Hello Lovelies! Thanks to all those beautiful souls who read my last post and then clicked through to read my guest post at sweet Simone’s The Bottom of the Ironing Basket. I was just delighted to see the comments you left but also to see that so many of you enjoyed reading her blog as much as I do. Anyway, as I said, I’ve had a huge week on Planet Baby. One of the highlights was giving a guest lecture at my alma mater, the University of Tasmania (or UTAS as it’s now known).
Shortly after being featured in the article on mummy blogging in Tasmania I posted about here, I was contacted by the lovely and talented Gabi Mocatta. She’d read the article and was intrigued that two of the 2011 Kidspot Top 50 bloggers were Tasmanians – remember this post? She’s a freelance journalist who writes and takes photographs for newspapers and magazines but also is a UTAS tutor in Social Media. Would I be interested in presenting a guest lecture on blogging, she wondered? “Absolutely” was my immediate response.
The Big Day arrived on Tuesday. After dropping Joshie off at school (and cursing myself for not having prepared earlier), I made hurried notes for my presentation whilst ‘Play School’ entertained the pixies. I then zipped over to Mum’s and dropped off India and Sam. I scooted down to the Uni and ventured into the cavernous media theatre to be greeted by Gabi and a diverse group of 9 students, ranging from their 20s to their 50s.
Then I hopped up onto the desk with my blog up on the big screen. Isn’t it enormous?!
The following hour just whizzed by. I clicked all over my blog, showing them features and how to change things around. I had a heavy head cold and felt a bit befuddled but goodness, it was fun!
There I was, chatting easily about something which brings me *the greatest of pleasure* and people were actually taking notes of what I said! And some even smiled, nodded and laughed with me. I couldn’t believe it, really. It was my first time talking to anyone in public about blogging and it was a hoot!
Some of you wonderful Planetarians enjoyed a mention – I can recall speaking about Felicity, Naomi and Melissa, for starters. I also talked about the incredibly thoughtful comments so often left on my posts by people like Carol, Julie and Shar. You should have seen the students’ smiles as they realised what possibilities lay ahead for them!
Going back to ‘Blogger 101’ level was fascinating – I realised how much knowledge I have acquired since I hit ‘Create blog’ on 24 July 2010 ☺.
What I spoke about
Many of you would be familiar with my ‘back story’ of how I started blogging. It was a thrill to see the students’ eyes light up when they realised how accessible blogging is, especially for the Gen Yers in the class as they tapped away on their laptops and checked their iPhones for messages!
I told them that blogging makes me feel:
Ø Inspired; and
I touted the delights of building a community on your blog, a place where you can meet with like-minded people and form lasting, real and enduring friendships. That seemed to surprise a few of them!
Blogging basics I have picked up
My hour nearly up, I then mentioned the following tips I’ve picked up so far – this was when they really hit their keyboards and started tapping away! This is what I covered.
Why do you want to blog?
Ø Thinking hard about your motivation for blogging is so important, don’t you think? Especially before you start blogging.
Ø Do you want to blog purely for yourself or reach out to an audience? Knowing that can completely change how you approach blogging.
Ø Something I had in mind when I started blogging was “Start as you’d like to finish”. Start confidently – it’s your space and you own it! Don’t start apologetically, bemoaning the fact that no one knows your blog exists. It’s a brand new space where you can totally control how you present yourself.
Ø I think it’s great to choose the tone you wish to use right from the start. Sure, we all fumble a bit in the beginning as we learn the ropes and gain confidence. There will be changes along the way. You will edit some posts and change post titles. But if, from the start, you write in an authentic and comfortable voice, then people will connect with you. They’ll want to keep following what you have to say. Consistency here is the key.
Ø I tend to use a conversational tone as I like to think we’re just chatting away over a coffee table. I’m a ‘what you see is what you get’ person.
Ø I use an ‘active voice’ wherever possible so it’s more engaging to read. Reading blogs written in the ‘passive voice’ holds little appeal for me as I find it hard to connect with the blogger.
Ø I have also made a conscious choice to include you all as I blog by using the ‘plural you’ to enhance the community feeling I’ve wanted to achieve here. Other bloggers use the ‘singular you’ to connect with their followers, making each reader feel like the blogger is talking specifically to them. Either way, I find it makes reading such blogs so much more enjoyable as you feel part of them, don’t you think?
Ø I find blogs with white backgrounds much easier to read.
Ø I prefer blogs with two columns, the main one for the posts and the sidebar for the widgets. That minimises the clutter.
Ø Think of your sidebar as valuable real estate. Only add widgets and links that are really important to you. Otherwise you’re just giving someone else free advertising!
Banner and title
Ø Choosing a striking photo for your blog banner is imperative. What people see ‘above the fold’ is critical in their deciding whether to read on or not.
Ø Choose a clear, easy to read blog title – something memorable, important to you and not too long so you don’t have a long URL!
Ø Use a clear profile photo with a white background so you really stand out in Blogland whenever anyone sees your photo. A personal photo is preferable as it encourages people to identify with you.
Ø Whether you use a photo of yourself or another image relevant to your blog, make sure that you use the same photo across all social media to be consistent. That really helps people identify, and bond with, you.
Information about you
Ø Once you’ve hooked a reader in by your dazzling banner and title, the next thing a reader looks for is more information about you. What makes you tick? What makes your heart sing? What don’t you like? Having a snappy and concise descriptor of you under your profile photo is a great start.
Ø Adding a longer ‘About me’ tab at the top of your blog is what people really want to see. Use extra photos of you and/or the people and things most important to you. If you’ve written a fabulous post on something really important to you, why not hyperlink it here? Then people will be drawn to clickety-click their way around your blog, falling down holes Alice-like, discovering more about you (did you just click on that hyperlink then – if so, I got you!).
Ø Use snappy and concise post titles if you can. Sometimes you might struggle to find one (like I did with this post ☺). But do try if you can – they hook readers in.
Ø I’ve learnt the hard way about the permalink consequences of choosing inferior post titles. Once you’ve created the URL for that post, even if you rename the post, the perma[nent]link remains the same. That can have consequences for the LinkWithin widget, for example – even if you change the post title, LinkWithin doesn’t recognise the change.
And that, sweet Planetarians, is a wrap! It’s been a long read but I hope you've found something interesting. Give me a yell if anything is unclear. They’re all just my observations – I’m no expert but I do read a lot of blogs ☺. And I’d love to know – would you have enjoyed such a guest lecture job? What would you have told the students? Do tell – I’m all ears!