We've featured blogs on our site since October, 2006. Since that time, we've improved many aspects of our own blog tool, including adding new ways to share the content, better tag management, improved RSS feeds, friendly links and more bloggers! However, we are now hoping to turn a corner in terms of our strategy behind the blogs.
Initially, we wanted the blogs to be a way to communicate with clients (and potential clients) in a new way, as well as a way to share our internal culture and personalities. Over time, those more inclined toward blogging have naturally stuck with it, while others have not. Readership has grown greatly, but participation (i.e. comments) has remained low.
So where do we go from here? We know we need to take it to the next level. In fact, our knowledge of what makes for good blogging puts to shame what we actually do. That's why we've put our heads together and come up with some simple steps toward better blogging. As we are putting them to the test right now, we're confident that they will only improve our content and make our efforts more worthwhile.
Step 1: Write a Mission Statement
Until recently, my de-facto mission statement has probably been something like: "I will blog about whatever I feel like blogging about." Actually, it probably hasn't been that general, but moving forward, we feel that any of our blogs' value will be relative to how refined its position is. Just like any other business, specialization increases value. As we discussed this as a team, we realized that we all have particular interests that, when matched with our roles, would make for a uniquely positioned blog. Writing a mission statement is a simple way to articulate that unique point of view and purpose for your blog. It doesn't have to be published anywhere, but just serve as the idea to which you hold yourself accountable as you write. As an example, here is the mission statement I have settled on for my blog:
To actively maintain a blog that, as a part of Newfangled's larger content strategy, deals with issues related to web strategy, project management, and new technologies while contributing to our reputation as an efficient, innovative, considerate and current technology company.
Step 2: Plan a Schedule
One of the toughest aspects of blogging is doing it consistently, as you can easily see from scanning through the archives of any of the Newfangled blogs. Because blogging is not the primary job function of anyone here, writing often get's put aside so that we can do what we do best. However, we do want to be committed to maintaining our blogs. This means finding a way to post regularly without compromising our main thing- web development. We decided that setting up a loose "editorial calendar" for each blog would be a simple way to plan ahead and add some structure to the way we post to our blogs. Doing this doesn't mean you have to get as rigid as planning to "write a blog post about blogging on Tuesday, July 8th." However it can mean identifying the formats of blog posts that you're most inclined to write and planning an overall schedule in which they recur. For example, you might find that you frequently post reviews of online tools specific to your industry. Scheduling a weekly "web app review" could be part of your calendar, or a monthly interview. Once you have this structure in place, you can fill in gaps with ideas for particular posts as they occur to you. Building your blog around a schedule will create consistency for you, as the author, and for your readers, who will learn to expect particular kinds of posts and content. An example of this is how Able has been creating monthly desktop calendars and placing them on his blog for download. They've become quite popular since they were picked up by I Love Typography, and readers likely expect them each month now. One recurring post format that I'll be exploring is a weekly (hopefully) interview, the first one of which I published on July 7.
Another aspect of scheduling is finding a consistent time to actually write. If you can, block out a regular time each day or week to do this. If you are feeling particularly prolific, write several posts in advance and publish them over time.
Step 3: Participate in Off-Site Conversations
The first two steps should ensure that you have a well-conceived blog with ample content. Assuming that you title your posts well, you should also gain more readers by virtue of search alone. However, getting your readers to go from lurking to participating will require some additional effort. The most comments I ever received (aside from my "Farewell to Scott" blog post, which was full of internal comments) was 8 comments and 11 Diggs for a post I wrote in February, 2008 called Get Yourself Out There- not very impressive. The article was all about how your participation off-site by commenting on other blogs and establishing social media profiles that point back to your blog would eventually increase readership to your blog, so the peak in comments is appropriately convenient. As I said in that post, "I don't get a ton of comments, so this isn't going to be one of those "I did it and so can you!" posts," and neither is this one- comments are still low on my blog. However, the consistent readership of my blog has been primarily established by my participation in other blogs and forums. What I have to do now is just do it more!
I'm looking forward to seeing positive results from taking these three steps accross all of our blogs, not just my own. I'll report back in a few months to see how we're doing.