Ryan Stephens Marketing

Taking Your Blog to the Next Level

Chris Brogan recently wrote a post entitled, “50 Ways to Take Your Blog to the Next Level.” First of all this is a phenomenal post and one that I will frequently revisit because I think it is a very valuable resource, particularly for someone trying to get over the hump. If you haven’t read it yet, it will set up the framework for this post, and make it easier to understand.

After reading the list a couple of times and digesting it, I determined two specific aspects of blogging (from Chris’ list) that I believe to be the most challenging for the casual blogger in attempting to take their blog to the next level. These aspects come in the form of four of Chris’ 50 points:

3. If the goal is to be a great community resource, mix your blogging time with time spent reaching out to the community you propose to serve. If that’s an offline opportunity, like something local, be there. Be active. Be a connector.

10. Make a point of engaging your community often in the comments section, on their blogs, on the other social networks where you cross paths.

First let’s examine these two points, which basically revolve around engaging your community. I think the challenge here is that it is something that is hard to do even if you’re making the effort. I think a lot of people will do it initially and give up, but don’t realize that they need to keep planting little seeds for their field to grow. From my experiences great communities tend to build slowly, organically.

Chris provides great content, and he truly has a gift for connecting with his community. I know plenty of people with amazing content that couldn’t connect their way out of a paper bag, and I know some really awesome connectors that aren’t great bloggers. You can’t pick a handful of the things on Chris’ list and be successful, you have to be good at most of them, or vastly superior in about half of them.

I actively try to spend MORE time connecting than I do actually blogging, and so perhaps in spite of all my valiant efforts to connect, the content base just isn’t there yet. That’s okay with me because I know it’s coming.

Here’s a couple of solid articles that touch on engaging your community:
Bringing Your Online Community Offline – Ryan Paugh
Managing Online Communities – Ryan Paugh
5 Easy Ways to Make Your Comments Section a Conversation – Tiffany Monhollon
Tips for Befriending Top Bloggers (or engaging anyone) – Tiffany Monhollon
Are You Conversationally Tone Deaf? – Connie Reece (thanks for the submission)

Engaging your community isn’t the hardest thing on the list of 50 though, I’d give that award to stepping outside the echo chamber.

5. Up the ante on delivering original material. Get outside the echo chamber. Writing a me-too blog isn’t the way to build your blog to the levels you seek to attain.

28. Refrain from “me too” posts. If you’ve got something to add, do that and link to the original post, but if you’re moving up to the next level, lose the “pointer” posts. (Your mileage may vary on this one).

There are a lot of “me too” bloggers. I know I’ve been guilty of it and chances are you have too. There’s no room for “me too” bloggers though because it’s not hard to search around and find the original, the best, the biggest, the most innovative, and the most passionate. If you’re a me too blogger I suggest doing #25 on Chris’ list:

25. Read. Read. Read. Get outside the blogosphere. Find sources of information that span far beyond what your competitors are covering.

Here’s a great post from Brian Clark at Copyblogger:
How to Read

The more your read a guy like Chris Brogan, the more you start to understand how to truly engage your community. The more you read a guy like Seth Godin, the more you understand how to connect everyday situations with significant business ideas with just enough ambiguity to make the reader think a bit for themselves. The more you watch Gary Vaynerchuk, the more you understand the important of passion.

Eventually you become someone who can take someone else’s idea or blog post and extend the conversation (like I’m doing write now). If you’re reading, thinking about, compiling and engaging other content for your readers with your own unique spin and ideas then chances are you’re providing something new.

The next step is to create truly new and unique content all on your own. It’s a lot easier said that done. There’s some really successful bloggers that don’t necessarily do this well.

And here’s an article/some articles that touch on getting outside that echo chamber:
Extending Your Brand’s Personal Reach – Connie Benson (thanks to Connie Reece for the heads up. I accidentally gave her credit!)

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Please either e-mail me or leave other solid additions in the comments section featuring posts about engaging your community or stepping outside of the echo chamber and I’ll keep this post updated with your additions!
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Have you taken your blog to the next level? If so, what was the hardest thing for you to overcome, and how did you finally do it? If you haven’t, what is holding you back? Are you guilty of being a “me too” blogger? How do you try to engage your community? Don’t be shy, I LOVE hearing from you!

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan…

    Pimpin’ ain’t easy, the song goes. I think you’re so right that blogging and community building are two grossly different skills. But then, if you’re a marketer, wouldn’t that be the goal? Make content that moves community to take action?

    Getting outside the echo chamber can be as easy as discovering something new that makes no direct connection to the rest of what you do.

    Check out http://www.sneakerplay.com . I bet you’ve never thought much about that.

    You have done some neat stuff with this response. Thanks for taking the time.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @ Chris Brogan – Thanks for the kind words with respect to my response.

    I agree 100% that if you’re a marketer your aim should be to build the community; it’s definitely of my primary reasons for blogging. I don’t know that the hard part is necessarily being ‘out there’ and attempting to start conversations (though it is for some), but perhaps the hard part is actually creating the content that actually entices a response.

    You provide some interesting perspective with respect to getting outside of the echo chamber, and I agree to an extent. I’d still argue that in discovering something new you still need to be able to articulate that to your community in a way that provides value to their lives.

    Also, coming up with something new consistently, therein lies the challenge in my opinion.

    Thanks for the link. With my affliction for shoes, that was like showing a starving person a few clips of restaurant ads.

    Thanks again for inspiring the response, and thanks for stopping by to continue the conversation! Best wishes!

    [Reply]

  • http://everydotconnects.com Connie Reece

    Very nice post, Ryan. I have to point out that you credited me with Connie Bensen’s post, Extending Your Personal Reach. (I wish I could take credit; the “other Connie” is an awesome blogger as well as community manager.) Since you’ve already got my attention, though, could I point you to a post I wrote that would fit in with your content here? It’s a guest post I did for Valeria Maltoni’s Conversation Agent blog, and it’s called “Are You Conversationally Tone-Deaf?” (posted 9-16)

    Good for you for recognizing that we need to get out of the echo chamber in order to be truly effective.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @ Connie Reece – I guess that’s what I get for multi-tasking. I was in the process of sending you a message via linkedin, and evidently decided to give you credit for the “other Connie’s” post. Thanks for calling that to my attention, and thanks for pointing me in the direction of your post as well. It’s definitely a valuable contribution to this conversation.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I just laugh at most people that are conversationally tone deaf. I’m not sure anything irks me more than a really valuable conversation being interrupted, particularly on a forum, with someone just interjecting to insert their link. Ugh.

    Thanks again for stopping by Connie!

    [Reply]

  • http://conniebensen.com/ Connie Bensen

    Hey Ryan,
    Either Connie will answer :)
    The other Connie writes great things too.

    Thanks for pointing to my link. Blogging & building community are 2 different things, yet the same. Blogging can be done separately. Adding the community building is taking it up many steps. It’s maybe like marketing – do you broadcast? or interact.

    [Reply]

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