Strategies for frequent posting to business & tech blogs

Readers of the Ipso Facto blog may not be aware that my writing appears in many other blog locations. In addition to two active personal blogs (one of which has been running since 2004), my old Harvard Extension blog (2005-2008), various employer and school-related blogs from 2005-2012 (Computerworld, The Industry Standard, MIT, and my first startup), and a 2007 guest-blogging gig on a site dedicated to virtual worlds, I have been very active on my current company’s blog. But there is a lot more blogging activity on the individual product sites for books like Twitter In 30 Minutes and the recently released book about the iPhone 6 and 6S. It’s hard, but I have developed a strategy for frequent posting on the blogs. It helps give the books a higher online profile, and in the case of several of the books, the posts prompt feedback from readers which I can use for follow-up editions of the books.

Here is a sample of recent posts:

How is it possible for me to write so many blog posts? There are several answers. First, I am an extremely prolific writer. In 10 years I have written well over 1,000 blog posts across all blogs. More than 450 posts appear on my old Harvard blog alone, and a few others are above 200 posts. I am just one of those people who likes to write, and when I get the urge I have to sit down in front of my keyboard and get it out there, as I did yesterday morning on Ipso Facto with my blog post about the Fessenden School and St. George’s.

Second, for the book blogs, I have started to excerpt sections from the manuscripts. It’s a great way to showcase the quality of the books while getting some additional online attention. I am also using draft chapters from my forthcoming Lean Media book to get feedback which I can use to improve the manuscript.

Simpsons blog post example from Lean Media In 30 Minutes

I have also begun to leverage other types of content — chiefly videos — upon which to base blog posts. This is especially true of the books about browser-based software, which are easy to screencast. I have created scores of short YouTube videos on topics such as how to do something in Twitter or Excel or LinkedIn. It’s not hard to take the embed code from one of the videos, put it on the blog, write up a summary or additional instructions, and then post it.

Solving the Twitter retention problem

Solving the Twitter retention problem, one reader at a time

This week, I released the second edition of Twitter In 30 Minutes. It’s a Twitter book that covers the basics, starting with registration and working its way up to more advanced features such as hashtags and lists. In this post, I would like to talk about a surprising research finding about Twitter retention data that I stumbled upon while preparing the latest edition.

This Wall Street Journal blog post from April highlighted the Twitter retention data, which had been gathered by Dutch firm Twopcharts:

A report from Twopcharts, a website that monitors Twitter account activity, states that about 44% of the 974 million existing Twitter accounts have never sent a tweet.

An earlier WSJ blog post based on Twopcharts data noted that only 11% of the Twitter accounts created in 2012 were still tweeting more than a year later. Twitter subsequently restricted Twopcharts’ access to Twitter data, and a senior executive later claimed Twitter was “happy” many users decided not to tweet — in other words, Twitter viewed some of this inactive population as passive consumers of Twitter, rather than active participants.

Regardless of Twitter’s spin, Twitter has had a problem for years getting people to participate in the service after they’ve signed up. Despite adding tips and constant reminders to tweet and follow other accounts, lots of users have trouble figuring out what to do once they are plunked down in a firehose of short messages, random photos, trending topics, and mysterious Twitter syntax. As the WSJ blogger indicated, millions simply give up.

Solving the Twitter retention problem, one reader at a time

Some of them ended up coming to my Twitter guide. While the first edition of Twitter In 30 Minutes targeted totally new users, I found out that many of my readers already had accounts, and had trouble getting the hang of Twitter. They used the guide to boost their efforts and figure out the more confusing elements of the service.

For the second edition of Twitter In 30 Minutes, I wanted to make sure that I served these two audiences (totally new users, vs. people who already have an account). I tightened the focus around these three elements:

  1. The importance of a good network on Twitter.
  2. How engagement takes place, using examples from real life.
  3. Best practices for creating Tweets, posting photos, and participating in discussions

I also completely redid the screenshots. Many of the first edition screenshots were rendered obsolete after Twitter updated its interface earlier this year.

Why it took so long to release Twitter In 30 Minutes

At the beginning of this month, I released a new In 30 Minutes guide that explains what is Twitter and how to use it. Some people who have been following my story over the past year may wonder why it took so long to release Twitter In 30 Minutes — after all, the series has covered popular Web and mobile services since the beginning, and Twitter is one of the most popular services of all. Why not write it sooner? But I have my reasons, and this post explains some of the thinking behind the timing for this particular title.

Twitter In 30 MinutesI have considered the idea of doing Twitter In 30 Minutes since the early success of the In 30 Minutes guide for Dropbox in the summer of 2012. It was clear there was a marketplace need for titles that quickly and clearly explained consumer-oriented online software. In addition, a guide to Twitter would not be hard for me to write — I have been using the social network since the early days (2007, to be precise) and have a solid level of domain knowledge.

Learning from an earlier In 30 Minutes book

But a few other factors held me back. The first was the lackluster release of Excel Basics In 30 Minutes in late 2012. It was a hard title to write, and it flopped upon release.

I did a lot of experimentation with pricing and positioning of the guide, but it took a long time before I was able to get much sales traction. Why? It seemed like a perfect candidate — the software is complicated, and there are millions of people who need to learn how to use it. But on Amazon there are about 100 other titles that explain how to use Excel, and many of them target specific versions. It was therefore very hard to stand out in the crowd with Excel Basics In 30 Minutes. I foresaw a similar problem with a guide to Twitter. In the Kindle store in particular, there are dozens of “how to use Twitter” guides, which makes it much harder to stand out.

Another issue that crossed my mind: Was Twitter so easy to figure out, that few people would actually need a guide? Compared to Dropbox and Google Drive, Twitter is a cinch to start using. But I also knew that many people who started using Twitter stopped shortly after for a variety of reasons. One Harvard Business School case I read claimed Twitter’s retention rate in the late 2000s was just about 25% after the first month. The rest gave up, many never to return. That meant lots of people could be coached on techniques that would keep them interested and engaged.

A couple of other factors pushed me to consider bringing Twitter In 30 Minutes to market.

  • Readers of other In 30 Minutes titles began asking me for a guide to Twitter.
  • LinkedIn In 30 Minutes, released in May 2013, was a breakout success

LinkedIn In 30 Minutes was an interesting case. Even though it was entering a crowded market (there are dozens of LinkedIn guides on Amazon), it did manage to have strong sales right out of the gate. This was in large part because of creative and sustained marketing efforts on the part of author Melanie Pinola and myself. In addition, it was written by someone who I knew was a strong writer and more of expert on LinkedIn than I.

Based on the success of the LinkedIn title, I began asking contacts, bloggers, and other writers to see if any were interested in taking on Twitter In 30 Minutes. When that did not work, I considered just hiring someone out. But I was worried about quality issues and costs. Eventually, I decided to do it my own. Now I am asking myself if it’s time to create Facebook In 30 Minutes.

If you’re interested in learning more about Twitter In 30 Minutes, check out the table of contents and the options to buy the guide for paperback, Kindle, iPad, PDF, and other formats.