Blogs are a great way of communicating your thoughts and opinions on a subject, or of keeping your audience up to date with developments in your work. A blogging service allows you to create posts that are displayed in reverse chronological order. Typically, you can also apply categories to your posts, which allow your users to find other articles on the same topic. Departments or units can make use of the University’s blogging service (blogs.reading.ac.uk), but for individuals there are a broad range of equivalent options. Many are free, but for a small (usually annual) fee you could add a custom URL, such as www.yourname.co.uk.
How you can use them
A blog will usually have a central theme and each post can be considered an article on something relating to this theme. For a department or unit, the theme might just be the latest news and updates, or it could cover a specific research project. Another alternative is for department members to post opinion pieces on topical events, such as the Film, Theatre & Television blog or the Politics and International Relations blog.
Individuals might consider posting not only on their own research, but commenting on recent publications and current thinking in their wider field.
How much effort is involved?
Blogging can be more time consuming than other social networking methods as it can take time to create a considered post. However, if you’re blogging on a subject that is of interest to you and that is related to your area of expertise then you may find that it takes very little time. One thing to bear in mind is that it’s important to keep up momentum. Not all your prospective readers will subscribe to your blog, they may just visit occasionally to see if there’s anything new so unless your blog is regularly updated at least once a month, but weekly is better) they may lose interest. As such, you need to be able to commit the time on a regular basis.
Other things to bear in mind…
If your blog is popular, then engaging with comments may also take up some time. Comments are what add the ‘social’ element to your blog, so approaching this in the right way is key. If you come across as authoritative on your subject then you may find readers asking you questions and engaging with these effectively is one way you can boost your reputation. The comments section may also be a forum for debate on your posts or the subject area, so be prepared to engage with this, but avoid getting into an argument. Similarly, if you receive a negative comment or criticism, don’t just delete it – unless it is completely inappropriate or offensive. In some cases, it can be useful engaging with negative comments, but only where a response is required. Again, avoid getting into an argument – some people will make negative comments with the sole intention of initiating a ‘flame war‘, so it’s often better not to engage. If in doubt, contact the Communications team or Digital Development.
Remember that you’re unlikely to develop a following overnight. People will need to come across your blog, either by browsing blogs.reading.ac.uk, searching for content in the same subject area, or via links (perhaps from your personal pages, staff profile or departmental site). You should take up blogging because you have something to say, not because you want people to listen to you.
If you would like to blog about your research or area of expertise, but don’t want to commit to blogging fully, consider contributing to another blog related to your subject area. This might be a departmental blog, or the University’s central blog for Research The Forum.