I was honored to be asked to participate in a panel this morning at Briarcliffe College in Bethpage, N.Y., as part of Fair Media Council’s Social Media Boot Camp. The topic was “How to Blog Like a Pro.” My fellow panelists included William Corbett Jr. of Corbett Public Relations and Judy Smith-Bellem of SMM Advertising. Tim Vassilakos of North Shore-LIJ Health System moderated. Here’s a photo of all of us, courtesy of Rich Kruse (that’s me sitting on the left — notice how focused I am!).

I distributed a tip handout to the group, and I thought I’d post the tips here as well. As we discussed at the panel, there are no rules for blogging, but there are definitely things you can do to generate readership and engagement. Here are eight:

  1. Don’t blog unless you have something to say. There is so much noise on the internet today, and readers’ time is limited, so don’t post for the sake of posting. Post only when you have useful and actionable info.
  2. Write in a professional, yet conversational tone. Blogs are popular because readers feel like they are getting to know you personally, so keep the corporate-speak for your press releases.
  3. Engage readers. Whatever the topic of your post, try to get a conversation going with readers. Try ending your posts with a question that readers can answer in the comments, or you can offer giveaways or discounts to commenters.
  4. Pay attention to your blog’s appearance. Let’s face it: Many times, we judge a book by its cover. So make sure your blog is easy to read and navigate and that your domain name is memorable and accurately represents your company (if you have a stand-alone blog).
  5. On your blog’s homepage, show several blog posts/excerpts, rather than just your last post in its entirety. New visitors like to skim your homepage to see if your blog is for them. If you can show a variety of post examples, one of them is likely to make a connection.
  6. Keep the Me, Me, Me to a minimum. No one’s going to visit your blog if all you do is talk about yourself or your product. Even though you are blogging for promotional reasons, your blog has to be about Them, Them, Them — your readers. What takeaways can you offer your readers? What can they learn from you? How can you save them money? Treat blogging like a service that you offer your customers, rather than a press release.
  7. Blog regularly. You don’t need to blog every day. One, two, or three times a week should be sufficient. But whatever frequency you choose, your readers will become accustomed to it, so stick to it.
  8. Promote, promote, promote. (But don’t over-promote). Every blog post should be announced on whatever social media you participate in. Although your blog subscribers will get a notification, everyone else — your future subscribers — will hear about it through Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest. Keep in mind, though, that your blog promotion should only represent a small percentage of your social media interactions–on Twitter, my rule is one promotional post for every seven informational ones–or you risk the dreaded unlike or unfollow.

There are lots of ways to build an audience for a blog. What are some of yours? I’d love to hear them!