When I say there are four types of blogs, I’m totally lying to you. There are dozens and dozens of types of blogs, but for the purpose of the College of Blogging Series, I’m going to direct my attention at only four types: Personal, Professional, Group, and Vlog. Keep in mind though that if you can dream it up, you can blog it.
I first started blogging on LiveJournal back in 2000 in order to keep up with friends and family who lived halfway across the country. They liked seeing my pictures and reading my stories. My audience was small, intimate, and everyone who followed me also knew me in real life.
This is a good example of a personal blog. Also called a hobby blog, journal, or personal journal, these blogs may only be read by a handful of family and friends—usually people who know the blogger in real life. They do not actively seek an audience.
Personal blogs are fun and tend to be about the blogger’s life. There are no rules that dictate behavior or content. Personal blogs are simply that –- personal. You can put anything you want on a Personal blog. You can update them as frequently or infrequently as necessary. There are no limits. These are the most common blogs.
While they may center on one or two main topics (exercise, gardening, parenting) they don’t market themselves as a Gardening Blog, or a Parenting Blog.
Personal blogs have a reputation for fizzling out when the blogger gets too busy.
Professional blogs are also referred to as “Blogging for an Audience.” These are more closely associated with writing a newspaper column. These blogs want to draw in and keep an audience. They market themselves and attempt to build a community around their message. The blogger becomes an opinion expert in their field, a public personality, and often the look of the blog establishes a sort of brand around the blogger and his/her topic.
Professional blogs usually only have one or two closely related topics that they post about. They very rarely diverge from these topic lines. When a reader comes to the professional blog they know exactly what sort of posts they’ll be reading. Usually a professional blogger is an expert in some capacity about the thing they blog about. Caveat: You can be a Professional Novice. Writers who are unpublished but blog about their journey to publication would be considered an expert at being new to the business. The message would be one of exploration and the posts would revolve around learning the business.
Professional blogs must take great care to control their message and their image.
Professional blogs often pay for a specialized domain and/or web hosting. They may pay for a professional designer to build their blog for them, but it’s not necessary.
Professional blogs tend to post on a set schedule, usually Mon-Fri or Mon-Wed-Fri.
Group blogs, also called community blogs, are built from bringing together several bloggers on the same or similar subjects to support a blog together.
Group blogs are ideal for people who cannot maintain an individual blog on their own. A blog with five writers could schedule one writer for each day of the work week, for example.
It is not uncommon for a group blogger to also have their own individual blog.
The only concern with Group blogs is that, to be successful, someone has to take the lead on maintaining the site, developing the “look,” understanding the functionality and usability of the templates, and keeping the blog organized and on schedule.
Readers love Group blogs too because they can get several writers in one stop. Group blogs are becoming popular amongst published authors who don’t have time to maintain an individual online presence but can offer their readers a place to find them along with other similar authors. In this way, Group blogs are also beneficial for acquiring new readers.
It is my non-expert opinion that Group blogs are going to become increasingly more popular with midlist and indie authors who will let go of individual blogs. They’ll likely group by subject matter or genre to increase exposure. It will be easier for readers to keep current on their favorite authors this way, too.
Vlog stands for “Video Blog” and is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Instead of writing your blog, you produce it.
First, a Vlog is quick. The “sweet spot” is 4 minutes. They feel more personal, more intimate, as if you are sitting with your favorite author or blogger. You see their face. You see where they live. Vlogs tend to be less formal than Professional blogs with topics given as bite-sized and bulleted. Authors who vlog are becoming very popular, particularly YA authors, because the medium speaks well to an audience well versed in YouTube and video pop culture.
It can be easier for people to view a vlog on their cell phone, smart phone, or iPhone than it is to read a traditional blog entry on these devices.
As a new medium, there are some outstanding examples and many bad examples. Good vlogs feel like television, bad vlogs sound like someone rambling on someone’s voice mail.
Vlogs are also more expensive to produce and require some time spent developing the skills to become successful. For this reason, many vloggers also have blogs. Most blogging sites support video embedding in their blog posts, though most videos are originally posted on YouTube.
You’ll need a video camera, video editing software, a tripod, a well lit room, periods of silence, a good eye for visual presentation, and patience. You might say, “but my phone can take videos!” or “My webcam can take videos!” I urge you not to pursue vlogging unless you can get your hands on a decent camera. A video that is grainy with poor sound quality will actually drive viewers away from you. You want your video to feel like television, and you’re going to need the equipment to do it. After you have the equipment, it’s then just a matter of learning the software and equipment and practicing scripting, improv, and filming your videos.
How you choose which type of blog to create is up to you and I only have one piece of advice. What I’m about to say has caused plenty of online arguments in its time, and I’m comfortable with having a discussion in the comments, but I stand by this opinion.
If you hope and dream and plan to one day become a published author and make writing your career, you should consider giving up your “This is my life” Personal blog. In fact, I would even consider deleting your pre-career-ambitions Personal blog(s) from the internet depending on what you have posted in them.
The moment an agent or editor becomes interested in you – heck, the moment you start putting your writing out there, your blog (and any of your other online presence) becomes part of your resume.* EDIT: This is true of any career field. Writing just happens to be mine.
With that in mind, your blog should reflect your professionalism. It should be the best representation of you that you can make it. I’ve read enough agents who say they absolutely do Google potential clients, so what do you want them to find?
Further, if you are lucky and get published and find readers, do you really want readers, strangers, to see pictures of you and your kids at your house, possibly giving away where you live? Do your friends want pictures of them from 3 years ago on your blog that thousands of people are Googling? What about those posts that talk about being depressed, on medication, dealing with a death in the family, a scathing book review of an author you’re later on a book tour with, or your opinions on a controversial topic that maybe, several years later, you no longer feel so strongly about?
Even if you keep a Personal blog or a blog that has nothing to do with your writing career, I urge you to be judicious about what you choose to post. Anything you post on the internet, whether you want it to or not, whether you think it is fair or not, becomes part of your resume and you can and will be judged by it.
I believe that in pursuit of becoming a published author and public personality you give up a certain freedom. Drunken pictures on Facebook are going to be ten times more negatively received than your average Facebook user. You’ll want to be honest about yourself, but you’ll want to be careful. That’s my only advice, and you can take it for what it is worth. There are plenty of people who argue against the idea that they are a brand. When you purposefully enter yourself into the public sphere though, I disagree.
So what about everyone else?
As for the other types of blogs, the College of Blogging Series is geared towards the Professional Blog. If you are interested in Group Blogs, Vlogs, Photography Blogs, Art Blogs, Review Blogs or whatever, enjoy the advice but consider each piece with a caveat of This only applies to you if you want it to.
Want more College of Blogging posts? Click the tab just beneath the header called College of Blogging Series for every COBS post I’ve made so far. Or Click Here.