Tuesday, 28 January 2014

How to be a Successful Blogger (by breaking all the rules)

Know the 'rules' of blogging before you start, they say. There are steps to successful blogging. I know these 'rules', and I follow a lot of them, just not at the same time.

Most of the time I'm breaking the rules.

And there are very good reasons for breaking the rules of blogging, both in corporate and personal/lifestyle blogging. It really depends on your goals.

I tend not to define myself as a 'blogger' because blogging is just one part of what I do, both personally and professionally. Here I am, blogging, but this blog here is not my career, it's not my business, and it's not my entire lifestyle. And yet this blog has been hugely successful - by my own terms!

So here are some 'rules' of blogging that I know I break, and why I break them:

Broken Rule # 1: (Don't) Find a Niche and Stick to it

Personally: I'm an expat, millennial, career-changing digital native, and for a long time I couldn't decide how to narrow my niche. I love the differences between American and UK cultures but I didn't want a pure expat blog. The blogs I read on a daily basis cover a broad range of interests, and rarely overlap. So for 2014 I'm picking three themes and running with them: Building (and re-building) a career as a millennial, blogging/marketing, and my expat life. They're not as distinct as they might seem and I have several blog posts planned that fit into more than one theme.

So if you can't choose a specific niche, or don't want to be pigeonholed, don't choose a niche! Try picking a few key themes that interest you, and you'll soon work out how they can tie together into one overall brand.

Broken Rule # 2: (Don't) Share your Blog Posts all over Social Media

You've written a snappy, relevant, or thought-provoking post and you want to share it with the world. But stop: Where are you going to share it, and when?

Don't feel like you should just blast it all over every social account you have. Use your social accounts wisely and mindfully. Twitter is the place to craft an irresistible headline or two and share throughout the day. Pinterest and Facebook both drive traffic with visual content, but at opposite times of the day. And sometimes more is not always better - too much can be less effective than not enough.

For every post you craft, determine the best social accounts to share on. This works equally for personal and corporate blogging, especially when you're clear on what you want to achieve - whether it's traffic, sales, or shares.

Broken Rule # 3: (Don't) Be an Expert

Sometimes the most interesting blogs are about people learning their way. Whether it's a new mom, a new blogger, a new lawyer, a new fashionista, or someone who's in a new country, sharing first-time experiences can be more genuine and engaging than advice from thought-leaders. And that goes for pictures too - photos from 'behind the scenes' give a fascinating insight. 

Unpolished: Behind the scenes. NOT what I wear professionally!
Don't forget that blogging is allowed to be immediate and a bit unpolished! That includes, writing, photography, your outfit, your baby - whatever. Some personal blogs look professional, and some professional blogs look homespun. And that's totally ok. Life's like that, so go with it. Share what you don't know, as well as what you do.

Broken Rule # 4: (Don't) Break all the Rules

Read all the 'rules' of blogging that you can find, and read all the rulebreakers (ahem). Then decide what you need to do. Knowing how and why tricks and tactics work in social media and blogging helps you to discover what works for you.

So the one rule I recommend you do follow is to set out a goal for your blog. Even if you've been blogging for ages. And when you achieve that goal or your goal eventually changes, take a step back and re-evaluate, because your tactics will alter depending on what you want to achieve.

Some people like sharing memes and pictures, some people like essays and ideas, some like a mixture of both. Some people want to sell products, others want to build an audience, and others still just want to explore and have fun whether anyone's reading or not. Catch-all rules or rule-breaking won't work for every blog the same way.

Broken Rule # 5: (Don't) Define Success According to Others

And finally, remember that everyone does have a different goal. Me? I'm not a fashion blogger, so I don't do outfit posts, even though I tried them. I'm not into giveaways or sponsorships, even though I tried them and they absolutely work. They're 'rules' I don't want to follow

I don't blog every day, I don't have a huge readership, and I feel successful

I've met some fun people, switched careers, learned and expanded skills. I get to test ideas at 'play' in my personal blogspace, on projects with no real deadline and no real purpose, then test ideas out at work. 

So here's how I'm defining my (personal) blogging success this year: I'm going to take my three themes, and try to create a cohesive personal brand. Even if my brand is millennial expat career-changing digital native!

What blogging rules do you follow? Which ones do you break? How do you define your blogging success?

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