My blog just turned five. Can you believe it? I can't! When did this happen? Time really flew by.
But I've learned a lot, I've experienced a lot and I've met some amazing people.
Blogging is one of the best ways to develop new skills and to think.
Seriously, that last part sounds weird but it's true.
For me, putting things into words on the screen is the absolute best way to think through and reflect, to gather my thoughts, to analyse them, to put them into structured, sense-making expressions and then to develop new ideas.
It's the best way to come up with something. It's how Inbound PR was born - through writing.
Blogging is an immense way to expand your thought process and your knowledge because by researching a topic you want to cover you learn new things and by writing about it you fully develop a knowledge bank.
Then comes, of course, your own brand building. Blogging is fantastic for that but only when you do it right.
And this is what I want to share with you today - my 5 key learnings from 5 years of blogging - that will help you get started and build your own brand through blogging.
5 Key Learnings from 5 Years of Blogging:
#1 Pick a topic
What are you passionate about? What thoughts do you want to share? What do you want to develop a deep expertise on? Who do you want your readers to be?
That's your topic. It's the focus of your writing. It's what makes your blog unique.
You can't just write about anything for anyone. Your blog too needs a strategy if you want to grow a readership.
My passions five years ago were social media and PR. That was my focus. Especially because social media was just arising for PR.
I didn't have expertise on the topics so I started reading what others were writing about, I started doing research and then I began with some very basic short blog posts. It was okay. My family and friends read them. Then with time the posts spread and I became a much more confident writer covering deeper issues within those two areas and sharing some pro tips. My readership grew because I was focused.
Of course, with time you and your passions will change so if you are still blogging, your topics will change too. That happened to me as well about one and a half years ago when I transitioned into Inbound PR and Inbound Marketing as well as Agency Business, strongly driven by job today. Right now, the 300 articles on my blog get about 10,000 visits monthly and over 1,000 subscribers.
So start with your interests and just put it out there. You'll see how with time it'll become much easier and it'll start being more and more professional.
#2 Make it a routine
If you're really taking your blog seriously, then you need to make writing a routine.
You need to create a new habit for yourself within a routine setting that you are truly sticking to.
My goal is to publish once a week. I wish I could do more, but I just don't have the time so I'm realistic with this.
I write either on Sunday or Monday mornings around 6 am because this is when I'm most productive and I publish on Tuesday mornings. I sit on my sofa with my laptop in my lap and my legs up on the table, I drink a black coffee and I just write. I don't edit, I only put the words out there as my mind races too quickly. Once I'm done writing, I give myself a little break, then I proofread and edit with Grammarly, I create an image with Canva, I put my meta description and I schedule the post to be published on Tuesday morning.
That's my routine.
I'll be honest, it's extremely hard to keep up with writing regularly. You really need to embed it in you.
I somewhere read that to create a new habit you need to practice it for 66 days. So set yourself a challenge and stick with blogging at the frequency you've chosen for 66 days.
#3 Get on social
One key thing that I've learned over the years while analysing the performance of the blog in general or individual blog posts is that social media is absolutely key (here's the latest for the 2016 results).
For one, it brings the majority of the traffic especially when you are starting out and you don't have any organic authority.
But the second piece is that it helps you meet people. It helps you network.
I can't tell you how many amazing connections I've made thanks to social media and particularly Twitter. Some of those people I've eventually met in person and it's been fantastic.
It doesn't happen overnight, though.
I started listening only in the beginning. I was curious who those other experts from my chosen topics were and what they were talking about so I started following them and reading their conversations or the links they were sharing. I started retweeting. I started commenting and sharing my thoughts too. And as I was building my expertise through my writing, people started noticing me. They started reaching out to me either for guest posts or just for my ideas. The best opportunity so far that came through social and this blog was writing a chapter for the first edition of #FuturePRoof.
So put yourself out there. Be a social media addict. There are a lot of tools that can help you automate the time-consuming activities like Hootsuite but most importantly find the people you want to network with and start making those connections.
#4 Focus on visuals
This one is a bit unusual. It's connected to the previous one and it stems a little bit from the 2016 performance numbers where through my analysis I identified that infographics are the most popular type of content on my blog and bring so, so much traffic. Also, visual content is 40x more likely to get shared on social media so it has the potential to spread.
For me, this happened pretty much accidentally. I just found infographics cool and thought I wanted to learn how to make them even though I'm not a designer.
In addition, visualisation helps you develop your thought capabilities. It helps you put something out there in a much more summarised, structured and quick to consume way. It truly is an art to pick the right words only instead of writing lots of text without any limits.
I use PowerPoint, Canva or Piktochart for all my visuals. There are plenty of other free tools and guides that can teach you how to do this. It also doesn't have to be infographics, it can be just any graphics, slides, visuals and if you really want to geek this out then go for videos.
Looking at where social and online are headed, I don't see a future without visuals or videos. That's just how we consume things in our fast-paced world now.
#5 Speak at events
Once you've started building your expertise on your chosen topics, once you've put yourself on social and have made some good connections, it's time for the next level.
That next level is speaking at events which is one of the most gratifying experiences for your blogging efforts you'll ever have.
People are not just going to start reaching out to you and asking you to be a speaker, though. Yes, maybe when you are super famous but not at the beginning.
So you'll have to do it. You'll have to pitch to speak.
That's what I did. I pitched and I spoke at INBOUND - the largest inbound conference in the world with over 19,000 people attending. It was exhilarating. I met a lot of people and it opened up a lot of other opportunities for the future too, including starting to write my own book about Inbound PR.
Before that, I've spoken at various smaller events, even only in front of 10 people. That's okay. It's where you start to build up your confidence for the bigger gigs.
Eventually, your name becomes more known that way. You become a brand.
I'm grateful for all the things I've learned and the people that I have met along my blogging journey.
If you don't blog - start.
I know people say that written content is becoming less popular because we love our videos. That might be true but the value of the written word is not going away anytime soon.
Yes, still do expand to all other channels but don't ignore your writing because it doesn't disappear in a second, it's there, kind of like forever.
It can be your legacy.