Blog For An Audience… Even If You Have None
The beginning blogger tip I have for today involves a bit of fantasy.
Blog as if you have a large and passionate audience – even if you have none.
Not having an audience is a fact for most new bloggers. Once online, even if you write interesting, quality posts, the common reality is: very few people notice.
While this may be discouraging, I suggest pretending you have a huge audience of thousands that hang on your every word, day in and day out.
Because it will vastly improve the quality of your blog.
Consider how you would handle your blog differently if it had a huge audience, hanging on your every word:
- You’ll put more effort into writing quality content.
- You’ll put more effort into copy editing.
- You’ll check your facts.
- You’ll think twice about angrily ranting.
- You’ll reconsider writing pointless or “throwaway” posts.
- You’ll reconsider every detail of your blog’s design.
- You’ll redesign your blog for high traffic situations.
- You’ll finally tackle all those tiny, technical details that you’ve been ignoring.
- You’ll invest in your own domain name and hosting.
- You’ll finally create an “about” page.
- You’ll consider ethical issues like disclosure.
- You’ll engage your audience via posts or comments.
- You’ll procrastinate less.
All of these actions will have a positive effect on your blog – making it more professional, confident, and welcoming – and perhaps build the audience that you’re currently only imagining.
But there’s one last reason to pretend you have a large readership (even if you have none):
Things move quickly on the Internet, and traffic can appear suddenly, seemingly from nowhere. It just takes one submission to Digg or StumbleUpon, or a link from a well read website or blog, and suddenly you have thousands of readers checking out your site.
From my experience and reading other blogs, a sudden influx of traffic is nearly an eventuality. And it’s good – once you get a bit of attention, the snowball effect of many people visiting your blog and then linking to your site, brings many more.
You want to be prepared for this!
If you’re currently blogging as if you have no audience, you may be sloppy. You might have random posts about dust bunnies, links that lead nowhere, a blog design that’s sloppy or confusing, or just a general, “I-post-when-I-feel-like-it” attitude. None of this matters when it’s just you and mom reading your blog, but all of this will matter when readers suddenly arrive.
A Party Metaphor
My point may be better illustrated through a “party” metaphor. Every blog post you write is an open invitation to a party in your home.
Perhaps in the beginning, nobody shows.
You keep sending those invitations out, but don’t expect anyone to actually show up. So you get a little sloppy. Soon, you’re sitting in your underwear with nothing to serve guests but lukewarm, flat soda and stale Doritos.
But one day (at three AM), a thousand people appear. They may notice (or even be irate) that you aren’t ready with drinks, entertainment, music, and food. Now you’re making ice runs after the fact – happy that people have finally shown up – but annoyed with yourself for slacking off.
I think it’s best to be as prepared as you can be. Pretending you have an audience is one way to do this. And through pretending, your blog will improve as a result. Even if no one shows up for those first posts.
Jason Kaneshiro is a relative "newbie" blogger and the author of Webomatica, covering technology, movies, and music. He lives in the Bay Area and works in web / instructional design in San Francisco.
That’s a really valuable idea.
One common mistake I notice a lot of good bloggers make is including comments like ‘Nobody reads this anyway’ in their posts. If you write like you don’t deserve to be read, nobody will read you. If you write with the depth and earnestness of an A-list blogger, you have the potential to shape the way your audience perceives you, even if you’re really a total beginner.
Ha, ha, yes I think I’ve seen that “nobody reads this anyway” comment on smaller blogs. That is certainly what I’m getting at, and even if it isn’t explicitly written by the blogger in the post, it may be communicated in other, subtler ways like a broken feed link.
Excellent metaphor! And excellent tip too.
I don’t know if it was luck or good timing but writing like it matters even when my traffic was low, helped got the attention of a well-known blogger in my niche, which got me a link or two, and which got me a significant increase in traffic.
And the traffic then continue to compel me to write better all the time.
Hi mooiness, that’s great the you’re getting some headway. In a sense maybe low traffic in the beginning is a good thing for bloggers because it gives you some time to practice and get prepared!
Wait, you mean I don’t blog for a large audience? What? Oh yeah, 12 readers. Okay, maybe 14. Excellent post, Jason. As always, thanks for the reminders.
Great tips, Jason. You made me realize something about how I read blogs. For the most part, when I find a new blog, I tend to assume it gets more traffic than mine. That’s probably because I see my own traffic logs and don’t see anyone else’s. (Not that I’m admitting my traffic is paltry, mind you. You all may go on assuming that I’m practically an A-lister in traffic.)
You don’t necessarily have to be great all the time, but you *do* need to avoid the telltale signs that you’re writing for your mother and your parakeet.
Carolyn, you can expect one more…!
David, you mention yet another reason why it’s good to pretend you have an audience – because a random web surfer may not realize that, and if you blog looks as if it has a large audience, they may just assume as much.
And your mention of a parakeet inspires me to add our cats to my readership; there’s two!
Great pointers. I recently started my blog and as I read through your checklist I felt pretty good about what I have been doing. The problem is that it takes so much time (which I have fortunately) and my friends and family think that I am… a lunatic. I am a writer, poet, and all things literature related and I always have a piece I am working on. I wish those around me didn’t think I was wasting my time. I have had some great days and pretty consistent traffic due to SU and a lot of social media networking. So I guess it’s their problem, not mine. Thank you for the tips. Veronica