Trust me, writing your first blog post can be scary.
Day one at Marketo, I was informed that one of my projects as a Social Media & PR intern would be writing for the blog. I’ll admit, I was scared. Just thinking about it sent a wave of nervousness through my body. Then the inevitable “OMG everyone is going to read this and think I’m stupid!” thought raced through my mind.
With some support, a little courage, and a few tricks, I was able to complete my first post. I was relieved to see it had reached 1,000 shares! This motivated me to continue writing. Then on my second post, which also hit 1,000 shares, I received comments from readers. I was thrilled to see people interacting with what I had written.
I’m no seasoned blogger by any stretch of the term, but I thought I would share what I learned during my experience and how I got over my fears and published my first blog post.
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Overcoming the Fear
I quickly found that I’m not the only one who has had some apprehension with writing or blogging. I was speaking to an employee who had not submitted an entry to the blog yet and I asked why not. The reason was partly because she was scared, and partly because she didn’t know what to write about. A few weeks later during a conversation with Peter O’Neill, a top analyst at Forrester, he also confirmed that a lot of people and even companies are afraid of creating content.
No one should live in fear to write, especially since we are in this new age where “Content Rules” and Blogs are necessary forms of communication. Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, the summer intern or the CMO, writing is required.
Luckily, there are tons of ways to get started. This blog will include some tips I used to get over my initial fear to write, advice I have received on writing, and how I went about constructing my first blog post.
Finding a Topic
Before you start writing, you have to come up with a subject. Here are three lessons for finding a topic:
Read other blogs
There are tons of resources online about blogging. You may have heard this a million times, but that’s because it is so true! Before I started writing my first post, I did a basic Google search. I discovered multiple blogs that specifically included lists of blog post ideas. A company’s website is another great place to begin searching for a topic. Most companies will have blogs and you can see what they are talking about to get those idea wheels turning in your head. To get some traction, I started reading Marketo’s blog and then discovered we have a handy post called Big List of B2B Marketing Blogs, highlighting top blogs in the industry. I used that as a jumping off point to learn more about what people have to say about marketing.
Read something you don’t necessarily agree with? Write about it. Everybody likes a good argument, or constructive dialogue. Forming a post around your opinion and personal perspective on a matter makes for a perfect first blog post.
Ask for help
Asking for help is one of the best ways to come up with an idea for a blog post. Brainstorming out loud with another person will unlock the floodgates and get ideas pouring out of your brain. Having someone there to bounce ideas off of will help you get a feel on whether an idea is something worth running with or whether to dump it. It usually takes a bunch of bad ideas to find a good one. You might be the kind of person that hates to admit you need help but if you are stuck on coming up with a subject for a blog post, or need advice on how to develop an idea, asking is often the best solution. If you are planning to write for your company’s blog, it is likely that it is run by a content manager whose job is all about writing. They are definitely a valuable resource and the best place to go to gain insight on what topic might be interesting or trending at the moment. Before I write each blog, I set some time on Dayna Rothman’s calendar, Marketo’s Content Marketing Manager, to discuss my ideas or help me come up with new ones.
Write about what you know
This may just be the most important lesson for coming up with a successful first blog post. This nugget of advice came from Jon Miller, VP of Marketing at Marketo. During my first week here we were discussing what I might be able to write about for my contribution to the blog. I was telling him that I was unsure what to write about for a marketing blog, since I am brand new to marketing. He told me that everyone knows something about something, and to start there. He brought up the fact that I had recently graduated as a psychology major, so I must know something about psychology. Jon suggested I write about psychology theories that apply to marketing. Boom, post #1 complete.
Now the Hard Part. Writing.
Now you might say to me, “Great Megan, now I have a topic, but how do I start writing?” Getting abstract ideas onto a concrete piece of paper is probably the most difficult part of writing, but here’s some tips I follow:
Construct a basic outline
Thinking about a big, long, giant post you have to write can seem daunting, but breaking it up into digestible parts will help make it easier to start writing. Some might suggest writing the main points first and then going back to create your introduction. You have to test what works for you. I recommend writing the introduction first, and even consider introducing yourself in the beginning. Telling your readers about who you are gives your blog more personality. The great thing about a blog is it is okay to be more casual. This will help lead you into why or what got you started thinking about this topic. Here is an example of how I did that. I began by talking about who I was, and why I decided to write about Psychology.
Then, all that’s left is to write up a conclusion that summarizes your point or nicely ties up what you have been trying to get across in your blog. Or you can end with a simple question, inviting readers to comment or add to your discussion.
Edit. Edit. Edit
An English teacher in high school once told me that when we write our first drafts it should be like “barfing on paper”. Sounds gross, but it is probably the best writing advice I have gotten in my career. The point is to flush out all your ideas without worrying about perfecting each sentence. The “barf on paper” technique is to be used with the absolute condition that you will spend sufficient time cleaning it up, or editing. The editing process is just as important as writing the text in the first place. Write your blog without any reserve, take a break, and then go back and review. Having someone you trust or are comfortable with edit your post and provide some constructive criticism before submitting is ideal. Fresh eyes will catch errors that you may not have noticed, and hopefully they will also have some ideas for bolstering your post.
Taking a Risk
To achieve success, sometimes you have to leap. I know it is intimidating to write your first blog post or it may make you feel vulnerable to have someone else read your work, but the best way to get over that is to be like Nike and just do it. Get out of your comfort zone, and try something new. I would say this is the biggest message I would give to people who think they can’t write or are afraid to–take a risk! Go for it! Once you get that first blog post out there, I’m sure you will be amazed and surprised at the result.
I hope this post has helped at least one person feel more confident about starting and submitting their first blog post. Other bloggers out there, how did you come up with your first blog post? Discover blogging tips and best practices and gain confidence in your blogging strategy by using the guide, “Tips for the Social Marketer Cheat Sheet: Blogging“.