Blogging lessons from Walden Pond

I think Henry David Thoreau would have made an excellent blogger. I’m currently listening to Walden, his account from an over two year sojourn of isolated living, in a cabin he built himself, along the shores of Walden Pond, in Concord, MA in the late 1800s.

Basically, the book was born of the following perspective:

– I did something quirky

– People were curious about it

– So I wrote down why I did it and what I learned from it

Blogging basically follows the same formula. When you breathe life into the facts of an account through stories and personal experiences, you form a connection with the reader. Readers enjoy feeling connected, so they read more.

Now, Thoreau does have some long-winded pontifications, and learning the art of concise communication is another important aspect of successful blogging. But the essence of your account can still be obtained.

Take for example a more modern day account of simplifying your life. Andrea Dickson over at WiseBread gives an interesting perspective on why she doesn’t own a television. It’s quirky. She explained why she did it. And she offers lessons from her experience. And the result? Over 60 comments in a week.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Pen Maestro!

brian-and-andrea-for-blog.jpgIt’s official – my little brother’s a blogger. 🙂

You could say our family is just a bit on the entrepreneurial side. My dad owns a power cleaning company, my mom a laser engraving company, I’m a writer and my brother makes custom pens.

Earlier this weekend while we were out to dinner, Brian (my brother) talking rather passionately about his craft.

“Why don’t you blog?” I inquired.

He admitted that the thought really never crossed his mind, but upon doing some research we discovered that his niche is well searched with minimal competition (always a good combo!) and within a few hours my bro became a blogger.

Here are some reasons why I think Brian will excel at blogging:

1. Pure Passion – Brian could talk about pens for hours. He loves this stuff. And as I’ve said before – passion is the #1 ingredient to any good blog.

2. Narrative Writing Style – Brian is a natural blogger because he is able to tell stories from his own life and then extrapolate a universal lesson from his experience. Think Aesop’s fables – what’s the moral of the story?

3. Building a Community – While ulitmately Brian would like to sell more of his custom-made pens because of the blog, his real reason for the project is to create a community with others out there that share his passion. As he puts it, “I’m stuck in the workshop all day. It’s therapeutic to document all of the things I learn and find other people who can benefit from my experiences.”

Click here to visit Brian’s blog “The Pen Maestro”

Click here to visit Brian’s website and purchase some custom pens, wine bottle stoppers or letter openers for you or a friend.

Congrats, Pen Maestro!!

Humble Thoughts On Blogs, Social Networks, and other New Media Stuff

Last week Geoff Livingston and I participated in Smart Business Ideas(TM) Magazine’s Ready, Set, Grow event where the topic focused around blogs. Since our presentation I’ve been receiving e-mails from those in attendance regarding my opinion on social media. So here it is – humbly submitted, of course.

Who should blog?
Blogging is not for everyone. Keep in mind that although the operating costs are minimal, you still have to invest a significant amount of time to research, write and promote a blog. In my opinion, here are the three things you must have to start a blog:

1. Passion for a subject – I’m passionate about marketing. I could talk about this stuff all day long. To me, it’s easy to find stuff to write about because marketing is a topic to which I naturally gravitate. And you can tell just from reading my blog that this is really my life. My personality comes through because I’m passionate. Now, if I were to write a blog about, say, accounting (not a subject where I naturally gravitate) because someone said I “should” it wouldn’t have nearly the same effect because every time I would sit down to write a post I would hate it. Inevitably (if I had a blog about a subject I wasn’t passionate about) I would try to take shortcuts by reading and repeating what everyone else is saying without interjecting my own thoughts. At that point I would simply be regurgitating instead of contributing positively to a conversation.

2. Time – While the actual overhead expenses of maintaining a blog are (generally) low or no cost, you can’t forget about the time it takes to maintain a blog. Keep in mind there is more to blogging than simply sitting down to write.

A. Research – Reading related blogs so you know what’s going on around you takes time.

B. Writing – Hashing out your idea into a cohesive thought takes time.

C. Editing – Revising your cohesive thought so you don’t sound like a bumbling idiot takes time.

D. Analyzing – Checking your stats, referrals, and understanding what your readers like takes time.

E. Promoting – Registering at Technorati, putting widgets, continually adding to your blogroll, responding to comments and the thousands of other ways you can promote your blog takes time.

If you blog once a week, plan on investing at least 5 hours a week (especially in the beginning when you are getting everything set up) to produce a quality blog. For each additional post per week – add 2 hours. (Oh, and for those people who tell you they crank out a post in 10 minutes – I don’t buy it. Quality writing takes quality time.)

3. Dedication – I really liked how Geoff put it in his presentation last week – “Bloggers must be sharks. Not in the sense that they are aggressive – but in the sense that if they stop swimming, they die. Blogs where the author stops posting die.” With that in mind, you must commit to posting on a regular schedule. Yes, it’s tough – but it’s the way it is.

Facebook vs. Myspace vs. LinkedIn
Social networks are popping up everywhere. Yes, they can be amazing business tools. But they’re kind of like address books – they’re only as useful as the information in it. My advice? Don’t spread yourself too thin. Pick one and go deep. Don’t bother with other ones until you’ve mastered the first. If you’re new at all this, I personally think LinkedIn is designed to be the most effective in a business setting (and is the most intuitive to set up in my opinion). Myspace is more personal. Facebook is a little bit of both.

Widgets, Twitter, Second Life & Other Randoms
This July at the New Media Nouveaux Conference, speaker Brian Williams mentioned how learning about all this new Web 2.0 stuff is like “drinking from a fire hose.” And it’s an accurate description. It can be overwhelming, especially when you feel pressured to participate in every single type of tool available. Here’s how I see it – there are enough new tools out there to keep you busy for 27 lifetimes. So, if the premise of the strategy doesn’t feel right, you shouldn’t feel like you “have to” participate. I don’t use Twitter or Second Life because at this point in time, it isn’t a good return on my time investment. As I said before – it’s more effective to go deep into one tool instead of spreading yourself thinly across many.

I know my opinions are more down-to-earth than most – but hey, it’s what I think. What about you?