> @StickyJesus 13) demystifying: blogging

blogging meat and potatoesIn celebration of Internet Evangelism Month, this is the thirteenth in a 15-part blog project discussing the book, @stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online.

If Facebook is the appetizer of social media and Twitter is a sweet tweet ;) , then blogging is the meat and potatoes of social media.

I don’t know that that’s the best analogy, but as Tami and Toni write in @StickyJesus

Not confined to any magic word count, blogs allow you to go deeper into a topic, build relationships, and establish your own library of content.

From a ministry perspective, a blog is a great place to

  • Share stories of what God is doing in your life.
  • Share other people’s inspiring God stories.
  • Share a Christian perspective on current issues or events and facilitate discussion.
  • Advocate for a specific cause you’re passionate about and develop relationships with other people who share a passion for that cause.
  • Share your concerns and struggles and invite others to share their wisdom in comments.

Blog = Rocket Fuel

As I wrote a few months ago a blog is rocket fuel for social media and search engines. Here’s what I mean:

To succeed in social media, you need to provide value to those you connect with. Some of the most valuable things you can provide to people include original content, a place to discuss things that are important to them, and a place to meet like-minded people. All of these valuable things can be provided through a good blog.

Additionally, if you want to rank well in search engines, you need original content and links to your content. Both of these valuable things can be facilitated through a blog.

(Also see 40+ Ways Blogging Leads to Success)

Content is King, Community is Queen

“Content is king” is a phrase often repeated in the context of blogs. It basically means, creating great, original content is the most important ingredient in a successful blog.

While there’s no denying the value of great content, I believe community is equally important. People are drawn to community. They return to the places where they are known and valued.  And most importantly, you will have a greater impact on the lives of the people who read your blog if you demonstrate you actually care about them.

Here are some tips for developing community on a blog.

  • Ask questions in your blog posts that spark conversation
  • Reply to people who comment on your blog
  • Comment on other blogs that are on similar topics
  • Connect with commenters and the authors of similar blogs on Facebook and Twitter
  • Offer to guest blog on other blogs, invite others to guest blog on your blog, participate in group blog projects like this one.
  • Look for opportunities to help and show appreciation for commenters

Discussion

  1. How do you use your blog to minister to others?
  2. What other ways can blogs be used for ministry?
  3. What things do you to help foster community on your blog?

@StickyJesus 12) demystifying: Twitter" rel="bookmark" href="http://blog.ourchurch.com/2011/05/30/stickyjesus-12-demystifying-twitter/">12) demystifying: Twitter <– @StickyJesus – The Group Blog Project" rel="bookmark" href="http://blog.ourchurch.com/2011/05/02/introducing-stickyjesus-group-blog-project/">@StickyJesus project –> @StickyJesus 14) demystifying: content gathering" rel="bookmark" href="http://blog.ourchurch.com/2011/06/03/stickyjesus-14-demystifying-content-gathering/">14) demystifying: content gathering

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

36 Responses to “> @StickyJesus 13) demystifying: blogging”

  1. Paul – As a quick aside, I just wanted to let you know that I've used your "blogging =Rocket Fuel" analogy and post with just about every organization I've worked with or come into contact to when discussing social media strategies and web development. I could say the exact same thing but because you carry a certain weight and expertise on the matter the message actually gets through. I can't begin to thank you enough for writing that one!

    I've personally always thought of a blog as a discipling or a teaching tool but that's probably because most of my face to face ministry work centers around those kinds of activities. And I have even tried to start a discipleship course or a kind of cell group exclusively online using my blog but so far those efforts always seem to come up short. Part of that might be because I'm targeting people from my home church instead of people out in cyberland who might need it.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 1, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Hi Sage, it's a great encouragement to hear that post has been so helpful to you and those you've been helping! Thanks for sharing that!

      That's an interesting idea of using a blog for a discipleship course or cell group. I never thought of that. The closest I've come to that is these group blog projects. Were you creating your own discipleship materials or using an existing guide?

      I wonder if using a format similar to these group blog projects would help – where everyone is reading through a book or guide and then participants take turns blogging and leading the discussion. While I always hope lots of non-bloggers will participate and learn through these group blog projects, it seems the vast majority of the comments come from those who have taken ownership of the project by getting the book and signing up to blog a chapter.

      • That's actually something I hadn't considered doing – using existing material and then getting a bunch of people to group blog as a discipleship activity. Usually I end up treating it like my F2F groups where we agree on a subject or a book of the bible and then I write a brief blog post about it as if introducing the topic in a cell group that we then all talk about. (So to answer your first question, I usually end up creating the material myself)

        Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Christie Weatherby Jun 1, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Well, I have been thinking about creating a blog for a while now but still have not taken the plunge. I write in the discussions tab of my Face book fan page. I get discouraged when I put a lot of time and effort into something and no one reads it or comments or discusses. After this file and your post though, I feel I have a lot more to learn about getting people to my writings. Any advice?

  3. Great insight and well said. Thanks for writing this, Paul.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

      My pleasure, Maurilio. Thanks for stopping by & commenting. You have a great partner in Tami. And you're not too bad yourself. ;)

  4. I am a very impatient person. Kind of like those JG Wentworth commercials…"It's my blog and I want comments now!"

    The problem is that I can tell a good story with great meaning, but I don't engage the reader in the right way in order for them to get involved. I have tried asking questions and stuff like that, but it just doesn't seem to work.

    I mean this with no offense whatsoever, but it seems like the only blogs out there that get a lot of comments are the one's that are teaching people how to blog. The only folks commenting are the people trying to get more people to read their blogs. The most notable exception to this is Jon Acuff. But let's all face it, he's been doing it for years and years and he's very talented.

    I know that part of the problem might be that I have a big email subscriber list. Instead of commenting on the blog, they just "reply" back to me. Not that a big email subscriber list is bad, but they just read it on their phones and that's it.

    Thanks for what you're doing and speaking of Facebook as an appetizer. It is my biggest referrer to my blog. I have went out on a limb and tried something new today. I wrote "Five Tips for Roping Mavericks on Facebook". Maybe it will be engaging…we'll see. http://campfirecowboyministries.com/?p=1601

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      Hi Kevin, I agree that there are just some topics that that spark more conversation than others. Bloggers like to blog about blogging. Facebookers like to Facebook about Facebooking. Twitterers like to Tweet about Twitter. Some kinds of writing like a good story or poem can touch a reader very deeply but in ways that are hard to put into words. For a blog like yours, looking at the number of pageviews each post gets might be a better indicator than comments.

      Since you mentioned Jon Acuff, one of the many things he does really well is that some of his posts are very lighthearted and funny while others are really deep. The lighthearted stuff is great for engaging new people and the deep stuff, which includes a lot of transparency and authenticity on his part, helps him to make strong connections with his readers.

      • Well put! I have done a couple of controversial pieces (see I remember 31 days to be a better blogger) and they seem to get the conversations going.

        It's just hard to get out of a rut sometimes, even if it's been successful in the past. But I guess that's why they call it growing.

    • Totally gonna go ck out your blog, Kevin! :)

  5. Paul, great thoughts. I love your ideas and insight.

    Confession time for me:

    I have been blogging for a long time…and for the entire length of that time, I've had a love/hate relationship with it. And for the last few months, here is what I have been wondering:

    Is the blog still relevant in an online culture that consumes in 140-420 character bites. Twitter restricts to 140 characters…Facebook to 420. Are people willing to read much more than this? Can we still make a splash using only Twitter and Facebook? I stumbled on to a webpage not long ago that states, "People don't read books anymore, they read statuses." Is this true? If so, what does that mean for the blog?

    Having said all that, I think you are right…content is king. Good content will engage and people will read. (Interestingly, the same could be argued for us preachers: will folks sit through your 1 hour long sermon when they are used to watching TV shows in 13 minute segments? Yes…yes, they will. If, however, you are saying valuable things.)

    Just a few of my own thoughts as I've been wrestling with this "front" in my own social media life.

    • I agree Brandon. I have often struggled to keep my "cowboy story devotionals" short. The average post of mine used to be 700-900 words. I have tried to cut that in half without cutting deep into the content.

      As far as Facebook goes, I've noticed that the less words I use on the Fanpage, the more "likes" and comments I get.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      Hey Brandon, great questions. I think the notion that blogs are dying or irrelevant is a myth that is largely based on misunderstanding of some widely distributed research. Last year the The Pew Research Center published a report that showed blogging among teens dropped by half from 28% in 2006 to 14% in 2010. The main reason for the drop was a move to social media. That's the headline that was widely distributed. However, that same study, showed that the number of adults who blog increased by 50% from 7% to 11%.
      http://blog.ourchurch.com/2010/02/05/pew-study-po

      Blogs are still the place to go for discussion of news, issues and trends. I agree with Kevin's point, too – that while blogs are still popular and important the way people consume blogs has changed. Readers tend to skim and so it's good to write posts that are suited for skimming. That means short blog posts that are formated with good headings, bullet points and short paragraphs.

      • Hopefully I didn't sound like I was stating that blogging was dead. Clearly…from this blog, and several others that are so influential and leading the charge, that isn't totally the case. I covet the sheer awesomeness of those of you who are blogging rockstars.

        I guess I am wondering what my relationship is or will be with blogging.

        I've often coveted the blogs of others. But, I think I am being convinced that you can have an effective and valuable online ministry/presence in the social media universe without a blog.

        • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 1, 2011 at 3:03 pm

          Brandon, I think the place to start is with these questions…

          1) What is the purpose of your online ministry?
          2) What is the target audience of your online ministry?
          3) Is a blog an effective way to reach that audience and accomplish that purpose?

    • You can micro blog on your blog. The main reason for a blog is consistent community and building a more powerful platform.

      There's a lot of debate over this but I don't think we'll see the diminishing presence of blogs anytime soon. It's a platform TOO many closet writers have waited for. To reign them into FB or Twitter limits, would be like herding cats.

      I think if Facebook implements a longer post and revises it's post area to "appear" more blog like, this will force people to move wholly to FB as fans and friends seek to streamline thier communities. You can bet developers are working feverishly on this offering and it may just be fee based.

      Still, I don't think it's anything to worry about in the near future. The important thing is is to get your blogging chops honed NOW so we can get our people mobilized and skilled in this emerging area of influence. This is important on the spiritual side as well as the domestic and global political side. Did I say "important?" I meant to say CRITICAL.

  6. PaulSteinbrueck Jun 1, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Thanks Tami.

    "You don't even have to be overt – just doing life in Him and sharing the experience reveals much and before long your readers will want to know more about the hope that's in you."

    That's a great point! It also brings to mind the importance of knowing who your target audience is and writing for them. Whether it's intentional or not, the vast majority of "Christian blogs" I've seen are written for other Christians. If you want your blog to be a place where you can share your life in Christ with people who are not Christians, that takes intentionality in the topics, words, and tone used.

  7. PaulSteinbrueck Jun 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Great advice, Toni! If I'm hearing you correctly, you're talking about the difference between self-center blogging and others-centered blogging. Self-centered blogging is simply spilling out whatever is on your mind. Others-centered blogging is taking what's on your mind and writing with the mindset, "How can I communicate this in a way that best helps the people who read it?"

    This is a great topic that could be easily expanded into its own post. :)

  8. 2krazybeautiful Jun 1, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Great post and comments! I have to agree that I don't think blogging is going away anytime soon, though it is changing. Sarah, I am not "a writer" either. I follow a number of blogs, but I don't have time to read every post in it's entirety. I skim and look for content that interests me that particular day. If I see long paragraphs of nothing but prose, I'm likely to skip it unless the topic immediately grabs my attention.

    We've talked a lot in the past weeks about authenticity. I have to admit, I am turned off by blogs when it is apparent the author takes himself/herself way too seriously. I don't take myself too seriously, but I do take God seriously and I think both can be shown in a real and honest way.

    If I start to get discouraged by a lack of commenting…I just remember all of the times I have read blogs without commenting. I comment as often as I can (a word of encouragement, a prayer, a "that's a great thought/idea", etc.) but I can't comment on every post I read.

    Thanks, again, everyone for all the great content!!

    • PaulSteinbrueck Jun 2, 2011 at 11:00 am

      Hi Lisa…

      >>If I start to get discouraged by a lack of commenting…I just remember all of the times I have read blogs without commenting.

      That's a great suggestion. I too try to comment as often as I can on other blogs. As a blogger, I have become much more of a commenter because I realize that impacts comments have on the bloggers (encouraging them) and on the blog posts (breaking the ice, getting a conversation going).

  9. Christie Weatherby Jun 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Awesome conversation here! Thanks for all the comments and advice today!

  10. Love it when you get passionate, Toni. (which is like a…all-the-time.)

    But wait a minitue, no counsel on pictures? Hmmm. There's one more soapbox waiting for your POV. Another CRITICAL component indeed. xxoo.

    You push me to be my best, friend and I love you all the way to the moon and back for it!

  11. great convo and great points paul!

    for me as a writer blogging is such a gift – i can write and some people might read. i can communicate and people respond. and as a reader blogging is such a gift too because i can read other peoples stories and real life experiences. i can learn from them and be inspired by them and encouraged by them. ordinary people, like myself, who are making a difference. and i believe God speaks through blogging – He can use our words to speak to people. wow.

    How do you use your blog to minister to others? there are times i definately feel a nudge to post something – but there are other times when i am uising it like a file cabinet – storing quotes and thoughts. but i trust God that He can breathe upon anything i write and share.

    What things do you to help foster community on your blog? i always appreciate the comments – i'm a real words of appreciation love languages type of gal so love encouragement (though not living for it! mostly!) and i love to connect… i think responding always makes a connection and a difference. and then there are those who ahve commented that i've then connected with on fb and twitter – love that!

    heres my take incl a testimony of how God used a post from yesterday to encourage some readers, i love that: http://onepassiononedevotion.wordpress.com/2011/0

  12. PaulSteinbrueck Jun 2, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Hi Sarah, what's your motivation for blogging? What's the purpose of your blog?

  13. If Facebook is the appetizer of social media and Twitter is a sweet tweet ;) , then blogging is the meat and potatoes of social media.

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