Word Camp Kenya is a forum organized to congregate bloggers, techies, designers and anyone interested in the blogging sphere. When I saw the first post on WCKE, I thought that this would be a techie forum (read boring and sleep inducing) where I would be a fish out of soup…er, water, I mean. But it turned out to be a great learning forum and an interesting interactive sphere where I’ve met brilliant (and some silly minds, aka @Smusyoka). No one was fed to the hippos, and we all managed to wake up in time for the second day’s session.

The main aim for me to be here was to learn: as a blogger, I intend to open up a few online spaces that not only push out content, but push out useful content to the Kenyan readers and online community, that will hopefully be helpful. Yes, that was  a shameless plug to get you to watch this space, coming soon!

Aaaanyhow, what have I learned that concerns blogging and/or the use of WordPress?

Content is Key

When Moses Kemibaro started blogging, it was more for fun and expressing his personal opinions and sentiments. However, as time went by, he realized that he had a niche in technology and topics around it, and capitalized on it.

Most bloggers often start off on the same thread as Moses, with a personal blog as opposed to niche topical blog. However, while personal sentiments can be just that, there is still possibility to engage readers in a niche.

Find a Style That Suits you.

Often most bloggers will find a blog that they like and try to copy that. However, as experience has taught most of us, copying a master does not make you a great student. It is important to make your blog personal to a point, and to make your posts approachable. And remember, find your style, and your own way of saying things. That way you extend your personality into your blog, and it gives all your article a general flow and style that your readers learn to expect and to love.

Passion Makes A Difference

Often, most of us will be pressured into blogging on topics that we have absolutely no passion and interest in. Often, this is portrayed in our articles, and will always give a bored and flat feel to the post. Readers can often tell when someone has been ‘paid to write’ on certain topics that are of no interest to them. And if you have no interest in some topics, including them in your blog will often tend to kill off loyal readers.

In addition, passion makes the difference when you write – the article tends to ‘write itself’, and you find yourself writing with or without monetary motivation.

Moses summed it up in a great phase: “love what you blog and blog what you love”

Talking of Money… Cashing In

I tend to feel like bloggers are an important but ignored lot, who have a lot of clout and influence, but are unappreciated by brands and companies who have the money to spend on advertising and branding. However, as Moses demonstrated, it is possible to cash in offline on these brands. When you shape up as an ‘expert’ or an opinion-leader, then it is possible to translate this to cash by involving the brands offline and imparting the knowledge you have to the communities around you.

Be Focused

Some blogs tend to ramble in no particular fashion, and it is impossible to create a loyal base of readers and a relevance to your blog. There are a few key things to keep in mind when blogging that will draw traffic and loyalty to your site:

  • Using lists and rankings – posts that tend to categorize things are often simple and well researched. Keep creating such posts and updating them.
  • Exclusive posts – capitalize on getting the news that no one has, regardless of the field/category. In time, a few exclusives will establish you as a leader and first landing site for users searching for the same news, as well as create a reference point for other bloggers.
  • Product and service reviews are useful if you have a niche market. Take the time to research and review products that are in your sphere of interest. This could also include pricing reviews and comparisons.

Changing Conversations, Shaping Opinions and Reactions

Two other speakers caught my attention, and it’s because they had the same theme for use in different spheres.

Conversation is key in social and online media, and it is up to us to shape the conversation. We have a culture of promoting negative and useless ‘blah-blah’ talk, as Njeri Rionge called it. while we want to make money from our passions and our input on blogging, it is important that we shape what conversations we have. Most of us will tend to ramble on Twitter and Facebook and other social media networks without realizing that we are creating a database of our brand, that will be used to create an impression.

So if you’re serious, start having serious conversations that are leading to where you want to get. If gossip, beef and general nonsense is what you like, then that is what you will develop as your personal brand. They weren’t fools when they said you are what you eat. Similarly, you are what comes out of your mouth and brain and into your online space. Does it reflect who you are?

Boniface Mwangi also challenged us to use our clout and change conversations around society that shape our country, our leaders and governance. It’s time we used our power for good and to drive change. Having online conversations shouldn’t stop there though – we need to push the conversations to translate to on-the-ground action by collaborating with other activists. We are thought leaders, let us use the same power we have to change the nation, instead of sitting back and watching to see someone else get away with what they do

Those are the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from this camp.

And that techies are not necessarily dull people. You just have to draw them out into the offline conversation.

Read more on Word Camp Kenya

Read more on the session speakers

Read more on Crayfish Camp.

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