Blogging Basics: What you need to know to get started
|SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE:
- Law firms must carefully plan and position a blog before creating one — it’s difficult, time consuming, and potentially expensive to fix errors later.
- Researching the right blog software is essential – not all of them are created equally, and each has its unique pros and cons.
- The look and feel of a blog should compliment your law firm’s colors, design characteristics, and branding.
- Exploit the web communication technologies available through blogs, such as RSS, backtracking, commenting, and more.
- Make it easy for readers to participate in your blog and make it interactive.
Unlike Web sites, which require design and HTML skills to produce, blogs are quick and easy to set up using off-the-shelf software with easy-to-use features. With just a little basic know-how, you can quickly and easily establish and promote your blog. Here are some specific tips to keep in mind:
- Before you begin, think carefully about the name of your blog and its tagline, which will be indexed by the search engines. It is very difficult to go back and change this information once you have established it.
- Easy-to-use blogging software is available from Blogger , TypePad , WordPress , and others. Some of the services are free and others require a small subscription fee. Research the services and choose wisely based on your needs, because it is difficult to switch to a different service without losing all the content you have already created. And once your blog has been indexed by search engines, and people have subscribed to your RSS feed or bookmarked your URL, a change to different software is really tough.
- You will need to choose a URL for your blog. The blogging services all offer customizable URLs (such as yourblog.typepad.com). You can also map your blog to your company’s domain (www.yourcompany.com/yourblog) or to a custom domain (www.yourblog.com).
- Blogging software makes it easy to choose color, design, and font, and to create a simple text-based masthead. You might consider using a custom graphical image as your masthead—these are and easy to design and will make your blog more attractive to readers.
- As you begin your blog, tweak your design, and tentatively try a few posts, I recommend you use password protection for the first few weeks or so. That way you can share your blog with a few friends and colleagues first and make changes before opening it up to the world.
- The look and feel of the blog could be complementary to your corporate design guidelines, but it should not be identical. For many blogs, it is better to be a bit different from the corporate look to signal to readers that the blog is an independent voice, not corporate-speak.
- Blogging software usually allows you to turn on a comments feature so your visitors can respond to your posts. There are several options for you to consider. Some people prefer their blogs to have no comments from readers at all, and that might be the right choice for you. However, one of the most exciting things about blogging is when your readers comment on what you’ve written. Depending on your blogging software, you may opt for open comments (where people can write comments that are not subject to your approval) or for a system where you need to approve each comment before it appears on your blog. Many bloggers use the approval feature to watch for inappropriate comments. But I encourage you to allow any comments from people who disagree with you—debate is one of the best indications of a well-read blog. Unfortunately, the blogosphere is plagued by the problem of comment spam, so to prevent automated comment robots from vandalizing your blog, some comment systems require people to answer a simple question before their comments go live (I use this approach, and it works very well).
- Most blogs also have a feature to allow trackbacks, which are messages that another blogger sends to you when he has posted something on his blog that references a post you wrote first. A trackback says to your blog readers, “hey, if you’re reading this original post, you might also be interested in a related post on another blog, so click here.” Thus, a trackback is similar to a comment. However, instead of leaving a comment on your blog, the other blogger writes a post on her blog and sends you a trackback so your readers know her post is there. I recommend you set up your blog so that you must approve trackbacks before they get posted there.
- Pay close attention to the categories you choose for your blog, and add social media tags for services like Technorati, DIGG and del.icio.us to each post. (Take another look at chapter 14 for more on social media tags).
- RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a standard delivery format for many of your readers. Make certain that your new blog has RSS capability. Most blogging software services have RSS feeds as a standard feature.
- Include an “about” page that includes your photo, biography, affiliations, and information about your blog. Often when people visit a blog for the first time, they want to know about the blogger, so it is important to provide background.
- Encourage people to contact you, make it easy for them to reach you online, and be sure to follow up personally on your fan mail. You’ll get a bunch of inquiries, questions, praise, and an occasional detractor if you make it easy for people to contact you. Because of the huge problem with spam, many people don’t want to publish email addresses. But the biggest problem is with automated robots that harvest email addresses, so to thwart them, write your email address so humans can read it but the machines cannot. On my Web site, for example, I list my email address as david (at) DavidMeermanScott (dot) com.
David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, seminar leader, and the author of the award-winning BusinessWeek best-selling book The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to use news releases, blogs, viral marketing and online media to reach buyers directly, which is being published in 24 languages and the new hit book World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers that Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories. He is a recovering VP of marketing for two publicly traded technology companies and was also Asia marketing director for Knight-Ridder, at the time one of the world’s largest newspaper and electronic information companies. David has lived and worked in New York, Tokyo, Boston, and Hong Kong and has presented at industry conferences and events in over forty countries. Check out his blog at www.WebInkNow.com or download his free ebook The New Rules of Viral Marketing:
How word-of-mouse spreads your ideas for free at http://www.davidmeermanscott.com/documents/Viral_Marketing.pdf
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