Over the next few months, I’m going to be writing a series of posts entitled “MVP Special”. This series is going to be based around my Salesforce journey, career and how I became an MVP through writing my own blog. First in the series is “Setting up a Salesforce Blog”, although there are a lot of websites that can help you setup a blog, I thought it would be interesting for readers to hear from someone in the same industry. In this post I’m going to try and go through what I think is relevant, focusing more on the industry specific items and less on the generic. Next week and the following week I will be focusing on marketing your blog and other advanced tips.
Choosing a platform – One of the first steps in setting up a blog is choosing a platform to run your blog on. There are loads of free options out there, some more advanced than others. I use Wordpress, the clear leader in blogging platforms, you won’t need to look any further! Wordpress has a completely open-source platform that allows you to run a very simple blog, up to a hugely complex and customized system with free and paid for templates and plugins. An alternative common option is Blogger.
Deciding on hosting – You have an important decision to make when it comes to hosting: self hosting Vs free hosting. Self hosting refers to hosting and paying for a site yourself In this cae, you will need to buy the domain and hosting account from a company like Bluehost.com, Godaddy.com or tsohost.co.uk. Free hosting uses a service like Wordpress or Blogger to give you a simplified, limited platform with a domain name similar to www.salesforceben.wordpress.com.
There are big benefits to each of these choices depending on how serious you want to get with blogging. Having your own domain name gives blogs a more professional look and is also a lot better for SEO. You also have more options when it comes to platforms and site design, they do however have a recurring yearly cost to hosting and domain renewal. Free services are limited in functionality and have less flexibility, but many Salesforce blogs do run on free services and have huge success. If you can see yourself really getting into blogging, do not mind setting up a hosting account and paying around $50 go for the self hosted option. If you are just dipping your toes into test the water, go for the free hosting version. You can always migrate a free site to a self hosted in the future.
Creating a Brand – Thinking about your brand when you first start blogging is important but not critical. In the next section I talk about how you need to focus more on content you are creating not the design of your site, but you still need to consider your brand. The design of your site can change drastically with little repercussions, but the name of your site and the niche you are focussing on could be harder to change in the future. For example let’s say you want to focus on Administrator tricks and tips and you call your blog www.admintricks.com. Then decide in the future you want to expand to include developer tutorials, the name/brand of your blog will give out the wrong impression and may deter visitors. However, admintricks.com is a pretty cool and simple name if you did only want to focus on administrator material. It’s not an easy decision to make but you want to try and make your name as clear, concise, fun and memorable as possible.
Designing your site – As mentioned above, designing your site as well as your brand is an important thing to consider when starting up, but it is not as critical as focusing on your content. There is no point in spending 80% of your time designing your site and spending very little attention to content. A good looking simple site is great, but if your content is poor, visitors will not be back. On the bright side though! Wordpress has a huge amount of free templates for you to use, if you go down this route, check out Wordpress.org,
SalesforceBen Design – The SalesforceBen design that I’ve used has actually progressed a lot over the 18 months I have been posting on this site. I recently put out a post called the Evolution of SalesforceBen.com, it gives you an ideas of how I progressed the brand and the site over the 18 months and why.
Post Format – Now I’m no English major. In fact, since running this blog, it’s probably the most writing I’ve ever done in my life! I have made quite a few observations after writing and reading a lot of posts over the past couple of years about the way you should structure and write your posts.
- Spend as much time as possible on each post. Unless you are writing more of a diary style blog that is very informal and short, you really need to spend as much time and care on each post as possible. No one’s perfect, but if you are rushing to get a post out the door for the sake of it, the readers will see through. I’ve learned this first hand with a few posts I haven’t put as much time and care into as others, they really just take a nosedive.
- Write as if you are talking to a friend/colleague with a mixture of formal and informal tones. You are not presenting to a C-Level board and therefore throwing in a joke, slang or informal speak makes the reader feel like they are in a conversation and not a presentation, that is definitely something you want to avoid.
- Provide a good mix of text, images, tables, bullet point lists and links to mix the post up a bit. If a reader comes onto a post and just see’s a block of text, there’s a good chance none of it will get read.
- I try to keep a good mix of posts with different lengths. As a minimum I use 500 words as a guideline, any shorter than this and I feel that it probably needs to be bundled up with another post, here’s an example of a short post. As a maximum word guideline I use around 1000-1300. Even for tutorials I would consider splitting them up past this (I maybe a bit hypocritical with this post as it’s going to just go past this!).
Topics – If you are thinking about starting a blog, you already probably have a pretty good idea about the kind of topics you wish to post about, it’s always good to keep this in mind about what is actually possible to post about. Here are a few ideas, Admin/Developer tutorials, opinion posts, release posts, feature reviews, app reviews, event reviews, industry insights, future predictions, unknown tricks/tips.
Conceiving Ideas – Following on from topics to post about, it can get really hard to conceive ideas after your first burst of posts that you have in your head. The best bit of advice I can give on this is to read other blogs and news sites, look at the type of things they are posting about and in what kind of format. Of course you don’t want to plagiarize anyone else but there are only a finite amount of post “types” you can publish (Top 5.., Review, Tutorial etc..), so once you have a good idea of what these are, thinking up post ideas get a lot easier.
Storing Ideas – There are a few ways I store idea’s ready to flourish into beautiful looking posts. The first is using the drafts feature on Wordpress. Every time I have an idea that I know I will want to make into a post someday, I just title a post, write down a few bullet points in the post and save it as a draft. This way if I’m stuck on week thinking about a post, I can go and look into my bank of drafts. The second way is using a whiteboard to sketch down ideas for posts, diagrams and other blog ideas (Not only post related). I like this as it’s sitting and looking at me in my office all the time which means I quickly develop these ideas into something more.
In summarisation, start writing stuff down! The initial planning time and setup of your blog really won’t take as much time as you think, you can setup a self hosted tricked out site in half an hour or so. Brand creation and the design aspect might take a bit longer than this, but this doesn’t stop you from actually writing your post ideas out and having them ready to launch. I enjoy blogging for a number of reasons that I think are beneficial for everyone. From general research for posts you can indirectly make yourself so much more knowledgeable about Salesforce just from the time you dedicate to reading other blogs and refining your own. You can become industry recognised as someone that really cares about what they are actually talking about. Even if you don’t go all the way to becoming industry recognised, even a small blog is a great bonus on your resume. Finally, Networking. The amount of people that I’ve met whilst blogging has been astounding, from people that I reach out to asking for advice and others thanking me for posts is just incredible and I’m truly grateful for that.
Next week I’m going to be focusing on how to market your blog and start getting those visitor numbers up. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions about initial blog setup below or if you have any additional guidance to give.