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ABC: Always Be Collecting

Glenngarry Glen Ross

Alec Baldwin's character colorfully presents his selling philosophy, "ABC: Always Be Closing."

Getting started with blogging and social media is intimidating to many.  It took me time to develop the confidence, skills, and habits that make it possible to deliver content on a regular basis. More than anything, it requires a 24/7 mindset that I call “ABC: Always Be Collecting,” which is a take on the fantastic movie Glengarry Glen Ross.

If you’ve never seen the movie, you can get a good sense of the plot from this seven minute clip of Baldwin’s passionate, insulting and obscenity-laced motivational speech.  Warning – there is some strong language in this scene.

“Always Be Collecting” means establishing a commitment and habit to always be thinking about collecting content for your blog, Tweets, and Facebook updates.  This mindset will only have limited effectiveness without a support structure.  I’ve included 4 tips to help you get going.

#1 Intelligence

I am not referring to the ability to comprehend, but rather the collecting of information.  For me, intelligence is the oxygen that fuels my content generation.  These are my intelligence gathering tools:

  • Barnes & Noble: I read, read, read, read…
  • Google Reader: I subscribe to 210 RSS feeds and have read over 11,000 articles in the last 30 days.  However, keep in mind that “read” is probably an overstatement and it’s more accurate to say that I “scanned” those articles, looking for interesting content and then reading, bookmarking, and sharing as appropriate.
  • Twitter: More and more, people are using Twitter as a source of “pre-qualified” information.  Because you are presumably following people you trust and/or in which you’re interested, then it stands to reason that links they share will be of interest to you also.  It’s becoming a real time news echo chamber that helps me stay on top of the latest tech developments and trends.
Country Comfort Inn, Shepparton, Victoria

This is a shot of a hotel room I stayed in for two weeks that is still in the "hopper" waiting for a hotel room rant post that is coming.

#2 Raw Materials

Words are the foundation of all online content, but pictures and video constitute the paint, carpeting, furniture, etc…  Throughout the course of the day, I am mindful to be collecting pictures, screenshots, and video that may eventually be used in a post somewhere.

My BlackBerry Bold smartphone is absolutely indispensable as a raw material collection tool, as it is something I always carry and can take pictures and videos that are of perfectly acceptable quality for online use.

I use TechSmith’s SnagIt as a screen capture tool for grabbing screen shots of programs and web pages that may come in handy later on.  I also use Camtasia Studio for authoring and editing screen casts.

#3 Total Consciousness

Content collection needs to become a habit, which requires you perform the action at least 21 times.  Here are some tips to help ensure you remember:

  • Write down the habit you’re trying to establish and post it in as many places as possible.
  • Schedule your content collection ahead of time.  Obviously, you can’t really schedule something like this, but if you can put calendar appointments on your phone, then at least you are getting regular reminders that will help keep you in that frame of mind.
  • Reward yourself every time you come up with a new blog idea.
  • Concentrate on consistency rather than results.  In other words, don’t worry if the content you’re collecting is not of the quality level you’d like it to be.  The most important thing is to keep developing the habit and mindset, which will eventually become a habit that will result in more “aha” moments and better quality stuff.
Tools of the trade

My blogging tools of the trade

#4 Be Prepared

Assuming you fuel the content machine, collect the raw materials, and develop the proper habits, the last piece of the puzzle is being prepared to trap and keep that content.  I’ve settled on a system that relies on two tools; the voice recorder feature of my phone and a Moleskine notebook.

If you’re as scatter-brained as I am (and even if you’re not), then a voice recorder is a non-negotiable, must have tool.  I finally grew tired of ideas zipping in and out of my head as often as Tiger Woods… well, you get the idea.  I’d been telling myself for quite some time that I need to pick up one of those small voice recorder devices when it occurred to me that my BlackBerry had one built into it.  Now, I’m in the habit of carrying my phone everywhere, including some places that may be construed as a “too much information” moment, because you never can tell when your next blog idea will strike.  I had three in row occur to me when I was shaving the other day, and quickly dictated them to the phone’s voice recorder.

Eventually, the random thoughts and musings get transcribed off of the phone and into my blog notebook.  This notebook contains a diary of ideas for articles that is actually starting to grow quite fat.  I am gradually picking up the pace of my posts as a result of growing confidence that I’m not going to run out of content any time soon.  They key is to build up a healthy backlog of articles that can smooth the peaks and fill in the valleys.

These are just my ideas – let’s hear about your tips and tricks.  I’m not sure I’d recommend Dogbert’s approach:

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