Hi, my name is Dan Erickson. I teach communication at Yakima Valley Community College. Recently, I’ve developed a course for students to learn the basics of blogging and social media as a way to develop an online presence. The course is a great starter course for anyone who is interested in creating websites and blogs.
Introduction to Online Writing focuses on developing blogging and social media skills. These skills are becoming more and more desired in today’s workplace. It’s also a good opportunity for students to learn some basics about entrepreneurship. Students learn how to create a blog. They may choose their own themes and topics. Students will also learn how to use social media to promote their blog. Click here for info on course materials.
What This Site Is About
I’ll simply be using this site as a teaching tool. I operate two self-hosted blogs: www.danerickson.net and www.hipdiggs.com, but I’m using the free WordPress platform in the classroom. By setting up this blog, I’ll be able to understand and address issues students face with their own blogs.
If You’re Interested In Blogging…
You can sign up for the course. Currently, the course has a face-to-face component, so you’d have to be local to the Yakima, Washington region. In the near future, I hope to offer CMST202 completely online. The course is still in the developmental stages. You can contact YVCC for more information.
Why Take A Course About Blogging And Social Media?
- It will improve your writing skills.
- It will improve your computer skills.
- It will improve your networking skills.
- It will strengthen your resume.
- It is fun to learn new skills.
I Hope To See You In One Of My Classes Soon!
WordPress is one of the most popular blogging sites in the world. Although you can get paid WordPress packages, they also offer free blogs for beginners.
The first thing you need to do for this class is sign up for a free blog at www.wordpress.com.
- Go to WordPress.
- Create a new account: All you need is an email address, a user name, and a password.
- Verify and activate your account through your email.
- Preview and select a blog theme.
That’s It!You now have a WordPress blog. Feel free to experiment a little. We’ll discuss creating an about page in an upcoming lesson.
Before we discuss writing the about page, I’d like to take a moment to familiarize you with the WordPress dashboard:
Click On “My Site” To Get Started
In WordPress, once you click on “My Site” in the upper left corner, you should see the following menu:
- Your blog
- View site
- Blog Posts
We’ll be discussing some of these items in more detail in future lessons. For now, I’d like you to click on each of these. Read and explore.
Setting Up Your About Page
The about page is one of the most visited pages on a blog. It’s important that you create an excellent about page. You want people to know who you are, what your blog’s about, and what you can do for them.
- On your menu, go to “pages.”
- There should be a sample about page: You can simply edit the sample page or delete it and start a new one.
- You should use a combination of subheadings and paragraphs: When you’re in the edit mode, simply click on the “paragraph” in the upper left to find your options.
- You need to include a photo: Remember to make sure that your photo matches your Facebook and Twitter profile photos. To add a photo, you simply click on the photo icon just left of the “paragraph/subhead” option. After you click on the icon, you should be able to drag and drop a photo. This will be the start of your media library. Once the photo is in the library, just click “insert” into post. There are a few editing functions, too. Play around a bit.
Writing Your About Page
- Start with a friendly introduction of yourself: Keep it simple. Just a few sentences will do.
- Tell us about your blog: What is the topic of your blog? How often will you post? What will your articles cover?
- Tell us what you can do for your readers: What do you have to offer? Will you help them in their relationships? Will you share recipes? Do you have a product or service?
- Include links to your social media: You should always include a few links on each page and post. Include links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. In the future, you can include links to your blog’s most popular posts. You could also include links to other blogs and articles that inspire you.
- Keep your about page short, but not too short: 300-700 words is a good length. If you feel the need to add more, you can create a “more about me page.” For reference, this post is 512 words.
Going Beyond The Basics
I’ve given you some basic pointers, below you’ll find some links to other articles on writing an about page.
Some About Page Examples
Online writing is different than old-school journalistic writing. It’s different than academic writing. It’s not fiction, poetry, or essay. Sure, all of these elements may be found in online writing, but there are some basic rules that apply to blogging.
Keep It Short, Simple, And Scannable
Peoples’ attention spans are not the same as they were 20 years ago. Technology has taken its toll. Most online readers want content that’s quick and easy to read. They also want content that adds some kind of value to their lives. If you waste your readers’ time, they may not become return customers. So here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Keep Blog Posts Short, But Not Too Short
Generally speaking, blog posts should not exceed 1000 words. There are exceptions, but if you write a long post, it definitely needs to be well organized and broken into smaller pieces. Most posts range from 400-800 words. Any shorter, and the post can feel as though it lacks. Again, there are exceptions, but for this course, your posts should be a minimum of 400 words.
2. Use Subheadings, Bold, And White Space
In the top left corner of your toolbar, you have access to a variety of subheadings. Use these to help break up content. Use bold for main points on numbered or bulleted lists, but don’t overuse bold. White space is aesthetically pleasing. Make sure you use a little white space. Italics work for titles of books, movies, and songs. Never use underline. Readers will think it’s a link.
3. Use Numbered And Bulleted Lists
Lists help readers to follow you post easily. Lists keep your content organized. Use numbered lists for step-by-step instructions or reasons to complete a task. Use bulleted points for list items that don’t require much elaboration. You can use the numbered-list function in the toolbar. The toolbar function does not leave spaces between items on your list. For lists with longer points, I like to create them manually to add some white space. This post is a manual list.
4. Give Readers Something They Can Use
If your blog does not offer valuable information readers will not come back. You need to offer your readers something they can use. Teach them something that will help them become more successful. This means you need to know your niche and your readers. What do they need to know? This post teaches students the fundamentals of online writing.
5. Include Helpful Links
Links are helpful to your blog in many ways. First, some links to other blogs that give your readers more information are always appreciated. It also lends you credibility. Internal links can help keep readers on your blog. Include a combination of both internal and external links.
You can always dig deeper and learn more. Search the Internet for best methods of writing blog posts, but keep these basics in mind.
At the very bottom of your drop-down menu in the WordPress dashboard, you’ll find a button called “Settings.” There are a few things you should know.
You May Want To Tweak Some Of Your Settings
When you click on settings, you’ll find four categories along the top of the page:
Let’s look at each of these categories:
- General: Here you can create or change the title and tagline to your blog. You can choose your desired language. You can also change how Google and other search engines index your site. Your site’s default is set to discourage search engines from indexing this site. If you’re starting a blog as an entrepreneurial adventure, you don’t want to leave your blog on this setting. Change it to, allow search engines to index this site. You also have an option for a private mode. Finally, the show related content after posts, allows your readers to see other similar posts to the one they are reading at the bottom of the page.
- Writing: Once you begin to develop categories, you’ll want to change your category default from “uncategorized” to your most common category. I use “blogging” as the default. You can also choose a variety of post frames. I recommend keeping it “standard” at the start.
- Discussion: These settings will help you monitor the conversation. You can make it more or less difficult for readers to join the discussion. I recommend leaving these settings in the default mode until you begin to work with comments and discussions more frequently.
- Analytics: Google Analytics is a program that allows you to closely monitor your blog’s traffic. Your built-in “Stats” program should be sufficient for now.
Now you’re all set to publish your first blog post!
A good blog post usually has a good photo to go with it. There are many places to find quality photos online. In this post we’ll discuss your options.
Should You Use Your Own Photos?
Whether or not you use your own photos depends upon the topic of your blog and your own photography skills. If you’re operating a photo blog, a travel blog, or a modeling blog, it may make more sense to considering using your own photos. Even so, you must have quality images to make it work.
More than likely, you’ll want to get your photos from other sources. There are plenty of free photos available for bloggers.
Pixabay Is My Favorite Place For Photos
I get most of my photos from www.pixabay.com. The photos are free. There’s no sign up required. There’s no attribution required. The process is simple:
- Go to www.pixabay.com.
- Search for photos related to your post topic.
- Download the photo to your computer.
- From your WordPress post edit box, click the “add media” photo icon in the upper left corner.
- Drag and drop your photo into the media library.
- Insert the photo into your post.
- Edit/resize the photo if needed.
Here Are Some Other Photo Sites
If you use these sources, make sure you research whether or not you need to attribute the photo. Many sites require attribution. Some sites are paid. To attribute a photo, you just create a “Photo Credit” link to its original location on your blog post.
Something You Should Never Do
Don’t take photos from random sites without permission. That could lead to copyright infringement. You don’t want to be facing a lawsuit.
A good blog makes use of links. You want to link to quality, related content that your audience will find interesting. You also want to link to your own content to keep people on your site for longer durations of time.
Adding Links In WordPress Is Easy
- Highlight the words you want to use as a live link: Don’t just cut and paste website addresses onto your page. That looks ugly. Turn words, phrases, and titles into links.
- Click the link icon on your toolbar: A little box will appear. Simply add your link in the upper space of this box. It’s best to cut and paste. That way you’ll make sure to avoid making any errors.
- Save a draft and test it out: Once you add your links, save a draft of your post and preview. Test your links to make sure they work.
I recommend keeping your internal and external links balanced at about 50/50. Link to sites with similar content to your own. Link to definitions and explanations. Link back to your own earlier articles. Don’t overdo links on any one post.
How To Put To A You Tube Video In Your Post
This is even easier. You simply paste the the YouTube link directly into your content in the edit mode. It should magically appear in your post. If you want a link to the video rather than the video itself, then use the method above.
I believe the best bloggers have original and unique voices. It’s good to stand out in the crowd. That doesn’t mean anything goes. There are some basic parameters. Your audience has some general expectations.
This post is based of a post I originally wrote for Hip Diggs.
When you go to your dental hygienist you expect to get your teeth cleaned. You don’t expect open-heart surgery. Blogging is similar. People come to a blog expecting certain forms of communication.
Great Blog Posts Follow A Formula
Click the bold links for other bloggers’ insights on writing great blog posts.
- Write a great headline: Headlines are the first thing your audience sees. 80% of potential readers will pass your post by if your headline is poor or mediocre. Use strong words that offer your audience a benefit. Make it urgent, useful and unique. Start with a boom!
- Craft a strong opener: Once you’ve written an effective headline, you need a strong lead. You need a hook to follow your boom. Great leads use quotes, questions, startling statements or stories. Just give the reader something to hang onto. Make them want to keep reading.
- Choose an image to match: I like a minimalist approach. I keep the photos relatively simple with some room for white space. I take the time to find photos that have a minimalist quality, yet work with the articles. Your photo can be direct or metaphorical. Just make sure it matches the topic of the post. I use Pixabay to find a variety of free images.
- Refer to personal experience: People relate with our stories. When we base our writing from real experience it comes alive. Hip Diggs’ posts are all based from personal successes and trials. One way to write more effectively is to write more like you talk. Simple. Direct. To the point. Boom!
- Offer some guidance: This is at the heart of every effective blog post. Give your readers information that they can use. This section of this post is doing exactly that. I’m giving you step-by-step instructions on writing dynamite blog posts. Boom!
- Keep it short and simple: My posts are usually between 400 and 700 words. Many readers feel intimidated by lengthy posts. People are busy. They want a post that they can scan quickly for valuable information. Keep it simple.
- Use simple words and sentences: Too often writers try to impress. They want others to know how smart or creative they are. So they get fancy with the words and sentences. Don’t. Keep it simple and readable. Don’t write poetry for a business audience. Don’t write fiction for a medical community. But don’t write over the heads of your audience members either.
- Offer links to related sources: Use both internal and external links to sources that relate to your topic. Make sure the links take the reader somewhere they can get useful information about a specific topic.
- Provide a closing: Great blog posts give the audience a takeaway. In this post you’ve learned the basics of writing great blog posts. The takeaway is using this new knowledge. You now have the ability to gain your audience’s attention and give them something they can use. Boom! That’s gold.
It’s Your Turn: Write Your First Blog Post!
Facebook can be a great way to extend your reach. But if you really want to build an audience through Facebook, you need to create and build a Fan Page.
- From your Facebook profile: Find the arrow at the top right corner of your account.
- Click and select: Create Page
- Choose a category: Facebook offers Fan Page categories such as business, institution, community, entertainer, etc. Choose the category that most closely matches what you do.
- Pick a subcategory and name: After you click on a category, you’ll have many subcategory choices. You also need to give your page a name at this point. Then click “Get Started.”
- About: Write a brief description of what your page is about. It should match your blog’s niche.
- List your links: Just below your “about,” you can list your links.
- Choose an address: You can choose a custom url. I chose www.facebook.com/hipdiggs for my Fan Page.
- Add a photo: Stay consistent and use the same photo you’re using for your Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress accounts.
- Preferred Audience: You can choose who you want to reach.
- Invite friends: After you complete your page, Facebook will ask you to invite friends to Like your page.
Here’s a video on creating a Fan Page:
Like 10 Similar Pages To Your Own
A great way to start building a Fan Page is to like similar pages. From your Fan Page, search and Like other pages. Once you’ve created a Fan Page newsfeed, start interacting and networking with other pages. This will likely result in gaining some new “Likes.”
Take Some Time To Get Familiar With Your Fan Page
Spend an hour checking out the different options and settings on your Fan Page. You probably won’t be using most of these options immediately, but you might want to in the future.
So you started a Twitter account. Now what? You need to spend a little time on Twitter to get things rolling.
Who To Follow On Twitter?
I learned about Twitter the hard way. I started following dozens of people and publications. I would follow back anybody who followed me. I wound up with a newsfeed full of junk.
Following thousands of people doesn’t mean a thing if they’re not the right ones!
A couple of years ago, I decided to clean house. I deleted all but 200 people that I was following. I only followed people from four basic categories:
- Major publications: Sites of interest with reliable reputations, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
- Bloggers: I chose to keep certain bloggers in my feed. Bloggers like Michael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, and Joshua Becker all have information that can be useful to me.
- Friends: I don’t have too many personal friends on Twitter, but I kept the ones that I do have.
- People interested in simple living: Hip Diggs is a blog about simple living and minimalism. I want to reach people with those interests. The majority of the people that I currently follow on Twitter are interested in simple living.
The takeaway is simple. Don’t just follow anybody. Be specific. Follow those who are potential readers of your work. Follow those who can help you. Michael Hyatt has shared several of my posts. Jeff Goins has given me some good writing advice.
Since I cleaned out my Twitter feed, I discovered something. I started getting more retweets. I may follow less people, but they’re the right people. They’re more likely to share my work.
Try This Experiment
Follow 20 people on Twitter who are interested in the same niche as you write about. Then go and delete 20 people who are just mucking up your feed. See if it makes a difference. Repeat this as many times as necessary to create the right mix.