A Discussion On Blogging

by Ben Cook on February 9, 2010

Let's Discuss Blogging

This blog post is going to be a bit different from my normal posts. Mainly because I don’t really have a point.

Instead I have a series of thoughts running around in my head that I’m hoping once in print will meld together to form some sort of coherent thought or maybe even philosophy on blogging and social media as a whole.

And, if any of these random thoughts resonates with you, I’m hoping you’ll join in the conversation with a few thoughts of your own.

I’ve Been Thinking of Starting This Blog…

See it all started when I recently found myself in a situation I’m sure many of you are familiar with:

A friend or family member wanted me to help them start a website that would let them make money off their latest amazing hobby.

Or, they’ve started a blog and want my help making it popular enough to make money from it.

Or, they’ve got a great idea for a site that I should start and they’re absolutely certain it’s going to make a ton of money.

As you may have guessed I’ve encountered a situation similar to the above several times. I usually point them to a couple of my favorite blogs on blogging or if they’re really serious, will recommend a few books they should read.

But more times than I can count, I walk away absolutely knowing their blog will never succeed even if they do managed to string together a few posts on a semi-regular basis.

Why is that?

Why are there people who within minutes of meeting I can tell won’t make a good blogger while there are others that I know would absolutely crush it if they bothered to invest the time?

That question has been stuck in the back of my mind for the last several weeks so I began to take a look at the blog posts that really resonate with me.

Now don’t worry, I’m not claiming to have solved the meaning of online life or stumbled onto some fool-proof recipe for blogging success. Like I said, I’m looking for a discussion.

Making a Connection

Johnny Truant recently wrote a post on Copyblogger.com talking about how he built his online business. To be honest, his process doesn’t sound all that impressive. I mean, look at it:

The business model basically consisted of trying to write funny blog posts and generally just hanging out online, and then parlaying that good will into its logical succession, which is, of course, technology services.

Pretty deep huh?

And yet, he’s making 5 figures a month from his online business, while “doing everything wrong“.

Dave Snyder, the most dangerous man on the internet, wrote a post last week that had absolutely nothing to do with SEO or Social Media Marketing (the pillars of the company he co-founded) but resonated with me more than most posts I’ll read in a year. Does Dave talking about story time with his son make me think he’s better at his job?

Not at all.

Does it make me more likely to recommend him or refer people to his company when the time comes?

Absolutely.

Why? Because I can identify with that post. In my mind, Dave & I share more in common than we did before I read the post.

Interact

At this point I’m sure some of you are screaming that these are perfect examples of Third Tribe Marketing. And to some extent, I guess you’re right.

I am a 3T member, but that has more to do with the fact that I’m an unabashed Brian Clark fanboy. I enjoy reading his blog, got a LOT out of his Teaching Sells course, and am in love with Thesis Theme which Brian partnered with Chris Pearson on.

When you combine those positive product experiences with the fact that Brian interacts with me on Twitter, the result is that I’ll buy pretty much anything Brian puts out as long as I can afford it without having to sell a vital organ.

The interaction on Twitter might seem petty to you, but I’d be careful not to dismiss that too quickly.

I recently interviewed several graduates of my Pops’ Dreamweaver Course in hopes of getting some good testimonials to use for his upcoming launch.

The course had a 100% student retention rate even though he offered a 30 day money back guarantee and every student I interviewed couldn’t say enough good things about it. Now, my old man’s a great guy and all, but these people acted like he walked on water!

When I asked them why their reviews were so positive and why they all were recommending the course the answer every single time was that he took the time to interact with them one on one. Whether it was in the support forum or on the weekly Webinar calls, he gave each student his attention, even if only for a short period of time.

Be Yourself

If you’ve ever read advice on blogging I’m willing to bet you’ve been told to “find your voice.” While that’s certainly good advice, hell I’ve written those very words in a post before, I don’t think it actually sinks in to a lot of people.

Instead I think “be yourself” would be better advice. If you’re analytical in nature, be analytical. Dig deep into topics and break them down into statistical nuggets to share with the rest of the online world.

If you’re crass & irreverent, fantastic! Sugarrae has made a name for herself by saying what she thinks and refusing to filter it. At times she’ll say things that would make a sailor blush but a LOT of people respect her for being 100% her all the time, online & off.

One of her partners in crime, Lisa Barone had me following a site about knee socks for crying out loud!

I really have NO interest in knee socks but I enjoy Lisa’s style of writing and knew she was passionate about those damn socks.

Application

So how does this long rambling post apply to you? I don’t have a clue.

For me it means that I think I’m finally realizing that I can relax on my blogs the way I do on Twitter and in real life. I’ve always prided myself on being honest with people. What you see is pretty much what you get.

If you ask me what I think, I’m gonna tell you. You might not like what I have to say but at least you never have to wonder if I’m being honest with you.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t staying up nights wringing my hands worrying about what kind of image I was portraying online. But I spent a decent amount of time trying to figure out what I want this site in particular to be and what kind of face I’d like to show to the public.

I mean, future clients or employers could be viewing this blog right? But I think life’s too short and it takes too much effort to try and “polish” your public image.

I’m a devoted husband, a Christian, a sports fan, a political junkie, an SEO, a blogger, a WordPress guru in training, a Thesis Theme designer, and no, all those classifications don’t always play nicely together.

But if you want to hire me to market your website, or design a Thesis Skin for you, that’s fantastic.

If not, at least you won’t waste your time having to sift through all the typical interview/token answers/telling you what you want to hear BS.

Now I’m not trying to dismiss business or act like I don’t care about making money online. I absolutely do.

I guess I just have the confidence that enough people won’t care whether I offend them once or twice (it’s bound to happen) as long as I deliver the goods.

What do you think?

So what do you think? Have I lost my mind? Should I care whether or not people know what political beliefs I hold?

Do you have to play nice to succeed online?

image source: rmlowe

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim Gary February 9, 2010 at 3:41 am

I really don’t know what to say… other than I’m going through similar things…

My original blog (timgary.com) fizzled after a not to bad start, mostly because I felt a little too much like I was pretending to be myself, instead of actually *being* myself. It wasn’t so much the content was poor, or inaccurate from my perspective, in fact I go back and remind myself of some of the things I wrote all the time. More, it was just a little too filtered, and showy (or something).

Then, for reasons somewhat related to my work situation and even family, I seriously looked into starting things up again under a “pen name”, so as not to cause myself any unwanted grief. I’m 98% sure I’m not taking this route. Partly because it also feels disingenuous (duh), and partly because it becomes a new layer of stuff to keep track of–and I’m in desperate need of simplification over complexication (yeah, not a word, sue me–dang, domain name taken).

For me, it will be a fine line between being myself, and a small amount of filtering. When I go out to play poker, there are a couple of topics that everyone at the table (except the newbies and just plain _____) knows to avoid. These are politics, racism, and religion… with politics probably being the #1 no-no. Pretty much everything else is fair game, and often enjoyed, even if (and sometimes because) opinions differ. It’s just that certain things are SO polarizing that they override everything else–good content, bad content, funny content, etc… It’s a good way to quickly make better friends, and bigger enemies at the same time, even if unrelated to your business.

While debates on the merits of SEO, Internet Marketing tactics, or the beef burrito you’re still tasting from lunch may end up heated, I’d think they end up helping to build a following than the others. I started following some of the 3rd tribe naysayers, as I have the cheerleaders, not because I agree with one or the other, but because I live in a world of gray, where I can take useful bits of information from each side. I’d like to think I could do this when it comes to politics, religion, etc… But frankly, I’m not so sure. I have a feeling it would end up tainting a lot of the good information for some reason–not because it should, just because it might.

Who knows, this could be true if you talked up sports too.. I dunno, not so into sports myself (go 49ers… [Tim ducks, and laughs]).

Anyway, just some thoughts without too much of a point either.

Jeeze, I wrote too much…

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Skitzzo February 9, 2010 at 11:15 am

Tim, while those subjects are emotionally charged I tend to think avoidance of them only makes it worse when you do finally crack & blast some idiot politician or something. I mean, these are subjects that are so integrated with our lives that it’s going to be hard to avoid them while still being open & honest don’t you think?

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Tim Gary February 9, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Yes, of course you have a point.

I guess the question is whether you are willing to risk segmenting your potential business market based on such things. It’s a strategy that’s worked for some. I mean, Johnny’s penis jokes and foul mouth are certainly segmenting his market… as are Naomi’s, and countless others.

Just stay away from the poker tables, you’ll get slaughtered by teamwork 😉

Johnny B. Truant February 9, 2010 at 10:30 am

Wait… the normal business model for people selling technology is NOT to hang out online and write dick jokes? Dammit, someone needs to make sure I get these memos.

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Skitzzo February 9, 2010 at 11:19 am

LOL no, that’s not the usual approach but who’s gonna argue with you when it has worked so well for your business?

And that’s the thing really, we all have this notion of how we have to be online to get clients or make sales or be successful when in reality, it’s making the connections that will do that for us. If you can connect by being incredibly useful all the time, go for it. But I can tell you it’s pretty tiring and it can just as easily be done writing a post about your son and story time.

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Todd Mintz February 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm

“…finally realizing that I can relax on my blogs the way I do on Twitter and in real life. I’ve always prided myself on being honest with people. What you see is pretty much what you get.”

I thought you past this point a long time ago :.)

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Skitzzo February 9, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Todd, to some extent I had. I mean, I’m rarely afraid to speak my mind. However, I also have struggled often with deciding whether the post I am writing fits the blog I’m writing it for, or whether it will be a distraction etc.

This has led me to segment my content a lot more than I’ve probably needed to. So, instead of finding a place for a post about a funny thing my wife did or a quick rant about how much I hate companies that use a business model that penalizes long term customers, I’m going to treat this place more like I treat twitter.

Come, read what you want, get value out of what you can, and ignore anything you don’t like or enjoy.

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Tim Gary February 10, 2010 at 12:27 am

New thought… It shouldn’t matter that you have certain potentially contrasting views, if you also provide valuable unique and/or on-topic content.

Something about your long term customer penalty comment above seemed to “click” with me, as I’ve had similar thoughts.

This made me think about what I’d do if you also had contrasting views on “emotionally charged” issues. I think instead of ignoring it, I’d take it in as part of the potential learning experience.

There was a great post over on Kelly’s site that kinda re-opened my eyes to a few things, totally unrelated to the actual examples in the post. I paraphrase poorly… Be yourself, or people won’t know who you are–and you have to put up a front…which sucks for everyone
http://www.kellydiels.com/2010/01/31/on-risk-relationships-and-gd-patriarchy-a-polemic/

I, of course support whatever you do, and look forward to the good and gray times ahead 😉

-Tim

Lisieie February 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

One of the reasons I quit working for someone else was I hated the corporate mask required to work in a company – the llies that were required to keep morale up!

If people don’t like my blog that’s cool – but they can’t say they are not sure on my standpoint on an issue LOL

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Skitzzo February 10, 2010 at 12:07 am

Tim, actually I really enjoy playing poker but definitely don’t dig teamwork. I used to play in a game at the back room of a pool hall that had a crooked dealer. Figure it out after about the 5th time I played there & never went back.

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Tim Gary February 10, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Yeah, the crooked players and actual teamwork sucks. I’ve seen it in Reno too. I was thinking more of an energy thing, like when you just want to beat certain players because the rub you the wrong way. must pick my words more carefully.

I’ve seen dealers out hear get fired from one place, for “funny stuff”, and end up in another casino (probably because the firing location either wasn’t called for referral, or they couldn’t say anything for fear of some legal thing–or maybe because they wanted the crooked ones at a competitor, who knows the real back story). It can be pretty ridiculous sometimes.

Be good!

Reply

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