9 weeks ago, I challenged myself to consistently write an article every week for at least 8 weeks. Today, I can say I did it. It was hard. Not the hardest thing I've done, but hard nonetheless.
It wasn't just about writing something and get done with it for the week. The internet is already filled with shallow useless content. I didn't need to contribute to that. I wanted to write good content. Enjoyable and memorable content. Content that made me proud.
Writing is hard. A blank page is intimidating. Hitting the publish button and exposing your thoughts to the masses is scary. Quitting is easy, but unforgivable.
Nonetheless, I wrote.
Beating the challenge wasn't the goal. The challenge kept my eyes on the goal. The goal was to promote my personal brand and my open source projects. I chose content marketing as my tool to reach the goal.
Everything I know about content marketing I learnt from my girlfriend. I'm not a marketing expert, but rule number one of content marketing is: write good content. The vaguest rule ever. So, what's good content?
Know Your Audience
It's nice when someone shares your content. You reached them. Your content was valuable enough for them. They are your target audience.
I love Elixir. I feel comfortable sharing my knowledge about it. Most of my projects are written in Elixir. My target audience was anybody interested in Elixir. So... I mostly wrote about Elixir.
Writing for your target audience is not enough. Your content needs to be shareable. And the most important thing: it needs to be shareable by the right people.
The right people are the experts in the area you chose. They have read a gazillion times about list comprehensions in Elixir. They haven't read about that time you implemented Prolog's backtracking using list comprehension in Elixir.
Write about the cool stuff you have done. The things you're proud of.
In the era of short attention span, you're worst enemy is sudden boredom. Use GIFs. Use images. Use graphics. Entertain while sharing knowledge.
Your article's content is competing with a sudden WhatsApp message with a meme or that Prime Video notification saying The Expanse new season is available now.
It doesn't matter you're the best technical writer in the world if nobody reads you. You need to distribute your content.
This greatly depends on the area you chose. In my case, Elixir's community is small and getting into the newsletters is not that hard as long as your content is valuable.
Don't wait for people to discover you. Reach out for them.
Important: Don't spam. Nobody likes spammers.
Thinking you're writing good content is different than writing good content. I needed a way to measure my success. I tracked several metrics along the way:
- Number of DEV views.
- Number of DEV reactions.
- Number of DEV followers.
- Number of Github stars.
Additionally to those quantitative metrics, I also took into consideration whether the articles were published in a newsletter or not:
I created a spreadsheet in Google Sheets and with this script I periodically gathered the data. This approach was inspired by/stolen from this article. I wasn't that rigorous with Twitter metrics, but I still kept them in mind when writing a tweet sharing my next article:
- Number of Twitter likes.
- Number of Twitter retweets.
- Number of Twitter followers.
My articles were well received by the community. I got useful feedback that has improved both my projects and blog posts. I even got great pull requests to some of my projects and that makes me happy. People not only find my articles, but also my projects, useful!
The following is a performance summary for all blog posts and open source projects:
|Metric (Number of)||Before||Week 9||Change|
|Elixir Weekly publications||0||4||+4|
|Elixir Radar publications||0||1||+1|
Consistently writing good content is hard. The following are some of the lessons learnt these past 8 weeks:
- Choose a publishing day: My days were Thursdays. I needed to hit the publish button no matter what. Pressure is good.
- Pick your article's topic one week before you publish it: Some articles require experimentation and research. Good content requires time. Don't rush it.
- Pick a backup topic: If your main article is not ready for publishing, then publish a good article about the backup topic.
- Write in beast mode: Write what's on your mind. Don't try to write a perfect article. Just write. Once your ideas are written, you can edit.
- Distribute your content: Once you publish the article, distribute it in every relevant channel you have at your disposal.
Writing is hard. Writing requires practice. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Just do it!
Cover image by Aaron Burden