Why you should do it, how you should do it, how to grow it and sustain it and all that jazz.
Over the last five years that this blog has been around, I’ve shifted gears more than once. I thought it would be interesting to share with you what happens when you do that kind of thing.
First of all, I always blog for me, and me first. I blog about the topics that are interesting to me, which means they evolve alongside my work.
When I started the blog, it was focused heavily on branding and communications from a business perspective. Then it shifted to be more about social media, because that was becoming more and more of a focus in my work.
I caught a lot of traction then, because it turns out people wanted to read about social media stuff. So from a subscriber perspective, my numbers went through the roof.
I had over 16K subscribers at one point, which is still amateur by many “big blog” standards but was pretty solid for a couple of years worth of work. I was getting mentions on lots of other blogs, getting the attention of the big kids on the playground, having good discussions in the comments, and getting put on all kinds of lists for the “top social media blogs” and influencers in the space.
Well, sure. No question that doing that and writing that stuff helped me to do things like write and publish my first book. Publishers love it when you have a platform, and I’d built a pretty formidable one.
But as my work focus changed from communications to community to higher level business strategy work, I wasn’t thinking so much in terms of social media anymore. Writing about it had become a bit of a chore, and I was uninspired. I wasn’t interested in writing about EdgeRank or building better Facebook pages. I wasn’t interested in writing about blogging metrics or Twitter followers. I was finding it less and less meaningful to sit down at the keyboard to post here.
What was interesting me was an overarching theme of ‘change’.
For business, that meant exploring and understanding some of the cultural shifts they were having to make as a result of all things social.
It also meant things like exploring career change and transformation, and what it means to work in a more connected world. It meant learning how to develop yourself professionally. Thinking about the human condition and how it impacts our life and work. It meant exploring things that were challenging and relevant to me, like owning a business and being your own boss. Occasionally social stuff still made sense to include, but only inasmuch as it related to all those other things.
Know what happened?
Lots of them (as in many thousands over the course of a year or two).
I wrote less regularly, but with more passion and freedom than I’d felt in a long time. I didn’t make the “lists” anymore (though I still get an amazing amount of totally irrelevant pitches. Way to go lazy PR people!). While other blogs skyrocketed in terms of being the social media thought leaders, my blog became something different and not always easy to categorize. The usual suspects stopped following me, stopped sharing my work, stopped referencing me when talking about who the “best” social media bloggers were.
New people came. Different faces. With different interests and different perspectives, from all over the map. In smaller numbers than before, but they were there.
It was different than it used to be. Smaller, quieter. Less publicity. Less growth. Less popularity, even.
So is that a failure?
Some people thought so. A few of them were even kind enough to say so (“what happened to you and your writing?”).
But to me, it was just the opposite.
In my estimation, some people can and will keep up the same blog focus for many moons and find great success with it. They’ll evolve their topics to talk about the current themes of the day, but largely their focus will stay the same, whether that’s PR or social media or SEO or marketing.
I’m not one of those people, and was probably never destined to be.
My firm focuses on social business stuff, so I write a lot about that over there now. It fits there, and supports our business goals, so that makes a lot of sense. But even then, it’s not so much social media stuff as culture change and broad-based shift in organizations for which social is a catalyst, but not the endgame.
Which means this blog is a hodgepodge now of the topics I mentioned above, and whatever suits my fancy or is inspired by something happening to or around me. It’s a very clear reflection of me, my thoughts, the things that interest me now and that I think other people can relate to.
But you can bet that it’s always going to change.
I’m not one-dimensional. I don’t write this blog for traffic or ads or revenue, so I’m not beholden to any of that stuff. I write it because I love to write, I love to share and explore ideas, and I love to hear what other people have to say. It’s a very selfish endeavor. The community is incredible, but make no mistake, the day it stops being interesting is the day I’ll stop doing it.
I don’t care if this blog ever makes a list of any kind ever again.
I say that being where I am, with a blog that makes me happy and fuels my passions is a big fat bag of win. A triumph. Something that’s perfectly suited to me.
The moral of the story…
Blogging does not have to be a means to an end. You do not have to chase the same things that all the other bloggers do.
It can be your idea playground, your place to discover and share what you think, your home for capturing your interests and evolution as they adapt to the person and professional you become.
You don’t have to get a zillion tweets or a million links or tens of thousands of subscribers if that’s not the thing that turns you on.
Don’t make everyone else’s goals into your own unless they fit where you want to be. Remember why you’re doing it. Care about something bigger than the numbers. Don’t believe the hype.
And above all, remember that it’s always okay to change the rules.