Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Rewards of Consistency

(This post is part of my series: An Aversion to Marketing with a Fear of Bleeding)

My last post discussed the benefits and pitfalls of expecting yourself to blog on a schedule. But I need to address the question of why a person should blog on a schedule at all. Why not just post whenever you have something astounding to say?

There are a few reasons. I'll start with the personal ones, and close with professional ones.

If I waited to post until I was ready to knock everyone's socks off, then I'll spend the next six months tinkering with my attempt at the perfect blog post and never say anything at all. I might just drop off the face of the earth. This is the same reason I can't wait to write stories until I'm totally inspired.

There's also something to be said for habit — if I know I'm writing a post daily, or whatever my habit is, then I'll stay alert to what's around me or what's striking my passion. For example, when I hear myself talking in a certain tone of voice, I detect the passion and force of my opinion and think, "I should write about that." Without a regular habit of blogging (as with any other type of writing habit), these ideas will simply get lost, or go on a long to-do list that I will never actually get to.

(However, as I discussed yesterday, neither of these reasons justifies me writing posts by simply manufacturing something to say. I don't send out every story I write — some just aren't good. Blogging, like all writing, requires some ability to assess the quality of what I'm producing, and the level of interest it's likely to inspire in others).

Now for the professional reasons, because consistency truly seems to have rewards.

As a reader, if I'm really excited about a writer I just discovered, and then I visit that person's blog and see that their last post was in November 2005, I get disappointed. I want to know what that person is thinking about now or recently, and it gives me a thrill to see that there's a way to get into conversation with him or her. That's anecdotal, but intuition tells me it's probably true more generally. If someone gets to a blog and it looks uninhabited, that reader is more likely to write that site off than to keep checking up.

Because I never know when that magical excited reader is going to pop in (hopefully, any day now...), I have to keep my blog looking fresh. This is a basic housekeeping principle moved into blogging — I don't let the house go to utter chaos, because I want to be at least somewhat prepared if I have a sudden guest.

But then there is the matter of traffic. I have had other blogs, under my real name, and I spent some years working for a magazine. I always felt skeptical about the claim that we needed more content to get more traffic. To some extent, I could see that more posts would mean more page views, but I also wondered if that would lead to diminishing returns. As an individual, there's only so much I can read, and I'm sometimes turned off by sites that seem "too busy."

In this case, though, I'm going to rule against my personal experience. So long as you're not talking drivel, people who post frequently and regularly seem to be rewarded with increased audience. When my magazine began to do it, we saw a huge jump in our audience. When I blogged daily under my real name, I had a jump in traffic that was not explained merely by the increased frequency — the effect was multiplicative. Places like The Huffington Post are masters of this principle, though I don't agree with all of their methods.

So, in this case, I conclude that it's good to have a blogging schedule, both because of the rewards of consistency, and because of the benefits I discussed in my post on taking a stab. The key is to keep that from becoming the mindless production of empty content.

I've tried schedules such as Monday - Wednesday - Friday, but my observation has always been that posting daily brings me the best results, both in terms of the personal reasons I gave and in terms of the professional reasons.

See the other posts in this series here.

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