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Blog posts never to write: “We are so sorry we haven’t blogged in six months. We meant to write weekly. But we will now start again… starting next week.” Probably. Just start again with a story that’s worth sharing.
It sounds so simple and common sense, doesn’t it? Like many things, it’s easier said than done.
From my experience, the most sustainable way to stay on a blogging schedule is to get going and work way ahead.
Scheduling content: The why
Social media and blog posts can be published instantaneously. We have something to say, we write it (social or elsewhere), reread it (I hope!) and then publish or Tweet it. Done.
As part of a professional/advanced content strategy I don’t recommend that you publish things always the second they are ready to publish.
That doesn’t mean that no posts go live immediately. For example, if something extremely timely needs to be Tweeted, Tweet it. Live. If somebody is asking a question on social, respond. No need to schedule a response.
But scheduling content is OK.
For produced stories that aren’t related to current news events I recommend scheduling content – the blog posts and related social media updates with some time in between stories.
Here are several reasons for this:
- A blog post might be finished at 2 a.m., but that might not be the best time necessarily to publish it. Note that it can be hard to know what the best time to publish a post is. My tip: Experiment with different times and days and watch web traffic and audience engagement. Repeat what worked and build on that.
- You were able to pull 15 Tweets out of that blog post. You surely wouldn’t want to send them all at once. Especially, if it’s 2 a.m.
- Scheduling updates can make your brand appear much more active and engaged.
- Scheduling updates a ways out can make content production less stressful. No need to worry about tomorrow. We are thinking about three or more weeks from now.
- It assures that different stories don’t step on top of each other.
A note of caution: It’s still a good idea to keep abreast of what is publishing when and what else is going on in the world or with your target audiences. You wouldn’t want an unrelated post to connect negatively to a breaking news event, for example.
I decided to publish at least once a week on here. I write a post for the next week, then the next week, and so on. I do that until I’m scheduled two months out – so about eight posts.
Once I get that kind of head start, I sometimes start publishing more than once per week. I suppose I could schedule even further out – but it seems a bit overkill to me.
Here’s why I love being scheduled two months out:
- I don’t have to rush posts routinely.
- Even if I take two weeks off I’m still good for a few more weeks.
- It allows me to focus on relevance in my stories over quantity.
- It makes me feel organized.
I would recommend to all the new (and old) bloggers out there to get on a schedule. Write posts as ideas come up and then schedule those posts – one per week.
Certainly, some of us can come up with reasons why scheduling posts is against some unwritten blogging rule. I usually ask for them to show me where it’s written down. Ha. <Waiting…>
I have given a talk on this topic a couple of times now. Once in St. Paul and once in Pittsburgh. The video from the Pittsburgh talk and the slides are below. (If you want me to talk to your company or at your event about this topic, contact me here.)
VIDEO:My 7 Steps to get on a blogging schedule:
And then here are the slides if you just want to flip through them:
Scheduling blog posts and social media updates doesn’t hurt authenticity
Authenticity is already important in content marketing and storytelling. I believe it will become more important as more people, brands and organizations continue or start to publish content.
I frequently speak about this topic at events and in general, people tend to agree with the message. I also share that I schedule articles on here and on social media. Every once in a while a handful of people don’t agree that authenticity and the scheduling of posts and social media updates go together.
Why? Authenticity can only happen when it’s live apparently.
The way I share and the kind of content I share, the timing has nothing to do with authenticity. At all. Whether I share it now or later, doesn’t affect the genuine thought behind the post or update.
I schedule many of my posts. At one point in May 2014, I had 36 weeks of weekly posts scheduled across three sites. (Two of the sites later consolidated with this blog.) I do the same on social media. When I think of something that I deem worth sharing, I will find a spot for it inside my Hootsuitecalendar and schedule it to be published. Sometimes that’s days or even weeks out. Hootsuite is still a scheduling alternative in late 2017 and early 2018 but there are other options out there as well. For example, I use SocialOomph for my recurring tweets.
That way, I don’t publish too many back-to-back posts, which could get annoying for others in my networks. In addition, I could also easily end up publishing things when nobody is paying attention, like at 11 p.m. or 4 a.m., two times at which I frequently have ideas for posts. On a side note: I have Tweeted at 4 in the morning before and a handful of people have retweeted me immediately. Even at that hour of the day.
Most of the things I publish have no time element.
They are relevant two weeks from now as they were when originally written. For example, some of this post was written in 2014, some in 2015 and other parts in 2017. Much of it remains relevant – even years later. Of course, when I have something timely to say I will publish it immediately. But that doesn’t happen all that often. Most of my thoughts aren’t tied to the current moment.
And when people respond to my scheduled posts, I respond as quickly and authentically as possible. My opinion stated in a scheduled update didn’t change in the time that has passed since the original writing.
I have had it happen that somebody reading a scheduled Tweet asked for an example of the scenario mentioned. Due to the time that had passed I couldn’t remember one. In that case, my Tweet was still authentic and accurate. I just couldn’tcontinue the discussion. That is clearly a downside to scheduling updates.
Overall, it has helped me think through my thoughts and schedule authentic updates in a less timely and more efficient manner.
Scheduling content on blogs, social media and other channels without driving yourself crazy
Audiences on social media networks, your blogs and other channels all appreciate meaningful, timely and relevant content. Some communication strategists have said that all channels should get unique content, but with the number of channels, I’ve found that this isn’t the most effective strategy. For smaller organizations it would be quite impossible.
I am an advocate of a Create Once Publish Everywhere strategy. Typically, I recommend to start with a blog (aka website) post and then distribute the content (but reformatted) to the other channels.
It’s a good idea for your content strategy to include ideas and potentially even steps on how to ensure that all channels are hit. You might make a check list on your computer or on paper.
Scheduling content: The tools
I often recommend a self-hosted WordPress install for just about any content-heavy site. Using WordPress allows you to schedule posts to be published on a particular day and at a specific time. Instead of pushing PUBLISH use the schedule function. Plus. WordPress gives you an easy overview on the dashboard of upcoming scheduled posts.
Using the free Jetpack plugin you can easily tie your site to all of your social accounts. An automatic update will go out once the post is published. Keep in mind this is just the headline with a link back to the post.
But, wait, didn’t you say to do more than just sending out links? Shouldn’t we reformat content to the social networks? The answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t let people know that a new blog post is available. But posts like this shouldn’t be the only posts going out on your social media.
Look at the post’s content again and pull individual social media updates out of it. These could be complete sentences lifted from the post or concepts addressed that you rewrote as a social media update. An example? Sure. Let’s take the paragraph above. Tweets from that could be:
- Don’t just Tweet links. Engage where the audience is. #socialmedia
- We reformat content based on user expectation. They wouldn’t expect any less. 🙂 #ux #contentstrategy
There are a number of social media scheduling tools out there. Whichever one you end up using make sure it also works on mobile. If it’s doesn’t, it’s likely not advanced as it should be.
Once you have enough content, start with one post in the morning, one over lunch and one over dinner time. You can fill in more posts in between as needed. As long as posts are relevant audiences will appreciate them. We wouldn’t recommend posting several times per hour as a matter of routine.
Channel Differences and Content Reformats
All channels’ audiences have different expectations and channels display content differently. Keep this in mind as you are moving content between channels.
Website or blog
Posts typically should be at least 500 words. That’s helpful for search engines, and also makes visitors’ time worthwhile. Very few bloggers can pull off extremely short content that’s worth reading on a blog. Now, that same content might work on Twitter. And in 2017, Google was chatting about considering content under 300 words to be “thin content.” My posts on here are on average 540 words long and I shoot for 500-1,000 when writing. This one is actually around 2,000.
Like all channels, testing what works is important here, too, but one strategy you might try could include posting one main article in its entirety and then offer links to other headlines. Of course, the main article was previously published on your website.
Twitter is short and all the time (but don’t post more than once every 15 minutes). You probably don’t want to post as often to Facebook and LinkedIn is somewhere in the middle. With Facebook’s algorithm and declining reach in 2017, I would highly recommend boosting posts. Of course, that costs money.
The key take-away here: Take bits and pieces of website content and repurpose them as standalone pieces. Don’t always link back to the website. But link when it’s relevant from time to time.
Scheduling content: Conclusion
Planning ahead and using available tools to publish content – no matter the channel – at strategic intervals can help a brand appear more engaged, sharing and relevant. This strategy can make content gathering and distribution less stressful for content creators while it also helps brands be more top of mind to the audience. And hopefully, it’s one way to avoid those “sorry, we haven’t published in a while posts.”
Parts of this article was first written in 2014 and 2015 and updated in 2017.