Why I’m Waiting to Start My Blog

As I’ve become active on Twitter and participated in Blogchat these past few weeks, people have naturally asked me what I blog about. Great question! I guess I should think about that…

What I mean to say is, I’m holding off on starting a personal blog for a little while, and this past Sunday’s chat inspired me to write down a little bit about why. I hope some of these ideas can be applied more widely than just my situation, and that someone else might get something out of this even if they’re already blogging.

These are some of the things I am thinking about, and while my take on them isn’t groundbreaking, I’m sure many of you deal with them too. I’d love to hear what you think.

1. The Importance of Defining the Right Niche

One big reason I’m waiting is because I need to further define what exactly I want my blog to be about. I have no shortage of interests, including information science, technology, blogging, writing, web design, social media, publishing, libraries and more.

Although these topics all interconnect, trying to give each one equal attention would lead to chaos and also confuse readers as to what type of content to expect. Besides, there are already authority blogs in these niches that are doing amazing work. What to do, then?

I think that as newer bloggers we need to ask ourselves how we can add to the conversation in a different way and then make it very clear how we’re providing something unique and valuable to our niche(s).

Well, duh. But how do you do that?

A common trend across just about every successful blog I’ve seen is that the author finds a way to pull everything together and makes it feel cohesive, even if he or she addresses more than one topic.

Most often, this feeling is the result of an excellent tagline that conveys the blog’s mission in a clever but still informative manner. There are also other strategies that can help, such as well thought-out category organization or a great home page message in a strategic location. After successfully drawing the reader in, then, everything written on the blog must stay true to that particular message.

On Blogchat recently, Chris Garrett whittled all this down to two simple questions to ask yourself: “1) Why are YOU different and 2) why is that a GOOD thing?”

If you don’t have this firmly in your head when you blog, you’re hurting yourself. Every single person who just visited your blog should be able to respond without hesitation if they were asked “what made that blog different” and “what made it interesting.”

And you can certainly adapt this after you’ve already been blogging for a while. It’s completely natural for many kinds of blogs to evolve over time as their author does the same. In other cases, the response from the community might be different than expected and inspire the blogger to shift his or her goals a little bit.

2. What Type of Value Do You Offer?

Similarly, it’s very important to be sure what type of information your blog will offer. This sounds simple, but I was surprised when I wasn’t really able to really answer this question for the blog I’m currently planning.

Do you write provocative commentary on a topic that helps people think about an issue in a different way? Will your blog rile them up, or inspire them to act? Are you going to help your readers solve pressing problems? Or give them a step-by-step guide to accomplishing a particular task?

You want to make it clear what makes up your “pillars,” or blog foundations, and why people will want to read it.

Heidi Cohen recently outlined these and other reasons to blog in a great post titled With 74,583 New Blogs in the Last 24 Hours, Who Needs Yours? I’ve read other great posts that have touched on this as well.

This is something I haven’t thought about enough to this point; I got caught up with the idea of producing “good” content without digging deeper into what that really means.

3. The Benefits That Come With Building Connections – My Experience with Twitter

I haven’t been on Twitter for very long, but I’d estimate that I learned more about how to blog effectively in my first three days there as I would have figured out in three months on my own.

In that very short time, starting with a handful of blogs I read previously, I suddenly had access to hundreds of great bloggers and everything they were sharing. I learned so much about what types of content people are looking for, and also the kind of things that are already out there so I can think about what I might add.

But most importantly, it wasn’t a passive learning experience; instead, I learned by @replying and RTing and I left some comments on other blogs. It took me a little while to get into the flow, but now I’m really trying to get to know some of these people in my areas of interest.

Starting to See Larger Networks of Connections

I stumbled across Srini Rao’s podcast BlogcastFM a couple of months ago, and right off the bat it taught me a great deal about how to build a successful blog. I would listen to an interview on my walk to work or class and when I arrived I’d have to take a few minutes to scribble down all the ideas in my head.

But I also feel as though I’ve evolved as a listener over these weeks. At first, the interviewees seemed like celebrities to me, blogging superstars who were members of some sort of elite club and wouldn’t be bothered with those on the outside.

Once I got going on Twitter, however, I realized that although some of them are superstars, the last part is far from true! These exact same people kept on popping up: in my twitter stream, in shout-outs in other bloggers’ posts, and all over various comment sections. They were all over the place, and the conversation was always two-way and inclusive.

And they suddenly looked very casual and approachable. Suddenly, some of them were following me, and I was starting to have conversations with them. These larger networks of connections you develop can be really powerful, and I was fascinated when I made this realization.

To Wrap Up: A Cool Story About Serious Waiting

Starbucks Melody, a blogger who has taught me a lot, was a coffee fanatic and avid Twitterer long before she launched her blog. In fact, she spent over a year getting involved in the coffee niche and building connections before she started her Starbucks blog. She was simply in it to make friends, not recruit people to anything of hers, until the allure of starting her own blog became too strong to resist. How’d it work out? She got a write-up in the Seattle Times the very first week her blog was live! Now her blog is extremely popular and has a very active community of readers.

This isn’t to say that we all should have waited over a year before blogging. It should, however, remind us that we should sometimes step back and use these networks just to talk to someone new who seems interesting, without necessarily viewing them as a potential subscriber. It might benefit you in ways you never would have imagined.

I hope that in the next few weeks I’ll be able to sort through these issues for my future blog (although I guess technically it’s starting with this post).

Either way, I can’t wait to get going!

17 Responses to Why I’m Waiting to Start My Blog
  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Judy Dunn, Andrew J Walsh. Andrew J Walsh said: Hey #blogchat people! I've learned a lot from you in the last few weeks. Wrote a post about my experience so far. http://bit.ly/eLHdxc [...]

  2. Michael Fenchel
    November 29, 2010 | 10:29 pm

    Interesting take on blogging! Usually you just hear to jump right in and get your feet wet, but that can be real intimidating, especially for someone who’s new to the idea of the social eye.

    It makes a lot of sense to strengthen your idea and vision before starting, so you can shape its development confidently rather than let it waver with indecision.

    Thanks for a unique and honest perspective!

    • Andrew Walsh
      November 29, 2010 | 11:39 pm

      Thanks, Mike. It’s been awesome to talk to you about your blogging ideas; I know you’re doing the same type of thinking as you continue to define your goals.

      It’s definitely good to avoid hastily putting something up before you really know what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s hard to fight the temptation of launching as quickly as possible, though. I think you’ll be far better off if you draft your ideas and really think them through before making anything live.

  3. Alli
    November 30, 2010 | 1:36 am

    I think you’re doing a really, really smart thing in thinking through your blog’s niche and purpose before you start! I don’t mind when people write about a variety of topics on their personal blogs, but I do think it’s nearly impossible to monetize if you have no focus – so if that’s the direction you’re going (wanting to monetize, either right away or eventually), clearing your head and defining your focus def starts you off on the right foot. :)

    • Andrew Walsh
      November 30, 2010 | 9:27 am

      Alli,

      Thanks! If I really started this blog today, I think it would work; I’d just need a 250 word tagline! I’m hoping that I can focus my topics in the next few weeks and get to the point where I can describe my blog in one sentence. I was mostly thinking about attracting readers and subscribers, but you bring up a great point about monetization. That makes a lot of sense.

  4. Joseph Doughty
    November 30, 2010 | 4:30 am

    Andrew,

    Assuming you want to monetize your efforts: Blogging is part writing, part SEO, part internet marketing, with plenty of hard work and maybe some luck thrown in for good measure.

    I would suggest you set aside some time to write daily. You don’t have to publish, but go ahead and make some drafts. This helps you get in the habit of writing and helps your brain. Choose some evergreen or general topics, such as how-to that you could go back and modify for just about any blog niche you choose.

    Spend some time with keyword searches and looking into niches. Be warned, you need to really like your niche as you will be spending lots of time in it. This is where veteran bloggers say “pick a subject you are passionate about”

    Good luck.

    • Andrew Walsh
      November 30, 2010 | 9:35 am

      Joseph,

      Thanks for the advice. I really like what you said about writing daily; it definitely would be a big help to get into a consistent schedule. Drafting posts and working on them when the ideas come to you is much better than waiting a week and then putting pressure on yourself to come up with a good new post.

      I’m involved in a couple of niche blogging projects, so I’m starting to see what you say about SEO, marketing and the like. (Especially the hard work part…) As you point out, having a genuine passion makes it all much more rewarding. I’m excited to keep learning.

  5. Amr Boghdady
    December 1, 2010 | 4:45 am

    That may sound funny, but I spent over 3 months, just trying to determine the right niche for me!

    Its funny how it could take a person so long to try and determine what sort of stuff he likes, and would like to write about!

    • Andrew Walsh
      December 1, 2010 | 11:09 pm

      You’re right. It does seem like it should be so simple!

      But no matter what your blogging goals might be (traffic, monetization…etc) you always need to be sure you’ll stay passionate about your niche and also that there will be enough material to write about consistently. I’m glad to hear you took your time!

  6. timethief
    December 1, 2010 | 6:36 pm

    I appreciate your approach Andrew. I’m a researcher and writer with non-monetized blogs and without doubt I’m a passionate blogger. I have been online for 6 years now and have seen the majority of those who create blogs will dive into blogging head long, rather than going through the process of determining their niche, their branding, the content they intend to provide, and the audience it’s aimed at, etc. The result is the majority who atart blogs abandon them within 6 months to a year.

    I also agree with Joseph. I believe setting time aside at least 3 days of the week to devote to content creation is very wise. I have draft posts on the back burner at all points in time and learned I needed to do that the hard way.

    Best wishes. :)

    • Andrew Walsh
      December 1, 2010 | 11:24 pm

      Thanks a lot.

      That’s a great point about the abandonment issue. I’ve seen a few stats for total blogs in the blogosphere vs. those that are currently being updated and it’s pretty staggering. It’s sad to search through a blog directory and see so many dead projects.

      I can see see how writing consistently and drafting posts makes a big difference. Forcing yourself to come up with an idea, completely write it, revise and then post it on the same day is a lot of stress. It’s also much better to let your ideas develop.

  7. Baxter
    December 3, 2010 | 5:12 pm

    Interesting article. For those who want to blog but don’t know what to write, this is an amazing inspiration. My experience was the opposite. I started doing many blogs and ended up eliminating them one by one . So I guess my best tip is keep it real and simple.

    • Andrew Walsh
      December 8, 2010 | 11:29 pm

      That’s a good point. People with multiple hobbies, for example, would definitely want to start a couple blogs and see which of them attracts outside interest and really grabs their own passions. I’ve actually been using this strategy to some extent as well, since I have a few other side blogging projects going on.

  8. Michael Corley
    December 26, 2010 | 8:09 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    We haven’t chatted for a while now after meeting in #blogchat but I just read your post and wanted offer something to the discussion.

    I jumped into blogging feet first. Nearly 2 years later, I’m still writing the same blog. I’ve made mistakes along the way but have also gotten better at blogging, Internet Marketing and SEO as a result.

    While I know I’ll be in the minority, I’m going to strongly suggest you get started on your blog (and here’s why)

    If your subject has legs and your content is compelling, your audience will gravitate to it. While you can spend time developing relationships with other bloggers (which is important) and further define your niche, what your also going to discover is that your audience will be your market and you’ll write for them.

    If you’re really serious about blogging with intent to solve a problem, clarify issues, provide a service or to just entertain, you’re audience will be your best guide to perfect what you offer.

    There’s no lab you can develop a blog in. There are people who have been blogging for years without advancing the subject their passionate about, without a community to push their efforts in the comments and without a word of mouth following to grow their audience.

    In fact, I’m going to offer some alternative advice here … forget everything you’ve learned about blogging…

    As for Passion, Niche, Subject … these are all fine to begin from, but Goal, Aim and Purpose is how you should see the work your preparing to.

    Replace Passion with Purpose … Replace Niche with Aim … Replace Subject with Goal.

    Your content will have life and attract your audience because they can FEEL you and be inspired, challenged, relieved or satisfied by what your posts offer.

    2011 is your year … I’ll see you in the twitterverse (@MyBklynReport)

  9. http://alighthaertedtalk.blogspot.com
    December 31, 2010 | 5:51 am

    A good post but one thing that I don’t agree with is the title itself.

    According to me one need not think before blogging

    for

    blogging

    is

    something

    of expressing

    feelings

  10. ChickenFreak
    January 9, 2011 | 11:40 pm

    I’m in the “just start blogging” camp. Yes, your blog may not be a perfect blog. Yes, your blog may not get all the readers that the ideal blog will have.

    So?

    _Not_ blogging will also not be a perfect blog. _No_ readers will also be a smaller number of readers than the ideal blog would have. How can an imperfect blog not be better than no blog at all? How can a few readers not be better than no readers?

    I’ve always rejected “Do it right or don’t do it” and “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” (Where “well” usually seems to translate as “perfectly”.)

    If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. Perfectionism is rarely the drive behind great, or even small, accomplishments–perfectionism is far more likely to ensure that nothing is accomplished at all.

    I say, just start blogging.

    ChickenFreak

  11. Andrew Walsh
    January 10, 2011 | 10:38 am

    Michael and ChickenFreak,

    Thanks a lot for the discussion; you both made some great points about why jumping right into blogging might be the best idea.

    I like the idea that while it’s good to further definine your niche via connections with other bloggers, simply producing content and then reacting to your readers’ reactions is the best guide. That makes a lot of sense. I might have a revelation about what I think the perfect group of readers would be and change what I was going to write about, but it may turn out that that group just isn’t there, and my previous idea would have been much better. If I don’t jump in and get that trial and error process, I’ll never know and I definitely lose.

    “Perfectionism is rarely the drive behind great, or even small, accomplishments–perfectionism is far more likely to ensure that nothing is accomplished at all.”

    I really like this too. It’s a phrase I would do very well to keep in mind, as I sometimes obsess over a blog post to the point where I probably could have crafted three our four in the same amount of time.

    Anyway, with all these suggestions, I definitely want to get my feet wet with this new blog and see how it goes. At this point, I’m really just getting together a list of post ideas and waiting on a connection to work on designing a header. Since I want this blog to be connected to my professional life in writing and library and information science, I want it to look sharp. Hopefully it’ll be up and running very soon.

    A big thanks to everyone who shared their opinions here!

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