Blogging for Beginners – the Movie

[Why the title? – because my last piece was a trailer]

This piece follows from a short talk that I gave recentlyto the Leamington Business Network – a local breakfast networking group. They were interested in what use blogging might be for small businesses, and so I told them that

It lets you get your ideas out to thousands of people on the internet, instead of a few dozen in a room.

So they said “tell us more.” And I did.

What I do

I’ve been running this blog since 2011. This is posting number 77, so I put out 1-2 a month. I’m still in many ways a beginner. You will know that it is a blog on (mainly) legal topics, with the emphasis on Landlord & Tenant, Contract, Legal Procedure and other points of interest. You will know that I write as Coventry Man, because I was in Coventry when this started, and I haven’t gone far even now. And the WordPress Elves tell me that I’ve had just over 10,900 hits in total, which is trivial compared to some, but respectable for the rest of us.

I told them a bit more but you know all that as you read my pieces, so I don’t need to tell you again. And I don’t need to explain how WordPress works, or that it’s the biggest and most user-friendly blog site, so a good place to start.

Why a Blog?

Blogs are good for a number of things:

  • longer articles than will conveniently go on Facebook or LinkedIn.
  • a series of articles, that people may want to look back through.
  • photos and pictures generally, although you will see that I don’t take advantage of this.
  • and they are easier to change than a lot of websites, especially law firm’s websites, where you tend to have to pitch to a committee  each time.

And best of all it is your blog, so you don’t always have to fly the flag for your firm, and can take it with you if you go.

Why do it?

Lots of reasons. Take your pick:

  • it’s a way of commenting on topical subjects to a much bigger audience than your front room, office or pub.
  • you can help other people by analysing difficult subjects and setting them out clearly, in a way that professional journalists, who don’t have the technical knowledge or experience, can’t manage.
  • you may be able to persuade the Powers that Be to change their minds and not do things that are clearly going to end in tears.
  • on the other hand you probably won’t, but at least you tried.
  • you can show off your technical skills, knowledge and friendly attitude to a larger audience some of whom may be so impressed that they come and see you professionally afterwards.
  • or you can just let off steam.
  • polish up your writing skills.
  • and let people understand whatever it is that you do a bit better.
  • you can publicise events, either your events or other peoples’.
  • photos and pictures can be very effective, especially if you do things that are photogenic, like bake cakes, or are writing about birds or the countryside. Not so effective for lawyers.
  • and if you have enough visitors you may be able to make money from advertising, although you need a lot of visitors, and a paid-for blog.

If you actually want to sell things you will need either your own website, or to host the blog yourself, which is much the same thing.

Tricks

Don’t look here. There are hundreds of sites that will give you hints and ideas, and tell you the 5 best ideas for a new blogger, or 10 things to avoid in a blog. Type the question into Google, look at  the results, and pick a few that are relevant to what you are doing.

What I can say is that you need to get organised, and make time in your diary for blogging, and keep a note of things that you might write about. Most importantly, decide why you are doing it, as this will colour all your actions.

And then get started, and stick at it.

Other Media

You are unlikely to be able to blog by itself, as nobody will read you, which rather loses the point of doing it. It is possible to read blogs by using the “Reader” function on the host site, and scroll through looking for something interesting, but most people don’t do that, especially if your blog isn’t promoted by the host, which they only do once it has a certain level of following. And you can get followers who click on a button on your site, so thay are sent links to new pieces that you put up. This is very slow however – I have about 30 after over 4 years – so it isn’t the answer.

You can of course tell all your friends and neighbours, clients, suppliers and so on by email/phone/postcard, and this can be quite effective, if rather hard work.

Or you can get your pieces linked (via eg WordPress’s Publicize feature) to  your pages at LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, so there is a brief entry on your timeline with the beginning of your blog piece and a link so your other followers can go and look at it. This is much more effective, and not really too much work for you.

I have over 1,000 Twitter followers as @CoventryMan so this is where I concentrate my efforts. The basic Publicize link is pretty basic – the title plus a shortlink –  so I usually put up Tweets with a bit more information every few hours for a number of days to make sure that enough people get to hear about the masterpiece. It seems to work. If the piece is any good you will normally get it retweeted by other twitterers, so that it can be read by all their followers too. An automated system like Hoot Suite, which puts out prefabricated tweets at specified times, would mean less work on my part, so I’m thinking about that.

Some people put their blogs, or the better ones, up on their own websites. This can be a bit unwieldy, and needs regular editing and pruning to keep things up to date, so it isn’t always worth the effort.

Of course, once you get well known you will get links and comments from other bloggers and even the more mainstream media, and publicity becomes less of an issue. You might even be able to get people to comment on your blog using the Comment function, and possibly get a debate on your own patch. However, I’ve not been able to achieve this yet, and comments are few and far between. Still, here’s hoping.

And is it all Worthwhile?

Definately. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and it’s good to get a chance to spread my words around the world. It has definately raised my profile as a lawyer, and might even have got me some new clients. So if this sounds like your sort of thing, get started.

[Note: normal service, on legal topics, will be resumed shortly.]

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Author: Coventry Man

A perspective from a litigation lawyer in the Midlands. After many years in Coventry I am now with David Lee Solicitors in Kenilworth, helping people with all sorts of litigation, especially property and landlord & tenant problems.

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