Engagement, Blogging, Bad Advice and… How I need to learn how to think of better post titles

I really should stick to the advice I was given back in January: Write your headline and lede last. Which, I somewhat did here. At least, the lede I did. You’ll have to read on for how this one all comes full circle. 😉

So, if it’s one thing I understand, it’s the need for community engagement when it comes to PR and Social Media. Blogging/Microblogging are based on this concept.

If it’s one thing I’m not entirely sure I’m able to do, it’s create and maintain that engagement. The world of Social Media, in terms of engagement is a very interesting place full of problems and solutions that are not all-encompassing. When it comes to how things become “viral”, it becomes clear that there are no clear answers. Nevertheless, We, the gatekeepers of information, must be on guard to provide engagement – to state it in somewhat poetic manner. We are the ones that stand in the way. We are the ones that guide the way.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), tagging, categories, publicizing, trending, etc.

All of these things are easy enough to comprehend on their own. It’s bringing them all together that poses the greatest challenge.  Well… that, and writing well.  This isn’t to say that I am loath to accept this challenge. It’s more that it can seem rather daunting at times, given all the information that I acquired in the last few months while attending my post-grad certificate program in Public Relations.  Having a chance to sit back and take stock of what I’ve learned in the last few months, it somewhat amazes me when I come across blogs, Facebook pages and twitter feeds that have amazing followings, yet lack any real substance. These things seem anomalous. They don’t [necessarily] conform to the psychology of engagement and I have found blogs tend more towards being the anomalous, as compared to other Social Media platforms. This anomalous nature of blogs is most likely due to the wide variety of blogging platforms available.

PRDaily – by now, you probably have noticed that I love reading articles on that site – published yesterday an article titled “12 horrible pieces of blogging advice” [Shouldn’t that be “Twelve”], which I found somewhat humourous.

Famous Blogger Cartoon

“I’m gonna be famous by writing about interesting gum stains on sidewalks!”

The pieces of advice they say are bad are as follows:

1. “Keep posts under 300 words.”

2. “Stick to a rigid publishing schedule.”

3. “Blogs are an SEO shortcut.”

4. “Bloggers need to be edgy.”

5. “Images aren’t important.”

6. “You should monetize your blog.”

7. “All it takes to succeed is quality content.”

8. “Cultivate reciprocal links.”

9. “You must use a custom design.”

10. “Social media has replaced blogging.”

11. “You can outsource corporate blog content.”

12. “It’s all about subscribers.”

I think it’s fair to say that most of these are true. The article’s author Brad Shorr explains why each is bad. However, I feel like these on their own are not bad pieces of advice, but rather are bad when combined. Granted, some are blatantly and patently bad pieces of advice or not advice at all (No. 12 comes to mind). But, in the right context, some of these pieces of advice would do well for people to use. The key difference between being good and bad is… TIMING.  I’m no expert in blogging, but I do see virtue in understanding where you’re at and where you want to go.

Oddly enough, this image seems appropriate.

No. 1 – Not particularly bad. Good advice for when just starting out. Find your voice first. Conciseness is also good, but not always possible. Shorr’s assay of this is that comes from an assumption that blog readers are in a hurry (huh?) Uhh… okay? Sure. I suppose they can be.
No. 2 – Rigid schedule… yeah, bad. Schedule, period? Not particularly bad. Writing new posts at a good interval helps for sure. Once a month or more doesn’t cut it by most accounts.
No. 3 – Not sure about that one… I look at SEO as the gateway to more information and sites. *shrugs*
No. 4 – Yeah… definitely agree. I’ve read some really good blogs that were far from being edgy. Funny yes! but egdy, no.
No. 5 – I agree with Shorr’s assessment, they ARE important. They help break up the blog and cater to those with either less imagination or those with lower attention spans. [My apologies if I have offended anyone with that statement]
No. 6 – Oh god… yeah, I agree. This is one of those things that needs careful timing and integration. If you want to make money from your own writing, then write a book. 
No. 7 – I agree again with Shorr. Timing isn’t for just introducing elements into your blog, but also for building your audience. It takes time.
No. 8I doubt most people know what this one means anymore.
No. 9 – I’m ambivalent about this one. I chose a “vanilla” template and changed it up a few weeks after I started this blog. A blog is [part of] your brand – it should show. It helps if you use similar graphics for your different SM accounts. [i.e. wordpress matches twitter]
No. 10 – I agree mostly with Shorr here, but think he missed the point on this one. Blogging IS social media, or at least a form of it.
No. 11 – Can’t comment on this one. Don’t know of any companies that do this and if they do, they probably have a PR agency do it for them.
No. 12 – I don’t agree with Shorr here. I think he has mixed up how people find blogs and how they stick to reading them.

So… where is the tie-in for today? How does the PRDaily article relate to my first three paragraphs?
Engagement – Nothing was really said in Shorr’s article about engagement.

I think I may have completely derailed on my train of thought here… 

Doc Brown was unfortunately,
a big influence on this Train’s Conductor.

When it comes to blogging and engagement, the advice I remember I was given was A) Give readers something unique,  B) Reply to comments and C) Follow others like yourself.  Naturally, A and C don’t exactly lend well to coinciding with each other, but you have to do it!

When nine hundred posts your blog reach, look as good, it will not, hmmm?

If anyone would like to give some more advice on blogging and engagement, I would definitely love to hear it! Do so in the comment section, below!

Now, for the last bit addressed in this post’s title. I find it rather weird that one of the first things I picked up well in PR writing, was writing headlines. Advice is often given that this should be the last thing you do when writing, but most blogs and websites are not set up in this way. You are somewhat pushed into doing the headline first.

So, now that I’m at the end of this post, what would my headline be better stated as? I’ve given it a little thought and here are the alternatives:

–  Good blogging is full of Jedi mind tricks
–  At the end of this post, there may be a punchline
–  Engagement is keeping them reading
Litotes and a whole
– Analogous Shots and Social Media Dreams
– What am I talking about??
– Captain Picard’s bLog: Engage!

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