Blogging Basics: An Introduction to Starting Your Own Blog

Have you ever wanted an informal space where you can share your ideas or rant about the problems in your sector? A blog might be just what you need. In this series of articles we'll take you through how to develop your blogging strategy, setup your own blog and measure your success.

What is a blog?

A blog is an online space where you can easily post articles about your organization or area of interest. It’s a bit like an online journal and is a great space to post opinion pieces, personal commentary or informal updates on your work.

Each article on the blog is called a post. The posts are usually displayed as a short intro paragraph, possibly with an accompanying image, and a link to click on to read the whole post. They are short and generally quite informal.

Blogs generally only contain blog posts displayed in date order, (the most recent at the top). Although old posts remain on the site, they are increasingly difficult to find as new articles are piled on top. There is a search function to help find content, and you can link recent blog posts to older posts in various ways.

A number of different authors (called contributors) can write for one blog. This means that you can get different voices and perspectives coming through. It also allows you to have a dynamic blog that is regularly updated, without placing too much burden on a single individual. So as an NPO, you could have an organisational blog with different staff members contributing, or you could have an issue-based blog with contributors from different organisations. Each contributor can have their own picture and byline attached to their posts.

A key feature of a blog, is the ability of readers to comment on the content on each post. The author of the post, or other contributors to the blog, are able to reply directly to comments, or to comment themselves. A blog thus creates the space for dialogue which can be very constructive. It can also be destructive and a time-sink which we’ll discuss more in our article Trips, Traps and Trolls.

Should you have a blog?

Not everyone is cut out to be a blogger, and not all organisations will be able to maximize the benefits of having their own blog. Should your organisation have a blog?

  1. Have you got something important to say? This could be important personal stories to tell from out in the field. Or it could be trying to set the political agenda. Or it could be conversing with a particular target group (teachers or health workers or police) about issues important to them.
  2. Have your staff got the interest, time and skills to be successful bloggers? Blogging is time consuming. It’s not just the time to write the posts, it’s also the time to monitor and respond to comments, analyse usage, market the blog etc. And some people just don’t enjoy it or haven’t got the appropriate writing skills for the task.
  3. Will having an online community help you achieve your goals? Blogs are great for imparting information and engaging readers in discussions but building a readership requires work. Will this be of benefit to you or are there better communications strategies for you to use.
  4. Can you handle the negative side of things? Commentators are going to get sarcastic and even mean. There will be commentators out there intent on distracting and annoying you (called trolls). Things you say will be taken out of context and blown out of proportion. You cannot control everything that happens on a blog. Can you handle it?

Is your blog successful?

Is all the time and effort that you are putting into your blog worth it? Are you speaking to the right audience? Is your content appropriate? Are your readers responding in the way you want them to?

In order to answer these questions, you need to constantly measure the success of your blog.

First, you need to make sure that you have set up clear goals for the blog. These will include goals for the number of times people have read your blog posts (hits), as well as interactivity goals (the number of people commenting on your blog) and the number of people who subscribe to your blog. These stats are usually available via the blogging platform.