Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Paying it Forward: A Blogger Introduction

Now that I've finally taken a seat on the Blog Train, I'm sure the day will come soon enough where people will ask me why I started blogging. So, here and now I thought it the best start, if only to get it out of the way by saying simply: I didn't choose to start blogging. At least not nearly as much as blogging chose to be what got me started in putting my ambitions in motion, rather.”

As much as any writer, I cared about reaching an audience, communicating my vision, influencing others of my feather and industry who influenced me just as much in return; just plain engaging in a social network most at home with this, the most lonely of pursuits. All it took was being told that a blog is a great way to achieve all of this and more … If worked from the angles most right with what I had to offer. I never really expected a big audience or ever thought about it. It was hard enough and most time consuming just trying to figure out what exactly I had to offer, if anything at all. After reading a couple of Blogs – then dozens more for all the warm and welcoming people already knee-deep in the field – finding them all very helpful to my thinking, all it seemed to take was the humility I felt among such minds to make me want to pay it forward immediately. Perhaps its the one thing anyone really has to offer, but while that remains to be seen, I can safely say the rubber was put to the road for me with my Ode To Writers tribute … that’s really where it all began. Perhaps you've seen it, perhaps not. 

I honestly just felt I was giving back to the community that had welcomed and encouraged me the most I've ever had in my life when I put it in mind to produce it. Two Months, 250+ hits, and a glorious tidal wave of feedback later … let's just say, the results have been both unexpected and astounding. Within the first 4 months of my Twitter existence I'm up to 400+ followers, 600+ listings, have been voted a top lister, and that was just the beginning! As of this moment in writing this introductory blog I'm also two out of the top three listings of  “Ode To Writers” on Google search, and not only have I received a Youtube rating as “Brilliant” by the infamous Jamie Dimon (the very king of banking, including my own bank), but have also been sourced as inspiration for his very own literary endeavors. Yet, despite my jaw having landed somewhere in the center of the Earth and likely never to be recovered, I have all the humility to know that I have not yet earned such kudos … particularly based on how seriously lacking my newly founded blog and personal website has remained. Not to mention since the inception of my aspirations for becoming a successful author, screenwriter, and producer ten years ago!
Still, this experience seems to speak volumes per what people seem to want: Imperfection. Along with accessibility, modest anonymity, and assertiveness both friendly as well as thoughtful. Of course a little advice never hurt ... we all have to start somewhere, after all. As I started by questioning those most influential and motivational within my social network, with the typical as follows: the Who, What, Where, When, Why, & How of it all . . . back to grade-school English 101? Heh. I truly wish.  Needless to say, its all left me adrift on a sea of research and notes as usual, but happily enough to say that I can at least begin to offer something here with this my introductory blog by sharing some great Blog tips I've taken to heart during this period of my literary & social evolution. As a testament before I double the size of this intro further, I Ambition only to achieve all of this before raising even a penny of profit. Then can it only be hoped to become both a thought leader in the space as well as a beautifully designed product all my own. At least all such formulations constitute my long-standing hypothesis on the subject matter, which here and now I shall attempt to make a theorem of sorts. 

Foremost to be said: Thank the Gods of Ink-&-Quill for Mark Suster and his guest blog at TechCrunch “Why Start-ups Need ToBlog”, from which the following (especially myself) are heavily inspired:

  • "Who am I that anyone would care about my Blog?" Before going all Shakespeare on myself, talking to corpses like it'll make such a question any easier to answer, instead I eventually came out of the riddle-me-this coma and found it easier for the asking: Whom do I want to target as an audience? We're only as good as those we keep around us, or so it is said. An interesting suggestion I stumbled upon is to blog about your most identifiable industry. Law. Graphics Design. Construction. Technology. Health. Beauty. Entertainment. If you know your chosen industry well, the show-n-tell with how you represent it with your words and perspectives should take care of itself. Or as the Mark-ism goes: Be authentic. Be open and transparent. People will see who you are in your words.” After that, the truer task is to create a reason for its own longstanding customers to tune into your Blog on a regular basis. As threads into . . .

  • What do I blog about?”After facing the fact that in my naivety I was actually asking whether or not to focus on what the world finds popular ... told in all truth: You shouldn't. Finding it then, as was best stated by Barbara Kingsolver: "Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer." It took that one quote to find my saving grace when riddling out a solution for starting this, my own Blog legacy. Hard to argue, really ... the only way to Blog is to write about what you know best. Not only would it be more authentic but it would help avoid the blunder of having my passions assumed to be about as reliable as a branch in a stiff wind. Or as Mark states: “If you’re going to pump out regular content that is meaningful, you obviously need to blog about a topic in which you’re knowledgeable, thoughtful and passionate. If you’re not all three of these things in your industry then I guess you’ve got a broader problem. Honestly.”

  • "Where should I start?" Finding a platform, for one, is the surest way to start. Blogspot. WordPress. SquareSpace. Tumblr. Posterous. And when the jeopardy theme ensues on the subject of a decent URL -- "Just get a real URL. I think it’s important to think about what image you want to portray when you pick your URL name. It doesn’t need to be short. What are YOU trying to convey? What will be your unique positioning? Don’t just write a carbon copy of what somebody else is doing. That’s boring." Or so the Mark-ism goes. I have personally played with at least three, myself, and still use them for flexibility's sake. That and have found that at least two of the three are more light weight and easier to use ... those being Blogger & Tumblr. Best of all, they are social. "It’s much easier to build an audience in social blogging platforms the way you do in Twitter or Facebook." -- Twitter definitely helps like you wouldn't believe ... I certainly still can't believe it. Nor can I believe now that I know why I put off signing up for so long. That and I personally recommend building your following slowly overtime, that team-follow-back stuff will only have you lost in a flood of people who have not one thing in common with you. I've earned all my loyal followers the hard way, who I follow back in due return, and I am quite satisfied with the social opportunities. In fact, beyond content ... the Cheers theme song leaps to mind. To where I don't doubt that if I send the word out on a new blog that they'll show interest at some point, because I've made it a point to make the interest mutual from the beginning. "Every time I write a post I send it out on Twitter. Because I’ve built my Twitter following slowly but steadily and authentically over time I get very high click-through rates." Thanks to Mark showing me that there has been a method to my social madness all these many idle months, safely I can still say, this is as much fun as I've EVER had ... with my clothes on, anyway. xD

  • "As for the question of when ..." Thankfully Mark saved me from dwelling on the before-or-after of it all for too long with a simple ... "Once you have a blog, a voice and a small following. If you write good content and consistently you’ll build an audience over time." Though it goes without saying that time management and consistency are the hard parts. We all have lives. We all have jobs that make it difficult to even keep up with steady meals, sleep, and checking emails much of the time. Yet, he presents it as: "What would it mean to you and your business if you could: increase your inbound traffic, enhance your company & personal brand, meet new influential people who suddenly know who you are. If you want these things they are available to you for the cost of some time & effort." All in all, keeping it paced, fresh, and right for the personal workload ... tips recommended: "If I really want to blog, I take it out of TV time, which means I’m not missing anything. If I have a date or too much work I just set my alarm for 5.30am. Yup. It’s not that hard if you make a commitment to it."

  • Why would anyone care about what advice I blog about if I'm not already professionally established?” Ah, the bloody kingpin of all second-guessing-torment upon oneself on the subject. Admittedly I still do it ... I'm doing it right this minute, with all this advice I'm throwing at your eyes! Cringing at thoughts of how I must seem and sound with this appearing to be my first real Blog post. Thankfully I practice what I preach, and remain a sponge to the likes of such salvation as: "Get inside your reader’s minds. Try to think about what they would want to know from you. In fact, ask them! Mostly, have fun. If you can’t do that you won’t last very long." Again, Mark coming down the pike! My practices leading to this quintessential moment and massive monologue? Just mingling ... established is established, regardless if just by socializing. Tweeting, networking on Facebook (or wherever the wind takes you comfortably), commenting on the brain candy of others, inquiring on the goods, contributing without worry of profit when it comes to giving what I have to offer ... with feedback as my only sought after payment since I’m only starting out. In between it all I've been taking notes, organizing months worth and stacking up the office documents ... such is the route I've gone, and so only recommended for those in my boat. Of course, also following advise like this never hurts: “Make it organic. Don’t try to sound too smart or too funny. Don't try for perfection or you'll never hit 'publish'. Don’t be offensive –or at least try to be respectful about it. Don’t blog drunk – or at least don’t hit publish. ;-) "

  • "How do I make my blog unique with so many others using the same platforms & templates?" I tried not to worry about it too much, trusting mostly in the fact that you already make it unique by making it YOU. And not forgetting that actions speak louder than words, always. Brainstorming, focusing on what to write, getting a good pile going, then dishing it out proportionately as opposed to blowing thy load on one topic or post at a time. If you plan what to write about in advance, your personalized structure will be a saving grace in and of itself. Then once you get the ball rolling given the aforementioned: "Don’t be shy about writing some guest posts for target blogs, advisably the places your community hangs out." Again, never had I imagined Twitter would get me underway with it all ... hell, I joined for the celebrities at first (like so many), and now here I am now with the majority of my followers being writers and with guest-blogs and writing my ass off constantly on the brain. Just what the doctor ordered and guest-blogging definitely something I'm looking forward to doing once I've proven myself with a few more published posts. Especially now that I've got the hang of having fun with graphics to where the inevitable flux of words isn't daunting but well balanced with the right balance and suit of visualizations. "Social media is ephemeral. Put in an effort, be consistent, and keep going – it’s a marathon – you will see results over time." Like with comments and feedback ... "First, it’s the most fun part of blogging. It’s addicting like Twitter. It’s where you exchange ideas with other people. It’s where your community gets to know you. It’s where you build loyalty and relationships. It’s also where you’ll learn. People will tell you when you’re full of shit." Truly ... 'nuff said. Could not have put it better myself. Though I have never had the trouble, I've always been a bit of a feedback-junky, its actually quite important to me when I'm always trying to learn and make sure I'm on the right track or where I can improve. Its actually just as infuriating to me when I don't get any comments whatsoever, as much as it is to the commenter who does not get a reply after taking the time and energy to comment on someone's product. Again, Mark says it best: "You HAVE TO respond to comments. If somebody found your blog and took the time to comment then they’re like a customer who should be cherished."

...And if you have made it this far without having an aneurysm or wincing in pain, truly, I am humbled by that alone.  Nevertheless, my Blog-Bio says it all --- "Feedback ROCKS.  So For those about to rock: *super salute!!!!*" <33333333333