Thursday, 7 October 2010

Feeding the dragon

Blogging has come a long way since the days when it was the Internet version of the CB radio.  With services like Blogger and Wordpress, setting up and maintaining a blog is almost effortless and even the greenest computer tyro can reach a potential audience of billions in a matter of minutes.

Unfortunately, one thing hasn't changed about blogging and that is the problem of what I call "feeding the dragon". The key to a successful blog is to get people coming back on a regular basis and the way to do that is to post items frequently.  The more often you post, the more likely people will return.  If you're posting only once a week, you're going to get a very low rate of return unless you're a major celebrity or giving away free iPads.  If you're posting at irregular intervals of three or four months, you're going to be invisible. At least daily should be your target and even more often if you can manage it.

But hang on,you say,  if I have to post so often how am I going to find enough material?  I'll be dry in a week.
That's feeding the dragon.

Finding things to write about every day or even several times a day starts with planning your blog.  What do you plan to write about?  Does it interest you?  Do you know much about the topic?  Do you want to learn more about it?  If answer no to any of these, then go back to square one and rethink your blog.  If you enthusiastic about your topic, if you have a lot to say and can't wait to read up on it, then you're bound to gather a huge supply of material that will keep you going for years.  On  the other hand, if you are only writing about a topic because it's in the public eye at the moment, don't know much about it, and forget about it the moment you hit "send", then that well will dry up very fast.

That being said, there are a few tricks you can use to keep your blogs coming.

This being the digital age, exploit it.  Subscribe to RSS feeds and create Google alerts.  Develop a morning routine of checking your best sources for new information.  Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter as additional sources.  Get things set up right and topics will be waiting for you in the morning in you inbox or browser just waiting to be sorted through.

Along similar lines, encourage feedback from your readers. Allow comments on your posts, set up polls, prominently display your email link.  Soon you'll find your readers doing a lot of leg work for you.

Another idea is to keep your posts short.  User studies show that when people are online they don't like to scroll, so if you want more posts that grab people's attention, break up that long post into several smaller one.  You'll cover more days and they'll be more effective.

Insurance is a handy thing and keeping a post in reserve is good insurance.  If you come up with an item that is likely to stay fresh and interesting for a time, tuck it away against that slow day when you can't find anything to write about or the world keeps you from doing any writing.

One tactic I use is to give myself a couple of days off on the weekends.  My readership tends to slack off anyway then, so I use Saturdays and Sundays to post something different, such as the book readings on this blog.  It makes for a change for my readers and I get a chance to recharge my batteries.

If all else fails, use the old newspaper columnist's trick and write about your personal life.  It may be as dull as a railway cafe knife, but if you write about how dull it is, you'll be on to a winner.

Or write about your dog.  If you don't have one, get one.

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