A Sample Blogging Workflow
by Chris Brogan
Your company has a blog, and you’re the lucky blogger. Maybe you even asked for this pleasure, suggested it 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 a roadblock or two might keep you from delivering on your schedule.
Here are some ideas on how to build and maintain a steady blogging rhythm. They cover goals, tasks, tools, and some bonus secrets.
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 its main goal. Secondary goals are to maintain a presence in your mind, should you have business needs; to stay in the habit of writing; and to work at improving my writing.
Goals for my blog posts (versus goals for the blog overall) differ from post to post. I use posts to:
Seek link traffic. I write certain posts (including anything with a big number) partly to get links from readers to the story. Why? Because that tells Google and Technorati that I’m doing good things, and that matters.
Seek advice. I often write posts where I ask for opinions. Why have a blog if you can’t start conversations?
Establish thought leadership. When I write about something way off the norm of what others are blogging about, it’s to show that I’m not a “me too” blogger.
Promote something interesting. Maybe people or software or an event. But remember that promotion posts rarely get comments.
Link to others. Sometimes I want to give other people the spotlight, or point out good writing elsewhere. Linking out promotes linking in.
The frequency you choose for blog posts 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 may seem). 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 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 important, in fringe places.
Compose your next blog post. If it involves research and links, open a Notepad file to keep track of the links you intend to put in the post and the sources of the data you’re collecting.
Consider pictures. They make posts pop. You can use Flickr photos marked with Creative Commons licensing if you cite the source of the original photo and provide a link (read more about this at flickr.com/creativecommons). There are other places for photos too, of course. Want to leave your other sources in the comments section?
Tag the post. If your blogging software doesn’t have tags built in, consider seeking a plug-in, or (worst case) 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 via your metadata.
Announce your best posts. If I have a post I’m 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, LinkedIn’s status line, and so on.
Occasionally, bookmark a post, too. If I’m especially 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), Stumble it in StumbleUpon.com, and maybe even Digg it at Digg.com. If you do this kind of thing, be sure to digg and stumble and bookmark other people’s stuff as well as your own when it’s merited, so that you don’t seem like a perpetual self-promoter.
Check traffic and logs. Once you’ve posted a blog, check your stats reader of choice to see if it 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 writeup. Don’t just drop by and say thanks. (Further note: don’t be crazy about checking your blog stats.)
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 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.
To maintain a blogging rhythm, here are the tools you should have on hand:
An RSS reader. I prefer Google Reader above all others because of several features, including its ability to scroll rapidly through information in list view, its search capabilities, its sharing capabilities (make your friends work for you), and its other options. Pairing your blogging habit with a 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 (picnik.com). I find it useful in sprucing up my pictures. If you use it to edit other people’s photos, be sure to check on whether you’re allowed to edit their images.
Skitch (skitch.com). This screen-capturing tool has all kinds of built-in goodies.
Summize. You can use Summize at Twitter to see what it thinks is interesting.
Calendar. If you use a calendar (Google Calendar, for instance), you can chart what you’ve written about, and what you plan to write about. So if you intend to do two interviews and five product reviews a month, and check weekly some project, you can to track all this.
Notepad or text editor. I write my blog posts in a plain text file so that I never lose a post to a bad Internet connection. Also, if I have a few moments (maybe during a horrible conference call), I can jot notes, and occasionally write entire posts offline. I do this a lot at airports, bookstores, and other places where the Internet isn’t a given.
The Bonus Round
Here are still more ideas that will keep you going with blogging material:
If you’re not reading Copyblogger.com, 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 giving you writing ideas and inspiration.
Go to the grocery store. You’ll find more headlines and interesting ways of saying things 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 popular 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.
Pay attention to other media. With YouTube, Slideshare, and 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 of all the ways you can keep them informed and entertained.
Do more than one post at a time. My all-time favorite piece of advice. If you can write more than one post at a sitting, take the second post, especially if it’s not time-specific, and schedule it next. If you do this enough times in a row, you can build up quite a store of posts and never get off schedule.
Note: you can usually reschedule things, in case the mood strikes, or news breaks, or the like. This tip shouldn’t make you feel pinned down; it should make you feel liberated from all the last-minute conflicts that tend to crop up.
Does this help? Can you use these ideas to improve your own blogging habits? I’d love to know if you have other advice to add.
Chris Brogan’s Social Media 100 at chrisbrogan.com is dedicated to the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests. Swing by to subscribe to a free newsletter or to the series, to see more pieces like this one, or to share your ideas and opinions.