A Blog is Exactly What We Wish It to Be
When I first started blogging “seriously”, it was a continuation of a public relations blog that I had, back in my early solo consultancy days.
The goal was simple – to share thoughts and ideas on social media and where that fit in the business world.
For the first six months or so, I was probably way too myopic for my own good – everything was based around social media in the purest form: Don’t do this; be like that; it’s all about the conversation, blah blah blah.
And you know, perhaps at that time it was okay to write about things that way. But everything’s fluid – we need to keep moving. Staying in the same place leads to boredom and stunted knowledge.
Looking back, I probably listened to and read too many kumbaya social media blog posts and bought into the mantra.
I come from a traditional marketing and communications background, where everything is set in stone and the relationship to the sale is a true and trusted path.
Yet this path doesn’t allow for too much veering off to try new things, so seeing the risks people were taking (or appearing to take) in social media was a bit liberating.
However, it soon became apparent that these risks weren’t truly born with any business acumen – it was more from a “I’m pretty popular with this stuff I’m saying and I’m just making shit up – maybe I’ll keep this up a while!”
Once that realization kicked in, the tone of my blog changed quite a bit and I was determined to make my little part of the web one that’s always evolving, and letting its vision, voice, whatever you want to call it, be shaped by the readers and commenters as much as it was by me.
Thankfully, that’s worked so far.
Being Wrong is Okay
Most people hate to be wrong. Most people hate to admit they’re wrong even more. For many people, admitting you’re wrong is a sign of weakness.
And if you’re a blogger and you admit you’re wrong, then why should the community you’ve built up hang around?
Yet it’s okay to be wrong.
In fact, we need to be wrong more and celebrate that fact – because it’s the only way we grow.
I’ve written posts where I’ve been cocksure in my belief that the opinion stated in it is the right one. Heck, perhaps the only one. But, of course, that’s bullcrap.
None of us have all the answers. Hell, very few of us have a decent amount of answers when it comes to most things.
So why do we feel we should be right the majority of the time when it comes to our opinions?
The biggest learnings I’ve taken from my own blog is when someone comments on a post and completely blows my point of view out the water, whether from their opinion or from backing it up with facts and statistics.
Does it make me look an idiot? Sometimes. But ignoring the better opinion or statement when it’s right there in front of you and everyone else that reads the post is more idiotic.
If we truly want to grow as people, whether personally or professionally, we need to be open to other points of view. If we’re putting our thoughts out for the world to see, we really need to be open to other points of view.
Otherwise, why even share in the first place?
The Fallacy of Numbers
We get so wrapped up in numbers at times.
At Christmas, we want more presents than we got the year before – same goes for birthdays.
In high school, we want to lose our virginity at a younger age than our friends (and then have more girlfriends/boyfriends than them). At work, we want to get bigger raises and more recognition than our colleagues.
And yet, numbers are so superficial.
Sure, they may make us feel better and enable us to have a better “life”, but that depends on your definition of what a better life is (for me, it’s being able to spend evening and weekend time with my wife and kids).
When I first got serious about blogging, I was so wrapped up in checking the numbers that everyone says matters – new subscribers, new social shares, unsubscribers, comment count, etc.
And, sure, I still afford a little smile when a new subscriber joins, since that offers an opportunity to get to know them in the comments and see what makes them tick.
But this concentration on numbers hurts us. Just as chasing more presents at Christmas turns us into spoiled brats, so does chasing blog numbers turn us into the blogger we don’t want to be.
- We start writing generic list posts, just to try and hit that viral social share gold.
- We stop being opinionated and lose the voice that attracted readers in the first place.
- We write linkbait and ass-kissing posts so the highlighted folks will come by, say we’re great, share and then maybe, just maybe, invite you to their next conference.
Do we really want to be that blogger? Is that why we started in the first place, and continue when others stop?
By all means, care about how your content is perceived – but don’t let the numbers rule you.
Now when I get email alerts that tell me someone has unsubscribed and they offer the reason why, it simply tells me we’re not a good fit anymore and they’d be better catered to elsewhere.
And that’s okay, and the way it should be.
A Blog is Just a Blog
We hear so many people (and I’ve been guilty of this) telling us what we should do when it comes to our blog. “Build your list!”; “Cover it with ads!”; “Sell shit!”. And, yes, we can do all that.
But we don’t have to.The great thing about a blog is that we control what it is and what it does for usClick To Tweet
As I mentioned earlier, blogging has taught me that being wrong is okay. It’s also (I believe – feel free to disagree!) made me a much better writer and thinker than I was six years ago.
Simply put, blogging has enabled me some wonderful opportunities, for which I’m eternally grateful.
It’s allowed me to meet some of the funniest, smartest, humblest, caring and downright awesome people, either in the comments, discussions around the web, or at speaking events I’ve been invited to because someone was kind enough to read something here and ask me to come out and speak.
But, at the end of the day, a blog is just a blog.
Don’t let anyone tell you your blog needs to be about this, or you need to do that, to make it a success.
I know people who don’t give a crap if their blog is read or not – it’s an escape valve for their innermost thoughts and fears, and just getting it out of their system into something physical makes their lives easier.
A blog is what we wish it to be – and every choice is the right one, for us. It can be world-changing globally; it can be world-changing personally.
And isn’t that all that really matters at the end of the day?
Amy Wright August 17, 2015 at 9:59 am
What a great read on a Monday morning – thank’s for the inspiration, Danny!
Danny Brown August 17, 2015 at 10:14 am
Hey there Amy,
Thank you, and glad the piece resonated – here’s to a great week ahead!
mark longbottom August 17, 2015 at 10:02 am
…. that is what totally matters and yep a blog is just a blog like football/soccer isn’t more important than life regardless of what Bill Shankley [a Scottish football manager] said….
Sport is sport and blogs are blogs and there is life outside of them otherwise there is no content, I have to say Danny you have got me reading two blogs now, maybe I’ll read a few more but to be honest so many don’t inspire.
Simply because they have too often been written for the wrong reason, to gain rather than share thoughts and experiences.
Still not got mine out there although this week may see a change, then someone suggested I made sure I had my blogging calendar mapped out for 3 to 6 months I think.
Yeah right, nice idea but for me I need to speak when I feel like it not when the calendar tells me there needs to be content. I might be wrong but like you say that’s ok.
Best of all the words should grab people to make them……….join in.
Danny Brown August 17, 2015 at 10:21 am
Who told you that about a content calendar? By all means, if you’re a business and using the blog as a content/consumer piece, then having an idea of what’s coming down the line, and who’ll be targeted by that content, makes sense.
But come on – a six month lead on personal blogging? Was your friend drinking? 😉
And cheers for the Bill Shankly reference – one of my favourite managers, although his “football is a matter of life and death” quote perhaps isn’t one of his best (even though he’d probably disagree, if he was still alive).
mark longbottom August 17, 2015 at 11:03 am
My thoughts too on the calendar, even the business one have a loose framework that can be added to or have things taken off. Any form of straight jacket just puts me off lol. Oh yes and Shankly cut his teeth with my home town team Huddersfield, my dad used to see him wandering around and practicing on public playing fields with Dennis Law
Krithika Rangaraan August 17, 2015 at 2:02 pm
Every day, I work towards giving up my need to be RIGHT in favor of being compassionate and open-minded.
Your story is immensely inspiring, Danny!
I have noticed that my words seem to resonate with ME whenever I give up the need to please.
In an Indian movie about dancing, one of the dance teachers said something that applies to every artform: Dance to EXPRESS, NOT to impress.
Your initiative is encouraging us all to liberate our scariest dreams and most frustrating fears – your commitment to being vulnerable moves our hearts – thank you!
Danny Brown August 17, 2015 at 2:40 pm
Hey there Kit,
I recall seeing my first Bollywood movie and I was hooked! I didn’t understand a word (the TV station I was watching forego the idea of subtitles), but that was OK, because the movement and mood said all that was needed to know.
And, yes, the expression (no pun intended) “Dance to express” is so true – where else but music can we truly close our eyes and lose ourselves and, by doing so, be ourselves?
Here’s to more of that!
mark longbottom August 17, 2015 at 4:51 pm
Dance to express says it all, I was talking with an artist earlier today about the need to create first for yourself, how else can it truly be creative of we are considering the audience opinion? This is not a bad thing and the only way as a race we can develop culturally through experiment.
Writing is a creative process and should be allowed to ebb, flow and annoy us like all forms of art and creativity.
Not sure what that sounds like but it’s meant as a simple suggestion to go do it rather than be put off by people who assume to know what they are doing and want to control what others do.
There are no rules in creativity other than the ones we create for ourselves, there’s my two pennorth on expression
Judy Lee Dunn August 18, 2015 at 10:33 am
Your last sentence is true. But it is so ironic (at least from my experience) that when we create for ourselves first, the passion comes through and we have created something worthwhile/moving/inspiring for our readers, too. This has played out time and again in my life.
Mark Longbottom August 18, 2015 at 12:13 pm
Totally agree Judy, it happens in most forms if not all forms of creativity. Not that everyone should like everything but it will touch people far more than something worked out for them first. Nothing wrong with understanding your audience but they shouldn’t dictate your creativity.
Mark-John Clifford August 18, 2015 at 2:46 pm
Great post and an eye opener as always. As for blogging when I first started, I never cared about who was reading or following. It just didn’t matter because I was just looking to empty my brain and heart.
Then I started listening to all of these so called pros who talked about social media, numbers, read versus views and all of that crap. Changed my entire perspective about blogging. I went from loving blogging to hating it because I needed to make the numbers work.
Then came adsense and whether to use it or not? Not enough followers don’t use it. Not enough readers don’t use it. What the hell is it about numbers?
I was a numbers guy for years. I worked on Wall Street and my life and writings were numbers every day. Then I retired started blogging and numbers went out the door and I loved it.
Then numbers came back into my world and I regretted the day I started blogging, but I still had so much to say. I didn’t want to tell people the best way to make money or the only way to live. I didn’t want to write about the 20 best habits of a successful person.
I wanted to write about life. I wanted to write about what I felt good about. If no one read it or liked it so what, I still liked it and that was important.
I didn’t want to care about numbers or whether my opinion was right or wrong. It was my opinion and that was that. If I was wrong to others I was still right to me.
So now I am back at writing what I want to write about. I am writing for me and anyone who wants to read me. No matter what screw the numbers and set sail into the wind. Numbers are boring and change your style.
It’s like wearing or not wearing underwear I guess.
Danny Brown August 18, 2015 at 2:56 pm
Hey there mate,
This line really stands out for me:
“I went from loving blogging to hating it because I needed to make the numbers work.”
Isn’t it sad that the thing(s) we love the most are tainted for us by how others (supposedly more experienced) say they should be? Just because someone has X amount of subscribers, and he/she reached that in a year, why should that be the target that we aspire to?
What I’ve found in the last 12 months or so is many of these bloggers that hit their heyday around 2008 – 2011 (when social media really put some folks on a raised platform) are still using the same advice today they were dishing out back then.
That’s all well and good if that’s your thing, but personally I don’t see a lot of relevance in a blogger saying you need to be on Google+ for community, when your real audience actually prefers to be on Quora, filling their inquiry baskets with really good information.
Like you say, at the end of the day, be proud and happy of what you’ve created. Be proud and happy in the knowledge that even if not one single person consumed that content but you, it’d still be enjoyed.
That, for me, is what pure blogging is all about, and is far more rewarding than the chase for shiny numbers.
Mark Longbottom August 18, 2015 at 3:10 pm
Wonderful insights not into blogging as that’s just a side product of life but of people interacting, the one thing many in business will never understand as they are after the numbers nobody else cares about. There’s loads more to this but it’s late and life must go on, I always and will always advise people where online internet, social media call it what you ill activity is concerned that there is one number that’s important and it’s just that the number 1.
All we need to look at is 1 at a time, whether likes, comments, followers or otherwise. If we get one at a time we grow naturally, some fall off some more jump on board because they want to not because they’re told to.
It’s life that’s all, not a game not something to be worked on but something to live and like my dad told me you must listen to the beggar as well as the rich person because they all have something we can learn.
Danny Brown August 18, 2015 at 4:06 pm
Perfectly stated, mate. To add to your point, even if it always remains just one person commenting, or reading, or sharing – for that one person, you’ve made a difference in their life. Why should that be classed a “failure”…?
mark longbottom August 18, 2015 at 5:55 pm
the strongest communities grow one person at a time and even if there are only two people who’s to say if it’s right or wrong it’s here and now and that’s all we have
Mark-John Clifford August 18, 2015 at 3:13 pm
The thing is once I started blogging for myself again it all made sense. It all came back to me, the feelings of contentment in getting my words down on paper.
I didn’t care about the numbers I just wanted to write. Even my opinions I considered to be pure blogging. I wrote an opinion about a current news story that I felt important, but the words coming from me were pure and the content was pure. It wasn’t content looking for numbers. “I didn’t give a hoot about key words. I cared about my words.”
Now it’s all good. No matter what I write about I go with that intent. Pure blogging on all content no matter what I am writing about. If that isn’t good enough for others oh well, I know it’s good enough for me.
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