Blogito Ergo Sum

For the past couple of weeks, we have been looking at ways of marketing a home-based business, and after covering various kinds of print and online options, we now turn to the broad topic of social media. Before we jump into what we usually think of as social media (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), let’s look at some “older” categories. The first is arguably where it all began: blogging.

Short for “Web log,” the idea of the blog began back in the 1990s as a kind of online diary, where techies would detail the minutiae of their lives which, as you can imagine, was utterly compelling. Since then, blogs have evolved into hybrid magazine articles/editorials. The best ones provide information, opinion, and perspective on some area of interest. For businesses, especially small businesses, blogs are excellent ways to demonstrate expertise and knowledge, provide advice, tips, strategies, etc.

There are at present three primary blogging platforms: Blogger (owned by Google), TypePad, and WordPress, although WordPress has really come to dominate the blogosphere. (The Home Office That Works Blog is done in WordPress.)

A basic blog is free and is easy to set up. Some of the blog providers have for-pay premium services (usually about $20 a year) that give you more control over the look and feel of the site graphics, as well as the ability to integrate the blog onto a parent website. This is important if you want the URL of the blog to have your own domain and not wordpress.com or blogspot.com. You can also have your website developer incorporate a blog into your own site, which can be a substantial cost. The downside to blogging is that it can require a substantial time commitment, depending on how easy or difficult you find writing. One option is to simply come up with the main points and farm out the actual writing to others, either for free (such as an intern or family member) or for pay.

There are many types of blogposts. Some are short comments on something the blogger read on another site, some are simply links to articles or other blogposts of interest, some are “listicles”—a combination of article and list (“9 Ways to Market Your Business” or “7 Ways to Use Facebook Profitably” or the like)—and some can be long features (what is sometimes known as “slow blogging”). There is no hard and fast rule as to what approach to take; sometimes the best strategy is to mix them up. If you are posting three times a week, make one a short listicle, one a long feature, and one a list of links or quick comment.

As for what you should blog about, essentially you want to provide useful information and not a full-on marketing pitch. Think about what your clients (or perhaps other colleagues) would find helpful, informative, or just plain interesting. If you are a graphic designer, sharing design tips, how font choice can make or break a design, software tips, or—and this is how you can work self-promotion into it—some successful projects you have worked on.

What is the target length of a blogpost? Unless you are just making a quickie comment, generally 200–300 words is the optimal length, although slow-blogging posts can go upwards of 800–1,000 words. Beyond that, you are really straining your reader’s attention span—unless you are writing something truly compelling. (This post’s word count, by the way, is 596.)

The key with blogging is to be consistent. If someone visits your blog and there hasn’t been an update in three months, they probably won’t bother coming back.