Second Life blogging quality versus quantity: Will you dare to be epic?
In my blog post about driving more traffic to your archived content, I told you I’d be helping you stay organised with an editorial calendar. Well, for this post I’ve decided to change tack a little: I won’t be laying down specific recommendations about how frequent or how regular you should publish, because frankly, there is much more to the story – and it’s a story that strikes at the heart of what kind of blogger you choose to be. Before you can decide on what kind of posting schedule is right for you, you have to decide if you will be a blogger that prioritises quality or quantity.
First, let’s talk about blog post quantity
Should you post once or twice per day? Three times a week? Twice? Once a week? Less often than that?
Many Second Life bloggers wrestle with this question daily. Some I’ve spoken to tell me that they worry that if they don’t post enough, they’ll lose audience / traffic. I’m also aware that designers establish blogging expectations to which fashion bloggers agree, which is probably another reason bloggers might feel they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. I’m also aware that one of the commonest pieces of advice out that bloggers should blog consistently.
We’ve all likely seen (and perhaps even written) the first few lines of a blog post – after a break in posting – that sounds like: “I’m really sorry I’ve not posted in such a long time, but… [insert reason / excuse here].”
Personally, I don’t apologise for not posting on anyone’s schedule but my own, but that’s me. I’m realistic. Life happens. Things come up. And they don’t always fit into a neatly planned calendar around all of my other commitments.
Still, many bloggers worry that they simply don’t have the time to do what they want (or promised) to do.
Chances are that the person most worried about your posting frequency is you.
We as bloggers put a lot of pressure on ourselves to post often and consistently. Doing so creates undue stress that we could do without. Unfortunately, that stress sometimes compels bloggers to push out ‘ok’ content, instead of epic content.
The reality is – with all the content out there – it’s likely that most readers wouldn’t notice if you dropped from 3 to 2 posts a week. What they might notice more however, is when your quality increases or decreases.
The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media, published by the well-respected Moz.com says (and it’s good advice for people who blog for a living):
“The only thing worse than never blogging at all is starting to and not maintaining the effort… it is disheartening to see that the most recent post is from several months ago. This gives the visitor no reason to subscribe or take part. You certainly don’t need to blog every day, or even every week for that matter. Find an attainable cadence, set expectations with your audience, and stick to it. Perhaps you only do a monthly industry roundup. That’s cool. Just tell people in advance so they know what to expect.”
Most of us however, don’t blog for a living. We do it for fun – or at least, it sounded like fun before we might have turned it into a daily chore! Even WordPress.com – one of the champions of not-for-profit hobbyist blogging tell us that “when it comes to building a healthy following, nothing is more important than publishing quality content regularly”, in their Grow Your Traffic, Build Your Blog E-Book. As inspiration, they publish a blog called “The Daily Post”, designed to prompt us to write a new post every day.
There’s a well-known mantra thrown around by blogging traffic gurus: “post early, post often”. Indeed, research from HubSpot’s 13,500+ customers is hard to debate, when they report that these bloggers reported that “16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than bloggers that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.”
Blogging traffic expert, Neil Patel, goes as far as saying “Quantity is king”, and shares his advice on how to grow a blog to over 100,000 visitors per month. At first, Mr. Patel saw slight gains from posting 2 pieces of content a week instead of 1. But then he really started to see “big traffic increases when (he) started to publish 5 pieces of content a week.”
Looking to see how far he could push things, Mr. Patel then published one more post per week – a total of 6 – which led to a traffic increase of 18.6%. Finally, he concludes: “My experience of working with 20 of the top 100 blogs showed that if we published 3 pieces of content each day (21 pieces a week), we could easily get our traffic to over a million visits a month over time.”
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Publishing more posts gets more views. You might have seen similar patterns yourself; I know I have.
However, Mr. Patel goes on to say:
“When posting in high frequency, make sure you are still maintaining the quality of your content. Writing a lot of blog posts that are low in quality won’t help you see a big increase in traffic.”
I’d add that you need to actually do more than simply keep up your quality. If your quality isn’t epic – then you need to make quality job number one.
Second, let’s talk about blog post quality
Quality content – in any genre – takes time. Unless you’ve got help, then you have to do all the conceptualising, research, set-up, writing, picture taking, editing, fact-checking / crediting and promoting entirely yourself.
Still, most bloggers attempt to do as much as they can in as little time as possible. This is not a generalisation, it’s a self-reported fact: According to survey results from Orbit Media Studios of a sample of over 1000 bloggers, 54% of bloggers spend fewer than 2 hours on a typical post. 5.5% spend over 6 hours per post.
If you’re curious, I spend about 5-7 hours to create a typical blog post (sometimes a lot more), and I spread that work over days. Am I just a slow writer? I wouldn’t say that, I just choose to prioritise my definition of quality over quantity. My posts tend to be over 2000 words, and I write about 2-3 posts a week. Your definition of quality may differ, and that’s up to you what that is, and the goals you’ve set out for your blog.
Because I often write about controversial subjects, I also get (read: hog-tie) my partner to proofread my posts. I even ask them to challenge my thinking on my posts before I publish them – sometimes resulting in complete rewrites or binning the post entirely. Not only that, but after a few lapses in judgement, I now impose The Rule of 24 on myself, which means that I allow at least 24 hours between my draft phase and my editing phase, when possible.
Despite not publishing everything I write, I’m confident that my quality is as good as I can make it, given the time I choose to spend.
It’s highly unlikely that anyone spending 5 to 7 hours on a blog post is publishing every day. There are just too many other things to do. Research backs this up: Not only do a small proportion of bloggers spend the this kind of time on their posts, very few bloggers publish on a daily basis. The survey (referenced above) found that 54% of bloggers are publishing at least weekly, 32% published more than once per week, and 3.3% publish daily.
Bloggers that are producing high quality posts are likely not publishing the most frequently.
After digging deeper into the survey data, Sonia Simone at Copyblogger reported that only 4.3% of bloggers who publish weekly are spending 6+ hours per post. These bloggers make a choice to prioritise quality over quantity. Ironically, one of the biggest challenges for a Second Life blogger, according to our most recent readership survey is that they do not have enough time to post quality content.
Perhaps they would have the time, if they published fewer posts?
Clearly, you too need to make a choice: Quantity or quality. It’s rare to have both – especially if blogging in Second Life is not your full time job.
Quality versus quantity: How Second Life fashion blogging suffers from unrealistic expectations
If I had to guess: Second Life blogging mirrors other areas of blogging in that most bloggers choose quantity over quality. I’d even go as far as saying that Second Life blogging (which at least 90% is focused on fashion) suffers from a factor that isn’t as common in most blogging outside of Second Life: The Second Life Blogger – Designer Vicious Cycle:
I’m conscious that I might be coming across somewhat cynical in illustrating the process above. I am clearly aware that there are a lot of benefits arising from both the designer and the blogger’s participation. I’m also aware that everyone is participating voluntarily and most likely somewhat enjoying themselves while doing it. I’m not suggesting this is inherently a bad system in general; but it does have its drawbacks and unintended consequences when expectations are not aligned with each other. This happens on both sides of the fence, and I’m not the only one who has noticed.
“Blogging is a very different beast now to what it was when I started years ago,” says Kitty O’Toole in a comment thread to a blog post about a Second Life fashion blogger’s frustrations that I recently reblogged on SL Blogger Support. “Back then getting review packs was a rarity, but now we find creators advertising for bloggers to share their wares. It’s completely turned around. Fundamentally it’s about sales, and that’s something you have to take on board if you’re accepted to blog an event or a brand. There’s a lot to be said for keeping your circle tight and not actually being in blogger groups. You can actually properly review an item that way, something we don’t see much of these days.”
As creator/designer demands understandably get more and more stringent and exacting, it’s the fashion bloggers that agree to these requests that have the least time for each post. With only a finite amount of time available, most choose quantity over quality, sometimes leading to unsatisfactory emotional outcomes that many bloggers choose to reject.
Ms O’Toole says: “My lack of numerous ties and obligations means that I can take my time and ENJOY blogging, and this is the most fundamental point of all. If it reaches a point where blogging is your obligation and you get no joy, but just feel pressure, then why are you doing it?”
It’s a good question, and one I’ve heard many times. The problem is that many bloggers don’t realise they’re no longer blogging for the same reasons they started to blog (e.g. because it was fun), until after it’s too late and they are well over-committed.
One of Second Life’s most prolific bloggers, Chic Aeon, has published over 4000 posts in 7 years (which averages out to about 1.6 posts/ day). She suggests that the relatively recent role of the ‘blogger manager’ makes an impact on blogger / designer relations: “I have had issues when individual designers have gone to blogger managers. That cattle car mentality sets in. What one person does reflects on the others and I do not appreciate being yelled out in mass for something someone else has done. And sometimes — especially when they go to the blogger manager model — rules change to include things that I will not do (like linked icons of their brand on my home page — EVERY item blogged etc.). So, in those cases I have written a nice note to the designers telling them how much I have enjoyed blogging for them but this would not work for me. We DO need to be true to ourselves first.”
I hear that theme I over and over: Be true to yourself. Blog only what you love. Do it for the fun, and it’s good advice, but is it always practised?
A blogger for 5 years (and also a designer), Steffy Ghost offers advice on how she avoids overcommitment: “In order to not feel overwhelmed, I’ve set myself a limit of brands I will blog for. I have less than 10 brands and only one event. This way I am able to meet all the requirements of the brands I blog for, and sometimes even do way over that, and then I buy a lot of items. These items I buy I will decide how I want to blog them and if I want to credit them, and if I don’t blog them it is still a win-win situation. I find this way I can be stress free and if I am stress free I am able to create quality posts.”
Lucie Bluebird draws some clear lines with regards to her blogging commitments: “I’m also not a “fast” blogger,” she says, “some people can set up intricate scenes, take incredible pics and turn around multiple blog posts a day! I’m awed by that, but it’s not me. It’s never been me, it never will be me. Though I try to blog a few times a week, on average, there are absolutely weeks when it’s just not possible for me. And so one thing I don’t do is apply when designers require a weekly post. I know that’s something I’m likely to fail at, so I avoid it. Three times a month? Sure. I can handle that. Every week? Not so much. Every release? Well, I don’t blog what doesn’t suit me, so no. I won’t commit to that, either.”
Lucie was a store owner before she was a blogger, so she also brings a perspective from the other side of the fence, which suggests that designers themselves also do not want bloggers to underachieve in the quality of their posting.
“I don’t want our bloggers to take pics with things they don’t like or that doesn’t suit their individual styles,” she says. “I want them to be inspired. I don’t feel like our product is going to be best represented by bloggers who aren’t “feeling” the item. And I think this is something not all designers consider… because if you don’t blog, you don’t “get” that part of the equation. I want to see the passion in the pics taken with our poses. I think uninspired blog posts are worse than no blog posts. But that’s just me, and I understand some people value quantity over quality. That’s a legitimate position, just not one I share. I’d rather be underexposed than get second rate exposure, and when you force (or try, because really forcing people to blog is like herding cats anyway) bloggers to blog EVERY release, you’re going to get some uninspired pics and uninspired posts.” (My emphasis)
This is what the The Second Life Blogger – Designer Virtuous Cycle looks like, if expectations are more realistic, on both sides of the equation:
The differences between the two cycles are obvious, but depend on two things:
- Bloggers keeping their expectations realistic about what they can reasonably agree to do while still maintaining epic quality
- Designers keeping their expectations realistic about what they can expect from bloggers and still get quality posts.
Clearly, many Second Life bloggers and designers alike would agree that quality is more important than quantity. Still, I’d say that they are in the vocal minority expressed mostly in blog comments, social media and the places where bloggers share views openly. In practice, the story is very different.
I’d further suggest, although I have very little research to back this up, that bloggers who comment on other people’s blogs tend to value quality over quantity as well. If they didn’t, how would they possibly have time to comment on other people’s blogs when they’re also posting 1-2 posts a day?
Kirsten Corleone, another veteran blogger (and ex-designer) raised the issue of the sheer number of commitments bloggers get into in a reply post by , when she wrote: “It seems like a lot to me and I have no idea how someone blogs for more than about 20 stores. I see some bloggers that have 50+ stores and I don’t know how they would blog that many stores in one month effectively. The ones that do seem to post 5+ posts a day and not only could I not do that because I physically could not process even the pictures that fast let alone all the other parts, I would never want to do that much volume. I blog because it is fun and that would make blogging lose all joy to me.”
The blogger behind the original post that kicked it all off, Lici Le, gets the last word, which I think drives at the main issue, which is “a wall between some designers and bloggers” that leads to unrealistic expectations on both sides of the fence.
You can choose your posting frequency based on how you measure success
Mr. Patel, guest posting for Moz wrote: “One blog post every two months is about as good as not blogging at all.”
If traffic is your only aim, then he might be right. It all depends on how you measure success though. Is it traffic? Is it engagement? Is it influence?
The fact is, if traffic is not your game, then it’s entirely possible to have a highly influential blog without posting every day. My favourite example of the infrequent yet invaluable blogger is Penny Patton, who has written under 45 blog posts in over four years, yet almost every one of them is worth the time to read (and re-read). You might not have ever read or heard about Ms Patton’s blog, but I’m confident you’ve experienced the rippling of her ideas. Let me tell you, when she publishes a post, I drop what I’m doing and read it, they’re that good.
And that’s just the thing, isn’t it? If traffic isn’t your one and only goal, you could publish one post a month and still have an influence, as long as it’s awesome. I’ve always thought that if I needed to draw back my posting to one great post a month, it would still be more valuable than four weaker posts that same month. That great post will get a lot of views and comments, because people will like it, share it, and reblog it. And that’s why quality kicks ass.
On the flip-side, there are a lot of drawbacks when it comes to posting daily. Problogger, one of the most influential blogs about blogging on the internet lists several disadvantages of daily posting, including blogger burnout, reader burnout, and decreased reader engagement. Even Dries Cronje, blogger at “Boost Blog Traffic” says posting every day is a silly strategy, citing the following drawbacks of daily posting:
- Daily posting destroys social proof – “By posting too often, and thus continually replacing the latest post, you reduce the amount of social proof that each post will get. Few people will expend their present effort on yesterday’s conversations.”
- Daily posting destroys reader bonding – “If you post too regularly, your subscribers won’t get around to reading every post you write…As a result, you miss an opportunity to bond with them with each post they skip.”
- Daily posting destroys subscriber counts – “By sending out posts via email too often, you’ll force some of your subscribers to unsubscribe. This is particularly true for less-popular bloggers.”
So, if not daily, how often should you post?
Mr Cronje gives some excellent suggestions with regards to what to do instead of posting daily (I encourage you to read his epic post, published way back in 2012, which got over 229 comments), two of which I’ll emphasise here:
- Plan your posts wisely. I’ve given you plenty of ideas on how to bring more traffic to your hidden gems, I also recommend plotting out an editorial calendar in advance so that you can spend more time writing instead of trying to come up with ideas. It can be as simple as a list in a word document, or as visual as a Google Calendar. Just write it down so it’s real (not binding, but not solely in your head, either) Remarkable posts are created well before they are written – they started way back as kernels of ideas – planned out well in advance.
- Make every post count. Mr Cronje makes a bold claim that echoes my comments above with regards to writing more, but publishing less often: “If you post only once every two months, but the content is truly awesome, you will be much more successful than someone publishing crappy posts every day.”
If you follow these approaches, you’ll write better blog posts, and your blog will grow. Perhaps not as fast as other blogs that produce more “ok” material more frequently, but ask yourself – how much do those page views really mean if they don’t produce the feelings you are seeking when blogging in the first place?
Are you ready to be epic?
Here’s the good news. The internet is so full of “ok”, being epic can’t help but stand out.
Every once in a while, you’ll see a post that is really well written, or addresses a commonly-held but unspoken frustration, or teaches you something truly amazing, or inspires you to break the mould and raise your game.
You know the posts I’m talking about, because so many of us talk about them.
These are the epic posts. These are the posts that make you smile or make you cry. These are the posts that might change your mind about a long-standing belief, or that makes you respond emotionally – either positively or negatively.
These are the posts, written by bloggers who stood out on a limb and say: “I’m going to do things differently – come what may!”
These posts are written by bloggers that might not post that often – but when they do, you can’t help but perk up and pay attention, because they have something truly valuable to say and they say it epically well.
These are the posts that change the game – because it really needs changing.
And that’s my best posting frequency advice: It might be three times a week, it might be once a week, but I won’t publish a post unless I have something valuable to say and take the time to say it as well as I can. It doesn’t have to be game-changing every single time, but it had better be damn interesting – or else into the trash bin it goes!
How do I know when it’s good enough? When I get this feeling in my gut saying “I can’t wait to get this out there into the world!” Am I always right? Hell, no. Sometimes my would-be epic posts end up being flops. The thing is though, I will never be able to control whether someone likes my stuff or not, but I can control the effort I put into it.
When I stop having valuable stuff to say, that’s when I stop posting – even if my editorial calendar tells me to. It’s that simple. If you don’t hear from me for months, you might find me on some isolated piece of the Gobi desert trying to find the inspiration I lost along the way.
Want a have an epic blog? Reject: “ok”. Post better, but post less.
In closing, I’ll leave you with these last words, attributed to Dr. Steve Maraboli:
The wise will admire you.
The wishful will envy you.
The weak will hate you.
This is the reality for those
who dare to be epic.