Community first, content next.
Today marks 181 days of my journey to blog every day. Over the last 6 months I have written about entrepreneurship and technology. Most articles are about 500 to 1000 words and some are fewer. During this period my “audience” has grown from 70K subscribers to nearly 100K (Still shy by about 3000 subscribers).
According to my email metrics, about 19-25% of people open my emails daily. Not sure how many actually read. Besides this I have a few thousand Twitter and Facebook readers and about 1000 app subscribers.
There are many things I have learned.
First, is that writing is not at all hard. In fact, it is pretty easy. My writing routine is pretty simple. I get up, finish working out, and take exactly 21 – 32 minutes to write a new blog post from scratch. No pre-writing, no backlog of posts etc. I start with a blank slate on 95% of the days.
Second, writing makes you focus. When you have little time, like most of us do, then it makes you concentrate and get it done, prioritizing it over other things.
Third, it teaches you discipline. If you get into the habit of writing daily, then it is rewarding to see the body of content in a few months.
Fourth, quantity does not equal quality. I have written 180 posts, but most have not hit the bar in terms of get more readership over and above my usual subscriber base.
Fifth, writing is a counter productive way to spend 30 minutes to achieve you goals of building a personal brand. There are other, better, easier ways to do the same for 30 minutes a day.
The most important thing I have learned, though is that building a community, one fan / audience member, individual, reader at a time trumps generating lots of content for many people to read.
If you are considering blogging, writing, etc. I would recommend you first understand your goal –
Is it to build a personal brand?
Is it to showcase thought leadership?
Is it to share your thoughts and expect nothing in return?
Is it to build a base of followers?
Regardless of your goal, I would still recommend you engage with your “community” via tweets, commenting on their post (Facebook or Twitter), connecting with a large set of people before you start writing.
What I have observed is that people who connect with their audience get away with writing really poor content, since people really like them.
If, however, you dont spend time building and engaging your audience, you should be prepared to have “killer” content each time, which is highly unlikely given that you might have to write frequently.
In fact, only 11 of my 180 posts have crossed my own threshold of over 30K readers for the post.
The number one thing you should do if you are starting or want to start building your audience base is to engage with them. Comment, reply or write to them on Twitter, their blogs, etc. Dont start writing.
Then make sure you engage and build your base of engagement with 1-2 posts each week, still keeping up your engagement.
Then you can get a schedule as rigorous as writing daily.
To build a large audience (similar to a media property such as BuzzFeed, etc.) you might need lots of content which is good, but for an individual, that’s impossible.
The same goes for your startup’s blog.
Build your community and audience first, then build an editorial calendar to hyperfocus on a specific topic and keep the schedule.
This also changes how you spend 30 minutes a day to build your personal brand. I will share that part with you tomorrow.