Keeping up with my blog – how do I do it?

Awhile back, Ned Potter, who writes the fabulous blog at ned-potter.com (you ARE reading his blog, right?) posted What does an online identity REALLY need? (Or, Growing Up Online). I left a comment, because I could relate.

Then Ned commented back and asked me a couple of questions. Here’s my answer!

But first, here’s Ned’s comment (swiped from his post):

David what a great comment!

The thing that strikes me with you is the consistency – I don’t know how many subscribers your blog has now but last time I heard a figure it was huge, thousands, and dwarfed mine… And the main reason (if you don’t mind my analyzing your blog!) to my mind is that you consistently post really helpful things that we can all act on (plus other reasons too, to do with your reputation and books etc). There were a lot of bloggers when I hit my blogging stride who would write 1 or 2 posts per week every week, myself included, but we’ve almost all gradually fallen away to fewer than that…

But you manage to keep it up, and it doesn’t feel like you’re casting around for things to blog about – all the posts have a reason for being. So how do you keep that up? I’m interested, also, in whether it ever feels like a burden – essentially keeping up with the standard you’ve set yourself?

First of all – aww, shucks. Thanks! I’m glad people like reading my blog!

And now, on to the questions:

Question #1: How many blog subscribers? (Ned didn’t really ask this, but did mention it in passing, so I thought I’d answer):

That’s a hard one to figure out these days, since Feedburner stats have gone a bit wonky. For Feedburner, I have anywhere between 1800-5800 RSS subscribers, depending on the day (so I’d guess the actual number is a bit higher than the larger number). And a pretty consistent 2000 or so email subscribers. Last month, Google Analytics says I had 5600 sessions/4600 Users at the site.

Plus, there are a lot of people who don’t subscribe, but might watch my blog via Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin. Either way, that’s a lot of people! You guys – thanks for reading! Tell everyone you know to read :-)

Question #2: So how do you keep that up?

A few years ago, I slowly transitioned how I thought about my blog. Before then, it was simply a place I posted to whenever I felt like it. But I eventually realized that instead of a personal blog, I was running:

  1. a publication with more subscribers than some rural newspapers and academic journals (ok, the really boring ones, but you get my point).
  2. my blog was the “hub” for my fledgling part-time consulting/speaking/writing business.

And if it’s a business … well then, I need to treat it like one. So I do three things to help me focus on my “business:”

  1. I schedule blog posts. My goal is to post every Tuesday and Thursday. Do I always hit that? Nope. But it’s a goal.
  2. I created a tagline – “social web, emerging trends, and libraries.” It’s on my blog, and helps me stay focused. If you read something I wrote or if you hear me speak, the content will most likely fall somewhere within that tagline.
  3. I try to write and speak about things in a very practical way. My goal after you read one of my blog posts or hear me speak is for you to be able to say “hey – I can use that next week at work!” When I achieve that, I think it’s pretty darn awesome.

I also get a lot of ideas from work. Part of my job is scanning the library/techie horizon, and bringing new cool things to the library. Guess what? That often serves double-duty on my blog (and vice versa). More often than not, when I write about something, it’s because I was thinking about it at work.

For example, my recent social media measurement series of blog posts originated from me trying to eek some meaning out of my library’s social media stats. At some point, I thought “hey! I should share this stuff!” And voila! A series of blog posts.

Question #3: I’m interested, also, in whether it ever feels like a burden – essentially keeping up with the standard you’ve set yourself?

Yep. Sometimes it does! Burnout happens. I get busy at my “real job,” I get busy at home (three teenagers – how the heck did that happen?). Instead of writing about library stuff, I want to write music (which I’m working on!). Or I just procrastinate – I’m a pro at that.

But honestly? I really like to write. I like sharing, and it helps me think. My goal of two posts a week? That was actually a way to limit myself, so I wasn’t posting 4-5 times a week. My reasoning was that too much davidleeking can be a bad thing :-)

So there you go – three questions, three answers. How do you keep up something you enjoy doing when it gains some attention? Anyone else have some good tips to share?

Pic of Ned – from Ned’s Twitter account!

 

Writing for the Mobile Web

Writing for the mobile web is a LOT like all those “writing for the web” articles you’ve probably seen before, but with more emphasis on scannability and engagement. Why?

Because writing for the mobile web has an audience mostly using smartphones. Three things apply here:

  1. You are writing for the small screen. So the ability to quickly scan content is HUGE.
  2. People are used to interacting with their smartphones. They “touch” Facebook and Twitter. They can comment, like, or share easily.
  3. People are easily distracted on smartphones. If your content doesn’t load fast, they’re gone. If it’s not engaging, they’re gone. If they don’t “get it” fast, they’re gone.

We have our jobs cut out for us, don’t we!

Here are some tips for writing for the mobile web (these also apply to writing for the general web):

Think short:

  • write short, to-the-point articles
  • edit, edit, edit – make every word count
  • Stick to one idea, topic, or goal per post

Create strong titles:

  • Make titles short. The BBC uses 5-6 words per title!
  • Front-load the title with appropriate words to make the point of the article clear and understandable out of context (i.e., for search engines)

Create actionable content:

  • Focus on the benefits of using the product or service, not the features. What’s in it for the reader?
  • Have a next step or call to action in each article. (i.e., check out this book, attend this program, etc.)
  • Always link to things you talk about (i.e., link to the catalog when mentioning books, etc.)
  • Frontload your content. The first paragraph of text should be stuffed with the most important content (think inverted pyramid).

Make content scannable:

  • No huge blocks of text – break up long paragraphs.
  • Break the rules and use fewer than 3 sentences per paragraph if needed. One sentence paragraphs are ok, if it looks correct on a mobile device!
  • Use headings, subheadings, lists and bullet points. These help make the content scannable.

Be conversational:

  • put your readers first. Speak to them, not at them. Use we and you.
  • Use informal, conversational writing. Blog posts are a conversation!
  • Ask questions, ask for a response.
  • Type like you talk. Read your content back to yourself. If it doesn’t sound like something you’d actually say, re-write it so it does.

Other articles:

What should be added here? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

photo by Robert Patton

Be Business Casual

In a previous post, I said I’d talk more about being “business casual.” What exactly does being business casual mean?

First off, I have a whole chapter devoted to this idea in my new book, Face2Face (and I’d love it if you bought a copy!). If you want more detail, it’s in the book.

Here are some thoughts on how to be business casual in your interactions. These ideas work for blog posts, status updates, and even in videos:

Write Like You Talk. Most of us were taught that writing was a very formal, proper thing. We were taught to write business letters and academic papers. Guess what? Don’t write like that (Karol, guest blogger over at ProBlogger, agrees). Forget some of those rules, right now. It’s a more formal writing style, and it makes you sound more formal and less approachable.

Instead of a formal writing style, just write like you talk. This is very hard for some people to do! They’ve been trained to write a certain way, and suddenly writing in a different way doesn’t come naturally. If writing like you talk doesn’t come naturally, you can …

Say it out loud. If writing like you talk is hard for you, here’s a simple trick: Simply say it out loud. Read, out loud, what you just typed. Does it sound like you? If not, then rewrite your text so it sounds like something you’d actually say.

Write to your friend. Another trick – pretend you’re writing to your best friend, or a sibling. When you’re writing an email or a Facebook message to a friend, you probably write a bit more casually, as if you were standing there, talking to your friend. You’re familiar with that person, so you are using casual, friendly language with them.

That’s the voice you need to use (minus the inside jokes and potentially off-color language) when writing to customers.

My new book - Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer ConnectionsWear fun clothes – not a suit and tie. If you’re a visual person, here’s another way to think about this concept (and this is why I say to write “business casual”). Picture yourself wearing casual clothes when you write, rather than a tuxedo. It’s another trick to help remove formal language from your writing. Write like it’s “casual Friday” rather than “meeting Monday.”

Use language your customers use. In a library setting, we have to really work at this one – and most businesses are in the same predicament because of industry jargon. Remove all instances of technical language and jargon on your site. An easy way to do this is to simply ask your customers what they’d call something. For example, we removed one bit of jargon at my library by asking our customers what they would call “the room where we put a book they reserved to be checked out.” We actually stationed one of our Marketing interns by our check out line for a day, and had her poll the people waiting in line. We received some great feedback – the room is now called the “Holds Pickup Room” and it works great. Our customers know what to look for, because we named it using our customers’ language. You can do a similar thing with your organization’s products and services. Pick something your customers do, and simply ask them what they’d call it.

Do some behind-the-scenes videos. Show what goes on in the office or behind-the-scenes. This type of video captures workers in their element (at the office, doing their work), rather than artificially standing in front of a backdrop, with lights shining on them, talking to a camera. You can even interview them. Blip.tv does a great job of this with their Blip on Blip video series. They walk around their workplace, taking videos of staff and and sharing those videos with the Blip.tv community. This type of video shows real people at work, having fun. Getting to know someone by watching them in a video helps customers. When a customer has to call in for support, for example, they might just “know” who they’re talking to – because they just watched that customer service rep in a video.

Represent Your Organization, not Yourself. Finally, remember this: when you share that slightly casual, personal voice, and you’re doing it for your organization … you are essentially representing that organization. You become the voice for your organization or business. Your website, your content, and your employees have unique personalities. This uniqueness will come out. Your brochures were written by people who have a voice, and some personality comes from those, too. All that adds up to an organizational personality. Even your physical building (if you have one) has a feel or personality. The challenge is to make these match so you can present a uniform image. Sit down, do some planning, and map out each aspect of your organization – the building, the marketing, the website, the staff. Plan the voice of your organization.

These are some ideas of how to be business casual online – do you have others? I’d love to hear them!

Business casual image by Bigstock

We’re Writing a Novel!

book and ebookMy library is heading up a really cool project that I thought I’d tell you guys about.

In short, we thought we’d write a novel.

A community-driven novel, that is. Here’s a blurb about the project: “A community novel is one that is written collaboratively by members of your community. The library invites writers to each contribute a chapter to advance the group’s story. The story is set in Topeka and will use landmarks and a setting that all will recognize. Writing and publication began in April and continues through August with a chapter added each week (just like any other serial novel you’ve experienced). Each chapter will appear here so you may read them in order, with a new chapter published each week.”

Here’s a link to the main page for the project, and here’s chapter one. Please read it!

When we’re done writing the novel, we plan to throw an author book signing party! We also plan to publish the book in both ebook and print formats, and sell it online. And we’ll put the book in our collection, so people can check it out.

We have two goals:

  1. We want to showcase content creation in our local community, and this type of focused writing project provides us with a fun way to start doing that.
  2. We also want to get our feet wet in content creation. Libraries traditionally house books, help customers find books, and create programs around books and authors, etc. Why can’t a library and a community … create a novel?

Anyway – check it out – chapter two comes out this week!

book pic by Remi Mathis

Why Isn’t Your Stuff Getting Read?

Are your library blog posts getting read? If not, here are some possibilities as to why:

Bad content. Simply put, your content might not be all that good to begin with. Maybe it’s stuff you’re interested in, but your patrons don’t share that interest. How to fix it – Why not find out what your patrons are interested in, then write about that?

Poorly written content. Maybe the topic is on-target, but your writing stinks. If your writing is hard to read, guess what? Your patrons probably won’t read it. How to fix it – Why not work on improving your writing skills? Go consult some of those “How to Write” books in your library’s collection. Let the good writers on staff write your blog posts. Use modern web-writing standards.

Your website looks bad. If your website site looks icky, people will assume the content is icky too. How to fix it – update that website. Use a modern CMS like Drupal or WordPress, and use a nice-looking visual template design (or find a talented graphic designer that understands how to design for the web). Make it look as professional as the rest of your library.

Your content is hidden. Is your content hidden under multiple links? Not pulled out in an obvious way so people can find it? If so, that could be the problem. Why? Because your customers aren’t going to hunt for it. How to fix it – pull that content out. Put obvious links on your library’s main page that lead to your great content. Make sure your site is easy to use.

You’re not promoting your content. Maybe your writing is good, the site looks inviting, and your content is easy enough to find – but you’re simply not telling your patrons about it. Instead, you’re playing that passive “oh, I hope How to fix it – promote your blog posts. Instead of making a nice mystery book display in the library, write some short, pithy book reviews. Post those. Then drop the link onto your library’s Facebook Wall, and ask for responses. Ask people to Like it, for their thoughts … which helps spread the joy of your writing into other people’s walls, potentially lead to other comments, etc. Then rinse and repeat.

What would you add?

pic by vial3tt3r