Thursday, December 12, 2013

Persisting with a blog, part II: Payoffs that help you persist

In The payoffs for persisting with a blog, part I, I detailed some of the benefits I get for my business--real returns on the investment--from maintaining two blogs. Today, I want to consider another set of payoffs, those that help me generate the content that powers my blogging. Many of these have come only with time, so persisting with my blogs has helped them happen, and they return the favor. This time, I'll focus on examples from my blog on women and public speaking, The Eloquent Woman:
  1. A particular focus: Sometimes, success in blogging has as much to do with what you leave out as what you put in. When you start a blog, you'll hear inner and outer voices asking why you don't cover a wider swath of subject matter, and there may be a sinking sense that you'll run out of material. Don't listen. Instead, focus on a narrow path and cover it like a blanket. Because The Eloquent Woman has a special focus on women and public speaking, I can choose to ignore some public speaking topics or speeches that everyone else is covering, in favor of the particular theme I want to explore. I tested both readership for this topic as well as its long legs by piloting what would become The Eloquent Woman on this very blog first, then spinning it off as its own entity. The blog's focus is a huge creative payoff, one that keeps giving me inspiration.
  2. Scarcity: One of the qualities of that particular focus, if you really want to succeed, lies in the scarcity of your topic. When I started blogging on women and public speaking, it was tough to find other blogs covering the topic, even occasionally. 
  3. Audience: One thing that isn't scarce is my audience. I was coaching women who told me of issues with public speaking I'd never heard from men, and that got me exploring. Sure enough, there were more like them. Not only is focusing on women a smart tactic, but plenty of men read the blog alongside them, a win-win for everyone.
  4. My questions to readers: One way I use my social channels on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter is to ask questions of readers of The Eloquent Woman. I ask for tips, ideas, leads, issues they are facing and more. If enough readers respond (about which more below), I've got an almost-instant blog post. Readers love reading advice from other readers.
  5. Reader questions to me: Readers also love reading questions from other readers, along with my answers. I know that any time a reader asks a question, there are hundreds more like her who want to know the same answer. Now, instead of responding directly to a reader, I'll put the answer in a blog post most of the time, so all may benefit. This is not just a boon to the blogger and the reader, but it's smart search-engine optimization, particularly when your post title is framed as the actual reader's question--since that's the type of phrase others enter when doing searches.
  6. Reader finds: Periodically, I post information--on social channels or on the blog itself--about what I'm looking for, or simply letting readers know I want their suggestions. It never fails to generate sources for posts. I get articles, pointers to famous speeches and sometimes, extras like translations of a speech or perspective on an event. This is my favorite kind of reader engagement, and a goldmine for keeping the blog going.
  7. A cultivated network of colleagues: Every specialty blogger eventually gets followed by competitors and colleagues doing the same work. How and whether you do anything with those specialized followers can make a difference in helping your blog to persist. Through The Eloquent Woman, I've come to know speaker coaches and speechwriters on every continent but the poles, and have met many of them in person, a process eased by our social media conversations in advance. Many of them have contributed guest posts, asked questions, shared pointers and ideas, and compared notes with me, a process that also fuels my creativity. And they're generous sharers of and commenters on my work. Let's call them uber-readers.
  8. Some automated solutions and string-saving notebooks: I've written before about how bloggers can play with IFTTT, Evernote and other tools to build a content stash. My rule of thumb is relying on services like IFTTT and Evernote, which both are compatible with scores of other applications, making string-collecting easy. If you see it on the blogs, the likelihood is high that it came out of my notebook stash.
You'll notice this list doesn't rely a lot on reader comments. Someone asked me recently whether it bothers me when I post a question and no one responds, which is often the case. What I've found is that my readers like to "comment" directly to me, in DMs, emails and other forums, so I make sure my ear is to the ground where they are. In that scenario, questions I pose to readers in a post are designed to prompt their thinking, and to let them know I'm open to hearing from them--I don't care where they respond. Not obsessing about a metric like number of comments makes sense when you consider that my readers are sending me speeches, offering ideas, translating speeches, writing guest posts, sharing posts and giving the blog shout-outs on social media. That's what I call engagement.

No comments: