Use your blog to serve readers

WordPress is far and away the blogging platform that hits the sweet spot between ease of use and powerful capabilities. There are platforms that are easier but won’t be as powerful, and more powerful platforms that are harder to use. I use WordPress and recommend it.

But the mechanics of operating a blog are beyond the scope of this article. I refer you to Copyblogger and Author Media, both of which can explain far better than I how to set up and operate a website. If you are particularly technophobic, you might want to consider Site Setup Kit, an online educational program that will help you set up a WordPress site. If you’re the kind of person who prefers to talk to a live person, do a web search in your local area for web developers or web designers and look for one who offers coaching. Here in Orlando I recommend Orlando Web Wizard.

Since I’m a writer and editor, not a web developer, I’m going to focus on how to write a blog. Posts to your blog require a style that’s less formal than a newspaper article, but more formal than an e-mail to your pals or a Facebook post. Generally speaking, you want to use an article structure, about which more next week. But the tone can be more casual than you might use elsewhere.

As I’ve said before, you need to unlearn that rhetorical advice that says, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.” That works in oratory, but not in short-form writing, especially writing online, where people are moving quickly.

Instead, take the advice the king gave to the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland: Begin at the beginning, and when you get to the end, stop.

reading blogs
Let’s just overlook the fact that these people are having too much fun to be reading a blog. They must be playing Minecraft or something. Photo © william87 • Fotolia

If possible, use a conversational tone. That reserved academic style many of us learned in school does not work well in blog posts. Nevertheless, you want to use a tone that’s authentic to you. Don’t fake casual joviality if that’s not your style. Write in a way that comes naturally to you. This is part of developing your authorial voice. The practice of blogging will help you develop that voice.

Know your audience

One of Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is “Begin with the End in Mind.” To do this in your writing, you need to consider whom you are writing for and why. What do you want your readers to know, believe, or do once they’ve read your article?

Envision our ideal reader, and write as if you were sending them a letter. You’ll be a little more formal than you might be with a close friend, and you’ll explain in more depth than you might if you were writing a colleague.

Here’s an example. I used to write for the Orlando Business Journal website. OBJ’s target market is executives and small business owners. Every article in the newspaper and every item on the website must be relevant to that market. Every article had to contain information that would help an entrepreneur grow his business or improve his processes. Anything outside those parameters was rejected.

Some writers dislike posting to blogs and other social media because it feels self-promotional. Don’t think about promoting yourself. That’s the wrong way to approach content marketing anyway. Think about serving your target market. Your article needs a reason for being. That reason may be to educate, to inspire, or to entertain. Keep the focus on the reader and the purpose. That will help you produce blog posts that get read and shared.

This post contains content from my seminar “Why to Blog and How,” which I recently presented at a Master’s Mind Impact Group meeting. If you’d like me to teach at your group meeting or conference, contact me.

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