Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of your pants? I ask the question as many people seem to fall into the spontaneous category, thinking up new ideas all the time but never quite delivering on them, never being as successful as they could be.
In some cases flying by the seat of your pants may be preferential, if you are struggling to meet a deadline. But in most cases I would advise sticking to being a planner, it lessens the amount of fire fighting you have to do (and having experienced that for chunks of time it is not a happy place to be, believe me) and it puts you on the right track.
The problem is most people who start in the spontaneous phase never seem to get out of it. They enjoy coming up with ideas and some even enjoy the increasing pressure they put upon themselves. But many fall at the first hurdle, after the initial buzz they lose their way and get disinterested in their blog because it’s not generating enough readers. They give up.
Because being spontaneous is easy, there are no rules, no restrictions. But it also means: no focus, no goals to reach and no way to measure the progress that you are making.
If you wish to avoid this then developing a strategy at the start of your project is essential. It’s about constructing a framework on which to build upon, a bit like starting with a skeleton and you add all the flesh, muscles, organs, blood and oxygen to keep your blog thriving and growing from strength to strength. When starting out I have six components which form the outline of my strategy.
Photo credit: stockdevil
Six components to developing a blog strategy
1. What do you want to achieve?
Or in other words what does success look like to you? Understanding what you wish to do provides real focus to your planning. Am I looking to engage with a specific community to generate an income by developing products, such as e-books or online courses? Or am I using it to demonstrate my writing commitment and style in order for me to win freelance writing work? If, for example, I wish to start a blog on health and fitness I’ll need to consider which aspects of this wide topic I wish to focus on before I can establish what would lead to a successful blog.
TASK: If you’ve decided to start writing a blog you’ve undoubtedly been thinking about it for a while. Take a sheet of paper and write down your ideas, thoughts and reasoning for the subject area you wish to concentrate on. You may well end up with lots of ideas and different angles, some that will fit together, others that will stand out on their own. Reject nothing at this stage as you never know how your thoughts can develop.
2. Why is this important?
Why is it worth your time and effort to start this blog now? What important problems need solving that can’t be found elsewhere? The clearer your reasoning at this stage the better. Continuing the theme of health and fitness I may consider looking at helping health professionals to communicate the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to patients. With the growing obesity problem around the world and the increasing costs to healthcare providers this is a topic that still needs addressing and could benefit from a fresh approach.
TASK: Take another sheet of paper and take one or two ideas you’ve already written down and explore further. What different angles will you be providing? Write down your justification for developing the different subjects. Is there a real need for the information you can supply?
3. Who do you want to target?
Within any topic that you choose there will be numerous types of people to target. Do you wish to target business people or consumers? And within those two categories who specifically do you wish to engage with? At this stage it’s always best to identify one type of individual and develop a persona for them. Are they male or female, what age are they, what’s their salary bracket, what does their job entail are all good starting points. Extending the focus on health professionals I could choose a practice nurse at local medical centres. They would be predominantly female, involved in giving regular health checks to patients with the opportunity to provide additional relevant information.
TASK: Grab another sheet of paper and start writing a list about your ideal reader. Draw a stick figure in the centre of the paper, give them a name and write as much as you can about them. This is the person that should be in your head when you write your blog as your aim is to provide solutions to your readers’ problems every time.
4. Where will you go to interact with them?
Once you know a bit about your ideal reader you will also need to find out how you can engage with them. Written blog posts will need to be promoted through social media channels, so which ones do your readers use? And don’t forget the non-digital world, the opportunities where you can network within your community face to face. So, on my blog for health professionals identifying where my practice nurses interact online to gain further knowledge and which events, such as conferences, they attend will be crucial.
TASK: Now that you know who your reader is, list down all the areas where you think they will be found and explore further. Which online groups or forums do they regularly interact in? What other non-digital places are there where you will have the chance to engage with them?
5. When will you do this?
You will most likely wish to start straight away, but need to consider how the time setting up a blog and writing regularly will fit in with your other commitments. It’s good to build up a bulk of blog posts to show your knowledge and expertise of the subject so it’s worth holding off hitting the live button until you’ve done so. That way you’ve got into your routine of regularly researching and writing articles and feel confident in the topic you are writing about. Ideally, I would have 20 blog posts written with photographs and relevant headlines ready to go, showing practice nurses my full understanding of the problems they face, suggesting pertinent solutions for them.
TASK: Draw up a timeline of the work schedule required to develop and launch your blog. Identify a specific date you wish to go live and work backwards putting key tasks within the time available. As a rule of thumb always be generous with this time as often tasks take longer to complete than first imagined. Keep a weekly list of goals to keep you on track.
6. How will you measure your progress?
Measuring how well you are doing is central at the planning stage, otherwise how will you know what is working and what is not. By putting measurements in place and reviewing on a monthly basis you can assess the types of articles which generate interest and those that don’t and use this knowledge to determine whether you need to change tact.
A word of warning: expect organic growth. We are all too familiar with successful blogs that have thousands of people signed up to their email newsletters which generate six-figure incomes for their writers. But this did not happen overnight. It took time and a lot of hard work.
TASK: Write down three ways you can measure the progress you make on your blog over a three-month period. This could include the number of email contacts you gain, the amount of comments you receive or your social media engagements, but choose a figure that you can realistically achieve. Put time aside to review on a monthly basis.
All this planning will take time but it is worth doing so to help you identify the best potential for your blog. Although developing a strategy may follow a particular formula it doesn’t rule out the creative element. There are plenty of opportunities for this when coming up with ideas of different subjects or different social media posts. And it doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous every now and then.
A good strategy will keep you on track and focused and ensure you remain passionate about both the topic and the community you are engaging with.