Get More Value from Blogging, part III: Sharing Makes the Blog Go ‘Round

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do a tweetchat on the professional and personal value of blogging on March 3, 2011 (2pm-3pm EST, #infoboom). When I brainstormed some of the things I’d like to talk about, I ended up with a big list: not just the value I get from blogging, but also tips for how you can build that too. I hope you enjoy this blog series!

After two posts on the individual value you can get from blogging, you might be thinking, “Sacha, you can get those benefits from a private journal too. So why blog?” Now we get into the social benefits of blogging: how you can use it to create value and connect. Even if no one reads your blog but you, you can get started with sharing, and then go from there.


1. Direct

How do you get people to read your posts? Sometimes it’s just a matter of telling them about it. If you’re starting out, you might be worried that no one will come across your blog posts. Even if you’ve got regular visitors, people might miss out on posts that you know they’ll find useful. If you know people who may be interested in a post, go ahead and send it to them.

Move your conversations online. I often write blog posts to answer people’s questions or follow up on conversations, so it’s natural to share those posts directly with people through e-mail, Twitter, or other means. I post answers on my blog as often as possible, saving e-mail for information that’s confidential or of limited value.

Send people you know links they might find useful (but not spammy). In addition to directly sharing posts with the people who inspired them, I also frequently send posts to other people who might find them useful. During a conversation or a Twitter exchange, someone might ask a question about public speaking, Drupal, or any of the other topics I’m interested in. Instead of explaining everything from scratch, I can send links to relevant blog posts where people can learn more.

Tips:

  • Whenever you answer a question or share a tip that could potentially help other people, consider taking a few extra minutes to post it on your blog.
  • When you post an item on your blog, think about specific people who might find it useful, and share it directly with them.

2. Search

One of the advantages of a public blog archive is that it’s searchable. You can write a blog post about a solution to a technical problem, and other people who run into that problem can find your post without knowing you. This is a great way to save other people time.

Making your knowledge searchable saves you time, too. If people can find answers for themselves, they may spend less time asking you questions that you can easily answer. You can use that time to develop your skills further and solve more challenging problems.

Tips:

  • Include details that people might use in their searches. For example, if you’ve solved a technical issue, post the error messages and your solution.
  • Increase the chances of people finding your post by using the kinds of words they would use to search.

3. Browsing

Not only can people find your blog posts by searching, they can also browse at their own pace. Encourage people to explore by organizing your posts in categories and by linking to relevant posts from other posts in your blog. When people can learn from you and get to know you on their own, you can scale up beyond the number of people you can help or get to know in real life.

It’s okay to write about many things. Cross-pollination can lead to fascinating conversations. I often hear from people who discovered my site because of the technical resources I shared. They browsed around, found my sketches and my stories about cooking and life, and got a better sense of who I am as a person. Make it easy for people to find posts on topics they’re interested in, and create opportunities for them to discover other things if they want.

Tips:

  • Whenever you write a blog post, think of relevant posts and resources you can link to in order to help people learn more.
  • Use post titles that are clear, informative, and interesting to encourage people to click on them.

4. Referrals

To grow even further, make it easy for people to share your thoughts with others. Encourage people to think of other people who might find your blog posts useful. Add Twitter, Facebook Like, or other social sharing services to your blog posts.

By making your content easier to share, you help your readers create value for other people, and you reach out to your network’s network. When someone e-mails a friend link to your post, that’s a great referral not only for your content, but also for you. People can also share your material with a wider audience by posting it on Twitter, Facebook, or other sites. They might even write a blog post going into more detail and linking to your resources.

Tips:

  • Add social sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook, and other sites, and encourage people to share.
  • Keep an eye out for when people share content, and thank them.

5. Learning from others

Sharing your questions, ideas, experiences, and lessons learned with other people is a great way to learn from other people’s insights. When I share what I’m learning, people often share even better ways to do things. Encourage people to comment on your blog posts with questions and tips, and you learn so much in the process of sharing. Make it easy for people to send you e-mail if they have something they would like to share more privately.

For example, when I posted yesterday’s tips on the compounding value of an archive, Mohamed suggested improving it by adding a quote from Donald Knuth. I hadn’t come across that quote before, but it made the post better. People have shared their thoughts on waking up early, doing Lotus Notes mail merges, connecting with people, and so on. Share, and you might learn something from people you wouldn’t have thought of asking.

Tips:

  • Enable comments unless you have a strong reason not to do so. If you’re concerned about spam, you can moderate comments, use spam-blocking plug-ins, or review your comments regularly. You might not get many comments in the beginning, but as you build your network, you’ll find a lot of value in the conversation.
  • Ask questions. Ask people for suggestions, experiences, and tips. Invite people to participate, and show your appreciation when they do.
  • Make it easy to send you mail, either by using the contact form or sharing an e-mail address. If you’re concerned about e-mail spam, create a special e-mail address that you can then filter.
Series Navigation« Get More Value from Blogging, part II: The Compounding Value of an ArchiveGet More Value from Blogging, part IV: Connecting with People »
  • http://www.notesfromasmallcompany.com Tommy Kelly

    Hi Sacha,

    What are your thoughts on having one versus more-than-one blog? I’m thinking specifically about an individual’s blog(s) as opposed to a company blog, say. Specifically I’m contrasting a single “everything I am interested in” blog (like yours perhaps) versus, for example, a personal blog plus a work blog (like my http://www.darklingwood.com and http://www.notesfromasmallcompany.com).

    I swither back and forth between both approaches. On the one hand a single blog allows people to read, in one place, the author’s entire “stream of consciousness”. I think it also maximizes the chances of actually posting stuff. That’s partly because you don’t have to worry about which blog to post to. It’s also because even if you only have enough on any single topic to write something very infrequently, you could have *something* to write on *any* topic more often.

    But on the other hand, even if using categories, trying to stuff everything into a single blog could end up confusing readers. Maybe some people are interested only in work stuff; while others care only about you the individual. Having it all in one place could render the whole thing uninteresting to all concerned unless they are specifically interested in “Things has to say about *anything*”.

    Any thoughts on this?
    Tommy

  • Mohamed

    Hi Tommy, Sacha and all,
    I understand your arguments Tommy about the risk of confusing some readers (perhaps casual readers looking for something in particular). But let me say that in the other hand “the entire stream of consciousness” may make the picture complete or say in a computing language that it may branch many other trees of knowledge that may be interesting to follow in many regards.

    I guess also it may be convenient. You may not always have something to say in some subject or any (like me :) I have no blog because I’m afraid to not have anything good to say or no time to do it), if you switch between different topics this may encourage to continue and take some time for brainstorming “mature ideas”.

    I always feel that good books (let us consider mathematical books for instance) are those including many informal descriptions, historic insight, stories and anecdotes about the technical material that is explained. This gives you not only the “how to” but also the “why” or “what was it for ?”.

    Mohamed

    • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

      I’m very much in favour of keeping a personal blog where you can write about everything, and then either using categories and category feeds to help people focus on particular topics or cross-posting to other more-focused blogs. Particularly when people are starting out, it can be a challenge to write only on a specific topic, so it’s good to have a place to write about anything. That way, you avoid burning out before you develop the habit of writing or experience its benefits.