By Grant Goggans
Whether your blog is a genuine revenue stream or it’s a very fun hobby, the last thing you want as a blogger is for your writing to devolve into drudgery. However you manage your blog, you are your own boss, and the freedom and flexibility that comes with that independence are among the things that make blogging so attractive. So how can you ensure that this “lifestyle,” this “hobby,” this “career,” this whatever-you-wanna-call it does not turn into the sort of J-O-B that leaves you ready to just quit the darn thing?
The answer, I think, is to find a routine that you are genuinely comfortable with, and manage your content, your promotion, and your focus on your terms and your terms only. You will find yourself looking forward to publishing the next chapters of your blog, and never frustrated with the experience.
Let’s get started with the most important factor: your content. When you started writing, you were probably posting stories pretty soon after you finished writing them, and you might have developed either a routine or a schedule from then. But what happens when you have an event that throws that routine into disarray? If you are used to posting two or five stories a week and then go on a weekend trip where you visit seven restaurants, how will that impact your publishing? Do you write a single story about your destination and where you dined, or does that trip result in seven stories?
Earlier this year, I went on one of my occasional eating trips, in which I do nothing but drive and eat and play loud music by myself for two or three days. Typically, these result in seven or nine stories, but this time, I came back from North Carolina and decided to write one chapter for each place that I visited – seventeen in total. I would have been completely lost without using Google Calendar to plan these out, because the resulting content stretched over three weeks. Any new stories that we wanted to write would have to be scheduled after the North Carolina storyline concluded, and if I didn’t have a calendar to chart these out, I would have been frustrated and hopelessly confused. So managing a calendar is essential for your sanity.
On that note, I believe that any blog’s regular readers come to expect a schedule based on what they’ve experienced from the blog previously. While you can certainly schedule extra, bonus content, if you take any kind of extended break, you will lose readers. If a consistent or growing readership is important to you, be aware of that, and write ahead as much as possible so that you can still have some content popping in while you enjoy a few days’ off.
Speaking of breaks, don’t be afraid to experiment! You might be best known for one type of story, but you’re the editor and the publisher and if you’d like to write something outside your usual parameters, give it a try! You’re certain to enjoy doing something different, and it might catch on. We’ve found that our occasional photo posts about roadside architecture or public art are very, popular, but a series of five monthly stories about regional craft beers didn’t find an audience and we decided against continuing with them. Either way, breaking up your routine with occasional wild cards might keep you and your readers from getting bored.
So you’ve got content and a schedule, and next you need to promote it. You may see studies that show that some service works better than others, but the only one who can accurately measure where your promotion works best is you. Conventional wisdom holds that Twitter is much more effective and engaging than that silly Google Plus, but would you believe that we get something like eight times the traffic from Google Plus than we do from Twitter?
So I’ve developed a very basic routine hitting the four principal promotional channels that we use for each new blog post: Urbanspoon, Google Plus, Twitter, and Facebook. Each piece gives me a brief opportunity to be a little creative, and so it never feels like a burden.
What I recommend that you do is experiment with as many social media platforms as you like. Try different things and look at your results. Trying to use every possible outlet for your promotion is certain to be counter-productive and wearying, so stick to a few that seem to work and please you best. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment and use new platforms as they infiltrate our world, but don’t feel obliged to use every single outlet available. That way lies madness, or, more accurately, drudgery, and remember, this is supposed to be fun!