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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Will Your Blog Be Big? Or Great?

This guest post is by Marjorie Clayman of Clayman Advertising.

Recently, it was announced that Richard Thompson was going to be awarded the OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Your response, in any order, might be, “Who cares?” and “Who is Richard Thompson?”

Richard Thompson has a career in music that spans 40 years. He is a brilliant lyricist, but even more, he may be one of the best living guitarists out there. He was a member of folk rock super group Fairport Convention and he partnered with his ex-wife Linda in the 70s to make some fantastic albums. He wasn’t much of a vocalist back then, but now, even his vocal stylings are outstanding. And yet, Thompson plays small theatres and “intimate” concerts, and has a hard time enticing record labels to keep him on.

Richard Thompson is great, but he is not big.

Over the years, at any moment, Richard Thompson probably could have chucked his own particular style and his own particular skills out the window. He could have promised himself and his fans that it was for just one album, so that he could get his name out there. Then he’d come back to being himself.

So it is with blogging. You bring your own particular voice to your blog. You bring your own unique experiences and skills to your readers. But at any moment, you could say that honing your skills is not nearly as important as getting a lot of traffic. It’s so easy to think that aiming for “big” may be better than aiming for “great.”

Let’s face it—it’s probably easier to achieve “big” in comparison to becoming great in this competitive space. Write a few posts attacking big names, offer link bait, be controversial—you’ve seen all of those tricks in action. But are those bloggers great? Will you remember them in 40 years?

If you want to aim for greatness instead of trying to be big, here are some tactics you could try.

Look at how you can improve. Richard Thompson probably realized that his vocal work needed improvement. Instead of resting on his laurels, he worked hard, and it paid off. Look at your posts from the last month. What would you do to improve each post just a little bit?Blog outside your comfort zone. Stretch your limits. Attack new areas that will enrich your experience and that of your readers.Look at the content of the comments you receive, not the number. Are people saying that you helped them out or helped them see things in a new perspective, or are they just saying, “nice post”?Track your subscribers. Although this can be a metric for size as well, subscribing is an action people take when they are confident every post you write will be of interest to them (though they won’t read every single one). Are people placing that much confidence in you?Become a cult classic. While Richard Thompson may not be “big,” his followers are about as loyal as they come. Look at your readers. Do you have people who are not just reading your posts but gushing about them to their followers and their community?

This is not to say that everyone has to be like Richard Thompson, toiling away in the genius room while only the Queen of England cares. But becoming “big” is often a function of elements that are out of your control.

If folk rock had really become popular, Richard Thompson might well have become king of the world. The Beatles became as big as they did in part because they caught a new sound just as it was growing.

But aiming for great? That’s entirely under your control. It is defined by you, it is measured by you, and it is something you do from the heart. It’s important to remember that greatness can help pave the way for getting big. Getting big does not promise greatness.

Have you been concentrating on getting big lately or have you been working on honing your craft? Which do you value more? I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments section.

Marjorie Clayman is Director of Client Development at Clayman Advertising, a full service marketing communications firm located in Akron, OH.


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