Last week, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Collaboration and Curation panel at the BlissDom Conference in Nashville. Carrie, from Tiki Tiki Blog, and I had submitted a proposal to speak about our experience creating sites that rely heavily on collaboration and curation. We were thrilled when we found out we had made the coveted cut, and that we would be joined by Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship and our panel would be presented by Tsh Oxenreider of Simple Living Media and Simple Mom fame. I had been a long-time follower of Simple Mom and always in awe of the empire she had almost single-handedly built. It was definitely an honor to share this Blissdom moment with her.
I´ve got to say that we really did prepare for this panel because we wanted to make sure that people learned and felt they were taking away information they could put to use as soon as needed. Tsh put together some great slides that you can find at this link: http://www.simplelivingmedia.com/blissdom11/
I don´t want this info to just in the ears and notepads of those that made it to our panel. So, I´m sharing here with you the outline I prepared for my part of the presentation with some key takeaways on how to Create, Coordinate and Maintain a Collaborative Blog. I use my other blog—SpanglishBaby—as a case study and reveal why we have collaborators and how we do it.
SpanglishBaby–a community for parents raising bilingual and bicultural children–was always envisioned as a collaborative blog–a collective of different voices, opinions and experiences on the same topic(s). It is two of us running the blog—Roxana A. Soto and myself–, plus five regular contributors, nine Experts rotating once per week, and frequent guest bloggers.
Roxana, with her strong journalism and investigative background, manages the editorial content, calendar and coordinating with collaborators. I manage marketing, social media, alliances and promotion. We both collaborate in writing posts and coming up with editorial topics.
Pros of a collaborative blog:
1. Especially when you have a very niche blog, having more than one voice allows you to cover a wider range of topics and points of views. This opens the door to more readers where each can find a voice that they identify with.
Ex: There are many methods to raise a bilingual child, as well as many family situations (single mom, don´t know the language but want their child to, one parent speaks the majority language and the other the minority one, etc,) each of our 5 contributors, plus us, represent one or more of these methods/cases. Our collective experiences represent our audience
2. The writing workload is less demanding—helps to avoid writer burnout–and you become an editor/coordinator of your content. Allows you to carefully think and prepare your articles if you only need to write 1 or 2 per week, but your blog publishes 5 times per week. Also gives you time to create alliances, promote your blog and grow it as a busines
3. You become an authority in your field because you are bringing talent into your blog and you provide a space for guest bloggers to reach out to your audience.
4. You create a network of people that support, share and promote your brand and message.
Cons of a collaborative blog:
1. If you pay your regular contributors, as we do, then there is a monthly cost involved. You need to know you can cover this
2. You have to be organized and maintain a monthly editorial calendar so that communication within the team is clear and organized.
3. If you don´t pay, you cannot, or should not, own the content. If you pay, you do.
4. You must always have a backup plan in case a regular contributor can´t keep up or fails to deliver on time.
Differences between a regular contributor and a guest blogger:
1. A regular contributor is someone who has agreed, in writing through email and/or a formal agreement, to write an article for your blog on a regular basis. It is best if they have a set date when they are expected to turn it in. Ex: Every second Tuesday of the month, every Monday, etc.
2. It can be paid or unpaid.
3. A guest blogger is someone who has offered, or you have requested, to write a post on a specific subject relevant to your blog´s topic. This is unpaid and the content usually belongs to the guest blogger, unless you agree otherwise.
4. It should be an original post for your blog, or one they published a while back and can be slightly edited so it is not an identical copy (An SEO no-no!)
How to find contributors?
1. Put together a clear call-to-action for regular contributors: SETS THE BAR TO WHAT YOU ARE AFTER
2. Plan ahead what your needs are and what you can offer
- Payment? How much? Anywhere from $5–$25 for an article is a standard range to keep in mind for personal blogs. If you have an amazing amount of traffic, and your blog can lead to great positioning and authority for the contributor, then you might not need to pay. In any case, it has to feel like a win-win for both parties.
- We chose to pay because we were growing, saw it as an investment, want to own the rights, and wanted a firm commitment from the contributors.
3. Publish a post clearly outlining what type of contributors you are looking for:
- knowledge/expertise in a topic?
- they must have their own blog?
- topics they should be able to cover
- the expectations
- frequency of contribution (weekly, monthly, etc)
- minimum length of words
- any promotion expectations (highly unlikely)
4. Be specific about what you offer in return:
- Compensation, promotion or both?
- Byline with links to their blog(s)
- Bio inclusion on About or Contributors page
- Additional opportunities to receive products for review
5. Request a sample post in the topic(s) you are interested in. Set a firm date to receive submissions by and the date you will announce the new contributors. Adds a sense of healthy competition and seriousness to your request. This also weeds out anyone who is not authentically interested in being a contributor.
6. Draft an agreement outlining what your expectations are and what you will commit to. Both parties sign it. I just discovered this nifty tool, EchoSign, to make electronic signatures super easy.
Please let me know if this information was useful to you and if you have any questions I can help you with. The blogosphere is meant for collaboration. If one grows, we all grow.