New media has changed the world of news reporting and has put a tremendous amount of information into the public square. Bloggers are fast becoming society’s citizen journalists when it comes to capturing news, articulating important issues, and announcing key events. The world of bloggers is comprised of journalists, pundits, celebrities, right to left talkers, and even those on the margin who specialize in conspiracy rumor or innuendo. Each has their own audience and each is motivated by a different objective – some blog to have fun or make fun while others are far more serious and have a reputation for breaking news. While many may follow the traditional press for facts you may not get elsewhere, keep in mind that many traditional journalists read blogs for ideas and angles they have not considered for their stories.
Being a legitimate blogger puts you dead center of the public discussion on a range of topics dominating the blogosphere. Aligning with an issues-based organization such as Generation Opportunity and its Facebook pages, “Being American” and “The Constitution,” are a great start for getting the content you need to fuel your blog. It really is as easy as 1-2-3. Just follow the suggestions below to get started!
1. Know your format.
Decide whether your blog will consist of original posts, shared articles, videos, or a combination. Do not get too bogged down with trying to do it all. Decide what issues or topics you want to write about and then build the blog around a format that supports your issues. For inspiration or ideas, go to our website at www.generationopportunity.org.
2. Pick a platform.
There are many free, quick, and easy websites that will host your blog for free. There is little need to spend any money unless you really want to be a web whiz. Find a platform that supports your format, create an account with a couple of clicks, find a design (also free) that suits you, and you are set. A few hosting platform sites to consider include Apple, WordPress, Google – the list goes on – but try to stick with a relatively well-known service as they will offer free tools to support your publishing efforts and will not require you to be a rocket scientist to maintain your blog.
3. Begin to blog.
It’s simple to start. After you decide which issues you want to address, capture your thoughts in few well written paragraphs. Edit your writing, looking for grammar, spelling, consistency, clarity, etc. Allow someone you trust to take a look at it too and see what they think about your writing. When you are satisfied with your writing, post it to your blog. Build a following by telling your friends to visit and comment. Keep your blog going by posting daily or, at the very least, once a week. You don’t have to weigh in on every issue or address every comment; however, to keep traffic moving on your site and to remain relevant on the issues you have decided to blog about, you need to keep it current.
4. Focus on facts.
There is nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, after all, that is what most blogs are, but let the facts be your driving force. Start by providing information. Use the facts you have acquired – from research and interviews – to inform your audience and opine about the impact of that issue or what you see as a solution to that issue. It is important to have a healthy balance between fact and opinion. Keep each post short and pithy – at or under 600 words.
5. Give credit where credit is due.
There is a code of ethics among serious bloggers which starts with respect for the hard work and ideas of others. If you want to maintain credibility, stay current on the code of behavior among bloggers. A basic rule of thumb is if you use information verbatim or quote directly from another source or blog, attribute the quote and/or insert a hyperlink to the blog. In some cases, you are required to do both. Cutting and pasting from other sources without attribution is not blogging; it is plagiarizing. In a world marked by so many who simply copy or replicate without crediting others, it is vital for your long term credibility to credit others for their hard work. When in doubt, check the code.
6. Keep it PG-rated.
Curse words and profanity-laden posts are not standard among serious bloggers. Profane is as profane does. Not only will it attract the wrong kind of response, it fails to add any value to the discussion. Above all, nothing does more damage to your reputation than being a persistent foul mouth. Keep it lively and thought provoking, but respectable.
7. Titles, Tags, and Categories.
These are simple terms that help to make your blog posts more searchable on the Internet. Before you hit “publish,” be sure you have added: 1) A strong title that catches the eye. Think of a short, pithy, news-style headline that sums up the content. 2) Insert 3-4 tags into each post that will help search engines identify the article’s relevance. For example, if you are referencing a popular person, conversation, or topic being talked about in the news, include a few tags (i.e. education reform, 2012 election). 3) Assign a category to each post so visitors can access issues quickly. Whenever you refer to Generation Opportunity in your posts be sure to insert it as a hyperlink so readers are able to click on the name (text) and go directly to the site.
8. Automatic Emails.
Depending on the blog platform you select, followers can signup for alerts to get an email each time you post a new blog entry. It is a good idea to select this option and encourage friends, family, and followers to sign up. It will keep them informed of your position on the issues, foster feedback to keep the dialogue going, and get others to sign up.
9. Create conversations and communities.
Be sure to follow other blogs that are relevant to your topics. Get them to link back to you and return the favor by linking to them where appropriate. Also be responsive to followers on your blog; follow-up, engage, and keep the dialogue going. There are many creative tools and types of content that can help you do this, from polling to site analysis. However, an overall sense of connection is what keeps contributors and visitors committed to your blog. They will help to support your message, validate your issues when you pay attention to their interests, and generate more followers based on that recommendation.
If you have another blog, personal website, or use other social media such as Facebook or Twitter – these are considered blogs too – populate them with the content you post on your issues-based blog. View yourself as your own best marketer. Promote your blog on multiple platforms for maximum impact and greater exposure.
11. Last – but perhaps most important—remember that anything you write that is either published or posted lasts forever.
Whether it is on the Internet through an electronic search engine or hard-copy archives, people will have access to what you write. So be responsible in what you write, check the accuracy of your information, and avoid making accusations or statements that are baseless or inaccurate.