I ventured into blogging, I thought, pretty well prepared for what it would entail. I read sites like ProBlogger and Copyblogger and thoroughly studied my previous niches of small business and franchising. However, the areas in which my research failed to adequately prepare me were not trivial ones! I underestimated a few key parts of the blogging game and learned a number of lessons along the way.
Three Things I Underestimated In Blogging
- The Power of Twitter — When I started blogging, my strategy was Facebook first. My plan was to dabble in Twitter while I concentrated on developing my Facebook page. After a few weeks of tweeting Fast Company links and my own posts, I read Mark Schaefer’s great book on how to use Twitter and began to realize the incredible power of this 140 word tool. Only a few months into my blogging journey, I found myself stopped at travel plaza on the Florida Turnpike replying to a tweet from Gini Dietrich on on my phone. I was Twit-whipped, and my Facebook page has hardly seen me since!
- The Joys and Pressures of Commenting and Social Media — I really had no conception of the huge time investment blog commenting and social media would demand. Good comments take work, if for no other reason than you have to read the post. If the conversation is a good one or you are late to it, you might end up reading tons of comments as well. Just one post on a popular blog can be the equivalent of 1/5 of a novel. Also, the more you interact, the more new bloggers appear on your radar. Simply too many in the end. As for social media, well… it just never stops. Ever.
- The Depths of Friendship and Community — I truly believe this is one part of the blogging experience that is inexplicable to almost anyone who has not lived it. You can really develop true, substantive relationships and friendships doing this. I really did not expect it, and it has been the most surprising and pleasurable part of the blogging experience.
In addition to underestimating the three items above, I was also completely wrong about what I wanted to blog about.
Lessons Learned on Blogging and the Blogosphere
1. You Probably Won’t Know What Type of Blogger You Are Until You’ve Actually Done It
This is not to say that you will do a complete topic shift like I just did. But you will inevitably learn about your style, your comfort levels, your interests, and your workflow. Being a blogger is not the same as being a traditional writer. It is faster, usually less polished, and provides (and requires) timely feedback.
2. You Don’t Have To Choose Between Community and SEO, But You Have To Know The Difference
Many in the blogosphere say its-all-about-community and consider SEO a dirty word (well, a dirty acronym). Others think that communities are large echo chambers that don’t drive qualified traffic. They are both right — and both wrong. SEO and community are both important, and you don’t have to choose one over the other. Sure, there are choices to be made in the details — catchy human titles are often poor SEO titles — but the occasional difficult decision should not make you adopt one camp and ignore the other.
3. Just Like Life, Help Others Without Expecting Anything In Return
I firmly believe that you get what you give — in blogging, and in life. Only you might not get it back from the same person you gave it to. Going into blogging with a tit-for-tat attitude is a recipe if not for failure then certainly for unhappiness. Don’t expect someone to comment on your blog just because you commented on theirs. Don’t expect someone to tweet your post just because you tweeted theirs. On the other hand…
4. If Consistent Engagement Is Being Ignored, Move On
There is a limit to everything. If you consistently go to someone’s blog, and they don’t ever engage with you, move on. Obviously you should adjust your expectations for high engagement blogs with hundreds of comments. However, if you consistently reach out to someone for a long time without any acknowledgment or engagement, you probably should consider heading for greener fields. It’s a big blogosphere, and there are a lot of grateful and gracious bloggers in it.
5. Kiss Some Digital Babies
Don’t shun smaller bloggers (i.e. digital babies) for power bloggers. Smaller bloggers are important and, quite frankly, much more apt to engage with you. I have a few power bloggers whom I interact with regularly; however, if I only have time for a couple of comments, I will sometimes skip their blogs to comment on the smaller ones. The big guys don’t miss me, and the little guys appreciate the engagement.
6. If You Have Day Job And It Is Not Blogging/PR/Marketing/Social Media, Realize You Will Never Keep Up
The blogosphere is filled with professional bloggers and people in marketing/PR/social media for whom blogging and social are part of their jobs. Also, due to the recession, many people are pursuing blogging as a response to unemployment. If you do not fit into one of those categories, just realize that you will have a hard time keeping up. Don’t try. Go at your own pace, and set goals that are realistic for your life.
For certain, it has been an interesting 6 months with a lot of great experiences. My stats are decent for a part-time blogger at 6 months, but certainly nothing to brag about. My Alexa rank went from 9,471,119 a week after I started to the current 342,830, and as of this morning, my Klout score broke 50 for the first time. I got to meet Jason Falls (nice guy, btw), join a most excellent Triberr tribe, and have a post go viral when Tony Robbins tweeted it. Mostly though, I’ve learned about myself as a blogger and formed some relationships and friendships that I never expected when I got into this game.
They say the majority of bloggers quit within the first year. We’re halfway there. Here’s to seeing you at the 12 month mark!
So tell us… What was the most important lesson you learned in your first six months of blogging? How have you changed as a blogger since your early months?
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