Blog Out Loud Interview...
Melanie Nelson of Blogging Basics 101

we are recently had an opportunity to e-chat with talented and sweet blogging guru, Melanie Nelson of Blogging Basics 101. Her popular and very informative site is geared towards beginning bloggers and offers a wealth of information and tips to get you going and on your blogging way. Read the Blog Out Loud interview with Melanie below. And check out Melanie's other columns at BlogHer and TravelingMom.

1. Why is finding your voice and and blog focus so important when beginning your blog?

Millions of blogs are started each year. Setting yourself apart is a difficult task. While it's not a bad idea to look at successful blogs and see what they have in common that works, it's always a good idea to be yourself. Find a topic that you love (or you'll burn out quickly) and stay true to your personal voice. For example, if you're not funny and tend to be more serious, don't fake it online. Bring in humor when you can, but don't force it. If you're a company with a set marketing campaign, continue with that marketing voice online. Consistency is what your audience expects. They can spot insincerity a mile away and they won't be back.

2. A lot of people are hesitant to start blogging, claiming "who has the time?!!" What are your best tips for finding time to blog?
Blogging *does* take a lot of time. All bloggers struggle with where to find that time and how to balance that time with family and day jobs. If you want to try blogging for personal reasons (and not so much as a business), carve out some time while the kids are at school or taking a nap (if you're a stay-at-home mom/dad). Many bloggers take time to write after the family is asleep. If you're a company wanting to start a blog, make this part of your writers' or marketers' daily tasks. For blogging to be successful, it has to be integrated into your daily routine and can't be an after-thought.

3. There are so many blogs in the blogosphere. What are some ways to get a blog out there and also cultivate a loyal audience?

Blogging is all about the community. If you come into the community and are only pushing information that benefits you or your company, people shut down and stop listening to your message. You must bring something to the table that benefits your audience as well. Sometimes that means linking to other sites, sometimes it means Re-tweeting information that's relevant to your audience (assuming you're using other social media outlets like Twitter & Facebook to promote your blog). Other ways to be a part of your blogging community:

* Comment on other blogs.
When someone takes the time to comment on your article, take the time to visit their blog and comment there as well. The people who are finding you and reading are the people who are going to bring you into the community. Take the time to discover what their blogs are about and what they're interested in. As you build your blog, consider how your needs and your audience's needs can mesh.

* Use social media to help spread the word about your blog.

Twitter, FriendFeed, and Facebook are all ways to alert people you're already interacting with that you have a new venture and it's a way to find new audiences to engage.

* Respond.

If someone tweets you or leaves a comment on a blog post, don't just read it and move on. Acknowledge it and start a dialog.

4. A lot of blogs get going, start to build an audience and then plateau. How do new bloggers keep the momentum?
I'm not going to lie to you, it's hard. Starting your blog and watching it grow is the fun part. Once it plateaus, burn out sets in and many people just stop blogging altogether. Some of the things I do to help me stay focused on growing my blog beyond where it is are

*Setting goals.
I try to set short- and long-term goals for myself and for my blog. Setting goals isn't enough, though. I also make a plan so I know how I'm going to achieve my goals and how I'll know when I've met them. Re-visiting the goals and whether they're being met is one way to see where you need to keep going on your blog.

*Using an editorial calendar.
I like to keep track of what I've written and what is coming up. Knowing that a topic needs to be written and assigning myself a due date helps keep me on track and new posts coming.

*Read other blogs.
See what other writers are doing and what's going on with the technology. Try to spot trends and discover how those trends can work on your blog. Keep learning.

*Taking polls to see what readers would like to see next.
If you think you've covered everything you can cover, think again. Ask your readers what is missing or what would help them. Your audience is your best source of motivation.

*Going to blogging conferences to re-energize myself.
Talking to like-minded people about something you're passionate about can really re-set your blogging mojo. I come away from blogging conferences excited about new ideas and I'm ready to implement them when I get home.

[Thanks, Melanie!]

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