You already know that nowadays you’re invisible without some sort of social media presence. You already know the (alleged) benefits of having a personal or business blog.
But you still don’t blog, and for good reason, right? Blogging is work, and ten other things are more important. Writing is hard and takes longer than you think it ought.
And even if the blog works, the experts say you won’t be able to measure its effect, and it will probably take years to come to fruition. Years? Fooey. You need a sale today. You need a job by next Thursday. Who has time for “years?”
…but that’s like saying you’re not going learn to play an instrument because it takes practice.
…but that’s like saying you’re not going to start a company because at first it’s difficult and the payout — if there is one — is too far away to be tangible.
Not much in life that’s worthwhile is easy, especially at the beginning. That’s not an excuse to not do it.
Here’s a bunch of other excuses you’re probably using to avoid becoming a good communicator with influence in the world. Maybe by showing you ways around them you’ll take the plunge.
I don’t know what to write about.
Kathy over at Virtual Impax has a great way to remedy that:
If you’re in business, you’re either helping customers/clients to:
1. achieve a goal,
2. satisfy a desire, and/or
3. solve a problem.
Decide which of those things you do, and write down exactly what that thing is. You’re not identifying what you do but rather the end result that your customers are using you for.
Now write about that.
For example, email newsletter systems like Constant Contact or MailChimp let you collect names and send email. That’s what they do. But their customer’s goals are to stay in their clients’ minds, to get them to click on links, and probably ultimately to sell them something.
So MailChimp doesn’t need to blog about their software (except maybe to explain a tip or announce a new feature), and certainly doesn’t need to talk about Barak Obama or Miley Cyrus. They should talk about how to write an effective newsletter, how to track key metrics on newsletter campaigns, what kinds of things you should expect to achieve from a newsletter, ideas for content for your newsletter, ways to look informative instead of spammy, ways to get two-way promotion with other bloggers via your newsletter, and so on.
These are all things which are equally applicable to their competitors products, but that’s OK! Providing a software tool is just one way in which they’re going to help their customers succeed — this training, knowledge-transfer, best-practices, and tips are also necessary to make their customers truly successful.
As Kathy says in that article:
If you don’t KNOW what goals you’re helping people achieve, if you don’t know what desires are being quenched, if you don’t know what problems need to be solved, then OF COURSE you aren’t going to know what to blog about.
Yeah, and you have a deeper problem then blogging: You don’t know why you’re in business!
I’m not good at writing.
So how are you going to fix that?
And yes, you do have to fix that. However you feel about the way the Internet is going, you have to admit that writing skills are getting more important, not less. Whether it’s blog posts, Twitters, Facebook updates, discussion forums, or that arcane so-last-millenium technology known as “email,” we’re writing more now than ever.
There’s no better way to improve than to write short essays and put them on the Internet for all to see. Why?
Short, so completion is realistic. Public, to elicit your best performance. Essays — not memos, not inconsequential updates — because it forces you to consider a topic, decide what you think, and convey that to others, which is the basis of making an impact on another human being.
Writing is like any other skill — you have to practice to improve. Duh. You certainly won’t get better at it by summarizing meeting notes or Twittering what you ate for lunch.
Don’t worry about other people seeing your crappy writing; at first no one’s looking except friends and family, and they understand what you’re trying to do. Later when you’re better at this, you can delete those posts or, if you’re like me, you’ll leave them because it’s fun to see how far you’ve come.
All the good ideas have already been written about.
No, it’s worse than that. Good ideas have been written about by famous bloggers with flair and panache, and it’s been read by their tens of thousands of readers.
When you see a great article that really resonates with you, that you wish you had written yourself, here’s the post you write next:
[OTHER BLOGGER] wrote a great piece yesterday about how [SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT]. What stood out was [MORE DETAIL, WITH PITHY QUOTE].
Then the body of the post can go in all sorts of directions:
- Pile on three more arguments for this point.
- Tell a story about an example of this point.
- Tell a story about a counter-example which went terribly wrong.
- Say essentially the same thing but elaborate where the original poster made assumptions or skipped a step.
- Say essentially the same thing but condense the original poster’s lengthy missive (who, me?) into a punchy summary.
- Find related articles which agree and create a narrative where you weave their arguments together to drive the point home.
- Find counter-point articles and explain why those are wrong.
For the conclusion, challenge the reader to use this in her life. Ask a poingant question or suggest actions they could take today.
You can follow this format forever. As you practice, you’ll discover more and more of your own ideas, your own language, and your own flow will naturally take over.
Finally, you can use this same technique for posts you vehemently disagree with!
Just make sure you’re riffing off something you feel strongly about; then finding more to say will be easy.
I’m not creative.
People say this all the time; I don’t think they know what they mean.
Do you mean you’re not a music composer or you don’t get post-modern art or you’re not the next Hemingway? No kidding, me neither. That’s not what this is about.
The goal isn’t to generate art or invent new philosophies; the goal is to improve your ability to communicate and increase your sphere of influence. You don’t have to be an artiste to do that!
The preceeding sections should make it clear that invention is unnecessary and uniqueness is irrelevant. Clarifying your impressions about something you just read is enough; converting your feelings into words is enough; presenting your existing, unoriginal opinion as a three-part argument with a link or two is enough.
Those things aren’t easy, I’ll give you that! But they don’t require creativity.
There’s lots of everyday things you already talk about; now it’s just time to organize and present your thoughts.
I’m not good with software / I don’t know about “the world of” blogging software.
Fair enough, let me help:
- Sign up for a free account at WordPress.com or join me at my company WPEngine. Either way you’re up in minutes.
- Start with a few test articles to get the feel of things.
- Look through the site design templates they have and pick something you like. This is supposed to be enjoyable!
- Don’t worry (right now) about widgets and RSS and fancy formatting and clever pictures. You can do that later.
There’s more things you should do eventually, like putting your blog behind your own domain name so you can switch blogging platforms later and using Feedburner to track how many people have subscribed to your blog. But if you create too much work for yourself ahead of time you’ll never begin.
Once you get 10-20 posts under your belt, check out the ways this blog got popular.
But that’s later. You can fix everything later. Right now no one’s looking anyway.
Remember, this is for you.
Do you have more advice, or do you argue that blogging isn’t useful enough to justify the effort? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments.