Improve your blog. Stop writing for an audience!

I’m a little freaked about this post.  I’m afraid people will read only the blog headline and get out their pitchforks and torches.  So please glance at least a few more sentences before hitting the comment section, OK?

I’d like to challenge this beloved notion — perhaps this social media myth — that you blog for a community, not yourself.

When you started your blog, you weren’t blogging for a community because you didn’t have one. You were blogging for some personal benefit. Maybe it was the HOPE of finding an audience. Or money. Perhaps recognition that will lead to new opportunities? Maybe it’s just a fun, creative outlet. But I think the core of blogging is about you and your goals isn’t it? I mean, there has to be some personal benefit to it or you wouldn’t be spending so much time on it.

From a purely psychological perspective, humans don’t willingly engage in activities that don’t provide some benefit.  Except when watching reality TV.

Now I fully recognize that you have to write something that attracts and retains an audience and I also know it’s important to stay within a certain theme or you will lose your readers. But let me tell you the biggest blogging mistake I ever made — I wrote for an audience!

Yes, in a classic marketing fashion, I had identified my “target” market, my “personas,” my keywords, and my content plan.  l had it all figured out!

And I blogged for awhile trying to reach those folks.  It didn’t take me long to become bored writing what I thought other people might want to read … and I wasn’t having any success any way.  So a little at a time, I began to relax, have more fun, and write about things I was interested in.

Funny thing happened.  Instead of finding my audience, my audience found me. And that is when everything changed. Pretty quickly my blog had a small band of very engaged and loyal readers.

I think the notion of “writing for the audience” sounds politically correct, charitable, and very social media-esque but practically speaking, if you don’t ultimately write about what YOU’RE passionate about in a way that meets YOUR goals, you’re going to bore everybody and fail.

If you follow that line of thinking, there are interesting implications for corporate blogs aren’t there?

OK, now that you have completed this post, you are entitled to your pitchforks, hot tar, or any other Medieval weapon of choice.  Please commence with the beating in the comment chamber below.

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  • The farther you get down the path of blogging, your awareness of your audience increases. With that, there is some influence on how you write, what you write, etc. But the influence of social media and SEO has made all of us slightly self-conscious of what we put on the internet. It tends to shape how we write. I’m not sure that can be avoided. There are lots of things I want to write about that I can easily put on my blog. The problem is in interpretation – how the reader perceives it. So for me, it’s best to shelve it.

    I send my posts through Feedburner. I haven’t checked that in months. I couldn’t tell you how many people get my posts. That also tells me that I write more for me than I do for may audience. I think that’s a good thing.

    A post like this is important because it helps people understand that blogging is not marketing. Blogging can be a bunch of things: expression, catharsis, or growth. But it is not marketing. Maybe that’s where corporate blogs go wrong – they concern themselves with reach instead of relevance. They want numbers to validate their online existence. Problem is, numbers aren’t human.

    (Sorry for the long comment, Mark. You must have touched a nerve with me. That means this is a great post!)

  • Anonymous

    Mark, great post, and maybe what some of us need to finally start blogging.

    I like the implications for corporate bloggers. When everyone throws around terms like transparent and humanize, having the people that contribute to your corporate blog be people that are passionate about your company, industry and clients will naturally create the alignment you are looking for. And it significantly redefines the job requirements for many social media professionals, requiring a clear alignment of interest, not only skill set and experience.

    Ok, time to consider blogging, for all those personal reasons.

    — @wittlake

  • Amen. First be yourself…you can’t be anyone else.

  • Did you ever notice how in high school the kids who tried so very hard to impress an existing clique never really got accepted by said clique? They were an outsider looking in and trying in vain to show how they could fit in if only given a chance. “I can be like you. I can say things you’ll think are funny. I *belong* in your group.” That to me is finding an audience and then trying to write to them.

    On the other side of the coin is the kid who didn’t really give a damn. He decided he was going to be himself. Play by his own rules. Do his own thing. Sure, at first it was rough. No one really “got” him. He had some lonely lunches. But eventually, when the cliques started melting (or when people hit college) this guy sort of came into his own. He was an original. He was himself. And he was respected. This to me, is writing and seeing who finds you.

    I think you’ve touched on a great notion here, and it’s one that more people should consider adopting. Be yourself, talk about the things that inspire you, share the problems you’ve had and the solutions you’ve come up with and people *will* come out of the woodwork.

    As you so eloquently put it, your audience will find you. Don’t worry about finding your audience.

    Mark, I think this is your best post yet. By far. And if the pitchforks come, I’ve got your back.

  • Summon me two horses! Tie his hands to one, and his legs to the other. On the count of three, both horses are to run in opposite directions!! WHAT?? I have never ripped a blogger limb from limb, but this post is an outrage. I write for a specific audience, and I also write about topics that I find interesting. The key for me is to strike a balance between providing value to my readers, while maintaining an entertaining theme. Nobody likes to read boring “walk in the park” posts that are rigid, lack personality, and provide no value for their time. This is the very reason that I keep coming back to attack you with my pitchfork Mark 😉 I love your funny style, and you still manage to engage my intellect while providing valuable insight. Keep this up, and I may call the horses off! Thanks for sharing…

  • Hi Mark, I was actually preparing a blog post when I noticed this on twitter (attention span problem?) and it seemed especially relevant. It also follows on from our other recent conversation around not receiving comments and why companies should keep blogging for a host of reasons – SEO, Brand, content, sales, PR etc, even if they never get comments.
    I think it gets back to authenticity which springs from as you put it.. having more fun, and writing about things that you are really interested in.
    Now ‘ll go back to my next post an make sure I relax and have some fun!
    Steve MacAlpine

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  • I’ll be back after I load the catapult.

  • Heres how I do it. First I think about what message I want to send. This is a highly internal process thats very “self” focused. Once the message is clear, I consider the audience and write in a way that s/he would find useful/funny/relevant/etc.

    I get what you mean, some writers are extremely self-centered and it works for them and they are GREAT at it. AJ Jacobs comes to mind.

    You need to know who you are, most people dont. Once you figure it out, the rest comes easy.

    Always relevant, useful stuff…thnx bro.

    P.S. The next installment of deconstructing a commercial will be out this friday. I hope you’ll check it out again and tell me what you thought 🙂


  • Timing is such a funny thing. When I started my blog about 2 years ago, I did the entire ‘blog about blogging’ route. At about 3-6 months in, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it rich blogging about blogging so I changed focus completely and focused on my local (offline) business community and offered social media/blogging consulting.

    I wrote the occasional post highlighting a local business or local business issue.

    Eventually, and in a round about way, my blog did pay off – but not in the way I expected…

    I eventually parlayed my experience into a golden opportunity as Managing Editor of Sprout Social’s blog – Sprout Social: Insights. I’ve had that role for about 6 months now.

    But here’s the full circle RE: blogging without an audience in mind…I’ve just VERY recently dusted off and started blogging again. Only this time, I don’t give a rat’s ass about niches, SEO, top 10 plugins, feedburner, RSS or any of those props.

    Now, I’m writing about whatever the hell I feel like – whenever I feel like it – in as few or as many words as it takes. A sample of my most recent posts are ‘Praising your Kids’ and ‘Baby Doc Duvalier revisits Haiti’. Nope – not a target market in sight. No guru courses purchased, none followed, and no affiliate links either…

    Just me – now a seasoned blogger claiming my little piece of online real estate – for me.

    If anyone reading this made it to the end of this comment and your curious what I”m blogging about these days, click through the link on my profile but remember – Never Wish an Irishman Good Luck!

    Also thanks to Dino Dogan, above, I think I arrived here from a link on one of your tweets.

    Cheers all – thanks for the commiseration!

    – Don

  • I would have to agree….it has to be something you care about, otherwise it’s a writing “J-O-B”

    Of course you have to consider the niche of your blog…if you blog about knitting, posting about stockcar racing probably wouldn’t fly with your readers 🙂

    But then again, you NEVER know!

  • I don’t think a better analogy exists in this situation. I actually have been contemplating writing a post that compares social cliques to blogging cliques. It seems in both realms, people claim to be ‘unique’ by immediately attaching themselves to a group — but a group that isn’t necessarily mainstream. Minimalists and ‘trendy’ folks to me are the same. They try so hard ‘not to be someone else’ they forget to be themselves.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear or topics you discuss. If your sole motivation is to either ‘fit-in’ with one group or ‘disassociate’ yourself from another you’ll forever be doomed to be just another face in the crowd. The only way to achieve YOUR greatness is to be 100% YOU.

    Great post Mark and superb reply Andrew — just checked out your blog btw (even though it told me not to, haha).

  • I love that distinction Carolee. While I do blog about marketing, my other interests in travel, literature, art, history, music, etc. come through. So I think interests and personality can’t help but come through. Look forward to your next post on stockcar racing by the way : )

  • Great story Don. Glad to have you aboard!

  • I swear you and I need to have a debate on this topic. It would be fun. Maybe we should figure out a way to do it when we see each other in April. Hmmm.

  • “You need to know who you are, most people dont. Once you figure it out, the rest comes easy.”

    That is a brilliant quote. It’s the same for business. If you don;t know your core value proposition, your point of differentiation, you’re lost. That is so hard to do sometimes. It probably took a year for me to really find my voice. A very interesting insight and topic! Thank you!

  • I love this Steve. Love your spirit. It would be interesting to have this conversation in a corporate setting. I advise several companies in this respect with uneven results. Corporate blogs are rooted in a culture, not a personality. Thanks!

  • I think your point is this: “if you don’t ultimately write about what YOU’RE passionate about in a way that meets YOUR goals, you’re going to bore everybody and fail.”

    I agree with this idea, completely. Bravo.

    I like to take the things that I have some fire and passion about and figure out why I’m so firey about them… those things seem to be the most fun to write about. Will large corporations ever realize that the most successful corporations are going to be the ones who hire the best people? (Google has been hiring like crazy over the last few years, and their income, revenues and products continue to expand) Why does Duncan Donuts use their enormous Times Square billboard for a painting – when Toshiba and Budweiser have enormous interactive tv screens? Given the millions such a billboard costs, wouldn’t an interactive screen be a much better investment? (and more 21st century) Why does Chevy act do “Dare to Compare” and then in a cowardly-fashion match a 2011 Cruze against a 2010 Hyundai Elantra?

    Perhaps the only audience that has interest in these sorts of far-flung adhd-addled ideas is me?

    I am my own audience… and writing for THAT singular audience will benefit others most.

  • Thanks for the dissent. I don’t think we’re too far apart. Of course I write for an amazing audience of {grow} readers but the nuance is that I didn’t force-fit it. That was the turn-around. I think you actually may be saying something similar.

    Of course in the corporate environment, you may have to force-fit it a little.

    I think the Radian6 approach is interesting. They pay bloggers like Amber Naslund to write whatever they want to write about. Most people don’t even know it’s a sponsored blog. Then she can promote the company on her speaking events etc. Kind of a radical approach and it’s apparently working for them.

    Thanks for sharing your unique voice today Reza!

  • Knitting and stockcar racing…hmmm…that could be a blog for me. : )

  • That is fantastic John. I love those examples. Well said. Thanks!

  • A knotty subject indeed.

  • Wow, what a nice compliment! Thanks. Excellent analogy. I do think finding your voice on a blog is also a bit of a maturation process, not unlike high school!

  • I like the way the folks on {grow} support each other by reading an commenting on each other’s blogs. Thanks for doing that Jamey. And as for the high school post, well … I took a crack at that one about a year ago: “The social web is starting to feel like high school”

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment William!

  • I am really energized by this topic — making corporate blogs more like “human” blogs. Gosh that is such a tough nut to crack though! You and so many others are giving me good ideas about the subject. Thanks!

  • If I touched a nerve, I did my job : )

    Blogs can be a lot of things to different people but I do think it can also be a highly effective marketing tool. I am working on a blog project for a company in New York. The CEO set up this cute little system that every time they received a sales lead through the blog a bell would go off on her computer. Soon, it became annoying — that is a good thing. So our little blogging experiment became a full-blown marketing initiative and they have hired a full-time resource. Quite a marketing success story — so it CAN work!

  • Going back to your post where your students shared their views on Facebook, maybe a cool idea would be to have them write a group post on how social media is like high school. I’d click all over that. Maybe it’s a bit juvenile, but it could be fun.

  • Oops. Wish I saw this post before I made my last comment. What do you expect, I’m a freshman!

  • Mark,

    Seeing that you read my GP over at Gini’s house – Spin Sucks (and hopefully my reply to many of the comments lol), you know how I feel about that.

    I’ll keep this short and simply say:

    Hear, hear, Mr. Schaefer, Hear, hear!

  • Sorry Mark, you’re completely wrong on this one ! Well, despite your enormous audience of fans and the regular comments you get.

    In the B2B sector I don’t really think a business would succeed with their blog if they purely did it for themselves. The Fiskars blog you referred to last week was cool and a lot of fun and that came something close to what you’re talking about. But the others were much more targeted to an audience and carefully produced. None of that “I’ll go my own way” there.

    I think you also miss out on the fact that a lot of business blogs are collaborative affairs. There’s often more cohesion in these blogs as they’re, again, directed at a target audience rather than the writers (bloggers?) own gratification.

    Now don’t get me wrong; you know I’m a massive fan of what you do. But I just think that on this one you’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. Blogging is too diverse a form of content, especially when we take business blogs into consideration. It’s so hard to generalise.

  • “People claim to be ‘unique’ by immediately attaching themselves to a group.” I subscribe 100% to this logic – the cheerleaders are the same as jocks are the same as punks are the same as goths, in some ways.

    I’m getting all amped up thinking about this stuff. And James, thanks for checking out my blog. It’s sort of a social experiment – kinda like high school. Dino Dogan inspired me to finally say “forget what people will say, I’m going to sit at my own table” and blog (proverbially speaking, of course).

  • Never really thought about it this way but you’re right. Writing for an audience and providing a specific style of content could get stale really quick. I know on my personal blog I try to hit marketing/tech topics but my other “off-subject” ones get better feedback sometimes. Same with our corporate blog. We try and cover topics that we technically sell. However, when we spotlight a specific employee or give a slice of life of the office, we get really good feedback there too.

    Definitely a post to read through and not judge by the headline. Makes sense.

  • Yes. I agree with that. I think blogging can be an effective component of marketing, but too many treat it as marketing. They use their site to sell rather than engage. They use their posts as pitches rather than conversations. The best way blogging becomes a marketing component is in its ability to develop itself. The voices, the conversations – that’s how it grows. Like you mentioned in your post about how your own blog grew so well – you never treated it as a podium but rather as a forum – where others could chime in. That’s what makes it compelling.

    (Maybe we’re saying the same thing with different words.)

  • The real reason you went from zero to Adage 100 in nine months! Lot’s of people have passionate points of view on various topics. The key I think is to deliver that passion to engage readers in discussion. Agree or Disagree, who cares…as long as you attract readers who do (care that is). But, whether you are blogging personally or for a corporation, this only works if you are passionate about your topic first.

  • I’m in the same boat. Always had so much I wanted to say, but I had no ears that wanted to listen save a few. Most of my friends are too enthralled with American Idol, Fantasy Football or the next block party (not that I don’t dabble in said activities from time to time) to care about anything that requires in depth analysis at this juncture (we’re still fairly young). It was frustrating.

    Then I discovered a group of bloggers within my industry while ‘attempting’ to use Twitter to promote our business (attempting in all the wrong ways). I joined with them in blogging in an industry related 2x monthly ‘blog off’. That experience stoked an ember buried within me, and I found my forum to open up and express my thoughts on a personal level through my own blog.

    In my first post, I wrote about how I’d be ok if I never had 1 single comment or reader. It was for me. I’ve far surpassed my own expectations in that sense, and it’s been through the help of people like Mark and others that have shown me how to stay true to my own beliefs through my writing while still attracting new and engaging readers.

    I have a great quote on my desk, “I’d rather be a laughing stock from my own actions than a nobody from my inaction”

  • I loved that post you did Ingrid. I recommend it to {grow} readers and here it is:

  • I hate to disappoint you but I agree with you. : )

    I didn’t go into detail because of length reasons but when I wrote: “If you follow that line of thinking, there are interesting implications for corporate blogs aren’t there?”

    … I was thinking along the lines of how do we merge these best practices? Is it even possible in a tag-team corporate environment? Below I hinted at the radical Radian6 strategy. That’s as close as it comes I think. Boy this is great discussion topic. Wish were hashing this out over a glass of brännvin.

    Great insights. Thanks!

  • Oh wow Mark,
    You didn’t have to do that – but thank you. I really appreciate your kind support.

    A very thought-provoking piece you’ve written there – Loved it! I’m sure it’s already sparked quite the discussion.

    I;m curious to hear what corporate bloggers have to say though. I think these may have some varying views.


  • I’m actually a fan of Radian6 – specifically their monthly eBooks. Plus their community manager did a heck of a job engaging with me and my readers in the comments and so forth on one my blog posts (granted the topic was about them, but still).

    And I do read Amber as well – great insight.
    But I had no clue it was a sponsored blog Mark. thanks for pointing that out.

  • Hey Mark – my two cents:

    You can’t hide, whether a business or individual, what you’re really about in your writing/communication. The real you/identity will come out for all to see eventually.

    — You’re either on the TAKE = spammy, no value, self-centered and idiotic; or

    — You’re here to GIVE = share, contribute and make everyone you touch better, smarter more capable and grow as an individual/company as a result.

    The activity of blogging is self-serving – however the persona behind it either benefits the community as a whole, or just stinks up the place.

    Both have an audience and ultimately they make the decision on which community they want to be part of.

    Cheers to getting us to think today with this post!

  • I refer to the “mirror” effect: What you say to others is what you need to hear yourself. I’ve recently been writing about the living in your best 20%, de-cluttering, etc. b/c these are priorities I’m addressing in my own life. I figure if I’m experiencing these issues, my audience deals with them too. Thanks for the encouragement — I appreciate it!

  • Mark I have to disagree with you.

    If you write for your audience, you’re guaranteed to succeed. But you have to be consistent and persistent. If you hate doing it and you quit, you won’t succeed.

    A lot of bloggers that write to themselves have succeeded. But percentage wise, they’re .001% of bloggers. It works for some people, but it’s not a surefire way to build a career.

    Mark, maybe you’re just so good at what you do that you’re unconsciously writing for an audience. 🙂

  • Hey wait a minute … I thought you were the guy who never disagrees with anybody! : )

    I’m actually glad you disagreed with me and thank you for stepping out and doing that. How is my thinking going to evolve if everybody just agrees?

    I don’t know about your statistics. My favorite bloggers display their passion and enthusiasm and even fun in their posts. That’s what keep me coming back. I don’t think you can fake that. I guess the nuance here is — do you target and audience and try to be enthusiastic about it or do you express your enthusiasm and hope the right people find you? Bloggers in the second category are going to be happier and more successful I think, but I respect your point.

  • Oh don’t get all psychological on me or I’m going to depress myself with that mirror view! I’m the doctor who doesn’t take his own medicine sometimes! : ) Thanks for sharing your wisdom today Michelle!

  • Funny, I just mentioned you in a conversation with our mutual friend Sirini!

    You probably summed this up better than i did Mark. The authenticity evenutally shines through doesn’t it? Thanks!

  • I think this is true Steve. Believe me. I have a foot in both worlds — passionate personal blogging versus trying to help companies find a “voice” amid a corporate structure. Thanks for your insight!

  • Thanks for extinguishing your torch : ) I think this is a fascinating debate – bridging the passionate personal world with the buttoned-up corporate world. But I’m learnign a lot from the comments. Thanks!

  • Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Not too many people read that post! But if I recall I did get some comments from some A-List bloggers : )

  • Pleasure as always, Mark. Per some of the other threads here, I have to admit there are examples of people designing products solely for audiences–look at Taylor Swift, e.g. They tend to be extremely bland, though. And are they enduring? Apple’s a great example of this, I think–Jobs manages to look ahead to what _he_ would want next, and they’ve stayed at the forefront, led the market as a result. Meanwhile Sony, with an army of marketing studies (audience analysis), can hardly stay afloat. There’s no _spark_ in their products.

    From a communications perspective, it’s basically impossible to be completely oblivious to your audience–we share language, culture, etc. So clearly it’s never going to be a bright line here. But the “rules” are the lowest common denominator, and standing out means being unique, different. And that means having the courage to take the risk, IMO. The way you did with this post. Keep up the great work!

  • Is there anything to be said to following a theme? Are bloggers limiting themselves by forcing words based on the audience they are targeting as readers?

    On our blog, we have defined personas and series that we follow consistently on a weekly basis. Sometimes its fun to follow the theme and write to the persona, and other times its quite a challenge. i have even experience times where I am writing about a topic that is just not my favorite let’s say and it comes through in my writing. There is something to be said about blogging in your voice while still carrying a consistent message across.

    I do know that my ideal audience consists of marketers from consumer brands and retail but should I be writing to them or writing things that are relevant to me and hope they follow? Blogging as an individual is a lot more different than blogging under your company. Are there different tactics we should be following for each or do the same rules apply?

  • That is exactly the issue that is so fascinating to me — bridging the two. Undeniably personal blogs are more fun to read. How do you capture that lightning in a corporate blog? A real struggle! Thanks Christina!

  • I’m glad I got to guest post at Spin Sucks. I learned a lot from the feedback. And no, I don’t have a problem with hashing stuff out in comments. 🙂

    As far as statistics go, I’m not smart enough to say that with authority. I’m just quoting a pertinent snippet from last Sunday’s blog chat. Here’s the tail end of a fascinating conversation:!/copyblogger/status/29364817345118208

  • Well done Martyn. Thank you.

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  • This is very insightful Mark. Never play to the crowd. Get the crowd to play to you! You will seem more genuine. You will give people a reason to keep coming back.

  • Hi Mark,

    Personally, I found this post very interesting with a lot of perspective. And it’s 100% true – I look at great authors on the AdAge Power 150, one of whom is Seth Godin.

    I imagine Seth has never written a post in his life to pander for the crowed in hopes they would like him and accept them into their club. Nope, he just writes really amazing, insightful stuff, and those who enjoy what he writes often “love it” – but then there is the other side,

    Those who don’t – A point I would like to build on from your post is this “When you build for the masses, you won’t have anyone hate you, but you will never have anyone love you either”

    It’s fascinating when you talk to people, they’ll quick tell you who they like and who they don’t but they’ll never remember the guy/girl they thought was just “ok” the person who “was kinda interesting”

    They also won’t be shared as often –

    I don’t know if you read his blog, but Juilen Smith wrote a post a while ago say “Stop being a [email protected]# [email protected]!$” It was strong, and it wasn’t written for an audience, it was him expressing himself – and you know what, it’s his most popular blog post (EVER)

    Great post Mark,


  • Spot on once again, Mark.

  • In my opinion, people who blog “purely for their community” take the humility thing a bit too far. I consider myself a humble person, but I’m the first to tell you that I like to have my ego stroked. My point is that, in much of what we do, there is a degree to which we are doing it for ourselves, even if we don’t want to admit it.

    Primarily, my blog is about expression, which very much centered around me. I hope that by expressing myself I can attract some readers and subscribers.

    You won’t find any pitchforks from me, Mark. Well done.

  • Well I guess that’s away to put it. : ) Thanks pal.

  • I missed that post but it does seem that i heard about it. I’ll check it out.

    I don’t want anybody to hate me per se, but I do hope people disagree and feel welcome to disagree. If I don’t have dissent, I’m not doing a good job either.

    Thanks Josh!

  • Nice to hear from you Mike!

  • You bring up a very good point Jake and it is one I would have made in the article but I like to keep them short.

    I do adapt my writing to topics that might get those “strokes” through engagement and comment. I’ve been at it long enough that I’m usually not TOO surprised by what people like or dislike. Of course I still write posts that I know are going to bomb because I have to say what i have to say, but it is always more fun to have a crowd to teach me in the comment section. Sometimes I get really excited to hit that “publish” button when I know it’s going to raise a ruckus. I even can predict who is going to comment on what! It’s just a lot of fun. i guess that’s the point of the whole post. If it’s not fun for YOU, your readers will figure it out.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Anonymous

    I would like to contribute a more thoughtful comment but I’m still a little a bit rattled from the butt whipping I took in the steel-cage Klout match I challenged you to. I want a rematch. I also want about 20 years to prepare. By then I will have learned all your secrets and how you really train, while no one is watching, to blog and tweet and facebook like some kind of madman for…your audience.

    Thanks champ.

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  • Billy, I’m willing to take you on as a student, but I must warn you. The path to becoming a Klout-master is perilous and involves large quantities of whiskey. Being a little buzzed is the only way to see that these social media scoring systems make sense. : )

  • Anonymous


    I was thinking about this all day yesterday and we even discussed this during our conversation. Yesterday I even suggested that metrics and measurements limit our potential. I think this probably would have been been appropriate add on. When we live our lives for the approval of other people, we tend not to live life the way we really want to. I can’t help but think writing a blog for the approval of other people might have the same issue. The other day I spoke with a blogger by the name of Steve Kamb who runs a blog called What was interesting is how he only had 90 subscribers in the first 9 months and grew to 3000 in the next 9. At the core of it was not writing for an audience and writing in his true voice. Hopefully people will start to adopt this mind set and we’ll get see the inner genius that lies within every blogger.

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  • That is so perfectly stated Srini. What a wonderful story and insight. Thank you!

  • I’ve come to the conclusion that writing for a specific audience is not possible, at least for me. Over the last few years I’ve tried to resolve this problem many times and have rebuilt my web site at least 4 times in the process. The problem for me is that my business and my personal passion is to connect diverse communities – primarily technical and non-technical.

    So as an artist, dancer, user experience designer, software engineer and entrepreneur, it’s not all that easy to just talk about any one of my passions. BTW, these are all facets that I believe are relevant to my business activities – the *personal* list would get more into family, spirituality, dogs, certain foods and so on.

    The most recent incarnation on my web site (still wet behind the ears at only 10 days old) attempts to organize posts and the actual formatting of content in a way that might appeal to different audiences. Some posts are long, some are technical, some are oriented around a key image, some are videos. That’s the best I can do to focus on target audiences.

    Your message rings loud and clear Mark.

    Being here feels like I’ve stumbled out of the corporate office party* (where colleagues and spouses move self consciously in unison to the tune of YMCA) and into a real dance club where people are happily doing their spins and shines and not stepping on each others toes. Congrats to all here for creating such a marvelous place.

    (Have happily subscribed)

  • That might be interesting, I have been thinking of running a rebuttal post, just need to give it a bit more thought.

  • Kcarespodi

    Interesting idea–I definitely began blogging to please myself, but now that I’m trying to build a business, it’s difficult not to think of the message I’m trying to send–not just the “You like me! You really like me!” but the “You like me and you think I could do the job for you.” Of course, I now have two blogs–one for me and one for newthirteen.

  • Mark,one and it isn’t as snipey as it sounds, but it’s all well and good for someone WITH an audience to give this advice….
    if you have ANY goals with any blog or ANY writing, isn’t doing something to develop the audience necessary (outside writing something you like or are passionate it, sorta take that as given)

  • Raacy4gems

    Thanks for the gems in this article. I will be staying in touch. I like your slant and can see myself as I was progresssing in my own blog writing skills. I usually do my best to write for myself and as an outlet for my own thoughts and comprehension. As I wade through the waters of artists such as yourself, my eyes are opened and reopened so many times, to the little ruts we sometime fall into even though we know better.

  • Great stuff.

  • I really appreciated this. I get myself stuck sometimes with wanting to write for an audience too much and thus when I write I start having expectations of the outcome. And that only leads to disappointment! So when I can find the balance of being aware of the audience but also writing what’s true for me, I enjoy it a lot more.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    I love that Valerie. Great perspective. I have found the same thing. Sometimes I just let it flow and honestly wonder what my readers will think of me sometimes but I find the more I write from “in here” instead of what’s “out there” the more they seem to respond to it. And it’s more interesting for me too! Thanks!

  • Thanks for letting me know Abby!

  • What a beautiful sentiment. I like that idea that little blog posts like this can help people get through ruts. Thanks for taking your valuable time to express this!

  • I don’t take that as snipey at all Todd. It’s an excellent question. I’ve written about audience development on several occasions. One that comes to mind is this post, which seemed to resonate with a lot of people: Six ideas to build social media momentum

    Your point is well-made and I probably need to do a post just on this topic. There were definitely a few things that worked for me.

    Having said that, I do believe very strongly that the key to attracting and retaining readers boils down to offering something unique and that can come from only one place — writing from your perspective and your passion.

    I’ve written about this several times but this article sums up my strong sentiment on this: Can you answer the most painful question in marketing?

    I really appreciate the challenging question, Todd. I’ll put this topic in the queue!

  • Certainly you are a role model when it comes to writing in a passionate and entertaining fashion Kirby. Folks, here is some good writing:

    Based on the comments on this post, I probably need to spend some time writing about audience development. So I’ll address that in the near future. I’ll have to put some thought into that because I honestly did not know what I was doing … but for any beginner, who does?

    Nice to hear from you. Keep up the good work! : )

  • Michael, it sounds as though you have made amazing progress on the evolution of your thinking and strategy to connect with customers. Good work! Many people have multiple blogs to connect with different audiences. Might be something to consider too.

    Thank you for your extremely kind comments about the {grow} community. It really is a fantastic group of bright people and I’m glad you’re part of it, too!

  • Mark, in my office we have three values:
    1. Don’t get complacent (i.e. develop things that are important to each of us)
    2. Remember the community (i.e. provide things of value, not the SM echo chamber)
    3. Have F you money for the bank (self-explanatory)

    So. I agree with you.

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  • No pitch forks here Mark. 😉 My first reaction was to think “I think Mark went off the deep end.” But the more I read and thought about it the more I realized how right on you are.

    I think about it now, when I first began blogging I wrote for my audience (and search engines, of course). Kept on thinking about what I thought they wanted to hear. Then I realized that my blog was about my experiences and teaching others what I have learned. It was my journey and asking people to come along for the ride. Changing that perspective took what I did to a whole knew level I think. I did what I enjoyed and that came through to others.

    Eye opening and very insightful post Mark. Glad to hear you’re writing for yourself. 😉

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  • So very kind of you to say Michele. Glad to hear you had the same experience. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to express your thoughts!

  • Terrific advice as usual. I wish you were my boss. : )

  • thanks for sharing the previous posts…
    I’d be curious on your take of previous bloggers bemoaning the format and “jumping ship” as it were.
    My two cents: burning the ship that brung ya ain’t cool…

  • Well…we could do something about that. We ARE hiring! In fact, I need a GM for Arment Dietrich. 🙂

  • I think I might use this article as the basis for a class discussion in my new Audience Studies course at Uni of Newcastle

  • Part of the course assessment will be writing a blog and discussing the issue of the blog’s audience

  • Dino – love you bring both the ‘write what you are passionate about’ and ‘think of your audience’ camps together. I’ll be adopting this approach. Until now – whichever I did, I was afraid I was doing it wrong. Mark’s post, plus your comment just let me shed all that. Onward!

  • Im glad that clicked for you Leisa. The “Middle” way is the Buddhist way, and Im all about that.

  • Wow. How do I attend your class virtually? What a fascinating topic. I hope you’ll let us know how this discussion goes Melanie!

  • Aeshna

    It’s funny, just last night I was thinking about different topics to blog about and how I can use them to project myself in a certain way. After reading your post I’m very encouraged to throw away my list and write about what I’m truly interested in (career-related or not). Having recently graduated from college, I had the mindset that anything I write has to cater to a certain audience and I think this is a good reminder that a blog is not an essay. There should be a personal and human touch to it.

  • The big gap in university education right now is integrating social into the traditional marketing curriculum. While we are familiar with strategies for B2B and B2C, there are few colleges teaching about the importance of P2P (person to person), the heart of the social web. That’s why in most cases, it takes personal connection to be successful — whether an individual blogger or a company. Not easy for traditional marketers to understand. In addition to being more effective, I think writing from the heart will make blogging more fun and rewarding for you too. Good luck Aeshna!

  • Thank you for so clearing defining the difference between most people and my favorite bloggers. You wrote: “From a purely psychological perspective, humans don’t willingly engage in activities that don’t provide some benefit.”

    SOME humans DO willingly blog to benefit OTHERS rather than themselves. Some understand that serving others creates a better world and the very best life of all for themselves too.

    That is actually a very different subject than whether to write for your readers or not, but one I couldn’t pass by without commenting.

    Most people focus on what brings them success, fame or money. My favorite bloggers share what they have learned so that it benefits any who are willing to hear without concern for self. Eventually they (and I) will monetize so that we can spend more of our precious time sharing but that comes later and is not our original goal.

  • Michele is one of those favorite bloggers I was talking about in my comment. As her comment states, she writes primarily about her “experiences and teaching others what [she has] learned” and that is why I was drawn to reading her blog and collaborating with her.

  • When Don “focused on my local (offline) business community and offered social media/blogging consulting” he was doing what most bloggers are just now realizes we need to do. Don is one of the thought leaders I recommend (and Michele and Ingrid who also commented in this post).

    I wrote about what Don is talking about in a post Bloggers Position Yourself Where the Money Is because that is where we can be the most beneficial to the most people, improve the economy for everyone AND also create an income so we can dedicate more of our time to non-paid efforts.

  • Wow Gail, I just happened to read this comment in my inbox. This is one of the best (and surprising) compliments I’ve ever gotten! Thank you… I’m speechless.

    @Mark – sorry Mark, not trying to hijack your comment system… just felt I couldn’t go without responding to this. Hope you understand. 😉

  • Mark W Schaefer

    I like this very much. I like this perspective and you have me thinking.

    But even in your example, your benevolent blogger benefits through this validation that they are “creating a better world” and “the best life for themselves.” That seems like quite a powerful motivator and self-benefit.

    Really great comment. Thank you!

  • Oh my, of course. The comment section is for well … commenting. Not too much out of bounds here as long as we keep it professional!

  • Just make sure you know I’m not against SEO (mostly) but am highly skeptical about its true benefits to a personal blog, based on both anecdotes from top bloggers and data. Very little long-term value from SEO traffic, but would love to be proved wrong.

  • It is an interesting strategy. It is the most non-corporate company blog out there. People don’t even know it is a company blog.

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  • cookie cutter sets

    What I admire about your post is that it’s concise and filled with substance which truly captivates me. Majority of the blogs nowadays are not very informative and that is why site visitors will not read the whole article. But yours was different. I would like to thank my friend also for referring your blog to me. I am looking forward to see your upcoming post. Great job!

  • I really like this idea that an audience will find me!
    Rightly said I blog to build a profile for my future site that will support my business.
    I don’t really blog for anyone in particular, just for me.
    I go to sites and blogs that I like and comment. That’s it!
    Really enjoyed the story about giving up trying to satisfy others whom you had set out as your audience for the fun of it.
    Thanks Mark this works for me.

  • I agree, Mark.  I believe you should blog because your have something to say, not because you just want to say something.  If you are not passionate about your writing, your readers can tell.

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  • It’s a provocative title and good advice. In the whole world of possible blog topics it’s good to focus your blog where your interests and your audience’s interest overlap. (Get out the Ven diagram) That’s the best place to connect and start a conversation. Everything builds outward from there. As you rightly pointed out, a wholesale adoption of your audience’s interests and priorities is neither fulfilling, profitable or sustainable.

  • Great post! Definitely food for thought. I believe that it’s important to be an authentic and transparent blogger, whether you’re blogging for a specific audience, or trying to attract that right audience to your blog.

  • Well said, Jeff!

  • I’m not always sure about transparent. I think “honest” is a reasonable expectation, however!  Thanks Sirpa!

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