Over the last couple of weeks as I looked over my metrics reports for my blog I realised I am going to need to bring in fresh blood if it is going to go any further. Originally launched with four bloggers there is only really me who posts to it in any real quantity with one other regular contributor. While not a failure as such the blog is being starved of content while I am busy with my work. So I just need to invite some people over and problem solved, right? Unfortunately it has not proved to be that easy.
We have established that blogging is actually surprisingly hard and many bloggers will not make it. Having blogging partners share the load is an obvious and possibly very enjoyable, potentially profitable arrangement. I have described the benefits of blog partnerships early in Performancing history (wow that seems like a long time ago). Perhaps my natural positive nature and wide-eyed optimism got the better of me, hah. Fact is just like with the majority of blogs where someone starts a blog and can’t keep the momentum, the same goes for blogging partnerships.
In theory the guilt-factor of letting someone down does keep a partner blogger working longer and harder than they would otherwise. Inevitably though the reasons for keeping going and the reasons for not will compete for attention and many bloggers, no matter how eager initially, will cave into external pressures or sheer laziness. Only a low percentage of bloggers stick at it, part of a team or blogging solo, paid or no.
Aside from financial incentives we have two choices; find bloggers who look like they will go the long haul or embrace the fleeting nature of the beast and allow a revolving door.
I have found the best place to look for long-haul bloggers are blogs. People who have maintained a decent blog for a length of time have proved they have that special something. This brings its own problem of what are you going to offer someone who already has a good blog. You will either need to make good friends with the person or need to incentivise somehow. There are intangible benefits of being in a writing team plus you can offer a cut of the proceeds. Inevitably this will need to be done carefully and sensitively, and best not to make promises you can’t keep. There is probably no point in even approaching someone who already has a lot of blog output, where will they fit you in to their schedule?
For me the choice is clear, I need to accept the people I bring on may not post for long, might turn out poor bloggers or might never contribute. I could put in a lot of effort to bring in others only to find I am still doing the majority of the work. The upside will be there might be some diamonds in the rough, plus if they only fill in on the days I can’t find time to even look at the thing that could still work.
The first place to look is the comments of your own blog. These people know what topics you often cover and do not need any introduction to your niche. I find with my own blogs though the majority of people who comment are already bloggers.
My approach for finding bloggers has been whittled down to observing regular contributors to good forums. People who spend as much time writing a forum comment as it takes to write a good blog post is going to be a good candidate. If they write entertaining and intelligent answers with bags of personality they are just what I am looking for. It sounds like a tall order but you have to remember you only need one or two posters for a blogs output to be transformed. There are stacks of forums with many many posters, not quite a needle in a haystack. The big benefit is these people might like to join you just for the fun of blogging, no promises on either side required. Bonus!
The downside to taking on people new to blogging is they need a modicum of training. Not exactly a three-week induction, but they will need some hand-holding.
Train them up, let them go
Obviously I recommend anyone new to blogging would find it easier to use Performancing Firefox rather than get to grips with an unfamiliar blogging system if between you they can get it configured. Otherwise many blog systems have quick-start tutorials.
You will need to teach them at least how to log in and post text. For the first little while you can probably make up the rest as you go along, editing their posts to your satisfaction along the way. If you make changes make sure you explain why and how. You might upset the blogger otherwise and it helps no-one if you make alterations forever, at some point you want them to be able to do this without supervision.
After you have shown them how to post you will need to get the blogger to post in your blogs house style.
You might think your blog doesn’t have a style but believe me once you allow others to post on your blog you will discover you need one, or at least the other bloggers don’t post exactly what you expected. Ok, you might be delighted with their output but I think it’s best to start with some basic pointers. Here are some examples you might want to use as ground rules:
- Be careful with images. Images are great to include with posts but ensure your bloggers are aware of copyright do not include massive files that throw out the template or slow down page load
- Impress on them to only write subjects of interest to the niche. It might seem obvious to you but believe me once some people start blogging they post anything that enters their heads.
- Get them to at least briefly check their spelling and grammar
- Make sure posts are formatted with good paragraph breaks etc. Readability is vital to maintain an interested audience.
- Use HTML, especially for links but also to wrap text around images, provide bold, etc.
- Be wary of new bloggers that they are not just out for links to their affiliates. No promotional posts or PR copy and paste
- If they reference someone elses post ensure they provide commentary, you don’t want to turn your blog into a proxy for del.icio.us or boingboing!
- Choose an appropriate categories – it is amazing how many posts are filed under “misc” or no category at all.
- Ensure no edits happen once a post is live. This infuriates RSS users!
If your blog software allows it, set posts unpublished by default so you get to decide what arrives in the subscribers RSS. This gives you chance to coach your bloggers, do some editing and make sure the quality is maintained while increasing volume.
It’s about people
In the end, for all the talk about blogging and style guidelines, the success or failure of any partnership, blog or otherwise, comes down to your ability to work with people. There is no predicting how well you will gel as a team and all you can do is work at it. Agree up front there will be a trial period and you might want to make it plain you retain veto on any changes or decisions.
Looking over this post I might have made it look like a lot more work than just posting yourself. It is a lot of effort but you would be glad you brought someone else in if you are ever too sick to post or would like a break, plus there is nothing better than making friends – that has to make it worth it.