Should I Blog?

Blog vs. FacebookDani CollinsIs blogging deadself-promotionShould I BlogWhy blogWriting Sample

I just read another 'Blogging Is Over' post. Actually, it said, "Should writers blog? Probably not."

Meanwhile, click over to Kristen Lamb's blog and you'll see that she does not think this medium is over. In fact she highly recommends that writers blog regularly to keep their writing muscles in shape.

I'm no social media or marketing expert. I am only weighing in with my opinion, but you know what? That's what blogs are for. I get to say whatever I want and if you are interested, you read to the end. If not, you move on with your life. To those of you moving on now, thanks for stopping by.

So that's the short answer about whether to blog. The longer question and answer, which I have typically buried (see above re: Not A Marketing Expert) is When Should I Blog and/or Why Should I Blog vs. posting to Facebook or tweeting on Twitter or pinning on Pinterest?

Each of these mediums has pros and cons and thus appeals to different readers. Keep in mind that each human is a different reader several times a day. Sometimes you have time to dig into a topic. Other occasions you're killing time waiting for a bus. Sometimes you want to interact with the author, sometimes you're good with being told something from a distance.

Therefore, again in my non-expert and really not very experienced opinion aimed mostly at writers, the following are useful when:

Website:

  • Your website is your storefront. It's yours, you own it, and readers like them because they're a reliable source of information. It's always in the same place and usually looks pretty much the same so they know their way around. However, you should have enough frequent updates and dusting of the shelves that they know you're alive.
  • Including a page for your Blog or News is useful here because it provides Proof Of Life while static info like Current Release stays put for a month or two or longer.

Blog:

  • Blogging is open-mic night at a coffee shop. People sometimes make a point of finding out what you have to say, others have dropped by accidentally. They may or may not care, agree, or stick around to listen. You may get hecklers.
  • Blogging is a very useful tool that is very much yours to say what you like. Use it for posts of any length that convey an idea or fresh information about you and your books. Blogs are a great place for excerpts of your upcoming release, behind the scenes stuff about your books, contest details, Day In The Life posts, book cover reveals, a conference you've attended, microfiction, or maybe a rant if done in an entertaining way. See below re: branding. I have a great time with Thursday13 posts and they seem to draw a lot of hits.
  • In my opinion, for writers, blogs are a great place to showcase your voice and prove you can entertain. Some writers get hung up on being an expert about something, usually writing. I personally feel that I'm not uber-brilliant in the literary skills dept.  I leave it to others with much more intelligent things to say to do that job. Today you're getting something that might be useful to you, especially if you're a writer, but tomorrow you're likely to hear about how I'm soooo busy. (Which is another way of saying I'm soooo important, so I try not to post those. Makes me gag at myself.)
  • Comments: While some people have very active comment sections in their blogs, don't sweat it if you don't. I get tons of hits a day and very few comments. Blogs are more a talking to tool, less a talking with. People read it, get what they want (or not), and move on with their day.
  • Do pimp your blog with links to pages about your books, buy links, and other cool places to visit on the internet. I should hyperlink that last phrase to something, but I've been soooo important lately, I haven't had time to surf. Wait, I just googled that phrase and linked it. What the heck, might as well practice what I preach. But you'll note that it opens in a separate window. You'll be sucked back here. Another free tip on successful blogging.

Facebook Page:

  • Facebook is a walk through the neighbourhood. Would you pace up and down your block shouting, "Buy my book?" No, you would smile hello to people, even if they were strangers, ask how they are, listen to their funny story, help them find their lost dog, and generally be polite and friendly. Actually, another way to think about it is Phoning a Friend. Would you only phone to say, "Hey, my life is great. I sold another book!" No, you might open with that if you're super excited, but most of the time you ask "How are you?" first and sometimes you don't talk about your writing at all.
  • A note about Profile vs. Page: I personally have a Facebook profile for friends and family and a separate Author Page for readers to Like. This is a deliberate choice to keep these sides of my life separate, even though they do overlap to some extent. I must have met you in person and want to share news about my family and kids for you to be accepted as a friend. I'm not trying to be exclusive, but they haven't signed on for the kind of public exposure I've chosen so I try to respect that with this little wall. A Facebook Page is a little more like standing in front of your store and talking to the passers-by. You still don't want to shout, "Buy my book," but they are looking in the window. You're allowed to tell them a bit more about what's inside. Read this for more info on the difference between a Facebook profile vs. a page.
  • Posting: Facebook is a great place for very short excerpts of a couple paragraphs and very current news ("I just found out my book made the NYT list!") Also, book cover reveals, contest mentions, and interaction.
  • Interaction means liking and commenting and sharing. Go back and re-read my bit about telephoning a friend. Be conscious of your brand, go ahead and share news about your writing and books, but be a human who has a life beyond your own self-interest. Don't you love it when people say, "That's awesome!" when you post good news? You should do that for other people. Click Like and say, "Congratulations!"
  • Facebook is also a great place for sharing photos. They are worth a thousand words, you know.
  • I think of Facebook status updates as a very light blog post. One a day is more than plenty. A few a week is perfect and the rest can be shares and non-writing related fun stuff. Keep in mind that very few people will scroll through your timeline history. They might. Therefore, you should always be conscious and sober when posting. Stuff can come back to bite, but most will see what turns up in their newsfeed, glance, like, scroll, move on.
  • Why bother then? As with any kind of party, if you're not having fun, go home and go to bed. The world will not collapse. If you quit thinking of it as work and more of a social event though, you might discover you enjoy it.

Twitter

  • Twitter is like being at a convention inside a stadium. You might have a booth, but mostly you're wandering around a crowd doing  a lot of involuntary eavesdropping, not always catching the full story. Remember that others can hear everything you say, so be aware. Again, don't stand there screaming, "Buy my book." Interact with strangers, laugh at something you overheard, chime in with a zinger, but be nice.
  • IMPORTANT: you will not keep up with everything that happens on Twitter. That's not the point. There are ways to organize your experience so you can make sure you don't miss certain people's tweets (Tweetdeck, Hootsuite--google for reviews of the best ones.) But be aware that a lot will happen that you will never know about. It doesn't matter.
  • Twitter is a great place for very quick updates about what is going on now. In this way it's similar to Facebook, but because the posts are so short, you may wind up posting several short bursts--like the visit to the DMV--in real time. You wouldn't put out eight or ten posts on Facebook about one brief event, but it works on Twitter.
  • Facebook vs. Twitter: Both? Really? Not necessarily. Again, do whatever works for you, but keep in mind that although the content can be similar, you're reaching a different reader, not necessarily a different person. Maybe they Like your page and follow you on Twitter, but they are catching your content while in different reading moods. Facebook is a house party, Twitter is more of a cocktail lounge.

Others:

  • Goodreads, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc etc etc. I have profiles with the first two and you're right, at some point you have to scream uncle and call yourself maxed out. You don't have to belong to everything and keep it all up. It's not possible. I only wrote this post because I felt like I hadn't blogged in a while and my vaguely opinionated blog post has turned into a pseudo-marketing advice column--for which I do not feel qualified to write. But if you've come this far, thanks. I hope you've at least been entertained.

Branding:

  • Keep in mind that all social media activity should at least be brand-concious. It's great to be yourself and showcase more of your personality in a blog etc. but consider who your readers are in general. If they read your books for the sweet story lines of homespun, good values without sex, don't pepper your rants with four-letter words.

Okay, that's all I've got for now. Have a wonderful day.