I know “efficiency” is a cold word. Not really something that gives a body the warm-and-fuzzies. I know that if I start talking about visiting your blog efficiently, unless I am very careful, you must wonder how serious I am about the relationship-building part of this social media thing. That’s only natural. I hope that by the time I’m done today, you’ll be reassured about the human-ness of what I’m doing and see that I am not a Borg navigator with my computer plugged straight into my brain.
I’m going to stop presenting myself as a social media novice. I’m still not an expert by any means, but I’m at least at an intermediate level of skill at this point. That said, these posts always come with two caveats:
- What works for me might not work for you. If your goals are different, your content is different, or you have a smaller group of regular supporters to work with than me, growing your audience may require you to do things differently.
- There is always the chance that Diana, Jeremy, and I will reach a natural plateau and have to deal with a period of stagnation while we figure out how to manage a larger audience.
We have a combined blog following of about 2200 right now and a combined Twitter following of around 4,000 with no idea how much they overlap. We started a little over 7 months ago. While the growth rate isn’t staggering, it’s consistent enough to eventually reach the point where it overwhelms us. Our comments threads regularly make our blogs look much larger than they are – especially if we work to create a discussion. That’s why I’m so keen to make my social media activities as efficient as possible.
When we started, we made a list of problems we knew we needed to solve during the first year of our blogging careers if we wanted to meet our goals. Diana’s goal is to have a large, engaged audience for Part Time Monster. My goal is to turn Sourcerer into a fully-collaborative blog that I post at on the weekends, and blog at The Writing Catalog during the week. Both goals require us to have a network of friends who not only read our blogs, but also interact with us on other networks.
Here’s a list of the problems, in order of priority. I don’t have the space today to talk about how we solved them, but I’m happy to discuss them on the thread, or to write specific posts about them in the future if anyone is interested.
- The content problem. Diana and I can’t maintain the sort of growth we need to be successful if we have to produce all the content. This problem is solved as long as we maintain enough contributors to keep the content flowing. We are always looking for opportunities to recruit new contributors.
- When to post. Solved by doing research, and by a set of time zone tables I created last month that tells us when the largest concentrations of English-speaking Internet users are online. The tables allow us to quickly figure out what time it is in virtually every populated part of the globe, at any time of day.
- Where to get art. Posts with art do better, plain and simple. Partially solved with original photos and Diana’s Pinterest account, but still not where it needs to be, efficiency-wise.
- Which networks to use. We looked into nine of them, and doing so cost me a lot of time and energy that could have gone into the blogs. We’ve narrowed it down to WordPress and Twitter for the time being, and Jeremy’s having such success with StumbleUpon that we’re thinking that’s the next network to build a real presence on.
- Content v. Networking. These are equally important. Without regular content of a certain quality, we’ve got nothing to share. Without networking – building relationships with people based on shared interests and mutual respect – we’ve got no audience.
That last problem is the one I’m working on now, and the efficiency problem is on the networking side of the equation. I have a minimum of 50 blogs that I know I should visit once a week and read two or three posts each. These are all nice, interesting people who do good work and have reciprocated my interaction to the point that I’d like to get to know them better, and who interact with me on multiple networks.
Up to now, I’ve been trying to keep up by using our blogrolls and my WordPress reader. The problem with that is, as I meet new people, if I don’t add them to the blogroll the minute I decide I want to keep up, I’m liable to not do it at all. And then there’s the problem of blogroll length. 50 sidebar links is probably too many. Also, people get lost in the WordPress reader. I follow hundreds with my personal account, but even though I keep the Sourcerer reader fairly exclusive, there are people I’m following I never see, even if I scroll through two or three pages, because my reader time and their posting schedules are too far out of synch. And there are week-long periods when I just don’t have the time to use the reader because I have so much else to do.
So here’s my next attempt to solve this problem. It’s so simple, I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. I’m setting up a group of bookmark folders. I have one folder for blogs to check in with a couple of times per week, and those check-ins will be built right into my schedule. Then I’ll have a folder for every day of the week, each with five to seven blogs, and I’ll visit those blogs once a week except when my life doesn’t permit me to do it.
The advantage to the folders is that I can open all the blogs in separate tabs at one time. Page loading and finding the links for blogs I want to visit are consuming a LOT of my time, and I’m only visiting maybe 25 blogs a week. The reason I’m limiting the folders to 5-7 is that’s how many tabs my computer can load easily at one time, and that’s about an hour of blog reading at the rate I read. I’m a bit of a speed-reader.
The bookmarking system won’t be fully-implemented until later this week, but once it is, quite a lot of you will be seeing likes and comments from Sourcerer once a week, and some of you will be seeing them twice a week. It’s my way of saying thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, and I’d love to get to know you a little better. Getting this part of my social media life straightened out is every bit as important as maintaining my Twitter growth at this point. WordPress is my social media home. It’s the network I love best, and I feel as though my presence here has been minimal for too long.
If you’re using social media in a way that requires you to handle a large volume of information, you need a schedule, but a schedule alone is not enough. You also have to be aware of the fact that time can be budgeted the same way you budget your money. And you need to budget your time. This week I set one of my browsers up to open Sourcerer’s admin account, Facebook, Twitter, Tweetdeck, and a Google search when I open a new window. That alone has helped immensely already. It’s saved me at least a couple of hours this week.
If you’d like me to discuss any of those other problems I mentioned above, or another topic related to blog traffic and engagement, let me know on the thread and I’ll pencil it in on the calendar. Have a great week!
(A quick blogwanking note. Here’s the reason I post these on Sundays, allow them to run long, and rarely include art. They do just as well on Sundays as they do any other day of the week. They do just as well without art as with it, and length doesn’t seem to be an issue as long as I keep it within bounds. So far, every one of these posts has generated a good thread and turned Sunday into a weekday in terms of views, but when I post them on a Monday, I just get an ok Monday. So, I’m thinking Sunday is a good day to speak to bloggers as bloggers.)