For any non-bloggers out there, “Why Blog?” is an excellent question. The numerous benefits of blogging are so compelling that I’ve compiled a two-part series about this, endorsed by my experience and based on input from four influential bloggers:
• Ida Horner, founder of Ethnic Supplies (an online social enterprise that promotes independence for African women) and Africa on the Blog,
• Christine Searle from SA Venues, 2010 SA Best Travel Blog runner-up,
• Cindy Taylor, personal blogger at The Only Cin and group blogger at The BlaBla Blog 2010 SA Best Group Blog finalist.
• Michelle Salater, president of Sūmèr LLC and creator of the Love Your Blog e-learning program, whose own blog Copy Doodle was recently listed #17 on Technorati’s 100 Best Small Business Blogs.
Their insight applies if you’re contemplating starting a blog, or keen for fresh inspiration to continue with one. Fellow bloggers, please add your comments, which may be useful to other readers.
7 BRILLIANT REASONS TO BLOG (PART I)
Uganda 2011. Two five-year-old girls play side by side, as twins do. Perfect and Princess are blessed with inborn best friends, but food is harder to come by, education entirely beyond reach. Their father died in a road accident not long ago, leaving his wife to care for six children. Odd jobs in the village don’t bring in enough. What will the future hold for this little pair? More than you’d expect – because of blogging.
Contribute to others:
Last year, Ida launched the collaborative effort called Africa on the Blog, “The voice of Africa, from all over the world”, which I contribute to. Advertising from this site sponsors the twins’ education. This is one way that bloggers are making a positive difference.
In Ida’s case, her inspiration stemmed from speaking about African mothers and women living away from their traditional homeland at the 2010 African Union Diaspora summit in London. She explains how several African women out there have views – very important views – but had no space to share them. Blogging, says Ida, “provides a platform to highlight issues affecting us as human beings.”
Educate and inform:
Most of us won’t be invited to air our opinions on CNN, but as Ida observes, that’s not to say we can’t add value to debates, while educating and sharing information about topics we’re familiar with. Blogging offers just such an opportunity. For example, authors in the know on Africa on the Blog have debated topics ranging from female genital mutilation, circumcision and the plight of Zimbabwean children to rhino poaching and terrorism in Uganda.
Blogging has been used to raise awareness for countless other worthy causes, at minimal cost. Taking this a step further, the annual global Blog Action Day unites thousands of bloggers on a single important subject, the 2010 one being ‘clean water’. In line with this initiative, Ida lists sharing what she knows and learning from others as the main benefit she has derived from blogging.
As far as South Africa goes, leading travel blogs play an important role in show-casing this country. Christine Searle, who co-manages the comprehensive SA-Venues website and blog, is dedicated to inspiring tourism to “this beautiful country we call home”. She rates having a passion for your subject as the primary key to blogging success. As a 2010 SA Best Travel Blog runner-up, she is qualified to comment.
The 2010 Soccer World Cup increased SA-Venues’ readership significantly. “Everyone wanted more of South Africa,” says Christine. The blog was perfectly positioned to deliver. Valuable first-hand accounts are linked from there to the website and included in the electronic newsletter, thereby supporting travel bookings. The blog has also helped tremendously to increase the number of locals using SA-Venues. Christine notes that site users were predominantly foreign visitors before the blog was added.
Michelle emphasises that “blogging for business not only attracts ideal prospects, but also media and key influencers who will send even more clients your way”. The trick is to know how to blog correctly, so she’s taken all the guesswork out of creating a business blog that works, with her step-by-step program, Love Your Blog. In support of her expertise, Michelle’s elite clients, from home improvement companies to boutique African safari providers, have seen massive increases in their exposure and profits from working with her.
But don’t think that blogging is exclusive to businesses. There’s a kaleidoscope of benefits available. Cindy, who is an accomplished personal and group blogger, has generated a steady stream of writing and editing work thanks to “being found” by three publishing houses, not to mention countless tangible prizes like books, gift vouchers and wine. It’s no surprise too that she’s just been selected as the resident food writer on the soon-to-be-launched First Sighting website.
Her success aside, Cindy values blogging as employment because it’s “akin to being paid to have tea parties and entertain friends”. Her witty repartee with the loyal and lively readership of her blog, The Only Cin, attests to this. As do the friendships she has developed offline – in the ‘real’ world – with blogging contacts.
Cindy’s top tip is to “start small and focus on a specific niche of interest”. Her four themes include memoirs/journals, food, poetry and fiction, spiced with enticing photography. Also viewing her blog as an archiving space, she hopes her daughter will be able to share her writing with her grandchildren.
Before you hit the blogosphere, though, some caution is prescribed. As with any human interaction, negative behaviour can creep in, like jealousy or theft of copyright. Also be prepared to have your views challenged. The upside to this, as Ida points out, is overcoming fear of rejection by putting your thoughts ‘out there’ and learning to handle opposition. Conversely, fears can be allayed through receiving online recognition and support.
. . . to be continued
Please contribute your comments below and stay tuned for PART II (on Wednesday).