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This handout provides some tips for starting a blog. It addresses choosing blog topics and layouts, composing posts, publicizing posts, and communicating with readers.
Blogs are websites made up of short entries which one or more writers post over time. Most blogs have a unifying topic or theme, although the content and frequency of posts vary widely across the blogosphere. Some people blog for personal reasons (to share a hobby, to vent frustration, to keep friends and family updated about a study abroad experience, etc.). Others blog to establish a professional online presence.
Blog topics can be broad (such as “international politics”) or narrow (such as “pictures of potato chips bitten into shapes resembling animals”). If you plan to start blogging in order to impress future employers with your online presence, you may want to choose a topic that is either directly or tangentially related to your field. But whether for professional development or just for fun, you should write about something that you know about, that you care about, and that someone else will want to read about.
The last of these principles is probably the most difficult. Here are some general topic areas that tend to draw readers:
Once you choose the theme of your blog, keep a running list of potential topics for posts. Often, ideas come up organically as you stumble across a compelling article or have an interesting conversation. It’s easier to write down the topics as you think of them and return to them later than it is to conjure a topic on the spot when you sit down to write a post.
If you are not an experienced web designer, platforms like WordPress and Blogger provide design templates. Consider how each template makes you feel and which is most appropriate to complement the content of your blog. For example, bright colors and sharp angles strike a different tone than pastels and curved edges. Look for a design that will be easy on the eyes and easily navigable for a reader.
The following principles are important to consider in this genre:
Photos can grab a reader’s attention and make your posts more aesthetically appealing. Be careful with copyrighted material. The creative commons on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/) has images that you can use if you give the photographer proper credit. Wikimedia Commons (commons.wikimedia.org) also contains public domain images. Whatever images you choose, be sure to cite where they came from. You want any future employer who reads your blog to know that you are conscientious when using the work of others.
These following strategies will help readers discover your blog:
Blogs are “social media,” and provide opportunities for you to converse with your readers. To make the best use of the medium, enable comments and respond when a reader asks you a question. You want the reader to be invested in the “conversation” of your blog so that they will continue reading your posts.
There are ways to encourage interaction from your readers. You can provoke an argument, stating your opinions on a controversial issue. You can ask questions and encourage readers to respond in comments. You can also include what many bloggers term a “call to action”: something for readers to do or think about after reading your blog post. This can be something simple (“Follow me on Twitter!”) or something that demands more substantial involvement (“Write to your congressman today!”). Even if your readers do not respond to you directly in comments, the action they take privately keeps them invested in your blog.
We consulted these works while writing the original version of this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find the latest publications on this topic. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial.
Lanson, Jerry. Writing For Others, Writing For Ourselves: Telling Stories in an Age of Blogging. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011.
Wright-Porto, Heather. Creative Blogging: Your First Steps To a Successful Blog. Berkely, CA: Apress, 2011.
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