Recently, Chris Bailey (aka the “A Year of Productivity” guy at http://ayearofproductivity.com/, @wigglechicken, Sprott Legend) spoke to my class about his year of productivity project. What happened next will amaze you.
After discussing his story, talking about his project (which you can read about more from the link above), and showing us how he monitored and measured his impact analytically, he offered us seven tips for becoming a successful blogger, like he has become. While most of the class is filled with amateur bloggers who likely won’t go into blogging full time (I’m at the front of that line), his tips were still a helpful teaching tool on how to become a better blogger:
1. Make stuff worth sharing. This is the first point because it is obviously the most important. Nobody will read your blog if it isn’t worth sharing. Content worth sharing is content worth reading; content that moved somebody to think “I enjoyed this enough that I want my friends to enjoy it as well”. When making share-worthy content, it’s important to remember:
- Keep it focused. If you’re a Taylor Swift blogger, post stuff about Taylor Swift. If you’re a beauty blogger, post beauty tips and information about cosmetics and product reviews. While you can deviate from your usual post type every now and again (maybe to share a personal story?), it’s important to keep your blog on topic. Nobody is reading your blog reviewing every episode of The Walking Dead in hopes that you’ll sneak in your review of Gone Girl in there.
- Post for them, not for you. The New Yorker’s cartoons were once lampooned as being out-of-touch, only for the upper-upper class of Manhattan. Realizing that they weren’t connecting with their readers, they created a caption contest, which has received millions of submission since its inauguration. The New Yorker learned not to post for themselves (that is, publishing cartoons that were high-brown and sophisticated, leaving only the elitist segment of intellectuals to understand the cartoons) but to really focus in on the audience. They could have published the exact same cartoons as before, but remove the caption, and instead have readers submit captions. This incited the average reader to participate; maybe one day they could have their name in The New Yorker! Content that you post have to be appreciated by the reader, not the publisher, to make any difference in the world.
- Don’t forget to post. Viral videos are an extremely popular way of generating mass exposure, but you can’t just make something go viral. More important than trying to generate lots of buzz towards one particular post, an author should focus on their continuity, making sure to post regularly. If you have a regular publishing schedule (like a comic strip that appears in the paper every day, a t.v. show that airs every Thursday night, or a podcast you record monthly), your viewership is anticipating their next morning, next Thursday night, or next end-of-month podcast. If you can’t think of a drawing for that day, are taking a 1-week hiatus because of production delays, or can’t get the gang together to record the podcast, viewers will be upset that you didn’t stick to your schedule and now have to wait another day, week, or month to get your content.
2. Have a strategy – don’t wing it. Blogs that are successful have planned ahead. Starting a blog with the *strategy* of “I’m going to write a blog about my life and post every week” is a pretty good way to write three blog posts then give up. Bloggers need an actual strategy of what kinds of posts they’ll make, how often, directed at who, covering what topic, etc. While it isn’t exactly a blog, the podcast Serial is one of the best planned podcast I’ve ever listened to. The intricate story they have woven throughout the season, which covers a real life murder case. (If you haven’t listened to Serial, stop reading this blog and go waste most of your day: http://serialpodcast.org/) A well planned blog will keep viewers interested, the same way that a well planned podcast, t.v. show, or movie will. While the latter three maybe be a lot more twisty and turny than your blog is, they involved a large degree of pre-thought so that they could be successful.
3. Social media has a low CTR. Timing is key. No matter how good your content is, most people will skip over it without care. Because social media has a low click-through rate (links clicked v impressions), it’s important to post your content at the right times, when the majority of your audience will see it. A lot more people at active on social media at 4pm, the end of a work day, than 4am, when they’re getting their last few seconds of sleep. If your links have a 3% CTR, you can get a lot more link visits by posting at 4pm (when you would get, say, 1000 impressions x 3% CTR = 30 visits) than if you posted at 4am (say, 100 impressions x 3% CTR = 3 visits). But wait, Kev, you say, I have an international audience. It’s always 4am for some of my readers when it’s 4pm for other readers. Well then, you should remember:
4. Target different timezones (& difference audiences). Since there’s a good chance your viewership isn’t centralized to one timezone, it’s a good idea to target multiple timezones (every as far as east coast Canada to the west coast). And rather than re-posting content five hours later to reach a new audience, you can use “ICYMI” (in case you missed it) and then repost your content. That way, viewers who already saw it won’t be annoyed at a double post, but new viewers can still appreciate the content.
5. Social media is free, but it’s still very costly. While very few social media platforms cost anything to use, there are still risks associated with social media. If you have any employees, you cannot control what they do on social media, and there’s always a chance they will make a PR mistake on the corporate account (like getting into a fight with a reader) or on their own personal account (like asking women if he can take pictures of them naked http://deadsp.in/1tJguYR). These employee mistakes can be very costly for your brand, as it will reflect a negative light on you, the employer. But if you are just a single blogger, there are still risks. Sharing content that gets no engagement is worse than not sharing the content, because it shows that nobody cared enough to even like or retweet that post. When a new potential follower find your blog, you don’t want their first impression to be “wow, nobody has liked any of their most recent five posts, and there’s never been a comment on a single blog post”. Viewers with that reaction will take a hard pass to your blog.
6. Always build up your platform. (Without being a d-bag.) Trying to bring attention to your blog is obviously okay, you want people to see how much hard work you’ve put into it! Shameless self promoting is not okay. Most people don’t know any other way than to post every single blog post they’ve written on their own personal Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and YouTube channels, but your audience will get sick of your self-promos very fast. There are friendlier way to try and find new readers. Commenting on a similar blog is a good way, and you can even refer back to your own blog in the comment. Other commenters clearly already enjoy the topic, and maybe the author of the blog will see your post and check out your blog (or you can ask them directly to do so). Using sharing sites such as Stumble Upon and Reddit is another way to get new viewers interested in your blog, because those users already have specified interests – you just have to insert your content. And if you’re really lazy (or really rich), you can always pay to promote your blog on many social media sites.
7. Be human. A very simple but forgotten part of writing is to connect with your audience, just by being yourself. Readers are often more inclined to come back to your blog if you’ve made a personal connection with them – even if that just means telling a quick story about your personal life. My personal writing style is to write like I’m talking to somebody. Some writing can just come off as distanced; it’s as boring as reading a newspaper or encyclopedia. Blogging should be a more personal, connecting medium that your readers look forward to. It’s not so much reading an interesting article as it is talking with a friend about an interesting idea.
Now with those tips in mind, go on out there and get blogging!
A few sources:
Chris Bailey’s lecture slides