Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Build the Unstoppable Power of Momentum

Okay, the hardest part of anything epic are those first few steps. After that, you're basically trying to build and maintain momentum. Those who can build enough momentum often find they can keep going as long as they want--that is, as long as they respect the process. So, I want to share a little of what I've learned about momentum since I started blogging a few years ago.

I'm going to focus on blogging in this post, but the power of momentum can be applied to about any other phase of life as well, including writing, dieting, parenting, working, etc. Over the past few years, I've successfully built momentum (and traffic) for two blogs: Poetic Asides over at WritersDigest.com and this here personal My Name Is Not Bob blog.

Both of my successful blogs evolved in very different ways. When I first proposed Poetic Asides, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted it to cover: poetry. Of course, I had a fuzzy idea of how to go about doing it, but the subject was clear. For My Name Is Not Bob, I really had no specific purpose outside of sharing a little about myself and having a place to send my posts that weren't specifically poetry-related.

Since it was tied tightly to WritersDigest.com, Poetic Asides had an audience almost immediately, and it sky-rocketed after the very first April PAD (Poem-A-Day) Challenge. For this Not Bob blog, I really didn't have much traffic until about a year ago--mainly because I didn't follow these three guidelines for building momentum:
  1. Be Consistent.
  2. Experiment.
  3. Keep What Works.
Be Consistent
One key to building successful momentum is to work on consistency. In terms of blogging, this means that you keep a pretty regular routine for posting (whether that's daily, weekly, etc.) and sharing (links via social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.). Posting three times in one day and then not posting the rest of the week is a momentum killer. A more successful tactic would be to post every other day through the week.

If you can only work on your blogging one day a week, then go ahead and write up those three blog posts. Publish one immediately. Then, schedule the other two posts for later in the week.

The reason consistency helps so much in blogging is that your readers can start to anticipate your blogging patterns. As a non-blogging example, I'm going to use my wife Tammy, who loves to listen to a big band radio show on Sunday mornings after church. She knows when the show comes on (every Sunday after church), and she's made a routine out of listening to it.

A good way to build momentum for your blog is to try and develop this type of consistent blogging behavior. For instance, on my Poetic Asides blog, I often post more than once each week, but I always post on Wednesday mornings for the Wednesday Poetry Prompts (except during the months of April and November--when I'm posting a poetry prompt every single morning).

While consistency is a great tool in building momentum, so is experimenation. If you're not trying something new every so often, then you run the risk of falling into a routine, which can start to kill your momentum (and the excitement you bring to your blog).

In an effort to build traffic to Poetic Asides four years ago, I experimented with my first April PAD Challenge, which was an amazing success. In fact, the success of that experiment led to two more successful experiments: Wednesday Poetry Prompts and the November PAD Chapbook Challenge. With 20/20 vision, these all seem like no-brainers, but at the time, each experiment held the potential to be unsuccessful.

Of course, not every experiment is going to work. That's okay. The main thing is that you keep trying out new things. If they don't pan out, no problem--move on to the next experiment. If they do, that's great!

Keep What Works
If it's not broke, don't fix it, right? When those poetry challenges worked on Poetic Asides, I kept them around, and they are a regular part of that blogging community now. On this blog, I've paid attention to what works and have tried to keep developing that content here. It would significantly kill my momentum on both blogs if I just quit providing what's had appeal in the past.

That said, don't take what has worked in the past for granted. I put a lot of effort into developing the prompts for my poetry challenges, in addition to promoting the challenges. I never try to take for granted that just because it's been successful in the past that the success will continue on forever. Once you go down that path (the path of taking things for granted), you're setting yourself up for failure: whether it's an immediate fail or a long, slow fail.

So pay attention to what works and keep it, but also make sure you nurture it, because it will help you build momentum by having a foundation upon which to experiment.


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Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I've been working to build momentum and sometimes feel I'm spinning my wheels. These guidelines help. I'll be following them immediately.

Jess said...

My blog is really new. I am experimenting with a couple of things, but I often have a hard time of gauging whether things are successful or not. With a super-small readership, it's a little difficult to tell with page views the whole story. I would love a post from you about newbie blogging. Have you already written on in your archives that I might look at? (I will try to scan through them all when I have a chance...)

Unknown said...

I think I've settled into a what works for me pattern, but I'm finding that the work of the community part of blogging always lags behind my intention and then I feel too guilty to work on my own blog. Does that make sense? I need to set aside time for commenting and returning comments etc as I'm finding this the hardest part , especially given that so many amazingly creative and inspiring people are so prolific! :)