Writing a Blog in a Time of Change

Writing a blog about starting a blog– in 2018–ten years behind the curve!–seems ridiculous.  Come on, the competition out there has a serious head start–and some of those sites are gorgeous.  Have you ever been discouraged with your blog, thinking all the “best ideas” are taken? Don’t be.  

Dancing in the Hurricane

Probably the best time to start a blog was around 2010. WordPress had reached its seventh year, moving from the work of a handful of developers to a company and also a spinning off a foundation to provide a unique public-private partnership that has made it a sustainable enterprise.  WordPress had just introduced its most useable interface to date.    This innovation was one of the many “accelerators” of the new age of information.

In his book, Thank You for Being Late, Thomas L. Friedman points out that it is not necessarily a disadvantage to be a latecomer in this dance of change and–let’s face it– in this new age of anxiety from these changes going on around us.  Tom catalogs those changes and their ramifications for culture and society in this book–definitely the best read of 2017 on social and economic changes that are currently shaping our world.   He writes:

I hope it’s clear by now that we’re going to be asked to dance in the hurricane, set off by the accelerations of the Market, Mother Nature and Moore’s Law. . . There’s only one way to thrive now, and it’s by finding and creating your own eye. The eye of the hurricane moves along with the storm.  It draws energy from it, while creating a sanctuary of stability inside it. It is both dynamic and stable–and so must we be.

— Thomas L. Friedman, Thank You For Being Late (2017) p. 358.

Why the Best Ideas are Not Taken

My son, John, is also a social media researcher.  His specialty is Youtube, specifically the gamer and millennial focused content. I asked him when did he think was the best time to be a Youtuber.  His response?  It depends.  

 Right now, the big corporates have taken over:  content from CBS, motion picture studios, all kinds of corporate produced media now hits the tops of every Youtube subscriber’s feeds–because of a change in the behind-the-scenes algorithms.

Gamer content used to outcompete most other content in feeds; the recent changes in those algorithms seriously hurt the gamers.  They’re having to struggle to find new strategies to fight back.  But this is nothing new. 

Back when Youtube started, in the very early days of 2003, it was the drama videos–the fictional shorts and experimental movies that got the most hits.  Then it was “play alongs” and walk throughs, where people just showed footage of video games or showed people their paths through a particular game. Then, in the last three or so years, gamer reviewing sites hit it big.   Now, with change in the algorithms, I’m seeing more growth in the Youtube sites with more, hmm, critical content? No, that’s not right.   More like Myth-Busters — information creation that’s fun, has a good narrative and point of view — things that are fun to know and think.  They’re catching up some.  But really, these changes and shifts are going on all the time. 


The Challenges of Being Late

New entrants into the world of blogging as a business do have many challenges, it’s true.   But change is happening all the time. Certainly, there are major competitors out there, including large corporate entities in every blog genre imaginable.  Still, not everyone wants to shop at Walmart.  Even Macy’s can be overwhelming and impersonal.   We go to big brands because they have tons of content, but getting through all that content can be a serious chore.

Dolphin leapingThe current trends will pass. If they are big and visible, it may mean that, like a giant ocean wave, they will pass.  Often you don’t know “the wave” until you are right on top of it.  If you can see it happening?  It’s already past. There will be a next one. 

The major influencers have been known for decades.  Robert Cialdini’s books are excellent reads for those interested in the psychology of influence.  His book, Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion and his latest book Pre-Suasion, Pre-Suasion,  are great books for understanding the science of persuasion and influence.   The psychological manipulation of online audiences rely heavily on works like Cialdini’s.  Since around 2015, or perhaps a bit before, the tricks of persuasion have been applied ham-handedly all over the Internet.  Today,  audiences are thoroughly sick of these tricks.  We can recognize them easily, and we are fed up with online hucksters.

Quality Is and Always Will Be Important.

Sure, heavy competition exists that’s significantly ahead of us in the game of selling.  People started sooner, they learned a handful of good tricks, and they think they’ve learned all there is to know.  They haven’t, by a long shot. The “compelling headlines” are looking kind of generic these days.  “MASSIVE TRAFFIC ON PINTEREST” —Lord, having slaved a way at research on Pinterest for the last 45 or so days,  I’ve begun to hate that headline.  It is not very compelling to me.  I know it’s all going to end up being “group boards” and a Tailwind account — and I’m still not sure that Tailwind is really going to matter when the day is done.

Tailwind is just a way to game the algorithm. If you don’t have quality Pinterest boards to offer, well then, you’re not going to do well at Pinterest.  If you don’t have a quality blog behind the Pinterest campaign, then you’re not going to catch on.  You won’t be ready for the next wave, moving in your direction.

Offering a quality site is the important, unmoveable requirement.  If we don’t get that right, then show’s gonna be over, very quickly. In 2017, when I got serious about this blogging as a business thing, the current advice was to niche down harder and tighter–focus on a tiny niche and hit it hard.  There is some good in this advice:  it makes bloggers focus on the ACTUAL PEOPLE they are blogging FOR.  Focusing on customer personas helps create much better focused content–and therefore better content.

The Problem with the “Niching Down” Advice

What this advice is missing is that focusing on a niche and doing that niche well does not mean we have to go out and find an audience that the bigger, older guys have somehow missed.  My niche is pretty heavily populated, so I focus on a particular segment within that niche for which there isn’t much content:  the up-and-coming small blogger.  Not the raw beginner, but the beginner who is considering the leap from a free or cheaper blog, to the more pricey and therefore risky Premium or Business Plan WordPress.com blog.  Still, much of the content I create spans the gap from new beginner to self-hosted blog website creator.  Therefore, if we’re in niches that have lots of competition, we need to figure out our angle.  This means research and getting out there to understand the terrain better–and to meet people, make friends, and network.  This will help us to get those new ideas and figure out those fresh angles.

Fresh perspectives are always going to be a key component of gaining popularity on the Internet.  Old ideas get stale and overworked.  Memes rise and fall in the matter of hours,  or a day or so at most.  Bringing something new to the party is going to matter.

Community Building Will Always Be Important.

Read other blogs. Comment on them.  Go to meetups and conferences and make friends.  Yes, face to face!  Content creators are not locked in death-battles with one another.  We’re going to be more effective working collaboratively, helping each other to push forward, learn and grow.

Many of us prefer boutiques and middle-sized stores we can navigate easily.  We like shops where we feel we can get the attention of being a “regular.”   We particularly like stores where we can get what we want and need — and where we can establish trust relationships.   Trust is the key.  Developing social bonds with other creators and with our audiences are deeply valuable.  And not just in economic terms.  

Making connections with other bloggers and people engaged in online business and activities is going to be what brings us the energy to flow into our work.

Another tidbit from Thomas L. Friedman:

We can’t escape these accelerations.  We have to dive into them, take advantage of their energies and flows where possible, move with them, use them to learn faster, design smarter and collaborate deeper–all so we can build our own eyes to anchor and propel our families confidently forward.

Find your tribe and I don’t mean the Tailwind kind.  Find your peeps.  Your peers.  Get away from the keyboard sometimes, or bring it with you and gather round.

Okay, with that, I’m off to a meetup for Women Who Code.  Later! 🙂

It’s important to thank people. Today I thank you all for reading this blog.   More soon!  Best, Lola

Links on this page go to Amazon, where I am an affiliate marketer.  If you buy through these links, I get a tiny cut– for books that’s around 4 cents on the dollar.  I’m saving up for a 10 dollar gift certificate. 😀


Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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