Blogging, in a technical sense, is really using web-based software to share pieces of content – usually short-form articles.
If all you want to do is write and express yourself, awesome! Go for it! All you really need is a free WordPress.com account and a decent free theme, and fingers to do some typing.
What I’ve been interested in, for the last twelve years of my blogging “career”, however, is something more and mere self-expression.
I want influence.
And I want influence because I believe there is a message inside me that people need to hear. I want to be a contributor to and cultivator of culture. I want to help shape the world around me.
And because I believe there is tremendous value in my message and that people really, really need to hear it, I’m keenly interested in the bigger picture.
What’s bigger than a blog post? Or a series of posts? Or even a whole blog that pushes new posts out year after year?
Successful bloggers – those who become effective at influencing people through digital means’ – are always more than just bloggers.
Successful bloggers are writers.
Some writers do very well writing good books. Others craft compelling news headlines, while others write sales copy that makes millions.
Writing isn’t just the composition of books. Writing is a matter of capturing ideas, concepts, instructions, and even emotions with language and presenting it in a readily consumable, even enjoyable form.
Bloggers are writers in the sense that a good blog post is a piece of art.
And bloggers learn to write great headlines and persuasive sales copy and descriptive narratives in the form of blog posts. And what’s more, most successful bloggers write in varying lengths. Some posts deserve 600 words, others 2,500, and still others 10,000 or more.
Further, successful bloggers can package content as books as well as posts. Digital versions of books make some of the best pieces of content to give away in exchange for email addresses.
Successful bloggers are marketers.
The simplest way to think of marketing is to think of it as getting the word out. It’s the art and science of making things known and drawing attention to something.
The world’s best bloggers are always sharp marketers, whether they realize it or not, or you wouldn’t ever know them as the world’s best marketers.
Successfully marketing a blog requires more than just writing. It requires promoting what has been written. Or more precisely, it requires sharing what has been written, since “sharing” conveys value to others whether anything is asked in return or not.
Successful bloggers are designers.
I don’t mean that all great bloggers possess the specific skills necessary to produce great graphic designs or website designs. There are gifted specialists in those fields who may never write a single blog post.
What I mean is that successful bloggers understand that design is really more about how we frame our content.
Content is the point. But content can be packaged in a variety of ways. Good design presents content well, drawing the reader in visually.
When I started designing websites a decade ago, I really thought what mattered to great design were the aesthetics. I think I’ve matured enough to understand that a great blog design supports great content rather than competing with it.
In other words, successful bloggers would rather leave readers saying nice idea, than nice website.
Successful bloggers are business people.
Blogging is usually a business. Again, the exception is those who are merely in it for self-expression. But those who desire to influence through blogging will develop a sense for what works, for what sells, and for how to scale their impact.
In a business, resources earned are partly enjoyed, and partly reinvested in building the platform further.
It isn’t just about “making money online.” It’s about building something that matters. And money is just the means to that end.
Successful bloggers are networkers.
One of my mentors in leadership often talks about the value of “cooptition,” which is an awkward combination of cooperation and competition.
Silicon Valley is a great example of a place where cooptition happens. Competitors striving for similar goals in a finite market space learn to cooperate and collaborate so that everyone has a better shot at success.
Bloggers are in competition for readers who must choose a limited amount of content to consume. But great bloggers interlink, communicate with other bloggers, and work together in a variety of ways for mutual benefit.
So successful bloggers usually have a knack for networking, online and off.
To make a long story short, blogging is more than throwing some things out on the web. It’s a strategy to influence the culture.
Can successful bloggers earn money from blogging? Absolutely. Some make a ton of it. But the very best know that it’s never about the money. It’s about the reach. It’s about being a voice.
It’s about influence.