Why our blog failed (and 6 things you can do to avoid the same mistake)
We’ve had a blog at contentgroup for a few years. But for much of that time it was unloved with a bad case of ‘other things are more important’ syndrome.
When we did have time we would quickly scratch things down and post them. Our content lacked the two most critical success factors; purpose and consistency.
Our only purpose was because we knew blogging was important and we were consistently inconsistent with the timing, shape and structure of our content.
No surprises then when no one read our content.
So we changed our approach.
And guess what? That’s right, people started to read and enjoy our content.
Here are the 6 things we did to build a community around our blog.
1. We identified our mission
This was perhaps the single most important step. We answered the simple question of ‘Why?’.
If you ask yourself the same question and can’t work out a good reason for blogging, then don’t start. Save yourself the grief. It takes up too much time and effort and without that guiding purpose you will slip and slide towards irrelevance. And trust me, one thing the world doesn’t need is more aimless, irrelevant content.
contentgroup’s mission is to teach people how they can use content marketing to achieve their objectives. Our mission is also to play a positive role with and in our community so we create content that goes beyond their professional lives to connect with them as people. As an example, we have bloggers who focus their content on food, personal finance, and health and well-being that addresses the needs of the whole person. That’s our swim lane and we don’t get out of it.
2. We clearly defined who we wanted to speak to
If there is one thing I have learnt in the age of digitally driven communication it is that you have to be narrow in your focus. With people now well and truly in control of the content they receive, when they receive it and on what device, they are using this power to curate content that is relevant to their specific needs. As Robert Rose says ‘there used to be millions of people in hundreds of markets. Now there are hundreds of people in millions of markets’. Getting and staying narrow is a path to success. Our niche is people working in and with responsibility for communication in Government, Not for profits and Non-Government Organisations.
3. We worked out what we wanted to say
So once we nailed the Why and the Who, it was time for the What. There are any number of things you can write about in a given day, but given our defined audience and our understanding of their needs, wants and pain points, we now have our North Star. Now it’s about stripping out the different parts of the content marketing methodology and telling stories that would help to educate people. As David Heinemeier Hansson from 37 Signals says ‘your aim should be to ‘out teach’ your competition.’
4. We worked out when we were going to say it
Working out what you can manage to publish with time, resources, priorities etc is critically important. Whatever publishing schedule is manageable is the schedule you should adopt. What we did was to come out of the gates at a million miles like an overzealous amateur boxer with arms flailing like a wind mill. Then we ran out of puff. So start with your clear target in mind, start small and stay consistent.
5. We realised our blog was good but other blogs were better
Driving traffic to your site is the aim of the game and ensuring that all the relevant search engine optimisation steps have been taken is critically important. But it’s a big wide world out there with lots of people competing for the attention of the narrow audience you are seeking to reach and engage. We learnt that it was a good idea to set our content free and put it in places where the audience that we are seeking to reach already are. Think of it like this. If you wanted to meet new people, would you go to a quiet bar with only 2 or 3 people or would you go to a place that was crowded. Find the busy, engaged, crowded places on line where your people are gathered and strike up a conversation.
6. We mixed it up
We started with text, then text and photos, moved onto some graphics and got very fancy with some live streamed video programs. Podcasting is next. We have found that while people may have similar niche interests, they like to consume their content in different ways.
So we mixed it up.
It is the ultimate test and learn scenario and if you ever think you are done experimenting, perhaps don’t start. Use your metrics to guide you and then make the best, most relevant, valuable and interesting content you can and enjoy it.
I remember the old days when you were at the mercy of the journos and editors. They were the single path to market and if they weren’t interested in your story and picture, you were toast. Happily those days are well and truly in the past so use the gift of publishing given to us by new technology and enjoy the ride.
What about now?
These are the steps we have taken to improve our publishing efforts and I hope we have saved you some pain by sharing.
Since we kick started our approach 12 months ago, our web traffic has increased by over 300%. We are now blogging every day of the week and the feedback has never been better.
Some of you are probably thinking ‘that’s just way too much. I couldn’t handle it’. ‘When would I fit it in? I’m already so busy’.
I hate to break this to you but you don’t have a choice.
If you have a story to tell in order that you achieve the objectives of your program, product or service, you have to get your head around this stuff.
It’s not going away and it’s only going to become more important.
Now that doesn’t mean everything will be perfect from the get go and that you won’t fall off the wagon. Trust me; I still struggle to be consistent. But the important thing is to have a thoughtful plan about how you are going to reach and influence people, and start.
Digital technology will continue to drive massive change in the way people send and receive information. Take a look around you right now!
So you need to be a part of the conversation in your niche if you are to succeed.
Good luck and if you want to discuss any or all of this, leave a comment or give me a call.
28 November, 2017