Reflection and 6 tips for new student bloggers

Mirror mirror on the wall I’ve become a blogger after all!  Blogs by their very nature are reflective.  A weekly (in the case of this assignment) view of a topic that shares thoughts following a conversation or something read.  So reflecting on the past three months as a whole, what have I gained from the overall experience?  One, a healthy respect for bloggers, it takes dedication and perseverance to maintain a sustained flow of information over a period of time.  Secondly, recognising the value of blogs as a form of two way communication.  Particularly compared to intranets where regular news updates are pushed out without the comment facility to create dialogue.  The biggest challenge going forward is creating a culture where people are willing to comment online in the same way as they might to any offline conversation.  If we are to believe Jakob Nielsen we will only ever get about 10% of users to generate content and a mere 1% doing the lions share.  I’d like to know what you think.  Will participation grow with generation Y?  Why don’t a greater proportion read and write?

For students taking up the social media assignment, the practical hands on experience in addition to theory is a powerful combination.  Do read Richard Bailey’s advice, in addition to that my tips are:

1) Choose your theme with care: The theme of this blog is Twenty Ten I was happy with this until in week two or three when I tried to add sharing buttons (twitter, digg, facebook, stumbleupon etc).  The just put a tick in the box beside ‘Show sharing buttons on this post’ does not work with this theme.  Even when you set to view only one post at a time.  In themes like Vostok and Black Letterhead this simple action works perfectly.  Some theme’s default to Times New Roman others to a more screen friendly font, they can be changed by adding HTML code but it is extra work.  So you need to experiment, then…

2) Quit procrastinating and dive in: The best way to learn about something is to jump in and do it.  Don’t get hung up about your name being ‘out there’.  After all, as a professional you should not be saying anything that would personally embarrass you or the company your work for.  Although it is a wise to state that your opinions are your own and do not reflect the position of your employer.

3) Plan: One of Richard Bailey’s best pieces of advice is “Do your communications plan for your blog like you would any other campaign”.  Yes, it does take you out of your comfort zone to send your work to friends, followers, colleagues, ex colleagues.  The first time you click send is the hardest.  As an unexpected bonus though, ex-colleagues you have not spoken to for ages come back with support and encouragement. The ones who end up commenting are not necessarily those you might think!

4) Routine aka time management or get organised: Set yourself a weekly calendar appointment to post your blog like you would any task.  Set up a spreadsheet with dates and add ideas as they come to you.  You don’t have to use them but one week you might have a couple of ideas and then you can push that book review over to another week you don’t have anything.  The saying that when you are not actually writing you are thinking about writing is true, so when you have a moment of inspiration use a notebook in your pocket or send yourself a text.

5) Fuel the Passion: If you are not writing about a topic you are interested in sharing or learning more about then my advice would be don’t bother.  If you are interested but just happen to have hit a block, then network with people who are their enthusiasm will rub off on you.

6) Most importantly give something back: Make the effort whenever you can to comment on the blogs of others in your cohort and further afield.  The most enjoyable part of blogging for me was receiving comments, some were serious, some were humourous, but all were appreciated.  It is the two way process that makes blogging come alive, that creates the conversation and the insight.

Dissertation beckons, if you have any tips you would like to share.  Blogging for the forseeable future will be some pro-bono work for a local charity.  My heartfelt thanks to all the ‘non-lurkers‘ who took the time and effort to comment.  For those still working up to it here’s your virtual nudge and a well known brand tagline – Just do it!

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11 Responses to Reflection and 6 tips for new student bloggers

  1. Hi Anne – I only wish my final blog had been so insightful. Your weekly contributions have been great and I have enjoyed reading them. Perhaps we can persuade LMU to let us submit our dissertations one blog at a time!

  2. Anne says:

    Thanks N
    Now there’s a thought! Thanks for your support along the way. Good luck with your own project and potential move/new job.

  3. Judge Jon says:

    Within the organisation I work for there is a shift to engage employees in a two way process of communication. Employees have the opportunity to post questions for the CEO to a live document and on a quarterly basis these are responded to.
    While the idea is fine (and there are up to 100 questions raised) the response time is n’t, often after three months the answer has come out in some other news format or the question no longer seems relevant. As a result I am not convinced engagement with the process is everything it could be.

    Good luck with your dissertation.

    • Anne says:

      Thanks Jon
      As a form of employee engagement what you describe will tick somebody’s box but three months in anyone’s world sounds like a long time to be waiting for a response. You have to wonder whether you are really being listened to at all! I’m guessing there is some sort of resource issue but the number of questions being asked might suggest wider issues. In any case it demonstrates that engagement is not just about putting in place a two way communications process but demonstrating you are listening, responding in a timely manner and initiating further action and discussion if necessary.

      Thanks for your support. I have particularly enjoyed your alternate worldview on various topics.

  4. cpurnell says:

    Anne, if I was marking module you would top the class. You blog rocks! I think you ahve not only explored some very interesting issues but you have written well and built a community like a pro- listening, digesting and engaging.

  5. Anne says:

    Thank you very much. Coming from a professional like yourself that’s praise indeed! Equally, you set yourself a tough challenge to review different aspects of privacy every week and I really enjoyed your style and perspective. Naked and standing in knobs and knockers springs to mind and before you jump in the social media trifle to name two. You definitely set the bar in attention catching titles.
    more here :

    Thanks for your support throughout and good luck with your dissertation.

  6. Claire Farfield says:

    Yes well done Anne. It has been nice to be part of a well kept blog. The variations in topic have kept me engaged. Our general area manager has a blog which is updated every month. Somehow it seems more relaxed than an email update or news letter so I think this type of corporate comms is on the increase. However no ever comments! Good luck with your dissertation.

  7. melanie says:

    Well I think Jacob Nielson has a reasonable position. I think, in many cases, posting a response on a blog doesn’t have that much value so it will never be that widely adopted. You don’t get what I am most interested in when I need to partake in two way communications; which are the subconsicious and tacit clues that tell you about the truth and completeness of the message, and, the individuals interpretation. This can often be more important than information itself unless of course you want a very basic question answered. In my opinion the best use of blogs are those for peer review of products/services etc and those for answering very basic and clear questions about something that the blogger has indepth knowledge of. If it is anything complex and you rely on a multiple blog responses you are receiving potentially biased and incomplete views that you are likely to misinterpret.

    When it comes to corporate communicaitons my advice is if you’re really interested and want the real story or inside information you need to get talking to people -face to face or you’ll be drip fed a little bits of information in slow time and in PC fashion via two way blog communications!

    Perhaps the only people who really want to leave blog responses just like the sound of their own voices too much or want to give a smartie pants opinion to show off, that is about all I want to do! He he

    Thanks for all the interesting comms thoughts Anne!
    Make sure you post a blog about you dissertation topic so I can leave some suggestions : P

    • black flatfoot says:

      yes, Mel, you are right-blogs have there uses…and limitations, but perhaps not always for the reasons expected. For me this blog was educational, sometimes entertaining, and even fun. All things I would never have expected from a blog. The fact the blog was well managed, with rapid and effective feedback from the owner contributed to this. Good luck for your dissertation Anne.

      • Anne says:

        Dear BF
        Thank you for your thoughtful contributions and support. Your comments have been probing and bought a valuable alternate perspective to the topics discussed.

    • Anne says:

      Hi Melanie
      Your point is valid and online media whether in the form of blogs, forums etc should never replace the need for good face to face communication. Where that’s not always possible a good mix of integrated communications is the next best thing. So the challenge still remains about how we get people to make more of that.

      Thanks for all your contributions and support.

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