Advice From a Former Fearful Blogger
THREE ways to get over our fear of blogging.
It's easier than we think: getting over fear. Good thing, too. Fear is the very thing that stops us from doing things that we know we really ought to do. For some folks, blogging is right up there with a visit to the dentist.
Not long ago, a friend asked, "Hey Ray, any advice on how I should start blogging?
When haven't I heard that question before? Then I paused. Maybe I haven't been listening.
Usually, especially if it's a client, my first reaction to a question like that is to start a core dump of accumulated knowledge, which includes various content creation guidelines, SEO advisories, and a grab bag of other tools and 'tricks'. I'll go on with the importance of keywords, page authority, frequency, engagement, and the all-important "call to action." But what then?
There are other important things to remember about blogging, and most of it is rather personal. For one thing, not everyone thinks of themselves as a writer. Even if you can stitch together a sentence or two to assemble a complete thought, how do you feel about sewing up 10 or 15 of them into a complete article? How about doing THAT consistently every month? Every other week? Weekly? Here is where fear of failure seeps in for some of us. Maybe "fear" is too strong a word, but it is a high level reluctance to engage a task that you JUST KNOW is going to suck. It's on that note that I must reveal my own personal struggle with blogging.
I started my first blog in late 2000 after spending about a year watching kids (mostly) ramble on and on about various social experiments and fashion questions. One enterprising kid who had a very popular blog managed to snag a few corporate fashion sponsors. That's when I knew that blogging had real potential for all kinds of business. I selected Greymatter blogging software - this was a few years before WordPress came out - and launched with absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it.
I've never had a problem missing trends and knowing - instinctively - when was a good time to strike. My problem is fearlessly launching myself into the flow - Devils be damned - and setting goals for success.
I was the first among my peers to try blogging for my business (yay me). That meant exposing myself to closer scrutiny - and reluctance defined by fear. Maybe that's damning admission for someone like me, but it's true. As the years went along, I made every stupid mistake you can make with a blog. I was concerned that I had nothing to say. I worried that my blogs weren't being read and I, therefore, was irrelevant. I fretted that I wasn't true to my "brand." I freaked that I might be damaging my reputation. A fearful blogger - scared of the shadow of errors and omissions.
I've since corrected that flaw - or at least, made efforts to correct it. Can you imagine where I might be if I could say - today - that I have the longest running blog in the blogosphere? I woke up to the fact that blogs are INDEED important to all businesses and organizations. You decide what your blog should look like: based on your audience, your competition, the specific communication needs of your business. But it doesn't matter how frequently you blog. NOBODY cares if you post every Tuesday at 9am. Even in my business, a semi-active blog is better than nothing.
People come to my blog, not to see me hit editorial schedules. They want to know if I know anything they need to know. If my blog impresses - then maybe someone will call me, arrange a meeting, and I'll get a contract. But no one - ever - has made a final decision about my business BECAUSE of my blog.
Another question people ask, what's it for? Answer: blogs help you start a conversation with your target audience. Through your blog, your audience may get to know you better. More important, if any of your ideas resonate with them (impression), then you'll get a new friend (engagement) who may ask questions (interaction), and possibly do more with you (conversion). See what I did there? Impression, engagement, interaction, conversion - the four cornerstones of content marketing. But those are just more reasons WHY you should blog; it doesn't answer the underlying question: how - and for that, I have three shiny reasons how you should at least approach your nascent career as a full-blown blogger.
- Write what you know. If you know about treehouses, write about all your experiences with them. Start from childhood and work your way to the present. Do you sell plans? Do you have insights on materials? What kinds of trees work best? What are your top 10 reasons for doing "x" while building a treehouse. See? Not so hard.
- Be consistent. Forget about frequency - at least at the beginning. Hitting a regular editorial schedule is a whole other ball of wax that beginners should not worry about. The consistencies I'm talking about here are topic and tone. If treehouses are what you know, flaunt it, show it, make it work! Have an urge to write poetry about the last Dodger's game? Post it on your family Facebook page.
- Be fearless. Don't be afraid of errors, omissions, and other blunders that will inevitably occur. Write, proofread your work, post, reread, proofread again, and where possible, repost! Keep your blog posts focused and short. If you're not a humorist - don't try to be funny. If you're a factoid geek, play it up! Concerned that your writing style is boring and plain? Add photos, diagrams, videos.
You'll find that once you start, the more expertise you gain. As Martin Luther said, "Sin Boldly" - learn from mistakes, do better with what you have. Writing blogs is like any other activity. From my Uncle Norman to your eyes: It takes effort to hone a skill. It takes time to grow accustomed to a tool.
Work it. But don't be afraid of it.