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s: How to Keep ’em Coming Back for the Long Haul

by Shari Finnell

Writing a blog is a lot like exercising. You know it’s good for you. You know you should be hitting the gym — in this case, the keyboard — at least three times a week. But after about two to three months of keeping it up, the thrill is gone.

You’re off to something else.

If your last blog post dates back to a time when the streets were still covered with snow … or the month began with an “F” … you know exactly what I mean.

It happens to the best of blog owners. No matter how good your intentions, or even your skills in the writing department, you inevitably hit a wall.

Face it. Maintaining a blog isn’t easy. If you really think about it, there aren’t a whole lot of worthwhile things that are easy to stick to on a consistent basis. If that was the case, we’d all be walking around with Baywatch bodies.

Tackle it now. Not later.

If you’re serious … this time around … about maintaining a blog with staying power, train yourself for the job by following these 10 steps.

  1. Set realistic expectations. More than likely, anyone who has started a blog envisioned grandiose ideas about instantly connecting with thousands of friends, strangers, and customers through their thought-provoking articles. They probably expected to receive dozens of comments for each entry. In the wake of those expectations, the reality can be tough to swallow. It could take months … more than a year in many cases … before you generate a few comments from someone other than your cousin. If you realize upfront that the payoff of writing this blog could be a while in coming (again, like hitting the gym), you will be less likely to throw in the towel. Resolve to stick to it even without immediate gratification.
  2. Realize the value of blogging. If you know anything about networking, you should know this: People can sniff out insincerity like a bad odor emanating from an NBA locker room. If your main goal is to boost your financial bottom line, you probably should forget about this blogging thing for now. That type of motivation won’t win you readers, and it won’t be enough to continually motivate you. You shouldn’t start a blog just because your competitor is doing it or your marketing director says, “Hey, we need a blog!” Your mission in writing a company blog should be sincere communication either about your product or your service. It should convey a message to those most interested in your brand.
  3. Make an investment in time and effort. Don’t have the attitude that a blog is something you do “when you get around to it.” When talking to company employees, stress the importance of the blog in communicating to your clients. You don’t want to communicate haphazardly. Your clients should expect to find fresh, timely and enjoyable content whenever they land on your page. It’s doubtful they want to read a blog that was last updated five or six months ago. If you don’t care, why should they?
  4. Schedule your blog articles. Monthly print or online magazines typically assign topics to writers several months in advance. They do it for a good reason. It’s a great model for continuously generating ideas. If it works for magazines, it should work for you. Set aside time once a month for a planning session (whether with yourself or with your staff) to generate ideas for the blog. After coming up with a list of ideas, schedule the best times to run them. Be willing to be flexible; if a newsworthy topic comes up, by all means write about it.
  5. Set deadlines. Stick to them. They’re great motivators and will keep you on track with maintaining fresh copy on your blog.
  6. Get around. Make it a practice to read other blogs related to your industry or your targeted audience. Leave thoughtful comments that add additional value to the blog and the conversation.
  7. Check out your competition. It’s an age-old concept. Comparing yourself to others is one way to step up your performance. World records are constantly broken because athletes push themselves beyond their previously perceived limitations to beat the other guy’s best time. Take a look at the blogs of your competition. Assess your blog in light of what you come across. Are you providing timely information? Addressing relevant concerns? Is your blog lively? Are you responding quickly to your readers? Determine how you can differentiate yourself.
  8. Stay informed. Stand out in your industry by regularly commenting on related trends and news. Of course, you should regularly read trade articles or other news content about your industry and targeted market to make sure you know what you’re talking about.
  9. Respond as soon as possible. Show your blog readers that you are engaged with them. Make sure you respond to any comments or inquiries quickly. If a reader happens to leave a negative comment, don’t get defensive. Thank him for the input and comment on how you will follow up or address the concern.
  10. Stay committed. When you hit that wall, work through it and recommit. Like exercise, the more you blog, the more you’ll be comfortable with the flow of things. You’ll eventually find it easier to stay on track.

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