Blog Tips 3: Finding your Blogging Niche

An image downloaded from Blogging Help http://cpd.nottinghamhighblogs.net/2011/02/07/blogging-help/

An image downloaded from Blogging Help.

This is the third of a four-part series on blogging. The full set includes:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

Blogging can be a daunting task. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to get your self on track to a successful — and rewarding — Fulbright-blogging career. You can lay a strong foundation by considering: what niche your work can fill, what voice you will develop, what look and feel your site will have, and how you can get the most intellectual payback out of your own work. This blog discusses how.

Niche / Topic

Is there some subject you love to tell others about — or a unique perspective you can offer the world? (As your dissertation advisors would have said: is there a hole in the on-line knowledge base that you can help fill?)

If you’re a Fulbright, you likely have a specific area of expertise that you can help others understand!

There is a group of blog-writing Fulbrighters in Ireland this year. We all started by saying we’d describe our year-long experience. That alone is something of a niche… but being event more specific can give a blog more ump. We all sensed that and we each defined some sort of focus: design and photography (for me), language prowess (for Amanda Burnhard), and family growth (for the McDonald family).

An important consideration in defining your niche is that the straightforward diary approach necessitates posting a good deal of personal information (that is, if it is to intrigue a soul). So, when you think about it, you may decided you are more comfortable blogging about the subject you are teaching or studying during your Fulbright.

Know that if you’re teaching as a Fulbright, you’re already practicing the art of explaining ideas to a new audience. Why not break it down a little farther still, and post some intriguing concepts in a way that a general audience can understand?

If you’re researching as a Fulbright, this experience can help you learn to write in more interesting ways.

A cartoon about blogging, posted on the blog Ghost Stories and Haunted Placeshttp://ghoststoriesandhauntedplaces.blogspot.com/2010/12/year-of-blogging-and-time-for-me-to.html

A cartoon about blogging, posted on the blog Ghost Stories and Haunted Places.

In case you’re still puzzled about how to find your niche, the ETSY Blog Team recommends these simple steps:

  1. Follow your Passion! Write down topics that you would like to talk about, grab a pen and paper and list 20 or so activities and Hobbies that you like {Crafts,Photography,Cooking}.
  2. Narrow down your List! Would you be happy if working on this was your daily job? Do you have any particular skills or knowledge in that field? For Me, Love to write! It makes me happy! So I will write on my blogs for as long as I can.
  3. Access your Competition! As a mom Blogger myself, I can assure you that there are a lot of other “Mom bloggers our there”. That doesn’t get me down, It just make me want to succeed more and more with my blog. It makes me want to be Unique! To Write my own content and in my own way. I advise you to do the same!
  4. Know the Purpose of your blog! Is this your personal blog? Or Business? Are you wanting to make money from your blog? Or do you plan on making money in the future? {Coming soon a post about how to make money blogging}.
  5. Still Don’t have a Niche? Not a problem! I know a lot of successful blogs that write about something different everyday! There is nothing wrong with that! It’s your Blog so make it yours and write about what you are passionate about.

Voice / Tone

It’s important to identify who your audience is likely to be so you can work to engage them.  For me, knowing who I am talking “to” helps make the writing more fun. And, as The Blog Maven rightly asserts, “If you sit down to write a post and you leave your personality at the door, you’re selling yourself – and your readers – short.” I completely agree!

Note that your audience may grow and change over time (your blog’s stats feature can help you determine if it’s changing). That’s much of the fun of being a Fulbright. In the past couple months I’ve run into dozens of people — both in Dublin and at home — who have read my blog and want to know more about some topic or other that I introduced on it. As I said before: that helps me know I’m doing my (cultural-exchange) job!

By blogging regularly, adjusting your tone and pace, and determining what you and your audience most enjoy, you’ll find your own blogging voice. Will you, for instance, “speak” slowly and precisely or quickly and casually on your blog?

Tony Teegarden posted the following helpful advice, saying If you want loyal readers:

  1. Stand for something
  2. Provide good, quality content (helpful & useful)
  3. Be unique in your voice (delivery)

Some benefits of a unique voice are:

  • You attract readers of like mind
  • You become more engaging
  • You build more trust with your audience
  • You have a higher chance of turning readers into customers
  • You have a lot more fun doing it (enjoy the process)

Look / Format

Once you have determined your tone and favored subject matter, you can chose a blog template to match. Some template are designed for words — others for video, photography, or visual portfolios. This is your opportunity to coordinate the look, feel, and content of your site. I felt lucky to find a weathered looking template in green and blue that reflected the title I’d chosen, Ireland by Chance.

Old fashioned travel diary posted on Bill Sharp's blog http://billsharp.files.wordpress.com/2007/04/cr-journal-page-16.jpg

Old fashioned travel diary posted on Bill Sharp’s blog.

Get More Mileage

Clearly, as a Fulbright, you’re an extremely busy person! You’ve got to find ways to get the most mileage possible from your time. I reiterate: You simply must get more out of this task than just meeting CIEE’s expectation that you build a blog.

It’s too good an opportunity to waste!

Please take the time to ask yourself upfront:  What do you want to learn?

I wanted to learn about writing for a popular audience. I also wanted to share what I’d be seeing, doing, and thinking with family and friends. I wanted to have a colorful record of my adventures — and perhaps a legacy of sorts.

Other Fulbrigters are at work creating their won legacies. One is using her Irish blog to practice their language skills and another to record her family’s development….

Amanda Burnhard‘s blog is called From Montague to Galway: A Blog about Our Year in Ireland, Studying the Irish Language. It gives her a venue to practice writing in the Irish language. She posts everything in Irish and then, below that, in English.

Amanda’s blogging helps her connect to the people she’s meeting in Galway. It also helps people back home understand her experiences living abroad. But more importantly — in the big scheme of things — Amanda and her husband Jonathan are helping preserve use of Irish language and knowledge of traditional music. Amanda’s blog thus represents a contribution to humanity’s knowledge base about the Irish-speaking parts of Western Ireland. How cool is that?

Leonardo da Vinci "Anatomical drawing of hearts and blood vessels from Quaderni di Anatomia vol 2; folio 3v"     http://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/kunst/leonardo_da_vinci/Anatomical_drawing_of-hearts_and_blood_Leonardo_da_Vinci-1.jpg

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Anatomical drawing of hearts and blood vessels from Quaderni di Anatomia vol 2; folio 3v” (Image downloaded from Art Prints on Demand.)

Another interesting thing we can learn from Amanda (the Fulbright) and Jonathan (her husband) is how to use a team approach. Jonathan is active on Facebook and he brings their Fulbright-related experiences to that venue.  Amanda has chosen a more reflective working environment. She limits her social media activity to the blog. (Incidentally, Amanda posted a blog about staying at my apartment while I was out of town before Christmas, and an earlier entry that included a photo of Dave and me.)

Scott and Christine MacDonald developed yet another approach. Christine (the spouse of a Fulbright) is the one blogging about their Fulbright experience. Her blog is called A Year in Ireland. Christine’s blog provides a glimpse of what it is like to bring a family along on the Fulbright journey — something Fulbright Ireland encourages and endeavors to support.

In parting, I’d like to note that Leonardo da Vinci made regular practice of journaling. What an incredible legacy he left us in his journals!

So let us proceed boldly in our blogging adventures, my Fulbright friends, in hope that journaling will help us create a better world and inspire others to do the same.

A page from Leonardo DiVinci's journal, downloaded from Ashley Foden's blog http://ashleyfodendesigns.blogspot.com/2011/10/sketchbook-examples.html

A page from Leonardo da Vinci’s journal (downloaded from Ashley Foden’s blog).

5 Comments

  1. Hi Shannon, thanks so much for the mention! You have a great compilation of resources here, and lots of good advice for fellow Fulbrighters. I appreciate you! 🙂

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    Reply

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