Yesterday I wrote about using a blog as a Springboard for bigger things. In the post I talked about different kinds of bloggers and shared a little of my own story. Today I want to suggest a few ways to build a blog that launches you into bigger things.
So how does one become a ‘Springboard Blogger?’
Much of what I wrote yesterday about my own journey shows how accidental, evolutionary and lucky the process was for me (although I’ve become a little more strategic in recent times). Having said that – there are seven lessons that I’ve learned along the way that might be helpful for some.
1. Set Goals
While I’m not the best goal setter going around I do have some broad dreams and agendas in mind as I blog. I tend not to get bogged down in specific and detailed goals but instead set myself a broad course and then allow the wind to blow me where it will.
For example – with Digital Photography School (DPS) my broad goal was to create a space for beginner to intermediate photographers to learn how to use their cameras. I didn’t set out to create a blog with forums and then to write photography resources – I’ve let my readership, luck and circumstance hone the goal and the opportunities have opened up.
2. Position Yourself for the Next Bounce
As I say – my style with this type of process is to set broad goals and then to let the wind take me where it will. This isn’t completely true – when the wind takes me in a direction and I begin to see a potential next step I then take the rudder and begin to position myself for that next opportunity.
So with DPS, even in the first few days after launching that blog I began to hear back from readers that they wanted a space to discuss photography. I began to suspect that a forum was on the cards but didn’t want to launch one with such a small readership. So I positioned myself for the eventual destination of a forum by starting a Flickr discussion group. This was a tester but also a place where I could cultivate a culture of discussing photography (it was also a great recruiting ground for new readers).
As the Flickr group grew I began to position myself for the forum even further by recruiting moderators and building excitement about the new forum. I also had a ‘beta test’ of the new forum with a select few key users of the Flickr group so that when the forum actually launched it already had members, moderators and it was a very natural progression.
The lesson learned is that there’s a balance between this process being evolutionary (letting the wind blow you where it will) and then taking control and being strategic about getting to the destination.
3. Be Relational
At every step on my own personal journey the springboard moments have come as a result of relationships and working together with others. Looking carefully for potential partnerships and being open to synergy with them is key in leveraging your current success to launch new things.
4. Think Verticals
I’ve written previously about how my strategy has changed over the last few years in terms of the topic that I blog about. I used to think lots of blogs on lots of topics would do better for me but over time realized that there was more power in launching blogs that related with one another and that could launch one another. This is part of the reason that b5media is arranged around channels and is why DPS has been successful for me.
5. Look for ‘Energy Points’
This might sound a little New Age or something but I’m a big believer in being in touch with what’s going around you and looking for points where there is a natural flow or energy. Spotting these points in your life and then working in them can bring about wonderful things. For example – as a result of my original photography blog I used to get a lot of questions about photography technique from readers (despite this not being the focus of my blog). These types of emails became so frequent around the time that I launched DPS that it would have been crazy for me not to do something like launch a tips blog.
6. Be Flexible
I sometimes look back at the last 5 years of my life with amazement and wonder at the luck that I’ve had along the way. On numerous occasions it has been the accidents and mistakes that have been the keys to success of ventures. For example, when readers of my personal blog started complaining that I was writing too much about blogging I could have seen that as a negative thing and just stopped doing it – instead I turned it into an opportunity for a new blog – ProBlogger.
7. Have a Safety Net
One of the problems that us entrepreneurial types often face is that sometimes our ideas are just a little too big and that sometimes we get caught up in the creation of a new idea and launch things that only we think are great. One of the lessons that I’ve learnt along the way has been to always have a backup plan (or an escape route). Do think big and do follow your dreams – but don’t set yourself up to be destitute if those ideas don’t work. For me this meant that for a long while I had part time jobs while I got my blogging up to speed and it meant that I kept current projects going while I launched new ones.