Blogging, why the hell do you bother?
This is the question that bloggers of all stripes get asked A LOT and in the past week I have been getting this question more often than I usually do.
It’s a fair enough question I suppose. There is no secure income from it, it is generally looked down upon from the main stream media and when most people think of a blogger a tin foil hat or a techie geek image comes to mind.
Now, I am not incredibly technical, I still own a Blackberry for goodness sake, but I am realistic enough to know that when I trot along to an event this is the image most people have of you when you first meet them.
Whether you like it or not this perception is not likely going away anytime soon, but regardless of perceptions, blogging is truly a labour of love. They key word in there is love. You need to love your particular area in order to be able to do it properly.
90% plus of people who consistently blog do it for this reason, they are able to find an area dear to their heart and write about it.
Some bloggers I know find it very therapeutic to send their thoughts out into the world, others see it as a way of informing the debate about issues in their particular field and some do it to fight off boredom.
This is generally the motivating factor for most bloggers. It is relatively simple, yet those who don’t blog find it very difficult to get the rationale behind as to why you would do it.
For me, it was very simple. After a long period of feeling unwell, I knew I needed to do something that could take my mind off feeling poorly and after ranting about some issue; a friend of mine said you should take up blogging.
I gathered my thoughts, wrote them down and immediately I began to feel better. I didn’t even care that I was receiving some negative reaction from readers about what I had written, the fact that I was able to get my views out there the reward in and of itself for me.
This sense of influencing a debate, even if only on the margins is a powerful feeling. Blogging for me in that sense is a bit like a drug. I used it to help me take my mind of not feeling well, it helped, so I did it more and the rest is history.
In this respect, I was lucky that I had people like Alan and Mick to help me along the way in teaching me how to do certain things and this mixed with enthusiasm and friendship from people Barton, the Jason’s from Off The Record and Brian helped me gradually develop a voice and keep on doing it.
Likewise the critiques from Turgon, Fitz, Pete Baker and John O’Neill were brilliant in helping me develop a core message. My experience has been you’ll learn more in five lines from a critic than you ever will from an ally.
If I was approached by somebody today looking to start blogging I would give them these pointers;(These are also applicable to firms, many of whom are woeful at blogging)
1. Seek out your fellow bloggers- You will not be the only person in your particular area blogging, seek out your counterparts. Don’t be afraid to share stories and learn from them, my experience is your fellow bloggers will do more to support you than other parts of the media will.
2. Don’t pursue an agenda-This is particularly true in political blogging, it is okay to have a point of view, but if this overshadows every aspect of your work, then your posts will quickly become tedious, predictable and eventually boring. It is always useful to throw a curve ball now and again to keep your readership guessing.
3. Be sincere about what you do- Blogging is largely about sincerity, if you believe in what you are writing about, it will come across in your posts. People will disagree with you, but if you are sincere about it, those who disagree will respect the integrity of your work at the very least.
4. Don’t do it for the money- Here is the truth about blogging, there is very little money in it. If you are working in certain industries, you will get some freebies and occasional work from your blog, but don’t go into it expecting to make huge money.
5. Media exposure- It is always nice when you get a phone call from a producer saying “oh I read your piece the other day…” But you can NEVER let this become the end aim; otherwise you are going to just end up blogging sensationalist nonsense. You should look at media work as a nice bonus, enjoy it whilst you’re doing it, but don’t expect to be on Nolan or Talkback every day.
6. Be realistic- you are not going to change the world with a blog post, but over time you can become somebody who can influence the debate in your particular field and can achieve some degree of impact in certain debates.
7. Last but by no means least-remember it’s a labour of love. You need to love doing it, the minute you find blogging becoming a chore, you need to either take a break or go do something else. The internet provides you with a great opportunity to put your views out there, enjoy it! The reward for doing this is getting to share your views with other people and if you keep this in your mind, you will thrive in the blogosphere.
To all those out there asking why we blog, hopefully this sheds some light.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs