I read a lot about how to create a successful blog, but I need to tell you - things have changed and we need to clear up some fallacies.
Normally, I am a social media cheerleader and tomorrow, I will continue to do so. However, it ain't 2004. The secrets to a successful blog are very different now. Same pond, but a lot more water and a hell of a lot more fish.
So here are some ways I believe blogging has changed, especially in the year and a half I've been active in the space. How do you think the blogosphere has changed? Are my points below pragmatic or the ravings of a cynic.
Here are new guidelines for a successful blog these days:
- Abandon "good" for "controversial": A lot of people write very good, very intriguing blog posts. And every day, most of these are ignored, relegated to the bottom of a search engine, and forgotten. Sure, "good" and "controversial" aren't mutually exclusive, but it's tough to be both. And out of the two, at least controversial posts get read. Don't just spend your time thinking about what to say; consider also how to say it. Once you have some subscriber eyeballs, you can afford to write brilliant think pieces, but until then, go for something that grabs attention. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, it is better to be talked about than not talked about.
- Forget commenting: The conventional wisdom used to go like this - leave worthwhile comments on the blogs of A-listers and eventually they will notice and link to you (hell, I wrote a post to this effect one year ago). This simply isn't the case anymore. With the proliferation of people interacting on blogs, A-listers can now get over 100 comments per post - what's their motivation for noticing you in the crowd? (The exception to this rule being Chris Brogan, but that guy is like Superman.) From my experience, change the ratio to devoting a lot of time to writing and reading, and spend very little time commenting on only deserving blog posts. Personally, of the testimonials from A-listers you can find in the right-hand column of my blog, none of those came because of comments I left. They were all pretty damn random.
- Don't blog, period: Blogging used to be the shiny, new object, but it's not 2004 anymore. Blogging, especially if it is for a business, may well be a waste of your time. There are a lot of considerations to consider before starting a blog (here are 21 to start with), but the most common mistake is not considering this: does your product suck? If so, reinvest that blogging money back into your product. Think about what Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell (one of my favorite books of 2008 - you do own it, right?), said on the Mediablather podcast with Paul Gillin and David Strom:
"I think there's a novelty factor in some of these new technologies and there are a lot of people saying blogging is dead - no blogging is not dead - the level of consumer interest in it continues to rise. But, as far as corporations go, the idea of a company doing a blog has become pretty ordinary at this point. So unless your blog is really interesting, it has some twist to it...you're only going to be effective with it if it actually accomplishes a corporate goal."
What do you think? Am I a cynic or just a pragmatist?
These points do make some assumptions about blogging, of course. It assumes that success equals traffic, that all traffic is the same, and the goal is higher volume. This may or may not be true in your case.
But I think it does accurately reflect the blogosphere as it is today. I will go back to promoting social media for business tomorrow, but for today, I needed to vent about the changes I see in reactions to my own blog and on blogs that I read.
What do you think: pragmatic or cynical?
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(Image courtesy of Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr)