Thursday, February 17, 2011

So, You Want to Start an Academic Blog? Four Tips to Know Before You Start

You’ve heard of blogging and the blogosphere. You’ve toyed with the idea of starting a blog yourself. But, you haven’t done so yet. Why?

I am sure there are countless reasons why an academic would not want to blog. But, let’s suppose for a moment that you do. How do you actually go about becoming an academic blogger?

To get started, there are four things you need to know: 1) The technicalities of starting a blog; 2) What your blog should be about; 3) How a blog differs from academic writing; and 4) How to get an audience for your blog.
ZUBIZURI

Tip #1: How to start a blog

This step is actually quite simple. Just go to blogger.com or wordpress.com and sign up. There are other services available as well and you can even pay to get your own domain name.

Before you go to set up a blog, you want to think about two things. 1) What will your domain name be? 2) What will the name of your blog be? These sound quite simple. And, if you are famous, they are. Just use your famous name as the blog and domain name.

If you are not famous, however, you might want to think about coming up with a domain name and a name for your blog that immediately let the reader know what your blog will be about. Some examples of informative domain names are: http://everydaysociologyblog.com and http://science-professor.blogspot.com/. These domain names that make it clear what the blog is about. Domain names should be descriptive and easy to remember.

Tip #2: Your blog needs to be interesting or useful

If you are blogging just so that you and your mother can keep tabs on your daily life, then you can put whatever you want into your blog. If, however, you want to create content that people actually seek out and read, you will have to write on something that is either interesting or useful. Notice that your blog does not have to be both interesting and useful, but it should be one or the other. A blog on programming in SAS might not be very interesting, but could well be useful to many a neophyte.

So, think about your expertise and figure out what you want to write about that is useful and/or interesting. Your blogging could be about your research interests, but also could be about teaching, climbing the academic ladder, using software, gardening, or whatever strikes your fancy. I do recommend, however, that your blog have a central theme to attract a consistent readership.

Tip #3: Academic Prose Does Not Belong in a Blog, but Images Do

Effective blogging requires writing as clearly as possible, much clearer than is expected in academic writing.

Here are some basic tips: Use short sentences. Keep paragraphs to a few lines. Don’t use jargon. Write as if you were explaining things to someone you really want to understand you.
In addition to style, you also want to think about format and content.

Use Subheadings.

In blogs, it is also best to use subheadings to make your posts easy to scan. When people read things on the Internet, they are unlikely to read every word. If they do read a whole post, they are likely to scan it first to see if it is worth reading. Making your blog post easy to scan makes it more likely that people will read it.

Use Images.

Include an image in each post. Pictures make your blog more attractive, and people are more likely to read a post with an image. You can access free images from the Creative Commons at flickr.com. Just make sure you provide the proper attribution when you use these images.

Pay attention to the titles of your posts.

Give each post a short, descriptive title. Titles that start with "How To" or provide a list of tips are among the most popular titles for blog entries. People like to know what they might learn before reading a blog post. A good title goes a long way.

Tip #4: How to Get Readers to Your Blog

To attract readers, first figure out who your audience is. Is it other academics? Political activists? Homeowners? Schoolteachers? Parents? Having a good idea as to who your audience is will make it easier to find readers. Once who know who your audience is, you can figure out where best to seek them out.

Use social media.

Advertise your posts on twitter, facebook, and any other social media you use. If you don’t use any, it is a good idea to at least sign up for twitter and have your posts automatically tweeted when you post them. Really, if you are going to blog, you might as well go ahead and sign up for Facebook if you haven’t done so already.

Use a subscription service.

People subscribe to blogs using a variety of services. Make sure that you include email and feeder subscription links on your blog page. If you use a service such as blogger or wordpress, these “widgets” are easy to find and implement. One caution: Don’t use too many widgets to clog up your page. Just use those that are most important.

Get in on the conversation.

Comment on other blogs and include your url in your comments. If there are other bloggers out there who write on the same topic as you, say hello to them and let them know you’d like to be included in the conversation.

Guest Post.

Write guest posts for more well-known blogs. If there are blogs in your field with a higher readership than yours, you may send a polite inquiry to the blog owner asking if you might write a guest post. When you do this, be sure to tell them why you are asking them, and briefly describe what your guest post would be about. Some of the bigger blogs have specific submission instructions. Follow those instructions.

There also are web courses and other programs that can help you get started. One great example is A-List Bloggers:



Ready, Set, Blog!

6 comments:

  1. Excellent Blog with some very interesting posts.

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  2. Tip #2 is definitely the one that will either sink or make your blog rise. I started an academic blog and got 100,000 views in about 7 months--a very rewarding experience. I think that if you do everything in this post, the rest will take care of itself.

    I also wrote a ebook on how I found a loyal readership and national coverage in my book--The Writer's Guide to SEO (aimed at English majors and academics). You can download that book here: http://www.selloutyoursoul.com/landing/seo-course-for-writers/

    To Tanya--if you want a free copy send me an email at selloutyoursoul6@gmail.com and I will send you one. Perks!

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  3. Thanks, James. I'd love to see it. I am giving a presentation on academic blogging at the American Studies Association meeting this Fall, so I need all the information I can get!

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  4. Thanks for the tips! This was a useful post :)

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  5. Hi! I am a fresh grad who believes in the power of education and it’s role in progress. I’ve had experience seeing people who don’t have any resources to go to universities (I live in a third-world country), and how they still have a burning desire to learn. What we do have is access to the internet. So I started my blog where people can get free educational resources and material for specialized subjects (Psychology, Organic Chemistry, Botany, etc.) and am in the process of expanding. I hope to share it with as many people as I can. I hope you can help me spread the news somehow. I am not doing this for fame or recognition (I use an alias).

    I don't know whether this is exactly the thing you do or how exactly to go about spreading the news, but since my goal is to share the resources with the minority, I hope this helps. I'd also like to expand on topics that people need, and I don't quite know how to do that on my own. Thanks for your time and I hope to be able to reach more people that need it. Thank you again!


    http://theresourcecorner.blogspot.com

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  6. Awesome post and incredibly helpful. A friend of mine is going to make a blog soon, will point him here.

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