How to Start a Blog…. And Actually Use It.

How to Start a Blog…. And Actually Use It.

I figure there are a few key ideas to successfully keeping a blog, whether that means gaining followers, updating it more than once a month, or even basing part of your business on the blog’s integrity.

What are those key things? Well, here’s what I’ve got so far:

1. Actually use your blog. Why put yourself through the pain of blog creation — choosing a blog title, slaving over themes and HTML, making an icon or picking a half-decent photo of yourself, and talking to yourself like a crazy person in a tiny white box — if you’re just going to abandon the site after your first post? If you’re trying to perpetuate a business, then you may have a little more incentive to keep on keepin’ on. But for the rest of us, the bloggers-and-shakers of the internet, our vagabond style of hopping from social platform to social platform might make sticking to only one platform difficult when there are so many other options to choose from.

2. Link your blog to other social media accounts. Got a Twitter, Tumblr, reddit r-slash feed, Pinterest, even a LiveJournal? Link those bad boys up. At best, you’ll gain a ton of followers, clients, or just generate interest in what you have to say by becoming available to the users who view the rest of your accounts. At worst, you’ll at least have a guilty reminder whenever you’re tweeting or pinning that yes, you do have a blog site, and no, you haven’t updated it in a month.

3. Utilize Search Engine Optimization. This pertains more to the business side of blogging, but if you want to discuss a hobby on the blogosphere and need friends to do so, SEO can help direct traffic to your pages and get you the attention you deserve. If you’ve never heard of SEO before, it’s basically the way that internet searches like Google decide what links to show when a person types in a keyword. It’s useful, but if you don’t care to learn about it, here are the basics: Use specific titles when you’re writing about specific titles, use key words in posts (which comes naturally 95% of the time), consider titling/captioning your images appropriately, and make sure your format is readable.

4. Don’t give up. Take a second and actually take those words to heart. You won’t get readers or users immediately. It’s like any other social media platform: You’ll need to make contacts, especially if you don’t immediately come in knowing many users on the site. You can — and should — follow people that share your interests, blogs you admire, companies that have similar products, et cetera. And maybe they’ll be interested in your content, too! But don’t give up if there’s not a response right away. Pardon the simile, but social media is a bit like growing crops: You sow the seeds, keep the plants healthy, but don’t usually see growth immediately. That’s disheartening at times, but monitor your analytics for trends, connect with other blogs, and wait.

5. Write about what you know (or at least what you care about). If you’re not an expert in your field, that’s fine. The going might get rough or even require hitting the books, but you can absolutely learn as you go. Or, if you’re an expert in your blog’s topic (or if your company is beginning its foray into social platforms), maybe all you need is a place to finally put your ideas into words. The bottom line here is that people will care about something if you make them care about it. Commentary on a subject you have no interest in will be by default joyless and dull; you won’t want to post more, and users won’t want to read more.

6. Don’t be afraid to get personal. Blogs aren’t generally straight news or pure advertisement. The format of a blog allows for personality, for opinion, for a bit of eccentricity. Allow your blog to be imperfect and creative, and admit your flaws or triumphs as they come. If you’re improving your skills or your products or your life, people admire and care about that. Improvement is inspiring, even more so if you’re passionate about your own improvement. If it’s appropriate for your blog, make yourself a profile page that gives a few insights into your life, or maybe make a personal post once in a while about something big in your life. Even as a business, a profile page with pictures of employees will humanize you to your users.

7. Update, update, update. By far the most important and all-encompassing point on this list, updating your blog is what’s going to keep traffic going. Decide on a reasonable, ballpark number of posts that you want to make per week, per month, et cetera, and stick to it. Post something small like a photo or personal update if you don’t have much time, but keep to your goal. Once you put a post off for a few days, you’re on the slippery slope to blog abandonment.

So what helps you succeed in keeping your blog running? Let me know!


Sh!t I’ve Learned from Job Applications

Sh!t I’ve Learned from Job Applications

  1. Like snowflakes, no two applications are the same. Unlike snowflakes, you’ll get sick of staring at applications pretty darn fast.
  2. Auto-fill works on about 95% of applications.
  3. But auto-fill will only put information into the right spaces for about 50% of applications. Have fun taking an extra two minutes to delete everything that it so conveniently misplaced for you!
  4. Everyone you talk to about your job search will have some kind of advice for you. But most of these people will be over 40, working in the same job they had ten years ago, and they probably haven’t gone job hunting since shoulder pads were in vogue. Sure, their advice could be helpful– but their advice might also be severely outdated. I’ve had to explain more than once that walking into a company and dropping off an unsolicited resume is not a good strategy.
  5. There’s no such thing as a perfect cover letter. No website can tell you exactly what tone to use, or what skills to mention, or how to sign off without sounding overeager.
  6. You can’t sound overeager. On the flip side, you also can’t sound like you’re too disinterested. Go figure. So good luck finding the right balance of “desperate graduate looking for work” and “angsty teenager who doesn’t care, mom!”
  7. If coffee is your kind of necessary evil, find a cheap way to have it on hand. I prefer those 1.5 liter bottles of Starbucks iced coffee that you can find somewhere around the milk section at your grocery store. Remember that Iron Man movie where Tony Stark has to regularly drink some gross black stuff to stay alive? That’s me, with coffee. Minus the cool suit and ridiculously attractive friends.
  8. Views on your LinkedIn profile don’t really matter. Or do they?
  9. Sometimes, a job application will say “Submit” and just mean “Next Page.” Other times, “Submit” will really mean “You’re Officially Sending This Out Now, So Don’t Click This Button Before You’re Sure You’re Finished With The Application, You Idiot.” Proceed with caution.
  10. There will always be someone better than you: Someone who can write an awesome cover letter. Someone with a more aesthetically pleasing resume. Someone who looks snazzier when they walk into their interview. Someone who has so much job experience that you don’t know why they’re even applying to the same position you want. The downside of this is that you’ll probably apply to a ton of jobs before you land one. But the upside here is that it goes the other way, too: There will always be someone worse than you. How’s that for a motivational speech?