First one is the hardest
I get asked a lot about how to get started blogging, and believe me there’s no great secret to it. I’ve been blogging (mainly) around Salesforce for close to 7 years now, and when I look back the only regret I have is that it took me so long, over a year in fact, to get started. The reasons for this are highly likely to be the same ones that are holding back anyone currently caught the analysis paralysis phase :
I have nothing to blog about
Nothing could be further from the truth — everyone’s experience is unique and it’s a solid fact that others can benefit from that experience.
Everything has already been blogged
Again, a fallacy. While there are a lot of blogs around Salesforce out there, there’s also a huge user, admin and developer base hungry for content. Just because somebody has already blogged about the topic you are interested in doesn’t mean they’ve covered everything and they definitely don’t have your unique experience. It also won’t have been read by everyone in the world, so there’s still an audience out there for you.
I’ll get flamed
This was probably the main reason I took a while to get going — I was convinced that I’d be mocked and ridiculed for my ridiculous ideas. THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN. The very worst you’ll get is constructive criticism, but what you are vastly more likely to get is grateful comments and a loyal following. The Salesforce community is just about the most positive I’ve ever come across (sometimes too positive IMHO, there’s nothing wrong with calling out missteps along with cheerleading!) — it’s no wonder we are sometimes perceived as a cult!
What to blog about?
There are so many options you’ll be surprised that you’ve even had to ask:
There are three Salesforce releases a year and the release notes are up around 4–500 pages, so there are masses of new (or enhanced) features. If you get yourself a pre-release org you can try features out early and blog about some example use cases.
Tips and tricks
If you work with Salesforce for any length of time you will be solving problems that aren’t straightforward. And guess what? The solutions won’t be straightforward to anyone else either. Your posts could save the rest of us a ton of time.
Not everything about Salesforce works perfectly all the time. If something isn’t behaving as expected and you find a workaround, don’t keep it to yourself. Everyone runs on the same version of Salesforce (apart from sandboxes around release time) so your workaround is valid on every production instance.
These will take you a little more out of your comfort zone, as rather than simply stating facts you are putting your point of view out there and making others think about whether they agree with you or not. If your opinion piece is contentious or critical of a current trend (something I seem to specialise in), this is the one area where you can expect some negative reaction. Clicking the publish button on these is always preceded by a period of reflection in my case.
Whenever you write something critical, there will be a section of your audience that thinks you are criticising them directly and some of them won’t take it lying down. Often this will be driven by emotion and they won’t even read the entire post before biting back. This comes with the territory so try not to take it personally.
What not to do
Don’t take someone else’s content and pass it off as your own. This happens more than you might expect and it tends to get spotted. If you do this you can expect, and deserve, to get flamed. Even worse, you’ll be ignored going forward as you aren’t producing original content.
Reword the Salesforce help
Again, something that happens more than you might expect, and not just limited to blogs — a few books don’t add anything other than a different writing style. If you do this you are unlikely to experience a negative reaction, but you won’t be enticing readers to return if you don’t tell them something they don’t know.
Name and shame, in the main
This one is just my personal opinion, but I think it’s bad form to name and shame individuals when posting opinion pieces. Typically the target of your ire won’t even know you have written about them and thus won’t be able to defend themselves. If you are tempted to do this, think about how you’d feel if the situation was reversed and they were taking shots at you. The exception to this is people already in the public eye when criticising public behaviour, but even then it should be used sparingly.
I can only remember doing this a couple of times and I thought long and hard before executing. (If you are interested in the details, one was satire on George Osborne, former MP and therefore fair game, and the other was Marc Benioff’s attempt to help during a Salesforce outage).
What platform to use?
There are loads of feee blogging platforms out there. I went for Blogger initially as it’s owned by Google and I figured that would give me the best chance of being found through searches. WordPress is hugely popular too.
You don’t have to stick to a single platform either. I use the Bob Buzzard Blog (hosted on Blogger) for my technical content, typically involving code, while my more wordy opinion pieces appear here on Medium.
I’m no expert
Don’t think that just because I’ve been doing this for a number of years and have a decent following means that I understand what will be work when blogging. A great example is a couple of posts that I published on Medium in June 2017.
- Classic Code was a bit of fun that I thought up while on a bike ride one Saturday morning, after one of my rare outings in my 1989 MR2 the day before. I thought a few of my developer friends might enjoy reading it but it was more to entertain myself.
- The Art of Saying No was a serious opinion piece on how learning to say no is a key career skill, and how by trying to please everyone you are likely to end up pleasing no-one. I thought this one would have legs outside of my usual Salesforce-focused readership.
Classic Code current has four times the number of reads that The Art of Saying No does. The recommends are the same, so clearly The Art of Saying No is the more well received of the two, but my take on how widely each would be read could not have been more wrong.
I quite like this, as it adds a little excitement to everything I post — will it travel far and wide or will it quickly run out of steam.
Don’t overthink it
The best piece of advice I can give is that which would have been useful to me when I was finding all manner of displacement activity — stop thinking and start writing. Just crack on with it and you’ll be fine.
I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, 6 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom who are hiring.
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You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog