As a blogger who’s been at this now for over four years, I have been fortunate enough to know first-hand the impact of blogging on the way ADR professionals practice. As a social media tool, blogging has transformed the way I network, helping me forge ties around the world with dispute resolution professionals and others committed to changing the way people respond to conflict. Writing a blog has honed my thinking, and sharpened my ability to spot emerging trends and advances that have bearing on the work I do. And I read blogs myself for breaking news, incisive analysis, and links to content relevant to my practice. In fact, during the four years I’ve been blogging and avidly reading other blogs, I’ve learned, reflected, and deepened my understanding about mediation, conflict resolution, and negotiation more than I did in the nine years that preceded that.
As the webmaster for ADRblogs.com, a site that tracks blogs globally that discuss ADR and conflict resolution (which just celebrated its third anniversary by the way), I have seen quite a few ADR blogs come and go. Consequently I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting which ones will last and which will rapidly fade away into obscurity. The ones that thrive do so because their owners developed certain habits. If you have just launched a blog, or have been blogging for a while now without seeing your readership increase, you may be interested in these observations that I share here now – 6 things that effective conflict resolution bloggers do:
Create worthwhile content for readers. A blog provides you with the ability to share what you know, and there are many ways to do it. Recount a personal anecdote that illustrates how negotiation can work in the real world. Explain how you handled a difficult client. Share what you learned from a student in the conflict resolution class you teach. Tell your readers about an inspiring book you’ve just finished or a web site that got you thinking. Pose a question to your readers and invite their ideas. Give your opinion and ask readers and other bloggers for their reaction. What to avoid: Flagrant self-promotion turns readers off. If all your posts do is pitch goods or services you sell, you’ll alienate not just readers but also fellow bloggers who otherwise might be happy to send readers your way. In addition, all too often I see new bloggers copy and paste in their entirety articles from other sources, without bothering to contribute their own observations or opinions to add value to the post. That’s okay once in a while but don’t make it a habit. Instead, let your own voice come through loud and clear.
Learn the lingo. Good news! There are really only a couple of words you need to know: “blog” and “post”. “Blog” can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, “blog” means to compose and publish an entry (known as a “post”) on your blog,. As a noun, “blog” is what your entire blog is called. A “post” is an individual entry. Please do not call a “post” a “blog”; that’s a common newbie mistake. One other concept you should be familiar with is “RSS feed”. They’re like belly buttons – every blogger has one. RSS feeds make it possible for people to subscribe to and read blogs easily, and your blog should already come equipped with one. Daniel Schwartz at Connecticut Employment Law Blog has written a brilliant explanation of RSS feeds – please read it. (Not to worry, there won’t be a quiz on this tomorrow.) (And thanks to Geoff Sharp for pointing it out.)
Remember to link to others – it’s called “social media” for a reason. Blogs are based on reciprocity; in fact, the currency of the blogosphere is links, inbound and outbound. Successful bloggers link out to other blogs and sites, sending readers away to good content. Outbound links in fact exude confidence, as well known blogger Brian Clark has written, and signal a willingness to engage in a robust exchange of ideas with fellow bloggers. Bloggers often respond by returning the favor and linking back. Inbound links to your blog are vital, increasing its visibility and bringing new visitors to your site. Last summer I wrote a post reminding ADR bloggers of the importance of linking and the social side of blogging – please read it. Even experienced bloggers sometimes overlook this; recently I was dismayed to notice that an ADR blogger discussed a post of mine but did not link to it. An oversight? Nope – this blogger simply does not link to others. Too bad – they’re devaluing their own blog in the process. Don’t let their mistake be yours: link regularly.
Give credit for others’ ideas. Blogging is like writing term papers in college: you have to credit your sources or you might be accused of plagiarism. If you write a post about an interesting article, news story, or web site that you learned of on someone else’s blog, give credit to that other blogger and – this is the really important part – link back to their post. Incidentally, linking back helps weave the web of conversation that blogging produces – your link back serves as a response to or a riff upon a thought or idea. Links get people talking.
Express appreciation. If another blogger says something nice about your blog on their blog or recommends you to their readers, write a comment to that post thanking them. Or send them an e-mail personally thanking them. Heck, do both. Better yet, return the favor, and blog about them. Make your mom proud.
If you screw up, apologize. I’ve done it. I bet you have, too. It’s not the end of the world. Take responsibility. Apologize. Fix it.
P.S. One other thing. If you do have a dispute resolution blog, tell other bloggers about it. Don’t keep it a secret. We’re here to help.