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!)
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!