Just Blog, You’ll Like It: What I learned from my personal blog.
By Cindy Butts, RCE, CAE, CEO of the Maine Association of REALTORS®.
I was terrified that blogging would only bring problems: My staff and officers would hate what I wrote or a random regrettable thought would exist for eternity. And besides, there isn’t any extra time to do it.
But nearly two years later, I’ve written 400 posts about work, life, and association management on a personal blog (http://cindyae.blogspot.com) and developed a multiauthor blog for my own association.
I get about 100 readers a day and I’m constantly surprised by the amount of people who come to my blog, not because they’re regular readers, but because they Googled a specific topic I wrote about, such as inexpensive centerpieces, how to answer the “greatest weakness” question in a job interview, or how to apologize.
My blogging life started when I was asked to write daily blog posts about an NAR convention. (Editor’s note: We invited Cindy to blog for NAR because she has always been eager to share her professional expertise via RAE, AETalk, and at AEI.) Then I began to experiment with a personal blog, hoping I’d develop skills to create one for my association later. I decided at the outset that I would quit if blogging ended up being too hard or made me miserable.
The experience has paid off for me. Blogging is not hard, it takes me only about two hours a week, and I think the new skills and experiences I’ve gathered because of it have not only benefited my career and my association, but me personally as well.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. It’s free and easy to learn.
It takes literally minutes to set up a blog. I use Blogger, owned by Google. And if you don’t like it, it’s easily abandoned too. You can also point another domain name to a Blogger (or other service) site.
2. Believe You Have something to say.
Blogs are considered online conversations. So write like you talk, and say something. And if you don’t like writing, you aren’t going to like blogging. I’m sometimes asked if there’s an element of ego in it, and the answer is yes. You have to believe you have something to say that people will want to read. Even introverts can find a voice online.
3. You’ll learn as you go.
Your technical skills will improve as you go, especially when it comes to writing headlines, shortening content, posting and editing pictures, linking, engaging other bloggers, and understanding online statistics, RSS, and feed publications. Plus, you’ll be able to easily discuss social media with members and leadership because you’ll be a part of it.
4. You don’t know who is reading.
The first person to comment on my first post was my state association president. That made it really clear from the outset that I’d better not say anything that I wouldn’t want my president, members, staff, husband, or others to read, because they are reading. You may find a community online that you learn from and bond with, including members who blog and use social media.
I’m often surprised that when I quote the name of someone in a magazine article, I hear from them directly on whatever I’ve said about them. Anyone using Google Alerts will get an e-mail saying their name appeared in a blog, and many people do alerts on their own name. For example, when I blogged about how I didn’t like the advice given by a manners expert in a national magazine about what to do when you notice a speaker’s zipper is down, I heard from her directly.
5. Conversations Can be private.
Some blogs are instructional, tell a story, or foster a personal connection with readers, more like a journal than a discussion. Many blogs don’t even -allow comments, and they’re still very useful vehicles. You’ll find that if readers have comments, they’ll call or e-mail you directly.
6. Skip the drama and the hype.
Don’t believe social media instructors who tell you to “stir things up” intentionally. It’s easy enough to have constant controversy in associations without trying to cause more.
7. Blogs are forever.
Google is forever, and blogs are found in Google. Anyone and everyone will find you, from old college roommates to grammar school friends. For associations, having a blog will make it easier for members to find your info in a Google search. And if you do something wrong sometime in your career that makes it onto the Internet, you’ll be glad readers have lots of really good content to find first.
8. Make it manageable.
Decide at the outset that you need to do what works for you. My personal blog and association blog both get a sizeable amount of spam and marketers trying to get inside the comments section to reach the audiences. If you don’t have time to write posts yourself, then be an editor and ask others to write for your association, and decide if you will edit (I do) or post as-is. You can also restrict comments to only association members by requiring a login.
The title of my blog is “AE on the Verge” and it’s intentionally open-ended. As association executives, we are always on the verge of something—another meeting, a big opportunity, an enormous problem. Maybe you’re on the verge of starting a blog right now? Try it.
Cindy Butts, RCE, CAE, is
CEO of the Maine Association of REALTORS®.
She can be reached at