Better Blogging: Finding Online Mentors


Part of my series sharing tips to improve blogging (Link)

Do you ever have that moment where you just really need to stand on a soapbox and set the world to rights? In the age of blogging, I see those posts all too often and I have been known to post a few right here. They may end up as an emotional piece, fairly lengthy, sometimes heated, and occasionally condescending. And sometimes they even provoke the largest response. But is it always the best response? There is a way to make these posts more productive with the help of some key people.

A few weeks ago I had a rather unproductive conversation with a lady who professed her feelings about me committing animal abuse and the need to stop my actions. I let the thought stew for a few weeks and wound up writing a lengthy narrative. I almost threw it in the trash, but thanks to some great friends, it ended up on CNN after a little revamping.

Time for a little pop culture reference

(I know! Rare for me, right?)

Harvey Spector always seems to be giving Mike Ross the “mentor” talk in the USA series Suits.

Have you ever watched the USA Network show Suits? The main characters are Mike Ross and Harvey Spector. Harvey is dad figure in the series, the successful lawyer, who puts up with no bull. Mike is this zealous kid who stumbles into the situation and gets high aspirations of himself and just wants to make Harvey proud. Mike usually ends up doing a great job, but requires a little guidance from Harvey to keep him in line. Harvey and Mike – perfect television example of mentor and mentoree.

Boy, the number of days that I feel like young Mike. I really do have great aspirations for my work, sometimes it just requires a little help from someone to bring me back down to the ground, remind me what I am capable of, and where the lines are before I can make it back up.

Finding your Online Mentors

The need for online mentors or “blogging buddies” is incredibly important when sharing our story through blogs and online social media. These people shouldn’t be used so much as a filter, but rather as guides. I use various people to bounce ideas off of, send out a line when I need some advice for an ongoing conversation, and even to celebrate victories or let off a little steam.

For some of my posts that carry a little more weight or have the potential to reach a larger audience, I usually turn to my friends for help. These folks are great to point out grammar mistakes, but I feel the largest help is just another set of eyes. I’m usually writing about material I am familiar with and might be unable to see a term or phrase that might be taken inaccurately by a crowd new to a topic. So it really helps to have someone helping who is somewhat familiar with my topics, but far enough removed so they can critique my material.

One great example of this is a recent piece on CNN’s Eatocracy. The editor asked if she could repost something from my blog describing how my family was dealing with the Arkansas drought. I was busy at a livestock show and didn’t take the time to review the piece before CNN used it. There were a few grammar errors that I should have caught, but that didn’t keep me up at night. The part that cut me off at the knees was the word “pray” – used once at the end of the post in the phrase “pray for rain” – which ended up being part of the title, and resulted in almost 200 comments describing how horrible I was in believing in prayer or that it alone would fix the drought. The word was used ONCE in the title and ONCE in the post itself and ended up completely derailing the conversation on the post.

One little word. Someone had pointed out the use of “prayer” when reviewing one of my previous posts, but I never considered it with this one. Imagine what it could have been had I used my resources and had someone catch that for me!

For the record, I’m not suggesting “prayer” is a dirty word that should not be used in telling our stories. It’s something I’ve used before, and have never encountered before within my normal audiences. But I have to take into consideration the audience I’m writing to on CNN is different. I never would have imagined it would have been that different.

What can an online mentor do for me?

Online mentors can be great. They are there to lend a hand when I am stuck with writer’s block, when I need help finding another resource for a conversation, or when I need help figuring out how to use something new online. They even step in to guide me when I get a little riled up in a conversation or topic response – just like a mentor in real life should be able to do.

I won’t give away the names of the friends who help me out along the way. I just like to keep it that way. They know who they are — And to them I am very grateful!

No matter you’re level of use in social media, I encourage you to find a friend or contact online who you can turn to for assistance, advice, or even celebration or an occasional venting. They’ll make your online networking and blogging experience that much more enjoyable and productive.

What other benefits have you found in utilizing online mentors?

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2 Comments

  1. I can’t even describe the value of some of the mentors I’ve had since I started this adventure about four or five years ago. (Wow, seems crazy to think I’ve been involved in this rodeo of agvocacy for almost half a decade.)

    My mentors don’t just come in the shape of professional mentors, and they aren’t always that much older or “wiser” or “experienced” than I am — sometimes, a mentor is someone who complements you and challenges you to open up your way of thinking and excel. In some ways, Ryan, you’ve been a mentor to me. Especially over the last year or so.

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  2. I think that having a group of people who are passionate about the same things and have a similar cause online is a great resource to use. There is definitely strength in numbers, and as more agriculturalists join the blogging world, the story will continue to expand and get out.

    Like

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