As I write this post and hit ‘publish’ many in the blogging world are probably staying away from their laptops for a much-needed break! They are all recovering from a month-long blogging marathon- the A-Z challenge- an entire month of blogging through the alphabet, where we wrote posts for a letter each day.
We then blog hopped across a minimum of 50 blogs a day, left comments on the ones we liked, shared the ones we loved and felt guilty and terrible about the fact that we didn’t do justice to all the lovely blogs out there, who slogged their hearts out, writing for the world at large. My reflections on this challenge came up in this post last week.
This is my second 30-day challenge in 6 months and there are a few things I learnt from these experiences. If you would like to know how to get through a marathon like this in the future, please read on.
1. Decide and Schedule Posts:
If you know for certain that you are going to commit to at least 30 posts in a month, it helps if you can decide on the topics beforehand. This is easier if you have a theme in mind, since all the topics can stem from that root.
Once you’ve decided on the topic, decide on the approximate length of the post. This really works for me, since I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to word count and readability. Editing the post after I have written- for errors, run-on sentences, fact checks- takes up a good 15 minutes.
*Some challenges come with daily prompts- which work great for those of us who struggle with writer’s block. So, in case you are the ‘write-on-the-fly’ kind of person, who prefers the adrenalin rush of writing daily and just an hour before the deadline, this works very well too.
Just make sure you leave yourself time to edit the post before you publish. For what it’s worth, I have gone both ways and have found them to be refreshingly different 🙂
2. Add pin-worthy snaps to your posts:
This challenge, I paid attention to grabbing a picture for every post of mine. Primarily, this helps when you are building a Pinterest following. The more eye-catching and unique the picture, the more readers will want to check it out further. Click here to read a great tutorial on how to do it!
Similarly, sharing it on your Facebook page/ blogging networks makes it far more fun than a repeated pop-up of your face or a common logo on your blog.
3. Share your posts on social media
Now that your posts are ready, make sure you share them- on your Facebook blog page, your personal page, your blogging groups, your Twitter account, your Google Plus page and your Pinterest account.
Be ready to understand that not ALL your posts will necessarily be read, but this will improve visibility for your blog tremendously. That one post which strikes a chord will pull in readers and ensure that they stay.
On Twitter, use hashtags to share other people’s posts and your own, since people typically scroll through those to pick out interesting posts. So, a post for this challenge
should have the tags #atozchallenge #AtoZ2014 or @AprilA2Z.
4. Set up easy sharing options
You’ve spent all that time writing the post and now you would like the world to read it. It makes sense to add ‘Sharing’ buttons to your posts. Make sure that you have at least the following four enabled: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.One-click shares are the best, where the reader will click once and auto-share the post to his/her network. Shareaholic works best for both Blogger and WordPress blogs.
Configure your sharing buttons to reflect your Twitter handle, so that you get notified when someone tweets your post.
You can configure your stand-alone Twitter button this way:
- Click on this link: https://about.twitter.com/resources/buttons#tweet
- Select the first option ‘Share a link’
- Ensure that the ‘Use the page URL’ option is selected.
- Under ‘Button Options’ scroll down to ‘Via’ and add your twitter username/handle to the box.
- Under ‘Preview and Code’, copy the HTML code and add it to a gadget on your page.
- Decide the position on the page where you want it to be displayed. A good option is the top of the sidebar or just beneath your post.
5. Start the blog hops/ comments
Now, you know that writing and sharing isn’t the end, right? A marathon indicates that a number of others have joined the bandwagon too. So, they are going to expect those visits to their blogs, just as you would.
Start off with visiting those who leave comments on your posts first. It is a basic courtesy and we love reciprocation in any form. In the comments form, leave a hyperlink back to your blog post for that day, if you would like a return visit from the blogger.
If you cannot relate to the post in any way and don’t know what to say, don’t leave a generic comment like ‘Wow’ or ‘Stopping by from A-Z’. That just looks like you are link-dropping.
Usually, there will be something you can identify with- the content, the language, the structure of the post- find something good to say. Believe me, you can if you try 🙂
6. Let go of the guilt:
You will notice as the month progresses, that you are unable to keep up with two things:
- Responding to comments on your blog
- Visiting and commenting on others’ blogs
For both of these dilemmas, I have just one suggestion. Let go of the guilt. You cannot possibly do justice to all the blogs in the challenge. At least, not in the time frame provided.
What you can do, however, is bookmark the blogs that you like as well as the ones of those who visit you. Keep track of their posts and hop back over to visit and comment on them when you get time, after the challenge. Bloggers love comments and visits, so seeing a comment a few months after you’ve written a post is a sweet feeling in itself.
You can either decide to read a bunch of their posts at one go, on a single day. Or you can space it out over a period of time. The same goes for replying to comments on your own blog. Take your time, but do reply. It makes the commenter’s efforts worthwhile.
7. Bookmarking favourite blogs:
The whole idea of an exercise like this one is to build your blogging network. You can choose to do that in one of the following ways.
- Create an account with Bloglovin’. Add your favourite blogs there and get alerts as and when they write new posts.
- Create a pages feed on Facebook for those blogs which have Facebook pages. The alerts will show only the new posts and what the page owners share. This way, they don’t get lost in the regular News Feed. Make sure you have checked the ‘Following’ button on their Facebook page!
- Create a Twitter list of your go-to bloggers. This, however, can tend to get a bit crowded, since all their tweets will show up on your timeline.
- Subscribe by e-mail. This is ideal if you want alerts of new posts delivered directly to your inbox. I created a separate e-mail address, exclusively for my blog, just for this feature and it has helped tremendously!
Did you do any or all of the above?
Do you have any tips to share for making a blogging marathon easier?