Getting Started Online
Over the course of the summer, a bunch of my friends have started to express interest in starting their own blogs.
One group of friends feels that having a blog will help create an online presence for their band, A Northern Drawl.
Another friend created a blog to share her stories of late-night debauchery and celebrity searching in Toronto.
My friend Sarah asked me to help her set up a blog for her trip to South America.
And my new roomate told me that he wants to start a blog to use as an online resume for his video work (I'm hoping that my other roommate will resume writing the always-excellent T-zero blog about Toronto culture and breakfast now that he has returned from an overseas stint).
In short, they all want an online presence for themselves and since I'm known amongst them as "the guy that knows stuff about the internets," they've come to me for advice.
While I'll be happily helping them when I get a chance, I thought I'd also share some of the advice I'm giving them with the readers of BlogCampaigning. Hopefully you'll be able to give them some additional advice, or point them in the right direction when you think I've lead them astray.
My advice for starting off has been that they should get a Twitter account.
Why? Because Setting up an account on Twitter is a lot like starting a blog.
Following people, having them follow you and experimenting with some of the tools that work with Twitter are a great introduction to how things like RSS and other social media tools work. For example, I showed my roommate how he could set up an account on The Hype Machine (a website we both think is pretty sweet) so that everytime he favorited a song there it would alert his Twitter followers.
Customizing Your Twitter Profile
Customizing your Twitter profile is also a good introduction to customizing your own blog and working with web tools. I've got nothing against blogs based on templates or Twitter accounts that use the default colors and background image, but I think that taking the extra step in customization is very important. Just as Seth Godin equates downloading and installing Firefox as the equivalent to applying for college or university. As he writes: "the kind of person that puts the effort into getting into and completing college is also the kind of person who succeeds at other things."
Customizing your Twitter profile will help you learn about image editing (as you decide what to use as your profile image and as a background image) and hexadecimal colors. If you aren't quite sure what you want your blog to look like, playing around with colors and images on Twitter is an easy way to get started.
Doing this sort of customization will also help people identify you more easily, and will help distinguish you from the legions of spammers (when was the last time you followed someone that didn't have a Twitter profile pic? When was the last time you subscribed to a blog based on an unmodified Kubrick template?).
"I don't really get it," "how do I know who to talk to?" and "who is going to want to listen to what I have to say?" are three of the most common things I hear from my friends when I'm telling them about how to get started on Twitter.
My response to this is to just dive in and get started. I wrote before how I thought that Twitter is like an online cocktail party, full of different conversations that you can either choose to ignore or join (just like a real cocktail party). In both cases, no one cares if you are a wallflower and just listen. Chances are, they won't interact with you either. To be part of the "conversation" you'll have to speak up. In Twitter, this amounts to sharing links that you think are interesting, responding to things other people have said, or simply adding your own opinion ("conversation" in quotation marks because I'm cringing at how cliched that word has become even though it is the only one that works here).
Can you think of any other advice for them?
Maybe tell them directly - my roommate Claudio is @Clizz on Twitter, my friend Sarah's blog is Alpaca For Dinner, my colleague Jessica is @JessicaSine on Twitter and my friend Katie is @Vandertramp on Twitter (her website is Mischief, Mayhem, Parties and Boys). You might also want to check out A Northern Drawl - although the only have a MySpace page right now, I'm excited to help them promote their music and develop and online presence for themselves.
If you're in Toronto (or love it or are thinking of visiting) be sure and check out my other roommate's blog Tzero. It is especially great if you're looking for reviews of breakfast places in the downtown area.