Advice to The New Bloggers

Blogging has never been popular in Uganda not until a couple of brilliant tweeps came up with the #UgBloggers7Days Challenge this week. There is no doubt that Ugandan bloggers whether seasoned, consistent or beginners are very good at writing and have discovered that blogging can help them create a notable online buzz through telling stories about Uganda and reach out to thousands people in the Kaguta land.

When I started blogging nearly a year ago, I did it as a way to document what was going on in my life and current affairs at the time. No more; no less. My blogs were far from perfect. I made lots of mistakes, from not adding graphics, to frequent typos, not always writing my best and to not promoting my blog — partly because I just saw it as a way to share with friends and family. As time has moved forward, I believe my writing and my blog have improved. I’ve made several changes over the year: creating a new blog name, adding graphics and personalising themes frequently to name a few.

Part of the improvements have come from reading other blogs. About a year ago (or so), I discovered a whole world of bloggers existed. I started reading several regularly and exploring new blogs. With the advent of the blog hop, I found even more to read and follow. Here are some tips to making your blog good and friendlier to your readers.

WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE

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What is your blog about? Gossiping? Feminism? Abanonya? your campus diaries? Government? Whatever it is, make sure it’s “you.” Maintaining a blog is a lot of work, and if you don’t love boogers enough to write about them several days a week (or once a week) — until the end of time (or you quit) — don’t start. If you don’t have the passion for your topic, you don’t have much to offer your readers… and, they will soon be gone.

Write to express, not to impress

I personally LOVE coming up with new different ideas, politics and giving advice. I always have. It may sound weird to some, but that is “me.” When I get a phone call from a friend in need of ideas or advice, I get a rush. Really. That’s how much I like it. People ask me all the time if I ever worry that I’ll run out of things to write about, or ideas to share on the blog, and I can easily say “no.”

So, think about where your passion lies (it need not be one), and blog about it. One word of caution I have is to not get caught up in the band wagon of blogging, reblogging or giveaway trap in an effort to gain readers. I’ve seen several great blogs quickly go downhill because they run out of ideas after two weeks of blogging. Their content suffers and I don’t know about everyone else, but I take off in a flash. See ya. It’s fun to get #FOMO fever, reblogging every once in a while. But unless you are a blogger dedicated to those things, that is NOT why the majority of your readers are coming to you. They are coming for your content; to revel in your passion. Don’t leave them hanging. What you want is readers who LOVE reading what you write about, not readers who sign up because they have to in order to enter your FOMO trap. That’s not how you build an audience.

Anyway, my whole point… write about what you love and stay true to your blog.

BE DIFFERENT

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The truth is, that whatever you choose to blog about, there are probably already many other blogs on the same topic. So spend some time thinking about ways your blog can be different than the rest. If you’re doing a lifestyle blog, see if you can come up with some new ideas that most other lifestyle blogs don’t do. A few months back, I stumbled on @fodexpression ‘s blog fodexpressions23.wordpress.com which is dedicated to plot twists and satire. I thought that was so clever, because really… lots of stuff we see on the news is not that appealing unless you twist it into something funny.

Look at other blogs in your same genre(s) and change yours up a little. Maybe if you’re doing a blog based on personal experiences, you could host monthly reader hang outs, where they meet you and share their experience with you physically. You try it, pick your good followers, and meet them! That sounds fun… never heard of anyone else doing it. You know what I mean? Maybe the premise of your blog will be basically the same, but just see what you can do to come up with something different.

USE GOOD GRAMMAR AND SPELLING

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I love reading a blog where the personality of the author shines right through their written word. You feel like they’re right in front of you, sharing their thoughts. The posts are more engaging and easier to read… is that redundant? Either way, let your personality shine through. Let your readers build a connection with YOU while they read your content.

Blog posts filled with spelling and grammatical errors make me cringe, and I’m by no means a grammar expert. If I see someone writing about how they hope to “loose weight” instead of “lose” it, I get annoyed. I realise that typos happen that you might not catch even though you read your post several times — errors that even spell check misses. I’ve done it. Usually I feel like an idiot when I notice that I’ve done it (and my heart tells me there is one in this blog already!). My issue is when a post is a page full of errors, or a when a blogger writes like they are texting their friends in shorthand.

Be sure to read over your material a few times to double (or triple) check your spelling and grammar. Oh, and NEVER use texting shorthand to write your blog post.

If, for some reason, you have really bad spelling (and won’t use spell check), can’t remember the difference between “lose” and “loose,” or have a hard time organizing your thoughts, maybe you should wait on the blog thing. Readers are fairly forgiving of misplaced commas and the like. But don’t you dare mix up “their,” “they’re,” and “there.” You’ll be in a world of trouble from the grammar police/nazis. There all over the internet especially Twitter 😉

…did you catch that?

So, my advice… keep it casual. People will love it. That doesn’t mean you need to be a foul-mouthed yucky; just be you, in a good way, casually.

GOOD CONTENT IS KEY

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Write content that YOU would want to read. Avoid the painstakingly obvious. It stinks to get really excited about a post title, only to find the content obvious and worthless. Hmmm… I don’t know, I imagine that someone, somewhere, could think that about any given post I write. You’ll never please everyone. But really, put effort into being creative. Let’s say you are doing a post called “5 Great Tips for Campus Lonely Hearts” In my mind, I’m like, “sweet!” I open the post, and the tips suggested are See-a-Chic-Tell-Her-Onkubye, Edna May I unleash my manifesto?. “Okay, really??? That’s what you have to offer??” No, thanks. See what I mean? The Internet (and, magazines, for that matter) tend to be full of the obvious. Make your blog stand out with GOOD, creative, helpful, inspiring content.

RESEARCH

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One of the best things you can do to help your blog grow is to study bigger blogs. What are they doing that you like? What do you not like? Look at lots and lots of them and take notes. Maybe they have some cool widgets that would be helpful to you. Maybe they are running a contest that is really exciting their readers. There are so many things you can learn! Obviously, you don’t want to copy everything someone else is doing, but pick out your favorite things from several different blogs, come up with ideas of your own, and even learn things you would never want to do.

But… sometimes just when you’re feeling excited about your blog, you decide to check out some other ones, and then you start to think, “Gosh. Mine stinks. I shouldn’t do this anymore.” That’s when you get off their blogs and focus on your own. Blogging is not a competition. It’s a fun way to express ourselves and share our passion with the world. There’s room for everyone. Maybe your blog will never be HUGE, but it can still make a huge impact on your readers. So, focus on that. The minute I start to try and mimic someone else, is the minute I suck. You will always get the best response when you’re being yourself.

FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT

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Is that lying? I guess, in some situations. But what I mean is: Put your best foot forward and be overly confident. It can get you far. Your blog may be as small as a pea, but make it look as big as the best. Obviously, money can be an issue. But, just do what you can to have a nice layout and an attractive header. When my blog first started, my first attempt at designing it was a disaster. I later learnt how to create widgets and how to make a header and do a custom layout. It is great for my new beginning blog look, because I stepped up.

As time goes on,i feel i should blog over and over again. I am loving it! But each time, I always feel my blog doesn’t look better than i really want it to be! It kind of forces me to rise up and improve everything else almost every time i log into my account. Besides motivating you to continuously improve your blog, a professional-looking blog attracts more people. It makes them think, “There must be some good stuff here.”

When the Uganda National NGO Forum noticed my blog, they emailed me. They asked if I liked to write. The truth was, I kinda did. Kinda. The blog hadn’t been around that long, and I hadn’t made lots of blog posts. I would have never considered myself a “writer” enough to write Black Monday Newsletter Cover stories, that’s for sure. But, I took a deep breath and faked it. I was scared out of my mind, but it worked. Not only did it help my blog, but it boosted my confidence. I started writing for them like crazy, and now… as you’ve noticed, the blog has relative tons of writings! And, I’ve done several other writings for Riftlyrics in support of Ugandan music, New Vision and had many other opportunities, which have all been fun. I could tell you several stories about times I’ve had to pry myself out of my sweatpants and into my fancy pants to seem impressive. Inside, I’m totally unsure of myself, but I suck it up, put on my confident face, and things are better because of it. I learn a lot, get new opportunities, and things improve. Try it.

DO GOOD

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There are so many great blogs on the Internet. There are also a lot of crappy ones. And by crappy, I don’t mean new and undeveloped. I’m talking depressing, bitter, foul, make-you-wanna-die blogs. And, sometimes I can’t believe how many followers those blogs will have, until I remember that “misery loves company.” Sure, everyone has a bad day or a rough patch, and it feels good to let out a good rant. I do it myself sometimes. It’s just so disheartening to stumble upon these blogs that are dedicated to their bitter attitude. Sometimes it’s super blatant; other times it is a constant underlying theme. Blogging is a fantastic platform; use it for good. And, whether you believe in luck, karma, or blessings, remember that goodness brings about goodness, not only to others but to yourself.

MAKE IT EASY TO SHARE AND TO LEAVE A COMMENT

I absolutely HATE blogs that require you to jump through hoops and Kampala city pot holes just to leave a comment. I enjoy leaving comments and sharing, but I won’t if I feel as if I’m doing an obstacle course to leave the comment.

Avoid using a comment system that requires your readers to be a member of Google+, Facebook, or Twitter (or other). It is just inconvenient and irritating.

Stop using CAPTCHA. It is annoying. If I can’t figure out what those letters and numbers are the first time, I doubt I will keep trying. I’m sure I’m not alone. You want to make it easy for your readers to leave comments and oh… Sharing is caring.

MAKE FRIENDS

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Remember, never find yourself too cool to respond to your readers’ questions and comments. Your readers will love to hear from you, and will be impressed that you addressed them specifically. Interact with them on your social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook or WordPress. Visit their blogs, if you can, and leave a comment. Be complimentary and humble, and all of those good things. Not only does it make you a better person, it makes people more likely to want to read your blog and tell others about it.

Last of all, have fun!

Day 3 #UgBloggers7Days

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