Write every day, blog every day?

Once a year, I try to make sure I ready Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft on audiobook. I really enjoy hearing it read straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. :) I remember the first time I listened to it, I had recently also listened to Bossypants by Tina Fey and Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. They’re both enjoyable, funny books, but I laughed out loud far more at Stephen King’s dry humour.

Plus, he takes a few jabs at Danielle Steele and Bridges of Madison County, which was amusing. (I haven't read Bridges..., but I watched the movie and hated it. I did, unfortunately, decide to try reading a Danielle Steele novel once to see why she's so popular. I didn't get very far and I couldn’t figure out the secret to her popularity either.)

One of the aspects of On Writing that I love is the use of stories to make a point. For about the first third of the book, there’s so much about King's life that it's basically an abridged autobiography. He mixes in occasional nuggets about writing, but you have to wait until a bit later in the book to dig in to his writing advice.

He sets the foundation for the reader to know enough about him to understand where he's coming from, why writing is so important to him, and what made him the kind of writer he is. He makes it about the journey - not the destination.

When he starts talking about writing, writing habits, and advice, you can really hear the teacher coming through. How amazing would it be to say you were in Stephen King's class? Do his former students walk around bragging about it? I would.

King is a "write every day" proponent when he's actively involved in a project. It makes sense, too. When I stop writing regularly, I lose my writing mojo. It takes me longer to complete work, and I forget where I'm at with projects after just a few days of idle fingers. 

This advice regarding novels got me thinking about what I believe about writing content online, particularly for someone like me who is trying to produce regular content.

Because I'm actively writing in a number of different places, I find it difficult to produce a blog post every day in one place, much less multiple places. 

What I've learned in trying to figure out what works best for me is that consistency is key. I blog once a week on my two main websites. I write guest posts when time allows. And I write in some form or another every day. 

For non-writers that want to blog, this may feel like overkill. You may be right. But if you're not writing everyday, make sure you at least read something every day that will help you generate ideas for your blog posts. 

Be consistent in your practice of reading and writing. When one goes away, it's easy for the other one to follow.

The importance of content curation for your audience

"Content curation" is one of those phrases that gets tossed around the marketing and content creation world practically every second if you're following enough of us. (I might be exaggerating. Maybe.) It's not a buzzword, but it could be construed as jargon because the act and its benefits aren't immediately clear to those who most need it. So, before I launch into why you want to include content curation in your digital marketing activities, I'll explain what it is.

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Content

Dictionary.com defines "content" (the noun, not the adjective) in a few different ways I like for the context of this post:

  • "the subjects or topics covered in a book or document"

  • "something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts"

  • "substantive information or creative material viewed in contrast to its actual or potential manner of presentation"

Content is information that expresses ideas, opinions, facts, etc. Before we had "social media" (and really, social media has existed far longer than the term we use to describe these digital tools), content was books, TV shows, home videos, photographs, journal entries, magazine articles and stories, newspaper columns and reports. The digital age has expanded the mediums we can use to create and the channels we use to distribute or promote.

Curate

The definition of curate is perfect:

"to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation, as music or website content"

The act of curation is essentially digging for those gold nuggets that are going to be interesting for others. Museum curators do this all the time, only they have to work much harder than I do when I'm sitting in front of my computer or other device reading through dozens of blog posts.

How do you curate content?

Good question. I'm glad you asked!

First you need to find people who create the kind of content you want to share

I go about this in several ways, and I've been following, unfollowing, re-following and so on for years now. I need variety and sometimes I need a break from the influx of information or the style in which it's presented. The information you need and want to see will evolve.

I find good content through Twitter chats, list posts that recommend "must-follow" experts/blogs on various topics, Twitter lists, etc. It will probably only take you about 30 minutes to find enough blogs that write in your area of expertise to create a repository of thought leaders to curate content from. 

That said, I try to follow in the way it makes most sense to share. 90% of the time, that's through Feedly, my RSS reader. Which brings me to tools...

Second, you will want to incorporate the right tools to keep content curation a manageable process.

My process starts with Feedly. As I flip through the unread articles in my account, I do one or more of several things:

  • Use a tool to schedule content to one of my accounts.

  • Save a post within Feedly, which automatically bumps it over to Pocket (via IFTTT). I do this with articles that I need time to read and consider what they say and how I want to act on the information. From Pocket, I may delete them, or (more often), they get saved to Evernote where I can reference the information later.

  • When I run across articles that I can read quickly and the value is clear, I may share using Buffer AND save in an appropriate notebook in Evernote. (I reference the same valuable blog posts over and over again when it makes sense. Putting them in Evernote means I waste less time looking for them.)

Within my Feedly account, I've connected Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Buffer, Pocket, Pinterest, Evernote and any other tools that I have accounts for and use in my content curation process. From Feedly, I can share content from the feeds I subscribe to with all the major networks I use without worrying that I'm being too repetitive. I mix it up!

Third, establish a consistent process that you run through regularly.

It doesn't have to be daily, but keep in mind that if you're scheduling content as part of this process, you want to be engaged with comments, replies, and other engagement that happens as a result.

I tend to curate a little bit almost every day. I used to try to get every post in my reader marked as read each week - by actually reading all of them. Now I'm content to mark them all as read when I want to focus on newer content coming out.

You don't have to read everything. You can't. Don't even try.

Why is content curation important to add to your social marketing mix?

  1. Sharing content from trusted industry leaders shows your followers that you are actively engaged in staying up-to-date with what's going on.

  2. Idea generation. This is my favourite reason for curating content. All those notes that I save in Evernote? Those are almost always blog ideas or supporting information for blog posts.

  3. When I read through the posts in my reader, I spend some time commenting on other blogs. Blog comments have decreased significantly over the years, but their value hasn't declined. The blogger that gets a thoughtful comment these days is more grateful than ever. Each comment you leave on that blog is one small step to building a relationship.

  4. It forces you to get away from thinking about creating content and learn from others. (Well, until you get an idea inspired from something you read.)

A caution about content curation

Read what you share.

Don't fall in the trap of scheduling content you haven't properly vetted just because you don't have time to read. There is no quicker way to lose credibility than to schedule something that doesn't fit your brand and principles. 

One final bonus tip

Subscribe to your own content.

Whether it’s by email or through a feed reader, you'll always know that your feed is working and you can mix your own content in with other content you're scheduling to share.

My process is not the only way to do it and you should definitely figure out what works best for you, but I hope this gives you a framework to getting started sharing excellent expert advice that supports the work you're doing!

Does what you share reflect you?

It's so easy to whip out your phone at any given moment of the day and share your thoughts and feelings about anything and everything that's going on in your world. 

In fact, plenty of people seem to have the view that if it's not on social media, it didn't happen. So, some of us get it on there as quickly as possible: 

Remember these early memes from back in the day?

Remember these early memes from back in the day?

I don't give much thought to what other people choose to say online. I can control what I see from other people no matter what tool I'm using. If someone I follow decides they want to say things that I find objectionable or offensive, they're within their rights to say those things. I sometimes respond with a different view, but I'm picky about when I share. (Sometimes it's better to just leave it alone and that's all I'm gonna say about it.)

Who do people see through your online self?

I don't want to get into the B-word ("brand" in case you were wondering) in this. Yes, this could definitely be part of a conversation about that word, but let's skip that particular discussion.

There is an old saying, "you are what you eat", which I think could be re-tooled for social media to tell the masses that "you are what you say". In a way, I really hope that's true for the vast majority of people. Even for those unflinchingly honest types that let it all hang out, I can respect a genuine opinion or reaction.

What happens when your online self isn't really you?

Several years ago, I wrote a recap post about a conference I attended. In the post, I said something about not working with brands. When someone asked me why I said that when I mentioned in the same post that I had driven a PR vehicle from a big car company to the conference, I realized I hadn't really made myself clear.

This lack of clarity was completely unintentional. I should have said I don't really seek out opportunities to work with brands as a blogger, though I've enjoyed it the few times I have. However, that is not now and likely never will be a major focus of my blogging. Will I work with brands? Yes, if the opportunity is right.

My unclear statements could have led some to question my credibility and integrity if they witnessed me posting content about working with brands on a regularly on social channels. That wasn't a concern, though, since my content shows I don't.

Does the sum of your content add up to the real you?

Some people consciously choose not to share certain topics that are near and dear to their hearts. The reason doesn't matter. The choice not to share is valid. So, of course, the pieces of our lives and thoughts about the world that we choose not to share create a variable in the equation. That should be the only variable, though.

The parts we do share are telling. They give our friends and followers small glimpses that they use to form an overall impression of who we are. (Still not talking about the B-word.) 

  • The friend that shares daily news and opinions about politics cares about what's happening in the world.

  • The friend that posts stories and pictures about their kids every day has an unwavering devotion to family.

  • The friend that has a "tragedy" at least once a day is unhappy.

  • The friend who posts vague statuses and never replies to comments clearly wants attention.

  • The friend who complains about work and family is overwhelmed and frazzled.

But what if these aren't entirely true?

  • Political friend is also an avid gardener and runner, but it's hard to tweet when they're elbow deep in weeding and planting or pounding the pavement.

  • Family-focused friend has a demanding, interesting job they can't talk about online. Family is a safe topic.

  • Tragic friend is actually a pretty happy person, but social media has become an outlet for those moments of chaos in life and they haven't noticed that they mostly only post when something goes wrong.

  • Vague friend is a lot like tragic friend.

  • Complainer friend wouldn't know what to do if they were less busy. They find the hectic moments entertaining to share, especially family shenanigans.

Share your truth.

I've gone through phases a couple of times when I have turned into excited friend. Everything is wonderful, fabulous, and amazing, even when real life isn't actually going all that well. When I catch myself in these slightly disingenuous moments, I re-evaluate what I'm saying. The world may not need to know what I'm dealing with, but I don't want to be misleading in the positive OR the negative. 

Take a look in the mirror.

Go through your social media profiles and see what you've been posting. Try to look at yourself as if you aren't you. What words would you use to describe your content? What assumptions would you make about your life?

You’re basically looking in a mirror: Do you recognize the person you see?

2017: Reflections on a year of constant change and challenge

Putting aside all the things we can say about 2017 based on what's in the news, this has been a year of a lot. There are things that happened six months ago I haven't fully processed yet though I think that ship might have sailed. I stumbled on this list of reflective questions in Forbes and I like that I can shape my story of 2017 through my answers to some of the questions.

What am I most proud of?

Rising to unexpected challenges. I had a string of events that seemed neverending for a while. When a colleague mentioned I was dealing with an onion that had many layers, I had to accept that I needed to meet each new problem with a solution rather than panic (or hyperventilation).

What do I wish I did differently?

There's only one decision I regret this year. I said yes instead of no when I had to make a decision. But once I've committed, I see it through. It's a lesson learned: Go with your gut.

What or who did I learn the most from?

I have no idea. I've got a long list of people I've learned from this year, which is a pretty spectacular thing to be able to say. I don't even know where to begin to narrow it down to one. 

What did I resist the most and why?

Spending time on creative writing. I value my time with family and friends so I put that first. Circumstances are such that I don't get as much as I'd like, so I consciously chose to spend my free time with people instead of projects.

What new skills did I acquire?

I know far more about SEO now than I knew four months ago. I did some extensive research on a few dozen questions I had and it was interesting and informative. And now I know the joy of geeking out over all the analytics and the wealth of ideas for content. I want to write all the things!

What limiting belief did I let go?

I'm not sure if I let it go so much as I'm making an effort to tamp it down. Like many women, I tend to undervalue and underestimate myself and my abilities. Having worked with a few great mentors in recent years, I've come a long way in shaking that habit. I approach new challenges with a lot more confidence today than I did six years ago when I first started my business.

Who or what am I most inspired and energized by?

With all the negative media attention on events south of the border, it's been so lovely every time I hear a story about people helping people and making a difference. It's encouraging that there are still so many stories. Hope isn't lost.

What went better/harder than I expected?

I've had a lot of activities that seemed like they were going to be straightforward that ended up being bigger and more complex than they looked on the surface. So, while they may be harder to deal with, the outcome will be better than originally planned for as well. 

How did I surprise myself?

I tend to be pretty laid back, but I've had some moments of near hyperventilating panic set in at surprising times. I didn't get easily overwhelmed, but the buildup took me by surprise. But I'm also learning to deal with bigger issues more effectively.

What am I most grateful for?

Continuing to find new possibilities that enrich my life.

What negative patterns seem to be repeating?

I'm getting better at saying no, but I'm not quite good enough yet.

What did I start and not complete?

Disclaimer: I feel exactly zero guilt about this admission I'm about to make.

At about 10:00pm on November 1, I decided to register for NaNoWriMo. I've wanted to do it for years and I impulsively jumped in. I was killing it for 9 days. Then the month that I knew would be excessively hectic kicked in. I tried to regain my lost time and find my stride again, but I was struggling so much with the story I was writing it stopped being worth the mental effort. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. I also want to figure out how to salvage the characters. I like them and I think I can find the true story when I have more time to work on digging it out.

What was something I failed at and what did I learn?

I'm going to say NaNoWriMo for this one, too. I loved the challenge and the discipline required. Next time, I need to plan ahead so I have some clue of what I want to write before I start. That should help me fit it in better, even during a busy month like November. Or I could choose another month and do KaNoWriMo (Karen's Novel Writing Month).

What no longer worries me, that used to?

I've (mostly) stopped questioning whether I can do certain things. Instead, I try to remind myself that what I don't know I will figure out. And I surround myself with people who like to help. There's no reason for me not to succeed.

Guest blogging? Bring your "A" game!

I really enjoy guest posting on other blogs. It's like being invited to come to a dinner party at a friend's house where you may know some people, but probably not everyone. The dinner party is your chance to meet new, interesting people with fresh perspectives and you might even walk away with newly formed friendships. Let me step away from the analogy now and say it in plain English. Guest blogging gives you:

  • exposure to a new audience
  • backlinks to your site
  • the opportunity to share your expertise
  • potential for increased credibility

Now, let's go back to the dinner party.

Would you show up unwashed in your Saturday schlepping clothes? 

Do you come in poised to sell to every human with a pulse you interact with?

Is the bottle of wine you brought as a host gift worthless or wonderful?

Don't squander guest blogging opportunities 

The guest who walks in prepared to socialize, with their most charming anecdotes and winning personality on display is a guest who will draw the interest of others and have a greater chance of creating meaningful connections.

Understand the rules of etiquette 

Dinner party etiquette is fairly standard. Most people know about BMW (bread, meal water) and using the outside fork first, and waiting until everyone at the table has been served. Blogs are a tad different. 

Know what is expected of you as a guest blogger - from language to content to engagement. Blogs that welcome guest bloggers regularly probably have comprehensive guidelines that will help you get to know their community and what they expect from content on the blog.

When you deliver on those expectations, you leave a good impression of your host and the community you're interacting with. 

It is better to give than receive

Inviting someone to share their expertise on your blog is a risk. Granted, editorial veto power is a must - always. But you also hope you don't have to exercise that all-important veto power. As the host of this guest, you're rooting for them to give you great quality content that resonates with your community.

It's deflating and disappointing to see an email that contains a blog post-sized sales pitch that has no redemptive value. It's too much like opening a bottle of your favourite wine only to find the cork is black and the wine is undrinkable.

Re-gifting isn't a good idea

When I guest post, I will sometimes re-publish a version of the post on my own blog, but I like providing original content. I'm not going to bring an already-open bottle of wine to the dinner party that I got from someone for my birthday. No, I provide new, original, fresh content and if I want to repurpose it for myself later on, so be it (if the blog is okay with that practice).

Impressions matter

All of these things serve to give your host and their audience an impression of who you are as a person, as a business, and as an expert. If you don't bring your "A" game, chances are most blogs simply won't publish what you provide. If they have to heavily edit, they may be slightly less reluctant to invite you back. But if you bring your best work and dress to impress, you will make an impression that won't be forgotten.

Quick tips for successful guest blogging

  1. You're there to give value, not a sales pitch. You have to earn the right to pitch and you're nowhere near that point in a guest post.
  2. This audience is not your audience; make sure you understand who you're talking to, what will help them, and how information is usually presented to them.
  3. Pay attention to social media and the comments on your post. Reply to comments and say thank you for shares. (Your parents will be proud.)

Brutally honest tip: If all you want to do is publish all of your blog posts on a higher authority site, you're better off syndicating. That is not guest blogging.

You can be a highly valued guest blog contributor fairly easily if you keep all these things in mind. Those are the contributors who are asked to come back over and over again. And eventually, they build relationships that cross over into their own audience, which is lead gen gold. 

So, bring your "A" game, and go for the gold. It really does pay off.