Welcome back to class everyone. There’s quite a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
I think it’s safe to say that once you’ve been blogging for, say, more than a week, you know how much time you can spend writing blog posts, thinking about the next topic to blog about, reading blogs, commenting on blogs, and social networking. I also think it’s safe to say that keeping up with all your blogging commitments can be incredibly overwhelming and defeating since there comes a time where it’s impossible to keep up and have time for things like showers and meals.
Here’s how it starts. First, you discovered blogging. Blogging is what everyone was doing. The next thing you knew, you got some comments and you got high from the comments. Comments felt good, they made you feel popular, funny even. Then two or three comments weren’t enough so you started leaving comments EVERYWHERE in hopes of getting a few return hits. It worked! Then you heard about this thing called “social networking” and thought you’d give that a go, too. Before you knew it, you were obsessed with coming up with the next blog post, with getting your next comment, with finding the next must-join social network.
It’s a sick, sick addiction. Eventually you realize that you are spinning out of control and know that you have to get a better handle on your time online. Today let’s discuss where we should focus our blogging time and still have time for a LIFE.
Of all the things to devote your time to, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT. Not only is it the most important, but developing your content is how you should spend the majority of your time in the blogosphere. If you want keep your readers coming back, you have to offer them a variety of quality posts. This means that you have to devote some time to developing post topics, writing posts, and editing posts for publication.
If you feel like your writing could improve, and don’t we all feel that way?!, consider taking a creative writing course. Also, look at how your favorite bloggers and authors write and figure out what you like about them. Is it the way they phrase things? Do you like their vocabulary level? Maybe it’s how they inject humor into even the most mundane of subjects.
One of the reasons I started blogging was to reach out and connect with others who are like me. This facet of blogging is probably one of the most frustrating, though. As you gain readers, it can be very difficult to reciprocate comments and develop relationships with other bloggers. There are only so many hours in a day.
With that said, building a community around your blog is how you should spent a large portion of your time. Here are a few ways to participate in the blogging community:
Commenting on others’ blogs, replying to comments on your own blog, answering emails, replying to tweets, and promoting other’s posts via Twitter, StumbleUpon, or sharing items via your Google Reader…
All of these tasks take time, but it is time well spent and will reward you with popularity! and money! and fast cars! Okay, a slight exaggeration, but participating in the blogging community is INVALUABLE and shows others that you aren’t just a selfish, comment hoarding jerk, who’s only looking out for number one.
3. Social Networking and self-promotion
There are 37, 684, 561* social networking sites. (*estimate, not researched) There is no possible way to join AND PARTICIPATE in each one. The majority are a waste of time, as far as driving traffic to your site. Also, the only way to actually benefit from social networking is to participate, so I recommend choosing AT LEAST ONE and participate in earnest.
If you only have time for ONE social networking site, choose Twitter. It’s a great way to network and chat with gob loads of other bloggers. Also a great way to announce new blog posts (as long as that’s not the ONLY thing you tweet.)
If you only have time for TWO social networking sites, start using StumbleUpon on a regular basis. StumbleUpon has the ability to drive thousands of visitors to your site per day, particularly if you’re an active participant and approach SU unselfishly. Need to know how to use SU? Read THIS post about the basics of SU and THIS post about how to use the toolbar. If you still don’t understand, SU is probably not for you.
If you only have time for THREE social networking sites, choose Facebook or a not-full-of-crazies message board. I have seen quite a lot of traffic from Facebook and from links that other’s have left about my site on different message boards so I know that these types of sites can generate traffic to your blog.
**Important note about social networking sites** In order to protect your blog’s brand, you should consider at least signing up at these different sites so that nobody else can use your name. I’ve signed up at nearly all 37 million sites using the name “Playgroupie” so that MY blog name is already taken.
4. Website Maintenance
What? I have to maintain my website? Huh?
Actually maintaining your blog is incredibly important to ensure that 1) it looks visually appealing 2) loads quickly 3) isn’t out-of-date.
Here are some things to consider….
a. Make sure that the clutter in your sidebars isn’t slowing the loading of your site (I KNOW your sidebars are cluttered). Slow loading time=potential readers leaving. Is the clutter in your sidebars necessary? Do you have the MUST HAVES in your sidebar?
b. Does your blog need an updated look? Is your blog SO 2007? Consider changing templates or paying someone to redesign your site.
c. Do you need to update your “About” page? Consider using an updated picture and making sure your page is a worthwhile read.
d. Do you need to upgrade your WordPress to the next version or update your plugins?
These all take time and need to be considered when considering managing your time online.
If making money off of your blog is a goal, then time will have to be devoted to finding sponsors for your blog. This could include replying to PR pitches to do product reviews and place ads on your site. It also could include seeking out companies willing to pay for ad space in your sidebar or finding an ad network that actually pays. Once advertisers are found, it’s important to set up a schedule to review and renew the ads.
I hesitate to say exactly how much time should be devoted to each of these facets of blogging because it will vary based on your aspirations. This will also vary depending on where you are in the life cycle of your blog.
These are NOT hard and fast rules, just very, very, very, very loose guidelines.
If you are a newer blogger (blogging 6 months or less), maybe 40% of your time should be devoted to Content, 35% to Community, 20% to Social Networking, and 5% Website Maintenance.
A more experienced blogger (6-18 months) could possibly devote 30% of time to Content, 35% to Community, 30% to Social Networking, and 5% to Website Maintenance.
Veteran bloggers (18 months and beyond), depending on whether you’ve started writing for other sites and whether you’re trying to monetize, may devote 65% of their time to Content due to increased writing commitments, 10% to Community, 15% to Social Networking, 5% to Website Maintenance, and 5% to Monetization.
How about me? How much time to I devote to each?
In a typical week, I devote about 70% of my time to my content (lately it’s been hard to tell. I KNOW.) and to my Managing Editor responsibilities at Blog Nosh magazine, 15% to Community and 10% to Social Networking (mostly with Twitter and StumbleUpon, though I try to leave a bread crumb trail of comments), and finally about 5% to Website Maintenance. I wish that I had more time to devote to Community and checking out new readers’ blogs and reciprocating comments. This is a personal struggle that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to reconcile unless I decide that cleanliness is overrated and that my children would be happy eating Cheetos out of the carpet.
The point of all this entire post is this: For your blog to be truly successful, you simply must devote the majority of your time to your Content and to the blogging Community. Without that necessary base, all the social networking/self-promotion in the world will not yield regular readers. This base is also necessary before efforts to monetize your blog will pay off.
What is your typical breakdown for the time you devote to these areas? Do you think there is an area you need to improve?
Next week we’ll discuss some web-based tools that can help manage your time online.
You can read more entries from my Blog Tip Sharing Project series HERE.