Chris Unitt is the managing director of Meshed Media. He was editor of Created in Birmingham, winner of Best UK Blog 2008, before recently standing down and now helps artists and arts organisations to make the most of the internet.
How to use your blog
Back in February I ran through an introduction to what a blog is, why you should be interested and how to get started with one of your own.
One thing I rather glossed over was the thorny issue of what to write about - it’s one thing to get a blog, it’s another to look at a blank (virtual) page and know what to fill it with. This article will hopefully give you some food for thought.
First, an analogy - blogs and paper
You can do a lot with a piece of paper - write on it, draw on it, fold it into an aeroplane and throw it across a room or use it to balance a wonky table.
Dig down a bit more and think about what you can write on paper - important reminders, love letters, poetry, maths, jokes, a diary, diagrams, lecture notes... get the idea?
Blogs are just as flexible. Really a blog’s just a website where the most recent content is put at the top. It can be a source of news, a tool, an information resource, a diary... Hitting delete might not be as satisfying as screwing a piece of paper ball and throwing it in the recycling bin but there are other benefits:
- What you write is out there for all the world to see (potentially)
- You can make use of video, photos and music
- The simple hyperlink is one of the most potent marketing tools you’ll ever use
There are a wide variety of things you can do with a blog. I’m going to run through the most common uses.
Telling the news
The most common thing you’ll see companies using their blog for is telling you what they’re up to. This makes a lot of sense - time was, if you had some good news to tell, you might send a press release to the local paper and/or trade press. You might have mentioned it in a newsletter too, if you had one.
These days you can publish your own information online. It’s then there for any visitors to your website to see and you can put the information out in whatever style you like.
A good example of this is the blog for the acclaimed computer game Braid. Jonathan Blow, the game’s developer, puts up announcements, links to reviews and interviews, responds to comments and talks through the game’s development.
Demonstrating your expertise
If you’re a company then you might well want to set yourselves up as experts in your field to boost your profile to attract attention to yourselves, perhaps be taken on by a bigger trade publication or maybe be asked to speak at conferences.
If you’re looking for a job (or might be looking one day) then you might be interested in demonstrating your expertise to potential employers on your personal blog.
By sharing information (how to guides, instructions and tips) you can gain attention - something that’s a lot easier to turn into work and, ultimately, money. For example, if I wasn’t writing this article then chances are you’d never have heard of me and wouldn’t know to call me if you needed to speak to someone about blogging or social media.
You may not like the idea of giving away your knowledge and that’s fine. You can establish your expertise in other ways. For example, the First Light Movies blog is worth reading for information about funding, awards, vacancies and news in the film industry (specifically as regards youth and community film making).
Showing off your inspiration
Similar to rounding-up information from across your industry, you can gain some reflected glory by using your blog to highlight examples of work that has impressed you.
Design agency Clusta is great at this. They produce design work for some of the world’s leading brands but often are unable to shout about it. Instead they use their blog as a repository for the photopgraphy, video, animation, typography and websites that inspire them. By knowing what they rate as quality work you get an idea of the sort of level they aspire to.
Documenting your work
Behind-the-scenes footage is a popular add-on to DVDs. People are often fascinated by the effort involved in putting something together. This is related to the idea that people like stories; to be taken on a journey from outset to outcome.
Graphiquillan is an artist who lays the creative process bare on her blog or aspects of it, at least. She’ll often show a painting from the original pencil sketches, though.
Remember that blogs are a blank canvas for your creativity and self-expression. In truth there are few rules that won't stand a little tampering with. Experiment. Try things out. Ask people for feedback. If it doesn’t work then you can always hit delete and start again.