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Tips For Adulthood: Five Traits Of Successful Bloggers

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. I’m teaching a bunch of classes on blogging later today at a local university. So I’ve spent...

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I’m teaching a bunch of classes on blogging later today at a local university.

So I’ve spent the past 24 hours immersed in “the art of blogging.”

One of the great things about teaching is that it forces you to reflect on all that you’ve learned about a given topic, cull that together and impart it to your students.

I’ve written before about five reasons I love to blog.

But in reviewing my material for today’s lectures, I’ve also reflected on what it takes to be a great blogger.

To wit, five traits of successful bloggers:

1. Curiosity. Contrary to what people may think, you don’t need to be an extrovert to be successful blogger. Susan Cain is a case in point. But you do need to be endlessly curious. The best bloggers I know – Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project comes to mind – never run out of material to write about because the they never run out of things that fascinate them. And they are able to transmit that sense of wonderment onto the page. Don’t believe me? Read this post by Gretchen on cultivating a sense of smell.

2. Perseverance. If I had a dime for every friend or acquaintance who told me that they were starting a blog and then never followed through, I’d be a rich woman. I was combing through my blog subscriptions in my RSS feed just the other day and realized how many of them had gone dormant. This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Blogging is a huge commitment and it’s not for everyone. But there’s no question that you can’t succeed at it if you aren’t willing to go the distance. Which is probably why even most blogs that do launch don’t last more than a few months. I point this out because most people who balk at starting a blog are concerned that they aren’t technically up to speed. But take it from me, the technical part is the easy part. (If I can do it, anyone can.) What’s hard is committing to your audience – and yourself – and persevering week in and week out.

3. Generosity. There’s no question that blogging is a more narcissistic activity than straight up journalism. But the best bloggers are those who not only get that blogging is all about community, they actively practice it. One of the things I’m emphasizing in my classes today is the all-importance of the hyper-link to blogging. Sure, it takes awhile when you’re just getting started to figure out which Online community/ies you belong to. But once you’ve identified that space, you need to be actively linking to that community:  through your posts, through your comments, through social media. This isn’t just a practical strategy for building an audience. The dirty secret of blogging is that it’s when you’re generous in crediting the work of other bloggers, it’s actually loads more fun.

4. Humility. Related to #3, the best bloggers are also humble. If they’re smart, they let their work speak for itself, rather than relentlessly and shamelessly self-promoting. I’m personally always wary of bloggers who only show up on Twitter or Facebook when they have their own work to share. It gives the impression that they’re just too self-involved. Another way to demonstrate your humility as a blogger is to own your mistakes and to not be afraid or unwilling to accept criticism. Time and again, I’ve been surprised and delighted to discover that when someone dumps on something I’ve written Online, if I just “show up” in the comments section and address them personally – taking their criticism seriously but also reasserting my own point of view – we can respectfully work through it, or at least agree to disagree. I think readers really appreciate it when bloggers take the time to acknowledge that they may be wrong or why they feel  they’re being misconstrued. The This American Life episode, Retraction, that I linked to last week is a great case in point.

5. Voice. I’ve written before about how important it is to set a tone when you blog. There are lots of different ways to do this, but basically it’s about conveying your personality on your blog and letting that shine through your writing. The reason voice is so important is that as a reader, it’s what connects you, emotionally, to the content at hand. One of my favorite bloggers, Colleen Wainwright of Communicatrix, recently took a short leave of absence from her blog. And when she returned after several months, I heard her voice again and realized how much I’d missed it while she was gone. That, to me, is the sign of the truly successful blogger.

How about you? If you are a producer and/or consumer of blogs, what do you think makes for a successful blog?

 

Image: Moo cards for blogging workshop by Mexicanwave via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

 

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  1. Lindsey March 28, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Love these tips, and agree with all of them. Particularly generosity, and voice … xoxo

  2. Lisa March 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    Nice post. I missed Colleen too:).

  3. BigLittleWolf March 28, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    I find that generosity is huge. To me, it indicates a desire to maintain the community. It’s about respect. It’s the natural currency of exchange in online writing that may bleed into journalism occasionally, but is more about a conversation.

    Authenticity is also major in my book – that consistency of voice that is backed by some degree of reality – experience, credentials, a genuine point-of-view that isn’t about self-promotion.

    It’s all too easy to create a false front on the internet, and so many of us are rapid consumers that we fail to vet our sources, confusing personal opinion with journalism, or desire to provoke with sincere conviction.

    • delialloyd March 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

      @biglittlewolf-good point. had forgotten all about authenticity…hugely important. thx!

  4. Nancy March 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    Thanks, Dehlia. I am a big fan of your blog, and it has helped inspire mine – VividLiving.org…Life in Full Bloom Thorns and All. Thanks for this post, and especially the part of hyperlinking. It’s so much work, so much time, and yet I understand this is how it’s done in today’s hyped-up social world.

    • delialloyd March 28, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

      Thanks Nancy-your blog looks great. I’m going to need to go visit! Appreciate your stopping by…

  5. Michael Tubridy March 30, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    An excellent post, Delia–especially points 1 and 2. Had I been forced to write about myself exclusively, I soon would have run out of material and readers. But because of curiosity, I’ll always be able to find something to write about. Perseverance is incredibly important, too: All writers need to get in the habit of parking themselves in a seat and just getting to it. The one thing I’d also mention is the importance of establishing a regular posting schedule so that readers will know when to come back to look for your stuff.

  6. Delia Lloyd March 30, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Thanks Mike. Funny-when I was teaching blogging the other day, I told my students that one way to build discipline around your blog is to set a regular schedule and stick to it. On a different note, I adore your blog precisely because it takes me all over the world – in time, in space – even when it’s only a short quote, and especially when it’s a longer post. Keep it coming-it never gets old!

  7. Kathryn Pritchett March 31, 2012 at 4:48 am #

    Delia,

    This was such a helpful list. I’m a seasoned journalist but a new blogger and appreciate these tips. I look forward to finding both my community and my voice as time goes on! Thanks again.

    • delialloyd March 31, 2012 at 11:40 am #

      My pleasure Kathryn. Thanks for dropping by!

  8. Mike Goad March 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    “…what do you think makes for a successful blog?” I can think of two points on this question.

    First: what does the blogger want out of the blog? If it’s lots of comments and visitors and/or making money, then success will, in many cases, if not most, will be difficult.

    Second: does the blogger enjoy what he/she is doing when blogging; has aspects of life that are enjoyable to the blogger been incorporated into the blog.

    I have blogs in three separate niches. On my personal blog I share my photography, travels, and sometimes commentary on other things. Selected posts from my civil war blog are shared daily on a Facebook page that several thousand people have liked. My RVing blogs are the moneymakers, though it’s only a couple hundred dollars a month.

    For me, each is successful in it’s own way. More importantly, for me blogging is a hobby that facilitates other interests — and pays for itself, even after taxes. So far as longevity, I’ve been blogging since 2004.

    • delialloyd March 31, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

      well done, Mike! Totally agree. If your passion isn’t there, the whole thing fizzles. I told the journalism students I taught last week that in answer to why I blog, passion and platform need to be there in equal measure! Thanks for dropping by…

      • Mike Goad March 31, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

        Came by way of Barbara Swafford’s facebook page. I’ve been reading, and commenting on, her Blogging Without a Blog blog for internet ages. :)

  9. Barbara Swafford March 31, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Hi Delia,

    First, thank you for the link love. I truly appreciate it.

    Having blogged for five years now,I have seen dozens, (maybe hundreds) of blogs go dormant. I’m not sure it the blogs just ran their course (I think blogs do have a life span) or if the blogger didn’t realize what all a blog entails. Your points are spot on, as is what LittleBigWolf said about being authentic. To add to that, I feel a blogger needs to ask themselves “why” they want a blog. If it’s only to make a quick buck, (because they read you can by having a blog), I think they might be disappointed in the work involved. That said, what I’ve seen is how many bloggers start blogging and via their experience online, discover hidden passions which they turn into businesses. The blog, in those instances, become a stepping stone to entrepreneurialship and some of the people in their community often become their clients and/or their best (unpaid) sales people/spokespersons.

    P.S, I didn’t know you are now teaching blogging. That’s fantastic!

    • delialloyd March 31, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

      @Barbara-totally agree. I think b/c of the self-reflection involved, blogging can allow you to discover new things about yourself and/or how you can be useful to others. I’ve read some inspiring stories along the way about this. .. thanks for dropping by!

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