What To Look For When Hiring Bloggers
There’s a vicious rumor going around the SEO blogosphere that I have some kind of blogging knowledge and insight on what makes a good blogger. I’ve tried to dispel this myth with my sucky blogging, but it doesn’t seem to be working. The emails from people looking to bring a blogger on board asking for a list of requirements still come in. I suppose with my 10+ years of blogging experience (hey, LiveJournal at 14 counts, right?), I guess I do have some pearls of wisdom worth sharing.
Here are the top traits a blogger should have. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
- Someone Who’s Click Happy: The difference between someone who blogs and a blogger is how many clicks they make looking for news. Bloggers worth their paychecks aren’t afraid to make those extra two or three clicks to check out a link buried at the bottom of the page. They know that sometimes the real gems of the story are the ones hiding in the background and the angles people aren’t covering. Good bloggers are curious by nature. They demand to know more because even if they’re not one by trade, they’re secretly fostering fantasies of being Christiane Amanpour (or, if their goals are less lofty, Barbara Walters). They’re the ones always asking "why" and rolling their eyes at press releases. The truth is, there are way too many people out there trying to make a career off faking it. They read a headline on TechMeme and then guess at what the heart of the story must be. That’s not someone you want on your team. You want someone who knows how to find information and can the turn it around in a useful way.
- Basic Social Skills: I know and I’m sorry. While I’ve surely never been one to advocate maintaining proper social skills and talking to people, the blogosphere is a social place. You can’t be an effective blogger if you’re all alone sitting in a cave. (Well, I guess you can, assuming you can still bring up Twitter and Facebook from there.) Blogging is about embracing the larger community. It’s about responding and adding to the conversations going on around you. It’s about being active on sites like Twitter and Facebook and Digg and StumbleUpon and using them to form connections with readers and other bloggers. And it’s not just those first level connections you’re after. You want to focus on who those people know as well. As much as we like to pretend it’s not, blogging is a popularity contest. (So is life. Stop complaining.) To be cool, you have to already be perceived as cool. And just like in high school, being cool means having friends. The cooler people think you are, the more friends you’ll get. The more friends you have, the more readers you’ll have. The more readers, the more friends. It’s a sweet cycle.
- Knowledge of the English Language: Fine. There have been plenty of polls and "studies" to show that proper grammar and basic writing skills are irrelevant to blogging, but they’re all lying. A big part of blogging rests on your ability to engage readers and tell a story. You can’t tell a story if you can’t write. And I can’t tell you how many good stories have been written and ruined by those who were never hit with the grammar stick in school. Punctuation is not to be feared and Word does come with a spell check. You don’t want your inability to use punctuation and conjugate verbs to distract people from the story you’re trying to tell. Obviously there are exceptions. Michael Gray and Jeremy Schoemaker both have blogs, so clearly high school-level spelling and grammar isn’t a total absolute. Still, I think it helps and I credit most of blogging "success" to the fact that I’m literate. I’m sure SEO blogging is just what my Dad had in mind when he shelled out $120k for my Journalism degree, hee.
- Passion: The biggest reason most blogs suck is lack of passion. We’re very lucky to be in the search space where bloggers are genuinely passionate about the topics they’re covering and about helping readers. That’s not the case widespread. Passion comes from having a strong opinion one way or another about something and demanding to see things done right. Bruce Clay, Inc. is passionate about search engine optimization. I was passionate about Ask.com and I’m still passionate about search and empowering users. When you write with passion you attract people who are passionate about the same things and bring them into your community. If your wannabe blogger doesn’t have a favorite band, a company they’re diehard for, a brand they’d like to see burned to the ground, a Web site they tell all their friends about and a To Kill list that’s ready and waiting, they’re probably not for you. Or this planet. The only people in this world that matter are people with passion. The rest of you are just taking up space. Don’t enter my blogosphere.
- Sense of Humor: Your blogger in training doesn’t have to be eyeing a career in standup any time soon, but they should have some sense of humor or wit. Despite the number of lame news blogs popping up all over the space, most people still expect the Web to entertain them. Corporate blog or not, don’t take yourself too seriously. I’m not advocating acting like a goofball and offending all of your clients and readers, but know that it’s okay to have a little fun. Posting a Friday Recap each week where you link to oddball things isn’t going to flush your credibility down the toilet (or, if it has, please don’t tell Bruce!). Your ability to pick your words and display who you are is going to set the tone and voice of your blog.
- Transparent: Blogging is not for everyone, and it’s definitely not for those who are afraid to show people who they are under the surface. You need to find someone who’s willing to lay it all out there and invite people into their lives – their real life, not the one they pretend to have on the Internet. Total transparency is what builds trust and that emotional connection. There are plenty of bloggers, the only way you’re going to set yourself apart is to be genuine and true to yourself. If you’re the type setting up different "personal" and "professional" social networking accounts, maybe blogging isn’t for you. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but personally, I don’t think you can be a successful blogger if you’re afraid to show who you really are. Susan will probably disagree with me on that. [I'd have gone for 'Genuine' over 'Transparent', personally. Sincerity is everything. I don't need to know everything about a person, only true things. --Susan] That’s because you only keep surface relationships. Others require more.
- Female: Okay, I’m just kidding about this one but if you work in a male-dominated space, it does seem to help.
That’s my take. What traits do you think are important for competitive blogging?