How to Run a Group Blog: A Q&A

Blogger Alex Iwashyna of Late Enough also heads a group blog called This Blogger Makes Fun of Stuff (@MakesFun/Facebook.com/MakesFunOfStuff). This Blogger Makes Fun of Stuff is a product review blog that is nearing it’s 1 year anniversary. We asked Alex a few questions to hear her insights into running a group blog.

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1. How do you manage communications between contributors?

We email, and when no one responds, we DM.  None of us are phone people, so while Skype has worked well for me on other group projects, we don’t use it for MakesFunOfStuff.com. We also have a set schedule for posts and social media accounts, so we don’t need to communicate every day.

2. Does the whole team have back-end access to all social media accounts (i.e. Blog, Twitter, Facebook)?

Eventually.

I started out with myself as admin on the blog and the other writers as contributors since I was in charge of design and maintenance of the blog. Plus, Mandy was afraid of WordPress so “less was more” for her. But I gave everyone full access within a month or two because keeping more control meant I HAD to do certain jobs even if someone else was willing to help. We have all always been Facebook admins and had full Twitter access. We split the social media jobs (which I didn’t realized that I would need to do when I approached some bloggers with my idea of This Blogger Makes Fun of Stuff. But running social media is a lot of work!).

3. What all are contributors responsible for? (posting of articles, promotion of posts on Twitter/FB, advertising, writing, work on personal blog, responding to comments generated as a result of their posts)

It has evolved over the first few months but what we found works best for us is the following:

  • Alex: Personal post on Thursday, Twitter Monday, Facebook all week, blog maintenance, blog design, money distribution
  • Carrie: Personal post Wednesday, Twitter Wednesday and Thursday
  • Mandy: Personal post Tuesday, Twitter Tuesday and Friday

We also rotate monthly who is getting guest posts and who is setting up Awesome Giveaway Friday (collecting giveaways and posting it).

The keys to our schedule:

  1. Everyone being honest about what days work for them. I used to post Mondays and it was making my life miserable so I emailed out asking to change our editorial schedule.
  2. Sometimes we forget to tweet. It’s okay but if anyone is particularly sensitive about it, have her tweet on the day her post goes up. Then no hard feelings about not being promoted! TA-DA!
  3. We don’t have too much expectations or requirements. You don’t HAVE to reply to comments. You don’t HAVE to promote your piece through your personal blog or social media. We usually do the latter, but sometimes life gets in the way and that’s fine.

4. Does each contributor have their own slant or angle for their posts, or do they have free reign to write about any topic of their choosing?

Free reign. We have a variety of categories that we now try and stick to, but in the beginning if Carrie wanted to write a post about travel, we created a travel category. Ooh. Ahh.

Our only requirements:

  1. A positive review must have at least one negative and a negative review must have at least one positive. We feel like it keeps our site down-to-earth, which is one reason why we started it.
  2. For our particular theme, the post needs a picture (plus, photos are so nice.)
  3. We always write disclaimers on every post because some are sponsored and some are not, which could be confusing to our readers.
  4. We discussed the idea of being “connoisseurs” of particular topics but it just doesn’t seem to be a good fit for us at the moment. Maybe we’ll surprise people in the New Year!

5. How do you manage your editorial calendar? Do certain contributors always post the same day of the week, etc?

Our editorial calendar is:

  • Monday: Guest Post
  • Tuesday: Mandyland
  • Wednesday: The Sweetest
  • Thursday: Late Enough
  • Friday: Awesome Giveaway Friday (best giveaways from around the web)
  • Saturday/Sunday: Off

We rotate who gets our Monday guest posts and who sets up our Friday posts. As I already mentioned, our calendar is not set in stone, but without assigned days of the week, we’d be a mess. I cannot stress enough how important it was for us to give our writers a day that was theirs. I don’t know how else we would keep each other from being resentful.

(PS. I don’t have much of an editorial calendar on my personal blog so it’s not like I’m just calendar-y.)

6. What is the hardest part of managing a group blog? How do you manage it?

Although the vast majority of what we review are products we bought with our own money, my biggest worry is money. I knew that we would have money, products and pitches to deal with, and all blogs have expenses. Plus, money is such a sensitive topic for pretty much everyone that I didn’t want it to come between us by not being forthright and fair.

We created percentages where the writer gets 80% of what they bring in. The 20% goes to the site to cover costs. Anything left over is redistributed 40/30/30 among the 3 of us. We don’t include products in our distribution system. We all agreed but it’s open to discussion at any time. (Feel free to let me know if you have a better suggestion. After multiple Google searches filled with coy and unhelpful mentions of money for group blogs, I went ahead and made this up.)

We are working towards paying our guest reviewers (or bringing another permanent reviewer on board), but companies are much more inclined to give products over cash so we haven’t gotten there yet, which is disappointing to me.

7. How do you select new contributors?

Originally, I emailed out a large list of bloggers that I knew, liked, trusted or look pretty to see if they were having the same problems that I was: not finding any negative reviews, finding positive “reviews” that repeat exactly what’s on the box, or not having a blog that lends itself to reviews or many of the pitches received. (Full story here.)

The 5 people who thought This Blogger Makes Fun of Stuff was a good fit for them weren’t the 5 bloggers that I would’ve guessed so I recommend asking around (The worst case scenario is the person says “No way loser.” And then you can hate them forever!)

After setting up the blog, editorial calendar and social media schedule, 3 of us were able to continue with the site.

Since then, I have had people ask about joining, but we are in a wait-and-see pattern right now. I think that we’ll make some changes in the new year, but I’m not quite sure what yet.

8. Do you have a style guide that dictates formatting guidelines for posts? How do you maintain consistency for the brand? Do you want to?

I work with people who are good writers. I would never bring someone on board whose writing style I couldn’t trust.

We want our brand to be seen as funny and honest so we try to carry that into our writing and social media, but some days it’s more natural than others. Like when I did the most boring vlog ever on Twitter apps one week.

9. What’s the most rewarding part of managing a group blog?

Getting to know Mandy and Carrie better. They are kind, compassionate, responsible and fun. I would’ve quit and hated anyone else. Probably.

10. Do you accept outside posts? If so, how should interested writers approach your or the site?

We love guest reviewers! If you love or hate a product or you have a review that doesn’t fit your personal blog, send it our way. And we take negative reviews (we’re wild that way), which is probably the most popular reason people contact us to guest post.

You can reach me at [email protected] or fill out this form.

5 Comments

  1. Jayme (RandomBlogette)

    This couldn’t have come at a better time for me! I am currently working on a new venture and this is perfect! Thanks Alex. Also, I LOVE this blog. It is one of my favorites and I like to spread the word about it. 😉

    Reply
    • Alex@MakesFun

      Thank you so much for commenting here and spreading the word.

      I’m glad that I was helpful and good luck on your new venture!

      Reply
    • admin

      How exciting for you! Good luck!

      Reply
  2. Jayme (RandomBlogette)

    Just wait ladies, I will probably be asking for some assistance at some point. 😉

    Reply

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