After reading my new blog, a number of our Thomas Nelson employees have told me they intend to start their own blog. Several have written to me, asking how to get started. So, rather than continuing to repeat myself, I will outline the process here. It’s actually easier than you may think.
- Determine a theme. Most bloggers take one of three approaches. Some write on whatever happens to interest them at the moment. In this sense, their blog is truly a “web journal.” Others, select a single theme and stick to it. Frankly, this takes a lot of discipline. Still others, like me, focus on a primary theme but occasionally deviate from it. If you want to develop a following of loyal readers, I think the latter two approaches are best. People who have similar interests will keep coming back for more.
- Select a service. I use WordPress.org (self hosted). However, there are scores of services available. If you are just starting out, I recommend (in my order of preference), WordPress.com (the hosted version), TypePad.com, or Blogger.com. If you attain some success and want the ability to customize nearly everything, I recommend WordPress.org. However, you will have to select a hosting service (I use Media Temple) and then install WordPress on it.
- Set up your blog. Most of the blogging services I have looked at make this a very simple process. Don’t be put off because it sounds technical. It usually isn’t. You won’t need to become a geek. However, you will have to make some decisions about how you want your blog to look. You’ll have to decide on a “theme,” meaning the colors, number of columns, and the overall look and feel of your blog. You may want to include your picture. If so, you’ll need a digital copy. Regardless, this is something you can tweak as you go.
- Write your first post. Okay, now you’re ready to create your first post. If you haven’t done a lot of writing, this may prove to be the most difficult part. If you don’t have a lot of experience, keep your posts short. Develop momentum. Get the hang of it. Stick to what you know. You probably take for granted the fact that you have a great deal of specialized information that others will find helpful—possibly even fascinating. If you don’t know where else to start, begin with a “Welcome to My Blog” post. Tell your prospective readers why you have started your blog and what kinds of things you intend to write about.
- Consider using an offline blogging client. This isn’t a necessity but it will make blogging much easier. An offline blogging client is like a word processor for blogging. It enables you to write when you’re not online and then upload your post when you connect to the Internet. The two most popular are BlogJet and ecto (yes, the lowercase “e” is part of the branding). I use ecto because I use a Mac. I love it.
- Add the bells and whistles. Most blogs allow you to post the books you are reading, albums you enjoy, and various other lists. TypePad is especially adept at this. You can also incorporate third-party services like Feedblitz or Feedburner. These enables your readers to subscribe to your site and even receive an e-mail whenever you post a new entry. The best way to get an idea of what is available is to read other people’s blogs and take note of what you like.
- Publicize your blog. You’ll want to make sure you’re “pinging” the major weblog tracking sites. Most of the blogging services handle this automatically, as do the offline blogging clients. Don’t worry if you don’t understand this process. You don’t need to understand it to use it. (Here’s a simple explanation.) Basically, your service or software will send a notification to the tracking sites to alert them that you have posted a new entry. If your software doesn’t allow this, you might want to make use of pingomatic. This is a super-easy service that will ping fourteen different services. All you have to do is enter your blog address whenever you post a new entry. If you want to manually enter a comprehensive list of ping services, here’s a list to get you started.
- Write regularly. This is the best advice I could give you for building readership. If people like what you write, they will come back. However, if there’s nothing new to read, they will eventually lose interest. So, the more regularly you post something, the more your readership will grow. I suggest you schedule time to write. It won’t happen on it’s own. At some point, it comes down to making a commitment and sticking to it.
Finally, I would suggest that you be patient with yourself. Writing is like anything else. The more you do it, the better you get. If you have a little talent, and stick with it, you’ll eventually get into the rhythm and joy of it.