Expert roundup posts have become more than just trendy. Let’s clear up some of the biggest myths about them.
It was not that long ago that a “roundup” blog post meant a collection of the most interesting posts on a topic that had appeared in the past week, month or year. Sometimes these were posts from around the Web. Sometimes, especially for annual roundups, it would be the best or most popular posts that had appeared on that blog: “My top posts of 2015!”
These days, you rarely hear the word “roundup” without the word “expert” in front of it. These expert roundups typically feature a large number of people responding to one or two questions, and all their responses are published verbatim.
Advantages of expert roundups
There are some undeniable advantages to publishing expert roundups:
- If you quote 50 people, all with a social media following, you have 50 influencers with a vested interest in promoting your post.
- 50 participants means 50 perspectives, giving readers more options.
- You don’t have to come up with all the ideas, just the basic premise of the post.
- This is a great way to network with 50 influencers in your niche.
But there are also a number of myths surrounding expert roundups, so let’s clear the air on seven of them.
MYTH #1: Others do all the work for you.
The top myth I have come across is that expert roundups are the lazy way to write a blog post: “It’s so easy, because others do all the writing for you.”
While it is true that you get 20 or 50 or 100 people to do all the writing for free, but you have to coordinate it all, and that is not so easy. For starters, here are some of the steps that are typically required in every expert roundup:
- Come up with a topic and a good question or two.
- Identify whom to invite.
- Collect email addresses or other means of contacting each one, which I find is the most work.
- Compose an email.
- Send email or message to each one.
- Respond to questions any invitees might have.
- Keep track of each answer or input as it comes in.
- If you have asked for a photo, keep track of the photos.
- Keep track of who has and who has not responded.
- Follow up individually with each invitee who had not responded.
- Write an introduction.
- Assemble the post, with each name, affiliation, photo, link and input.
- Proofread and/or edit.
- Create at least one nice image for the post.
That’s just to prepare the post for publishing. That does not get into the extra job of encouraging each of the participants to promote the post. Nor does it get into the job of tagging all the participants when you share it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Tsu, Twitter or Google Plus.
All the communication involved can often take longer than just writing the post yourself.
And with so many people and so many details with each one, you can expect there to be errors to correct. Philip Ariel, a bilingual blogger from India, recounts how the input of two participants had accidentally gotten switched: “In my recent roundup post on the best and worst things about blogging journeys, a good friend of mine noticed one such incident immediately after I posted it. He immediately alerted me, and to my surprise a famous person’s blurb interlinked to another person’s name. I fixed it immediately. This may happen when we deal with many write-ups at one go.”
Myth #2: You need at least 50 participants.
The fashion these days is to publish long roundups with over 50 participants, sometimes even over 100. We should have seen it coming, since there seems to be an arms race going on over blog post length in general.
The logic, for expert roundups, goes something like this: If 50 participants means 50 people promoting the post, 150 participants means 150 people promoting the post. If Joe Shmoe has 50 people in his roundup, I can outrank him in the search engines by inviting 150. If 50 participants makes “the ultimate guide” on something, 150 participants means “the ultimater guide” (at least until somebody invites 250 people to their ultimatest expert roundup).
Just to put things in perspective, I invited five people to participate in this expert roundup that you are reading now (that’s what this is, I suppose, having invited seven experts to provide input). And one of my most successful posts was where I asked four writers I knew about what habits make them awesome writers. There is no rule about how long a blog post should be, nor about how many participants it take to make the ideal expert roundup post.
Myth #3: Expert roundups are hard work because you have to coordinate so many contributors
This is a common myth that keeps some people from jumping into the expert roundup game. Much of the work is in direct proportion to the number of people you need to contact and coordinate. Codrut Turcanu, who has probably coordinated more expert roundups than anybody I know, says that many people he has spoken with believe that real experts are hard to find online. He doesn’t seem to have a problem locating experts, but if you limit participation to just a few people, as I do, you can reduce the amount of work and the likelihood of errors at the same time.
Another step you can take, if you are open to walk-in participants, is to use MyBlogU to gather replies. I did not use MyBlogU for this post, because I had specific people in mind, but I did seek input on other articles, such as this one on blogger and writer health tips, and I have participated in several MyBlogU expert roundups, such as what to do when you have too many writing ideas and how to create quality content.
Some bloggers like to feature the headshots or avatars of the participants. I prefer not to, as I like to incorporate the answers into the post itself. This is actually more work than just cutting and pasting the responses, but I find the post has a better flow. Nevertheless, not all expert roundups feature images of the participants, so you can reduce your workload by leaving these out. Would you lose some of the benefits this way? I am not sure. If anybody has experience with this, please leave them in the comments below.
Myth#4: Expert roundups fetch more comments.
You would think that with 50 participants, you would get more comments. At very least, most participants would comment, right? Philip Ariel reports otherwise. He says that his roundup posts always create more traffic, but that more comments do not follow. “In my experience this is indeed a myth. A regular post, if it is one that is really worth reading, will fetch more comments than a roundup post.”
My observation is that some participants will drop a “thank you for including me” comment on the post, but they are more likely to leave the comment somewhere on social media.
Myth#5: Experts are too busy to participate in your roundups
Luana Spinetti says she was afraid that several intended participants would be too busy to participate in her roundup post on improving display ad conversions. “It’s a huge fear, one that I face every time, but that has proven unfounded. Experts are happy to get a chance to spread the word about what they do, so they will most likely take up the opportunity as soon as you throw it at them.” And for the shy types, she points out that there are always platforms like MyBlogU and HARO.
Jimmy Rodela, freelance writer and founder of GuildofBloggers.com, has come across a similar worry, that experts won’t respond to somebody who is “a nobody online”. But in his experience, that is 95 percent false. The key is to make it clear how they will benefit by participating. “Even if you are a nobody online, if you’ll tell your target influencer that they will get a brand new car should they decide to join your round up, there’s a HUGE chance that they’ll join, right?” While your reputation can get their attention (or get you ignored), what you have to offer and how the influencer will benefit will make or break your pitch.
Myth#6: It is a waste of time to participate in expert roundups
Tom Treanor and I were involved in a discussion in a Skype chat room recently, where some people were questioning the value of participating in expert roundups. The sentiment expressed by some people was that a blogger was cold-calling them, asking for free content. Their impression was that it was a one-sided deal, and definitely not worthwhile unless the host blog was popular.
Tom and I both disagreed with this approach. As Tom put it, “Expert round-ups can be very beneficial to you in terms of getting visibility, credibility and traffic back to your site. The key is to have an answer that stands out and that gets featured in the post (early, if possible, as I was at this CIO post).”
He pointed out that being seen with other influencers, as in this post at UKlinkology, has its own rewards, as long as the blog has a minimum level of professionalism, traffic and social shares.
Myth #7: Expert roundups have to be a blog posts
Some people might feel that expert roundup blog posts have been overdone, but they could just use their imagination to present them in fresh ways. For instance, you could ask everybody to send in a video clip, and you could splice together an expert roundup video.
Similarly, you can put the responses together in a slide show, such as the one Wrike put together on building a company culture in a start-up.
Have you come across any other myths about expert roundups? You are invited to share your experiences in the comments below.