Get and Keep Readers

White Blossoms, Red Kimono

The following speech was given at Saturday’s New York City Tribeup.

We live in an attention economy. The way content gets found today with social validation and search requires that posts, videos and pictures get referred to and talked about by others.

As a blogger, I did well during the RSS era with the Buzz Bin. I sold that blog as part of an acquisition. In the process I lost 5000 RSS subscribers.

For a little while, my personal blog did well in its stead based on my social network communities and good will. This created a second wave of success.

I then did a bunch of stupid things like cut down frequency, blog without editorial direction, engaged in a few immature blog wars, and restricted my frequency. These things effectively eroded my blog’s social support.

After a period of roughly the past half year, a guest blogging campaign, being exposed to Gini Dietrich‘s brilliant mind while launching our book, and a reinvigorated content mission with a committed frequency, my personal blog began to rebound. Then I joined Triberr, effectively capping a comeback, my third wave of personal blogging success.

In addition, I created and launched Razoo’s very successful Inspiring Generosity blog with Ifdy Perez and Network Solutions’s Solutions Are Power blog with Shashi Bellamkonda.

So I think I know enough about blogging, what to do, and what not to do to be considered dangerous. Here are my top takeaways for you.

The Necessity of Professionalism

People make your blog, you don’t. You serve them.

I don’t care what your objective is, business or personal, if you create content AND you want to be read, you serve people. So serve them well.

That means create an editorial mission — something I’ve had in all five cases where I have been successful. The mission serves your readers, and you need to consistently deliver quality content.

I’m fortunate in that I was a reporter early in my career, and learned this discipline.

Sticking with it means delivering consistently on the days/times you committed to post. No matter what.

Further, professionalism means engaging your commenters, on and off your blog with respect. Too many times I debated commenters rather than simply thank them for investing the time to comment.

Your blog is a store for people to access your content. Run it like you want your local store run. Be professional.

You Need Readers

In order for a blog to be successful, you need readers. We talked a bit about product, but I think we also need to discuss going out and finding readers.

In the old RSS days, there was no Twitter or Facebook. Word of mouth through commenting and links did the trick.

Social networks made retweets, shares and bookmarks critical. But now, we need more. Big media companies have muscled in, and established bloggers dominate sectors. To break through, you need unique content, and fantastic social networking skills.

Triberr is one way to achieve new readers because the community is bloggers sharing works. It’s like an online trade association of great like-minded practitioners helping each other.

Be smart, curate the links you share, and be sure to give as much love as you can to your Triberr network without alienating your primary communities.

Regardless of how you market, you must understand that reciprocity is vital for blogging. It always has been dating back to the link and be linked to days. Give, give, give, and you will receive.

Some people are fantastic about engaging people online and cultivating community. They make others feel special. Others simply rely on fantastic useful content to keep the bees coming back.

Whatever you do make sure your readers walk away from your blog feeling they got something out of it, whether it’s personal validation or pragmatic good information or something completely different altogether.

Show Yourself

Banjo Playing Geoff Bob Livingston
Not one of my finer moments

Keeping readers is partly about a professional attitude about content and respectful commenting. Part of it is developing relationships so people want to come back.

Personality is essential for an individually authored blog. I don’t care about how good your professional content is. People want to know and identify with you.

One of the hardest parts of my latest revival was caving in and showing a deeper level of personality online. I tried to rely on photos to do this for years. Though people love my photos, they just weren’t enough.

To grow the blog, the kimono had to open. So on Fridays I move away from the marketing beat and show how I think about work or life.

I won’t lie, this has been very difficult at times. I’m really afraid to go too deep and, frankly, allow myself to become vulnerable.

Cliques, groups, etc. have never been my thing, and I’ve always been a lone wolf. It’s easier to hide behind my wall most days.

Some Fridays I bail, opting for a hobby post, like sports or photography. And of course, those “running away” posts never do as well as the real me. I do the best I can with this.

I can’t wait to publish the, “If I was CEO, my office would have no chairs” post! Yeah, maybe thinking about that one a little while longer is in order.


So what happened to me anyway in 2010-2011? I lost the desire to compete for a while. And I got sloppy.

Fortunately, I got that fire back.

Know this — top bloggers are competitive as hell. There may be a cordial respect and dialogue between them, but no one wants to be an unknown blogger.

If you want to rise above and become a well known blogger, you must separate and differentiate.

The blogosphere is dominated by an established leadership of individuals and media companies that own a majority of the market. There’s a corresponding long tail of similar voices that compete on many common aspects; content, community commenting, topic, format, etc. As such, it is very difficult to build a top blog within an established market, and therefore new entrants are simply fighting to be recognized.

You must create a value innovation with a unique and distinguished content offering that readers immediately identify as special and worthwhile. That’s what turns heads.

Though I don’t have aspirations of being a top ten industry blogger anymore, I do want to be respected by my marketing peers, and differentiated from the blogger pack. It’s important for my business and the type of client I want to attract. My content strategy directly and successfully (in my opinion) achieves this goal.


Sing It, Cyndi!
Cyndi Lauper moved into the blues, and had her first best selling album in years.

Finally, media itself evolves quickly. You can’t afford to get sloppy or stuck in old ways.

Figuring out how to continue to keep and grow readership and community demands that we remain teachable and evolve.

Whether its Pinterest or Triberr or Buffer or mobile friendly site design or whatever is coming down the pike next, you have to be ready to adapt. Mobile screens for example, have made short paragraphs and visuals just essential for success.

Marketing automation is probably necessary to develop a new following today.

I had to change my mind and adapt to these things. Remaining open to change and evolution is essential for long term survival in the blogosphere.

So, I’ve said enough, what do you think?