Blogging doesn’t happen in a vacuum. An audience exists beyond every blogger, ready to read and hear what you have to say.
The problem: Regardless of how broad or narrow your topic is, there’s a lot of competition for those eyes and ears.
How do you break through the noise?
This question really resonated with me while moderating a webinar on finding your blog’s focus.
LISTEN to the full webinar: Going the Distance: How to Find Your Blog’s Focus and Avoid Blogger Burn Out
I was fortunate to be joined by two guests, who brought a lot of experience and insight to the topic: Alicia Hansen (@poiseinparma), Cleveland chapter organizer of the Ohio Blogging Association, and Monina Wagner (@MoninaW), community manager with the Content Marketing Institute. Both also have blogged for a number of years: Hansen at Poise in Parma, Wagner currently at 37º & Sunny.
Here are five steps we discussed during the webinar on building your blog’s influence and becoming a thought leader in your niche.
Step 1: Find, document, and stick with your focus. Research at the Content Marketing Institute has shown bloggers who document their content strategy are more effective in achieving their goals than those who don’t, Wagner shared during the webinar. Determine your blog’s purpose and goals, then write them down. This encourages consistency and gives you something to reference in the future.
It also will help you focus even farther into your niche. When Hansen began blogging, she knew she wanted to blog about food. However, niches exist within niches, and she decided to focus on restaurant reviews over recipes.
Maintain an editorial calendar and integrate your purpose and goals into it. This will keep your blogging focused, especially if your niche covers a number of topics or audiences. You may realize you’re focusing on a particular topic too much and need to shift attention to another.
Step 2: Understand and own your uniqueness. Your readers want to relate to you, shared Wagner; they want you to have a personality. Finding “your thing” is really important. While it’s OK to get inspiration from other blogs (both in and outside of your niche), replicating what they do doesn’t necessarily equal success.
Get to know what makes you unique, what makes you authentic compared with other blogs in your niche. Then, own it.
To be a thought leader, you must have confidence in your knowledge base and voice. “Don’t get wishy washy,” advised Hansen.
Step 3: Listen to your audience. Although it’s important to tell your story (and make it a good one), don’t forget to listen to your audience. There’s so much data online. Look at social, Google Analytics and what people are commenting on, said Wagner.
You should also go offline, added Hansen. Talk with members of your audience. That could be an online survey, a phone call, an industry conference, or blogger tweetup.
Step 4: Be patient, take risks, and evolve. When you open up the lines of communication with your audience, you also must be open to the response you get back.
You will get constructive criticism at some point in your blogging. When that happens, Hansen and Wagner recommend these three steps: Remove your emotional response, be empathetic to the reasons for this feedback, and learn from it.
You’re with your blog for the long-haul. Although some bloggers find overnight success, you need to be patient if it doesn’t come immediately. Take risks and try different things, but remember to remain true to who you are and what you want from blogging. I stand by what I said here:
Step 5: Promote and nurture. In other areas of life, we’re told to act the way we aspire to be. This advice also applies to your blog, Wagner said.
If you want to be a thought leader in your niche, research and engage with other influencers and thought leaders and see if there are opportunities to work with them. Whether you do it online (LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook groups are great resources to tap) or in person at meetups and conferences, nurture relationships with others and promote what makes you unique.
You can also partner up with organizations that are relevant to your topic and audience. For instance, Hansen serves as the guest education blogger for PlayhouseSquare, a Cleveland-based arts nonprofit. Sharing her experiences and insights on PlayhouseSquare’s blog benefits the organization while also bringing more attention to her brand.
We know an entire webinar could be dedicated to blog marketing, which is why we’re focusing on it in Part 2 of our #BlogTips webinar series.
Join us for Beyond Social: Blog Marketing Tips to Reach and Engage New Audiences on May 7 at 1pm ET and learn how to promote your blog content through email marketing, distribution channels, social media, and more. And if you missed Part 1, listen to the archived recording of Going the Distance or browse the full SlideShare below.
Amanda Hicken is an audience relations manager with PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken for tweets about the media, Cleveland, and comic books.