Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Startup Lesson: To Blog or Not to Blog?

According to my talks with recently funded entrepreneurs, VCs always advise them to start a blog. I'm assuming the rationale is that by blogging you can assert your expertise in your space and start getting traffic to your future product. Not bad aspirations.

Except most entrepreneur-bloggers blog about the same thing: being an entrepreneur. Yawn.

I made that mistake. I didn't start actively blogging about social games until February when I could sense that my company was going to fail. Suddenly, I realized all the knowledge I'd been accumulating was going to go to waste. That depressed me. I decided to give away my secrets. And people responded instantly. It probably helped that mine was the first blog exclusively focused on social games.

Do I get value from blogging? Definitely, lots of really smart people reach out to me and share their ideas. I really enjoy that. However, if I was actively running a company right now, I doubt that I'd have enough time to provide valuable commentary. Most entrepreneurs stop posting as soon as they have REAL work to do.

A friend emailed me recently to ask for advice on how to start a blog. Here's what I told him, based on my experience.

  • Don't use Blogger. wordpress or typepad are much better.
  • Focus on a niche.
  • Post on a regular schedule. No less than once a week. It's harder than you think.
  • Write 5 posts before you post the first one. That way you won't be under pressure to keep to a schedule.
  • To start, brainstorm about 20-25 topics to write on. If you have a hard time coming up with that many, drill deeper into a topic and get into the details.
  • Don't bother covering news. Others do it better. And it's f**king exhausting.
  • When desperate for content, link to other blogs.
  • Post comments on other blogs discussing similar issues and refer to your posts on that topic.
  • If you write something awesome, new research data etcetera, ask other bloggers to link to you.

If you have to choose between blogging and REAL work, do the real work. Unless you're looking to start raising money in the next six months and have few investors contacts, then it could be very helpful to establish yourself, but if you go that route, be sure to be insightful.

But if you already have money, then work on the product. Unless the intended audience for your product is in Silicon Valley or Madison Avenue, then they don't read blogs. One caveat: journalists definitely read blogs (free PR!), but there are less time-consuming ways to reach them.

When in doubt, build the product!