I am up here at the Microsoft Ignite 2017 conference (#msigniteau) and I have been asked to give a 15 minute presentation on my experience blogging for the past 8-9 years. Rather than put together a PowerPoint, I thought I would write a blog instead and use this for my presentation.
I began writing ‘Leon’s CRM Musings’ back in August 2008. I used Google’s Blogger platform but, for various reasons, I found it quite frustrating so at the end of 2015 I migrated the blog to WordPress and renamed it ‘That CRM Blog’. I have written at least three articles per month for most of this time although I am now moving to two articles per month.
In terms of readership, I get around 1,500 views per month mostly from English speaking countries (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and India).
Here is what I have learned.
Get Good Tools
Open Live Writer
Usually I write my blogs with Open Live Writer but, as I have not brought my personal computer up to the conference, I am writing directly within WordPress. Open Live Writer is good because it works offline and allows you to manage multiple blog sites at once. I actually have a couple of other blogs I write so being able to do everything in the one place is very useful.
I employ the old writers’ trick of carrying a ‘notepad’ with my wherever I go to capture article ideas. In my case it is a Word document on OneDrive. It literally has five pages of titles for potential articles. These days I would use Wunderlist. If you are unfamiliar with Wunderlist, check it out. I use it for recipes, to-dos, and a whole raft of things.
These days I write my blog on WordPress. I have a free account and it does the job really well. If you are unsure how to use WordPress and the many add-ons available for it, go to YouTube. There are plenty of one-hour tutorials on there which, after watching one, will make you a guru.
Analytics: Bit.ly, WordPress Stats, Google Analytics
Bit.ly and a blog statistics tools are a simple way to gather information on your articles and the blog in general. Good for information and feedback but they should not be the focus.
Distribution Channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Internal Collaboration)
Reviewing my statistics, it is clear a good amount of the traffic to my blog comes from the promotion I do on these channels. LinkedIn is, by far, my favourite. I have subscribed to 50 groups (which used to be the maximum) and if my blog article is relevant to one of the groups, I promote it. I could use social automation tools to help with this process but, at this stage, I do it manually.
I also post my articles on KPMG’s internal collaboration site. Regular posting is a great way to get your name familiar with people who you would ordinarily not interact with as well as establishing a perception of yourself as an expert in your field.
The key message here is write once, distribute many. This talk is a great example of this as my blog serves as my presentation, the post-presentation collateral, and a blog article.
Keep Your Motives Pure and Be Authentic
If you are not writing a blog because you enjoy it, you are doing it for the wrong reason. Doing anything you consider a chore is hard to maintain. Also, if you are doing it for the money, you are doing it for the wrong reason. I make zero dollars from my blog and I am fine with that.
Similarly, be generous in your content. Share your intellectual property with no expectation of return. Delivering value is a keep part of blogging so make sure you do.
In terms of how to write the blog, I write as I speak and try to be myself. My hope is if you asked me about a topic I had written about, you would hear something very similar to what I had written. Similarly, if I gain followers, I would hope they like my articles for their content and the person behind them.
In showing the person behind the article, I recommend making a splash. Be bold, express an opinion. I have been called a ‘Salesforce Hater’ for some of my articles. I wear it as a badge of honour and being ‘the Dynamics CRM guy who keeps tabs on Salesforce’ has not hurt my reputation at all.
Finally, be dogged in maintaining your brand and reputation. Do not steal content, do not do paid endorsements without disclosure. I write book reviews and software reviews in exchange for a copy but I give full disclosure in my articles and make it clear that I will be impartial in my assessment.
Reputations take a long time to build but can be lost very quickly. A friend of mine, who knows CRM very well and is an excellent consultant has a blog and, unfortunately, stole content when he was short of time and wanted to publish. This killed his reputation in the small CRM community.
You Are Your Best Audience
In terms of what to write, my best advice is write what is interesting to you. The topics I write down in my Word document are ones which are interesting to me. The topic I choose to write about in my list is the one which is interesting to me at that moment in time. If you want to sanity check or refine the scope of your blog, check the analytic tools. I recently blogged about my most popular articles in 2016. This gave me a very clear message about the kinds of articles my audience enjoys. I will still write for myself but, if there are a few topics which interest me, my audience’s preferences give me a great way to decide what to write on.
Do Not Sweat the Small Stuff
There is a bunch of stuff I do not do which I could. Things like using clickbait headings e.g. I could label this blog article “25 Things to Make You a Blogging God” and it might get more hits. I prefer to generate my audience through word of mouth than manipulation but that is me.
I also do not worry about search engine optimisation or keyword seeding my articles to get hits. I simply cannot be bothered. I write and if people enjoy the articles, great stuff. If they tell others about them, even better.
The best tip I can give is just start writing. At first it will be random and disjointed but you will develop your own rhythm, especially if you commit to write regularly. Also, there is no better way to improve your writing than to write regularly and a blog is a great way to do that.
Finally, enjoy the experience. You will gain a reputation and people will appreciate your efforts. I had been at Microsoft Ignite Australia 2017 for no more than a couple of hours and I was approached and congratulated on my blog by a Regional Director. You simply cannot buy that kind of exposure, not to mention the boost to the ego.