Laura Hanson, Media Lab intern, Boston University SPH 2013
I have a confession to make: I’ve never published a blog in my life!
I’ve edited posts, suggested topics to others, even drafted a few entries for my own website, but I always get hung up on knowing what makes a blog ‘good,’ interesting, readable or easily shared over social media.
So naturally, as my first blog for the Next Mile Project, I thought I would share some tips gathered by scanning several online blogs dedicated to the art of blogging (of which there are many!). I hope this information is useful to you as you write, publish and distribute your own content:
Tips for writing great blog posts:
- Like any other creative process, spend a good amount of time brainstorming a solid topic idea. Will your topic idea be thought provoking, helpful, timely, maybe even entertaining, to readers? Clarify for yourself, what the purpose of your post is: to share a story or update about your program? To provide practical information or resources to others?
- Spend time crafting a great title. It’s hard to do but makes the difference between being ignored and being read and clicked on in a Google search. Think about it, we instinctively click on headlines that promise us some kind of gain or benefit. We recognize information that adds value to our lives or catches our interests – that’s what makes for a ‘magnetic headline.’
- Write a great opening line. Again, most people don’t keep reading unless the first line makes a strong positive impression. Unsettle your reader with a surprising fact, pose a question or tell a personal story to draw them in.
- Use the upside down pyramid structure commonly used by journalists; begin with the concluding statement and then use the body of the blog to provide supporting evidence and information. Make your point or state your argument early on rather than hide it in the body of the post, with the hope that your reader will discover it.
- Online readers are typically lazy and passive. Time is our most valuable commodity and as much as it hurts our feelings, people will give up on reading our posts unless we reward their attention with scannable, easy to read text. Using line breaks and bulleted lists to summarize important facts makes a big difference. Focus on making your writing succinct and profound rather than eloquent and overly descriptive. Click here for more writing tips.
- Change up your formatting to bring attention to certain words, phrases, and statistics. Emphasize headings and subheadings such that readers can be led through the post even if they only scan part of every section.
- Use pictures and info-graphics with descriptive captions or box quotes that tie in with the content. People are more likely to read photo captions than anything else, so good captions make it more likely that your post will be read too.
- Keep it short, somewhere between 250 and 1000 words. Keep in mind that the average blog reader will stick around for more no more than ~90 seconds. So if your topic complex or covers an ongoing issue, break it up into a short series. This will allow you to give the material the attention it deserves while providing an incentive for readers to return and stay informed.
- Write from the heart. Overthinking your word choice and trying to fit your posts into a template can water down your message. Readers want to learn something new, be challenged to think in a different way, feel connected to you and the people your non-profit serves.
- Find ways to connect with readers; link them to more information about your non-profit or ask them a question and prompt a discussion in the comments section. Comment on their comments and thank them for participating. If the purpose of the post is linked to a larger goal (getting people to follow you on Instagram or to host a run in their hometown) don’t be ambiguous about what you want them to do. Ask them post your video on their Facebook page, share the post with friends and family or register to host a run.
- Keep posts timely. Pick up on current events and issues. Strategically written posts are again, far more likely to be read and shared.
- Be careful to remove all typos, spelling and punctuation errors, polishing the post till it shines. Mistakes give your words less authority and heavily influence whether your post will be read or shared.