READ & WRITE: Essential Blogging Tips
It’s been a busy past couple of months for me. It’s never good to go dark on a blog – where’s the consistency, you ask? Where’s the content? Where’s the inspiration? Well, I still have it. I’ve just been keeping it up here in my noggin' rather than sharing it here with the world. With every new chapter in life comes a change of routine. This is good, and this is how it should be. There is no change without a new habit. This winter I started focusing more and more on my personal career, and began pouring A LOT of time and effort into defining my career path. It’s been a bit of a soul-searching and a lot of hard work. I've been enjoying every minute of it. I do apologize for the silence, but I am assured that in a weird way, this time spent away from my blog has made me an even better blogger.
I’ve learned a lot about social media best practices over the last couple months, and I’ve been gathering so much information -- about how to blog better, write better, schedule content better, gather inspiration better – that I thought it would be only fair to share some of these learnings with you.
Blogging is hard work but it's rewarding work. When I get to a place where I am writing freely, where I am able to post when I want about what I want, when I feel organized, when my correspondence is up to date -- that is when my content is ticking. And that's when relationships are built. That's when new opportunities knock on my door. And it's when I feel most personally fulfilled and inspired. I want you to have that feeling too. So here goes. My Essential Blogging Tips. They are not expert-level, they just come from the heart and from real experience trying to wake up and be better at this thing called writing every day.
Essential Blogging Tip #1. Schedule that S*** Routines, for me, are an incredibly important part of being and feeling productive. Without routines and deadlines, my creative side – which is by nature so open to experimentation and change – turns my attention and focus into something very slippery and nebulous indeed. And so I have learned that making my blogging a routine is paramount. This is easier said than done. But I think of it like showing up to work. It's not an option to call in sick to your blog. If you find that you have less time to blog, make this part of your routine. Schedule a hard stop after fifteen minutes of work. You may even find that you have more to say than you originally thought once you start. The most important part of keeping a consistent blog is determining what times you are at your best to write, and then making yourself do it. It's all about putting your ass in that chair, every day. For me, my best 'ass-in-chair-time' depends on the day of the week. Monday through Friday it's after work, as I seem to be incapable of waking up before 6:30 and my brain cannot write before work hours start. And on weekends, it's when I first wake up. When it's sunny outside and beautiful, If I have not written or worked first thing in the morning, fuhgedaboutit as I will most likely get distracted and wind up doing something else with my day. Sunshine is too tempting.
Essential Blogging Tip #2: Buffer is God Okay, so Buffer isn't actually god, but it's pretty darn close. I am a highly visual person. I use Instagram almost daily, but there was a time when my Twitter account was silent for about six months. This is fine if you are an average user, but if you're trying to grow your online presence as a lifestyle blogger, it's absolutely not acceptable. Avoid the rookie mistake of having a silent Twitter by determining a posting cadence for all of your social platforms. Maybe it's 2x a week on your blog, everyday on Instagram, 3x a day on twitter, etc. Then plan out your month of content on Buffer, and schedule your updates and tweets to go out in advance to ensure that no one platform is left behind.
Let's be real. The world of social media is a huge and growing one. It is not realistic to assume that you will be able to tweet 3x a day, write on your blog, and do all the other stuff in real time. Well, maybe you are able to do that on your own without scheduling it, and if so -- I totally commend you, and I also want to know what type of green juice are you drinking. But if you are like me, you will find a huge peace of mind -- as well as a more focused editorial voice -- if you plan your tertiary channels in advance.
I have found that my best time to do this type of long-range content planning and scheduling is on the weekends. I plan my tertiary channels in advance. Usually by myself, with a glass of wine and some music. I open my machine, pull up may content calendar in an Excel Spreadsheet, crack my knuckles, and get thinking about overall content themes for the month and what sorts of tweets and FB posts I could connect these pieces to.
Essential Blogging Tip #3: Microblogging is Good for the Soul If you're feeling it, post it. Especially during times when you do not have as much time to lay out longer-form content on your blog. Posting regularly to my Instagram and keeping up with Twitter keeps me inspired as well as in-the-know with current trends and happenings that relate to my interests. Tending to my micro-sites like Tumblr and Pinterest almost always become trend research, and it's not uncommon to find something cool on one of these platforms that I wind up writing about on my blog later.
Essential Blogging Tip #4: Let CoSchedule Save Your Life I'm a visual thinker, and so I love subscription services like CoSchedule that allow me to plan out my posts and my content in a beautiful and organized away. CoSchedule also helps me promote my long-form content and drive people to my blog through scheduled tweets and FB posts that I can write, schedule, and set right within the app. Short story? I love it soooo much. If you use Evernote to write and organize your content CoSchedule also allows you to integrate your Evernote work, making it even more mindless and smooth.
Essential Blogging Tip #5:Time it Right I used to think that most people were like me -- they caught up with their favorite blogs on the weekends and in the evenings. From their bed. But, after reading a lot of CRM content and seeing how the PR world works -- that's not entirely true. Did you know that most folks read and share lifestyle content during the week? In the mornings? I didn't know that. But now I try and schedule my posts accordingly. I remember reading A Continuous Lean religiously in college. And I began to notice that his uber-consistent post schedule was like a reaffirming security blanket that gained my trust and acted as insurance that fresh content would be in my inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. So now, with the help of apps like CoSchedule and Buffer, this sort of timing is even easier to execute and plan for.
Essential Blogging Tip #6: Take Notes. Keep them in One Place. Reference Them. Rinse and Repeat. I’m always thinking about new content ideas. Stuff I think is rad, things I want to learn more about. And during the day I experience a barrage of media, and am sent a lot of new information, and scroll through buckets of news. These things are all grist for my blogging mill, and learning how to capture these ideas, organize them, and then go back to them later in order to write about them on the blog is something I am working on getting ever more skilled with. For now, I rely on a system that's a combination of digital and physical. I use apps like Microsoft OneNote and Evernote to organize ideas I see in the online world. They are great for rough drafts, and saving screen grabs. I love how portable they are, and love pulling up Evernote on my phone. And I also keep a detailed notebook full of lists and ideas. If I come across something compelling that I want to share, I'll write down my ideas quickly and come back to them later. However, there's an important disclaimer here. My ideas always get muddled, and my productivity is so much lower when I use the same notebook for my blog as I do for everything else. My main journal and work to-do lists need to be kept in a completely different physical location from that of my blog. I don't know exactly why this is. Maybe it's because when I see all those ideas in the same place it becomes visually overwhelming. When your work to-do list is next to your grocery list, next to your list of bills to pay, next to your list of blog topics to one day write about.... ufda. Compared to all those very real-world to-do's that sometimes seem like life or death -- it's so difficult to give your blog equal precedence. Heres's a #BloggingProTip: When you are first starting out, your blog never seems as important as 'the other stuff.' But it is just as important as the other stuff. Give it the equal space and time it deserves.
Summary: Microblogging, and quick, timely social platforms like Snapchat are of course the wave of the future. But the long-form blog is still extremely valuable and so important amidst all of this here today, gone tomorrow content. I look at my blog as my main hub for my personal brand as well as my little corner of the internet, the home that all my other channels and bite-sized bits of content can link back to. I look forward to opening up this home to you guys more often. And if you're just starting out with blogging, I hope that the advice I have shared here has been helpful, and gets you started on a stronger foot than I first started on myself a couple years ago.