Tuesday, March 23, 2010

20 thoughts on government blogging

I was asked today by a representative of another agency for my thoughts, advice and observations on government blogging.

While I don't think I have any particularly unique insights, I realise that people who are new to the medium are at an earlier point on their learning journey. So here's the 20 thoughts I shared (slightly reordered, reworded and extended for flow).
  1. Post at least weekly to maintain an audience. Less than weekly tends to lose your audience as they don't develop a habit.

  2. Keep a couple of posts in hand at all times to cover busy periods. Otherwise you can easily miss a few weeks and start losing your audience.

  3. Where possible keep each post to a single concept or topic. If you have multiple topics, consider breaking them into multiple posts - even parts in a series if appropriate (people will return for Parts 2 and 3 - or seek out Part 1 if they start in the middle).
  4. Keep posts as succinct as possible. I use 250 words as a rule of thumb for length (though break this for in-depth pieces). Posting very short (50 or less word) items is fine if there is value.

  5. Create an RSS feed for your blog. This will account for potentially 50% or more of your readership. Consider using Google Feedburner or a similar tracking service to allow you to report on RSS traffic more effectively.

  6. Cross-promote the blog via your other channels. For example, in Twitter announce your posts with a link; in email announcements include a short summary and your blog and include it in email signatures.

  7. List your blog in appropriate directories and services such as Technorati. It leads to new traffic.

  8. Design your blog to look like a blog. Wordpress, Blogger or Typepad blogs are the 'norm' that everyone looks for, just like Google is what people expect in search. A blog that doesn't look like a blog won't be reacted to like a blog.

  9. First impressions count. Launch your blog with 5-10 posts already live to give people valuable content to start with and to communicate to them the scope you will be covering. This can include older information rewritten for the blog.

  10. At minimum moderate the first comment made by an individual. This reduces spam significantly. Moderating all comments is OK for risk-adverse agencies, but does stifle discussion - be aware and weigh the risks both ways.

  11. Make sure the topical scope of your blog and your moderation guidelines are visible and transparent. Review them regularly to ensure that they still cover what you need.

  12. Give people a reason to engage with you through comments. This can be done by asking questions or posing dilemmas and ideas. Avoid simply posting authoritative statements - save them for media releases.
  13. Use guest posts to add diversity of views and encourage the audiences of other writers/bloggers to 'try' your blog.

  14. Release information exclusively/early on your blog where possible. This will encourage people to visit it regularly.

  15. Keep post approval processes simple and fast. I appreciate this can be a challenge. Keep moderation approvals simpler and faster. Where possible write guidelines on what is acceptable/unacceptable and have it signed off by senior management so that you can manage the blog on a day-to-day basis with a minimum of overhead.

  16. If you post something incorrect, edit it ethically. If a spelling or grammatical mistake, or a broken link or formatting issue, correct your post. If a factual correction, add it below your post as an edit or as a comment that acknowledges the error. People will respect you for it.

  17. Blogging is a journey, not a destination. Keep your blog iteratively evolving and live. I 'play' with the design of my blog every month or so - adding new resources, links and features and removing those that didn't work.

  18. Put a name to your posts - just a first name is fine (if required for privacy). If there are multiple authors, use their different names with their posts. People blog, not organisations (organisations send announcements).

  19. Keep individual personalities (linked to names) in posts. Nothing rings more false than a sanitised and cleansed neutral tone. People have their own writing styles - used to great effect by newspaper columnists. These styles are what make the columns interesting, and make your blog interesting.

  20. Give your blog time to find its feet. It can take 6-12 months or more for a blog to find its audience. Few succeed overnight or in a 6 month pilot. However be ready to kill it if it simply doesn't work out. Not all blogs are successful.
Anyone have other blogging tips? Please share.

1 comment:

  1. Nice summary, Craig. I might add 'Put some thought into the title of each post. Use keywords that search engines will pick up, to drive new traffic to your blog.'