Thursday, August 14, 2014

Scheduling Blog Posts for Fun & Profit

You're reading this post right now, but I actually rewrote it from the original version just under a week ago. It is here when it is because I have used a scheduler and a number of social media tools in order to make it LOOK as if I'm sitting at a computer, when actually I'll be in another country, being all continental. That's the joy of Scheduling, and because all of this is well worth repeating I'm deliberately recycling the Guide I first wrote back in May and sticking it here again for you to use and learn from :D

The biggest single key to successful scheduling is time management, and having a definite plan on what you want to achieve. It should then be possible to write a large number of posts and 'schedule' these to appear over a number of days or weeks, depending on your preference. As a rough guide, I produced 14 pieces to be published in the 7 days I was away. My process was as follows:

  • Plan on paper the seven day 'window' with required posts per day. Decide which times to 'Publish' (more on this below)
  • Make detailed post 'plans' for each article. This is not really necessary if you're just doing stream of consciousness writing, but I had some distinct goals to achieve (guides, normal features I cover on my website.)
  • Write everything as if I was writing it 'normally' and then schedule using Blogger's schedule function. Most blog platforms have a method by which to post their material at a specific time and date. For instance, this is when this post was initially scheduled to be published the first time I used this Guide:

  • Actually 'Publish' your post. The one criticism of my Guide last time was it isn't clear this is what you need to do, and that by the act of publication you don't send the post 'live' per se, it is 'scheduled' to go live at the time you have specified.
  • Follow this up by further scheduling Tweets and Facebook posts that announce the fact that I've just published a blog post I wrote seven days ago. This is the really clever part, because in the main (unless things screw up royally, and it does happen) this will look just like I'm sitting in front of the PC and posting a Tweet and then sending the post to Facebook, the same way I do every day. This, however, will require a specific scheduling programme. If you want free and easy, I'd recommend Hootsuite. There are other social media management tools available, but I'm not here writing that kind of guide. I use this because I know the publishing industry likes it, and that's where I learnt to use it, as an intern on an online magazine.

So simple even I can manage it :D

  • Hootsuite gives you a window which works exactly like Twitter: you type in your message (maximum 140 characters) and then you tell the programme when (date/time) you'd like it to send this. To make the most of this and maximise your character limit, I'd also recommend using a link-shortening service (bitly is free and very easy) which will take what is often a very unwieldy url from your post and make it into a short link which gives you more space to type a description:

That's the May 2014 link we're using here, with the prefix. SIMPLES.

You'll find the url of you link in your Post settings, just give it to bitly and they'll do the rest. Then you can schedule away: Hootsuite covers Facebook and Twitter, and is very simple to grasp (it must be, I managed it!) If I've done all this correctly (and trust me I'll be checking every post when it goes up via my Phone) you'll have a week's worth of uninterrupted posting and I'll be on my holidays.

Now, you have to decide whether to tell your readership or not you're not actually here.


There's still a fair deal of stigma about the process of scheduling: whether the process is inherently underhand or not, whether you actually have the time to schedule to begin with, if there's any point in writing stuff if it is not current. Certainly there are pros and cons to both sides of the debate. I'm telling you all this now and hopefully showing you the process works as a demonstration that for someone like me, scheduling allows a blogger to engage and retain an audience when they're not at a computer, which when it's taken five years to get this far to begin with is quite an important factor. Of course, this is a week where there is likely to be a lot of actual proper news, so I'll be doing my best to post some 'live' commentary on the release date and anything else that might happen whilst I am away.

Perhaps the most useful advantage for scheduling posts is for the writer that's struck by a huge burst of inspiration, ends up with six posts in an evening, and then doesn't want to publish them all simultaneously. This method will allow you to be prolific and at the same time have a constant stream of posts without the need to stress about sitting down and writing every day, which I know many Bloggers find very difficult. If you use the tools available, many things are possible. Most importantly, you don't have to pay for any of them, they're all free.

There really is no better time to start considering the benefits of scheduling for your Blog :D

1 comment:

Astalnar said...

I am not sure about bitly, but twitter is rather clear about url links:
"A URL of any length will be altered to 22 characters, even if the link itself is less than 22 characters long. Your character count will reflect this."