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Stick Out Your Finger (Not That One!) and Create a Meaningful Blogging Experience

Guest post by Jenny McCoy

Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you’re going; you just kinda enjoy the ride.

This is true of my blogging experience.

After sharing my vision of church services optimized for screaming babies and their snoring grandparents, my drinking companion responded with glazed eyes and an outdoor voice, “You should write books or something. I’d read them.”

So I tiptoed onto the blogging scene ten months ago with a WordPress.com account, a readership of six faithful friends and like most of you, a head full of ideas.

My blog was an escape, the final axe to my quarter-life crisis.

“What am I here for? What am I meant to do? Can I defer my 10-year reunion and escape the “Most Likely to Succeed” superlative expectations?”

Blogging gave me an answer, a direction.

I am here to write.

At first, this was enough. I wrote for my table of six devoted friends and I subscribed to sites like this one to adapt my craft.

“Comment! Network!” – Demanded the experts.

But I didn’t.

Sure, I knew the benefits that awaited commenters.

Traffic. Link building. An inbox overflowing with follow-up comment notifications.

But commenting for those reasons alone seemed so futile. So boring. So fake.

And then an a-ha! post from Blogussion about building community invaded my RSS feed and things clicked.*

Within minutes, I made my first real comment and within hours the twitchy giant responded and commented on my most recent post. Josh was the first person outside of my inner circle of obligation to comment on my blog; and while his thoughts on the Cupid Shuffle were not life-changing, his quick, genuine response did force a beautiful paradigm shift in my head.

I liked it and I wanted more.

Later that week, I connected with two GenY bloggers, landing my first guest post and two new Facebook friends – one an HR specialist in Philadelphia and the other a blogger and student in Amsterdam.

Suddenly it wasn’t just me and my laptop against the world. And I’m glad, because we weren’t holding up too well anyway.

Soon, I was mesmerized by a ProBlogger guest post and I continued to comment on this insanely smart woman’s site until she broke down and asked me to start a (dwindling) t-shirt company with her and to compose my second guest post.

And so it continued. Through comments, emails and Twitter @mentions I was able to:

All of this spawned from my prompted decision to become more than a writer and a reader –to become an integral part of the blogging community.

My advice: Find relationships that matter.

Many of us dream of hosting A-List blogs. We dream of earning a respectable income by writing about the topics we know and love.** And these dreams are often derived from a larger goal: to break away from the bureaucracy our college degrees earned us and to make an existence on our own terms.

With that said, why would you make any part of this experience inauthentic?

Connect with people you like. Offer your thoughts with no expectation in return. Meet people in your niche or use web transparency to connect with people who live drastically differently lives than you. Whatever your choice, create an online existence that means something.

Take the cryptic, final words of Christopher McCandless, “Happiness is only real when shared” and apply them to your blog.

Do you have your own blogging community? Share. I’d love to hear your thoughts and I may even want to catch a ride.

*This click shared an eerie resemblance to the click that allowed the clutch-to-gas ration to finally align in my brain after nine months of sputtering failure, but it was much less expensive.

** With Mimosas and incomes large enough to pay for the breeding of a miniature elephant that can be walked on a leash and eat party peanuts. Just me?

Jenny McCoy prefers writing to climbing ladders, but does a little of both. She once brought sexy back in a High School Musical bathing suit and her addiction to Venn diagrams is rivaled only by her love for Microsoft Paint masterpieces. Take a break from your work day and check out her (admittedly) wacky blog at WorkinOnARamp.com.

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Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    @Jenn- That’s great to hear and glad you enjoyed the post! Seems like many of the ProBlogger readers have the right idea about community already.

  2. Tim says:

    Great article!
    Commenting purely to get a ping-back or a visit kind of grates on me. My Dad always said, “if you can’t say something intelligent, don’t speak.”

    I’m a complete n00b at the blogging game, so it’s really encouraging and helpful to read this. I’ve made a start, but I’m still trying to find the community for my niche. Thanks!

  3. Lena says:

    This is one of the more interesting posts I’ve read today. Great job. Hope to read more of the good stuff from your site.

  4. johnb says:

    Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for answering some questions some of us are hesitant to ask or don’t know how to ask. I’ll post this as a note on my cork board.

  5. CrisisMaven says:

    Thanks for that post giving new ideas or waking those that lay dormant. In fact, WHAT ELSE apart from blogging can achieve this goal of meeting or finding “relationships that matter” ACROSS CONTINENTS. Why, if you go to lectures or pubs you’ll meet only a limited local circle ever plus if your interests are rather “niche”, likely no one at all. If you write “letters to the editor” of some (inter)national magazines then either they’re not read, if, they’re not published, and if, they’re abridged. Only blogging has opend up all these avenues!

  6. Jenny,

    Thank you for this amazing post. I only comment on blog posts when I believe I can contribute to the conversation, otherwise I would come across as being insincere.

    Over the past two weeks I have been more proactive and joined a blogging group on LinkedIn and other groups there. So I am interacting a lot more and putting myself out there. I am also responding to what others are saying, and because I am more proactive, I am finding genuine ways to get into the conversation.

    My blog The Invisible Mentor is an educational one so I spent about seven months building the content before I told anyone that I was blogging, and a few readers found me through search engines. I am now focusing on building community and trying to enhance the user experience.

    Thank you! Avil Beckford

  7. Jeff C says:

    Hi Jenny.

    This was a very thought provoking post, and it really “clicked” for me.

    For months now I have blogged for the sole purpose of driving traffic to my website. But you helped me see the much greater potential of building a true community – making my blog a true web of interconnected people, thoughts, and ideas rather than just a monologue. Thank you for the illumination!

  8. Gennyca says:

    I blog about my community…literally! I got sucked in by the Roatan Vortex, and wound up living on Roatan, a tropical Island, off the coast of Honduras. Everything I saw on websites and blogs detailed; tours, realestate, rental accomadations, etc., nothing to make you feel like you are part of a community.

    What about; day to day life? What about; rescuing hummingbirds, not rescuing portugues-man-of-war, the ugliest oranges taste the best.

    This stuff matters to me. I started blogging, and found out it matters to a whole lot of people! Next up…an on-line radio show!

  9. Aglolink says:

    Many who write and share with the community. This is a good thing to introduce and instill our blog to them.

  10. Sarah Baron says:

    Thanks for the kick in the behind! You are right. Toughest challenge for me is this – writing great content and trying to swim in the never-ending landscape of social media. As a new blogger (28 days and counting), I’ve gotten great guest comments (from strangers – yea!), and I just have to remember to keep moving.

    Yes, and the morning trip to Google Analytics is like a report card, every day.

    This is just the inspirational message I needed.

    And it is an extension of life, isn’t it? To give it to have. Sappy, but oh so true.

    Thanks,
    Sarah Baron, member of the illustrious Anonymous8

  11. It must always be a good idea to have a meaningful blog that people can relate to and understand. Its sometimes very difficult to find the deeper meaning of some blogs.

  12. The first thing that really struck me about your article is how entirely I agree with the sentiment of NOT commenting just to comment. To me that is a waste of time.

    But commenting to build relationships, now that makes sense. Thank you for the links and techniques your provide for this as well.

    I love, also, how you perfectly illustrate the next step of what building these relationships mean. You mention them on your Problogger article.

    It’s interesting watching how groups of people form and work together through blogging, Twitter and the rest.

    Wonderful to meet you. I look forward to reading more.

  13. @pbarbanes says:

    Holy crap, Jenny! You’re not just funny, you’re smart, too! Who knew?! (Just met you at Barcamp Miam – as you know – and found your blog to be so…what’s the word…sasssssy! Funny. The Ellen Degeneres – and I love Ellen’s humor – of the blogging world.)

    But THIS! This is a really smart post.

    - Peace!

  14. @pbarbanes says:

    A typo. In a Comment. Awesome. That was Miami. Barcamp MIAMI. : )

  15. Wow, that’s a great and enligtening advice, Jenny. I also had the same kind of mentality when I start blogging. But, i don’t think I do now.

  16. Very good post. Personally I don’t really have a blogging community it is more of a webmaster community since I have a few blogs, websites, and forums. Still the point remains that making it online is very hard when you are doing it by yourself. It is important to guest post and be mentioned by other people. My favorite networking site is twitter @kris_beus I also like facebook (because it is where I got my first guest post).

    Kris,

  17. Thanks Jenny

    i really enjoyed your post today. Thanks for the advice.

    kind regards

    sam
    X

  18. I thought I was blogging for myself and to hear myself speak. But then I got comments and I visited other sites and I found the most amazing sense of community and support. It is amazing. And unexpected. I love it

  19. Jenny says:

    @Pbarbanes – Thanks so much for the comment and the tweets! That is probably the biggest compliment you could have given. I love me some Ellen! So glad we met up recently.. learning a lot from your articles so far and I’m looking forward to hopefully working with you on the non-profit social media stuff in the area!
    @Andi – Good to hear!
    @Leigh – I’m glad this made sense to you. To me, it really just seems like the most logical strategy to surround yourself with people who either share similar interests or offer a new way of looking at life. There are plenty of spammers, what we need is more authentic communication.
    @Sarah – Welcome to the blogging world and I’m happy that this resonated enough to jump start your community efforts. It’s tough to really know what to do with comments at first.. but once you get used to replying and building relationships, it’s definitely a lot of fun. This coming from a true introvert. haha

  20. Jenny says:

    @aglolink – Thanks for reading – glad you enjoyed!
    @Tim – Dads just have a way of always being right, don’t they?
    @Lena – Thanks!
    @ John – Whoa, I don’t think I’ve ever made a cork board. Can I get a picture of that? haha
    @Crisis Maven – Couldn’t agree more. Sure saves a lot of money when you can connect continents just by writing a blog post or logging in to Twitter.
    @Avil – Sounds like you have a great strategy! Not sure about you, but it actually pains me to try and comment on something I just am not interested in. Even if someone comments on my blog, if I don’t see a post I really want to discuss, I’ll just check back later.

  21. Jenny,

    Great article, and I am so happy to see you here! What a nice surprise!

    Craig
    worstpizza.com

  22. Anne says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post Jenny, and mostly because it really is so relate-able. Sometimes a mountain doesn’t need to be a mountain yet we make it so… at least I know I do. Finding the right people (goes back to quality vs quantity I suppose) can make a difference I am sure. Just changing the focus a bit I think will help me out a lot. thanks for the advice :)

  23. Thank you for your answer, Jenny! Forgive me, but I saw only later that this was your post, and I could not correct my comment… Your opinion is very important too. I´m going to look for bloggers that may want to exchange posts, but the point is that I´ll have to waste a lot of time looking for the right person. I thought that perhaps there was a website where we could easily find bloggers that want to exchange posts, links, etc, and we could go directly there looking for them…

    Forgive me also if my idea is outdated or something like that – I´m only a turist at this blog; even though each time I come here I decide that I have to come back often, my activities and the lack of time make me forget this decision…

  24. That was a really great post. Finding relationships that matter is awesome advice for a blogger, or anyone trying to promote themselves. I actually just changed the name of my blog to encompass a new writing style that is not as informative as I usually am, but actually keeps people up to date with the progress of my business, which is an alternative to labels for independent artists so make money from their music and distribute it widely while maintaining all rights. I want to keep every user on the same page with the decisions we are making, in an effort to stay transparent. I believe the connections you make with your readers, or users (artists in my case) is a crucial one that one cannot be fully successful without.

    Thanks for the inspirational advice. That’s what I needed. Check out my blog if you have time and tell me what you think!

  25. Vickens M says:

    Thanks for the great blog and info. Id love if you could guest write on my blog and critique it so I can make it better.

  26. Great post Jenny. I’ve been blogging for about six months. For the first couple months I ignored trying to network with other blogs. Then I finally gave it a try and there is definitely a huge benefit to doing so.

  27. Robert Ring says:

    I feel kind of the way you originally felt. I know it’s good to comment on blogs, etc., but I often am so focused on creating my own content that I don’t give myself time to peruse other people’s work. This is despite the fact that the first time I did leave a comment on someone else’s blog, the writer almost immediately contacted me telling me how much he loves my site and asking to pay to place a banner for his blog on my pages.

    I do comment from time to time, but I simply tend to forget. In my experience, you’re correct that the more genuine comments are the best way to go, and that is the way I always approach it, but, again, I’m always so focused on me, me, me, that I often don’t even think about taking the time to comment.

    Definitely something to work on.

  28. Phil says:

    I don’t know exactly how I ended up in problogger.com today (well I don’t know how many random links and pages took me to get here), but I do know that I love this post.
    I can relate to your experience because I started my blog about a week ago but have been thinking about creating one a long time ago… When you create something that’s yours and something so personal you can only hope people to read it, to love it and also to create meaningful experiences with others (and why not make a living out of it). It’s the thrill, the excitement and the true passion what leads you to keep posting quality material (god knows how happy I got when I got my first comment and follower).
    Hope my experience ends up being as good as yours, keep doing such a great job!
    Phil http://mysocalledvidamoderna.blogspot.com/

  29. , I made my first real comment and within hours the twitchy giant responded and commented on my most recent post. Josh was the first person outside of my inner circle of obligation to comment on my blog; and while his thoughts on the Cupid Shuffle were not life-changing, his quick, genuine response did force a beautiful paradigm shift in my head.

    wow, that’s impressive!

  30. WAHGO says:

    Write about what you love and it is easy.

    Write for those that will read it.

    Write because you know how important fresh, unique content is to the web and you know without the spiders finding that content, no human is going to accidentally end up on your blog or website.

    Write because you want to!

  31. Nothing is that simple… You may write because you want to, but who is going to read it?

    I was thinking a lot about what Jenny suggests after reading this blog post.

    In order to have a business relationship with another blogger, I´ll have to find the kind of blog that gives information that could fit with the information I´m giving, and then read their blog posts, leave my comments, appear there frequently, etc. This is how we build a relationship…

    I have to prepare a better plan… And mainly, act!

    I´m glad because each time I come here (like a turist who reads a few things and leaves…) I always learn something important. This is why I decide to often come back here each time I visit this blog…

  32. Jenny says:

    @Craig – Thanks! Good to see you here as well. Fun to see some familiar names among all the fun new people on here.

  33. Jenny says:

    @Christina – I think that in addition to writing because you want to, you need to provide value if you want people to read. I haven’t been to your blog yet, so maybe you’re already doing that, but in my opinion, blogging success (as I’ve noticed from the folks at the top) is usually the derivative of someone writing about something they really love AND something that either informs/entertains/or makes people think.

  34. Jenny says:

    @Phil – Thanks for the kind words. I was all excited to check out your site after I read your comment… but I see I may need the help of a translation site to enjoy it, haha.

  35. I totally agree with you, Jenny! I´ve read many things that don´t help whoever reads them in any way.

    Why should someone read something that doesn´t give them anything back?

    I don´t mean that all authors must always inform, educate or entertain their readers.

    We can help many people with our words in many ways if we know what we are talking about, and if we have a purpose.

    However, there are many people online writing and writing, while their words are totally empty… I believe that if someone doesn´t have any knowledge or talent, they have to learn something, research, and find what to present to the public, before daring to post publicly whatever they wish to.

    I think that if you want to write about your personal life, your thoughts and your opinion, you must be a writer, and have the talent to make simple things seem to be very special, otherwise you are not going to present anything meaningful to the public.

    About my blog, I don´t know if this is OK to post its url here, because I rarely have the time to visit this blog… It could be considered spam or something. But I can assure you that my work is very serious, and the knowledge I give to the public is precious.

    However, I don´t have the necessary connections… the topic of your article. I´m alone, and I´m not in the US, I´m in Europe… And when I think about reading the blog posts of other bloggers, I think “when will I have time for that too?”

    All extraordinary plans are always smashed by the cruel reality full of impossibilities… But we have to be heroes, and find time for everything.

    Thank you Jenny, for your excellent advice! I will follow it like a good student, because each time I do what I learn here I see positive results without a doubt. This blog is really fantastic! This is why it is so famous. I always come here after finding a link to problogger into a forum or another blog… because its links are everywhere!

  36. Mark A says:

    Great article. Great tips.

    I’m in law school right now and I’m hoping that I won’t ever have to be a lawyer (if that makes sense), so I can completely relate to the “making a buck your own way” philosophy. My student loans tend to steer me away from that dream, but one could always hope.

    It’s difficult, for me, to overcome the stigma that comes from telling people that I write a “blog” (Cue “Oh, isn’t that cute” face). I find myself telling my friends it’s a “website” for some reason.

    Anyway, thanks again. The article made me feel less alone in this sea of opinion. Keep it up.

    Back to god-awful statutes. ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  37. The first thing that really struck me about your article is how entirely I agree with the sentiment of NOT commenting just to comment. To me that is a waste of time.

    But commenting to build relationships, now that makes sense. Thank you for the links and techniques your provide for this as well.

    I love, also, how you perfectly illustrate the next step of what building these relationships mean. You mention them on your Problogger article.

    It’s interesting watching how groups of people form and work together through blogging, Twitter and the rest.

    Wonderful to meet you. I look forward to reading more.

  38. Thanks a bunch I really enjoyed reading this. It makes me want to start my own blog! Just what topic though? I am a dentist by profession but cannot imagine most people wanting to read about dentistry? Maybe I am wrong! Jordon Shambaugh

  39. Robert Ring says:

    Jordon,

    Write for an audience of other dentists. If you have a lot of experience, relay it to them. That would seem like something other dentists could certainly use.

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