On June 25, 2009, I announced on my blog that I was five days away from a cross-country move and knew it would disrupt my routine, including my blogging routine. I didn't want the stress of writing posts or the stress of having a blog go dark and disappoint loyal readers. The solution? I turned to my colleagues and solicited guest blog posts.
I haven't taken this long of a break from blogging since I started in 2004. I've even lived blogged my vacations. For example, my encounter with an alligator on from an airboat on the St. John's River that I live streamed with my N95.
My goals for the guest blogging program were modest:
- To keep my sanity during the move
- To keep a consistent publishing schedule for readers
- To hold steady with RSS subscribers and visitors
Many folks have asked how I implemented the program so let me share how I did it. I could have created guest author accounts, but I could not figure out a way where I could approve a post in draft and have it also include photos. So, here's what I did:
- I used a google spreadsheet and form with fields for bio, headshot, post illustration url, and the url for a post. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible and recruited pieces that were already published.
- I went through my rolodex and invited people to submit their best post related to the theme of my blog - how nonprofits use social media effectively. In some cases, I asked for specific posts.
- The google spreadsheet allowed me to easily grab the text and code for the original post, include a bio and photo, etc. It was also set up in a way that I could get help from someone else.
- After about a week, I got requests from other people who wanted to participate who I had not asked. Not for any particular reason except that I was packing while I was doing this and probably just got distracted.
If I had more bandwidth and if I had more ambitious goals, I would have set up unique tracking URLs in bit.ly and tweeted these myself as well as ask the author to retweet with the unique URL. (See Allistair Croll's guest post on some tracking techniques). But, this conflicted with goal 1 - keeping my sanity during the move.
I used PostRank to evaluate the engagement of posts. The highest ranked posts (scoring higher than 7 out of 10) included:
- Michael Hoffman, Guest Post: Viral Video for Nonprofits - A Rethinking
- Katya Andresen, Guest Post: How to convince your skeptical boss social media has merit
- Alexandra Rampy, Guest Post: The Cool Factor About Mobile
- Frank Barry, Guest Post: Frank Barry, Guest Post: 4 Facebook Tips for Nonprofit Success – See What Others are Doing
- Alistair Croll, Guest Post: Using Twitter for Fundraising - Lessons Learned from Beers for Canada
- Beth Kanter, Red Cross Social Media Strategy/Policy Handbook
- Brian Reich, Guest Post: The Challenge of Communicating In A Connected Society (and what that means to Facebook Causes)
Engagement on PostRank is calculated with a number of metrics including commenting, clicks, sharing on google reader, retweeting, and saving on social bookmarking services. The top ranked content was on strategy including metrics, adoption, and overall strategy. Facebook and video are also topics of interest to my audience.
Some guest authors did a great job of activating their networks and retweeting their guest posts - which, in turn, raised their postrank score. Also, guest bloggers did a great job monitoring and tracking the comments in the post and responding to comments. If I had more bandwidth, I would have done my usual ramble rousing in the comments but was only able to do it on a sproadic basis.
The feedback I've gotten from readers about the guest blogging program has been overwhelming positive! I'm taking it as a compliment. The best comment I got was from a long-time reader John Powers on Facebook that reading the posts was like watching me open presents at a birthday party.
During the guest blogging period, I did have a slight increase of unsubscriptions by email. I have a process where I do an "exit interview." I'm happy to report that no one said they unsubscribed because they didn't like the guest posts. A few unsubscribed via email because of the slightly increased volume, but said they were catching the blog in a reader.
One reader shared with me that he was looking for work and has a strong database / business intelligence / fund raising / CRM background and asked if I would share his LinkedIn profile.
I looked at the number of RSS subscribers from before the program started and afterwards - and there was a net gain 300 subscribers (see the green line). So, I surpased my "hold steady goal." The unique visitor patterns - the dips and peaks are typical for my blog, with drops happening when there isn't a post published or a holiday. (see July 4th nose dive).
I have no way to measure the guest blogging impact on other people's blogs accept by self-reporting. Peter Campbell mentioned he had bump in traffic - so glad that it was worked both ways.
So, if you submitted a guest post or you're a reader, what's your impression? What could I have done better with the guest blogging program? How could I have done a better job of measuring its success?
And, I'm going to continue the guest blogging program and do it based on theme. I'm looking for a few good posts on Social Media, ROI, and Nonprofits. Have a post? Fill out the guest blogging form and I might just publish it.