So in your quest to dominate your corner of the blogosphere, you might be wonder about higher order questions. How does one blog? What are the “rules” behind creating a great blog? Is there anything universal that connects the very stuff behind the truly great blogs irrespective of their content? What does a great science blog have in common with a great celebrity blog? And can corporate blogs, be great?
Well, if yesterday’s post was about the habits of being a successful blogger (I seemed to dwell on time management, didn’t I?), today’s post is on what what truly great blogs have in common, and a few exercises that you can do to try and bring your own blog up to par (if it isn’t already at par!).
1. Transparency: Great blogs are blogs that leave no question of their motives, who their parters and affiliates are, and who their authorship is. Transparency means that no matter what the blog is about, the readers know what they’re getting into. Because transparency is really about trust. Great blogs have earned the trust of their readers through their posts, their opinions, and their engagement. But they are also not misrepresenting themselves, or the reason why they’re blogging in the first place. At the end of the day, trust is the only real currency in the blogosphere, and people who read blogs have the expectation that they’re getting at the truth — in whatever form the truth is to them. And because there is the presumption of truth, readers will often react in an intense fashion to being manipulated, hoodwinked, and otherwise bamboozled.
ACTION: Do reveal as much as you can about yourself in the about page; Do reveal potential influences on your blog, particularly the monetary ones; Do communicate how advertising and content are separated; Do communicate when your content isn’t because its sponsored.
2. Authenticity: Great blogs are ones which are startlingly “real”. They give the details and the raw juicy information in a way that only the author is able to deliver. In that way, authenticity is really about delivering a uniquely fascinating experience — with the emphasis on “unique”. And being the unique experience means that its the sum of all of the elements on your blog which are part of the authentic blog; and beyond the literal parts, such as the logo, the color scheme and the wordpress theme (if you’re using wordpress), it also reaches deep down into the special content that bloggers are privvy to, the voice that they communicate in, and the personality that the blog exudes. Authentic blogs are blogs with a great deal of unmistakable personality that you just can’t find anywhere else.
QUESTION: What is the blogging landscape that your blog lives in? Where does your blog fit in? Do you know what your voice is? What can you bring to your blog that no one else can? What kind of personality does your writing project? How can you make your entire blog congruent to that personality and voice? Where can you find content that is uniquely reflective of your own experiences?
3. Integrity: Great blogs know what they stand for, and what values are meaningful to them. Integrity means standing up for those values when the winds of change might call for any blog to be challenged by them. Often times, it means saying “No”, when everyone else is saying “Yes, Yes, YES!”, and the courage to do so even if you risk the chance of being unpopular. Having integrity can be particularly challenging when you’re starting out, as when you have the feeling no one reads your blog, you tend to devalue it yourself. Devaluing your own work is a step away from making all kinds of concessions because you start thinking that no one is looking — or no one will know. But if you’re in it for the long haul, caving in can have disastrous consequences as the record will exist for perpituitiy, and the blogosphere will remember. Blogs are funny that way. They’re derided as mentally delayed cousin of other more mainstream media, but even amongst their own, are often held to a higher standard. Whether its paid advertising from a company that you’ve called out on, entering a partnership with a blogger you’ve publicly denounced, or suddenly changing your value judgement on a critical news piece, integrity has a funny way of calling attention to you in a most unappealing light. Great blogs are able to stand tall for what they value, and have justly earned their respect for doing so.
THOUGHTS: What does your blog stand for? What does it NOT stand for? What are you willing to compromise for the sake of more publicity? Traffic? Money? Would you ever cave in “real” life if someone made the same offer to you? Why would your blog be any different?
4. Passion: Great blogs are written with an incredible passion for the topics at hand, and much like great sex, it can’t be faked. Passion and intensity for your topic is something that’s palpable and energizing, and what I call the “X-factor” behind a great blog. And its the litmus test behind your blogging efforts. If you find you can’t work up the energy and enthusiasm to get excited about your own blog, maybe its time to start asking yourself some hard questions about whether you need to change your goals (or blog). Because if you’re not excited, your readers will know — and they sure as heck won’t be. Passion is the energy of emotion. Its what motivates righteous anger and incandescent outrage. But it also adds verve to thoughtful insight, compassion to solicitous pleas for help, and a quivering sense of excitement behind a long awaited piece of news. Passion is what elevates blogs that have otherwise stale nonsensical content into something immenently readable, and it shoots into the stratosphere blogs that have something fresh, innovative, or insightful to say.
REFLECTIONS: How excited were you about your last post? Were you bored? Did you sound bored? Do you think your readers noticed? How many of them wrote comments to tell you what they thought about your post?
5. Engagement: Great blogs live in an ecosystem of thoughts, opinions, ideas and personalities, and are active participants in those relationships. They are engaged. Engagement means actively participating on other blogs. It also means replying back to emails and comments. It means growing and cultivating your own readership. It means contacting and creating relationships with like minded (and sometimes not) bloggers. And sometimes (often times), using your blog as a platform to rebut, support, or even start opinions on a given issue. Blogs that can afford to exist in vacuums are blogs that are powered by individuals who have fame or fortune outside of the blogosphere, and are bringing that to their blog. However, for the rest of us who are not celebrities, our blogs need to grow organically, using the rich loam of networks and relationships to grow, and the collegial debate of ideas to encourage it to be strong and resilient.
CONSIDER … the scenario when your blog gets big and popular enough that you get bored by comments and questions. Could this happen to you? How could you prevent it from happening? And if it is already happening what is it doing to your readers, colleagues and fellow bloggers?
Transparency, authenticity, integrity, passion and engagement are what I find great blogs have in common. You might have your own opinions, so let’s hear’em … and get the “engagement” going! :)
* Tony Hung is the guest blogger for the week, and blogs at Deep Jive Interests