Blogging impressions: time for reflection

My previous post has given me food for thought… Lately I’ve taken to writing down my blog posts in less time than before. This has some advantages like not being able to overdo the editing part. One drawback is that it doesn’t leave much time to do any editing at all.

Blogging: time for reflection

In this post I’ll share my recent experiences with you and hand out some tips based on them.

I hope you’ll find my tips useful – feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments!

Tip #1: Try to write your post in one session

My previous post was written on one day, but in several sessions. Family life and working hours take up time that I can’t spend on blogging.

I’ve noticed that whenever I pick up where I left off, my perspective has changed slightly. Even though I interrupt my writing process, I can’t just shut down my thoughts to wait until I have time to write on. This is a major issue if you want to write coherent posts!

Distractions are BAD news

Anyway, what with working from home, tending to a sick child, cooking dinner and so on, I was editing until well past 10 PM… after a broken night with our kid crying in bed several times. If you have kids and a blog, it’s bound to happen to you at some point.

In my case the result was: a post that might have been better, with a title that I wasn’t happy about but every time I changed it seemed worse than before. In the end I just hit ‘publish’ because I had planned to publish and after I did I could stop.

I came back to change the title the next morning after thinking of several alternatives after around 4.30 AM. Yes, that was our son crying again – you guessed it 😉

My conclusion is that quiet sessions to get your thoughts written down are essential.

Tip #2: Take time for reflection (if that’s your style anyway)

Depending on whether you’re writing a personal blog or more businessy stuff in the latter case you may need an editing session as well…

Mind you, not being able to put off editing, or deciding you don’t need a separate editing session means you do it while you write. Telling yourself you’ll reread and edit after you get your post written down should help you get things done before you start criticizing your work.

My inner editor seems to have returned – or maybe I’m just more aware now that I try to write my posts in less time from draft to publish. Or being tired means the inner editor becomes more of a nuisance than usual – what do you think?

Your inner editor messes with your writing process!

Worse than the editor telling me I’ve done something wrong is the inner quickly-excited person (also my inner editor?) who keeps telling me “hmm, this is interesting too… can you put it in?” or “hey, I’ve a great idea for an image to go with this post, how about checking for suitable pictures on OCAL (the Open Clip Art Library) now?”

Seriously, it’s like having a kid standing at your table trying to give you ‘food’ or wanting to sit on your lap and then asking “What’s happening now” every 30 seconds while watching Bob the Builder. Which is happening today because I’ve decided to sit down for once and write this thought down before it flies off.

Tip #3: Watch your inner editor or it will make you rewrite everything

You reread your post, and upon reflection, think of something you want in there… and this, and that… STOP! This is the same thing that happens to me if I interrupt my writing. You’re really writing your next post into the one you already had!

If this has ever happened to you – and it’s more likely to happen if you don’t blog (almost) daily – you’re blogging a lot more than you think. Except all your thinking and writing energy goes into far fewer published posts!

All in all I guess the bottom line is:

  • More editing means less publishing.
  • More publishing also means less (time for) editing.
  • You get a lot of published posts, or a few heavily-edited posts, but rarely both.

There’s probably a precious balance hiding somewhere out there for every one of us. Have you found your ideal mix yet?

Please add your thoughts in a comment – I promise to reply to anything that’s not spam 😉 How do you make blogging, editing and reflection work for you?

The big issue: content creation and originality

Sometimes inspiration drops in through Twitter. It happened to me a moment ago and since I had been planning to blog this evening (yesterday evening by publishing time) I decided to write about it 🙂

In this post you’ll find my thoughts about content creation plus 3 tips.

This post originated in something I said in a DM:

No human is ever as original as they claim to be – or as unimaginative as they fear to be. {click quote to tweet*}

I think this quote is mine, but if you’ve seen it anywhere before, please let me know. My opinion in the matter is, as you may have guessed:

  • There are plenty of people out there – some of them I’ve met on Twitter – who claim to be completely awesome. I haven’t unfollowed anyone yet for boasting about their accomplishments – but I’ve come close 😉
  • On the other hand, some people are so hesitant you’ll never get to hear from them because they never even try…

The quest for originality in content

The worst thing you can do is consider blogging, or creating any kind of content – or anything at all, from the perspective of what you don’t have.

Content creation and originality

Content originality? Parts of this picture from OCAL.

  • Your first issue is that you’re human and so is your audience (unless you’re Men In Black). This limits your spectrum to subjects humans find interesting.
  • Then there’s the marketing issue: not everyone likes the same stuff. You need to find your audience and come up with stuff they like.
  • Next up: competitors. There are so many people blogging about the same topic – what can you possibly add?
  • And so on.

If you follow a similar train of thought, the sensible thing to do is, well, nothing. But wait – let’s try the same thing from the perspective of options that are open to you:

  1. You have a personal set of experiences in your life and career that is unique.
  2. This gives you an original view on topics that (many) others are interested in.
  3. Knowing this, you can learn by watching what competitors do in coming up with (original) content without getting the nasty feeling there’s nothing left to do.
  4. Lots of competitors? Great! Keep an eye on the ones who do their research. Be nice though – no stealing.

Here’s my best advice when it comes to the quest for original content: stop searching – for now. Accept that you’re probably not producing original (unique) content. Focus on other aspects instead. Originality will find its way to you once you’re actively creating your own stuff.

Tip #1: Opt for quality rather than originality

I wrote two posts about content curation earlier. One is about levels of content curation (the good, the bad, and the ugly). In the other I talk about content curation as a way to show your expertise. Here’s my view for what it’s worth:

Content creation is basically high-level content curation.

If you have no idea how to start, try curating other people’s stuff. Collect other people’s content, select the interesting bits and re-write it so that the resulting piece of content adds value in the eyes of ‘your’ audience.

I started my collection of interesting content on Pinterest, but any tool that will let you group and re-group information easily will help you get a clear picture of what there is, and where you might add the biggest value based on your expertise.

Your content may not be original, but what’s original about the post I’m writing? I’m sure there are similar posts all over the internet. The difference is that this one represents my take on a familiar issue.

Tip #2: Focus on delivering relevant content to your audience

Create stuff that matters to the people you create it for, and do it well. The rest is BS.

What insight can you add that’s relevant for your audience?

{click question to tweet*}

If you’re wondering what content curation looks like on a good day, read this blog post by Kara Jackson that is a great example of content curation while also being about content curation. As you’ll see, good content curation is quite similar to content creation. Both require writing skills, for one thing 😉

Tip #3: Don’t, ever, advertise at me and call it a blog

This one is for you if you’re a creator of business content. If you want to tell me “you must be running into problem X, we happen to have the perfect solution, please register here”, do it elsewhere on your website.

Use your blog to build your credibility as an expert and potential problem-solver. Show me something that makes me think: hey, I didn’t know that, never viewed the subject that way, I’ve learnt something today… You’re allowed to amuse me while you’re at it. Be creative 🙂

It’s originality, but not as we know it

The truth about originality is it doesn’t exist in the way we think it does. What does exist is “something old, something new…” in new, unexpected combinations.

*Click to tweet: the first time I saw this type of link I wondered if all it took was one click to tweet. Fortunately you also need to click the actual Twitter action button 🙂

Please leave your musings about blogging, content, and originality or your tips for further reading in a comment – I will respond to any non-spammy contribution!

Social business: why you should add strategy to your content

One aspect of social media in a business is something I’m just about starting to ‘get’. It’s not just social media. It’s how to get your message across to potential customers at all, now that social media are becoming part of the business habitat. Everyone is suddenly in marketing. And my discovery (tah-daah!) is that many of us suck at it.

Social media: knowing how it works is not the issue

I don’t mean we can’t do marketing no matter what you do for training. I mean that right now, even if we know our way around social media, we have not been trained yet in (the basics of):

  • Risk management
  • Content marketing
  • Social media for business purposes.

Add strategy to your content. Image: Thinker - ContentRambler avatar

Thinking up a content strategy [OCAL image with alterations]

This may result in (m)any of the following:

  1. Your colleague has been told that social media is all about personal. She does a meet-the-whole-family blog and discusses details of her private life you don’t want to know about – depending on your interests 😉
  2. Another colleague (I’m assuming you have many of them) uploads an 86-page presentation to SlideShare, assuming she’s done her sharing duty this way. Description: “this is a presentation I did two weeks ago, enjoy”.
  3. A third colleague likes to rant about telecom services, airlines and so on which he had bad experiences with. Unfortunately one of these companies is a customer of yours.

Since I’m confident that you can spot the issues in the first and last example at once no matter what your professional background is, I’ll move on with the second example. Why? Because this is at first sight the least damaging thing anyone can do. And for that reason, it probably happens more often than the other two.

How to handle professional content

From a risk perspective, I’d really like to know if there are things like customers’ names in that presentation. If there are, you’re in trouble.

Let’s assume that it’s ‘safe’ content though, meaning it’s not about private stuff, nor does any customer of yours look bad or have their information shared on the internet. What are the downsides?

  • Your colleague’s description doesn’t really tell anyone what those 86 pages are about… that’s a missed opportunity. Possibly half a dozen opportunities, depending on what is in that presentation. I’ll get back to this topic later.
  • Here’s the good part: if the title of the presentation is as nondescript as the description, no-one is going to read it. Unless your colleague is, say, Seth Godin.
  • The bad part is that no-one will read it. But at least you’ll have a chance to improve the way your content is presented before it’s been downloaded and possibly put to good use without you ever seeing a dime in return. Or getting a “thank you”, or a new contact with an invitation you might have used for a spot of networking.

Optimizing your content for different learning styles

Depending on the content of a single presentation you could get up to half a dozen blog posts out of it; make a couple of video interviews; do a web chat or two about the subject. And I don’t mean either-or: you could do all of them. Why?

Learning styles

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a colleague repeat the basics to me just yesterday. By typing pages full of words, I’m basically catering for a specific type of person. I’m probably writing for people who learn in a way that is similar to my own.

I used to have books for breakfast. When I got to read my first ‘grown-up’ book in English – Dune, by Frank Herbert – I didn’t do any homework for three weeks (goodbye Math results). If I woke up in the middle of the night I’d read in bed.

Adding examples, especially about people and situations you can relate to, makes a (long) text more digestible for people with a different learning style. The same goes for adding a picture – preferably one with a personal touch, or with warm colors. Pictures that reach out to the viewer.

Time pressure and content guzzling

Another colleague told me that, because he spends so much time in the car, he prefers to listen to podcasts of blogs – especially by those bloggers who are real storytellers. The fact that some professions have people on their feet and in their car at all times of the day gives you yet another reason for trying different media.

Your social business needs a content strategy

For your (future) business, being on social media without knowing how to market your content doesn’t make much sense.

Note that I’m hardly saying this as a die-hard, veteran, marketing blogger. Needless to say I know I’m missing a big portion of my ‘potential audience’ by not using every available medium but just writing what’s on my mind. If you’re blogging like me and you’re not getting the most from your writing right now, that’s fine – if you’re fine with it. If not, you have work to do.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I wrote it today, in two or three sittings (I have a job and a family!), which is about the fastest I’ve done so far for anything that isn’t actually a “Blogging impressions” post 🙂

If you’ll add your thoughts on the subject of social business, content strategy or anything related, I would appreciate it and I’ll reply to any (non-spammy) comment.

Blogging impressions: the road to a content strategy

Congratulations! You have been blogging for a whole… 2 weeks? 3 months? A year and a day? So… what have you written about, and why?

Blogging impressions: the road to a content strategy

Congratulations on your blog!
[OCAL image]

In this post I’d like to talk about blogging and your content strategy.

It’s not about my personal experience in content marketing or business content strategy, because I haven’t tried to use this blog to get you to buy my stuff. I haven’t asked you to register so you get access to my most brilliant contributions to the improvement of human kind.

For now, I’ll be quite happy if you buy my ideas in stead of chucking them in the bin 🙂

Blogging without a content strategy

If you started out like me, you’ll have tried the whole blogging idea on for size. Questions you may have asked yourself when you started up your blog:

  • Do you still enjoy writing when you ‘have to’, in other words if there are readers out there and you feel you should publish new content on a regular basis?
  • Does anyone even care what you write?
  • Can you come up with enough ideas to get beyond, say, 10 posts? Or will the creative juices dry up in no time at all for whatever reason?

They’re all legitimate questions when you start out. If you start blogging to find the answers to these questions, you don’t need much of a plan beyond:

I’ll write about subjects X and Y because they’re interrelated and I run into issues a lot and maybe other people will like to read about how I view or solve those issues.

The subject and issues you decide to write about can be either your toddler’s tantrums or trends in social media. I’d advise against putting them in the same blog: I’m told Google doesn’t like it.

Why you may need a content strategy – or something like it

Once you’re blogging for a while you may find that sometimes ideas for new posts just roll in faster than you can find the time to write about them. At other times you’re stumped for ideas because they all whizzed past your head in the previous days and now they’re gone. This happened to me a few days ago. I had a great idea – I think, at some point the text was taking shape right inside my head. By the time I had a moment to sit down and take notes it had escaped me completely.

Sometimes daily life is a regular pain in the backside. That includes grocery shopping, hairdressers and pans boiling over (and your adorable kids, too).

It pays to just face it: letting content creation (blogging) depend on creative flashes like that won’t work if you want to produce new stuff every day or week. Unless you blog about your own life – even if you forget everything you meant to write about you could still blog about your ‘senior moment’ 😉

What happens if you chuck a stone (a plan) at your blog?

Here’s the good news: it won’t break. I’ve spent the past few posts writing about aspects of social business with the titles and subjects more or less ready. And it’s been all right in the sense that I knew exactly what I would write about, and was able to read up where necessary.

On the other hand, writing about a single main subject has made me extremely critical of my own writing. Publishing several posts in a series has exposed the limits of my knowledge about the subject. I spend a lot of time reading because I’m still looking for ideas that are not basically hot air balloons: amazing to look at (which I can do for hours) but basically nothing inside with a sleek outfit and lot of noisily burning gas underneath.

Blogging to a plan: feeding a newly-fledged content strategy chick

If you start planning subjects you may find the idea of treating a subject in a series of posts attractive. If so, you may run into the following:

  • You get the strong impression you’ve written something already in your previous post. This can happen even if you’ve planned the main subject for each post in advance. I find this effect is stronger if you write a series on a single subject because you planned it that way.
  • You start over-editing as a result. You may want to improve single posts in a series because you feel you’re repeating yourself. Do you find yourself chucking bits out, re-ordering and rewriting?

These are my tips to counter these effects of topic-related series:

  1. if you commit to writing a number of posts about a single subject, it really helps if you’ve read or experienced so much that you can easily write from memory.
  2. Being boundlessly opinionated on the subject is also a great way to churn out one post after the other 😉
  3. Less frequent publishing. This way you can concentrate on the core of your subject and spend lots of time on research. Or do the exact opposite:
  4. Publish more often – if you don’t post every day already. Frequent posting:
    • Prevents rereading endlessly.
    • Means you’re not forcing yourself to hang on to your drafts until ‘publishing day’.
    • Your posts are fresh rather than stale.
    • You’re not tempted to write new articles that relate to your topic into an otherwise finished post (don’t ask).

So there, I’ve solved the beginners’ content strategy puzzle – for now 🙂

Have you got bits and pieces of content strategy from your own blogging experience – what works for you and what doesn’t, then let me know by leaving a (non-spammy) comment – I will reply!

Levels of content curation: blogging

This week I came across the following article – I should tell you I once studied art history. You will understand my natural interest in the subject 😉 :

From Pop Music to Blogging, Everyone’s a Curator

– Kyle Chayka on Hyperallergic

In this post you won’t hear me talk about content curation from a “social media ladder” (Forrester) viewpoint. You can ignore the 1-9-90% story. Or the 75-23-2 version by Gartner. Anyone interested in the subject needs to realize:

Broken Social Media Ladder inspired by the Forrester Social Media Ladder

Broken Ladder inspired on (but not identical to) Forrester’s Social Media Ladder (for the original: click image)

  • The numbers will change as more people get (more) used to sharing their information online;
  • There are many different forms and levels of curation. You might as well lump the categories “1-9”, or alternatively “23-2” into one group.

Why would you do that? My answer:

Blogging is essentially high-level content curation.

Don’t get me wrong: not every blog reflects the same level of curation.

If you blog by selecting a couple of quotes from different articles about a subject you want to publish on and writing down why they are interesting, you’re curating content.

On the other hand, you could start by writing your view on a subject and add a few quotes. Curation or creation?

Or you could start your blog post with a quote which reflects a similar take on the subject or which contradicts your view – thus giving you an excellent starting point to explore the pros and cons of your insight. Most people would agree this is content creation. In terms of brain science it’s probably high-level content curation.

Blogging in your brain

In the Netherlands, Dick Swaab’s book “We are our brains” has been the center of some debate around free will and the question whether we have any. The controversy was largely based on Swaab’s assertion that what (and how) we think, feel, say and do is a result of influences on our brains throughout our lives, starting in the womb.

Swaabs opponents are mainly psychology experts who seem to take the idea of “No output without input” as meaning we’re compared to machines, only able to act in response to triggers. Let’s leave that kind of simplistic nonsense aside though, especially since I’ve read Swaabs book but only a few articles about the other side of the argument. Instead, I’d like you to focus on the following question:

How does this brain talk relate to the writing process?

When it comes to writing, the fact that I’ve read any number of articles and books in my life helps me to come up with all sorts of ideas. Think about it for a minute: when you’re new to a subject you need to learn about, you read, listen and think and rethink until you end up with a rough idea of what there is to know about that subject – which you can then refine over time or revise if necessary (this is the tricky bit for most of us).

Our opinions are based on the information that is available to us when we’re learning new stuff. If new information, which does not match the opinions we have formed, becomes available we have some serious ‘un-learning’ and revising to do.*

Content creation by blogging

Even if you make a point of sitting down to write without distractions, if you blog without referring to other authors and articles because you simply don’t know exactly where or when you got the first idea for what you’re writing, you are still influenced by all the information you have reviewed.

All the information you’ve fed into your brain is let out in your writing process.

This means that it may well pay off to be single-mindedly interested in one particular subject. Your interest means you can read about, and focus on, that subject and ignore other information. That in turn makes it easier to write about the subject without the distractions of a million other fascinating subjects.

So if you’ve recently taken up blogging and are finding the step from social networks or from curation platforms like Pinterest or Scoop.it a bit much to adjust to at times, I hope this post has helped you ‘revise’ your idea of blogging.

More about blogging and content curation

If you find all kinds of subjects are trying to find a place in your blog posts, you may find this earlier post useful.

On the flipside of today’s post are content curation and creation outside blogs. I could write a whole post about that, and I’ve already written one before: this one.

If you’re interested in my collection of articles about content creation (and content curation) I would invite you to check my Pinterest board.

* My first source for the term ‘unlearning’ is Frank Herbert’s book Dune. Just saying 😉

As always, you may your insights, and other contributions in a comment below this post.

If you found this information of interest, please share it.

Blogging impressions: how to improve the focus of every post

Just around the time I started to blog I found a post which didn’t sink in at the time I read it. However a few posts later I realized the value of this remark:

Don’t try to save the world in a single post.

(If you happen to recognize this quote please let me know and I’ll be sure to mention the author for inspiring me.)

When you start blogging you may have so much to share that you end up cramming too many (interrelated) subjects into one post.

Blogging Impressions 2: Add Focus to your writing

Add focus to your writing

By doing so you run a few risks at once:

  • You find yourself running out of subjects quite soon (or so it may seem);
  • You exhaust your readers by the sheer length of your post. If it’s a detailed “how to” step-by-step guide you’re excused – people love that like they love one-stop shopping!
  • Your post would have been better if you’d chopped it up into several posts so you could focus on one subject – rather than saying a little about a lot of different subjects.

How to improve your posts: quick fix

Suppose you find you’ve just written an incoherent, rambling post that offers a “sight-seeing tour of my favorite subject”. What can you do about it?

  1. Take a moment to identify subjects (or aspects of your main subject) that would be much happier in their own post. Sometimes a single paragraph contains enough information for a whole post. You’re not doing it justice by confining the subject to a single paragraph.
  2. Get rid of paragraphs that lead your reader off the main track. Move any paragraph which does not support your main statement or question into a separate space (note, document, draft). Leave it there for a few hours.
  3. Edit your original post. Make sure your recent pruning session doesn’t leave ugly marks in your text. Remove arguments that don’t make sense because the only reason you wrote them was to lead up to the subject that didn’t quite fit in…
  4. Then come back and see if the paragraph you took out has the potential to grow into a whole post once you’ve added water and proper soil.

New post: try to start writing by not writing

Approach every subject you’d like to tackle in your blog as though it’s a project. Here are a few steps that may help you.

Explore your subject. Your main aim is to find out what different aspects there are – some of which might lead you into opposite directions. You can try mindmapping, or just sitting and thinking if that suits you better. Find information on the internet if you think you have missed anything.

Select aspects to write about. Take one or two aspects you could write a nice, focused and ‘complete’ post about. Try to be clear on why you need to focus on your selected aspects today, and why other aspects can wait.

If you’ve chosen more than one aspect, determine what the connection between those aspects is: why and how do they fit into one post? If you can’t find an answer, putting them into the same post may be a mistake.

Then sit down and write.

Edit your new post. Are you happy with the result? Are there parts of your post that seem out of place? Check if those parts happen to belong to different aspects of your subject, which you resolved to write about at a later time.

Think of your blog as a book. You don’t need to write it in one day. You just need to know what the chapter you write today adds to your story line.

Simply knowing what each separate post is supposed to solve or add should give a sense of direction to your efforts. Good luck!

+ If you enjoyed this post, please share it.

How has this post helped you? What other methods do you use to improve your blogging?

Please RT: About Online Sharing

Social networks make it easy to add other people’s content to your own message stream. A number of businesses are only too happy to do exactly that. How to avoid the murky waters of content theft?

A bit of psychology: why do we share other people’s content at all?

There are social as well as practical reasons to share other people’s content. Let’s take a look at this short and probably incomplete list of reasons:

  • Give and take – you can’t expect people to share your content in the long run if you stop sharing their content altogether. You need goodwill.
  • You really, really like a bit of content and want to let others know about it.
  • You don’t create the kind of content you need to attract the audience you need – but others do. If you want to be noticed on a social network it pays to be talkative.

Adding your own content

Spot your original content amidst all the retweets
Creating and sharing: mixed content

If you want to share your own views, there are several ways to come up with enough content to share it on a regular basis.

  1. Being extremely productive. Blogging full time. Experience helps. (Example: Darren Rowse – @Problogger).
  2. Having (relatively) low standards for the content you produce. If this is your approach you don’t read up much on subjects, and you don’t check your posts for typos. (no example)
  3. Producing good (or great) quality content over a longer period of time and then sharing it daily on social networks. (Example: Jeff Bullas)

If you’re still busy gaining the necessary experience and building up a treasure chest filled with heaps of great content, you will find yourself without relevant, ready-to-share content pretty often. Sharing the same 5 blog posts 40 times a day will not make you popular. And it’s a bit early to start inviting guest bloggers if you blog for the sake of sharing your own ideas.

Sharing other people’s ideas will help you AND them – if you do it right.

Basic tips for sharing other people’s content – especially if you own a business

Probably fine:

  • reblog someone else’s post on a platform you don’t own.
  • share interesting news on social media
  • post a paragraph on your own website and adding your own view (content curation)

Tip: always add a link and the author’s name (Twitter handle) and for preference mention the website where you found the information. Why? It’s not just good manners. Check the paragraph below about measuring your reach.

Posting complete blog posts on your company website is pushing it too far. Even if you add a statement on the lines of “this text was originally posted on website X” that does not tell your readers whether you have the author’s permission to fill your company website with their work.

Tip: the main question is whether or not you paid the author for contributing quality content to your website. Add a paragraph “About our authors” to avoid misunderstandings.

Once you have created a significant amount of content, the balance between home-made and other content will start to shift.

Tip: You need to monitor your content sharing mix and decide what suits you at each stage: 20/80, 60/40, 80/20?

Measured reach versus actual reach

Measuring the number of social shares your content gets gives you some idea of the reach of your message. Tools like Tweetreach list the number of mentions, the number of tweets and retweets, and the number of followers of all the sharing accounts. So you know how many people may have read your message.

A few caveats:

  • If sharers use scheduling tools, all you can do is hope they’ll mention you or use your title or hashtag so you can track their messages. This practice means that the reach you measure is lower than the actual reach. To close the gap, make sure that:
    • the sharing buttons on your site work properly – so visitors use those in stead of their own bookmarklets;
    • title, name, and hashtag combined fit quite comfortably inside a tweet when you click a sharing button.
  • Automatic reblogs and retweets are forms of automation which remove the engagement aspect altogether. This practice means that the reach you measure is (a bit) higher than the actual reach.
  • In an open platform like Twitter, the right subject (the right hashtag) may mean the number of views – and clicks – is higher than the number of any single sharer’s followers.

With so many tools around you can only hope they cancel each other out. In fact, a lot of tools exist that help you reduce the amount of guesswork by adding analytics to the links inside your messages – think Hootsuite, Buffer and the like.

How accurately do you need to measure reach?

Do you need to know who actually reads your content before sharing? In that case you need clicks combined with retweets by the same sharer. Just in case there is an automated tool running which retweets anything containing #subject.

In most cases it’s fine to have a rough estimate of your reach. Compare it to your website’s analytics – the number of clicks your content is actually getting – and you’ll have some idea of where you stand.

After all, reaching any audience is one thing – only part of that audience will engage with your content on your website. That is where the fun starts.

Please add your thoughts to my musings by commenting below; or find me on Twitter!

Blogging impressions

When I started this blog I was completely focused on writing. In fact, I could hardly wait to get started.

My main reason for being so eager to get started was this: I needed to find out  if I could write on a regular basis. And in English, which is not my native language – it is just about at that level where every minute example of Dutch influence nags at me. Which is annoying if you’re trying to get to a point where you actually click the darn “Publish” button in stead of having your eye drawn towards it every so often.

First impressions of bloggingI did not expect to find myself staring at the screen, wondering what on earth to write about.

And so far that has not happened.

Quite the opposite. I have several drafts waiting as I write this post. They are awaiting further scrutiny, added links, a picture, or extensive editing.

But here is the issue I have run into:

I have always had ideas pop into my head. The choice has always been either to jot them down at once, in which case I mostly found myself writing a lot more than just the initial thought, or not – in which case I would probably forget the idea or at least the contect which made the idea seem worth remembering.

All my life I have written from scratch until I had two-thirds of the end result. After that I would add a few things, maybe move a few bits around, write the final version and call it ready. That worked for me at college, even though I might have done better if I’d bothered to remember the rules for writing essays.

The only rule I stuck to – in fact, the only rule I could ever remember – was: you need an introduction and a conclusion. Based on that rule, I would start by quickly jotting down my obligatory introduction, then write myself a path into a glorious sunset, and wrap everything up in a famous last stand. And that saw me through to the very end, no problem.

When it comes to blogging, I have learned a few things from my first five posts.

A major issue is how to rein in my type-happy fingers!

I guess I’ll have to pay attention to all the stuff I’ve read about better blogging.

But now at least I have published something. I could have tried everything that bloggers were telling me to do in my first post and I probably would not have dared to point at the publishing button.

So here is my first to-do list

  1. As soon as I find myself looking at my Word count and thinking “Oops it’s well over 1k!” I’m going to find out which subjects to move over to another post. Maybe it’s a 3-post subject. If that is the case, fine. I’ll write three posts if I have that much to say about a subject.
  2. Plus I’m going to experiment with titles a bit. I write on stuff that is more or less related to the buzz around “content”, content marketing and other things but it’s really also a way to get writing about things I read and like. I’ve read blogs on how to create ‘eyeball-grabbing’ headlines but I don’t feel comfortable trying them. However there is no point in adding sharing buttons to a blog that has no shareable titles.

Well that’s it – my shortest post so far! You’re welcome. In fact you’re also welcome to comment or offer tips 🙂

Hello World!

Bee on white flower

WordPress.com: beautiful platform or stinging issue?

I’ve just hopped onto the WordPress train. Since I don’t believe in jumping into the water to find out if it’s cold I’ve read nearly every post about starting up a blog written by professional bloggers (the ones I like anyway).

Every single one of them told me to go for a self-hosted WordPress blog (like they had, obviously). Next I was to get plug-ins for stats, for security and for flexibility, whatever flexibility meant for a blogger (I didn’t know – why else would I read about blogs?). All those well-meant tips gave me the impression I really shouldn’t go for a ten-minute-to-get-started blog because the experience would probably be incredibly painful.

Then I weighed pros, cons, hopes and fears. I wanted to get started but I wanted to get things right too. I hesitated. And then I went for a blog on WordPress.com.

Why?

Basically my train of thought went as follows.

  • If I go with the self-hosted version I’ll want to do it right. Because it means paying more. Not a fortune but more.
  • So I won’t stop there will I? I’ll go for a premium WordPress theme because I want one that is just right for my subject and since I’m already paying to go self-hosted I’ll dig until I find a theme I love.
  • Then I’ll get all 41 essential plug-ins plus 28 fun ones. Next up, the worries about all the future updates will probably kick in. I’ll end up deleting half a dozen plug-ins.
  • Given time I’ll read up on coding and try some changes to get things exactly the way I want them.
  • Since I’m not a night owl and coding will probably end up costing way more time than I ever planned to spend on it, I’ll find myself saying things to our two-year old I really shouldn’t say, ever (and anyway he’s not supposed to learn those words) for messing up my code by squeezing himself between me and the keyboard and then pressing any key he can reach, or dropping his favorite toy.
  • After all that I’ll have a great place to publish my blog. And I’ll create my first post. I can just picture myself staring at the screen.
  • Er.
  • By this time I’ll probably be able to write great stuff about coding, plug-ins and security (including the ‘kids & keyboards’ issue). But that wasn’t the reason I started out now was it?

You’ll have guessed it. I think I have enough ideas to write half a dozen posts. Or two dozen. Maybe more. The only way to find out is by writing. What I really want is to write and publish all those ideas that, if I don’t pin them onto my blog, will fly off into the sunset. And I want to find out if writing those ideas down means I’ll have more room in my head – room that will be filled with new ideas.

I just know that at this stage I could easily get side-tracked and it would take months before getting to the stage of actually writing my first post.

That is not going to happen. I won’t let it happen.

Note: my “Hello World” post was originally created on July 30th. But I had so many things to do: choosing a theme (which I thought I’d done but then I decided to change it after all), then getting a header photo, widgets, why isn’t there a Buffer widget? So I didn’t edit the post until some days later. And then I decided I might as well republish it altogether. My first experience with WordPress.com leads me to ask what on earth those bloggers meant when they called this the 10-minute version??

I’ll admit it probably wouldn’t be a 10-day version if I didn’t have a day job or if I had decided to stay up till 4 a.m. to get things done.