Blogging basics and tips a la André

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lunch at FoodBlogSouth. acnatta/FlickrThis weekend I was reminded first hand what a food coma feels like. I’d missed it so…

Shaun Chavis and Jason Horn knocked it out of the park organizing the inaugural FoodBlogSouth, a blog conference for foodies held right here in Birmingham, AL.

The event sold out (125 people were there) raised funds for two incredible local charities and exposed locals and visitors alike to a different side of Alabama’s Magic City. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

I had the honor of facilitating a blogging 101 session Saturday morning. A lot has changed since the first time I presented on that topic – nearly two years ago at the National Trust Main Streets Conference in Chicago. It turns out that I had about the same amount of time to do the presentation this time, though the content was quite different.

This time, the goal was a quick look at the basic elements of the blog and a few tips to begin to build a site that may capture the attention of your intended audience.

I’ve come to believe that the only consistent thing about blogs are its components. Even if you aren’t a fan of WordPressthe section in their codex pertaining to blogging does an excellent job going over its basic parts. Speaking as a former architecture student, it’s always important to understand the rules so you know which ones you’re breaking.

I’ve got a few pieces of advice for those starting out blog, regardless of when:

  • This one is simply an issue of terminology – Your latest entry isn’t a blog, it’s a post. Your blog is made up of a collection of posts.
  • Remember that your content is what people are coming to see. It’s important to make it easy for them to find it and to search for more information if needed. There are always discussions going on about what “good” content is, including this timely piece by Mack Collier posted earlier today.
  • Content does not just have to be written. I currently carry a 1st generation Kodak PlaySport HD camera and a digital voice recorder around with me. There are some things that are said better without words (or at least come across better with some visual aids).
  • Hosting photos on sites like Flickr and Picasa and videos on sites like YouTube and Vimeo help reduce the strain on your server and help drive additional traffic to the site by exposing your content to folks that may not have found it otherwise.
  • They’ve found you online. Take advantage of expanding the conversation by providing links to other sources, including sites and blogs. The link is what helps make blogging what it is. Jay Rosen is a journalism professor at New York University and he explains “the ethic of the link” better than anyone else can – and it applies no matter what your topic or goal is for your blog.
  • Incidentally, I have this belief that more links are better. That’s one of the reasons why I currently use Apture on all of my sites. I stopped believing in holding someone here a while back, but there’s something about being able to give folks as much information as possible via one initial link.
  • This is probably similar to what John-Bryan Hopkins covered in his presentation, but if you’re using other social media tools to help spread the word about your posts, keep in mind that your audience may not be where you like to “hang out.” See the photo/video tip above.
  • There are always ideas for blog posts all around you. If you carry around a smartphone, an app like Evernote could be ideal. You can snap photos, type in notes and sometimes even record your thoughts – then you can sort them into specific “notebooks” that can be accessed on your desktop later on.

I spent a lot of time back in 2009 looking more at what made blogging different than static websites and how it would be a helpful tool. This time I wanted to emphasize making sure we know the basics so we can enjoy some those cafe-shaped conversations (h/t to Chris Brogan).

There are some other specific questions that were asked after the session that I plan to address in another post later this week (hopefully tomorrow). Though we can keep the conversation going here by posting questions in the comments section below.


Photo: lunch at FoodBlogSouth. acnatta/Flickr


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