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Everyone can start a blog. Go to WordPress.com, sign up, start writing. Ta-da, you are now a blogger. But what are you going to write about that others actually want to read? What’s your blogging passion and does it align with something others are actually interested in reading about?
Of course, every site starts with the same stats: There are no views, no visitors. Nobody knows you constructed your stage and have started talking.
Once posts are published, those stats will increase. Hey, at the very least, your immediate family and friends will check it out. Maybe just once, depending on what the topic is.
We know that traffic continues to rise when content is useful, interesting and/or educational. It can even be a combination of two or all three of these pieces.
People read what’s useful to them:
- Here’s a piece of news on an update to an app that the reader uses.
And what’s interesting:
- Sometimes we just want to be entertained. Think about some of the books we have read for years or TV shows we’ve watched for seasons. Some are just for pure entertainment. They aren’t particularly useful or educational (some are fiction even). But the content is interesting (aka entertaining.)
- Think of the Internet “personalities” that have millions of views on their YouTube channels. Some share things that are entertaining to some – not all – audiences.
And also what’s educational:
- What do many of us do when we need an answer to something? We go to Google and search for it. Quick story: Kim Lear spoke at the Next Gen Summit in Iowa’s Creative Corridor in 2013. She asked the audience at one point: “How did the six-year-old find out that Santa Claus didn’t exist? … She googled it. It’s a true story.”
- Online people look for content that answers questions that they or somebody they know has.
Finding your blogging passion
Ultimately, blogging and other digital engagement is and should be about the sharing of information. Information that is relevant to a group of people. That group of people can be small or large. Audiences for some topics are rather small, but if they are very passionate that might be OK. As Seth Godin has said before: The size needed to reach critical mass is much smaller than it used to be.
Some things to consider as you are thinking about what your passion might be:
- What do you catch yourself talking about (a lot)? If you have a lot of thoughts or opinions this topic might be your passion and potentially could become a blog. I say potentially because just because we have opinions about one thing or another doesn’t mean we should share them on a blog.
- What’s your expertise? What do you know a lot about? For example, I used to work as a journalist and my career has focused on sharing meaningful stories. That’s how this site and previous versions started. (And, hey, a few people are even reading along.) Depending on what the topic is, it might be something worth blogging about. Unless it’s confidential information for one reason or another, it’s probably something that could become a blog.
- What do you do that you don’t have to do? It’s totally voluntary on your part and you enjoy it. For example, I don’t have to get up at 4 a.m. and go to the gym. I want to. I enjoy it. Since 2007 I’ve lost about 140 pounds, gained some back, lost some again and am currently 120 pounds down from what I weighed in 2007. I probably could start a fitness/dieting kind of blog on my experiences on what has worked, what hasn’t worked and so forth. Maybe I should? 🙂
Audience interest and your blogging passion
How do we know if others care about the topic? To get us started, let’s think about how people react when we talk about it offline. Are they interested? Do they change the topic? Do they ask follow-up questions? These all could be indicators that there might be (or not) an audience for your topic. But, don’t take these offline experiences in a vacuum. If you get a lot of offline non-interest perhaps you just haven’t found the interested audience, yet.
You could also research what people are searching for on search engines or what people are talking about on social networks – like Twitter. Go to search.Twitter.com to search for keywords relevant to your blog.
Or, you could just start, find and connect to the audience as you are building your blog.
John Lynn mentioned during his 2013 WordCamp Las Vegas session “Can you make money blogging” that blogging as a business is broken down into two main parts: 1) 50 percent spend on blogging and 2) 50 percent spend on marketing your blog.
Don’t forget about offline. Mention your new blog offline in conversations when it’s relevant. Print business cards! You may choose to find a local print shop to design and print them for you or go to Vistaprint.com. When relevant, feel free to hand out the card. What should it have on it? Here’s what mine has:
- My name
- Website address
- Tagline – “Telling meaningful stories”
- Twitter handle
- Email address
- Phone number
I would also suggest using the Jetpack WordPress plugin so you can easily set-up an automatic email newsletter and tie the blog to your social media accounts for automatic updates. All of these avenues will help your audience stay connected after the first visit.
Blogging passion: What if there’s no alignment?
As traffic starts to increase, you’ll notice whether or not your passion has an audience. Sometimes traffic doesn’t go up. Sometimes people don’t return. Take a deeper look at stats over time. Compare last month to the same month a year earlier, for example.
But sometimes, it’s possible that nobody wants to read about what we are writing about. What should we do then? A number of options come to mind:
- Connecting with audiences takes time. Perhaps we haven’t blogged long enough yet. Give it some more time.
- We haven’t found the passionate audience, yet. We’ve been sharing our posts on our personal Facebook pages, but our moms, dads and high school friends just don’t seem to care. Perhaps, they are not the right group, anyway. Think about how else we can connect to the right audiences. Search and visit message boards, seek out others who are talking about similar things on social media. Depending on the topic, find nearby Meetup groups.
- The writing and content isn’t all that good. It’s always good to consider asking somebody else (not our parents – unless they are proofreaders/editors/etc.) to proofread our posts and give us honest feedback.
- Maybe there isn’t a huge audience for this topic. You might be OK with that!
- Maybe the topic is too narrow or too broad.
Producing, distributing and marketing content takes time and there are many things to consider. In the long run, it’s important to figure out what we are trying to accomplish with a site. Is it just for us? That’s a good reason to get started. I’ve done that before. But it’s definitely nice and rewarding to have an interested audience – even if we aren’t trying to monetize a site.
Audiences can bring unique perspectives, share content and help us build our audiences.