As Atomic’s marketing director, one question I’m most often asked is how we get our employees to write for a daily blog. In this (meta) blog post series, I’ll answer that and other questions related to blogging in case it helps your company try out an employee-driven content strategy.
First things first:
What is Atomic Spin?
Atomic Spin is a blog for software craftspeople written by software craftspeople—you’re on it right now! As far as we can tell, Spin’s rarity is that it’s run as an independent resource that has been publishing content to help software makers for the last 16 years. For the past several years, we’ve published an original blog post every day of the week.
While the blog does, in part, exist to build Atomic Object’s reputation as a place filled with smart, helpful, and communicative software consultants, Atomic receives no direct compensation for Spin via sponsorship, guest posting, advertising, or back-linking.
So far, the blog has published 4,400 articles by more than 200 authors — all employees of the company.
Why do you bother blogging?
Our founder Carl Erickson and marketer Lisa Tjapkes started Spin way back in the late aughts as a way to show the caliber of thoughtful, creative, and curious people we have working here. Spin covers a broad range of topics related to software, company news, and professional development. We mean for these posts to add value to the stakeholders our brand holds dear: chiefly, software makers and people who need to hire software makers.
Though we started humbly, we got the flywheel moving. After a slow organic buildup, we receive millions of visits to the site every year. Since its inception, the blog has attracted more than 15 million unique visitors.
Traffic is only a vanity metric, though; it’s a side effect of the real value of the blog. Here are all the reasons blogging is worth it for us:
We have no storefront, free samples, or test runs. That’s what blogging is for us.
Many of our prospective clients mention that they’ve read Spin, or that someone on their team has. Oftentimes, the people tasked with hiring a company like ours aren’t technical experts. So they ask their technical expert friend and colleagues for recommendations. They are skeptical people who know and respect AO through the blog.
We have a separate marketing website from our blog site, but Spin is on a subdomain of atomicobject.com. Because of the way the two sites are related, Spin supports the search engine optimization of our main website. After years and years of blogging, Google’s algorithm has decided we are bonafide experts in the field of software. This is in large part because thousands of domains link to our blog content as a helpful resource.
Additionally, Spin generates direct traffic to our marketing site via referrals. The blog represents, by far, the greatest source of referral traffic to atomicobject.com.
Atomic Accelerator graduate Patrick Pale was a computer science student at Michigan State pondering his next career step. When he saw a print collection of Spin posts written by Accelerator members about all they were learning through the program, he realized he wanted to work at Atomic.
Another prospective Atom specifically mentioned a post written by Mattie Behrens about coming out at work as a sign they would feel safe to express their gender and sexual identity at their future workplace. Software makers can be a wary bunch, and the credibility of their future coworkers carries more water than recruiting boilerplate.
Atoms are consultants, and that’s as much about communication as anything else. By designing writing for Spin into the job, we’re asking Atoms to hone their communication skills through empathetic, clear, and focused writing. This is a huge professional differentiator for software developers, designers, and delivery leads.
Spin allows makers to build a backlog of content each can be proud of. Once they get the hang of it, it’s a great ideas playground for future conference talk submissions.
Out-Marketing the Marketers
People sometimes ask marketers why we aren’t the ones shouldering the content marketing responsibility alone. To that, we say: Atomic sells expertise.
Atomic paying Atoms to share that expertise for free with people it helps is the best marketing we can think to put out there. Unfortunately, our marketing team doesn’t have the knowledge or time to write daily technical posts about building software, so spreading this task among all employees shares the pain and delivers more value to clients.
Many companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to take out social media ads or send people to trade shows to try to gin up work. We invest this money instead in paying our own employees to share their knowledge.
After all, who better to write helpful technical articles than someone who spends a career running into, and getting around, technical challenges?
The Whimsical Knock-on Effects of Posting Good Stuff On The Internet
Finally, my favorite thing about Atomic supporting Spin is that we get feedback from the world on our ideas. Sometimes, a post goes viral on Hacker News, and we hear from our friends that they say it on the HN front page. Other times, we’ll come to find that a Swiss researcher has cited a Spin post in their academic journal article. Sometimes we’re a Wikipedia reference.
We even have a Slack channel dedicated to this delightfully random smorgasbord of Spin’s second life in our company Workplace.
Let’s get into the details next time.
Now that we’ve established the rationale for undertaking Spin, in a future post, I’ll cover these questions I hear regularly about the nitty gritty that goes into the publication process.
- How did you get started?
- How much does it cost? Are people paid to write?
- Who writes for Spin? Does everyone who works at Atomic have to write for it?
- How do writers know when to write a post?
- Do you tell the writers what to write about?
- Has it been worth it?