Recently, Chicago Now community manager Jimmy Greenfield hosted a series of blogging seminars for his CN bloggers. It was a great experience and I was happy to see each seminar was small enough where you could easily share ideas and comments on the discussions. I'm going to share his tips and offer some of my own.
I've been blogging before people knew what the word actually meant, since 2008. The founder of Today's Chicago Woman Magazine, Sherren Leigh, was building a new online mag and asked me if I wanted to be a contributor. I truly had no idea what a blog was back then, but loved to write so I said yes.
At the time, I was also the fashion director for the magazine so I thought I would be writing about style. Well, my column included some of that, but I also wrote about what was happening in Chicago. Luckily, it was a success, and after I left the magazine, I realized I wanted a blog of my own.
On August 24, 2008, I wrote my first independent blog as Candid Candace. My husband, my mother and I were the only subscribers. Happily, my blog has grown and I now have readers from around the world. This is what I've learned:
1) Blog often. Your readers want to hear from you. Jimmy says the important thing is to "just publish," but I have to be inspired first and, even though I focus too much on perfection, I still like a good story. Jimmy says "don't wait for epic", a good post can come from just about anywhere and that you don't need to be pigeon-holed into a certain style or topic. I loved this idea and plan on incorporating more diversity into my posts so watch out world!
2) Be thoughtful when you name your blog. I've met so many people whose blog titles I would never remember in a million years. Blog titles with weird spellings can be too clever by half, so make sure yours is something people can find easily.
3) Be shameless in your blog promotion--I know there's a fine line here between being too "out there" and being under promoted, but I suggest you err on the side of visibility. I share my blog and columns across all my social media platforms and even use my dog's pics to advertise my Tribune column.
4) Don't compare yourself to other bloggers. This is Jimmy's advice and it's very sound. Even if someone else writes about the same topic, it shouldn't keep you from writing about it too. Your voice and delivery is unique to YOU! No one else has the same take on an event or subject as you do so don't be afraid to share it.
5) Take headlines seriously. Again, Great Greenfield advice and one that's hard for me. I have trouble with headlines. What you write for a newspaper is completely different from what you might write for a blog. I always like a little humor in my blog headlines, if possible, but sometimes this screws up the SEO. And you have to include what your blog post is about in the headline for people to be able to find it, so nothing too obscure--and never just one or two words. Plus, the less punctuation, the better!
6) Have fun with it--A blog should be fun. It shouldn't be something stressful. If you love to write, this is the ultimate outlet! You have a platform for your beliefs, opinions, life experiences, charity events and everything else. Use it!
7) Share the love--blogging is a community of like minded people. If you share their stuff, they will share yours--it's that simple.
8) Ignore the trolls--once in a while, a troll will write something "not nice' in your comments. Ban them and move on. A troll likes nothing better than a "conversation" with said blogger. Also, ban spam--I know it's an obvious thing to do, but do it immediately. If these sort of comments remain on your blog for too long, your readers will think they've been abandoned and move on.
9) Punctuation and Spelling--This is so very important. I know we're not all Einsteins, but pay attention to your post before publishing. Go over it once, twice, three times--as often as it takes to clean it up for presentation.
10) Never go anywhere without a business card and manage your contacts---One of my most valuable assets is who I know. Develop contacts and keep in touch. Encourage them to share info with you and follow up with emails. Don't go anywhere without a business card. It's your key to communication.
I hope this advice has been helpful. Only you know what works best for you, but these 10 tips have helped me and I know they'll help you too.
If you enjoy my posts, please subscribe to Candid Candace here on Chicago Now. Type your email address in the box below and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time, but I hope you won't! You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, my award-winning internet show, "Candid Candace TV ", my blog, CandidCandace.com and, of course, every Sunday in the Chicago Tribune (Candid Candace in Life & Style) Thank you!