To Blog or Not to Blog - That is the Question

“Only connect.” E. M Forster, Howard's End

If you find maintaining blogs difficult, you should persevere and get used to writing them. At the very least because your future online success depends on it!

That’s what the hype says but, really, is it true?

First off, who am I to ask this question?

Now, if you’ve never heard if me, I won’t be the least surprised. The Net’s like that. You can function effectively, have a huge fan base, regularly sell a shed-load of stuff, even be quite rich and move to an embarrassingly large property in the country, like me, and yet be completely anonymous, all at the same time.

But, to give you some background, I’ve been a bit of an Internet guru since 2002, when there were only a few of us - and we used information based articles to spin tales of online riches to a growing band of web newbies.

It’s been fifteen years and a lot has changed since. Mostly for the better. There are certainly many more people online. Just 450 million when I started - now nearly 4 billion. In that time, I’ve written over a thousand blog posts, many of which have disappeared, but also some that have been copied, reproduced, and even cited on Wiki. Hundreds remain on my hard drive as I’ve shut down various websites, but a lot still remain on my current sites. I write an 800 to 1000 word blog every Friday - religiously. Actually I tend to recycle more than write these days but recently I’ve been wondering whether it’s worth promoting the idea of blogging at all.

Let me explain.

I teach authors. My Writing Academy students and subscribers are, in theory, totally intrigued by the idea of writing for a living. Sure, most want the dream, the ability to make ends meet by authoring fiction: novels, screenplays and short stories. Many are interested in freelance writing, copy writing, and in penning articles for submission to magazines. You’d think writing blogs and information-based news feeds might be of interest to these people.

You’d be mistaken.

I run surveys to help me target what my students want.

Always, blogging comes last on the list.

When I hold live webinars with my students and we talk, guess what they find the least interesting topic?

You guessed it: writing a blog.

It’s funny because if you watch TV crime shows, which I’m kinda addicted to, everybody is apparently doing it. Kids are online late at night telling the world about their angst. Hobbyists write about their passions. Bored housewives discuss fashion, fishnets, and fine wines… Yeah sure. It’s all fantasy, simply not the case. My guess is that, outside of, say, perhaps the top one-thousand “influencers” who blog all the time (because they’re paid to), there are very few ordinary folks who have any desire to maintain a regular blog. Even many wannabe marketers and would-be authors are loathe to begin a blog for reasons, like the following five, which I hear all the time:

  1. “It’s so time consuming when there’s real work, business, selling, and/or writing to be done.”
  2. “It’s too hard to write regularly when you're not used to the discipline.”
  3. “I have no idea what to write about.”
  4. “I’m not interesting/important/influential enough to write anything people might read.”
  5. “What’s the point when photos, videos, and short quotes on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., are much more effective communication tools.”

And yes, all of the above reasons are valid and to an extent increasingly true. I mean, we all know nobody reads any more…

My own technology tells me that over 95% of people - even my good customers - will spend less than five seconds on a blog post. Just enough time to take in the headline, maybe a picture or two, then find a click out link.

So who exactly reads blog posts? High on the list would be other bloggers - career writers generally, are almost always avid readers. Personally I don’t read much, except when doing research. Mostly I’m writing my own material - courses for my Academy, scripts for my video presentations, blogs and sales pages for my courses. That’s what I use my blogs for: to capture the imagination of future students.

But what about using blogs to secure sales leads?

Hmmm - maybe, over the long term.

Facebook ads are probably better for getting qualified leads but advertising with them has its disadvantages.

If you’ve never done it, you should, just to gain the experience. But here are a few things you should probably know first. (BTW, this is my personal experience, not gospel fact, and certainly not anything a “guru” would normally tell you!)

Facebook ads tend not to attract buyers, only people who may grow to like you over time.

There’s also such a thing as ad burnout where your ads stop working effectively - about a week or maybe a month after you start your campaign.

Plus, which is most surprising, spending a lot quickly doesn’t always get you the results you want. For instance, the more cash I throw at Facebook, the more expensive my leads become. Actually this is true of pretty much all adverting online: carpet bombing social media doesn’t really work that well - as least not for me. There again, I’m seeking out writers, wannabe writers, and would-be marketers who may not be on social media to be anything else but sociable!

And there lies the main issue. You can’t advertise - you can’t even BLOG simply to get customers. So, you might then frown and say, “So what’s it’s for then? If it’s not going to make me rich, popular, and successful, why should I even bother?”

Well, to me, there are four reasons to blog - and coincidentally they all begin with E. To:

  • Entertain.
  • Educate.
  • Enlighten.
  • Excite.

Contrary to what you might think, your job is not merely to inform. A Wiki article can do that. Hell, a simple instruction manual can do that - but who wants to read one of those? When we want information, we often don’t want to wade through it. No, we want a person who has read that manual to tell us exactly what we need to know, quickly and specifically to our needs.

This leads me to a phenomenon I noticed very early on in my blog writing career. My most popular blogs were not those where I presented new information, controversial point of views, or even fascinating insights. No, my most well-liked blog posts were those that flattered the opinions of those who read them. The articles that reinforced people’s preconceptions - whether true or false - were the ones that resonated the most with readers.

This tells us a lot about human nature.

We don’t want to be educated out of our comfort zone.

To make matters worse, there’s a new breed of wannabe marketer out there who can’t write, doesn’t want to waste his time with that, so gets someone else to write his salesy, keyword-stuffed, web content (a word I hate by the way) to optimize his site and push random surfers into his quicksand of relentless promos.

Thing is, as tempting as it may be, it’s not the blogger’s job to use articles as a suction device for sales funnels.

Blogs are designed to create connections. With real people, for no other reason that it’s nice to have friends and followers.

People are naturally gregarious. Often when we seek help, we’re not just looking for an answer. No, we’re looking for more. Validation, acceptance, understanding, a friend who gets us. When we have those things, we can often work out what we need for ourselves. This is actually a better way to learn, and I one I utilize in my courses.

Giving a writing course is not just about relating information, it’s about making the student feel empowered, capable, and confident enough to do as he or she pleases. We learn best though experience - making mental connections and physical memories that trigger automatic synaptic responses in our brains.

Anyone can offer up information, opinion, and maybe a few laughs along the way.

But what people need is insight, inspiration and the feeling they are more powerful for having met you.

That’s why bloggers are called influencers - because they make their readers feel like they can make a difference.

Okay, to conclude. My guess is this was not really the kind of article you were expecting when you started reading - assuming you’re the one in a thousand who ever makes it this far - but I think you’ll agree that you feel like you know ME better. That maybe I say the kinds of things you might agree with and perhaps someone you’ll care about in the future. If so, I’ve done my job. No pressure, I’m not trying to sell you anything, just make you feel more enthusiastic about your day.

So, what is the real reason why we should blog?

To me there’s only one that keep me going.

And that is the act of writing and organizing my thoughts makes me feel better. Simple as that.

Blogging makes me feel lighter, happier, wiser, and more in control of my life.

Sure, it’s a selfish motive but it’s working for me.

How about you?

You gonna be creating your own blog now?

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is my Concern

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