinking skills in front of more people.
- Actually bringing people together
While the Internet has some amazing benefits, it’s also looking less like the free and egalitarian platform that we once thought it would be. For example, it’s given extreme right wing views an equal platform to spread hatred when, in the past, it was a lot harder to do that without physically gathering together. As a result, these views spread and people congregate in to online groups and their views solidify. Instead of forming more “left” blogs or more “right” blogs, we need to use blogs to bring people together and have open and honest discussions without the fear of being reduced to a side or a view. Blogs are inherently social platforms, and it would be wonderful to see more effort go in to building communities that debate respectfully instead of promoting one idea.
With all these things in mind, having a quality and well researched blog can be extremely important for your career, while also having a big impact on the world around you.
How to make sure your blog has an impact
A little while ago I did a post on why blogs fail that talked a lot about the timeline involved with a successful blog.
But how can we make sure that our blogs actually have an impact in terms of earnings while also helping people with our content, as discussed above?
Here’s a few suggestions:
- Focus on community building
Make sure your blog is a safe haven for people to discuss ideas, even if they are different to your own. Don’t punish people for having a different opinion. Look at how Wait But Why does it.
- Create some guidelines
That being said, don’t allow people to just write hateful or rude things for the sake of it. Come up with a comment policy and refer to it often.
- Lead the way
Encourage discussion on your blog, but also make sure you show up. I reply to every comment I get here on Blog Tyrant and I think that makes a difference.
- Research and cite sources
Make sure your articles are well researched and when you make claims about something, make sure there is a place for someone to do further research. This is good for SEO too.
- Ask questions
Some of the best blog posts make people ask more questions as opposed to less. A good article will make you passionate about something and thus go out and seek more information.
- Stick to a strategy
A blogging strategy will keep your content focused while also keeping you “on message”. This is important because readers will come to you for certain topics, and because you represent a certain level of quality.
- Read, read, read
Make sure you are reading high quality blogs and websites, but also read books. It’s tempting to think that your online sources are good enough, but often you read a book and see how much more effort, review and editing occurs.
- Keep helping, especially at the product stage
Your products and the parts of your blog that make money should enhance your blog’s quality, not detract from it. Choose/make products that align with your brand, content, and goals of your readers.
- Test and get feedback
One of the most important things you can do as a blogger is get feedback from your readers, especially when it’s negative. Consider doing a survey or getting some training to make changes for the better.
- Use design carefully
A beautiful blog that has the right WordPress theme and a carefully chosen layout will be more likely to engage people in the short and long term. Don’t let your design let down your content and ideas.
- Adapt to change carefully
It’s important to keep an eye on trends in your niche, but not at the expense of losing your primary focus. For example, if you’d switched to focus on Periscope instead of your own domain name 1.5 years ago you’d probably have lost out. Know how much you can jump in when taking risks.
- Think about the individual
Don’t ever forget that your traffic stats are made up of individual human beings. Each on of them reads your content and that content then gets lodged in their brain somewhere. Don’t take that privilege for granted.
Generally speaking, I think that the bloggers and entrepreneurs that think about these issues will actually be okay because most people don’t even consider them.
And, as always, remember that each blog will be different and require a different set of principles and ideas in order to keep it relevant and effective. Always. Be. Testing.
Do you think blogs are more or less important?
I’d love to know what you all think about this issue. Do you think blogs should/do play a role in helping to make the Internet a better or worse place? Similarly, do you think the blog will continue to be important for future work opportunities?
Please leave a comment and let me know.
Top photo © Daniel Villeneuve