We write so that others will read our work.
Early in our writing and blogging journeys, however, we all face a significant challenge: no one knows or cares about who we are and what we have to say. It's like shouting into a cave, the only voice that answers is your own. At best it's a frustrating scenario; at worst it’s deeply disheartening.
Of course, established writers will advise you to, ”Keep doing what you love,” “Hang in there,” and to “Tough it out”, but it’s easier to keep positive from atop a well-established platform.
I faced this problem until I was honest enough to admit, to myself, that no one was reading my work and that I needed to make a change. After racking my brain for a solution, it hit me. What I needed was some help. I made one simple adjustment that has made a world of difference.
When we write, we want to share our ideas, thoughts, visions and dreams with the world- we know that people would love what we have to say, if only they would listen.
But people don’t want to know about our ideas and thoughts if they've never heard of us; it's a catch 22.
In one simple shift of focus, I moved from an average of 7 readers for the first three days of a blog post release to almost 1,000 and counting. Here’s how:
I stopped thinking solely about what I wanted to say, no matter how much I believed in its value. Instead, I began to wonder about what, and from whom, readers wanted to hear.
Let’s look at some true-life examples: In a blog post I wrote titled, ‘Throw away wisdom’, I had been motivated by those twee pieces of advice we often give out to others without much thought beforehand, such as: “Stay positive”, “Try and have more confidence”, “Keep your chin up”, and the like.
I had been incensed when I overheard a man giving this ‘lazy’ type of self-help directive to a colleague in the midst of a depressive episode. What this person needed was either medication or, at least, more explicit, practical and better advice. It seemed that in this instance, 'Throw away wisdom'- wisdom that we dish out without much thought- could do more harm than good.
My passion filled post, had seven readers! And this is just one example.
Fast forward to my latest post following the realisation that I need to write about what and who readers are passionate rather than just my obsessions.
Mixed Martial Arts goes mainstream
On a Sunday morning following one of the largest Mixed Martial Art events of all time, it was clear that the controversy surrounding the contest was attracting interest from more than fight fans when it featured on a BBC radio news bulletin.
For that moment, the niche sport of Mixed Martial Arts had gone mainstream, and millions were talking about it. I had an opportunity to strike.
As a martial arts teacher and student for over twenty-five years, I am fortunate to have created many connections within this world. One of them is a legend in the sport of prizefighting, a man named Enson Inoue.
I messaged Enson: “Hey Enson, did you see what happened at the fight? Everyone’s’ talking about it, and I know they’d love to hear what you have to say. Can I call you and do an interview?”
I interviewed the great Enson Inoue about one of the most contentious Mixed Martial Arts matches to date and Boom! My most successful blog post yet (now almost 1,500 reads and 25 shares and the post is not yet a week old.
Sorry, I can't make it to the Royal wedding
On a separate occasion, with a post on Instagram, Twitter and FaceBook rather than a blog, I leveraged Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and the forthcoming Royal wedding.
The post was a collage of two photos; on one side Harry and Meghan, on the other, a picture of an envelope, addressed to me, with the Royal postage stamp in the top right-hand corner. Underneath the words:
‘Gutted: I can't make it to the Royal wedding, I’m out of town #RoyalWedding #PrinceHarry #MeghanMarkle’
These posts received crazy amounts of likes, shares and, most importantly notice.
Had I been invited to the wedding? No. And I never said that I had. But I had been a guest at Princess Diana’s funeral years before and had received many letters from the Royal household with the official postage stamp.
While I would never ‘kiss and tell’ and reveal any insider info about the Royal house, I was interested in my breakthrough theory that ‘association’ with someone well known, almost instantly allows you to share their ‘platform’ to some degree.
This is the art of piggybacking- and it is essential if you want to build your platform but have no one listening to you.
Guidelines to piggybacking
At the core of piggybacking is lining yourself up with someone who has a well-established audience of followers and fans; the more positive and personal the association the better. I advise you never to lie but allowing readers to draw their conclusions, albeit incorrectly, is perfectly acceptable.
The ideal association is someone you know who has a brilliant platform and gives you permission, help and support in utilising it. This opportunity, though, is rare, so don’t hold your breath waiting.
Six degrees of separation
If you are panicking that you don’t know anyone suitable on whose shoulders you can climb, relax. You do. Breathe and think.
You’ve probably heard of the concept of ‘six degrees of separation’. If not, it's the idea, supported by myriad research, that within six steps or less, we are all connected to everyone else on the planet. For example:
When I was first looking for an agent for my book, ‘The Hardest Path’, I posted on FaceBook: ‘Hey guys, really need an agent to get HP moving, can you help?’
One of the parents of a student that I teach Karate gave me a name of an old school friend of hers who was in the publishing business, so I dropped him an email. Two more connections and emails later and I had found my agent, just inside the six degrees of separation.
Search your minds and think of people in your direct or near sphere of influence who have a bigger name, platform or audience than you. Align with them.
Don’t feel guilty about using others’ platforms- this is essentially how Ghost Writers and backing singers make a living.
The Holy Grail
Either being associated with a ‘big name’ or writing about something everyone is currently talking about will help bring more readers to your work. But the Holy Grail of audience building is when you can combine both- like using the connection with the Royals around the time of the Royal wedding.
Of course, this takes timing and is not possible for every blog post- if you are writing weekly- and that’s ok. You only need a few of these ‘Holy Grail’ moments to gather significant exponential gains in your audience building.
Every day, keep your eyes and ears open for topical news stories that you could use for a new blog post. Then see if you can connect with someone who is well known and is attached to that story in some way.
You’ll have to be creative, and think ‘outside of the box’, but we are writers; this is one our skills.
At some stage, as your platform grows, you will find that you are now the person to whom people want to align. When that happens, smile, pat yourself on the back for having arrived and give the debutante piggybacker permission to climb aboard. It's time, now that you are a success, to pay it forward and do what you can to help the next in line.
I wish you luck with mastering the art of piggybacking, and hope that you find it as helpful in building your audience as I have mine.