Starting a new blog is easy technically, the tools are simple enough. There are also readily available hosting sites that can get you started in a few minutes. Before you set up a blog take the time to plan and research. It will make the writing easier. You also have the opportunity to plan and organize your thoughts. Envision your blog in a few months or a year from now. Sketch out the design and outline the topics. Think how the blog will look to people who are new to your writing. Think of how you can keep people interested over many articles. This part of the work is hard and exciting at the same time. You can figure out how to design your own persona. You can also figure out how to develop your own message. Take a look at other people’s work and think seriously on how you can bring your own personality to life on the screen. If this work is new or remote to you, get someone to help you. Planning and research early on can get you better results quickly. It is worth the effort.
Strategy, planning and research:
One of the first steps in getting a social media project started is strategy and planning. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you want to say?
- Who is going to read and use your material?
- What research you need before starting and while writing, editing and promotion?
- Who or what is your competition? How can you differentiate yourself? (make your material unique, interesting, useful or exciting)
- What other information is available on the Internet? Can you complement WikiPedia or another popular site? Is there an audience who is interested in your work?
- How accessible is other information? (is the material searchable? is material “locked” behind a paid subscription or is registration required?) You can be more accessible.
- Who is going to write, promote and maintain the material? Are other people interested in writing and editing for you? Can you use other’s material?
- How much time, money and resources do you need? How long does it take to research, write and promote an article? Do you need help doing the work?
- Do you have the right skills, people, resources and budget for the project?
- Where can you promote your blog? What do you need for promotion? Who is going to be interested in promoting your blog?
- Write and explain any other elements unique to you which are useful in the planning stage: personal expertise, available (free) information, good resources (people, communities, technology, products, trends, etc.)
- Start with this list and add your own key planning topics. Here is where the strategy hat comes in. Better strategy you develop, better the results will be.
Most new social media managers are not certain of what they want and how to get it done. I usually ask new customers to outline one to three messages, what do you want the reader to remember. This gives you a base to start. Come up with at least 10 to 30 article topics. In a blog these are going to be the titles and a short synopsis. In a social media page these could be discussions made up of a few short messages. Write a few paragraphs describing each topic. When you first start out 30 topics may seem hard to reach, if you post daily or a few times a week, the list will be used quickly. Start researching other social media material similar to your project. There are millions of blogs and you can find similarities in style, subject matter, target audience, material type, content sources… start out with at least 20 to 50 blogs or writers and take notes. You can also rate by terms of popularity (Goggle rank or Alexa) and influence (how many references point to site (links in), where is the material published: a small blog is much different than NY Times blog.) Take the time to think about what you want to say and the quality or style of the writing. Imagine a typical reader and what he will take away after reading the blog three or six months. If you have useful information, if you motivate, if you help people keep up with news or industry developments you will capture an audience. Once you capture an audience you can then send promote your message.
Get help to get started faster. If the planning and research phase takes too long you need to get help. In this phase of the work you may want to hire someone to give you a quick tutorial in setting up a blog or a social network page (Linked-In, Facebook, MySpace.) If you need explanation of the different elements in each system, an experienced developer (or a good blogger) can be very helpful. Although each element seems simple, there are many useful features which once you understand can be used later as you build up a more sophisticated system. Some of the useful features in blogs and page design are: RSS feeds, widgets, feeds from other services (i.e. Twitter widget inside a blog), static and dynamic streams. WordPress, Blogger, Linked-In all have widget systems with content that can come from different sources. These are useful for many types of messages and businesses.
If you need to research a large number of resources get someone to help in summarizing and sorting information: use a research assistant. If you need to contact other bloggers and find out if they will post your articles or link to your blog get someone to compile lists and keep track of it. Get in contact with SEO and promotion expert to explain basic terms so you can understand how to be accessible and visible to a large audience. Research will become an ongoing effort to increase your knowledge. A crucial part in running a social media project is managing “resource” information. You can do this using a spreadsheet or a more sophisticated CRM program (Zoho, SalesForce.com.) Most social media projects need to manage information resources. Then sort and use the information to write relevant content. If you set up a system to research and process information now it will help your work be more effective later. Once you are under the pressure of running the blog or social network and keep up with writing, doing this work will be harder. You may even need to add another person to do this work later if you are not set up now. This is a great opportunity to work in an organized fashion.
There are a few more tasks which will help you get the project planned and organized before you get writing. More ideas next time (Learning, books, blogs, resources, classes, coaching.)