Note from Jane: Today’s guest post is from Dan Blank (@DanBlank) and covers a topic that was recently addressed on this site by L.L. Barkat: the value of blogging. If you remember, Barkat advised writers to stop blogging. For the other side of the story, I’ve asked Dan to offer reasons to keep blogging.
In the past few years, social media has eclipsed blogging in terms of where many writers spend their time when online. Many now choose to tweet, post to Facebook, or review on Goodreads instead of blogging on their own website.
While social media delivers a potentially more immediate reaction from others, I am still a big believer in blogging. There are many reasons for this, but let’s just focus on two specific reasons. Then we’ll discuss how to deal with blogging exhaustion—or when to kill a blog entirely.
1. The long-term value of developing a body of work.
Yes, a blog becomes a body of work in and of itself. Just as with a journal, you and others can look back at what you have created over time. How does this differ from social media? Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say that you follow me on Twitter and connect with me on Facebook, and you remember that a while back, I shared a link to which podcasting equipment I recommend people buy—and you want to start a podcast for your readers.
Go ahead, try to find the link I shared on Twitter. You can’t. Twitter delivers zero tweets when you search on my name and the word “podcasting.” All it can do is recommend that you follow two people—me and some other guy:
Even if you try scrolling back through my 18,000+ Tweets, it isn’t long before Twitter simply stops you. You can’t dig into the full archive.
Let’s try that on Facebook:
The results aren’t any better on Facebook. Now, let’s try a basic Google search:
The result I am looking for is the third result on the page, along with other relevant results not just on who I am, but everything associated with me and the term “podcasting.”
Social media is amazing in the moment, but eventually disappears into a black hole. Blogging, like books, have a very long shelf life, and become more findable over time, not less.
2. When you blog, you get to control the message.
Were you comfortable when Amazon bought Goodreads? When Facebook decided to change how you can use their social network? When you learned of Pinterest’s terms of service of pinning your own photos?
While these services ARE valuable, and you should use them, why give them 100% control over your message, how people find you, and what you can and can’t do? For example, author Allison Winn Scotch has been blogging for years, and in doing so, built up findability on Google. When you search her name, this is what you see:
Yes, links to large websites such as Amazon, Wikipedia, and Twitter appear near the topic, but the first two links go directly to Allison’s own website, where she 100% controls the message. Regardless of what changes with Twitter or Amazon, Allison is findable on her own terms.
Blogging Exhaustion: Are You Running Out of Things to Say?
When Jane and I recently discussed blogging, she mentioned to me that some bloggers are facing “blogging exhaustion” and are running out of things to say.
I have a lot of empathy for writers facing this situation, because there is an unending list of things writers could be doing at any given moment. For the blogger who is feeling exhausted, consider the source of this. In that moment where you say, “Maybe we should see other people,” is it because of deep problems with your relationship to blogging, or simply that you need to reenergize it?
Be wary of jumping from a blog to the social media flavor of the week. It can be exciting to try something new, but it can also be a false promise. For example, if you find it a long, slow slog to grow readers on a blog or on Twitter, and hope that if you join Tumblr or Pinterest, that you will find immediate success …
That. Won’t. Happen.
Your motivation is—even more than time management—your greatest resource. If you are feeling demotivated, consider the following ways to keep the fire burning:
- Be honest. Too many people take long lapses in their blog, only to feel guilty about it. Like any relationship, communication is critical. If you are experiencing doubts about the value of your blog, post some entries exploring this. In other words: work through it. But also: give your audience a chance to speak up and yell, “Hi! We are here and like you! This is why we would love for you to keep blogging.”
- Bring in other voices. Sometimes it can be lonely to be the sole keeper of a blog. Find ways to involve others. Interview people who inspire you, collaborate on guest posts, or even post blog entries elsewhere. I found that when I approach writing a blog for someone such as Jane, or even a post for Huffington Post Books, I approach it wildly differently than on my own blog. It gets the juices flowing in a different way.
- Mindmap it out. Consider what you blog about and how the dozens or hundreds of disparate posts work together. Find new threads for topics you want to write about.
- Create an editorial calendar. Sometimes a little bit of structure can remove the anxiety of blogging. Consider how often you want to post, create different types of content, and begin filling out topic ideas weeks or months in advance.
- Identify core messages versus secondary messages. Oftentimes, a blogger may stray from writing about that which matters most to them. Consider the key evergreen messages you want to hit again and again, and how you can explore them in new ways.
- Repackage ideas into series. Instead of creating many one-off blog posts, create a series of five or ten posts that work together.
- Try different types of media. Instead of writing a post, create a video and embed it. Or tell a story with photos. Find other ways to express the same ideas.
- You do not need to post every day. I tend to feel that once per week is a nice posting frequency. That said, there are plenty of bloggers who post less frequently, but whose blog posts really stand out. Author Tim Ferriss tends to only blog when he feels he has something compelling to share. If you look at his archives, you find very little consistency in terms of frequency, but every post gets tons of comments.
- Create templates for posts that you can fill in. Or brainstorm a laundry list of post ideas and headlines in one caffeine-fueled session per month.
- Focus on unique value—often it is closer than you think. Instead of creating a master post on “5 ways authors can use Pinterest for explosive audience growth,” share a story from your life. Be honest with readers instead of trying to impress them. Oftentimes this is when people become closer to you and really begin engaging. Again and again, I find that posts I wrote quickly in a fit of passion get shared much more than posts that were more strategic.
- Use the value of people’s attention elsewhere to fuel your blog. For example, if you are attending an event, you can do a series of posts before, during, and after that other attendees may appreciate.
When Do You Kill a Blog?
What often differentiates the blogger who succeeds and one who doesn’t is perseverance. The Onion recently had a funny video with a fake profile of someone who has updated Twitter for 2 years with 10,000 Tweets, and still had only 15 followers. Many bloggers can feel this way as well.
So, when do you kill a blog? When it does not align with your long-term goals as a writer. I remember working with a writer who had blogged for awhile, and when we really outlined her long-term goals, we realized that her existing blog did nothing to serve it. So, we “retired” that blog and created a new one. Now, nearly two years later, she has a very active blog that is firmly focused on her goals and on attracting the types of people she loves speaking with.
When you consider a blog, don’t just think about what it delivers in the next 10 hours, but also the next 10 years. Your blog is a body of work. Treat it that way.
Note from Jane: If you are looking to begin a blog or want to find a way to revitalize your existing blog, consider Dan’s new e-book, A Writer’s Guide to Blogging. For a limited time, Dan is offering a 20% discount for readers of my blog. Just use the code janeblog20 at checkout.