My last post on the psychology of entertainment forced me to ask myself an important question: why the hell do I blog anyway? I thought it might be helpful to work this out in the full transparency of a blog post. As I find the answer for myself, perhaps someone else will find it useful as well.
Talking to Myself…Online
For me, my blog is a little more structured exercise than talking to myself. It helps me take some of the ideas I’m exposed to and give them an intellectual workout. I suppose at first I intended my blog to be a promotional vehicle but as I started to blog, I realized that provided poor motivation to continue to blog. I don’t really structure my blog posts to be rapidly disseminated. As I said before, I break pretty much all of Guy Kawasaki’s rules for successful blogging. But then, Guy doesn’t blog the same way I do. It doesn’t serve the same purpose. For Guy, blogging is a broadcast channel. For me, it’s an intellectual “grist mill” that allows me to pull ideas together in new combinations.
Truth be told, I don’t really have a structure that I follow when blogging. I sit down and start typing about whatever happens to be on my mind that day. I try to set an hour aside a day, but often I find the clock running on to two hours and I reluctantly have to pull myself away and get to the rest of my daily to do’s. Worse, often I get on a track that’s impossible to cover in a single post. For example, a single comment on a single post got me wondering about the psychology of entertainment and that resulted in a string of 14 posts that’s still going on. When this happens, it’s very difficult to know where to end each post.
Also, when I blog, I simultaneously learn. I bounce back and forth between TextEdit (using Word for blogging causes no end of headaches when importing into my blogging platform) and Google, exploring threads and “berrypicking” ideas. Often, I don’t have enough time to search for empirical backing. If an idea appears interesting, it gets thrown in with a link. My blog is a place to speculate in the open air, not to worry about making each post bullet proof. I try to make sure everything passes my personal “gut test” but I expect my readers to call me on concepts that are obviously off-base.
My motivation for blogging is simple: I have ideas that I want to share, both mine and other ones that I run into. I try to be fair when I am presenting the ideas of others, providing links to the original source. I find the challenge of translating these ideas into words very healthy. It helps me internalize them, bringing them into my own perspective. I tend to favour academic work that borders on marketing. I’m become an armchair neurologist, psychologist and sociologist. The common link I look for is the “why” in human behaviour.
For me, blogging is a means to an end. I know other authors, including Chris Anderson, Seth Godin and John Battelle, work their book ideas out through their blog. I suspect I’m following the same path. After my first book which came out last year, I already have several ideas jostling for their place in the queue. The blog allows me to jump back and forth between these ideas, picking up a thread and pursuing it, then dropping it for another. I suspect blogging is the attention deficit approach to book research. The benefit, I hope, is that in the process, you expose potential readers to your thoughts, leading to a very healthy and helpful vetting before anything actually makes it to paper.
There’s a Reason It’s Called Out of My “Gord”…
I also don’t consider my own blog as a promotional vehicle for my company, Enquiro. There is inevitable overlap, and you can find my posts on our corporate blog, ask.enquiro.com, but the musings and thoughts belong to me, not Enquiro. We have a few bloggers in Enquiro and they are all finding their own voice. We take a very organic approach to this content creation, trusting that our shared passions will keep us somewhat aligned, rather than pushing editorial guidance down from above. Writing is much more rewarding and effective when you’re writing about something you care about. As the CEO and President of Enquiro, it’s natural that whatever I’m interested in will eventually find it’s way into the company’s corporate strategy in one form or another, but outofmygord.com is definitely not a corporate blog. The name (which I’m rather proud of, by the way) very much indicates what this blog is about, random thoughts that are bouncing around my cranium. Just like any given group of readers, some of my staff reads the blog every day, and others don’t. It’s not compulsory.
For me, the discipline of regular blogging, although difficult to maintain, has been very rewarding. If I could spend all day blogging I would, but so far, I haven’t figured out a way to keep the wolves from the door through blogging alone. Also, although my visitor stats have been consistently climbing, I have little idea who actually reads my blog. My readership, I suspect (at least based on the comments that get submitted) includes a number of SEO’s looking for backlinks. If you’re one of them, here’s the drill. I look at all feedback, sort out the obvious spam, and post if a comment looks thoughtful and adds to the conversation, even (in some cases) if it includes a fairly subtle backlink. No, I don’t use no follow tags (yet) so I figure that if you go to the trouble of making an intelligent comment, I’ll repay you with a little link love.
Advice? Just Write, Often and Regularly…
If you’re looking for advice on blogging, I’m not sure there’s much I can give. There are certainly bloggers with a much more commercial approach than I have, and they have the visitor numbers to show for it. What I would say is that you need to post often. I try to do 5 posts a week, and I usually manage at least 4. If you approach blogging like I do, with no set agenda or editorial guidelines, it’s hard to know which posts will become popular and which ones will go virtually unnoticed. I’m the worst judge of this. My most popular posts are ones I would have never expected to go viral. And my favorite posts often seem to be read by me and me alone. But, if you keep cranking them out, day after day, I believe your audience will eventually find you. Traffic to my blog has increased about 6 times since I started becoming more regular in my posts.
Finally, I acknowledge that the findability of past posts is abysmal on my blog. I was going to reorganize the site, but I recently decided to migrate the contents to WordPress (which has proven to be a much bigger pain than I thought). I’m hoping the change of platform will allow me to do some retroactive categorization and organization.
Some Wisdom from Walt
For the next week or two, I’m going to be on a much needed spring vacation with my family. During that time, I’m going to try to keep up the posts, but expect them to be much shorter. And, in the spirit of the vacation (which is in Southern California) I’m going to share some of the lessons I learned from Disney, one of my favorite companies, and from Walt Disney (one of my personal heroes). After that, I’ll pick up the psychology of entertainment thread again and see where it goes from here.