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Without the hurdles of traditional media or the word limits of Twitter, blogging can be an easy way to get your ideas (and name) in front of a wide audience. Unlike formal publications, which can spend weeks or months in the hands of editors or reviewers, blog posts go “live” immediately. In some disciplines, thoughtful and insightful blog posts are a valued complement to formal research publications, and serve as a springboard to op-eds or media interviews.
However, blogging also brings challenges. The Web is littered with stale blogs that have languished for months or years without an update. Blog posts can be taken out of context or misinterpreted, generating unwanted controversy. Developing a successful and highly visited blog can take months or years of consistent high-quality posting, and many bloggers toil in a period of initial obscurity before becoming “known.”
Before You Start
These questions can help focus your blogging efforts:
What subject(s) will you cover? While it may be enjoyable to use a blog as an online diary or daybook, you are likely to garner a higher readership by focusing on a single topic where you have expertise. For many academic bloggers, their current research area is a natural choice, especially since you likely know more about your research than anyone else in the world! Even if your area isn’t currently in the public spotlight, how might your research provide a fresh angle on current events?
Solo or group? A solo blog gives you complete editorial freedom, but also means the constant grind of producing content falls squarely on your shoulders. Group blogs (a single blog with multiple contributors) are more complex to administer, but can make the posting burden manageable.
How often will you post? Having a schedule or even an editorial calendar can help ensure a consistent stream of posts without encroaching on your other commitments.
Comments -- yes or no? Allowing feedback (and a chance to interact with other readers) can add great value to your blog for readers. Some blogs have formed vibrant communities that almost exist independently of the posts! But comments also mean additional work: you may have to spend time reading comment threads to reply, police would-be spammers, or moderate arguments.
A quick Google search will turn up many free or low-cost blogging platforms. We recommend the Georgetown Commons, a free blogging platform hosted by CNDLS using WordPress.
Promoting Your Blog
Ideally, writing a blog is a reward in itself -- but here are a few suggestions about increasing the scope and number of your readers:
Write a “guest post” for a high-visibility blog. Most academic bloggers would welcome a colleague offering to write a post. If you’re considering starting your own blog, a guest post can help you decide if blogging is a worthwhile investment of time; if you have your own blog, mentioning it in a guest post on another blog can help direct traffic to your blog site.
Use social media to promote your posts. After putting up a new post, many bloggers send off a brief Tweet or Facebook entry, letting others know a new post is available.
Let colleagues know about your blog. This isn’t really promotion in the traditional sense, but it’s courteous to give your dean or seniors a heads-up about your blog -- before they find out about it through the Internet.
Link to Your Blog on GUFaculty360. Your faculty profile page in GUFaculty360 presents another opportunity to promote your blog. After you’ve logged in, click on “Manage Personal Information” to add a link to your blog in the “Personal Websites” section.