Secret to blogging success: A focused generalist be

Blog typewriter keys

Some bloggers are focused. They write about a single topic in a single genre on a single platform from one profile. Others are more diverse. They write about a variety of topics in multiple genres across several platform using different profiles. There are unique advantages and challenges to both. In most cases, however, the tightly focused blog with a well-defined purpose, audience and voice will succeed faster and sustain that success longer than one that is more general and appeals to a broader audience.

Blog typewriter keysConsider this: newspapers, that bastion of general information with a local or regional twist are struggling to survive online. Many magazines, which have more tightly defines topics and audiences are flourishing. So are many niche blogs. Of course, some general blogs are flourishing as well, but these are often large websites the collect a number of smaller niche blogs under their umbrella and brand.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: most bloggers, indeed most writers, are not that focused. The successful ones certainly aren’t. They just seem like they are.

Want proof?

Name your favorite blogger. Now list all of the places you can find their content. Chances are along with their main blog or website you also listed book, podcasts, ebooks, videos, other online presences like Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, maybe a personal blog or page, a television series, a radio show, a tour or even a bricks and mortar location. If you look closely at all these access points, you’ll see that, although they are all penned by the same individual (though not always under the same name) they are NOT carbon copies of each other. Part of that is because different media both require and provide different things. Hopefully, part of that is also by choice. Here’s another secret: the more successful and professional a blogger is, the more likely all those “other” places are to be deliberately different.

Now take a look at your blog and the other places where your content can be found. What do you see?

Most of us, and I include myself in this, see a hodge-podge of blogs, websites, profiles and media. Some of this is regularly maintained. Some of it is sporadically maintained and updated every few days or weeks. Some is rarely maintained to the point that the lights are on but no one is home very often. And some have been abandoned or lost to the mists and swift currents of online trends and Internet time.

By now, you’ve probably figured out where this is going. If you want to be a successful blogger, you need to focus…and diversify. The mistake most bloggers make is that they try to do too much too soon. They choose a topic that is too general, try to establish themselves simultaneously in too many places and generally end up frustrated before they have really given themselves time to succeed (believe it or not, online success, like offline success, rarely happens overnight, it takes time and a lot of prep work to make it appear as though it does).

The term “focused generalist” was not chosen by accident. The first step on the road to blogging success is to focus on something. If you’re participating in a blogathon or NaNoWriMo or a similar activity/contest you’re already halfway there because you’ve picked a genre to focus on, at least for a month or so. Now narrow it down even more by asking yourself (and preferably writing down the answers to) these questions:

  • Why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Who are you doing this for and why?
  • Where are you going to do it (Public blog or website? Offline? Online but privately?)
  • What is the subject/topic of your blog or book? (Keep this answer short, preferably a couple of sentences.)
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • How will you quantify success? (A certain number of followers, a contract with an agent, self-publishing on Amazon or Scribd or elsewhere, submitting to a contest, being published in a magazine, speaking before a group, making a certain number or dollar volume of sales, all of these and more are concrete means of demonstrating success.)

Now that you have some focused on your target and timeframe (remember the key to setting good goals is to make them specific and reasonable but not too easy) let’s broaden your horizons. The second step to becoming a successful blogger could be called letting your light shine, and it’s all about sharing yourself, your journey to success and your content with others. Take a few minutes to answer (in writing) these questions:

  • What actions or specific tasks must you undertake every day in order to succeed? (Give yourself daily goals: 1 blog post, 2 comments on other blogs, 3 Facebook or LinkedIN updates promoting yourself/your blog/your book, 5 promotional tweets, 10 pages or 3,000 words written on your novel.)
  • What additional promotional tasks must you take each week in order to succeed? (These are things like promoting yourself and your content on other sites or social networks, doing a podcast or video, bidding on projects, contacting prospective clients/agents/markets/publishers, etc.)
  • How are you going to accomplish these daily and weekly tasks? (Hint: Doing things manually can be a lot of work, consider ways and tools that can help you multitask, streamline or automate regularly scheduled tasks.)
  • What tasks do you need to find others to do? (Accept that you can’t and probably don’t want to do everything and are going to need help, whether it’s to design a book cover, edit your blog/book, build your website, take photographs, edit audio or video, or something else, you are going to need help.)
  • Where are you going to find help and how are you going to decide what kind of help to ask for and accept? (Do you want to work with local or online vendors? How much are you willing to pay? What deadlines are constraints are you working under that will affect the kind of help you need? How will you decide between multiple offers/options? What is the one thing that’s a deal breaker?)
  • When will you take time off? (Working all day everyday, 7 days a week 52 weeks a year, every year is a recipe for burnout so be sure you schedule some downtime for yourself. By planning ahead you won’t have to sacrifice achieving your goals and can truly enjoy your time away for the keyboard. By the way, you may want to plan what you will do with your downtime or you may find yourself doing work or work related activities on your day off, at the very least work on projects unrelated to your main one.)

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

It is and it isn’t. I can tell you from personal experience doing all this, let alone doing it to the best of your ability which is one of the keys to being a successful blogger, is easier said than done. I can also assure you that it is do able. It even gets easier as you learn more and discovers tools that can help you work smarter and faster not more. Eventually success becomes a habit we can all have and share.

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