My introduction to blogging was through a colorful Canadian who hails by the moniker Yarn Harlot. If you like funny, then this is your gal – even more so if you have thing for wool, which I do.
The Yarn Harlot, aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, writes about knitting and life and yarn with such a unique perspective that she attracts even non-knitters. Her blog led to book deals. The books led to talks all over North America. Now, those books and talks draw in more readers for the blog, creating a sweet little loop toward ever growing popularity. As an indication of how many readers she has, each post draws more than 100 and often more than 200 comments.
Looking at this as a newbie blogger, it all seemed so simple. Start a blog, get a book deal, give some talks, watch the blog audience grow, get a bigger book deal, give more talks…you get the idea. I knew it really wasn’t that easy when I launched my blog, knitaway.blogspot.com, but in the back of my mind, I had hopes of at least building a small following.
After a lot of time and effort, that’s all I ever generated with that blog – a very small following. No book deals. No speaking engagements: Just a tiny audience that consisted of my mother and a couple of friends.
It wasn’t a total waste. I had fun. I connected with some people in other parts of the country that I would never have met otherwise and I have a great online journal. What I didn’t get, however, is something some people would call a “return on investment.”
That’s fine if blogging is a hobby, or something you want to do just for fun. But, if you want to blog to build your expertise or promote your business, you certainly have to get more readers than my mother, or your mother, or your mother’s mother, for that matter.
So do what my father says and “Do as I say, not as I did.”
The blog isn’t about you, even if it’s about you
The topic may be your thoughts and activities, but ultimately this is about your readers. What do they want to hear or know about? Maybe you’ll entertain them with funny stores from the shop. Maybe you’ll educate them about a particular subject. If you’re tempted to write about your root canal, that’s okay as long as you can answer the question, “Why would a reader care?”
Listen to others
This is actually one thing I did. I spent a lot of time on other people’s blogs. I read them and commented on them. Many of those people became a part of my small audience.
Since mine was a hobby blog, I never felt a strong obligation to post on a regular basis. I’d go weeks without a post. This is a big part of why it never progressed beyond a hobby blog. This is a quick way to lose potential readers. Even if a reader is blown away by a post, he’s not going to keep coming back if there’s no new material. There are just too many other great things to draw his attention.
Know your audience
When I started blogging, I thought very little about who would read my blog. This is something you should think a lot about. Who do you want to reach? You may want a broad audience, but you are best off focusing on one specific person. This will help you tailor the blog and make it personal. Plus, once you know who that is, you will have a much easier time finding good material because you will be looking for things that will interest that person.