I recently joined a twitter chat #pd4uandme where we were discussing the benefits of blogging and it made me think about how far I have come from my first post just over 7 years ago now. Blogging has been a real learning journey for me, it gave me a place to explore ideas in a very open and honest way and gave me a voice I never knew I had. So if you are wondering if blogging is for you I thought I would share my journey and a little advice in the hopes that it will inspire at least one of you to give it a go.
The ugly side of blogging
One of the things I have learnt over the last 7 years is the impact that social media and specifically blogging can have on your life. So let's start with the ugly side of social media and something that I am sure prevents many of us starting this journey. Social media does get a lot of bad press, from spread of fake news to bullying, but I can honestly say that I have not seen any of it personally.
Ok I have had one comment which said 'why do you always say read this, why should we, who do you think you are?'. I know in the big scheme of things it could have been a lot worse... It was early days on my social media journey and I was quite hurt by this... My son then said to me it is probably a bot. Just block and ignore. Thank goodness for him as I think I would have stopped then and there. So here is my piece of advice number 1, curtesy of Andrew.
Block and ignore but I would also add report these days, anything that makes you truly uncomfortable! If this is the reason you don't do this you are letting the bad win. We need to overpower the ugly side of social media by filling it with good stuff which includes blogging and your ability to share your expertise. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there.
The bad side of blogging
We started with the ugly so I may as well carry on with the bad... We all have to start somewhere and if I am honest I really did not know what I wanted to blog about. If I was starting again now I would have more of a plan but that is only from experience and sometimes it is ok not to have a plan. My journey to writing what I do now came from all the posts I have written over the years. Some have been great and others not so. My English and grammar is poor (I think I may be dyslexic although never diagnosed). Yes I have had the odd comment correcting my English. I just thank them these days and don't worry about it. Advice number 2
Unless you absolutely know what your blog is going to be about don't worry about it just get started. Write about what interests you.
Take a quick look at my first attempt and realise that if I could put myself out there, you definitely can too. https://elizabethutch.blogspot.com/2012/11/time-to-have-go-at-this.html
I write how I speak so can go off on a tangent (I feel I have got better at that). I am not always concise, with no word count blogs can get unruly and most people don't read to the end if it is too long. Writing for the Information Professional has given me practice at saying what I want to say in 650 words, it is a challenge but very beneficial. Advice number 3
Consider your word count. Write what you like but on reading it over ask yourself if it is too long.
The good side of blogging
Finally the good. My blog is now all about school libraries, so you could say that I have found my focus. This focus only came about when I attended my first ever teachers conference, Practical Pedagogies, as a speaker. I met John McCarthy who talked to me about how important it was to share what I was talking about. My knowledge and passion was obvious and he insisted that I should be blogging about it. This conversation inspired me to start blogging with a focus.
I was so ashamed of my previous attempts at blogging that I did not admit to him that I even had a blog! This conversation was a life changer! Up until this point I had under 30 people read any one blog. Once I had a focus this changed dramatically. Advice number 4
Once you have put yourself out there and got comfortable with your platform find your focus. Understand that at the beginning not many people are going to read what you write so there really is no pressure. You are learning and that is ok!
My blogs are still very much what interests me. Things that I care passionately about. I have learnt to write critically, I think... I try and find something useful to share and give ideas to problems. I am very honest about how I feel which I think helps people who read my blogs understand me. It is important for me to make sure that readers understand that even though my blogs are now reasonably well read that I am becoming an expert in my field and they are sharing my learning journey with me. Advice number 5
Be honest and share what works for you.
It can be very easy to get carried away. I often would write when I was annoyed about something. I never posted in anger! This is a very dangerous road to travel. I would always save what I had written and look back on it the next day, sometimes it would take me a week to actually get something that I was prepared to share. What I found was that very often it helped me to find a solution to my problem and in changing the tone of the blog allowed me to share my learning with others. Advice number 6
Never post in anger!
Getting your blog out there
Blogs generally done get found online unless you share them. Make sure you allow people to follow your blog and get an email when you have written something else. Once you are feeling more confident about what you are writing you need to consider sharing via other social media. Twitter and Facebook are my go to tools. Once I started this engagement increased.
So what are my tips for a great blog?
Do it because you want to share your learning
Find ideas to problems and share them
Link to others and don't be frightened to reach out
Don't worry about followers or readers, do it for yourself
Read and comment on others blogs
Remember to share via email, Twitter, Facebook...
Understand that there is no perfect blog! Most of mine now get around 100 views and sometimes 1,000 but it is very unpredictable. I once thought I had found the magic ingredient when I wrote a post that to date has had over 36,000 views. Unfortunately I have never been able to repeat that success and why I say not to worry about numbers. It took a while for me to understand that this is how social media works, and was not necessary anything about what or how I wrote it. I felt that after that blog nothing else was good enough. Thankfully I have got over that! If you want to see this blog it is here. Let me know if you can see why it worked so well... I might learn something from you too...
I started by saying that blogging has had an impact on my life so I wanted to finish with this. Because I blog I have met some amazing people, am now an international speaker and have traveled much further than I ever thought I would, I write for professional magazines and I have taken the step of becoming and independent adviser and trainer. All of this because I decided to write a blog... Thanks for reading this, you all inspire me and I am very grateful!