Your company has decided to launch a blog, and you’re the lucky blogger. Maybe you’ve even asked for this pleasure, suggested it to the boss yourself. Only now, you have to deliver, and you have to stay consistent. It’s not always easy to keep up a steady blogging pace, and there are days when you might run into a roadblock or two that might keep you from delivering on your schedule. Here are some ideas on how to build and maintain a steady blogging rhythm, be it for your personal blog or your business blog. We’ll cover goals, tasks, tools, and some bonus secrets.
Goals of Your Blog Posts
Blogging with a purpose helps you stay consistent. My blog, for example, is dedicated to equipping you with strategy, tools, and knowledge, so that you can go off and do useful things with social media and networking software. That’s the main goal of the blog overall. Secondary goals are to maintain a presence in your mind, should you have business needs. Another goal would be to stay in the habit of writing, and working at improving my writing. Those are goals for my blog.
Goals for my blog POSTS (versus goals for the blog overall) are different from post to post. On top of everything listed above, some ways you might use specific posts are:
- Seek link traffic – I write certain posts (like anything with a big number) with a secondary goal of deriving links from you to the story. Why? Because that tells Google and Technorati that I’m doing good things over here, and that matters.
- Seek advice – I often write posts where I ask for your opinion. Why have a blog if you can’t start conversations?
- Establish thought leadership – When I write about something way off from the norm of what others are blogging about, it’s to show you that I’m not a “me too” blogger.
- Promote something interesting – This might be people or software or an event. One point about promotion posts versus other kinds: if you’re looking for comments, promotion posts rarely get them.
- Link love to others – Sometimes, I want to give other people the spotlight, or point out good writing elsewhere. It’s important to keep that in mind. Linking out promotes linking in.
The frequency of blog posts you choose is important. Many posts a day is great, if you can keep it up. Once a day is probably ideal (but not as easy as it seems). Once every two or three days means your readers won’t know what to expect. Once a week might be enough, depending on how niche your blog is, and how authoritative you are to begin with. But no matter what you decide, make the decision and stick with the schedule. Within that schedule, here are some potential tasks to consider doing for every post:
- Read material first – Use your RSS reader to see what else is being talked about, in your industry, in your vertical, on friends’ blogs, and most importantly, from fringe places that aren’t related to you or your industry.
- Compose a blog post – If there’s research and links involved, open a notepad file to keep track of the links you’re intending to put in the post, or sources of the data you’re collecting.
- Consider pictures – Using pictures makes the posts pop. You can use Flickr photos marked with Creative Commons licensing, provided you cite the source of the original photo, and provide a link. Read more about this at http://flickr.com/creativecommons”>Flickr’s Creative Commons site. There are other places for photos. Want to leave your other sources in the comments section?
- Tag your posts – If your blogging software doesn’t have tags built in, consider seeking a plug in, or at worst, having a few scripted copy/paste details of tags you can add to the bottom of every post. Tags are important for searchability, for getting the occasional new reader by finding you via your metadata.
- Announce your best posts – If I have a post I’m really proud of, and think works well, I’ll send a link to it via Twitter, usually summing up what I’m talking about before the URL. I might also send info about it via Facebook, via LinkedIn’s status line, etc.
- Occasionally, bookmark it, too – If I’m really pleased by a post and want it to have legs, I’ll share it in Google Reader’s shared items (which sends it to other places), will Stumble it in StumbleUpon.com, might even Digg it, too. If you do this kind of thing, be sure to digg and stumble and bookmark other people’s stuff, too, when it’s merited, so that you don’t seem like a perpetual self-promoter. I do my best to maintain a balance. Hopefully, that shows through.
- Check traffic and logs – As the day goes on, check your stats reader of choice to see if the blog is having any kind of impact. If you’ve got a decent ego surfing mechanism set up, also see who’s blogged about your post, and try to add some value back to their write-up. Don’t just drop by and say thanks. (Further note: don’t be crazy about checking your blog stats. They’re just a way to measure how people are responding to your posts.)
- Get off your blog and comment elsewhere – Make sure you’re taking the time to comment on at least five blogs a day. Whenever you’re going to bother posting and putting out new material, others are doing the same. Be sure to respect them and give them comments and feedback where you feel it’s appropriate.
When you decide you have to maintain a blogging rhythm, and regardless of whether you’re doing this for business or your personal blogging goals, there are some important tools that you should consider. If you’re going to get into a flow, here are the tools you should have on hand:
- RSS Reader – I prefer Google Reader above all others because of several features, including its ability to rapidly scroll through information in list view, its search capabilities, it’s sharing capabilities (make your friends work for you), and all the other options. Starting your blogging habit by having a good blog consumption habit is the only way to fly.
- Picnik – If you need free, easy, web-based photo editing to make interesting pictures, check out Picnik. I find this tool very useful in sprucing up my pictures. If you use it to edit other people’s photos, be sure to check the permissions for whether you CAN edit their images.
- Skitch – Skitch is a screen capturing tool that’s very useful, and has all kinds of built in goodies.
- Summize – If you’re looking for what Twitter thinks is interesting, you can use Summize to ask about interesting links and the like.
- Calendar – Here’s one. If you use a calendar (like Google Calendar, you can make a new calendar to show what you’ve written about, and what you plan to write about. This is called an editorial calendar, and it helps you keep your writing on a decent tack. Thus, if you intend to have 2 interviews a month and five product reviews, and a weekly check-in with some project, you can be sure to track all this in a calendar.
- Notepad or text edit – I write my blog posts in a plain text file so that I never lose a post to a bad Internet connection. Further, if I have a few moments, like if I’m on a horrible conference call, I can jot notes, and occasionally write entire posts while offline. I do this a lot at airports, bookstores, and other places where the Internet isn’t a given.
The Bonus Round
I guess in some ways, I should’ve started with this. First off, if you’re not reading Copyblogger, you’re missing some of the best advice on what to write and how to write it. Brian Clark and team (he has more guest writers!) keep a decent pace on giving you writing ideas and inspiration. Now, let’s talk about some more ideas that will keep you going with blogging material:
- Go to the grocery store – there are more headlines and interesting WAYS of saying things right there in your face at the checkout counter than you’ll likely come up with on your own. (This was a Copyblogger tip that I love).
- See what makes the front page of Digg.com (or your industry’s most likely haunt) – learning by emulating is an important blogging skill. Don’t be a clone, but if you pick up some tricks from writers you come to admire, all the better.
- Don’t forget other media – with YouTube, Slideshare, and several other places full of free and interesting content, don’t forget to give people a taste of video and audio to go along with your text and photo posts. In fact, be willing to mix it up often, or on a schedule, so that people get a sense for all the ways you can keep them informed and entertained.
- Schedule posts – My all time favorite piece of advice. If you can, write more than one post at any given sitting. Take the second post, especially if it’s not time-specific information, and schedule it for the next day. If you do this enough times in a row, you can build up quite a store of posts, and never miss a day (or whatever your schedule is) due to a random issue. Note: you can usually re-schedule things, in case the mood strikes, or news breaks, or the like. Don’t feel pinned down as much as you might feel liberated for all the last minute conflicts this will help you avoid.
Does this help? Do these mechanics give you some ideas on how to improve your own blogging habits? I’d love to know if you have other advice to add.
The Social Media 100 is a project by Chris Brogan dedicated to writing 100 useful blog posts in a row about the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by [chrisbrogan.com] for more posts in the series, and if you have topic ideas, feel free to share them, as this is a group project, and your opinion matters.
Photo credit, Rita Banerji