This is a little different than the topics I usually write about, but I have had a lot of people tell me lately that they have been thinking of starting a blog and just needed to actually make the jump and do it. For that reason, I wanted to provide a little bit of insight that I have picked up along my path as a blogging beginner.
Before I started blogging, I was trying to figure out my way in life like anyone else. A college graduate who had dabbled in a variety of professions from teaching martial arts, to being a bank teller, to working different jobs at different startups. My parents have always owned their own businesses, so I was driven to be entrepreneurial, I was just always unsure about where my skill-set lied.
I essentially started this blog to get my ideas out into the world. I didn’t intend for it to be a ‘job’ or a platform for many different opportunities. Hell, I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I knew I wanted to reach more than my 5,000 existing Facebook friends, and this was before I found it necessary to start a ‘like page,’ and I wasn’t very active on Twitter.
About five months after I started the blog, I had an article go viral and generate over 1.5 million hits in a single day. This happened at a time where I was thrilled about getting a few thousand. Now, less than two years later, this website has surpassed 31 million hits and continues to climb strongly.
As one can imagine, there are many lessons to be learned when you are suddenly submerged in an industry you are essentially clueless about. Here are some thoughts which I hope will help others considering starting a blog.
1. Literally anyone can (and should) start a blog.
If you are reading this right now and are considering starting a blog, do it. Why not? In the age of social media every single one of us has the opportunity to reach literally millions of people with our ideas – and it is almost a shame to waste that ability. Never before in history have humans been so interconnected with others across the world. History’s next great mind may be reading this right now and is simply too shy to let the world hear their voice.
Stop thinking, and start doing.
2. Work on building an audience and relationships, first.
Earlier I mentioned I had 5,000 Facebook friends when I started this blog. In the grand scheme of things, considering millions of followers and subscribers that other people have, 5,000 is barely a blip on the radar. But, it was enough to get a few people clicking on and sharing my articles when I did publish them.
A large contact list isn’t the only place that value lies, though. It lies in an engaged, interested audience. I have seen Twitter accounts with 10 times the amount of followers that I have, but their tweets get virtually no retweets or responses. Why? They broadcast random messages and don’t interact or build relationships with their followers. It’s called social media for a reason.
That being said, of course when you have a larger number of people your content can reach right off the bat, you are more likely to generate a higher number of hits and shares. So, start networking.
3. Write what you are passionate about.
This may seem sort of obvious, but I have had quite a few people tell me they would start a blog, but they have nothing to talk about. First of all, nobody has nothing to talk about. You may be into cooking, or restaurants, or relationships, or cars, or music, or hell, putting the cast of the first Star Trek episode on September 8th of 1966 in alphabetical order (I Googled that, I didn’t know when the first episode aired…)
The bottom line is, if you are a thinking, feeling human being, you have something you care about. It doesn’t matter what it is. Don’t worry about it being interesting to other people – those who share your interests are out there, but you’ll never find them if you don’t reach out.
4. Write content people want to share.
One thing is for sure: 5,000 Facebook friends never would have gotten me 31 million blog hits. What generates traffic, is shares. What generates shares, is content that people can relate with and connect to on a deeper level. An emotional level.
It is important to put effort into creating content that people: 1. Feel would be of value to their friends, and would want to share. Or, 2. Feel reflects and describes their own personal feelings, and would want to share to express themselves.
Both of these reasons have something in common – they show an emotional connection with the content you put out there. It is not bland, uninteresting articles that get millions of shares. Excite people. Engage them. Make them feel alive. They want to give that to others, too. Connect with them, and they will use your content to do it.
5. It doesn’t matter what you say, people will disagree with you.
When enough people start reading your content, it doesn’t matter if you are just saying “Hi.” Someone is going to take offense to it. Someone is going to disagree for no reason. Someone is going to tell you you’re wrong, yet when you ask them why, disappear without ever giving you their opinion.
This is, unfortunately, the price to pay for putting your thoughts into the world. It only takes a glance at any random YouTube video or comment thread on a large Facebook page to realize hundreds of thousands of people have nothing better to do than to surf the web and criticize others for no reason. Pay them no mind – their battle is with themselves, not you.
Now and then, responses are warranted. When that happens, be as polite and concise in your answer as possible, no matter how hurtful someone’s comments to you are. Always take the high road, and they will have no idea what to do with you. You may even make a new, unexpected friend out of the exchange. But most of the time as a rule of thumb: Don’t feed the trolls.
6. Always be grateful and thank people.
I have been fortunate enough to meet, and be helped by some amazing people along my journey so far. I have been on Skype calls with consultants who charge thousands of dollars who just wanted to help me. I have had celebrities share my articles frequently. I have had my words re-published on massive websites with millions of readers. One thing I have always done my best to do, is let people know how much I genuinely appreciate their help.
People don’t have to help you, but good luck succeeding if they don’t. This is a cycle, because if you are not grateful and willing to help others in return, they will have no reason to lend you their talents. I don’t believe there is such a thing as being ‘self-made.’ We all need others who are more experienced to help us along our way, and the only way they will keep doing that is if they understand that you fully appreciate what they do for you.
7. Success can come out of nowhere, if you prepare for it.
Don’t take this the wrong way – I am not claiming to be ‘successful’ nor am I patting myself on the back. I have a long way to go before I can consider myself a success, but the point here is that we have to stay open to opportunities coming out of the blue in life in order to capitalize on them.
How does that quote go again? Oh yeah: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
8. Above all, just have fun with it.
“It” being, whatever you choose to do. If you are going to start a blog and want to draw people to it, it’s important to realize that they are going to feed off of your energy. People live busy, stressful, hectic lives and often are limited with their free time. When they do have free time to use, it is only natural they are going to want to spend it doing/reading/looking at something they enjoy.
People are going to be able to feel your passion through your words. Your excitement. Your genuine interest in the topic(s) you write about. This is what is going to make you a better blogger and attract more readers. Also, it is what will keep you in the game long enough for your blog to take off. If you lose interest in pursuing this venture after a couple of short months, how will you ever really put in the time and effort required to succeed?
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”