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Get Serious About Blogging

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Recently, Pinterest and Instagram have gotten all the press, as businesses frantically race to establish a foothold on what may be the next super–site. But that doesn’t mean they’re the most useful social media tools for all companies. Sure, some companies shine on those photo-based networks. However, for companies and people that aim to be recognized for their ideas, the clearest — yet most underrated — path is through blogging. It seems like blogging has not been talked about in years; still it’s considerably more essential than ever, as some companies recognize.

Indeed, if you want to shape public opinion, you need to be the one developing the narrative. An amazing study by Yahoo!showed that only 20,000 Twitter users (a mere 0.05% of the user base at the time) produce 50% of all tweets consumed. A small number of “elite users” set the conversational tenor, just as in the overall community of blogging.

Blogging’s ability to impact conventional discourse has never been better. Decades ago, we knew that when someone decided to put something on the web — but not in an actual paper — it was a brushoff. Fewer people would see the web content, and (before Google) it would dissipate into non–existence; it wasn’t solid like a real paper on someone’s doorstep. Now, the hierarchy has been turned around; content lives eternally on the internet and will be seen all around the world.  Nowadays, we’re measured by the quality of content — not its brand name. If you create top-notch content, you may legitimately become a source as powerful and trusted as the “legacy media.”

Of course, it’s no secret that the number of blogs has skyrocketed in recent years. At the end of 2016, there were 350 million blogs, compared to only 152 million in 2013. It’s harder to be noticed as the noise level grows. But there is cause to think that serious (high-quality, idea-focused) competition in the blogging community is likely to decline in the future, thereby increasing your influence.

One cause is the sad decline of the paid news media, which has nearly cut in half the number of professional journalists  gathering information and providing quality content.  Next, amateur bloggers are likely to drop,  simply because it’s a hard job to keep up at a high level. Creating an informative 1000 word article several times a week, for little or no money, is much more challenging than snapping a photo or sending a 140–character tweet. This is part of the reason the level of blogging is decreasing among teens and young adults, who would rather spend their time on social networks instead.

Writing is still the clearest and most definitive medium for demonstrating expertise online. As long as your content is rich and thoughtful, you can still establish an enormous following and reputation, no matter your channel. In an information-hungry world, there will always be a need for expert content. And there will always be more readers and “retweeters” than there will be creators.

If you want to be influential, you might as well be the one setting the itinerary by blogging your information.

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If You Want People To Read What You Write

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Whether you know it or not, when you write an e-mail, you are designing. And good design gives you an edge. How big of an edge? It’s the difference between getting read or getting ignored. You don’t have to understand Photoshop or other design software to be able to write clean business communications. You just have to develop an attention for the difference between visual order and visual distractions.

Since you are probably like me and don’t have time to take a design course, here are some basic rules:

  • Ask yourself: Does this writing have a sense of structure, or is looking at it painful?
  • Shorten your writing. Get to the point and be respectful of your audiences time.
  • Tidy up messes. Even if you did not make the mess, your recipient will thank you.  If you’re sending someone a thread but only one sentence of it is important, remove the unnecessary 34,000 words. Delete automatically generated dotted lines, indentations, and fonts in multiple colors.
  • Cut down on the total of hard returns, particularly in e-mails. They generate visual noise.
  • Steer clear of large, massive blocks of text. Absolutely no one will read them.
  • Don’t get fancy. If you haven’t taken a design course, stick with a classic font. Don’t use more than three font variations on a page. That means changing typeface, size, or style (i.e. italics or bold). Don’t underline.
  • For e-mails, pick a font that is web safe (e.g. Arial, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Verdana). That way, you will ensure that the way your message seems to you is the way it will appear to the reader.
  • Learn to use pull quotes. If you have a long chunk of text, take out the most significant sentence and create asimple way in for the audience, like a magazine would.
  • Understand to enjoy white space. Don’t load the page edge to edge with writing. Leave room for items to breathe.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Break up a business plan or a memo with professional graphics. Stock photography or illustration houses like iStock and Pexels are your friend. Just make sure not use tacky pictures.
  • Be attentive with color if you don’t know what you’re doingyou could hurt someone. Stick to one color, like black,to be safe and use shades of gray to add class.

If you forget all of this, just think simplicity. Less is more. Good design doesn’t insert thingsit takes stuff away. Don’t get fancy; don’t overdo anything; and don’t use gimmicks. Simplicity and power are not mutually exclusive. They are often one and the same. Do any of these annoy you or are you guilty of any?