03 Dec 2007
When I give presentations about blogging I’m frequently asked:
"How much time does it take to have a successful blog? How much time do I spend blogging?"
These are important questions but I find them almost impossible to answer because I don’t think of my days as being parceled into times I am blogging and times I’m not. I think of blogging as a process – a process that not only generates content at the end, but that itself can become content. That is, I try to turn the processes and tasks I’d already do as part of my job into content.
Journalists and programme makers spend most of their time researching stories or topics. These days, much of that research is done online. The same is true of academics and anyone involved in creating creative content, whether it’s words, images, sounds or videos.
Instead of spending time blogging, it makes sense to turn your processes into content and to re-use your content in front of different audiences. Here’s how:
1. Use an RSS reader to keep track of lots of content. Each day starts here. You can also share a link to the list of feeds you read (here are mine) so that even if you don’t even manage to read any new content on a particular day, your readers can go have a look themselves.
2. Once you can keep track of all that content, you’ll need a way to save and organise the best bits of it. Instead of keeping it to yourself by bookmarking it in your browser, or sharing it via email, turn those links into content by bookmarking on del.icio.us. This great video will help you get started. You can even set del.icio.us to auto-publish your links into your blog or facebook page.
3. Share your rough notes, meeting minutes and preliminary results as soon as you can. Sure, there’s always the risk that someone else might come along and nick your ideas but, unless you’re publishing plans for a nuclear reprocessing plant, it’s a lot more likely some helpful soul will pitch in with a helpful comment, pass you a link or contact, or tell you you’ve got it just plain wrong before you spend too much time and effort on the idea. This is what BBC Radio 4′s iPM has set out to do, wrapping a radio programme around a blog.
4. Post photos, audio or video of the things that you do and people you meet as part of the processes you undertake. But don’t miss this trick – instead of simply uploading your photos to your blog or website, share them on flickr, tag prolifically and link back to your post. The photo to the left was originally used in this way – I was packing my kit bag for Cardiff so snapped a quick photo, put lots of tags on it, and linked back here from the photo. It’s driven at least two dozen visits, some of those possibly new readers.
5. Instead of just reading and replying to comments, pull the better ones out and turn you response into a post. One of my most popular posts in recent weeks has been one where I did exactly this – I quoted from, and responded to, a comment left by a Canadian government official and embedded his video about Social Networking and Privacy into the post. It took me no longer than a quick response in the comments but worked even better as new content.
6. Take your content with you wherever you go. By this I mean configure the social networking sites you use, for example facebook (left) to pull in the content you create. My facebook page pulls in my blog posts here as notes as well as my twitter updates, dopplr and plazes locations, flickr photos and del.icio.us feed. It’s no extra work at all once it’s set up but it gets my content in front of a different audience, again potentially bringing new people in.
7. Use your downtime by generating content as you move. Micro-blogging services such as twitter and jaiku, and location tracking services such as plazes or dopplr, give you the opportunity to keep people updated on what your doing and often allow you to do this via mobile phone. If the audio you listen to is relevant, you can use last.fm to create an online, embeddable profile of your listening. Working on a blog post? Heading somewhere to cover a story, conduct an interview or have a meeting? Need a quick graph for a powerpoint? Using one of the services above let’s you get the word out yet takes just a few moments of otherwise idle time.
8. You probably already use tools like technorati and a stats service such as google analytics or statcounter to track where your traffic comes from and – vitally – keep track of the conversations your blog is a part of. You keep track of this stuff anyway so it’s not much extra work to take a screen shot and post it on your blog so that your audience can help you analyse it since, afterall, they’re the ones who generate most of this data.
That’s 8 ways to turn your processes – things you are already doing – into content. Assuming that at all great lists include at least ten items, what have I left out? What other things to you do to turn the processes and tasks you’d normally do anyway into content?