By Mark Schaefer
I stumbled around and fumbled around for a long time when I started this blog. For the first nine months I was inconsistent and confused. Then I realized how many great business benefits I was realizing through the blog and decided I better get serious about it!
I became more dedicated and disciplined, which really paid off because the only way you’re going to get good at this is to practice!
Without question, my biggest obstacle to consistent blogging was time. It still takes time of course, but today I can deliver a lot more content for a lot less time than I did a few years ago. Here are some ideas you can use to become dramatically more efficient with your content creation. In fact, you can cut your blogging time in half!
1. Never face a blank screen
Here’s the number one thing you need to do to cut your writing time: Never, ever face a blank screen. Let’s unpack this idea.
Your biggest time-waster is going to be deciding what to write about or maybe wasting time writing something that is not too good and then scrapping it. You have to eliminate that waste, and it’s easy to do.
You need to be disciplined in two areas.
First, you need to be constantly collecting ideas. Think in terms of story ideas as you live your life. Is there a headline, an article, a question, a news story, a joke that can be twisted in a way that would make an interesting and entertaining blog post?
Be on the lookout for these ideas everywhere and then WRITE THEM DOWN.
Second, commit to blocking out two solid, continuous hours to write every week. No interruptions, no email, no text messages.
If you can stick to this regimen, you will be amazed at how your productivity will improve because you’ll never be looking at a screen with zero ideas again.
Time saved: 50 percent or more
2. Try video blogs
I can make a better quality video on my smartphone today than I could on an HD video camera five years ago. Making a simple three-minute video can be done in a fraction of the time it takes to write and edit the same material for a written blog post.
Once you create your video, upload it to YouTube and follow these steps to post it on a blog post:
- Find your YouTube video.
- Click the ‘Share’ button below the video.
- Click the ‘Embed’ button next to the link they show you.
- Copy the iframe code given and paste it into the html of your web page.
So simple and voila! You have a great blog post.
Time saved: 70 percent
3. Get a little help from your friends
Here is an amazing way to efficiently create great content with fresh ideas.
Let’s say there’s a question on your mind that would make a great post but you don’t know how to answer the question. Why not pose the question to your social media friends and get some help?
Here’s an example. It occurred to me that there are certain websites out there with content so amazing they really don’t have to worry about SEO. They simply attract views from their greatness. This might be easy if you’re a big brand, but what about if you’re a small company or even an individual?
Where would I start to find examples of this? I asked my friends on Facebook.
Within one hour I had lots of amazing examples … a chef in France, a hand-made tool company in Latvia, a site with nothing but data visualizations. I looked through these sites and created one of my all-time favorite posts: 10 Soul-grabbing brands that prove you don’t need SEO to succeed.
Since my friends essentially did the research for me, this saved me hours of hunting online and they were happy to be acknowledged in my post!
Time saved: 25 percent or more
4. Ask a question instead of providing an answer
I’ll bet this has gone through your head more than once: “But what do I write about … what value can I possibly add to the conversation?”
Sometimes the best blog post doesn’t have the best answer, it has the best question.
It takes a lot of time for research to write a post that provides a conclusive answer to an issue. But some of the most interesting things happen when you simply ask the right question.
I often end a blog post with “What do you think” because I honestly don’t know!
Here’s a little secret. Probably the most popular post I ever published, Content Shock, was a question, not an answer. I observed that it was getting much more difficult to win at the content marketing game because of the explosion of information density on the web. I suggested that content marketing was not going to be sustainable for some businesses. What do we do about it? I did not offer a solution but It spurred 1,400 comments!
Of course I eventually answered that question in a book, The Content Code: Six essential strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your business … but that’s a story for another day.
Time saved: 25 percent
5. Copy and improve
All of us consume so much great content. Part of the value you can provide to readers is exposing them to new ideas from others and then improving on it.
For example, I was recently reading about the “flow state” of peak performance and wrote down an idea about how this could be applied to content creation (see, I follow my own advice!).
I then “copied” key ideas from a book on the subject (with attribution and a link to the author) but then added my own interpretation along with comments from friends who had experienced flow (I posed the question on Facebook and used their answers in the post).
This turned out to be a great piece. It was an original idea, but I leveraged the great thinking of others for the core idea.
Here’s an example of how you can do this. Are there some time-saving ideas I missed in this article? Write your own post and start by summarizing my points. Add your own spin to the foundation I built. Piece of cake, as they say here in America!
Time saved: 50 percent
Well there you have it. What other ideas do you have to save time on your blog? Leave a comment below … or better yet, write your own great new blog post about it!
Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.
Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Mike Licht