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I was speaking via email this week with a professional tennis player about blogging and they asked me the question:
‘how do I become a more successful blogger?’
I like to answer questions with question and shot back one of my own:
‘how do I become a more successful tennis player?’
The conversation that ensued was quite insightful. Not only did I learn how to improve my tennis but I learned a thing or two about blogging.
One of the things that I noticed about how this tennis player spoke was that he used the word ‘habits’ quite a bit. His philosophy was that one of the keys to his success was that he’d taught himself a series of habits that had become a part of his ‘tennis life’. He practised these habits consistently over time (most of them did not come naturally to him at first) until they became automatic reflexes.
Over time as the habits became second nature he found they combined together in ways that began to lead to increased success.
We unpacked some of the habits he’d learnt over the next half an hour and I was interested to find that some of them were ‘skills‘ based habits (ie hitting a top spin serve) and some were ‘attitude’ based habits (ie always looking for opportunities no matter how desperate or hopeless the situation).
As I listened to my tennis playing friend I found myself reflecting upon the similarities of my experience of blogging.
Good bloggers don’t just happen.
Most emerge over time as they develop skills and attitudes that combine in ways that improve their blogging. Some of these habits seem to come pretty naturally but many need to be practised and intentionally worked upon.
So what are the habits that lead to effective or successful blogging?
I’ll start by saying that each successful blogger will have their own list of habits and rhythms that increase their success depending upon factors like personality type, style of blogging, topic of blogs, goals of blogs etc. For this reason I’m looking forward to reading the habits that others are working on in the rest of this group writing project.
But in the mean time here are some blogging ‘habits’ or attitudes that I’ve been working on and have seen in other bloggers that I admire:
successful bloggers self starters.
One of the things I’ve noticed about blogging is that there are a lot of bloggers who talk a lot about the things that they are going to do with their blogging who never do much (if anything) of it and then there are a smaller group of bloggers who actually do what they say they’ll do.
The first group habitually have lots of dreams and little follow through and the second group habitually take initiative and actually put their money where their mouth is to see where their dreams lead them.
It’s these proactive bloggers who tend to find success more often than the habitual dreamers. I guess it makes sense really – if you actually do something you’ve got more chance of succeeding at it than if you just dream of it. I don’t know of anyone who’s ever succeeded just by the dreams that they have without taking action.
Successful bloggers are action oriented, they’re self starters and they’re willing to take their dreams into reality.
successful bloggers don’t become successful by accident.
Actually I should qualify that statement. I know of some bloggers who have become quite successful by accident – but very few have sustained their success over time without putting some thought into how to keep things going it.
Perhaps a better statement would be ‘Bloggers who have ongoing success generally know where they are headed and have a way to get there‘.
Of course strategy might be a formal well thought out long term strategic plan – or it could just be an informal set of ‘next steps’ in their mind. Whether or not it’s formal or informal there is some level of planning going on in the lives of most effective bloggers.
This is increasingly the case as the numbers of blogs continue to increase dramatically and the competition for attention of web uses increases. Planning on how to stand out from the crowd, how to find readers, how to sustain the writing of content over the long haul etc are all factors worth doing some planning around.
successful bloggers look forward and let what they see determine their present activities.
A habit that I work hard at consciously building into my blogging activities is to intentionally keep an eye on the niches that I’m involved in and anticipate where they are headed next.
I find that there are constant opportunities and possibilities within most niches for those that look for them. This happens on both a small picture and big picture level and can range from writing posts a few weeks ahead of events to capitalise on search engine traffic to anticipating new trends that might be ideal topics for new blogs.
It is also worth keeping an eye on emerging trends in blogging and new media as there are plenty of opportunities to take in terms of how you communicate that are worth being ready for also.
Lastly successful bloggers have a knack for seeing things outside of their sphere of interest that they draw on to improve their blogs. They are often veracious consumers of information in many forms and have the ability to keep their minds across many different fields at once.
The world we live in is in a state of constant change and unless you’re on top of the changes happening around you a blogger can be quickly left behind.
successful bloggers are effective communicators
Perhaps I should have started with this one but it almost goes without saying (almost but not quite).
While blogs are used for many different things blogging is at its heart essentially a communication tool (and predominantly is a written communication tool at present – although this is changing).
As a result of this most successful bloggers have some level of communication skills. They know how to write and more importantly know (either instinctively of by going out of their way to learn) some of the basics principles of how people learn, read and receive information online.
There are of course many different styles of communication and I’m not advocating any one of them but successful bloggers tend to have a knack of putting across their message in a way that is received well.
5. Creators of Useful Content
successful bloggers give their readers something that they need
The blogosphere is filled with millions of blogs, many of which that talk almost aimlessly about anything and everything associated with a given topic. They often are very reactionary to what others are writing and in many instances aimlessly recycle other people’s content in a way that adds no real value to readers.
Effectively bloggers attract readers because they offer them content that is useful and they meet a need of their readers. This need can be a need for information, a need for someone else’s opinion, a need for entertainment, a need for instruction, a need for community etc.
Good bloggers tap into one or more of their readers needs and work hard at being a part of a solution.
Not only is their content useful but in many cases it is looked at by others as being original and something that makes them a ‘thought leader’ in their niche rather than just a recycler of what others are saying.
I’m not saying that reacting to or recycling what others say and write is always bad or second class – but unless a blogger adds some value to what others are saying then they are less likely to give their readers anything unique or useful that they can’t get elsewhere.
6. Persistence, Consistency and Discipline
successful bloggers work hard and are in it for the long haul
I’ve said it once and I’ll continue to say it – blogs rarely become successful without hard work over a sustained period of time.
In the same way that my Pro Tennis player friend has worked daily on his game for many years, most successful bloggers put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes over significant time. Much of the work is behind the scenes in reading, networking, researching and looking after readers in a similar way to the many hours of practice a tennis player puts in before the few hours they play in a public forum.
This calls for self discipline and the ability to put aside regular time. As we all know in the busy world we live in, this doesn’t just happen. It’s a habit that most of us need to practice.
successful bloggers turn threats and weaknesses into opportunities and strengths
From my study of marketing a decade or more ago I remember very little but one of the things that’s stuck is the lesson one lecturer gave of SWOT analysis (the analysis of a business or venture by looking at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). The line that sticks out from these lessons is that good marketers learn to see ‘weaknesses and threats as possible strengths and opportunities’.
Many bloggers give up when blogging gets tough – but successful bloggers tend to go forward in leaps and bounds in these times as they find creative ways to flip those things that could crush them into things that bring life.
8. Conversation Conductors
successful bloggers initiate and facilitate conversations
One of the metaphors for blogging that I’ve been pondering lately is bloggers as conductors of a symphony (bear with me – I’m not sure where the image came from – but it’s stuck in my mind for some reason). Good conductors have the ability to draw together many musicians of different varieties and blend them together in a way that produces something wonderful.
Good bloggers take the ideas, experiences and voices of their readers (and other bloggers) and create spaces where these ideas come together in a way to makes ‘music’.
They have the ability to draw others into their conversations and guide those conversations in useful directions. In the same way that musical instruments all played out of time can be chaotic and noisy so too can poorly held blog conversations – but an effective blogger often has the ability to bring something of worth out of the babble of noice happening in their niche.
successful bloggers often intentionally work collaboratively with others
Extending upon the metaphor of a blogger as a conductor comes the observation that many successful seem to go out of their way to work with other bloggers. This happens on a variety of levels ranging from the informal and unorganised linking that bloggers do among themselves through to formal networks and partnerships that many bloggers are now arranging amongst themselves.
One of the reasons blogging has taken off as it has is as a result of it’s relational nature – bloggers who work with this strength of blogging stand to gain a lot as a result.
10. Good Boundaries
successful bloggers know what they blog about and don’t stray outside of these boundaries
Associated with this strategic nature of many successful bloggers is that they know not only what they do blog about but also what they do not blog about. Most successful blogs that I’m aware of have a range of ‘boundaries’ which associate both with the topic or niche that they cover but also boundaries around how personal they’ll get and what ethics they operate within as they blog.
With such boundaries established (and it’s rarely a formal set of boundaries) a blogger has a framework to move forward with.
The list goes on:
As I’ve pondered the above 10 habits I’ve come to the realization that it’s not a complete list (I could go on for another 10 or so habits quite easily) and that it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ sort of list either. Some of the habits I’ve identified above will be common to many successful bloggers but there are always examples that come to mind of bloggers who’ve broken one or more of the above and who have been incredibly successful and effective either despite it or because of it.
This is what led me to the desire to conduct the Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers Group Writing Project this week because the only hope to make some sense of what makes a blogger effective is to open the conversation up and put our ideas together in some way to see what commonalities appear and also to celebrate the diversity that the wider blogging community has.
I’d love to hear your thought on what habits you’re working on as a blogger or what you see in other effective bloggers. Write it up as a post as I say in my introductory post and I’ll highlight it here at ProBlogger. Otherwise I’d love to hear your reactions to my list in comments below. Which of these habits do you agree or disagree with? What habits do you need to work more on in the coming months?