How to better your life through blogging (the Embassy of You)
[box title="Note"] This is an advance excerpt from The Social Media Side Door, my book about the ways social media has rewritten the rules of access and influence. Subscribe to receive more excerpts, tips, and side door strategies.[/box]
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his section isn’t, “How to get blog comments,” or, “How to make your posts go viral.” Google those things if you want, but be wary of what you read. When the how-to format meets blogging, the quality of advice often gets iffy. Blog comments, “engagement,” subscribers, top-100 placement—they’re all means to an ill-defined end. These things are not the goal, only loose indicators that you’re on track toward something bigger. Everyone blogs to better their life in some way. Blogging can make a very real impact on that one, big goal, if you stay away from measuring your success in ways that have nothing to do with what you’re really after.
To make an impact, you need a central outpost that acts as the heart of your social media presence. Blogs are great for this. They are built for long-form content like blog posts, but can also be a great way to aggregate your tweets and YouTube videos, link to your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, and other digital footprints you’d like to showcase. Think of your blog as an embassy. If a stranger were to visit the Embassy of You, what would you want them to see? More importantly, what would they want to see?
Play to your strengths, and write about what you know. If you’re trying to prove to the world that you’re an expert in something, abide by the old writers’ saying, “Show, don’t tell.” Don’t simply tell people about your expertise. Anyone can do that. You need to show it. Write with authority about something you have passion for, and your expert self will steal the show. Most of the people you’re competing with will start by talking about themselves, playing up their status, telling the world how great they are at something—and little else.
Define your niche. Generalists usually don’t get very far, because they’re going toe-to-toe with millions of others that have been doing it longer, and probably better. Google likes niches, too. Unique content fares better in search results, so ask yourself what the people you’d like to influence are searching for.
Don’t be shy about featuring what others have said about you and your work. On the page of your blog that explains who you are, let others tell the story for you—they’re better at it. Pretend it’s the back of a book. Public praise by a third party is infinitely more impactful than self-congratulatory copy. Successful blogger Brian Clark put it this way: “What other people say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.” Some of the praise you feature will come naturally, even unexpectedly. But you’ll usually need to ask for it when you’ve done good work, so make a habit of it. Be sure to disclose that you plan on putting their words on your blog. Most will be flattered.
After putting in all that work, the last thing you want to do is sit back and wait, believing content is king. The concept of reciprocity should guide your efforts to promote your blog. Think about what actions you want people to take when they visit your blog; literally make a list of them. Then make a list of bloggers you respect, whose work you enjoy, and who you’d like to get to know better. Make sure to include bloggers that aren’t hugely popular yet; due to the volume of activity on their blogs (and perhaps, their egos), well-known bloggers are less likely to reciprocate.
Now the fun part. Take your list of people, visit their blogs, and start doing the things on your other list. Comment on their blogs, subscribe to their newsletters, send thoughtful tweets in their direction. You’ll quickly find that people like people that validate their work in these ways, and they like people that share their passions. Many of them will take a moment to discover who you are by following the link in your Twitter profile, or the backlink in your blog comments. And then they’ll reciprocate by commenting, sharing your content, or something else similar to what you did for them.
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