Hi and welcome to the ongoing saga of the Reflections series we are putting on here throughout the month of April. Last week, John killed Rachel in the conservatory, while David headed out to Las Vegas to make sure his half-brother Charles wasn’t going to kill himself. All the while Donald made sure Daisy wasn’t going to be sent to the insane asylum for something that was really the fault of his Uncle Scrooge. Wait . . . scratch that . . . This is not the Reflections series. There is no soap opera in the Reflections Series. (Not even a Disney One.) It really comes down to this. The Reflections series represents the partnership with one blogger who worked with us last year in our Perspectives series.
Unfortunately, this year, the partner was unable to continue for difficulties she was unprepared for. And while I am excited she has agreed to do another interview with us, closing out the month of January, she has been unable to partner with us this year. As a result, we created the Reflections series to take a look back before we spring forward for another year at the guide. (Just hopefully not the spring forward as they do with Daylight Savings Time, the bane of my sleep schedule.)
Last year we covered the 10 Things I learned about blogging this year. And as I take a look back and see the person who I was in that moment, much of the advice I gave has not changed. The irony is that while the advice has not changed, the person giving the advice has changed. Obviously, I take a look back on “the me” that was, learning I didn’t always heed my own advice. And sometimes, the advice lead me to different issues than I had originally. But I don’t want to rehash my old post in this instance. I just want to “keep moving forward,” as the great Walt Disney once opined.
With that understanding, I want to take a look at five things I learned this year while blogging out there. There really are so many things to learn when it comes to blogging. Every day becomes an adventure of its own. And there are things I would still like to learn. Some people are involved in 50 different things at the same time and I don’t see how that’s possible. Whether it’s because they aren’t actively participating, they don’t have a life despite the one they portray on the computer, or they do not sleep at all and are constantly focused on the work, I cannot tell.
I would love to learn this magic formula for sure. Whatever there is to learn, I do hope to get to there someday. I know you don’t figure everything out at once. I’d probably be overwhelmed if it did all come at once. But whatever I have learned I wish to share with you. So here are my five magic beans to give to you this year for blogging:
Wisdom Wednesdays: The Five Keys To Blogging In 2019
1) Relationship! Duh!
I say this as a person who needs to remind myself of the importance of things and not get caught up in this formula or that formula to succeed. When it comes down to the development and growth of your blog, nothing helps you to succeed like the relationships you develop. These relationships will take different forms but will be essential to your success when it comes to blogging, especially if you are even halfheartedly considering making a career out of it. These relationships break down into three separate categories. Each is uniquely important to your journey.
-Blogging Friends –
These are your group of fellow bloggers out there who will encourage you along your journey. They won’t just stand on the sidelines. If something is going wrong, they will check in on you. If something is going right, they will celebrate it with you. Whatever the case, they will always be there and be supportive of you. You will need a few of these as there will be days and times you will feel a bit lost. These are the ones who will stand beside you through it all.
-Blogging Network –
This is a larger group of people you will need and want to make connections with. They will help you grow, and point you in the right direction when you are considering various different options. They may hook you up with a person, PR company, or entertainment group. While they are supportive, it’s just not the same kind of support as your blogging friends. Nevertheless, these people are important to you and important to cultivate these kinds of relationships out there.
-Blogging Audience –
The Third group of people altogether. These are the people who come to visit your site because they love you and the information you provide them. You will need to focus on cultivating this audience and growing from there. This means making sure you meet the needs of them in some certain way. They are there because you fill a need for them. You need to make sure you keep doing it. This means responding to their queries, commenting on their comments, and listening to them when they have advice. (Although not always taking it.). Your audience needs to feel heard and respected. So let them know you do.
2) You Have Two Separate Worlds For Which To Care
When it comes to blogging, you have two worlds you need to keep in mind and make sure you cultivate: your blog and social media. It gets to be very tricky in these two worlds. Both of them are extremely important to your success. And both of them could be your downfall if you do not be careful. The problem is when people get fixated at working on one or the other. It’s so easy to get lost that way. You must do both well if you want to grow.
Most people here started out as a blogger, thinking we had a bunch of people on social media from which to draw an audience. Using that as a base we would grow this blog. But our loving was for blogging. So when social media doesn’t seem to be happening for us, we retreat into our blogs. Yes, our blogs are where we want to communicate. But if you lose sight of social media, your growth potential plummets. Sure, you can get your blog to auto-send things to social media. But unless you are engaging there, they will have little reason to come to your blog aside from clickbait. And if you don’t notice growth in your blog, your reasons for blogging may leave you feeling cold.
As for social media, you can easily get caught up in the world of social media. You can fixate on this site of that site, how many followers you have, whether or not they are engaging with your content, and whether all your content properly falls within what you want as a brand. While all of those things can be good at times, the ultimate goal of the blogger is to take the things from social media and drive them back to the blog itself. If social media becomes an end to itself, the blog itself suffers. And while some people can make money in social media alone, I am guessing as a blogger, it’s not why you were using social media. Social media was an extension of your blog. Not the other way around.
What it really comes down to is finding some balance with everything. Don’t lose yourself in social media to spite your blog. And don’t focus so much on the blog because social media frustrates you and lose other means of driving people to your content. SEO is wonderful but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. Social media is essential for growth. Therefore, you cannot give up on it.
3) You Still Have A Life. To Be A Good Blogger You Need To Live It.
Far too often we can get ourselves caught up in this world we created between blogging in social media. It can lead us down a lot of fun avenues. But it also can lead to us ignoring everything going on around us because of the importance of getting our stuff out there to the public. Obviously, some of the fun things we get to do as bloggers end up in our blog posts. Whether it’s Knott’s Berry Farm, Legoland, Applebee’s, Microsoft, Book Reviews, or any of the other host of things I am offered, they will show up in my site as reviews and commentaries. I hope they are useful to you, my audience.
But they do not inspire me in and of themselves. What inspires me is the pure unadulterated joy emanating from my daughter’s face as we bounce up and down in the Wipeout Ride at Knott’s. Or maybe it’s the look of excitement my daughter has as she drags her cousins across the Town of Calico in Ghost Town Alive. Or it could be the lightbulb I envision rising above her head as she comes up with a new ingenious way to build a Lego car to go down the test ramp.
It’s possible I will get some of these experiences through my relationships with companies and the like. But I will miss them if I am staring at my camera too hard looking for the right angle on the shot. Or my daughter might drag her feet more if I want her to take the 50th picture of her in front of the same fountain.
It really comes down to the need to live one’s life. Someone just commented to me that inspiration for them as a storyteller came as they read more stories. On some level, it feels counterintuitive to read other’s stories to be able to write your own. But through those stories, we learn how to construct our own stories, to tell tales of meaning and significance. When we stop reading, we stop thinking. We stop gaining ideas. And we limit the world around us.
With blogging, it comes down to needing to honestly engage with my daughter and the people who are close and important to me. When I get sucked into my blogging world, I lose sight of the beautiful world I have with my daughter, and the relationship I have with her. The stories I can then tell are beautiful and inspired by the life I live. Living my life helps give me new angles to tell my stories. And they give me the ability to construct posts of meaning and significance in a way I would be unable to do otherwise.
I think of blogging life like a car. Living my life fuels that engine. The more I live my life, the better the fuel for that engine. When I stop living life, the engine starts running poorly. And eventually, I will run out of gas. Look at all the bloggers out there for a moment who speak of burn out, or needing to refind their passion. Yes, blogging can be a passion. But it can’t be your only one. And the amazing things inside the blog are the things which you bring to the blog.
Yes, we might love your blog about “fill in the blank.” But we love the blog because you are the one writing it. Because you are telling us these things in a way which is different than anyone else; and enrich our lives in a way we can’t always quantify, but definitely sense. So give that engine some gas. Today you may be driving along. But nurture this talent with the life you live and one day you might actually fly.
4) Success In Blogging Is Never A Straight Line.
Remember those charts they used to make you do in school. For the most part, you would plot points on a graph and then you would have to draw a straight line from start to finish. In Algebra, it was the point-slope formula. Then line started down below and would shoot through the top of your paper and into the clouds. Before long you could imagine the line reaching heaven. And when the plot points didn’t make a perfectly straight line for the graph, frequently they would ask you to draw a line through the middle of those points. Once again this line would reach towards the heavens.
Unfortunately, I feel like someone sold us a bill of goods, convincing us this line graph perfectly represented blogging life and success. Today we have 20 followers, tomorrow 50 followers, the day after 120 followers and so on. We may have lucked into this opportunity or that one. Someone may have reached out to us for an interview, or given us an opportunity which was unexpected early on. But success doesn’t mean two interviews tomorrow. And it certainly doesn’t mean 10. If you look at success, it tells a far different story.
True and lasting success talks about the two hours of sleep you got the night before to get a post out, only 100 people will ever read. Success is the most popular and important post you have ever written followed by your least recognized post. Success is the brand Ambassadorship followed by two months of empty inboxes in your email account. Of course, everyone’s road to success never looks the same. But there are significant markers for the successful blogger you need to remember in order to succeed. Failure represents one of those markers.
The truth is, no one ever learns by failure. Overnight success often precedes a precipitous decline in popularity. Because those who generate the viral content (aside from clickbait links which are another thing entirely) often cannot replicate their own success. They cannot because they do not know how they were successful in the first place. Those who truly succeed have mastered the art of creating engaging content. They get multiple viral videos because they can tell you what they did differently this time which made their audience respond. And to learn you need to fail. Often! So get out there and bust your butt, and realize you will fail more times than you succeed. But for every failure, you will learn more and more about what it means to be a success.
5) When All Is Said And Done, You Need To Be You
When you are a blogger out there in the world, it is so easy to get caught into other people’s successes. They have been doing it 2 years, 4 years, 6 years, 10 years, or even three months. And all of them are writing these amazing blogs about how successful they are. It can become very intimidating. I know that a great many people quit right off because of some of these blogs which purport to overnight success.
I for one am not going to take the time to dispute their number or try to write a piece about how they are manipulating things to make you feel bad and drive you from the business. And I’m certainly not going to talk about how these same people who put out these “success charts” are the same people who are then offering paid courses on how to become a better blogger. Maybe they are a success for real. Maybe they are not. You barely know them. But why get caught up in what their success looks like anyway.
Maybe you read this funny person and their blogs and you figure like this person you need to be upping your twitter game because that is how you will expand your audience. Twitter probably helps the most with humor as it’s quick hitting and can be humorous. But what if your talent is in arranging photospreads. I wouldn’t look at the twitter guy as the one you should be emulating. You might want to head over to successful Instagrammers or successful Pinterest people for turning your visuals into appealing graphics people will be drawn to. But even they don’t know you. And you cannot strictly follow what they do either.
Your path to success is entirely your own. It will look completely different than the path to success for anyone else. It may resemble other’s paths in many aspects, but it won’t be that way completely. You won’t control which companies contact you at which time. And you cannot control when you are available when they offer up these opportunities. So why should you expect to be making your first 10,000 in your first year? If you did it, go you! If not, don’t sweat it.
How are you going to ultimately find success? Be the most authentic you, you can possibly be. Yes, get yourself a good hosting site like Bluehost. And yes, make sure to install a good version of Yoast for SEO help. And sure, put yourself out on as many social media sites as possible without spreading yourself too thin. But all of those things are but a minor blip in what your success will look like.
Your true success will come when you find how to become the most authentic you possible. It will be the “you” which gives your audience something they have never seen before. Funny Dad’s are a dime a dozen. Just pull up the hashtag dad jokes in Twitter and you can hit hundreds of them in a single swipe. When I began writing, I knew I could be funny, but I need to be able to be funny about the items which mean something to me.
This means my posts can be funny but they have to represent things which strike my interest. My daughter means the world to me. Great food is a passion. Satire and Sarcasm represent second and third languages in my vocabulary. And I love traveling and experiencing new and amazing things. If I can write on those subjects and be my most authentic self, I’m truly giving my audience something. (And as a side benefit, I’ll never tire of doing it either.)
So don’t panic when you find out the blogging buddy who began at the same time as you, already made his first commission, or generated their first brand ambassadorship. It’s not your journey. It’s theirs. And ultimately, you wouldn’t be happy with their journey. Keep plugging away as you find your voice and keep reaching out to find your audience. Do that, and I’ll see you at the next blogging awards. I promise I’ll be easy to spot. I’ll be the one wearing your merch!
Wrapping Things Up
You can go on forever on some of these topics. And I generally do. But the truth is blogging is a never-ending learning process. SEO changes. Themes get outdated. And updates in WordPress can throw your world into a tizzy. The successful bloggers are those who are able to navigate the storms and come through on the other side smelling like a rose. (Or they pay people, but that’s a whole other issue.) It’s probably the only thing I have ever done in my life where I have done so much and still feel like a novice. I have written almost 670,000 words in just over two years. The standard novel is 55,000 words. This would mean I’d be working on my 13th novel by now if I’d gone that route. Let that sink in.
How can I still feel like a novice? Because I see the journeys these bloggers have taken. And I realize it’s a process. I’m just going through my process. And throughout this Reflections month, I have begun enjoying it again. I hope you are enjoying it with me. I, for one, cannot wait to see where my journey leads. I’ll be excited to see where yours leads as well. Good luck! And happy blogging!
Continue The Conversation
Usually, I’m really reticent for other bloggers to do this, but I think this post warrants it. Put your blog links in here. Share one of your best posts. If it’s one about your blogging journey, even better. We all need to take a step back and get some inspiration from time to time. I for one admit my audience inspires me. So lay it on me here.
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And don’t forget to follow us. I promise I will have some amazing Knott’s stuff shortly as well as all the great parenting, fake news, food holiday, and lifestyle posts to fill your every desire. But wait! There’s more. Check out the Dad Rules. These are the ten rules every father should know about. I just want to thank you for stopping by. I’d give you a medal for reaching the end, but I can’t afford it. So a pat on the back will have to suffice.
Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, The Single Dad’s Guide to Life