January 19, 2005
How to Blog Like Rockstar (an intro)

I'm not a fan of rock music so take my title in the spirit it's intended. The phrase "like a rockstar" implies some element of risk and originality. I'm a throw out the rulebook kind of gal. If everyone else is doing it, then by golly, I don't want to. Being trite is overrated. Being boring is even worse. It is with that same unconventional attitude that I approached blogging, and with which I offer my advice on the matter.

Many people have given their tips on how to build a successful weblog. There are many articles, editorials, and even books available on the subject. Joe at the Evangelical Outpost has a running series on how to blog, as does "The Living Room", as do 2700 other people that I'm too lazy to find, read and link. I've read lots of them and their tips are fantastic so I won't bother repeating what's already been stated.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll state for the record that I've broken nearly every rule there is in blogging and still my site has steadily grown from 6 hits a day (4 of which were probably mine, and 2 of which were someone googling "cat dreadlocks"), to now over 1,000 daily hits. In my book, 1,000+ hits a day is small potatoes compared to the millions of hits available via the world wide web, but considering that I've done absolutely nothing by way of personal promotion to increase my audience, I count that as a small victory in my first year of blogging.

Don't believe the hype. Self-promotion is overrated and can often become obsequious and pretentious. Not once have I ever emailed anyone asking them for a link. Not once. Simply be a presence and people will notice you.

Whether you're considering starting a weblog, or you've already begun the downward spiral of obsessive compulsive blogger behavior, I'm kicking off my series of no-nonsense tips and hope there's something in it for you.

Tip #1: Stop Emulating the Success of Others
I've often read people speculating on who will be "the Next Instapundit" or "the Next (Insert Popular Person)". Along with this comes tips on how to become an A-list blogger. Newsflash: we don't need another Instapundit. We need you to be you. Bring what you have to the table and stop trying to emulate the success of others. Throw out the hope of attaining someone else's level of success. I promise your blog will be much more successful as a result.

Tip #2: Get Some Motivation
A character in a Sprite soft drink commercial once asked a very wise question, "What's my motivation?" It may sound incredibly cliché, but this is the first and foremost thing anyone who seeks to start a weblog should consider. What will be your driving motivation for publishing your thoughts, pictures, and essays on the world wide web? The answer doesn't have to be some deep manifesto or objective. It could be as simple as "to use my blog as a creative outlet" or "to vent" or "to learn html" or "to get a book deal".

When I started my weblog, my pure and unadulterated reason was because I needed to practice writing and I was extremely lazy about it. My motivation was simple: become a disciplined writer. After some time, your motivation behind your blog may evolve, but it's always good to bring yourself back to that reason why you started in the first place. It is after all, motivating.

Tip #3: Decide Your Genre
Everyday, people all over the world start weblogs and while it's fairly impossible to categorize or fit everyone into a box, there are a number of broad classifications we can make on overall style. These classifications are important because they allow us not to compare blogs based on the same standards.

The two dominant types of blogs seem to be personal journals and political/current event blogs. Other genres may include culture, sports, music, life, photography, and just the all-around hodge podge of stuff, or as I like to say "Neapolitan" flavored blogs.

Whatever you choose, be true to what you're after. If you simply want to filter the news and the blogosphere, then by all means do that. But don't play with it; embrace it for all it can be. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit proved himself to be one of the best link shepherds in the blogosphere and its reaped tremendous dividends. Reynolds is now known as one of the most influential bloggers.

If your blog is more of a personal journal, don't shy away from that, embrace it. If you want to pour out details of your personal life on the internet, do that, but don't be insecure about it. Before I started my own blog, I was a frequent reader of the now defunct Madpony.com, a site run by two sisters in Oklahoma, one in high school and one in college. Every few days the sisters would post pictures and recount hilarious tales of shoe shopping, life in a sorority and growing up in Oklahoma.

The site was very suburban, and very shallow content-wise (not a lot of pontificating on the future of social security if you know what I mean). But it totally worked for them and their readership skyrocketed in the two short years they were on the air.

Don't ever feel obligated to talk about politics or "serious matters" because it's the popular thing to do. Do it because it interests you. If your journal is all in fun, or all about your family, then let it be that and don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Your blog's style will make room for you if you keep it true to you.

(Click for Tip #4)
Posted by Ambra at January 19, 2005 12:56 AM


Great advice, Ambra. I guess the key message I take from this is that you should go for broke. The "juice" is in the decision to go pell mell in creativity and verve.

A question about your roots, tho -- when you started, didn't you join/sign up at some (online) christian group or the other? Isn't that how some of your first visitors heard of you? We talked about this a little bit once. I guess it doesn't hurt to start off in circles, orbits similar to your own?

Posted by: memer at January 19, 2005 07:06 AM

You don't like Rock? I thought you liked Green Day. ;)

Posted by: mj at January 19, 2005 09:19 AM

I was gonna salute you but I only salute those about to rock. You obviously ruled that out early. But I think one more idea is to not push your blog on your friends and family. Paul Westerburg, a rocker, once said never invite your friends and family to gigs cause they'll eventually you'll need to build a fanbase from just people who like what you are doing, not because they know you already. Besides they'll stop coming around soon enough.

Posted by: smith level devil at January 19, 2005 06:36 PM

Yes, cogent thoughts. Careful not to go to the other extreme. Thinking outside the box is also overrated. I know this, because I'm great at it, and it sometimes gets in the way. Sometimes things are trite because people have tried the other ways hundreds of times and found the other ways to be stupid.

Not trite? yes, please. Reflexively? No thank you.

Carry on, then.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at January 19, 2005 06:43 PM

Good post, Ambra. Self-promotion is probably the biggest temptation, and it's one I have studiously avoided. I have friends scattered around who visit my blog, and I told some pals at church about it. While recognition would be cool, I just see my blog as a way to "sound off", not to get famous.

Posted by: marcus at January 19, 2005 07:20 PM

Nobody has ever succeeded in any endeavor as the next anybody else; that has been especially true for rock stars. Merely being hyped as such is enough to harm a career in that field.

Posted by: triticale at January 19, 2005 10:40 PM

1,000 hits a day? One could only dream.

Anyway, great advice for a freshman blogger like meyself...i'm looking forward to the next entry.

Posted by: Scooter at January 20, 2005 12:49 AM

I don't think that politics blogs are as popular as people who read politics blogs think they are! They are only a tiny fraction of blogs but they get higher readership because they are more interesting than blogs about your baby or your kids.

And politics blogs arn't easy to do well. I could write about what I ate for dinner last night in 5 minutes, but good posts on politics require a lot more effort!

I think my blog (shameless self promotion) is getting so many readers because I focus on politics.

Posted by: Libertarian Girl at January 20, 2005 04:53 AM

Memer: Yeah I listed my site with Blogs4God.com, but I can guarantee that not many hits came from that. I also joined some webring, but they dropped me because I wouldn't post a link to them on my site. I've done very little by way of personal promotion.

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at January 20, 2005 12:17 PM

That'd be great to get at least several hundred regular readers a day, but I have a niche blog, so I have a small, consistent readership.

Posted by: mj at January 20, 2005 12:46 PM

*wry* One of the main reasons I would start up my journal again would be FOR family cause a few family members had started reading my journal before I shut it down under fire almost a year ago now. And every once in a while she asks me where I am writing about my life now.

My journal was always a matter of what I was feeling/thinking interestinga t the time. Including interesting personality quizzes -- not because I was bored but because they said something interesting about me -- particularly when comparing results to others, friends and such.

Posted by: Sarah of WA at January 21, 2005 07:11 AM

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