Myth: Blogging will work as long as you’re awesome

A little after I started tweeting, when I still had about 75 followers and was convinced that Twitter was a complete puzzle of fluff that I’d never understand, I happened upon Mack Collier’s #blogchat. If you are not aware of #blogchat, it is one of the biggest chats in the world of Twitter. Twitter chats are great because with the simple use of a hashtag, you can talk to people in a group about one single topic. Blogchat, of course, focuses on all things blogging.

When I first started participating in the chat, I was entranced by how helpful and welcoming everyone was. I was shocked that so many ideas could float back and forth from peoples’ fingertips. If you are new to either Twitter or blogging, I still highly recommend that you give Blogchat a try.

All of that being said, I’ve become a bit disenchanted with #blogchat of late because of a back-and-forth that has become all too familiar. It goes something like this.

Person A: I love getting comments on my blog. It helps me build community, it helps me engage, and it helps me hone my content to what my growing community wants to read.

Person B: Comments are stupid. You can’t build a business based on comments. Get out of your fluffy unicorn-filled world.

Factually, as is the case in so many social media conversations, both people have a point. The difference is in objectives.

When you’re not blogging for business

A lot of people who are blogging are not blogging in order to make money, technically. For example, while I work for Clayman Advertising, I make no pretense that my blogging will put more money in the company’s pockets. I blog because I really enjoy conversing with people online, and if my blog is a way to make people aware of our company, that’s great. I hope that is happening, but this is not something that will lead directly to a sale, in most cases.

If you are blogging to raise awareness of yourself and your thoughts, or if you’re blogging for fun, or if you’re blogging because you want to have a place to vent your most heartfelt frustrations, creating awesome content that inspires people to comment is a great goal to have. There are numerous blog posts that can teach you how to get your audience revved up, how to create actionable content, how to help new bloggers, and more. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with this approach. It’s admirable, in fact, to want to create consistently great content that your growing community responds to (whether positively or negatively).

Blogging for your business

Here’s where the problems lie. If you are blogging because you want to increase sales, those anti-comment people are on to something.

We’ll come back to this again and again throughout this series, but here is a core nugget of truth. In the world of social media, numbers, those things that everyone lusts after and expresses envy over, really don’t mean much. Why? Well, let’s say I make a tiny tool that is used for precision machining. If most of my readers are either in the same exact business as me, or if a lot of my readers are people I met in a chat about my favorite soap opera, the chance of any of my comments leading to a sale is pretty slim, right? The same goes for the number of subscribers, the number of retweets I get, the number of Google +1s I get, etc. The amount of exposure becomes irrelevant for a business blog if the audience you’re getting exposed to is not going to ever buy from you.

As Marcus Sheridan wrote on his excellent site, “Community is NOT the holy grail of blogging and online success.” Why did Marcus say that? Because if you focus solely on engaging and comments and social media stuff, your blog simply will not pull in any additional sales. In fact, one might argue that if you are spending a lot of time trying to get more comments, your company might actually lose any sales it was gaining before you started your blogging efforts.

Awesome is also not the holy grail

Piggy-backing on what Marcus wrote, “being awesome” is also not a business plan. First of all, “awesome” is relative. For some people, “awesome” may mean content that is beautiful and poetic. For others, “awesome” may be something that kicks them in the butt and gets them moving. For others, “awesome” may be content that solves a problem. For a business blog, this latter category is most often going to equate to success. How can you solve your readers’ problems?

If you have the right audience, your content probably does not need to be the most eloquent ever. It does not need to use swear words, nor does it need to use 10-cent words. It just needs to make the case for your product or service. It needs to inform your target audience. For the world of social media as a whole, your content might appear to be about as boring and pointless as anything anyone has ever seen. You might not get a ton of comments or dozens of retweets. But if your content convinces a reader that they need to buy from you, you’ll get what a lot of other bloggers don’t get – money in your company’s bank account.

If you don’t mind me saying, to me, that sounds pretty awesome. What do you think?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/headlouse/1484615917/ via Creative Commons

14 comments
Sara F. Hawkins
Sara F. Hawkins

Plain and simple, talk won't keep the lights on. But if you take a hard sell, there will be no one left to talk. So there has to be a happy medium that gives people a reason to engage with the brand and others who are like themselves and enjoy the brand and sell that warehouse full of widgets. If it were a simple formula, we'd all be rich and have a ton of friends! But it's not simple, it's not one-size-fits-all. Some brands bring out the engagement in people, others not so much. Lots of people like to talk about their favorite cola and discuss all kinds of variations on it. You're not going to find that same kind of engagement, interaction and community with feminine hygiene. Because, really, even as grown women we pretend we're not buying it so why would we post publicly on social media?

It honestly doesn't matter how awesome you are if the product or service does not lend itself to a public platform. Some of the most un-awesome people have launched huge marketing successes. Blogging success sometimes works despite being awesome.

And really, if you were already awesome wouldn't you know whether blogging would or would not work? Hmmm?

josiecino
josiecino

Great post! I can't wait to test out #blogchat. I started my own blog about 4 months ago so this is def something I'd love to look into! :) Thanks for posting this.

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

I just started blogging this year and have a grandio se total of 3 posts to my name. I'm now in complete disarray after learning that I'm not awesome or that I won't have pockets full of cash from my blog. I'm sure you were able to navigate around my sarcasm and are starting to wonder what the point of this comment is about. I'm still trying to answer that question about my blog... and like this comment, I don't know yet. But I'm with you on one thing, the whole reason I'm here, I just like interacting with people. It's often an undervalued assey. And there's nothing wrong with me simply saying that I enjoy your writing and value your opinions, right?

TheJackB
TheJackB

Hi Margie,

The issue here is understand what your objectives are and what metrics are important. Sometimes community offers little but sometimes it offers far more than people give heed to.

Community helps to provide a framework that can be used to gain entry into speaking and writing gigs that might otherwise be nonexistent.

Community provides support, referrals and value that can't always be measured in immediate terms. I am not someone who believes that comments are currency but we need to be careful before we discount the value of our community.

Anne-Marie
Anne-Marie

Never in history has skill as a writer or having something vital to say assured that your writing's quality would be appreciated or earn you much money. Blogging won't be different. But without them, there's little hope. Asking the general public if it likes what you wrote isn't going to improve your writing or bring business. Cultivating a community that consists of your fellow blogger group and you visiting and chatting about things the new readers aren't able to follow isn't going to bring in new business. Whether you hope to bring in business indirectly from blogging or directly by monetizing your blog itself, find quality writing you can model and experts who can advise you and inspire and improve your writing, and produce either awesome art or something awesomely useful to the new reader.

susansilver
susansilver

Could not have said it better. I have become fond of saying that good content converts or reaches some goal you have. If it is business then you do a good job when somebody buys or you generate a lead.. You could be blogging about your wedding for family and friends. Then the goal is to keep everyone informed how things are progressing. There are numerous iterations out there. Few people start a blog anymore just to write. They want to achieve something as well. I try to keep that in mind whenever I write so I stay on track for my personal goals.

Anne-Marie
Anne-Marie

@deleted_2698155_BruceSallan1 Congrats to your son. Berklee is renowned in the contemporary music world, with innovative alumni like Al Di Meola and Pat Metheny. Your son must have awesome talent and be awesomely dedicated to his craft. May he soar.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

@TheJackB Quite true. But that is a nuance that doesn't come across very often in the online world. Many posts I read frame it as a quid pro quo, occasionally with the caveat that you might have to wait a few extra days before the money starts rolling in.

The way that many so-called experts dismiss the idea of having a plan before jumping in is symptomatic of *just* that kind of problem. Well, in my opinion anyway :)

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

@Anne-Marie well, I'm not 100% sure that's true. I think if you can frame your blog so that it answers the questions your target audience needs your help answering, it can go a long way in ensuring that you remain top of mind and their first choice when it comes to buying.

That being said, providing good content is certainly a way to get a foot in the door, regardless of what you are trying to do. The trick is to actually know where you want that foot in the door to lead you :)

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

@susansilver Thanks Susan. Yes, it's amazing what a little focus and a little planning can do :)

TheJackB
TheJackB

@margieclayman Nuance is something that a lot of people don't understand. The low barrier to entry in this world fools many people into thinking that anyone can make money here.

For a modest investment you can build a blog, populate it with content and banner ads that make it look like it is wildly successful. But you don't know what the story is behind those ads.

Are they part of a real ad buy and if so, what sort of model did they follow? Is it CPM, CPC, CPL or some sort of hybrid? Or did someone just pay a set amount so that they could own the space for a set amount of time.

I never have understood why more people don't recognize that many of the same principles/factors that apply in real life apply here too.