Advice For Would-be Bloggers

Today I read the following article 2014 Resolution: This Year, I Will Blog.  Good article, and it features useful advice from Susan Weiner, who writes the blog Investment Writing.  I think highly of Susan, and we are having her come speak to the Baltimore CFA Society on March 24th.  Writing is not so well-learned among many investment analysts, and employers of analysts would like to see better quality writing out of their employees.

But in response to the blogging article, I would like to give a few tips on blogging.  Most of these won’t be very profound, but there is basic “blocking and tackling” to do if you want to be a good blogger.

1) Choose the periodicity of your blogging.  Will it be multiple times per day, once a day, a few times per week, once a week, a few times a month, or monthly?  I think that is the limit in terms of keeping the attention of readers — you can’t blog less than monthly.

Now, the less frequently you blog, the higher the quality has to be.  Length is not an issue here.  Post length is not correlated with quality.  Make your thoughts and words count.  There is no prize for number of words.  There are only prizes for value added.

One more thing: once you choose how often you want to blog, stick with it.  Regularity is needed to establish an audience.

2) Define the area in which you want to blog.  What is your differential insight?  Where are your thoughts strongest versus the consensus?  There are relatively few bloggers that can cover a wide area.  (And as one that does cover a wide area, it means that posts covering different areas may not interest some of your readers.)

3) Start small.  You don’t have to write masterpieces from day one.  Commenting on articles that you excerpt can be a great way to begin.

Another great way is to start assembling linkfests a la Abnormal Returns.  You will not likely do better than Tadas, but I have seen many small linkfests that are worth reading.

4) Ask who your target audience is.  Are you aiming at professionals, intelligent amateurs, or Joe Lunchpail?  Then tailor your language to fit the audience, as well as your choice of topics.

Also remember that other bloggers and journalists may link to you, so consider what your extended audience might be like.  (I’ve seen my articles translated into so many languages that I have lost count.  I never thought that would happen.)

5) Get ready to be hurt.  The internet is a cruel place, and there is all manner of anonymous backbiting that goes on.  But there are way to minimize it:

  • Have a comments policy, and block people from commenting who violate it.
  • Be humble in your writing; more attacks come to those who are brash.
  • Double-check what you say before clicking “publish.”
  • When you are wrong, own up to it.  That establishes credibility, it does not destroy it.
  • Avoid profanity.  Bloggers that use profanity attract a bad crowd of commenters.

6) Reach out to other bloggers.  Link to good stuff from other bloggers, and when you write something good, send a copy to bloggers you respect (not too often).  Respect the time of leading bloggers, and only send the best.

7) Use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to expand your distribution.   Social media can enhance your influence; just be sure not to annoy your readers.

8 ) Be ready for the long haul.  Don’t enter into this unless you are thinking of doing this for years.  Of the major bloggers I knew back in 2007 when I started Aleph Blog, most of them are still in the game, and they are still hot stuff.  But I have seen many promising bloggers put out a few significant posts and fold.  It is like what Jesus said [Luke 14:28-33]:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Think about what it will cost you to blog before you start doing it.  Figure out what you can sustainably do without destroying important relationships that you have.  Blogging is about consistency, not occasional genius.

9) Don’t worry about your writing skills.  They will improve over time.  Oh, if you could read the turgid stuff that I wrote thirty years ago.  Between a writing Nazi who was my boss at AIG, and writing for RealMoney, my writing style improved dramatically as an adult.  Hint: Flesch Test your writing, and use the grammar and spelling checkers within Microsoft Word.  Aim for language that high schoolers should be able to read.

10) Every time you write, look into your heart and ask what you feel strongest about.  Then write about it, and be bold (yet still humble).  (Catch the balance.)

Summary

Blogging is not easy, but it is rewarding.  It may help you build a business.  It may gain new friends for you.

You won’t be perfect from the start, but aim for continuous improvement.  Aim to be “good enough,” and improve from there.

If you try and need advice, feel free to e-mail me.  I will try to aid you in what limited time I have.  After all, I write long blog posts once a day on average.

May you prosper more than me, and achieve far more.  May I see your name five years from now, a star, and say, “I knew him when…”

2 Comments

  • Thanks very much for this useful article and Happy New Year! I am 6 months into my first year of financial blogging and agree with your thoughts. Blogging is not easy, but it is rewarding. As with many aspects of life, you get out at least as much as you put in.

    Thank you again for another year of interesting articles and good luck for 2014.

  • ptshi says:

    Thanks very much for this useful set of advices. Respecting the periodicity is definitely a key aspect I neglected last year, its on my top priority list for 2014. Have a wonderful year.

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