Mitch Joel tagged me in a meme. I know. How very MySpace of him. Heh.
Last week he wrote a neat post over at Six Pixels of Separation in an answer to a commentor who wanted to know more about how he, Mitch Joel, blogs. It’s always neat to peek behind the curtains a bit and see what others use or do to spur their creative process, so I read the post (as I do with most of Mitch’s).
Much to my surprise, after explaining how he blogs, Mitch tagged a number of friends, including me, asking us to pen a similar post. To my knowledge, Chris Penn and Mark Schaefer are the only other to take him up on the challenge thus far. So, I figured I’d answer the call. Maybe it will give you some ideas on how to better attack your blog, whether from process or product.
I’ll follow Mitch’s general outline.
My Blogging Philosophy
- SME has obviously grown into a group blog. I am the editor, but still provide anywhere from one to five posts per week, depending upon the number of ideas and time I have to write each week. The other posts, I edit for content. Our philosophy has always been that our content should try to push the thinking.
- We post at least one (hopefully thought-provoking) piece every weekday. But if our content is not good enough, we’ll just take a day off.
- For me personally, and like Mitch, it’s visceral and one shot. I sit down to write, write and post (or cue for posting later). I don’t save drafts and I don’t write one post over several sittings. Fortunately, I write very fast (years of writing sports stories on a deadline will help you hone that skill) and seldom have to put a post down and pick it up later.
- When I promote something on the blog, whether through our advertisements or reviews within the content, I make sure it’s something I would use or recommend to a client to use. We call it “curating for quality and relevancy.” We believe this is part of the reason you trust us. Unless you tell us otherwise, that won’t change.
- Likewise, when reviewing a product or service, I try to be as fair and balanced as possible. I attempt to take an analyst’s approach and enumerate strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities.
- If there are ever biases present (clients, sponsors, payment, etc.) they will be disclosed.
Pre-show (what happens before I blog):
- I’m really bad about capturing my blog ideas. If I don’t sent myself an email or throw a quick note into Evernote, it gets lost in the ether and forgotten about. I’ve probably lost as many ideas as I’ve written over the years. Sadly, even when I capture the note, it often sits in Evernote or my inbox for months.
- Most of my really good posts — or at least the ones that take a lot of thought — I actually chew on for several days. I’ll get a faint notion (like, I should tell everyone that even the top brands in social media still suck at being social) and mull it over for several days when I have time to think. When I get a general gist of what that post might look like in my head, I sit down and make the donuts. (And yes, that example above is what I’m currently chewing on.)
- Typically, I have the idea and immediately sit and write the majority of the post. Depending upon where I am and how much time I have, I may spit out as much as I can then come back later that night to finish it off. More often than not, however, I start and finish in one sitting.
- I seldom edit what I write, other than one or two read throughs. That’s not because I’m an idiot … or a cocky writer. It’s because I wrote sports game stories on deadline for 12 years. You learn to self-edit while you write when you learn to write on deadline. So when I’m done … I’m done.
Writing the blog post:
- I write better in coffee shops with The Black Keys or My Morning Jacket blasting in my headphones on my 15-inch MacBook Pro. The single screen keeps me focused and I like to people watch while I’m writing. Just helps the neurons fire. If I’m in my office, I look out the window and imagine the people.
- More often these days, and because I have to edit other people’s posts here, too, I write on Sunday nights at home after my kids have gone to bed. Sometimes it’s in my home office in relative silence. Sometimes, it’s in the same room with my wife as she watches whatever crime show is on at the moment. Sometimes its even after she’s gone to sleep, I’ve poured myself a bourbon and Tosh.0 is on Comedy Central.
- I use Ecto for Mac. Largely because it’s simple and allegedly posts straight to your WordPress blog. But it eats my blog posts from time to time. Despite my pleas to the company to fix the bug, they won’t, I paid $27 for it and am philosophically opposed to changing to something else as a result. If you know of a better one, let me know.
- I’m a WordPress guy. I use Posterous for my personal blog, but just because it’s easy and I don’t care about the design there. Here, I’ve had designers hack Thesis and create something I think is pretty hip. If you don’t like my fonts, the RSS feed comes through in whatever font your browser has set for default. Or you can deal with it. Heh.
- My blog posts take anywhere from five minutes to an hour to write. The more in-depth posts (product reviews, lengthy debates over an issue, etc.) will take longer. Most of my stuff is written, self-edited and cued in less than 30 minutes.
After the post:
- I’m probably one of the few folks out there that still manually promotes his blog posts. I do it as part of my morning sharing routine where I find and share content from around the web. SME posts are included in that round of sharing and treated like any other piece of content I find share worthy. I typically only promote each blog post once on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. If I remember to, I’ll promote it on Google+. People who promote the same post multiple times get on my nerves a little. I understand why, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.
- I try to respond to comments that seem to warrant a response on posts written by me. I expect my authors to respond to the posts they write. But I’m very protective of the civil discourse in the comments here, so I watch for commentors that are overly critical, argumentative and the like and chime in where I deem appropriate. (We’re all for discussion and even disagreement, but I don’t tolerate mean-spiritedness or criticism that isn’t constructive. If you want that, go to anonymous comment sections of newspaper websites.) Disqus allows me to read and respond to comments right from email, so it’s easy to do it, even from my phone.
- Also on Sunday nights (or sometimes Monday mornings) I prepare my weekly newsletter, The Navigator. That includes a recap of the SME posts of the previous week amid the thoughts I share with the subscribers.
That’s it. There’s no magic, other than many years of writing and editing as practice. In addition to the aforementioned years of writing sports, I’ve blogged since 1998. My personal blog started as a newspaper column that I wanted to publish online since, at the time, the newspaper it was for didn’t have a website. Over the 14 years of blogging, I’ve used the medium to publish narrative non-fiction, fiction, comedy material and silly man-on-the-street interviews. So when I started SME in 2007 to focus on the emerging world of social media marketing, I kind of knew what I was doing.
Blogging is a habit and a passion for me. I enjoy the creative process, the fact I have the power to publish anything whenever I want and there’s a bit of an audience there to see it and the fact that it can have immediate and long-term impact on my bottom line. It saddens me to see businesses who forego or forget their blogs and focus on micro-exchange platforms like Facebook or Twitter as their primary online marketing or social media marketing vehicle. If I sold Social Media Explorer and retired to a beach tomorrow, I’d still blog over at Falls, off the Rocker, just for fun. Or, I could create a different business blog and build something a little different.
Most of my blogging now is so much of that habit and passion that I don’t even think about how I do it. I’m sure I could do it better, easier, more efficiently, but this is what works for me.
So now it’s your turn. How do you blog? What works for you? Tell us about your blogging habits in the comments.
And thanks, Mitch.
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