1) Learn about blogging
Before you even start a blog around your brand, introduce yourself to the concept. It helps to know what you’re getting into before you rush in and “only fools rush in” as they say.
If you want to know the difference between traditional media and social media, check out this New York Times article (static), followed by a New York Times blog post (dynamic) on the same topic. Notice the difference in formatting and how the blog has comments open but the regular article doesn’t. The blog is more opinionated, while the traditional news article is straight fact. They both have sharing features, such as the ability to submit the news to Digg, Facebook and even LinkedIn.
You can also view the Wikipedia definition of “blog,” which contains the history, types of blogs and how they have blurred the roles in media. Alltop.com can help you locate the best blogs in several categories.
2) Listen to current conversations
In order to start a successful blog, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into and what has already been talked about in the blogosphere. To do this, I recommend a few tools, such as Google Reader, Technorati, Google Blogsearch, Google News Search and Summize.
- Google Reader: I use Google Reader as a way to collectively gather all news and information related to my interests, such as recruitment, marketing, branding, social media and public relations. After subscribing to each news source, I skim all the headlines in the morning and use del.icio.us to add the sites I want to refer back to in the future. This is an extraordinary combination. It’s helped me track all the research for my new book.
- Technorati: Conduct a search for your name and all the topics that might interest you. Subscribe to each on RSS and list each result by Technorati Authority (# of blogs linking to a blog). Click on the blogs with the highest authority and subscribe to them.
- Google Blog/News Search: Just like with Technorati, you will want to search for all relevant terms, including your name, and subscribe to each on the left hand side of your screen.
- Summize: This website will help you listen and monitor conversations on Twitter. As stated before, search for everything you want to track and subscribe through RSS.
The end result of this exercise is a flood of content delivered right to your feed reader. When this happens, you can actively monitor your personal brands reputation. As blog posts teleport to your feed reeder, you can comment on your favorites by clicking the title and absorb new ideas for your own blog.
3) Take a niche
After a few weeks or even month, you will have a thorough understanding of what people are talking about, how they are responding and how you can join in on the discussion. Find a way to take a niche of a popular category or trend. The tricky part is that you need passion and expertise to backup your niche. Once you can lock down what you’re good at and enjoy, then find some angle, application or topic that coincides with it.
4) Get your equipment ready
Believe it or not, the technical part of blogging is the easiest part. Many blogs have really bad design layouts, but with 5 star content and are extremely popular. Some choose poor platforms, while others are technically proficient so they can build their own. This post is for beginners though, so here is what I recommend.
- Domain name: I’ve posted about this at least 4 times since I’ve started blogging. Please visit GoDaddy.com or another domain registering service and search for yourname.com. If it’s unavailable try yourname.net or yourname.org. If they are all taken, try your middle initial. If that is taken, find a way to use your niche as keywords for your domain (keywordkeyword.com, etc).
5) Pick your logo and theme
There are over 20 different themes on WordPress.com. Start by filtering the themes by “header.” The resulting themes will all allow you to upload a custom header that you can create using Photoshop or another graphics program. This is important because it allows you to brand yourself as the “one and only” and not a “copy.” Select the theme with your favorite colors and with a flexible layout. I recommend right sidebars because people read from left to right and you want to “play up” your content.
6) Create your “personal brand page”
Your “personal brand page” is more important than any post you’ll ever write. Everyone wants to know the credibility of a personal brand before taking his or her posts seriously. Think about it, if a 5-year-old kid is blogging about marketing and CEO is blogging about marketing, whose are you going to pay more attention to? Describe yourself to your readers before even posting; it will make or break your blog. When titling your page, don’t use “author,” but rather your own name.
- Personal brand statement
- Professional picture
- Summary of qualifications
- Short paragraph about personal life
- LinkedIn profile badge (as a resume)
7) Get an RSS feed
Get an RSS feed at Feedburner.com. RSS is important for acquiring loyal readers and establishing a community. It’s also essential for having posts be shared from feed reader to feed reader (Google does this with Google Reader).
Your RSS count is VERY IMPORTANT because perception is everything. I really don’t care what the critics say, your RSS subscription base is one of the most important blog statistics. Trust me, PR people aren’t going to pitch their clients to you if you have 3 RSS subscribers, even if they are Barrack Obama and Madonna. Subscribers remain anonymous, so the number matters. DO NOT promote your RSS chicklet (shows the # of subscribers you have) unless you have over 150 subscribers. Otherwise, by the law of social proof, people will automatically perceive your blog as being “just another blog” or “unpopular.”
8 ) Claim your blog on Technorati
Use the same website you viewed in Step #1 to claim your blog; Technorati. All you have to do is sign up for Technorati, fill out your profile information and claim your blog. Once you claim it, Technorati will track all links your blog receives. You can keep a running tab on who links to your blog, so you can return the favor and view your Technorati Authority go up or down.
9) Widgetize your blog
I consider widgets to be “glitzy.” They aren’t too necessary but do add value or I wouldn’t have used them on my own blog. The one widget that will really make a difference for you is your blogroll. When you first start blogging, a blogroll is your way of establishing some quick traffic and relationships with bloggers. Add your favorite bloggers to your blog roll, email them and tell them you like their site and that you linked to it, WITHOUT asking for anything in return. You might want to add in a few comments to some of their posts first.
Other widgets you should add:
- Search: I’ve posted over 300 times and if didn’t have a search area, I might not even be able to refer back to any posts I did last year. Add search, not just for yourself, but for the good of your readership.
- Tag Cloud: As you tag each post, a tag cloud is any easy way to present categories to your readers.
- Recent Comments: This widget will both help you build a community and reward those who comment on your blog simultaneously.
10) Write 5 remarkable posts
As a blog coach for a Fortune 500 company, I always recommend executives writing at least 5 posts before they publish a single one. I give this advice because no one wants to visit or read a blog with no content. A lot of people don’t trust blogs with only one or two posts. To launch your blog successfully and seriously, put some thought into 5 remarkable posts and then publish each one in a given week.