Unless you have been living in a cave (or exploring one or spelunking) you’ve been bombarded by stories about Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media. And like most people I know over the age of 30, you have a vague feeling of “Is this something I should be doing?” or “Where the heck do I even start?”

Well look no further. This last year or thereabouts I have spent a good deal of time blogging, poking, tweeting, digging (more like del.icio.us – ing) around the social media sphere trying to separate the chaff from the wheat. While trying to persuade some friends, who I believe have a lot to offer, to start blogging, I realized, having a simple “Here’s what you need to do” might be the best way to get these folks started. In planning for one perfect yet tight post I nearly didn’t do this. Instead have opted now to get started and spell it out as I go. Clearly I build on the shoulders of others who have gone before.

For the skimmers, here is the quick & dirty version

  1. Have a written goal for why you are blogging
  2. Have one handle or name across all media properties
  3. Get started
  4. Do your homework
  5. Give, give and give some more
  6. Work across mediums – not just text
  7. Don’t forget the real world!
  1. Write down your purpose & goal This is as simple as being clear why you are doing this. Not because your boss told you, or your cousin thinks its a good idea or worse yet, your spouse wants you to. It could be as simple as “Coz I want to” which is want most mountaineers seem to state as their reason. Of course it’d be a whole lot better if you said specific thing such as
    • “Be seen as the #1 De-cluttering/organizing expert in the Tri-cities”
    • “Be perceived as a top 10 blogger in analog design in India” or
    • “Build a loyal following for my classical music compositions”

  2. Pick ONE name Think through the name you are going to use, for you are going to use it in a whole lot of places very soon – on your blog, on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, SlideShare – and that’s just for starters. It has got to be distinctive (so folks can remember it), specific and long enough for folks to make out it’s you but short enough to not chew up too many characters. This may not seem such a big deal, but it can be if you are successful. So might as well plan for it. Some good ones to emulate
      Of course there are no hard and fast rules – one of the most popular vcasters of all time is http://garyvaynerchuk.com/ (I had to look that spelling up) – his Twitter handle is a little easier & different at @garyvee. Sure http://rohitbhargava.com/ and http://sramanmitra.com/ are also popular, but no one outside South Asia will be able to spell their names without a lookup. Their success shows content trumps all other considerations. I’d still recommend that you use a short & descriptive handle.

  3. Get started As my dad was fond of saying, none of your preparation for swimming is useful, if you don’t get in the water. So soon as you finish reading this para article, get started. Put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard and start typing. Sure it would help if you make a writing calendar – could be as simple as, “I will spend 30 minutes each morning or 2 hours on Tue/Thur.” Whatever works for you. But don’t wait for the calendar. Start with your own “natural” voice. Sometimes it takes a few posts to discover what that is. Regardless don’t try to speak in a voice that is not yours – be yourself (probably the hardest advice to follow)
  4. Do Your Homework Building up a good social presence is no different than finding a job or getting hooked up. You gotta let everyone know and it helps if the people you talk to are themselves well connected and well thought of. Do your homework. Find out where the audience, you think you speak to, hangs out. Who are the thought leaders/bloggers in the space that you plan to blog about? Get your tracking infrastructure in place – starting with Google Analytics. There are any number of good posts & resources about building an audience for your blog – so when they come, you can know where they are coming from, what they are reading. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
  5. Give, give & give some more Your mom was right. You gotta give, before you can expect to get something. So focus on giving – I mean freely – what would be of value to your readers. This could be links to other interesting articles, gadget reviews, your grandma’s secret crochet techniques or other exotica (no, that was not a typo.) Find what you are good at, and what is valued by your audience and deliver it reliably with no further expectations. It’s also worth keeping in mind that much of the social media is about conversation, which usually involves more than one voice – yours – alone. The best way to give is to comment on other people’s blogs, to participate in conversations on Twitter or other social forums. Give first and ye shall receive!
  6. Cross mediums – try audio, slideware, video This might seem a stretch. Here you are still planning to get rolling or maybe just started in stringing a few words together, maybe Tweeting or mini-blogging (on Tumblr or Posterous). As one of the hottest social media stars, Gary Vaynerchuk has found – that video is his gig or as a zany Aussie hardware engineer did, you too may be a natural video star. Sometimes your content served up as a podcast may resonate with your audience on the go, as Chief Penguin Michael Katz has found. Till you play with it you will not know – iTunes, YouTube and SlideShare and others are changing the landscape of blogging & social media

  7. Real world exists In the echo chamber that is the blogosphere (& now Twitter and FaceBook) it’s easy to lose sight that there’s a real world out there. So don’t forget to get out there, shake hands and pat backs (or is the other way around). Write for your local newspaper (if it is still in existence), attend seminars and better yet give talks. Volunteer with your local NGO, or BarCamp or TweetUp. Teach a class. Anything that tickles your fancy, will recharge you and change the world a little. You will bring all that and more back to your blog and writing. If you are like me, visiting the real world helps to stay married and seeing the kids before they get old enough to drive (away). And it will make you a whole lot more interesting.

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