How many of us jumped right into blogging without a formal blogging plan, or even without answering basic blogging questions that now seem obvious?
Hindsight is always 20/20. Yes, it’s a tired old cliché, but it’s also very true.
Last week’s #Bloggab chat was based on a post by Amanda Hicken of Blogging Bylines. Before we dig into it, I’d suggest you take a moment to read that post.
Here’s the link: 7 Questions to Answer Before You Start Blogging.
Go ahead…I’ll wait.
Back now? Great!
Yes, I must admit, I didn’t really answer any of those questions before I started blogging. Chalk that up, mostly, to impatience. It was impatience more than inexperience or blogging ignorance that made me “jump right in” and “just do it.”
After a decade of blogging, you might think I regret not having answered those questions first. I really don’t, although I think that if I had taken the time to answer them, I’d probably have a bigger blog by now.
But I probably wouldn’t have learned near as much along the way, or, for that matter, I wouldn’t have learned why such knowledge was so important.
Let’s go down Amanda’s list, shall we?
It’s not that I entered into this blogging enterprise without some understanding of why I was doing it. I just didn’t sit down and plot out the deep reasons beyond the typical, “I want a place online where I can share my ideas” or “I want to entertain people with my writing” responses.
Those were, by the way, two of the reasons I decided to give blogging a try.
But there was no “mission statement,” no clear direction. While I understand the importance of mission statements in the grand scheme of things, I hate them because they sound so “corporate” and disconnected from the personal touch we usually want our blogs to feel.
2. What are you passionate about?
Oddly enough, I thought I’d answered this question, but it took several years for me to realize that I hadn’t. I wrote on a variety of topics from the start, before realizing it was the “wrong” way to do it. But out of writing multiple topics, I came to realize that the overall theme of this blog wasn’t about any of the individual topics themselves, but the search for common sense, which then became my tagline.
3. What does ‘success’ mean for you?
I’m not sure I still have a perfect answer to this question. But this is another one of those questions whose answers would have changed drastically over time. Back then, if I had answered the question, I would have said success was all about comments.
The last estimate I read stated only about 10% of readers leave a comment.
I think reality is much lower than that.
So what I would have considered “success” back then would probably have prompted me to quit blogging years ago. I’m glad I didn’t answer this question then.
But my answer now is about building community: a network of readers who sometimes comment and sometimes don’t, but always feel welcome to participate and valued enough that when they comment, they say a lot more than, “Hey, good post.”
4. Who and where is your audience?
I assumed that my readers and followers would be mostly women, because I was convinced that I’d be in the minority as a male blogger. I figured they’d be generally around my age. I knew my audience wasn’t going to be defined by a narrow geographical area; I expected my audience to be generally nationwide.
I was right about the last part. As for the first, the majority of my social media followers — nearly two-thirds, in fact — are male. On my blog, it’s closer to an even split, though men outnumber women (unless you look at comments).
In social media, the majority of my followers are around my age or slightly older; in terms of readers, they’re more younger, which is very surprising to me.
5. What makes you unique?
There’s no way I can answer this question without sounding arrogant.
Instead, I’ll leave it to my readers: what I hear every now and then from a reader, and it always means a lot, is that my blog “makes them think.” My goal is to be a blog that doesn’t parrot the same old ideas you’ve heard before, but to look at the issues more objectively and see where there’s common sense on either side, not just one.
6. How much time are you able to dedicate to your blog?
I had an idea in my head of how often I wanted to blog, but no, I didn’t plot out how much time I would (or could) devote to making that happen.
This might have been a good thing, too. If I had realized how much work blogging can be, even though it’s work I enjoy, I might have been too intimidated to try!
7. What are your writing and technical skill levels?
I already knew I could write, because I was making an income as a writer/producer at the time. The technical aspect of the blog platform is what prompted me to start it on AOL’s “Journals” platform, which is now long gone, but was at least simple to deal with.
I assumed for years that I didn’t have the technical skills for anything as “complicated” as WordPress, but once I finally made the switch, I realized how easy WordPress actually is. If I had answered that question going in, and had researched a bit more, I probably would have made it to WordPress much sooner.
In case it isn’t clear, that should tell you that WordPress isn’t anywhere near as complicated as it might look from the outside.