Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to blog or tweet more without working too hard

"Is that really you doing all that?" a client asked me recently about my Twitter stream, and a colleague confessed "I'm amazed at how prolific you are with your blogging." Mind you, whole days go by without a post from me. But I've found there's a lot of material to share, and my readers engage more when the content is fresh and frequent. 

So I post a lot...but also run an active business, speak frequently, take guitar lessons, travel, make art (I'm hoping for my first exhibit this summer), and socialize plenty...in person. My weekends are largely post-free zones. Here's how I do it, with a few not-so-secret tools and techniques that help me to share without sweating too much:

On Twitter: Thank the stars for that 140-word limit, itself a time-saver. Here are the rest of my tactics:
  1. Share buttons help me to be in two places at once: On Twitter, I believe in sharing as much or more from others as from my own blogs. While some of that happens in real time on Tweetdeck, many of my Twitter shares happen while I'm in one of two places: Google Reader, my primary RSS feed source with a handy "share" or "share with comment" button, and the New York Times's Times People, which puts a handy "recommend" button at the top right of my reading. I've set both of them up to share only to Twitter.
  2. I schedule some Twitter posts: The first time my blogs publish, Feedburner posts them to Twitter. I repost them 2-3 times over the course of the day, using scheduled posts and spacing them well apart. But that's the limit--I don't auto-tweet, for the most part.
  3. When I engage directly, it's for a focused amount of time: First thing in the morning and late afternoon often are good times for me to check in, listen to what others are talking about, dish about something new, thank folks for retweets or comments. But that's certainly not an everyday occurrence.
On the blogs: No character limits here, so blogs take more strategizing. A few things that work for me:
  1. I collect searchable string: When I'm reading--in Google Reader, on the web, on Twitter--I borrow from my  journalism days and "collect string" on topics about which I want to write. The difference? I clip or email it into Evernote, or store it in folders in Google Reader. All I have to do is search, since both storage options are completely searchable, instead of looking for links. That saves an enormous amount of time.
  2. I keep a grid of ideas: Problogger -- a great blog about blogging -- suggests you start a grid with as many story ideas as you can muster, then build on them by writing down related posts at the same time. You don't need to post them all at once, but you'll always have ideas waiting when you need them. I find it's useful to revisit and refresh my idea grid once a quarter.
  3. I start partial drafts: Like many other prolific bloggers, I spend a few minutes a couple of times a week setting up drafts. I'll take ideas from my grid, enter them into my blogging platform with a headline and photo, and perhaps a few lines of the lead or some notes on which links go into the piece. That way, when it's time to write, I don't waste time on the window-dressing. I just write. Another enormous time-saver. I always have 20-40 partial drafts hanging around at any time, waiting to be finished.
  4. I think short, and in multiples: I write plenty of long posts, but mostly, I keep it short and focused. Instead of jamming two big topics into one post, I'll separate them into two. (Look! I just doubled my output!) Sometimes a post can be a short announcement or question--no need to write "Gone With the Wind." And a complex topic can be broken into an entire series of posts, so I try to think in series when I can, a step that helps to organize and multiply my ideas all at once.
  5. I recycle and repurpose: Compilation posts help readers find lots of posts on one topic. Take a look at my "all-in-one" posts on topics like getting started in social media or my "weekend read" posts that compile the best of what I've shared on Twitter--the latter a good example of repurposing what I've done on Twitter, for another audience. I also end each month with top-ten posts compiling the most-read items of the month, and later, for the entire year. 
  6. I waste nothing: If you ask me a question like "How do you manage to post so much on your blogs?" it's likely to become a post. Reader comments, other people's tweets, questions via email or at speaking engagements, and material I used to put into handouts all become blog posts. This way, ideas are never scarce.
  7. I only write when I'm ready: By collecting string, taking time to mull, setting up draft posts and repurposing, I'm able to just write when it's time to write. I don't waste time looking for links, dressing up the post, or looking for photos. And if I don't have my thoughts together yet, I don't write or post.
  8. I schedule posts: Some of my best and most-read posts were done quickly and in response to moving events. But most weeks, posts are written and scheduled well ahead. (You can always reschedule them if a breaking post intervenes.) If I'm going on vacation, I'll spend a week or two writing two posts for every one I would normally do, and scheduling them for the away days.
  9. I love guest posts. While I've invited many guest posts, few people deliver on the invitation. So when I read a post and think "That's perfect for my blog," I fire off an email to ask whether I may reprint it. I always include a link back to the original post and a generous introduction to the blogger. Those posts add spice and perspective I can't bring, and the email's far easier to write than a post.
I'll confess, I started out as a magazine writer who was forced to write fast, short and accurate. That's still the skill set I use every day when blogging or tweeting. I also limit my time on many social networking sites, monitoring most of them through columns on Tweetdeck, which also lets me schedule posts, if need be, on Facebook profiles and pages. As a result, I spend less time elsewhere. The tactics on these lists, however, are what really make it possible for me to publish as much as I do. Care to share your secrets? Leave 'em in the comments.

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1 comment:

Mile Posts by Dorothy Beal said...

Thanks for the great advice!