Don’t confuse ‘professional’ with ‘dull as ditchwater’.
(Image via this site.)
Michael Gass’s recent blog post, “Nobody Reads Ad Agency Blogs” has turned up in my Twitter stream a few times in the past couple of weeks, and I finally got around to reading it today. It’s a decent summary of why ad agency blogs – and plenty of others – don’t get nearly the amount of traffic that their owners wish they would: No strategy, no consistency, too much self-promotion, etc.
He’s got some good points, but I think it’s simpler than that.
Why people read blogs
In my opinion, there are two reasons why people read your blog, keep reading your blog, and keep telling their friends to read your blog:
Being a good, reliable source of information is definitely one of the best ways to get more traffic to your blog. There’s a reason why the Drudge Report – which is one of the longest-running news aggregator sites out there – still drives enormous amounts of traffic even though it’s not visually appealing, doesn’t have a huge PR machine, and is basically run by 3 people in a small office.
Why people read your blog
Here’s the thing: Unless you’re spending your entire work life engaged in investigative journalism, university-endorsed research, or highly specialized content aggregation/development, people aren’t reading your blog for ‘information’. You may be very proud of your pieces on “5 Tips for Making Yoga Part of Your Life” and “Better Ways to Implement IT Solutions”, but I promise you that there are already plenty of other blog posts and articles out there on the exact same subject.
If people are reading your blog, it’s because they like the personality of your blog: They like your take on things, they like your writing style, they like the ‘you’ they think they’re getting to know through your posts. Maybe you make them laugh, maybe you make them think, maybe they just think your life is a bit of a trainwreck and are tuning in for updates.
Penelope Trunk, who writes the ‘trainwreck’ blog example, makes $150k/year from blogging, by the way – and she’s not even doing it every day. The woman behind Dooce.com says her revenue is upwards of $400k. HyperboleandaHalf has posted only 5 entries in the past 18 months – and still has good traffic stats and social media engagement.
These sites aren’t providing cutting-edge ‘information’, or incisive insight on the major problems of our times. They’re popular because people love – or love to hate, in the case of Penelope Trunk – the personalities represented.
“But my blog is professional. There’s no room for personality!”
Ha! Here’s what I have to say about that:
- Penelope Trunk will tell you that she ‘founded 2 startups’, blah blah blah, but the truth is that her professional success has been almost entirely predicated on the fact that she’s created an online ‘personality’ for herself that has very little to do with actually making money from those startups.
- People without personalities are boring. So are blogs.
- In the long-term, the most profitable client relationships are based on personal relationships, not on a strictly objective comparison of features/benefits/price. You wouldn’t dream of trying to remove the ‘personal’ from those client relationships – why would you try to strip it out of your blog posts?
- Unless you have knowledge, contacts, or access than no one else in the world has (think, say, former US presidents), people aren’t choosing to work with you because of what you know or even who. They’re choosing to work with you because of how you know. That ‘how’ may manifest itself in the way you approach your work, the way you synthesize information and form opinions, or because you have a very particular perspective.
In other words, if you’re stripping your personality out of your blog – leaving it devoid of a sense of humour, personal details, controversial opinions or even your passion for steampunk – you’re removing all the elements that go into your successful real-life business relationships.
And that’s why no one’s reading it.