How do I start blogging and the latest Facebook changes

22 September 2011

These are questions I get asked a lot so I thought I’d combine a few tips to get you started on blogging with some tips on how to integrate your blog into Linkedin and Facebook.
I thought I’d also share some recent frustrations with Facebook that landed in my newsfeed this week. Many of you have probably seen the changes that they have made to the new stories and the new Ticker that they have put on the page which has definitely irritated quite a few users.

Here is the link if anyone wants to complain to Facebook directly about the recent changes. Judging from the number of times the complaints page has been shared, Facebook has had quite a barrage of complaints.
For a summary of all the recent Facebook changes and to vote on them, you can view them here on Mashable.
Why blog at all?
Some of you may ask why blog at all so I thought I’d share some proofs that blogging will increase your website traffic.  Have a look at the research from Hubspot with their 1531 customers showing that those websites with blogs had 55% more visitors than those without. They also have a great free tool called Bloggrader which will analyse your blog and tell you how you can optimise it further. Blogs can be a great first step to building rapport with your website visitors who may be somewhat reluctant to sign up for newsletters and other sales related literature but may be keen to read blogs if they contain some useful tips or information.
I recently interviewed Peter Shanks, the President of Cunard as to how he got started blogging and I thought his top tips might also be of interest to you. He also shared some thoughts on the blogs that inspired him to get started. You can read the interview here.
 Photo: Peter Shanks and his dog
OK, so here are some ways to get started:
Target audience
Firstly it’s important to think about your target audience. What do you think would be of interest and value to them?
Content plan
It’s worth spending some time to plan out key topics that you could cover. Have a think about events coming up in your calendar or which may be related to your blogs. A plan makes it easier to stay consistent with delivery of your blog. It saves you scrambling for a theme at the last moment as you realise another week has flown by and you need to write something urgently.
How often should I write a blog?
This depends on your market and audience but I would try for a minimum of one weekly to help to build your readership and think about guest bloggers and colleagues you could invite to blog on your website aswell.
Should I include a photo in my blog?
Photos and visuals add interest to a blog and I would recommend having at least one to build more memorable blogs. It’s often best to source your own photos but I have found the following sources helpful:
It’s important to check for copyright on images and follow the creative commons licence on any images used and quote the source and a linkback. You can build your own set of blog images over time as a resource for other bloggers to use.
Ensure you have a thumbnail of your image available for when you do a social post to build awareness of your blog. Networks like Facebook normally work with images of about 150x150 pixels in size for social posts. These will increase the likelihood of people clicking through to view your blogs.
What’s the best tone and person to write in?
Blogs are intended to be personal in nature and more informal in tone than corporate literature. It’s best to stay close to the personality of the writer so I would recommend addressing the reader directly in the first person as “You” and find a tone that you are personally comfortable with, almost as if you are talking to  your reader on a one to one basis. Some people find a lot of success with story telling as this can be a way to engage your readers and to sprinkle some top tips with some personal insights and experiences.
Do’s and don’ts
It’s important not to do selling in the main body of a blog or you will turn off your readers. I try and limit any calls to action in a separate section of the blog for those that might be interested to read more so that those people can self select those sections but they don’t detract from the main body of the blog.
Length of Blog
I’d aim for about 500 words to get started – half a dozen paragraphs are a good start although my blogs are a bit on the long side. Sometimes they say less is more but I’ve not perfected that artform yet.
Which blogging platform shall I use?
I would recommend Wordpress as it has thousands of developers who have written code for it and it has some impressive functionality. I have noticed more companies now using this platform for their website. I went on a course last week about how to develop your website in a matter of a couple of days on Wordpress. I can see how this would be possible given all the features that it now offers and the ease with which you can set up a new blog.  However you need to make sure you download the security plugins so that you minimise the number of spam comments and trackbacks on your blogs. I would not recommend the free platforms as you will not be able to align it to your own website domain name. You should be able to get a paid hosting solution for less than £10 a month.
How can I drive traffic to my blog?
The key thing is to make sure your blog features as a sub domain of your main website eg if your main website is called your blog url is and each blog post has the name of it as it’s own unique url eg as this will make it easier for the search engines to find it. You need to make sure that you set up all the keywords for your blog and Wordpress has fields automatically set up to complete this as you will see on this Wordpress blog entry page.
Make sure that you feature a social post about your blog on as many of your social networks as possible but remember that social networking is also about signposting other items which might be of interest and value to your network.  Make sure you tweet more than once at intervals and ensure you are covering as many networks as possible e.g. Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Google+ will be coming soon.
Integrate your blog into Facebook
There are applications such as which will enable you to integrate your blog into Facebook to help build traffic as shown in the example below.
If your blog is on Wordpress you can also integrate it into your Linkedin profile using bloglink so that your contacts can read the latest blog there too as shown on this example and you can read theirs and also see what events they are attending.
Measuring traffic to your blog
You can measure traffic to your blog by using platforms like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. Hootsuite enables you to schedule posts and to track which social networks are delivering the best traffic to your blog.
Ensure that you have put Google Analytics code on your blog page as on all pages so that you can clearly track traffic to it.
Want to know more about blogging?
You can join the free World Travel Market social media sessions from 7th-10th November, 2011 for more top tips on travel blogging or sign up for a social media webinar series starting on October 4th, 2011.
Here’s a link with some top tips on how to attract more eyeballs to your blog and a useful guide from MSN on how to blog for business and more top blogging tips from Mashable. This blog from Social Media Explorer has good tips for leveraging your blog to expand your business.
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