Sierra Club Policies
Activists: Blogs are yet another resource in your toolkit of ways to inform, organize, and bring new activists on board.
What's a Blog? | Non-bloggers
Posting Comments | How to Get Started | Bloggers
Commenting on Other Blogs |Social
Sites | Influential Blogs for Sierra Club Readers |
What's a Blog?
For a definition, let's look to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia:
A weblog, which is usually shortened to blog, is a type of website where entries are made (such as in a journal or diary), displayed in a reverse chronological order. Blogs often provide commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Most blogs are primarily textual although many focus on photographs, videos, or audio. The word blog can also be used as a verb, meaning adding an entry to a blog.
Plus, blogs usually involve a conversation, because most of them allow readers to post comments, which in turn can be commented upon.
Why Should I Care?
Blogs are one of the primary ways that many Americans get information over the Internet, and that makes them a great way to educate folks about our issues, generate buzz, influence media coverage, and to get people involved. Like the Sierra Club, the blogosphere (as it's sometimes called) is a grassroots phenomenon. According to a 2006 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 12 million adult Americans are keeping blogs and 57 million Americans read blogs.
It's possible for Sierra Club members to use the blogosphere to communicate our messages by commenting or posting to third-party weblogs. Some of these, such as Daily Kos, InstaPundit, and TreeHugger have significant audiences. You can read more about this, and see a list of the most-influential blogs, here.
If you start your own weblog, or your own profile on a social networking site, you can present articles for people to read, swap information, post photos of a polluting factory or an event you held, suggest ways the community can take action. You can shed light on the work your partner organizations are doing. Appeal to potential donors. You can also learn a lot from the comments others make on your blog.
Non-Bloggers Posting Comments
For those without the resources to run their own blog, there a several ways to use the blogosphere in a strategic way.
- Find blogs that cover the topic you're interested in and where there's a community of readers you'd like to reach with your message. Search for blogs that search for blogs that cover your topics at Technorati or Bloglines, or ask your enviro friends which blogs they read. A list of influential blogs is included below.
- Closely monitor the blog you select. You may want to subscribe to the feeds so you find out about new postings immediately. Get a feel for the blog's tone and audience before you start posting.
- Where you've got something interesting to add, a question to raise, or an argument to make -- post a comment! And then check back to read the comments that are made about your comments and seize the opportunity to clarify your points.
- Include links to the sources of your information, or websites that provide background.
- Many prominent blogs allow regular contributors to post "diaries" which are kind of like a blog within a blog. All you have to do is write your column, article, rant, etc and the folks running the blog take care of the rest. Most of the time these won't be on the front page, but if you write something provocative or interesting, you could end up being the featured post.
How to Get Your Blog On
- Think about the focus and mission of your blog. Will it cover one particular issue, or all of the environmental issues you care about? Or will it serve as a kiosk about great places to recreate in your area? Do you hope to recruit new activists?
- Choose a title for your blog. Catchy is good.
- Consider whether you'll be the only blogger for your blog, or whether you'll share the duty of posting entries with other activists -- "guest bloggers."
- Decide whether to allow comments from those who read your blog, and whether you'll let them be posted automatically, or only after you approve them. Comments provide a means for others to add information to your post, present another point of view, and otherwise add color and interactivity to your blog.
- Set up your blog! Depending on how fancy you want to get, it can be done in 5 minutes or less. Blog software is either user-hosted or developer-hosted. The former requires that you set up and install the software on your own server. The latter is hosted by a third-party developer and is generally easier to set up. Here are three popular developer-hosted products:
Be sure to create a profile so readers can get to know a little about you.
- Remember that shorter entries will be better read, but longer entries may be necessary to provide background or pertinent info. And use images where appropriate; they really dress up a blog and often paint the picture for you.
- Link to other websites. For instance, provide readers with links to websites that give thorough background on your issue, or that include pictures of a place you're writing about, or to online articles. Consider providing a permanent to link to these website -- and blogs -- that cover your issues/activities. Search for blogs that cover your topics at Technorati or Bloglines. If there are blogs that cover your topic, write to those bloggers and request that they link to your blog. When you link to another blog, make sure to e-mail them to let them know and see if they'll reciprocate.
- Read the comments that folks post on your blog and respond to them when called for.
- Post as often as you're able. It doesn't have to be on daily basis, but keeping your blog active and lively will keep folks coming back. And, after all, you want to be read.
- Promote your blog! Get exposure for it in any printed or online material you can. The signature of your email messages and comments on other blogs should include a pitch for -- or at least a link to ---- your blog. When you post something particularly interesting or provocative, send an email to your mailing list and let them know.
Bloggers Commenting on Other Blogs
The best advice we've seen on "strategic commenting" by bloggers is by media consultant Amy Gahran in her piece, "Strategic Commenting: No Blog is an Island." The article is focused on bloggers posting on other blogs in order to help build an audience for their own blog. The summary is:
- Figure out who your community is and then find the blogs you think they may be reading. You can find these words by querying people you know and members of your blog community. You can also search for blogs that cover your topics at Technorati or Bloglines.
- Monitor a few of them, and look for a moment when you can post a comment that provides substantive, new info or a unique point of view. Let's say that on a particular day, Blog A provides you with that opportunity.
- Immediately write a post about that topic on your own blog that "mentions and links to the posting" on Blog A.
- Then return to Blog A and "leave a flattering comment there that also links to your new posting.
Read Amy Gahran's piece to learn more details about this process, and to find out exactly what the benefits are.
Social Networking Sites
Sites like MySpace and FaceBook are great places to build local or national networks of folks interested in your issues and have great potential for when you need to activate volunteers quickly.
In most cases, you create a profile providing details about yourself (or in our case, it could be a local group, committee, or coalition instead). You can put up pictures, update blog entries, provide links to other sites, and so on. Then start searching for people with similar interests in your area and send them messages to join your network. You can build up a group in town or around the country. As with blogging, the keys are to keep up regular contact and post new, reliable information.
Influential Blogs for Sierra Club Readers
Sierra Club Blogs:
Carl Pope's Taking the Initiative
Guadalupe Group Blog
Crooks and Liars
Talking Points Memo
The Huffington Post
A Nonprofit's Guide to the Blogosphere: We survey nonprofit blogs and report back
Ready to Start Blogging? How to set up and run your nonprofit's own digital soapbox
Tips on Beginning to Blog
What's a Blog, and Why Should Nonprofits Care?
Ten Ways Nonprofits Can Use Blogs
Strategic Commenting: No Blog is an Island
Nonprofits and Weblogs
Weblog Strategies for Nonprofits
Blog Software Comparison Chart
Nonprofit Blog Exchange