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How a Blogger can Build a Global Audience from Zero: Part One

If you are a entrepreneur  or a blogger then there is a question you will need to ask yourself. How a Blogger can Build a Global Audience from Zero

If you had to start from scratch, what are the steps that you would take to build a Global engaged audience?

200 years ago when you built a business it was about starting local. Today with the world wide web and easy to use social networks that have global reach and real time communication, building a global audience from scratch is within your reach and budget that was not feasible even 5 years ago.

  • So where do you start?
  • What tactics do you use?
  • What tools are available that work?

These are some of the questions you will need to find the answers for to reach your goals.

In this two part series we will cover the six steps to building a global audience for your blog or business.

Today we will look at

  1. Identify your Passion and Innate Abilities
  2. Creating a Plan and Strategy
  3. Building the Blog and Blogging Basics

So lets get started!

Step One: Identify your Passion and Innate Abilities

Blogging is about writing and writing is hard work and not every one is cut out to put pen to paper or hunt keys on the keyboard for hours each day. Even Tolstoy, a famous Russian writer who may have been one of the worlds greatest novelists and the author of “War and Peace” once said

I don’t like writing but I love having written“.

It’s like the start of the new year where we clean the desk, set the goals and roll out the revised set of new year’s resolutions.  Some of us are excited by the year ahead but others are filled with dread and are even thinking whether going back to “that” job is an option.

That motivation for life and the dawn of a new year for some of us is burning and real and for others it is dormant or extinguished.

Motivation is a strange thing and for most of the industrial revolution and beyond we have used “external” motivations to drive ourselves and our employees to work and succeed such as monetary incentives and “stick and carrots”. The reality is and supported by research is that there is a mismatch between “what science knows and what business does”.

We need to look at an approach built upon intrinsic motivation which could be labelled “A New Operating System” for the 21st century that taps into our desire to do things

  • Because they matter
  • They are interesting
  • Because they are part of something important.

Scientists from the the University of Chicago, MIT and Carnegie Mellon discovered in a study sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of America that

In 8 out of 9 tasks examined across 3 experiments that higher incentives led to worse performance

In another study by the London School of Economics (the training ground of George  Soros and the Alma mater of 11 Nobel Laureates) they found that after looking at 51 companies pay for performance plans that “we find that most financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance”.

What science is telling us is that true powerful and long lasting motivation is built upon 3 elements.

1. Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives

2. Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters

3. Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Who would have thought 10 years ago that a professionally managed, paid and heavily sponsored project (Encarta by Microsoft) to create a new media encyclopedia  would be comprehensively beaten to the canvas in a knockout by a free global social science experiment called “Wikipedia” involving thousands of unpaid volunteers working in their pajamas from home.

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What Should You Blog About?

I often get asked this question by people “how do I know what I should blog about?” For me the answer seems simple from this side of the blog but the secret lies in discovering what you love doing in combination with your innate talents. Easily said, but sometimes very hard to discover.

The reality is that a lot of people struggle their entire lives in discovering what they should be doing for a career, in fact some people never discover the secret of making life a joyous journey and in a lot of cases life is full of tedium doing things they hate.

It is a sad truth but many people go to their grave with their song unsung and their talents and passions undiscovered.

Find Work That is Play

I came across a quote by the famous economist Dr. Paul Samuelson that encapsulates one of the secrets to success in life, business and blogging.

Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play. This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors.”

Most of us do not have the privilege of discovering this early on in life but stumble upon it in later years. There is no rhyme or reason as to when or how it occurs, it could be an ephiphany or it maybe a slow awakening but if you discover it grab it with both hands, do not ignore it but embrace it with all the energy and optimistic obsession you can muster.

Work that is play is the combination of innate ability and aptitude that combines with passion to create a synergy that lubricates life’s journey.

Sir Ken Robinson in his book “The Element”  says this about discovering being in your element, “it is the place where the things we love and the things we’re good at come together

Questions You Should Ask Yourself

So how do you find this element? What questions should I be asking to discover work that is play?

Here are some questions you should be starting to ask yourself.

  • What comes easily to you?
  • What do you read about till 2.30 in the morning
  • What gets you up at 4.30am?
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • What kind of things do people compliment you on?
  • What activities give your spirit energy?

You may find that that the topic of the blog that you create or the career that you love will be a combination of several elements.

What do Successful Bloggers Write About?

Successful bloggers you will find are writing and creating content about a combination of  what they are good and are passionate about. That might be politics, it might be sport or it may be marketing. Ariana Huffington who just sold the political news blog Huffington Post for more than $300 million is passionate about her topic and you find if you dug deeper that every element of what she did would have been driven by that burning interest and desire.

The secret is waiting for you and I am sure that some of you already know what that is. Remember, “it is never too late to have a happy childhood”.

This is where you need to start before you even write your marketing plan or kick off  your blog

Step Two: Create a Plan and Marketing Strategy

A plan will will keep you on track and ensure that you don’t deviate down dead ends or get distracted. If you really want to get serious you could write a business plan and back that up with a marketing plan. To keep it simple we will combine this into one.

A strategy will ensure that you select the right tactics and tools to reach the right audience in the most efficient manner. In its simplest form it involves 5 stages.

1. Identify Target Audience(s)

This is important to make sure that when you build your social networks that you have an audience that wants to listen and engage. Just because there is 2 billion people on the web doesn’t mean they all want to listen to your message and story. If you are seliing wine then you will need to target restaurants, food bloggers and any one who will help you reach an extended audience.

2. Set Goals

Goals keep you like a guided missle and on track but need to be quantitative (how many) and when

  • Blog/website traffic goals
  • 1,000 email subscribers in 6 month
  • 2,000 Twitter followers in 3 months
  • Sell 1,000 eBooks in  the first 12 months at $19.95

3. Select Marketing Tactics and Tools to Achieve Goals

You audience may be mostly on Facebook so the marketing tactics might be more Facebook centric and could involve the following

So if you wanted to increase Facebook “likes”  you will use tactics such as:

  • Install a Facebook social plugin on the blog
  • Make it easy to to ‘like” your Facebook page from your daily/ weekly email newsletter

Also don’t forget to include other social networks and media such as Twitter or YouTube in your plans

4. Monitor and Measure

It is important to monitor your success and your failures to see if people are subscribing or unsubscribing. This allows you to change from tactis that aren’t working and find ones that do. Keep experimenting!

5. Rinse and Repeat

So you are finding what works and what doesn’t so do more of what does and cull out what doesn’t and continue to keep an eye on your key performance indicators like sales per month, traffic and subscribers

Step Three: Building the Blog and Blogging Basics

I started the blog with my own domain name jeffbullas.com which was done partly for creating a personal brand online. I then used WordPress.com as my blogging platform using their free hosted WordPress template which ended up causing me more a lot more work later when I wanted to add extra features and functions (such as Retweet and Facebook share buttons) as well as use measurement tools such as Google Analytics that WordPress.com wouldn’t allow. I would recommend that you avoid this and buy your own domain name and self host from day one. It will cost you a few pennies but it will save you a lot of time and grief later on.

So what are 12 blog building essentials?

1. Buy your Own Domain Name

This is important because if you do that you can always take it with you and host your blog wherever you like such as GoDaddy or HostMonster. If you use blogger.com, Typepad.com or even WordPress.com, sure they do it for free but it comes at the cost of your independence which removes your flexibility in the future to control your blogging destiny. They give you a domain name that is a subset of their domain and if you want to move your blog in the future you cannot do it without creating a new domain and you have to start all over again.

What this means is that your readers will have trouble finding you because you have moved. So if you  serious about being a blogger buy a domain don’t rent one! If you are intending to create a strong personal brand to provide a platform for you as an thought leader and expert, or author, musician, consultant a domain name that strongly reflects your personal  name then that will help you get found online. If you are using the blog as marketing platform for a product then of course it should be named and branded consistently with the product.

For a corporate blog the blog should be consistent with the company brand look and feel and be part of the company website.

2. Purchase a WordPress Template

WordPress dominates the world of blogging and you can buy Templates ready to go for $40-$50. I use the Worpress template  ‘Frugal’ (which has now been replaced by the upgraded version called Catalyst) which I have found easy to use especially being a non technical user. It requires no programming and makes it easy for you to do what you do best which is to blog.

3. Hire A Good Web Designer

A good web designer will ensure that you have a web design that ‘works’, so that you can present the most professional brand you can afford to the online world as it is the global front door for your digital online brand

In 1996 Steve Jobs was interviewed by “Wired Magazine” and he said this about design.

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it “looks”. But of course if you dig deeper , its really how it “works”. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. To design something really well, you have to “get it”. You have to really “grok ” what it’s all about. It takes a passionate comittment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it , not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.”

It means according to the Oxford English Dictionary “to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with” and “to empathize or communicate sympathetically with).

The term “Grok” by the way is a real word and not a “Jobian” expression.

Wikipaedia says “To grok is to share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity“.

Author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term in his best-selling 1961 book Stranger in a Strange Land. In Heinlein’s view, grokking is the intermingling of intelligence that necessarily affects both the observer and the observed.

So don’t get lost in how it ‘looks’. Make sure it works.

The thing to remember here is that a blog is about content so making it easy for people to view a video if it is a video blog or read the text if it is a text based blog is vital.

I have seen many blogs where the writing is so small that I can barely read the text or the background provides little or no contrast and you have to squint.

Don’t give the reader an excuse to click away from your blog.

If you don’t have the budget for a designer there are a vast range of Templates for WordPress with many inspiring designs that will suit the format and type of bog that you are wanting to publish. These can range from $40 – $200.

4. Choose Your Medium

Some people are much better on a  video, some are good with words. Find the medium that suits you so you can find your medium and voice. Use the medium that lets your passion shine. Also you may find that you are good at both so you can mix it up and provide a variety of media. Video blogs are certainly becoming popular as Gen Y and Generation I (Internet) would quite often chew off their arm than read a paragraph of text

5. Provide Social Media Share Buttons.

I remember a comment on my blog where a LinkedIn user had suggested that I include a share button on LinkedIn as he wanted to share it with several hundred of his LinkedIn connections but had found it too hard. A share button provides a low friction ( 2 clicks and you are ‘shared’ to hundreds of people) means for people to share without cutting and pasting headlines, links and opening software.

Include retweet and Facebook share buttons as a minimum.

6. Provide Subscribe Buttons via RSS and Email

Allowing people to subscribe to your blog by email as well as RSS feeds is important so that they have new content pushed to their email inbox or Google Reader after you have published your latest post. This promotes loyal readership drives daily traffic and makes sure that you are not forgotten.

7. Provide Buttons For People to Subscribe To Your Social Media Channels

The minimum recommendation here is Facebook and Twitter  buttons that allow people to connect to you on Facebook and follow yopu on Twitter.

8. Regularly Publish and Post your Content to your Blog

Write, video or record your posts regularly preferably once a day 5 days a week. You will find the top bloggers have this routine and discipline. If you can’t commit to that schedule at least do one a week and be consistent. Remember blogging is just like publishing and as readers start showing up if all they see is old posts they will not come back. Magzines and newspapers publish consistently and on time a power blog is no different it is just a  digital media

9. Display Credibility Banners

This a chicken and egg scenario. How do you as a new blogger showcase your expertise when you have just started? This is where offline credibility needs to be displayed on an online medium. So if you have any awards that can be highlighted on the front page of your blog then get banners made. If you have written an article in a magazine, a book, been on a TV show, won awards then tell the web world so that they can see that when they visit. When your Twitter followers are above several hundred in number start displaying that.

Attention quantification on the social web where you can display your attention quantities such as the number of Facebook ‘likes’, blog subscribers and Twitter followers provides numeric credibility that gets notice and attention. Readers do notice these numbers and it is the start of becoming influential online

10. ‘About’ or ‘Bio’ Menu Tab

Blogs still are personal unless you are Huffington Post or Mashable. Readers want to know who you are and what you have done.. they want to identify with you and start to connect. This will open to a page on your blog where you will provide your biography in summary.

11. Good Headline

You have only a few seconds to help the reader decide whether they want to read your post or not so a headline that compels and teases the visitor to your blog or who sees your headline on a Tweet is a must in driving readership. List posts such as “10 Ways To..” or The 5 Top …” or ‘How To’ are always effective. These might seem redundant and overused but the fact remains they work. We will look at this in more detail later in the book

12. Social Comment System That Displays Comments and Reactions

The comment component for a blog is a major feature of blogging and WordPress comes with it as a standard feature. There are other systems such as Disqus that I have installed on my blog that are relatively easy to setup that displays comments and Twitter reactions. Since using this I have found my comments have increased and also adds to the blogs numeric credibility as it displays the number of Twitter Retweets. It also allows people to post comments with their social channel ID’s rather than just an email address which quite often makes it easy for people to post a comment. Don’t make it hard for people to post a comment

So you have built the blog and you have some of the fundamentals of blogging under your belt. The next question to ask is how do I create content that people will read and keep them engaged and keep them coming back?

Tomorrow we will cover

  • Creating content that engages your audience
  • How to establish and build your social networks including Facebook and Twitter
  • How to use social media to market your blog
  • How to maintain momentum.

See you on the other side.

How a Blogger can Build a Global Audience from Zero: Part Two- Marketing and Momentum

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Image by Mexicanwave

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