Blogging like a Big Baby

Sometimes knowing nothing about what you’re doing can be the best competitive strategy.

I recently attended an interesting seminar about integrating interactive technology into the classroom and a speaker made the point that to be successful, they had to do their best to view the classroom from the perspective of a child.

This struck a chord in me relating to blogging. I think one of the reasons I have had some success as a blogger is because I had a child-like approach, perhaps even a naive approach, to starting my blog. This was not a mindful act.  I took that approach because I literally didn’t know what I was doing.  I learned to swim by getting thrown into the lake!

I didn’t study blogging before I jumped in.  I did not read Copyblogger or study the other blogging deities. Didn’t even know who they were. I wasn’t worried about SEO, affiliate links, or being politically correct. I had no expectations about community or page rankings. I blogged for fun and the pure learning experience.

So, like a child, my posts were honest, blind to politics, and playful.  It was just a pure expression of what was on my mind. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a rare commodity on the social web.

As momentum on my blog picked up, I thought I should get more acquainted with the culture of social media blogging and for awhile got swept up in trying to replicate the formulaic patterns that seemed to be bringing everybody else so much success.

But many of the blogging best practices actively work AGAINST originality.  The heart of content marketing strategy, for example, is a focus on popular keywords, so by definition you are gearing your content toward the same topics everybody is writing about, right?  Wouldn’t you agree there is a chronic sameness to the social web?

It is the blogger’s constant battle to be original but I think adopting this child-view of the world — filled with curiosity, raw creativity, and honesty — is a powerful catalyst for innovation.  I’ve been challenging myself to maintain that perspective and find ways to use my crayons to color outside of the lines a little more.

What would happen if you became more child-like in your approach to blogging?  Children don’t avoid risks, focus on “best practices,” or become slaves to search engines. They see beauty in the small and simple wonders most tend to overlook. They say what needs to be said without knowingly hurting anybody.

How are you trying to be original in your writing, in your business and on the social web?  What would happen if you viewed content creation through the eyes of a child?

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  • I agree Mark – I started blogging as a repository for my stories.  My original Teddy Burriss stories.  It grew into sharing stories from and about others.  Now my blogs are still focused on originality yet, as you mentioned, for lots of reasons I as well get pulled into different directions and I have to remind myself the purpose of my blogs –  A repository of Teddy Burriss stories and other good useful and motivational stories.

  • Love it Mark!!!!!!! This reminds me of my twitter journey. I jumped in – sunk a few times (did I say a few)  but I’m still swimming. I had no ulterior motives for tweeting and still don’t. It was just fun to connect/collaborate. Now everyone is so concerned with Klout scores and hashable rank that their tweets are riddled with hash tags. Just this past weekend I had an enlightening convo about twitter gaming-I’ve been so naive!  I #worry though that #motives and #Klout scores will #cloud the connections on #twitter as it moves more and more to #corporate #battlefield. Gaming/manipulating system will only take you so far.  The innocence of a child is sometimes so refreshing.

  • It’s a constant battle isn;t it? : )   Thanks for sharing Teddy!

  • Hi Mark,

    I did study blogging before I started, but for business. I find Copyblogger and your blog the most relevant for business blogging. I share a lot of your posts with the bosses Mark.

     For my personal blog, I did very little preparation. I joke all the time that I would be dangerous if I knew what I was doing. My blog posts are fairly short, and they come straight from the heart. Very little head involved. I really don’t think about what I am going to blog about until I sit down in the morning.

    I started my blog on Palm Sunday with no SEO, no keywords, nothing. I did post a link here, and I also posted in my blogging group on Facebook. It took off from there. I just passed 200 comments over the weekend, and this week i should hit 50 posts.

    I even got a beautiful mention in Danny Brown’s blog last week that made me cry. (I cried happy tears) I have also been mentioned in some other really great blogs, and I can’t express how grateful I am for that. It truly makes my day to think that others that I look up to respect me. That still blows my mind.

    I like my curiosity about blogging. The minute I think I know it all, I will be in hot water.

    Thanks for this post Mark – glad to know I am on the right track.

  • Mark opens his mouth/pen/iPad and wisdom spews out. I’m always finding something to share from him as well Nancy!  You’re so right ->  ” The minute I think I know it all, I will be in hot water.” it’s an evolution right? If you don’t move with tide you’ll be left floundering.

  • Great post, Mark and I think this is about much more than blogging. I just made a comment on another site about making decisions. Far too often we wait for a good idea to get tarnished by our self-doubt, over explanation and deliberation. Read the books, take the seminars, visit the sites but if we wait until we gather all possible information on any initiative, our lives will be over. I am facing an opportunity at the moment and others are reminding me that caution is a good thing, weighing options is a wise strategy but then failing to act makes the entire process a complete waste of time.

  • Thank you Mark for sharing your “blogging like a big baby” approach!!!

    Your authenticity and transparency has struck a deep chord within me — and certainly with your entire community — so much so that I’m being constantly reminded by you — as our blogs are created each week — to share authentically and transparently; after all — whether you agree or not — meaningful behaviors and decisions come from emotional places within each of us.

    Since 2001 my blogging approach has been — and still is — sharing information detailing my company’s “new and original” activities and projects for readers’ to use for their business and personal lives offline and online.

    With appreciation and gratitude for you making this opportunity available for me to share my blogging approach with you and your {grow} community, I remain one of your most loyal readers!!!

  • Mark, I’ve been saying this for the longest time. It’s one thing to read all about how to blog etc but the only REAL way to learn it is to do it, even if you are as prepared as a baby. Odds are much better of you discovering the right way for yourself. 
    When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures.  So I did ten times more work.  ~George Bernard Shaw

  • Interesting points Mr.  Schaefer (I had to copy and past that one)Although I’m sure the argument could be made for good blog set-up and amazing SEO keyword placement, I would agree with you that the more you try and frame your blog posts, the more they appear…well framed.You also bring up another interested point, something that the Heath brothers talked about in their book. “The curse of Knowledge” When we start a blog, we often are raw, sharing out own points, ideas and so on, and guess what…people connect with us.But then we start learning about the “real” way to blog, and we start making our content keyword rich, and insuring that we have a good picture at the start. Yet, the reason why most people started to follow us, and even like us starts to get lost.Excellent postJoshps. I like the picture you started with…that wasn’t a shot

  • Great post, Mark. I often advocate to people that they should have one site that is an absolute playground for them. ROI doesn’t matter. Subscribers aren’t a concern. SEO isn’t a daily to-do. Just a content marketing playground where you can try, learn, fail, and sometimes succeed with no one breathing down your neck.

    Though it’s a slight departure from what you’re saying here, it can be a useful exercise for someone in charge of running a corporate blog (who maybe can’t chlidize their approach for operational issues).

  • Yeah, sometimes it’s just better not to know!  Thanks Natasha!

  • That is unbelievable!  You are becoming a real case study! Congratulations nancy. I’ll be able to say ” I knew here when …” : )

  • i think there is something to valuing instrinct.  The Havard Business Review did a great piece on that a few years back. Basically said, sometimes the best executives “just know” and there is great value in that! Thanks Kneale!

  • That is so nice of you to say Dr. Rae. I look forward to reading your comments every time I see in the comment section!  Thanks for your great support!

  • I end each class – and end my book — with a quote about not being able to teach anybody social media marketing.  You have to immerse yourself. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and the quote today, Todd.

  • I agree. I caught myself “leaning toward convention” a while back and it is still something I struggle with. However the community truly keeps me honest.  When I write something impactful I’m rewarded. When I write crap, that comes through too!  Thanks Josh!

  • Nice perspective Andrew. Thanks!

  • How “nice of you to say” Mark, thank you… 
    It’s my pleasure to grow and learn by reading and supporting you Mark!

  • Let’s hear and put more value on intuition!!!

  • I am a big fan of encouraging people to just write and stop over thinking it. My philosophy is that you should build your community around you. Write with joy and passion and people will respond.

    We spend too much time trying to figure out how to different, unique and original. Some of that energy is better served in doing and not thinking about doing.

  • I didn’t study blogging as in ‘the art and science of’ but I did lurk, read other blogs to see a little of what was out there, how it works, commenting and communities. Since then my reading and writing have shifted as while I always aimed to write like myself, now just feel a lot more comfortable doing so. It is a battle to be original, or even tell something old in a new way for a different audience. Thinking about how a child sees things, you’re right that they wouldn’t stress keywords and trends, but same time.. kids (don’t have any) are very much about the now, so long-term and strategy wouldn’t factor. Sometimes that’d be an asset, but not always. The creative thing to do is ‘think outside the box’ and yet the ‘rules’ say ‘color inside the lines’ so trying to write something untainted by my ‘grown up’ marketing bias, that’d be an interesting experiment.. maybe someday. FWIW.

  • I am so happy you said this! It’s like a blog guru revealed the secret to success is just being me…and that I can do! Thanks for sharing your journey with such openness and authenticity. I am moving onward and upward…not so much with baby steps, but with steps like a baby!

  • Hear, hear. I think I reached a breakthrough when I stopped trying to “target” my content instead of just writing about what was interesting to me.  An amazing thing happened. Instead of “finding” my audience, my audience found me!   Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jack!

  • I agree there is a balance … as long as you don;t get “ruled” by what everybody else is doing. I hear this all the time: “Blogs have become so boring.”  Now how is it possible that blogs have suddenly become boring?  Have we run out of things to discuss?  Have the authors become less effective writers?

    Some of that may be true but i think a major contributor is that everybody is trying to be like everybody else.  They’re all trying to follow all the same rules by usnig numbers in healdines and focusing on keywords. The result is mediocrity.  I think many people blog for consistency instead of for quality. You need both, but without quality in the form content that is RITE – relevant, interesting, timely and entertaining — you will lose your readers.

    Fight sameness!

    P.S. Do the experiment. : )

  • I love this, Mark. It’s what I try to do and I think in many ways the SEO takes care of itself. I read a book years ago called “Dangerous Wonder” by Mike Yaconelli. His premise was that as adults we have become jaded and lost our sense of childhood wonder. He gives the illustration of an airplane flying over. As small children, whenever we heard a plane, we would run out and look up. It was new. It was different. It was something our imagination could run with. As adults we don’t hear the airplanes, or even worse, we hear them and complain about the noise.

  • Harvey Gardner

    Mark, this is so true.  If we’re not careful, we’ll be following the followers.  

  • Bravo Jack…

    With your permission may I add “Some of that energy is better served in…” being;  since that’s where our “joy and passion” reside.

  • Bravo Jack…

    With your permission may I add “Some of that energy is better served in…” being;  since that’s where our “joy and passion” reside.

  • oh, that kind of big baby. I thought you were totally going to go in a different direction. Hmm. I think that says more about me than you 🙂

    I started much the same way. I had been blogging on Livejournal for quite some time and had messed around with blogger a bit. I mean, once you post on blogger you *are* a blogger, right? 

    I have to say though that while the lovely innocence we started with was great, there was a lot I probably could have benefitted from knowing at the start. For example, that whole 3-4 month period where only crickets commented on my blog posts – that was a big baby surprise 🙂 I also think learning about planning out a blog strategy would have helped me a bit because my posts only had one thing in common at first – they were written by me.

    Great post as always, Senor Mark. 

  • I love the article. It totally wasn’t what I expected it to be. This was a great read for someone like me who is relatively new to blogging. Thank you!

  • That Big Baby thing could go either way!! : )

    Well said.  I think we would be re-miss if we did not avail ourselves of the technical best practices but I truly think the copy and paste mentality gets in the way of creativity! We have to stay out of the echo chamber to be relevant.

    Thanks for you sharing your wsidom today my dear!

  • Originality is a constant war. Create or be left behind. Innovate or die.

  • Wow, powerful analogy Ken. Love that. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

  • I actually wrote a bog post on this topic and wanted to give you the link but now i can;t find it. It was this year but the theme was “I have no competitor, because my point of differentiation is me.”  That is the heart or orginiality — digging deep down inside, finding your voice, and having the courage to display it!  Thanks Mim!

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Matthew! Welcome to the community.

  • Funny, just today I found myself thinking about what you described as “chronic sameness to the social web”. Essentially rehashing the same content and opinions won’t move the world or your business forward, yet search engine rankings sort of force you to do it.

    Numbers play a role. If you present really original thoughts, you run the risk of never being found as nobody is searching for your key concepts. That’s why I have for some time been critical of search engines. Their algorithms by nature favor topicality and popularity at the cost of originality. To put it bluntly, the more you agree with everybody else, the higher your ranking. Collective wisdom or collective stupidity?

    This leads to an interesting conclusion. If you want to promote an original thought (or an original product or service, as the case may be for a business), inbound marketing won’t work. You need to actively push what you have to say. We sure need more baby blogging.

  • Hmmm.  Some very good points. The whole search/SEO thing really is a mess. However, to give you some hope, it appears that social validation is playing a bigger role in search engine results.  So, if it gets a lot of sharing, it may get a bump in the search rankings. Of course you still need to be writing about something relevant!

    Very good addition to the dialogue Kimmo!

  • Kathy Snavely

    And a little child shall lead them….  I’ll share the playground with you any day, Mark!

  •  Great post and thanks for the share. Looking things in a new way and thriving  to learn new things  are good for any business.

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  • Well there it is.
    I am doing that and I enjoy myself with the whole activity, so far!
    Don’t know the rules.
    Tried to learn from ‘named’ sites and gave up to many formula’s.
    It’s my voice, me speaking, so how can you really be anything else if not yourself?
    Enjoyed this post.

  • Love this.  And I am so delighted to see you back in the comment section my friend. Hope to see you in October?

  • And you’re doing great, too.  Look forward to our talk this week Billy!

  • Kathy Snavely

    That’s the plan!  Hubby is still waiting for cancer treatment, but hoping that will be taken care of soon and I can focus on business and my social media friends again soon.

  • I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble here in Charleston, SC because it’s cheaper to buy coffee and sit in AC than it would be have mine running full blast today (we’re expecting heat indices of 115+), and as I contemplate how to respond, I’ve glanced down at my Iced Coffee. 6 boxes run vertically down the cup. 3 boxes contain scribbles, indicating the formula for my drink. Following the directions from the cashier, the barista made my simple drink to perfection. Consistency. That’s what an exact formula provides. This Iced Coffee tastes just like the Iced Coffee that I purchased in 2007 in Athens, GA or the one I got in the spring of 2008 in Phoenix, AZ. It’s good, but it certainly isn’t memorable. 
    The same is true for blogs, or on a broader sense, writing in general. Follow a prescribed formula, and you’ll find yourself writing, with consistency (or perhaps congruency) what everyone else is writing who also subscribes to that same formula. Your writing may be respectable, but it certainly won’t be remembered as great or powerful. 

  • This is freaking brilliant Jamey. What a cool analogy.  I mean there is some business case for consistency too, but I think it is originality which will make or break a blog in the long run. Thanks!

  • Absolutely, for business, consistency is vitally important, but I think, on a personal level, getting caught up with analyzing key words, plotting SEO strategies, and writing based upon a ‘supposed’ audience eliminates all the fun of writing which brought most bloggers into existence in the first place. I, for one, struggled around the 6 month mark in my blogging career because I was too concentrated on the x’s and o’s rather than having fun playing the game. 

    Keeping with the Food/Beverage analogy, are the greatest chefs the ones that can follow a recipe long since eternalized in a Southern Living Cookbook? Or are they the ones that have fun combining ingredients in ways that no one else before them has done? Sometimes their dishes will flop (probably more times than not) but every once in awhile, they’ll stumble on greatness because they allowed passion to guide then, not black and white instructions. 

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  • Right!  Improvisation!  I think if you are having fun on your blog it’s going to show.

  • Yikes. We need to catch up on that!  Thought he was over that.

  • Mark, I don’t know how I missed this post, but I’m glad I arrived here.  So good!

    I knew nothing about blogging when I started 4 months ago.  I jumped into that cold water with the intention of being a full-time student of “social media” for 3 months.  It’s now month 4, and I can say:

    I write when my writing muse hits, and when I feel that what I have to say will resonate with readers, add some type of value, and leave them better off for having read my little tidbit than before.
    I don’t automate anything at the moment.  I’m literally here when I’m here, and there when I’m there.
    I don’t write for SEO, keywords, prizes or shiny objects.  I just write.

    I was over at Erica Mallison’s just a few moments ago, commenting on her fabulous vlog “The culture of accessibility”, where I said that I think that we can get caught up in the tools, the metrics, and the “stuff” and forget…we started writing because we felt we had something to say of merit.

    I know mine won’t be the popular view, but I’ve never been afraid to take the path less trodden.  For now, it’s working for me.  When it no longer works, I’ll adjust.  But for now, I guess I’m in and all-for the child-like approach.  My most recent blog post was through the eyes of a ten-year old. 

    And I’ll end with my favourite Yoda’ism in response to your question “How are you trying to be original in your writing, in your business and on the social web?”

    Yoda:  “Do or do not: there is no try.”  Cheers!  Kaarina

  • It is true.. It works more than well planned tasks. However it is not good to rely much on it.

  • Hi Mark,

    This is GREAT content!  This is fresh thinking out of the box.  You’ve pointed out one of the big problems with blogging.  There are so much sameness because people are not confident enough to take action without SEO, keyword research…  I’m thrilled to read this post and find that it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Awesome. Thanks for the comment!

  • I agree,blogging is just like a big baby. Manage it, love it, and watch them grow, so the benefit will come

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