Today is July 4, which means it’s a holiday in the United States. Every year, Americans across the country set off fireworks, grill burgers, and enjoy time with friends and family to celebrate our nation’s holiday. So, while you’re seeing this new post from me, I’m not actually here. I’m out enjoying the day, probably in the pool with my sister.
Yep, this post was scheduled.
Whenever anything in the world of new media is automated in any way, people get the heebie-jeebies. Yet, scheduling posts usually gets a free pass. In fact, some of the same people who rant about auto-DMs and scheduled tweets give pre-writing and scheduling posts and big thumbs up.
And I agree with them. I schedule a lot of the posts here on the NMX blog, actually, as well as on my own blogs. That said, there’s a good way to schedule posts and a bad way to schedule posts. Many bloggers out there are not scheduling posts effectively.
Maintaining the Broader Schedule
First and foremost, when it comes to post scheduling, you need to be thinking about your content in a much broader way. Scheduling a post because you’ll be away from your computer is fine, but how does this fit into your overall editorial calendar?
If your answer to that question is, “I don’t have an editorial calendar,” you might want to rethink your blogging activities a bit.
No, having an editorial calendar doesn’t mean you have to write or even come up with post ideas in advance. But what it does allow you to do is:
- Make sure your content is spread out evenly, rather than being bunched up over the course of a few days (and then nothing for a long period of time)
- Make sure you are writing about a variety of topics in your niche, rather than covering the same topic too often and ignoring other topics
The visual representation of your posts on a calendar helps you understand blogging habits you might have never noticed otherwise, and you can more easily see gaps that need to be filled. here on the NMX blog, we use a plugin to maintain the editorial calendar, but even a simple note in your day planner (digital or paper) can help.
After getting an editorial calendar set up, you still have the task of scheduling posts when you’re going to be away from the computer. Most bloggers are already doing this, and one of the most common mistakes I see is scheduling “fluff.”
In the world of freelance writing, a “fluffy” piece is written with as many words as possible just to make wordcount. You care less about the content and the language and more about just getting something written. A lot of bloggers post this kind of fluff on their blog when they’re going to be away just to have something posted.
A huge picture of an America flag with the words “Happy 4th of July” is a good example fluff. Yet I’m sure that blogs across the Internet are auto-posting that as we speak (if they haven’t already). Before posting anything, ask yourself:
- What does my reader gain from this post?
- Would I post this content on a day I was actually here or is it only “good enough” because I’m scheduling it?
- Does the post enhance my community in any way?
- Will readers feel compelled to comment?
- Am I proud of this post?
Do not kid yourself and say, “But I wanted to wish my readers a happy fourth of July!” If that’s the case, do it with a personal message on your blog in a post about what the holiday means to you. Or do it at the beginning of a post that is similar to what you would publish any other day of the year. Or skip posting and simply Tweet your message. When you schedule something half-assed, all it says is, “I don’t really care about my blog because I’m off having fun.” If you’re a photo blog, go ahead a post a picture of a flag. If you normally write long in-depth pieces analyzing the news in your niche, save me the pity post and just enjoy the day.
Stay on Top of Your Scheduling
Just because you schedule something doesn’t mean you can forget all about it. This can lead to disaster. For example, let’s say that you schedule a post about Twitter while you’re away on vacation. Before it goes live, there’s a major announcement that Twitter has been sold to Facebook! While every other blog is covering this major story, your post about “How Twitter is Better Than Facebook” goes live, making you look silly in the process.
Forgetting about your scheduled posts can even be downright offensive. For example, if you schedule a post that quotes or analyzes someone famous and that person dies the morning before it goes live, you can seem insensitive or tacky.
Mistakes happen. You shouldn’t avoid scheduling a post simply because some kind of disaster or change could happen. But if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, keep track of what will be going up when and check in occasionally. If something is published at an inopportune time, you want to be around to take it down as soon as you can, rather than letting snarky comments about it build over the course of days or even weeks.
If you can, it also helps to have someone you trust watch out for your blog. That way, they can log in and take down any poorly-scheduled post or deal with other problems while you’re gone.
Don’t Fear the Schedule Button
Scheduling can be quite liberating, so despite the rest of this post, I hope you aren’t afraid of that scheduling button. You just have to be thoughtful about how you use it and responsible about maintaining your blog even if you have scheduled posts ready to be published when you’re not around.
As for me, I’m happily splashing around right now and thanking the blogging gods that scheduling is possible. It’s a great tool as long as you use it wisely. Happy 4th, everyone!