Monday, July 17, 2006

How to Start a Blog

If you've been thinking about starting a blog or are already blogging, Joe Carter has collected some great advice in his “How To Start a Blog” Series: Tips and Suggestions for Launching a Successful Blog.

I would especially commend his article on the 5/150 Principle:

If we truly want to have a bigger impact we need to start by thinking smaller.

If you have a blog that is read by more than a few dozen readers then you are making a bigger impact than you probably realize. If you have 50 people reading your blog then you have more people in your “classroom” than most professors at Harvard. If you have 90 readers then you have more people in your “pews” than most pastors have in their churches every Sunday. And if you have more than 1000 readers a month you have a larger “circulation” than most poetry and short story magazines.

But having a larger audience doesn’t necessarily translate into having more influence. As Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book The Tipping Point, the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship is about 150. In blogging terms, this means that when your readership grows, you’re ability to have a true one-on-one relationship with them decreases significantly. This is not to say that you should attempt to limit your readership to 150 readers, turning people away when that number is reached. What it means is that if you want to maximize your personal influence you would focus on establishing strong bonds and deep interaction with at most 150 readers.

Now consider what would happen if each of these 150 readers read and thought about what you wrote on your blog for five minutes every day. Five minutes may seem insignificant but it has an exponential effect: with only 5 minutes every day, six days a week, every month, you will have the reader’s attention for more than one entire day – 26 hours – every year. With only 150 consistent readers you will have gained the equivalent “mindspace” of one person for one entire day for almost five straight months. This is what I call the "5/150 Principle": capturing the mindspace of 150 people for 5 minutes can create an astounding opportunity for influence.

The question then becomes how you will use the principle. Your audience is giving you two of their most precious possessions – their time and their attention. What are you doing with this gift? Are you using it to improve their life, influence their worldview, feed their mind? Or are you wasting it by giving them junk food, blather and trivia which provides a momentary amusement but has only a fleeting impact? What will this person gain in return for loaning you this treasure for 26 hours every year?