Many non-profit staffers and small business owners start blogging because they “know” they “need” to do it or because someone suggested it would help their cause. These are innocent nudges in the right direction, often doled out by a board member with marketing experience or a CEO who wants to write or by a consultant who is ready to set you up with a blog, whether it’s right or wrong for your needs.
I’ve personally cautioned more people out of blogging than into blogging because a blog wouldn’t best serve their goals or because they just wouldn’t be able to devote the appropriate time to it. Blogging can be a huge undertaking and first one needs to ask if a blog is right for your cause or your business.
Here are some questions to ask before starting a blog:
Do you have the time or can you make the time to blog?
In my experience, a blog post can take 0.5-2.5 hours to complete. If someone else is writing the materials, it may only take 15-30 minutes to program the content, find a photo, do some SEO, and hit publish once you’ve got the hang of it. But if I’m writing the blog post, that’s original content that can take 1-2 hours to write and edit, and then up to a half hour to search engine optimize and publish. If you want to blog 7 days a week, do you have 3.5-17.5 hours to spare each week? Temper your publishing schedule based on what time you realistically have. The alternative is to feel like you’re always falling behind or, worse, to over-promise and under-deliver to your audience or organization.
Do you have the platform?
Is your website built on WordPress or does it have a built-in blog option? You can always start a blog that’s separate from your website, but that also means the SEO value of both or each won’t feed the other. That’s definitely not something I’d advise, so make sure you have a website that can accommodate a blog (or contact me about how to do this!).
What kind of content do you want to share?
For example, if you mostly want to share photos, a blog can be great, but Instagram or even Flickr might be a better platform. If you want to share videos, either live or pre-recorded, Facebook Live or YouTube may be a better option. Or do you mostly want to share pieces of news, like articles from the New York Times or your local paper? If so, please don’t start a blog! Share that stuff on social media – you’ll get much better exposure. Save blogs for original, longer-form content, like press releases, editorial-style write-ups, client stories, guest posts, and program/product descriptions for a general audience.
Do you have a content pipeline?
What I mean by that is a steady flow of content from within and outside your organization. It’s okay to start slow in this area, but a blog manager should really be building up content for weeks and maybe even months to come. Start with any low-hanging fruit in your organization: press releases, program/product descriptions, grant reports (put into layman’s language, please), invitations to events and follow-up on those events. Maybe you have colleagues who are really good writers – ask them to write a piece or two. You can also ask this of anyone you think might be interested in climbing the career ladder – blogging provides individuals with great content for LinkedIn or job interviews. Once you start building that content pipeline, more ideas and pieces will come to you.
Will you link the blog to any outcomes?
I ask this question because, yes, I want you to. Make sure your blog is linked to your Google Analytics account. Then start tracking to see if the blog brings more visitors to your site. Are they new visitors or your same old (returning visitors) audience? Do they stay long? Do they go from the blog to a product or program page? Do your blog visitors eventually make a donation or purchase? Even offline, do you customers mention blog posts? When you’re just starting out, all this info will help you benchmark (decide what the norm is for) these stats. Eventually, you can decide how to improve them.
How will you share your blog posts?
Within WordPress, there are widgets which will automatically publish new blog posts to social channels. There’s even Revive Old Post which will keep your old posts going on Twitter. Will you push your blog posts out on social channels more than once? Like, when they’re new and then a week later? Or on “Throwback Thursdays”? Will you link to your blog posts in an e-newsletter or refer to them in a hard-copy newsletter? Will your own employees get the blog posts so they see your content before it’s second-hand news? Lots of options here for using your blog posts in multiple ways!
How will you keep the love alive?
Blogging can become monotonous and laborious. To avoid burn-out, bring in reinforcements! Line up guest bloggers; break big, complicated blog posts down into smaller ones so you have posts for days to come; celebrate your successes (visitors, subscribers, ROI, your 10th blog post and your 100th, etc.); go on a blogging spree: set aside a day to program blog posts for days or weeks to come, giving you a break for that time; keep looking for new and interesting ways to present your work. And keep in mind: if you’re bored with your blog, your audience might be too. Not a good thing! So maybe another question we should ask is, Can you do this with passion or at least interest for an extended period of time?
Now, these questions shouldn’t deter you from blogging. Before starting a blog, they’re just a reality-check. I don’t want you to start blogging, get bored or frustrated or too busy and then let your blog languish.
In my experience, blogging can be exciting and meaningful, both personally and professionally. On this website, I really appreciate the opportunity to share marketing best practices, but also my own personal viewpoints and adventures. At the Vermont Foodbank, we built up that blog to eventually become a nationally-recognized Meatless Monday blog! And almost every time someone mentioned hearing about us, it was either through social media or a blog post. And on BucketList.org, I’ve been proud to see one of my guest blog posts as the top post for a while now.
On top of the feel-goods, you can (and should) link your blog to sales, donations, event registrations, ticket sales, and any other metric you can think of. Make the blog work for you, just as hard as you’re working on the blog!
And if you’d like help doing that, let me know how I can help!