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Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Now displaying: Category: blogging
Mar 2, 2016

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.

Sara said:

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.

 
How I LOVED this email back and forth that we had going! (Ps- if you are NOT signed up to my email, you are missing this very back and forth. Sign up HERE.) I think this is a great topic and one that I've come back to many times. Because this isn't an answer once and be done kind of question. This is a constant finding-the-balance and toeing-the-line kind of issue.
 
So do you write for yourself? Or your audience? 
 
I want to offer some thoughts on this idea that I pulled from Sara's email and then talk about blogging & seasons a bit as well. 
 

Should You Write for Yourself or for Your Audience? 

 
Find Your Why. 
I emphasize this so much in my different trainings and courses that I feel like a broken record. But if you want to blog or create content intentionally, you need to nail down your why. I would say that you need a primary and secondary why. These help you make decisions about the kind of content, the frequency, and just about everything else. The kind of images you use depends on your why. The revenue streams you choose depend on your why. 
 
Example: If I am a blogger whose main why is to make a part-time income and my secondary why is to get a non-fiction book deal, my blog will likely look different than someone who is writing just for fun or someone who needs to fully support his or her family on a blogging income. 
 
Find the Balance. 
I think it's important to balance writing for yourself and writing for your audience. Unless you don't care if ANYONE reads your blog, you have to think about audience. (And if you don't care if anyone reads your blog, why aren't you just writing a journal in a notebook?) You also want to think about what YOU want to write (and what you CAN write about) if you want to enjoy your work. Too much focus on the audience and you may hate it. Too much focus on you and you might lose your audience. Unless you're a fabulous, amazingly insane writer or have a totally interesting life. Or are already super famous and people would read your grocery list. 
 
Example: If you are writing to produce an income (getting back to that why), then you need to be more audience-centric. If you want to write as an outlet but also hope to make some money, you may be more focused on what you want, but you will still have a sense of serving your audience. 
 
I think so much comes down to your WHY. Then you can find the balance of what you enjoy that will also serve your audience and community. 
 
But then we get into the really interesting part of Sara's question about seasons. We DO have seasons of life and seasons of blogging. Often the relate to each other, but sometimes you may have a season of blogging that is not related to other outside life events. 
 
Did you know blogging itself has had stages and seasons? 
 
Blogging started with web logs-- online diaries that were found on places like Live Journal. They were super personal and people didn't always use real names. Blogs then shifted as they moved to sites like Blogger (remember blogspot?) and Wordpress. At first they didn't even have comments. (Listen to more about blogging history in my interview with Darren Rowse!) Blogs were still personal and looked very different from other websites. 
 
Over time, blogs became more professional and polished as people realized they could make money blogging. Blogs moved toward looking more like sites and sounding more formal, rather than the impersonal journal style posts that really started blogs. They were more like a magazine in look and feel. 
 
Maybe TOO much so, which I think is why things are shifting a bit more back to be more personal. (At least, that's what Paula Rollo tells me. And what I'm seeing as well.) I love finding a blog with a strong, personal voice paired with great visuals and navigation and all those user-experience elements you expect from a nice site. 
 
If you want to take a look at my journey (minus the blog I accidentally deleted), you can find I Still Hate Pickles, my first foray into really writing a blog, and then Kirsten Oliphant, my lifestyle blog I still update. Not as much since I got passionate about writing here, but I don't think I'll ever stop the more personal lifestyle/parenting blog. 
 
What has been YOUR blog journey? Do you struggle with the balance of writing for yourself and writing for your audience? Leave a comment below!
Jun 2, 2015

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?
Relevant Links
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,

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