Whether you are writing a blog or another form of content, a huge question you need to answer is this: Should you write for yourself or for your audience?
This week's Create If Writing episode came from an email that Sarah Borgstede sent me (thanks, Sara!). Except, this was not HER question. I'll share with you what she wrote and then I'll address what I pulled from it. And I'll also address her question a bit because it would be rude not to, right? Right.
THIS topic would be awesome. The seasons or stages of blogging.
At first I just posted randomly, about myself. That was my "all about me" stage. Now I've got my editorial calendar and I'm doing the whole Pinterest thing. I consider this my "Pinterest" stage. I hear you on the sponsored posts. I've started to delve into that and am not thrilled and I don't think my customers really like them either. I do need to make some income, though. I have a product: www.faithfulfinishlines.com. It does well but it's a tremendous amount of work! I run it (a 7 week program) a couple times a year. I need to offer more smaller products to go along with it, or products that can be purchased anytime. Working on it. It's all such a learning process.
[from a later email] I kept reading, "people don't want to read about YOU. Write for the reader." So I quit. But I miss writing like that and just being myself. My blog does well...I think it does well. I haven't been blogging very long and I get 100,000 page views a month. And I do enjoy it. And it is me. But it's not ME-me.
Help?! Is there a way to somehow do both and not lose this good thing I have going here? I thought I was all set with my blog goals and vision and now I feel confused.
Are you selling out if you put ads on your site? How do you grow your platform without sacrificing your authenticity?
I'm answering fabulous questions from Jenna (at the Gleeful Gourmand) and Andi (at Andilit) this week! If you want to pose questions for me, join the Facebook group for more community & conversation.
EXCITING NEWS! I decided to go all-in and do two podcasts rather than just one. Because, after all, one IS the loneliest number. The other podcast I've been secretly recording is for Blogger2Business and is laser-focused on blogging. That podcast and the larger site is a FABULOUS resource for bloggers. Even if you consider yourself a writer who happens to blog, you should be proud of your blog and strive to have it represent you well. Head over to Blogger2Business to find great tips & tricks for growing, plus a very-familiar voice interviewing some blogging phenoms.
Now, let's talk Ads and Authenticity!
At a Glance: Ads
There are two main types of ads that you can have on your blog: ads from networks (like Google Adsense, Adthrive, or Burst) and sponsored slots where bloggers or companies pay a monthly fee for that slice of your sidebar real estate.
When you use an ad network like Blogher, there are often restrictions on how you can get IN to the network and with regards to other competing ads on your site.
You can also choose to have sponsor spots that other bloggers or companies can pay for month by month.
Many people who choose to have sponsor spots use a site like Passion Fruit to handle the details of this.
You can also swap sponsored spaces with other bloggers.
Keep an eye on your analytics. If people aren't clicking through to sponsors, maybe you shouldn't have them. And if you're only getting like $4 from a giant ad in the sidebar, you're giving up valuable real estate for nothing.
If you pay for a sponsored spot on someone's blog or do a swap, make sure your button is visually appealing and that it will be eye-catching but also fit in with the blog's aesthetic. You also may want to choose a landing page rather than your home page for the link.
At a Glance: Authentic Growth
You need to think about your goals when you decide whether or not to have ads or what kind of monetization to have on your blog.
I personally don't think ads are (in and of themselves) selling out. Even if the cost is only your time, there is a cost to blogging and ads defray that cost.
If you consider your blog a business, you SHOULD have the goal of making money.
When it comes to growing your blog or promoting yourself, there ARE bad ways to do this. Example: paying for followers. DON'T DO THIS. Giveaways can help bolster your numbers, but they may not be people who really care what you are doing. On the flip side, that might help people discover you.
Stop thinking of your numbers. Think of those page views and followers and subscribers as people. You have value to offer and you are gathering people around to share that value with them.
Growing your platform is nothing more than finding people who need YOUR words.
My Big Takeaway
Not to knock Michael Hyatt (because I'm honestly on his page about the idea of platform!), but the word platform has really become kind of a dirty word for many people just through overuse. IT SHOULDN'T BE. You have a platform is what connects you with the very specific people who need what only you can offer them. It may be large and it may be small, but it is uniquely yours. When you think of it that way, it sounds lovely, doesn't it?
Paula Rollo's interview on Blogging Intentionally
Chad Allen's interview on Platform
How to Grow Your Blog Authentically
Platform by Michael Hyatt
What I Want to Know from YOU
Do you struggle with the idea of self-promotion, growing your platform,