Bloggers: Non-experts with big influence

Follow a few simple rules and you can have big influence too.

– By Hanah Van Borek

Traditionally speaking, if someone was looking for advice or information from the media they would typically go to an expert; an expert being defined by Merriam-Webster as one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject”.  In the world of Web 2.0, bloggers are often the go-to folks for advice or opinion with no certificate or degree required. All they need is internet access.  Once a writer’s blog is up, they have the potential to reach and influence an audience. It makes sense then. A person or company that wants to grab some attention can start a blog. It’s a great way to gain exposure. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and in order to maintain an influence a blogger must keep a wider audience in mind. This means writing posts that are useful, original and thoughtful.

Of course, as with most technology out there, there are good and bad means and ends to blogging. First, let’s look at some of the great things that make blogs positive forces in the (internet) universe.

Blogs allow people to shed their own light on a subject with a special human touch, something embedded in the personable nature of blog writing itself. Take for example, Alec Baldwin‘s blog in the Huffington Post. After Alec’s episode with American Airlines (the one where the flight attendant chastised him for playing Words with Friends during takeoff), he shared not only a public statement to the press but a personal glance at what really happened for him that day (read it HERE). A media interview might have allowed Alec to share the same message but his own writing has made it possible for him to connect with his audience, arguably giving him more credibility with them.

Next, blogs are easily accessible. It also means readers have access to the blogger directly and can engage with them or with each other via that blog – a fact that breeds community. Vancouver is Awesome has been around since 2008. Their mantra being “no bad news”, they focus on the positive stories of Vancouver. They do Vancouverites a favor by sharing great events with them while helping out Vancouver organizations by posting both their high profile and smaller community events.

Finally, what makes blogs especially popular is that they can be a gold mine for information. There are tons of blogs out there on all types of subjects that feature useful tips and tools. From car repairs to fitness to web design, if you need help, put a question out there and there’s someone who has blogged the answer. If you’re writing a blog you can be that answer someone out there is looking for and that makes your blog valuable.

On the downside, all that information can be a problem for bloggers. The fact is there is tons of info on the web and what makes a lot of it useful or purposeful sometimes is questionable. Blogs without purpose are essentially ineffective. So what makes for a bad blog?

To answer this question here are some of the blogging “don’ts” that ultimately lead to failure.

Shameless Self Promotion:

This is what happens when the focus of every blogger’s post is themselves and when their motivation for getting a following is to get free stuff from advertisers and sponsors. Honest bloggers who share personal stories or anecdotes are genuine and respected but there are some online out there simply to show-off and cash-in.  This is common especially with fashion bloggers. Many love to post photos of themselves with shoes, bags and other accessories given to them for free by a company that was mentioned in their blog. There’s nothing wrong with some promoting from time to time but those who only post photos of themselves showing off their swag are not offering anything informative or engaging to the reader. In any case bloggers need an interested readership to keep the free stuff coming .

Lack of Originality:

Writing posts that are original is key. With so many blogs out there this part can be difficult but one of the worst things a blogger can do is simply re-post information. Most readers aren’t going to get hooked on a blog if the author keeps sharing the same old circulated news everyone else is sharing.  This is a common habit of bloggers who take information from other sites. Taking part in the conversation is good but simply re-posting other’s opinions doesn’t make a blog valuable. A blogger who wants to earn attentive, trusting readers should remain authentic, offering personal experiences and ideas.

Poor quality content:

Of course quality writing is of the utmost importance. No matter the topic, if the content is poorly written it won’t fair well. This doesn’t just apply to writing, it also applies to all types of media including photography and video. Take for example, the number of bad quality food shots out there on the net. Just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it will photograph well. In the end, poor quality content strips away superficial style, and won’t keep the clicks coming.

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