Tips for Group Blogging
Blogging is all about having fun! Well, it is. But in truth there’s a lot of WORK that goes into it. And when you are running a group blog there are both advantages and disadvantages to it. Advantage? More people to share in the work load! Disadvantage? Coordinating it all! So here are some tips we’ve put together to keep in mind when running a blog with multiple people.
We all want to do everything and feel included, but the reality of too many cooks in the kitchen rings true when trying to run a group blog. Run your blog like a business, where everyone has a clearly defined role. If everyone is scheduling things there’s bound to be conflicts because we can’t all be constantly updating others on what we are thinking and what we are doing. Same goes if everyone is trying to update reviews on Amazon, or whatever task needs done. You’ll end up wasting a lot of time doubling up on work that’s already been done.
If you are running a quality blog, content management is important (which is a topic for a whole other post). You can’t just bombard your readers with a ton of stuff one day and then nothing for 3 days. You also don’t want to drive publicists crazy when more than one person per blog contacts them about the same book. This can easily happen if everyone is scheduling on their own without direction. We’ve learned from all those mistakes early on.
So now, there’s one person in charge of all contact with pubs/authors for reviews and post scheduling, someone handles graphics, a few handle social media, others have assigned responsibilities of updating administrative tasks like posting reviews on Amazon or Netgalley, checking and responding to emails, handling advertising inquiries, giveaways, drafting posts, creating author interviews to send out, etc. More than one person can handle one specific task. You get my drift? The important part is that we don’t expect everyone to do everything. More gets done, on time, and no one feels overwhelmed.
But in the end, someone should be the one cracking the whip! Yes, this sounds like a dictatorship but someone has to be the bad guy at times to keep everyone in line. Someone should be looking at deadlines and making sure they are being met. And when things are getting close to deadlines, remind everyone of what they should be doing. I particularly love using the Pocket Whip app and I send that to whoever is behind on something to get on with it. 😉 In order to keep up with deadlines, we will talk about organization tools later on this post.
The great thing about working with a group is that you all have different ideas and interests. Brainstorming together the content you want on your blog is the best way to have interesting material for your readers. Put your heads together and throw around ideas until you work on something that you are all excited about! This could be new features, ways to do reviews, how to handle your social media presence, content management, etc. Even the overall branding that your blog should have. Take advantage of all those smart ideas and never put someone down. You never know where the next great thing your blog will be known for or have the most fun with will come from.
Handling review requests:
Review requests are often handled based on who reads what author already. When dealing with a lot of people that review the same genres, it’s best not to step on toes. If a reviewer is already a fan of a series or author, then that person would be the logical first choice to review a new book. If it’s a well known series that everyone loves, maybe you can consider rotating who does the review or even a team review of two or more people. In the event that no one has read the author, then we add the requests to a list and then everyone gets to look and see what they’re interested in. Chances are only one will pick up a particular book. We add all review requests submitted through our website, as well as the ones that come in from publishers on a Google Doc Spreadsheet that everyone has access to (including our guest reviewers). When they see something they like, they mark their name on it. And then, going back to responsibilities, the person in charge of contacting the pub/author will make the necessary arrangements to get the ARC if it wasn’t already sent and distribute it to the correct reviewer.
Then comes handling the deadlines! Things need to be crystal clear and for everyone to see. This means if your reviewers have independent Netgalley accounts, aside from that review request sheet, there should be a way where you can account for who has requested what and who will review what by what date. If you are running a group blog is best for everyone to have access to this information to keep everyone accountable. More on the tools we use in the next section.
There’s no other way around it. If you are not organized, you’ll just make more work for yourself when running a group blog. There are so many things to keep track of that if you think it can all be in your head or if you think someone else is doing but then it falls through the cracks, then you’ll fail. Some of the tools we’ve used in the past, and some we use now are:
Google Docs – This is a great tool, use it! Like we said, in a group blog you want information accessible for everyone involved and we use Google Spreadsheets quite often to keep track of review requests, any financial information related to the blog, work on interview questions together, and more!
Google Calendar – This was the first tool we used for keeping track of our posts and scheduling. We would still be using it if it wasn’t for the fact it only served as a scheduling tool and couldn’t house the rest of to dos and information we needed to keep track of. We have since moved on from this, but it was a great beginner tool (or one that can work if you want to restrict access to certain parts of tracking your blog work from others in the team)
WordPress Editorial Calendar – This was also a great tool, easy to use, that stayed with us for a while. You can create drafts in your WordPress site and already assign the post date to them. We stopped using this because we found it more cumbersome to move things around dates (our WP wasn’t updating automatically the scheduled date of the post once we dragged it to another day, so this had to be done manually). Hopefully this was an isolated problem to our site and you can find use of it!
Evernote – This was the easy companion to either one of the calendars above. We had all our to dos, ideas, information, etc in neatly organized folders using this tool. From either a desktop or mobile, everything was accessible and organized. We did use the pro version for over a year and it worked like a charm. The only concern with using this was a lot of ideas where getting lost in the shuffle here. It was too easy to ignore a notebook and never look at it again. So we went in search of something else.
Trello – As cute as this was, it might’ve been the tool we used the least. We each had a board where we could keep track of review books due, a general board of ideas, admin work to be done etc. This could easily be marked as completed and assigned deadlines. Don’t ask me why this didn’t quite work for us because I’m not sure. It certainly is the most visually appealing of choices here.
Teamwork – Then we come to the all in one tool we are currently using. This is a godsend that houses EVERYTHING we need to know to run the blog. There’s a calendar function that replaces any other calendar tool we had before (and yes, posts are color coded on there). But there’s also task lists that can be created and separated into topics and categories. Deadlines are assigned as well as the person responsible to get it done. We keep track of everything here in a easy to understand system of task lists. This was the feature we were missing from Evernote, where everything would get dumped into a generic notebook. But wait, Teamwork also has notebooks! So we can still keep those running ideas, post drafts, etc in there. Overall, this is a great tool to use for working together.
Keep the individual identity:
When running a blog as a group it’s easy to have one person be the face of the blog while everyone takes a step back and only pops in for their reviews. But readers want to connect with the blogs they follow because reviews are subjective things and the more you understand the reviewer and identify with one, then you’ll get better at picking books based on their recommendations. So while it’s good to assign roles, you don’t want to assign those roles to the point that each person in your group blog doesn’t have their own unique identity and that it stands out and is recognized by your readers. So get out there and connect!
That’s it for now, these are our top 5 tips for group blogging. Hopefully something on here catches your eye and helps you run your blogs better.