5 Things I Learned About Blogging In One Year

One year ago . . .

As a passionate agvocate, I attended the 2012 AgChat conference (agricultural social media conference) in Kansas City. During the conference I truly was inspired by some of the top ag social media gurus. At the end of the conference, I told myself and others, “I want to blog!” But then reality started to hit. Can a person blog with absolutely no background in journalism or communications?  Well, with a bit of blind faith, mixed with a positive attitude and many questions asked, I started my blog – Minnesota Farm Living.  It’s been fun, Minnesota Farm Livingrewarding and I have not looked back.  I can now call myself a blogger and I don’t get that weird (like can I really say it?) feeling.

Here is my top 5 things I learned this past year about blogging:

1. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of time. I have heard and read that you should be able to write a blog in about an hour. Not even close for me. Granted, it probably would be easier and faster if I was an experienced writer, but it takes me a long time to write a blog. A lot of my time is spent thinking about better and more interesting ways to present the blogging material. Ideally, I split my blogging over a few days, which usually results in a better written blog.

The more difficult aspects about blogging for me are making sure my grammar is proper, selecting good blog topics and writing an appropriate and catchy blog title. In the past year, I have realized that blog titles are extremely important.  Blog titles are all readers have as their first impression of a blog and it does determine whether they click to read or pass over it. And all bloggers want their blogs to be read!

2. Practice makes perfect.  The more you write, the better you write. In fact, I cringe a little when I read some of my first blog posts.  I also learned this past year that you can’t proofread your blog enough. In fact, if you think it’s ready to publish, read it again and then read it one more time.

When I proofread my blog I am looking for grammar and spelling errors and also ways to write more clearly and concisely. There are times I will delete whole segments because it just didn’t add value to my blog.

Another item I have started to learn about over the past year is SEO – search engine optimization. SEO is a strategy that makes it easier for search engines to find your blog so it can display it on the search engine results page. Your ultimate goal is for your blog to be one of the top results of the search. One SEO strategy is to write good blog titles that include keywords and use those same keywords frequently in your blog. I also make sure my pictures’ file names are given a relevant name, in addition to a picture caption in the blog itself.

3. Content quality is king. I am continually learning and reading about what makes a blog successful and the one recurrent theme is to write quality content. Quality content provides value, such as giving information people may find useful or presenting content with a different viewpoint. I also include pictures in my blogs because they grab my readers’ attention. Many times pictures can add more to my blog’s content than words.

In addition to quality content, what values do I want to convey through my blog? Top on my list? Honesty, listening to others’ perspectives and to be open, even if it means embarrassing myself or feeling uncomfortable. Readers really do appreciate openness and candor. It helps make agriculture and farmers real in their eyes.

Most of my blog posts are about farming, family and living in rural Minnesota. Although, occasionally, I will write about something entirely different. And there is nothing wrong with that – readers appreciate the variety. And besides, it’s fun!

4. Making connections – that’s why they call it social media! Make connections with people within and outside your circle of interests. One of the challenges of agvocating is trying to reach people outside the “choir” (although reaching the choir is important too due to ag’s diversity). Recently, I have found some ways to start reaching people outside my circle. One way is to read other people’s blogs that may share non-ag interests you have. Examples of other interests may include food, fitness, nutrition or parental issues. Connections are made by reading and commenting on other blogs. And when people comment on your blog, be sure to respond back.  Responding to comments is one of my favorite parts about blogging!

Another suggestion for new bloggers is to find a seasoned blogger who is willing to mentor you.  I did have a mentor and she gave me great advice, as well as shared some of my blogs on her website.

5. Letting others know about your blog. One of the challenges in the first year of blogging is how to let others know that you have a blog post. Initially, I started posting my blog post on my Facebook page. But as time went on, I realized there are many other avenues for publicizing my posts.  In addition to Facebook, I now post to LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter (make sure you use hashtags and tweet multiple times at different times of the day or week), Google+, pertinent related Facebook pages, and Linky Parties (or blog hops).

Linky parties are blogs where the “host” allows bloggers to post their blog links for others to access. Hence the name, “linky party”. The sole purpose of linky parties is to help bloggers make connections with each other. Just make sure you read and follow the rules of the party. I like linky parties because it’s a good way to connect with people outside the “choir”.

It’s been a great first year! I have been surprised about who is reading my blogs, where my blogs have been posted and the people I have connected with over this past year. I will continue to read and listen and learn and blog. Here’s to another year of blogging!

written by Wanda Patsche of Minnesota Farm Living

Wanda Patsche

 

 

Wanda is a wife, mother and grandmother from south central Minnesota who farms with her husband, Chuck. They have 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren. In addition to their family, they raise hogs, corn and soybeans. With a passion for agriculture, Wanda is also a blogger talking about the topics most close to her heart – agriculture and living in rural Minnesota. Wanda’s main responsibilities are helping with the crops in both spring and fall, in addition to being responsible for the accounting functions on the farm.

Tools to Help You Cultivate a Better World

Angry, livid, ticked off, blood boiling, outraged, infuriated or disgusted. I’m sure any of these words, and probably many more, describe your feelings while viewing the recent Chipotle Scarecrow video.

Situations like these are not certainly not black and white, just as there isn’t a right or wrong solution about how to Chipotle Peppermanage the information and respond. We would like to offer a few tips on how you can react to controversial situations as well as provide a growing list of blog posts from fellow agvocates and media sources.

Five Tips for Dealing with Controversial Situations

1.) Tell your story – the most qualified person to tell the story of your farm or ranch is you! When it comes to the other methods and types of other operations, be sure to employ the experts in those fields.

2.) Open your doors – continue to offer tours of your farm and ranch, inviting people from all walks of life. If you are logistically unable to do so in person, you can always offer virtual tours online and/or refer to videos produced by other agvocates.

3.) Be Pro-Farmer/Rancher – regardless of method or type of farm or ranch, we all need to work together and support diversification in food choices. Consult each other on resources and references.

4.) Build a rapport with your retractor. Find common ground from which you can begin a connecting conversation. Use this conversation as a starting point for a discussion around the controversial issue. Ask questions which might shed light on their viewpoint.

5.) Listen. Listen. Listen.

During the days following the video release, there have been a variety of approaches in response to the video.

Is there a reaction which speaks to you more than others? How do you feel about the media’s response?

Chipoltle’s Scarecrow Video Responses

 If you would like to have a related blog post added to this list, please email comm@agchat.org.

September 24th, 2013 – AgChat on Harvest 2013

AgChat on Harvest 2013Getting The Crops To You The food on your plate has to start somewhere. Harvesting is one of those starting points. Throughout the year farms and ranches finishing there season by getting crops collected and sending them to distributors, processors, and mills. What is involved in harvesting? What do people need to do to get crops in? This AgChat conversation highlights some of the actions during the harvest season.
[Read more…]

September 17th, 2013 – FoodChat on Food Safety

FoodChat on Food SafetyIs Food Safe? We never really think about food safety until someone you know gets sick on the news highlights an outbreak. This FoodChat conversations covers what people believe and resources to use when more information is needed.
[Read more…]

#Harvest Pinterest Board

The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny. ~ James Allen

Depending on the year, harvest is a wonderful time. Whether your experiencing a good or bad season, usually it induces a feeling of accomplishment. To Share Your Photos on the AgChat Foundation Pinterest Boardcelebrate your accomplishments, hard work and time we want to highlight your harvest experiences in pictures. A Pinterest board labeled Harvest has been created and is awaiting your pins. All you need to do is follow the board and then you’ll be invited to contribute. Easy as pumpkin pie! Don’t have a Pinterest account? Check out these easy instructions to help you on your way.

Why Should I Contribute to the Harvest Board?

  1. Exposure to your blog
  2. Be highlighted on the AgChat.org website! Pin your photos before Oct. 4th and you’ll have a chance to be one of five people who’s photos will be published on the website  on or around Oct. 11th.
  3. The top five photos will also be highlighted on the AgChat Foundation’s Facebook page.
  4. Its intriguing to see how others are harvesting their crops.
  5. Did I mention exposure?

What kind of harvesting do you want to see?

  1. Any and all. Whether its apples, soybeans, green beans, corn, wheat/straw, potatoes, grapes, etc… we’d love to see them!

If you have any questions, contact Jenny at comm@agchat.org.