Reaching The Worldwide Web With The Gospel
By Kent D Curry
Coined from the term web logs, blogs hit critical mass on the Internet around 2002-2003. Almost overnight, professors in backwoods states, unknown reporters, business mavens, authors, and political analysts found themselves with audiences in the millions simply by sharing their views on their passions.
Everyone is on the Web, but not everyone is using the Web to influence the world for Christ. Blogs are one way—especially when teamed with a vibrant social networking site (think: Facebook, MySpace)—for you to reach others with the good news, meet new friends, find people of like passion, and to be challenged and enlightened by ardent readers. Coined from the term we blogs, blogs hit critical mass on the Internet around 2002-2003. Almost overnight, professors in backwoods states, unknown reporters, business mavens, authors, and political analysts found themselves with audiences in the millions simply by sharing their views on their passions.
A blog works on two simple concepts—the intimacy of the host and the links to related sites on the Web. When a unique voice offers lively views (and pictures) on an article they have linked to, readers find an informed friend, as well as an article worth reading. The largest bloggers offer multiple posts daily.
Intimacy is essential, as canned news and sterile viewpoints have been in abundance since media was invented. When a writer shares his life and thoughts in a trusting manner, readers become addicted. A blog is the best creation yet to magnify that connection.
There is a third feature that is not used everywhere, but is on most stand-alone blogs—that is the possibility for instant comments on each post. Blogs make readers want to be part of an instant conversation, so the comments feature gives them a chance to jump in. This often leads to lengthy, continued arguments over the merits of the topic with the blogger chiming in to elaborate or argue the finer points with dissenting readers. Often the readers are as informed as the bloggers.
The most successful stand-alone blogs have been about politics, though now that the world economy has tanked, business blogs are surging. The growth of both is because there is always some news to be dissected and discussed. Web 2.0 (the term used for the insistence by readers to be involved in the primary communication) has shifted millions of readers onto social networking sites that allow a participant to post portions of their personal life, as well as regular posts for friends they are connected to. However, this limits their readership.
There are numerous free blogging websites, the biggest being Blogger.com and WordPress.com. Both allow you to create new blogs in less than five minutes. Blogger is simpler, with fewer options, while Word press offers an amazing amount of options, but requires more technical expertise. Still, just because you have a blog does not mean anyone is reading it. Plus, it can be incredibly time-consuming. It is also incredibly rewarding if you build it right. Here are some. Tips worth considering before you dive into the scrum of the blogosphere, or if you are blogging without a significant audience.
Know your mission.
If you want an audience bigger than a few friends, share something unique on a particular topic and make that topic your blog identity. Anyone can talk about whatever is in the news, but if you are not a close observer or participant in that scene, there is no reason to read your thoughts. (After all, who listens to the loud-mouthed cabbie who knows what is going on in Washington despite the fact that he is shuttling you through the back streets of Butte, Montana?)
Give your readers insight into your topic. I am a regular contributor to Word, a blog on Pentecostals writing, as well as Collideoscope, a mix of cultural and religious news; because those are my strengths and I feel like I have something different to say to interested readers.
Understand that a blog is about transparency.
If you are unwilling to share select portions of your life with the world, then this is the wrong medium for you. You must be willing to share your life, and not just the public parts. This makes older generations squirm, but is the baseline entry point for the teens and twentysomethings of today.
A blog is about contributing to a larger conversation.
There are other blogs discussing your topic(s). Get to know them. Link to them. Leave comments on their posts. They are likely to return the favor. This builds your audience.
A blog is about radar updates (read: at least thrice weekly).
If you are unwilling to post consistently, then this is the wrong format for you. Unless you tell readers you are updating only on (for instance) Fridays, readers expect new posts almost daily. Beware: this is far more draining than it sounds. It need not be an all-original post every day. It helps to link to articles on another site and then post your reaction. Still, it takes time to find pertinent articles. Be conscious of this time drain.
Decide to allow or not to allow comments.
Blogs make readers want to be part of an instant conversation. It is fun to get comments on your posts until someone disagrees with you. Decide if you are willing to take criticism for your posts. All blog software offers the capabilities of screening reader comments before they post. However, if you do not allow anonymous comments, you are less likely to get feedback. Unless this is grossly abused (in which case you can delete their comments), I suggest you allow comments to be uploaded instantly. (You can also ensure every comment is emailed to you, to make for easy screening.) If you do not, you are missing the point of Web 2.0 and face an uphill battle in gaining a regular readership.
Insert regular subheads.
The blog format is hostile to long articles. Surfers look at long uninterrupted prose in blogs and leave, never to return. Use regular subheads to make longer pieces (500-plus words) enticing.
Write short paragraphs.
This is the Web.
Bullet points make lists friendlier.
The web is a visual medium, so spice up your articles with pictures. There are also ways to grab pictures off the Web, but make sure they are not copyrighted before you use them. Frankly, most sites are pleased their pictures are appearing in more than one place and do not have a problem with it. The same goes for pictures of public figures.
Create snappy headlines.
Search engines comb through blogs daily. Use popular phrases/key words that surfers are seeking and new readers will find you—and stay,
There is no perfect blog, but there are millions (yes, millions) that were started with happy, daily posts that went to semi-happy weekly posts and then went to begrudging weekly posts and then posting completely stopped. Make sure you are willing to throw sufficient imagination and energy into your posts to reward your long-time readers with a friendship worth pursuing. It is another way to share the good news.
Kent d Curry is the high school field editor for Word Aflame Publications. He attends New Life Pentecostal Church in Bridgeton, Missouri, Garry Macy is the pastor. SEPTEMBER 2009
This article “Reaching the Worldwide Web with the Gospel” was written By: Kent Curry
From: www.90and9.com web site. September 2009