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Blogging Baby Steps: How to Join the Conversation Without Starting Your Own

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In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.
—Andy Warhol

Most bloggers want more than Warhol's prophesy, me included. We want our blogs, our ideas to be widely circulated and to infuse meaning into today's conversation.

But there is a healthy respect and fear-factor surrounding the blogosphere. Several marketing and advertising executives have told me they are scared stiff about blogging. I have to admit there have been times like that for me—and I have some background in online community building. So I came up with some baby steps.

Listen first, and then join the conversation. I found this and other practical advice at the professional blogging site by Darren Rowse: ProBlogger (www.problogger.net). Rowse offers a range of educational articles on how to start blogging. Commenting is routinely in those primers, but few heed it.

To be successful in blogging, you need an energetic community of readers. Not all of us have our proverbial "ducks in a row" on Blog Day One, so this comment approach can ease you into the blogosphere and introduce you to fellow bloggers. These six steps have helped me restart my own blog.

  1. Key terms—what's your expertise? Define it.
  2. Identify the top blogs based on key terms.
  3. Build search alerts with those terms.
  4. Set up a comment tracker.
  5. Read the blogs related to your expertise.
  6. Post where your expertise is relevant.


Step 1: Pick a few key terms that define your expertise. Start broad and then go to a keyword generator like Nichebot (www.nichebot.com). You could generate your own list, but it is useful to see how others are searching—what key term variations pop up most often. Google Suggestions is another helpful tool to show what other terms are being searched and to brainstorm more terms.

Step 2: Search these relevant terms in Google Blog Search or Technorati to create a list of top blogs on your area of expertise. The Google Blog Search has an Advanced Search tool that offers very specific options to hone your search.

Step 3: Set up search alerts that arrive via email. These alerts are your alarm clock for checking out new blog posts and then commenting. As you've guessed by now, there is a tool at Google called Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts). To be fair, I searched for "Search Alerts" in Yahoo and MSN to find their alert tools—Google Alerts came up number one on those sites.

In the Alert tool, simply put in your term and select where you want the results to come from: blogs, Web sites, groups, news, or comprehensive. You select how often you want to be notified when someone writes about your term. You can also use RSS feed readers and feed search tools to create similar alerts, but then you have to wade through a lot more information.

There is a new blog aggregator called InvesLogic (www.inveslogic.com) that has an alert-like feature that I use and like. It is not yet as exhaustive as Google (which is a good thing), but it filters the best blogs in certain categories and sends you a daily digest of the latest blog content for that niche topic.

Step 4: Comment Tracking. If you start commenting in lots of places, it becomes immediately clear that tracking all these comments is tough. Fortunately, there is an easy-to-use service called Co-Comment (www.co-comment.com). I've seen others, but not tested them since Co-Comment works well. For those using Firefox, Co-Comment offers an add-on to track comments from your browser. You then log in to Co-Comment and see all your comments in an email-type window.

Step 5: We are now at the easy part—reading all those blog posts and finding the most relevant to your expertise so you can comment. A gentle reminder: you do not have to read all of these newfound blogs in order to start commenting.

Step 6: Be like Nike: Just do it. Post a comment. Then see what the response is when you check back. If you have set up your alerts properly, you will quickly see any response to your comment in the next alert. One caution: Do not try to sell or promote your product or service. Share your knowledge without selling. Do not be surprised if you hear back from the blogger directly.

* * *

Two final suggestions as you start commenting. The first one can go slightly against certain transparency rules in the blogosphere. If you are a super-swamped executive and want to be part of the blog conversation—you could hire a ghost writer to get to know you, your expertise, your voice, and then help you navigate as you enter the blog fray. There are blog-savvy writers, ghost bloggers, consultants who can help you take the right first steps.

Second, if you don't yet have a blog, you want to leave a trail to a profile about you. The best way to do that is to create a profile on LinkedIn and in the Marketing Profs Member Center. This is a safe way to let readers and bloggers learn about this person who is now part of their community. Create a link to this profile in your signature when you comment.

The ultimate value of commenting is that you establish a network of bloggers who know you—a collection of people and places where you add value and participate. If and when you decide to blog, you will have instant street credibility and active readers.


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TJ McCue has written for the Wall Street Journal, Sports Afield, and Backpacker, among others. He runs a sales and business development consulting firm, Q4 Sales (www.q4sales.com), in the Seattle area. Reach him via TJ@Q4Sales.com.

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  • by Jenny Sat Mar 22, 2008 via web

    This is a very readable and relevant article. It stops time briefly and allows people an easy peek into the world of blogging.

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