I’d been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a number of years. After numerous failed attempts, a theme that switched almost daily, and more talk than action, I was exactly where I started: a WordPress site with no entries. Oh yeah, and a Tumblr site with no entries too. Quite clearly, I needed help. Enter Denise Quashi, social media consultant and founder of BarkWorld, a two day networking symposium specific to the pet world. We asked Denise for her advice on how to turn a desire to enter the blogosphere into a reality—and maybe a little cash on the side, too.
Q: What is the best and easiest way for a wouldbe blogger to get started?
A: It’s so important to first listen to gain an understanding of what the particular community you’re targeting is looking for and possibly challenged with and then interjecting your own personal stories and recommendations. I’d also suggest being active and contributing on other blogger profiles. This is a great way to build awareness of your blog and to also build online relationships with established bloggers.
Q: WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr… how to decide which platform to go with?
A: I absolutely love WordPress because it’s limitless. You can trick your blog out with so many features and gadgets. However, it’s really a level up from a user standpoint. Some HTML and coding knowledge might be helpful to really be able to manage the blog on your own. Many bloggers start out with Blogspot and then once they’ve “graduated,” move up to something more professional looking with WordPress. I also love Tumblr for photo blogging and quick blogging. If you’re a micro blogger [you post short snippets as opposed to rambling essays] this would be my suggestion.
Q: No one except for my mom follows me. How can I develop an audience?
What would we do without our moms? Being active on blogs and Twitter certainly helps. Many blogs allow you to comment through your Twitter ID. This adds a trackback to your Twitter page, which, if your comment is a great one, showcases your knowledge and gains the interest of the blogger and their readers. One tip for commenting: always, always include your Twitter ID as your sign off.
Another way is to participate in pet-related chats. Weekly there’s a #petchat on Twitter and this is another great way to meet online networkers.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you to participate in events like BarkWorld Expo. By attending a social media conference [you meet] online networkers that can help you navigate and grow your online presence. You’ll also learn new marketing tips and ways to build a brand surrounding your blog and pet.
Q: Is it crazy to think I could live off money earned through my blog?
Not at all. There are many established voices in pet blogging that do charge brands for advertising and post-submissions. You may not retire tomorrow, but if you set up your blog and build a strong online readership, many companies would be interested in working with you.
Q:What are the most important things to consider when writing a blog post?
Think about the reader first. Yes, blogs are personal stories and opinions, but to build a “conversation” you should always add value and a call to action in your blog to gain readers interest and desire to comment and share with their friends/readers.
Good blogs keep their posts fresh and up-to-date. You’ll want to create a production schedule and be consistent. If you plan to post twice a day, make that commitment—even if it’s just a repost from another blog (be sure to always add the credits if you repost a blog).
Top 5 tips for a successful post
1. Think about the purpose of your post. Some bloggers write just because they haven’t added a post in a while, but the successful ones write because they have something of value to share or contribute.
2. Be creative. Adding photos and videos is a great way to demonstrate the post. Providing not just the content but also some great visuals always draws the reader in more.
3. Definitely be sure your post includes share tools so readers can easily share your post with their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, their blog, and Pinterest.
4. Add a call to action. Encourage your readers to comment. If your post is about a new tool, toy, book, etc. ask them to go try it out and comment back on your blog. If the post is more opinionated, ask them their thoughts on the matter and encourage them to question your voice of authority. Some of the best blog posts I’ve read were open conversations and allowed for readers to provide their thoughts and beliefs.
5. Mind your disclosures. If you’re blogging about a product/service that was given to you for free to try out, be sure to add a disclosure at the bottom. If it’s something you purchased on your own and you’re adding your personal thoughts, then add that disclosure too. Many bloggers are being paid for their reviews on products and it’s just good blogging to let your readers know in advance.