Getting through Blogger's Block - dummies

By Susannah Gardner

One nice thing about blogs is that you can post whenever you want, from wherever you want. It’s convenient, but it’s no guarantee that you have something to post about. There are times in every blogger’s career when ideas run dry, but you still have to produce fresh content.

Don’t forget that blog entries can be created and stored. On days when you feel incredibly creative, why not write a blog post or two that are evergreen — that is, can stay useful for some time — and stockpile some posts for the days when you are really casting about for content.

Holding a contest

Everybody likes a winner, and everyone wants to be one! Put together a quick competition. You can call on your readers to be contestants, and make the community part of the judging as well. Every contest generates excitement and discussion, no matter how small the stakes.

Some topics that work well

  • Name This Product/Service.
  • Assign a topic, and have people post entries on your blog or on their own blog and link to yours.
  • Guessing games are always fun. For example, put a super-close-up photo of one of your products on the blog, and get readers to guess which product it is. Or show a tool used in the creation of your products, and ask readers to guess its use.
  • Have your readers submit creative ideas for using your products or photos of your products in use.
  • Ask readers for predictions on a sales number or news event.

Giving out prizes of value can be tricky — maybe you’re on a limited budget, and maybe your legal department would have a fit if you tried to offer “wonderful prizes.” But public acknowledgement in an active community can be a nice prize, or you can send a company-branded item to the winners (even if you didn’t promise them a material prize).

Posting reader photos

Let your readers send in pictures of themselves with your product or service, or your logo, or of your company’s local presence. Post pictures in an online gallery, and let the audience rate them. Blog about the best or most interesting ones. (This could also be a contest.)

Photos have proven to be very popular with blog readers, who also respond well to being included in the creation of blog content, so a photo gallery is almost always a win-win situation.

Creating a “Best of” collection

After you blog long enough, reward yourself. Take a day or a week, and post the best of your blog postings. Update them where appropriate, but in general, you’re just giving your best material a chance to see the light again and helping future visitors to find the best of the early days.

Your blog isn’t your press release section. Bringing attention to an old press release is odd, but it’s quite normal to refer back to a particularly valuable piece of writing you did.

Making yourself heard

For a change of pace, how about blogging in audio format instead of in text? Readers (now listeners) are interested in hearing the speaking voice of someone they have read for a while.

Audio posts work best with content that you can read dramatically — let your listeners really hear that sarcasm drip, if that’s the way you’re going. You can also use an audio post to record sounds in your current environment that your readers might find interesting — the chaos of the trading floor, the sounds of traffic on the street, or the Muzak in the company elevator.

Don’t forget to pay attention to the conditions in which the audio is recorded; too much background noise can drown you out and make you hard to hear.

Don’t lower your usual standards, but realize that the novelty of speaking your post does take some of the emphasis off the content of it. As well, some people won’t or can’t listen to audio postings, so don’t choose this post as the occasion to make a huge news announcement.

Questions, please

Q: Does the Q & A format draw people in? Does it seem to interest people more than a regular, bland post?

A: Yes; yes, it does. Find someone in the hall, detain them for five minutes, and ask them what they’re working on and why. That’s all you need for an interesting post. Repeat as needed.

These mini-interviews give people who aren’t normally part of the blog a voice and presence, and make them known to readers as well. Use these to recognize unsung heroes, reveal little-known areas of expertise, or to capture the jokes of the hilarious guy down the hall.

Building a widget

Not every blog post has to be static. You can quite easily find a nifty, free JavaScript program and adapt it for your own use. Coming up with the idea for a quick little Web widget can be a fun way to increase traffic to your site and interact with the readers.

As an example, visit the Cyborg Name Generator. This application allows readers to enter their name and choose an avatar image, and produces a small graphic displaying the avatar and a reasonably humorous robot acronym based on the user’s name.

Your program doesn’t have to be a super-well-designed program. In fact, it doesn’t have to be programmed at all; it could be something as simple as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style series of linked posts.

On the other hand, you could start with a simple idea, and it could grow beyond your blog. After all, the best way to get yourself out of a rut is to build a road to somewhere else.