February 26, 2011

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Get More Value from Blogging, part III: Sharing Makes the Blog Go ‘Round

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do a tweetchat on the professional and personal value of blogging on March 3, 2011 (2pm-3pm EST, #infoboom). When I brainstormed some of the things I’d like to talk about, I ended up with a big list: not just the value I get from blogging, but also tips for how you can build that too. I hope you enjoy this blog series!

After two posts on the individual value you can get from blogging, you might be thinking, “Sacha, you can get those benefits from a private journal too. So why blog?” Now we get into the social benefits of blogging: how you can use it to create value and connect. Even if no one reads your blog but you, you can get started with sharing, and then go from there.


1. Direct

How do you get people to read your posts? Sometimes it’s just a matter of telling them about it. If you’re starting out, you might be worried that no one will come across your blog posts. Even if you’ve got regular visitors, people might miss out on posts that you know they’ll find useful. If you know people who may be interested in a post, go ahead and send it to them.

Move your conversations online. I often write blog posts to answer people’s questions or follow up on conversations, so it’s natural to share those posts directly with people through e-mail, Twitter, or other means. I post answers on my blog as often as possible, saving e-mail for information that’s confidential or of limited value.

Send people you know links they might find useful (but not spammy). In addition to directly sharing posts with the people who inspired them, I also frequently send posts to other people who might find them useful. During a conversation or a Twitter exchange, someone might ask a question about public speaking, Drupal, or any of the other topics I’m interested in. Instead of explaining everything from scratch, I can send links to relevant blog posts where people can learn more.

Tips:

  • Whenever you answer a question or share a tip that could potentially help other people, consider taking a few extra minutes to post it on your blog.
  • When you post an item on your blog, think about specific people who might find it useful, and share it directly with them.

2. Search

One of the advantages of a public blog archive is that it’s searchable. You can write a blog post about a solution to a technical problem, and other people who run into that problem can find your post without knowing you. This is a great way to save other people time.

Making your knowledge searchable saves you time, too. If people can find answers for themselves, they may spend less time asking you questions that you can easily answer. You can use that time to develop your skills further and solve more challenging problems.

Tips:

  • Include details that people might use in their searches. For example, if you’ve solved a technical issue, post the error messages and your solution.
  • Increase the chances of people finding your post by using the kinds of words they would use to search.

3. Browsing

Not only can people find your blog posts by searching, they can also browse at their own pace. Encourage people to explore by organizing your posts in categories and by linking to relevant posts from other posts in your blog. When people can learn from you and get to know you on their own, you can scale up beyond the number of people you can help or get to know in real life.

It’s okay to write about many things. Cross-pollination can lead to fascinating conversations. I often hear from people who discovered my site because of the technical resources I shared. They browsed around, found my sketches and my stories about cooking and life, and got a better sense of who I am as a person. Make it easy for people to find posts on topics they’re interested in, and create opportunities for them to discover other things if they want.

Tips:

  • Whenever you write a blog post, think of relevant posts and resources you can link to in order to help people learn more.
  • Use post titles that are clear, informative, and interesting to encourage people to click on them.

4. Referrals

To grow even further, make it easy for people to share your thoughts with others. Encourage people to think of other people who might find your blog posts useful. Add Twitter, Facebook Like, or other social sharing services to your blog posts.

By making your content easier to share, you help your readers create value for other people, and you reach out to your network’s network. When someone e-mails a friend link to your post, that’s a great referral not only for your content, but also for you. People can also share your material with a wider audience by posting it on Twitter, Facebook, or other sites. They might even write a blog post going into more detail and linking to your resources.

Tips:

  • Add social sharing buttons for Twitter, Facebook, and other sites, and encourage people to share.
  • Keep an eye out for when people share content, and thank them.

5. Learning from others

Sharing your questions, ideas, experiences, and lessons learned with other people is a great way to learn from other people’s insights. When I share what I’m learning, people often share even better ways to do things. Encourage people to comment on your blog posts with questions and tips, and you learn so much in the process of sharing. Make it easy for people to send you e-mail if they have something they would like to share more privately.

For example, when I posted yesterday’s tips on the compounding value of an archive, Mohamed suggested improving it by adding a quote from Donald Knuth. I hadn’t come across that quote before, but it made the post better. People have shared their thoughts on waking up early, doing Lotus Notes mail merges, connecting with people, and so on. Share, and you might learn something from people you wouldn’t have thought of asking.

Tips:

  • Enable comments unless you have a strong reason not to do so. If you’re concerned about spam, you can moderate comments, use spam-blocking plug-ins, or review your comments regularly. You might not get many comments in the beginning, but as you build your network, you’ll find a lot of value in the conversation.
  • Ask questions. Ask people for suggestions, experiences, and tips. Invite people to participate, and show your appreciation when they do.
  • Make it easy to send you mail, either by using the contact form or sharing an e-mail address. If you’re concerned about e-mail spam, create a special e-mail address that you can then filter.

Weekly review: Week ending February 25, 2011

From last week’s plans

  • Work
    • [X] Sketch ITSC keynote by David Zach
    • [X] Give ITSC keynote on networking
    • [X] Learn about ECM and web services
    • [X] Follow up on documents of understanding
    • [X] Put together Idea Lab resources
    • Exported Social Business Jam discussions into spreadsheets and did a lot of data analysis – collaborating with Brandon Anderson, Michael Muller
    • Accepted invite to tweetchat with Paul Gillen (#infoboom) on the value of blogging
    • Got started on blogging presentation
    • Revised Remote Presentations That Rock
    • Put together resources for the value of blogging
  • Relationships
    • [X] Go to Second City with recent hires and friends – treated Linda Ristevski
    • [X] Host tea get-together 1pm our place Sunday Feb 27 (actually part of next week’s review)
    • [-] Watch Die Fledermaus (http://toronto-opera.com) – Postponed to next week
    • [C] Watch Madame Butterfly (http://toronto-opera.com)
    • [X] Send birthday cards
    • [X] Try making a beet smoothie or Tex-mex lasagna
    • Had salad with Gabriel Mansour
    • Worked on connecting with blog commenters
  • Life
    • [X] Enjoy extended weekend: spend focused time revising, drawing, presenting, cooking, and tidying up
    • [X] Experiment with giving presentation through Zipcast (Remote Presentations That Rock, Monday?)
    • Upgraded to 512MB web server for my blog, tweaked blog text

Plans for next week

  • Work
    • [X] Deliver “Remote Presentations That Rock”
    • [X] Work on ECM project
    • [X] Get things going with Drupal project
    • [X] Prepare other presentations and resources
    • [X] Do IBM #infoboom tweetchat on how to get more value from blogging
    • [X] Post the rest of series on getting more value from blogging
  • Relationships
    • [X] Host tea get-together
    • [X] Reach out to new blog commenters
  • Life
    • [X] Experiment with fixed-time wakeups
    • [X] Draw more
    • [X] Write monthly review

Time analysis

Experiment for the week: more social stuff. Met people, had mentoring chats, reached out through e-mail, etc.

Category This week Last week Delta Notes
Break 3.7 4.8 -1.1
Drawing 4.7 4.7 Remote Presentations, ITSC
Exercise 3.3 4.7 -1.4
Personal 1.7 1.7
Learning 0.6 -0.6
Preparation 5.0 0.4 4.6
Routines – cooking 8.9 1.8 7.1 Big batch of lunches, vegan appetizers
Routines – general 10.5 6.3 4.2
Routines – tidying 2.4 3.8 -1.4
Sleep 55.7 65.3 -9.6 Going to bed when I feel tired
Social 27.0 25.9 1.1
Travel 0.6 1.5 -0.9
Work 37.4 40.4 -3.0 Family Day holiday, ITSC presentation
Writing 7.1 12.5 -5.4

This week I tried getting up whenever it felt natural to wake up, and going to sleep whenever I felt tired. The result was a gentle introduction to the day, and a lot of good, focused work in the evening.

I’m going to try that again this week, this time picking a time to wake up and sticking with it. Aside from a really early wake-up on Monday, I should be able to keep a regular wake-up time.

Good week!