Why You Need to Start a Blog in 2012

Photo:  Breahn Foster
This blog went live in October 2010. I launched it as a way to increase exposure for ApplyMate, but also to wade deeper into the employment/career/tech/Gen Y space where my usership is heavily concentrated. Along the way I’ve learned a lot, not only about the niche in which I was operating, but about blogging itself and why it’s a good idea.

So here’s something to consider for 2012 – start a blog of your own. It could be for business reasons like mine was (if you don’t have one for your business yet, you’re missing out on a lot of traffic, engagement, and information) or it could just be for fun. My wife started a blog called Eat Your Food Hot because she’s obsessed with food and every kind of dining experience. The blog has led to some really cool relationships and events, most recently her starting a dinner club for a group of our friends. A blog “for fun” can lead to lots of fun outside of the actual blog.

Hell, maybe your blog will start as an outlet for your passion and turn into a profession (like Wendy, who became famous for having excellent taste, a talented photographer boyfriend, and 25 ways to tie a scarf).

Makes You Think Creatively, Critically
I’ve talked before about how untalented I am when it comes to art and being creative. That kind of thinking tends to be self-fulfilling, as the less confidence you have, the less likely you are to do something frequently. As Malcom Gladwell points out in “Outliers,” few creative geniuses became successful through anything other than an obscene about of work and practice.

Thus, if you’re like me and don’t really have a creative outlet, a blog will make you engage that part of your brain. It will impose deadlines and constraints on your ideas, forcing you to put ideas out there. By compelling us to post our ideas publicly, the blog forces us to think critically about our ideas, lest we be mocked for posting some half-baked idea. In other words, it makes us focus our bazillion swirling thoughts into a coherent idea.

Makes You Practice Writing
Like it or not, we all need to be able to write. You can try to tell yourself that you aren’t in a profession that requires good writing, but that’s simply impossible. Every thing we do professionally involves some kind of writing, weather it’s pitching an idea, closing a deal or resolving a problem. If you do the same kind of writing all the time, you’ll become flat and one-note. Writing a blog is a different style of communication, and we could all use some practice and variation in our writing.

Makes You Practice Writing Headlines
There’s an interesting book review in AdAge today, one that talks about pitching and why most sales pitches suck. In short, we need to write shorter. We need to be brief, and tailor our pitch to how the brain processes information, putting the biggest ideas right at the beginning, rather than the end of a pitch. Writing a blog makes me focus not just on the subject I’m writing about, but how I package the post. By package, I mean the title and accompanying pictures. The title has to target that first part of the brain, called the “croc brain,” the one that is capable of little analysis but is more “flight or fight” oriented. Posting each entry on Twitter makes me keep everything even shorter, which is challenging, but great practice.

Builds Credibility, Connections
If you are looking to expand your role in a particular space, a blog is the perfect way to connect with people already writing on the subject and people already reading about it. Building relationships in the area you want to work (or at least be active) is hugely important, and blogging is a great way to get there. You’re putting your own ideas out for consumption, hopefully you’re commenting on others’ blogs, and answering comments on your own. If done correctly, blogging can be one of the most effective networking tools in your toolbox.

While I’ve learned a lot of good things from blogging, there’s also some bad news. Turns out blogging is really hard. And it takes a lot of time. All those benefits I listed above are the kind that are valuable because they are difficult. If they were easy, everyone would have them. So don’t start a blog because you think it’s a way to get rich or because it’s easy. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time. But the benefits are quite real and well worth the effort. I hope you give it a shot in 2012!

PS: If you do decide to start a blog after reading this post, let me know below! I’m happy to link to your site in the comments (more inbound traffic never hurt anyone). Good luck!

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Tim Murphy is the founder of ApplyMate.com - the first free web app to help you track school and job applications.

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