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How to Overcome the “I Wish” Mentality and Start a Blog

This guest post is by Adarsh Thampy of Conversionchamp.

I wish I started my blog a long time back when there was a lot less competition.

I wish I was able to write great content from the start.

I wish I had the money to purchase hosting and set up a self-hosted WordPress blog.

I wish, I wish, I wish…

How many of us have wished for something like this in the past? Or, worse yet, is still wishing for things to happen just like that?

I know I have. And I bet a lot of you have wished for something similar as well.

The problem with the “I wish” mentality

Do you know what’s stopping you from becoming the most sought after blogger in your niche?

You!

Yeah, you heard me right. The biggest obstacle to your blogging success is none other than you.

I know this for a fact, because I have been in the same position. I started many blogs, built many successful ones … and then let them die. Yeah, just like that.

There wasn’t enough motivation for me to keep going. So in effect, I was my own bottleneck.

Right now I am determined to change all that. Today, I want to share what I have learned from the past five years of blogging with you so that you realize:

  • there’s no reason why you can’t be a success today, even if you feel you should have started a blog long time back
  • consuming more information may be counterproductive for you
  • there is no reason why you should have a self-hosted WordPress blog either (I do believe that having one is best for business, though).

3 Rules for overcoming the “I wish” mentality

Rule #1: Stop wishing

First of all, you need to realize that wishing is not going to make things any better.

Sure, you could wish you started blogging five years back. But five years down the line, you’d be surprised to find that you’d still be thinking the same. You’ll think then, “I wish five years back I wasn’t dumb enough to not start a blog because I thought I was too late.”

If you keep on wishing, the only thing that’s going to happen is that you’ll never realize your dreams, and others will get ahead of you.

So rule #1 for overcoming the “I wish” mentality is to stop wishing. If you want to wish, wish for world peace. If at all your wish comes true, you’d be satisfied that you contributed to a greater good.

Rule #2: Stop consuming too much information

When I started out, I believed that reading all the information I could get my hands on was the best way to learn and grow. How wrong I was!

Information is always good. But once it becomes too much, it’s going to negatively affect your growth.

At one point I was on a buying spree, and spent more than $2000 on information products and courses. Guess what I did with all that information? Nothing! Really, those courses and ebooks are sitting in my computer collecting digital dust. I haven’t even consumed 5% of everything I bought. Talk about a waste of money.

“I wish” I could go back in time and stop myself from buying so many info products and save some cash. But there’s no use wishing. The damage is already done.

I want you to stop investing your time and money into learning as much as you can. You’ll end up wishing for more information. So stop buying things you don’t actually need. Instead, act on what you already know.

Rule #3: Stop thinking about being a pro all the time

We all want to be pros, right? You can either be a “somebody” in blogging or be a “nobody” in blogging. Which would you chose? I’d rather choose the “somebody” over “nobody” any day.

And what’s the first pro tip we all read about blogging? That you need to have a self-hosted blog. If you run a business, there is no doubt that it’s true. But if you are starting out, there is no reason for having a self-hosted blog.

People think that they need to appear professional in order to get acceptance, and they wait for the perfect time to start so they have enough money for hosting and a domain name, getting a unique theme coded for their blog, and even learning coding to customize the blog themselves.

Do you see a problem here? You are just adding complexity to what is, at heart, a rather simple thing.

Most people never get around to getting everything done, so they don’t start a blog at all. So just start a free blog on WordPress or Blogger if you don’t have the money right now to go the self-hosted route. Having a blog is better than not having a blog.

Over to you

Are you still stuck with the “I wish” mentality, or have you experienced it? How did you overcome it? Let us know in the comments.

Adarsh Thampy is a blogger and advices small and medium business on effective content marketing strategies. You can read more on the topic of content marketing by following Adarsh @conversionchamp.

5 Epic Blogging Lessons Learned from Parenting Five Rowdy Kids

This guest post is by Ruth Zive Ruth Zive Copywriting.

Most of my readers and clients know me as a freelance copywriter and content marketing strategist. But the truth is, I’m operating under cover; my real identity is SuperMom to a brood of five rowdy children (including one that is a wee bit chromosomally enhanced).

I’m actually not that “super,” but I’m most certainly Mom, first and foremost. It’s a busy, messy, loud, hectic, demanding, and unbelievably rewarding job. Each of my five children has taught me valuable lessons that have informed all aspects of my life. Because of my kids, I am a better human being—and definitely a more effective professional.

There is a lot of crossover in my life—my work blends into my mom-related duties, and vice versa. My children have taught me a lot about blogging, writing, social media, and content marketing strategy (albeit an inadvertent effort on their part).

Hopefully these five epic blogging lessons, learned from parenting five rowdy children, will help you to gain traction and grow your online presence.

1. Stick to a schedule

Between dance lessons, basketball practice, speech therapy, school carpools, high school exams, doctor appointments, and parent-teacher interviews, it goes without saying that my head would explode if I didn’t stick to a schedule.

And forget about my sanity; my children thrive with a routine.

Takeaway

Similarly, you will create a sense of momentum with your blog if you settle into a routine—and you can incorporate this fundamental discipline in a variety of ways.  For instance, you’ll want to:

  • Map out an editorial calendar and write your posts predictably. Not only will you be more productive, your readers will come to appreciate your routine and will know when to visit your site for new content.
  • Plan your blogging time strategically—make sure to budget time for writing, reading, commenting and social media.
  • Work your blogging priorities into the rest of your daily schedule. Don’t forget to leave time for personal interests and priorities and other work-related responsibilities.

It took me a while to settle into a predictable routine (heck, life’s rarely predictable with five children).  But going through these motions helped me to be much more productive and focussed as a mom and a writer.

2. Know your audience

I often have to tailor my parenting style to the unique interests of the specific child I am addressing.

One of my kids will follow instructions only if we make eye contact and I resort to threats and bribery. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, needs a lot of handholding and coddling, no matter the circumstance. And the middle child will do pretty much anything as long as it involves chocolate.

Takeaway

Your blog readers will invariably share certain qualities and it’s important to know what those are; but remember that they also have unique interests. Segment your target market accordingly and be flexible in your style to accommodate their needs.

For instance, on my blog, I’m essentially appealing to three different target markets:

  • independent copywriters and bloggers
  • c-level and marketing executives
  • independent business owners and entrepreneurs.

All three groups are interested in learning more about content marketing strategy.

But I tweak my focus, depending on which group is on my radar.  When I’m speaking to the first group, I might write about landing copywriting clients, setting your fees and injecting personality into your writing.  But the second group, by contrast, is more interested in how to leverage the impact of social media to drive your content marketing campaign.

Same overarching intention, but a personalized and targeted approach based on the reader’s unique needs.

3. Get social

There is nothing my kids appreciate more than lively conversation around the dinner table, family game night, or a spontaneous adventure. The deeper the interaction, the more impactful. Mommy time trumps iPods, computer games, and the latest, must-have fashion accessory without fail.

And while my time is certainly limited, I seek out opportunities to engage with each child in a meaningful way.

Takeaway

You may have the most phenomenal content on your blog, but if you aren’t getting social, it’s a big fat waste of time!

Blogging is a big time suck, and it can be very hectic and overwhelming.  But starting now, every day, make sure that you:

  • take time to comment on other people’s blogs
  • cultivate relationships with prolific bloggers and industry experts
  • leverage the benefits of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

And most importantly, be authentic in your interaction.

I know what I’m talking about here.  Some of the best professional contacts that I’ve forged have been on Twitter.  It sounds ridiculous, but it’s 100% true. I was invited into a Mastermind group on Twitter; I was approached by someone on Twitter to edit an ebook; and I found a genius WordPress programmer on Twitter who solved some very troubling issues on my blog and saved me a small fortune. So don’t underestimate the importance of social.

4. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture

Some days, I feel that my time is entirely consumed with meal preparation, laundry, housekeeping, carpooling—with some hysterics thrown in for good measure.

On those days, I have to remind myself that the time I invest in menial (and sometimes unpleasant) parenting tasks fuels the bigger picture payoff. Hopefully, because of my efforts, my children will emerge happy, secure, and confident with a sense that they can always rely on their Mom.

Takeaway

Blogging can be an exhausting, tedious, and slow process.

You have to do the grunt work if you’re going to reap the bigger picture benefits. Write often; read even more often; solicit feedback; invest in your blog’s design; learn how to optimize your site … do it all over again.

At first, it was hard for me to see the forest for the trees; my blogging experience seemed entirely mired in minutiae.  So I started to keep a journal—to track my progress from month to month, noting my higher level achievements so that I could have those in mind when I felt discouraged.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try keeping a journal so that you can maintain better perspective and not lose sight of the bigger picture.

5. Keep an open mind

Sometimes, no matter how well organized I am, irrespective of how much I’ve considered my children’s unique needs, and even with a perfectly planned schedule and a bigger picture focus, the stars misalign and my efforts are in vain.

Woody Allen once joked that if you want to see God laugh, tell him your plans. Things are bound to go awry with children, and with blogging!

Takeaway

Keep an open mind. Blogging is a journey (much like any entrepreneurial pursuit) and you learn along the way.

  • Plans transform.
  • Resources shrink or grow.
  • Goals evolve.

You need to be flexible and adapt to changes.

I’ve encountered this reality first-hand in a dramatic way.  After six months of blogging, my readership and subscriber base had skyrocketed.

I had faithfully cultivated relationships with other bloggers and using social media. I had great traction. But Danny Iny, of Firepole Marketing, recommended that I redo my site and position myself differently, to align my offline business and my online brand. It was tough advice to hear, but I very seriously considered his point of view, and after some strategic thinking, my old blog is no longer.

Poof.

But my new blog rocks even more than my old one. And making this transition required a very open mind on my part.

So I suppose I owe my blogging success to my children. And now, maybe you will too.

What do you think? Have your children helped your blogging journey? What have your relationships taught you about content marketing and social media? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ruth Zive is a freelance copywriter and content marketing strategist. Ruth works with B2B companies, across industries, to help them leverage their content to drive business results. Learn about my corporate workshops.

Get More Comments: How Honesty Compels Readers to Comment

There’s one technique for soliciting comments that hasn’t been covered explicitly this week, although we’ve shown it through each of the posts we’ve published in this series.

What is that technique? Being honest.

When we approached the bloggers who wrote posts for the series, we told them we really wanted to hear their favorite technique or secret tip. We didn’t want to hear the standard advice: we wanted their unique insights, gained from their own personal experience.

We wanted their unbridled honesty.

Looking through the these posts, and the comments they received, you’ll probably agree that deep honesty goes a long way to encourage discussion.

  • Honesty in the things you say gives readers ultimate value. No matter what you’re talking about, your perspective and experience are unique, so complete honesty is a guaranteed way to present something brand-new to your readers.
  • Honest in the way you present ideas backs up their uniqueness, and can help you to keep readers interested all the way to the end of the post. That gives us the opportunity to get our message across clearly and completely, which provides readers with more food for thought than if they simply skinned the post. In my experience, the more we can make readers think, the more likely they are to comment.
  • Honesty in the depth of information you give truly inspires readers to comment. Don’t hold back when you’re creating the post. Give readers all the information they need not just to implement your advice, but to understand why they should, and know how to use or improve the outcomes of that work, too. This creates value, and readers know it. Value never fails to move readers to comment.
  • Honesty in the way you relate to readers helps create relationships and a sense of personal rapport that encourages users to reach out to you. If we’re intimidated by a blog post, we probably won’t leave a comment on it. If we don’t think it’s pitched at our level, we’ll avoid commenting, too. So if, as bloggers, we pitch our post to the right readers, we have our best chance of encouraging them to talk back.

Honesty builds credibility, and the more credible you are as a blogger, the more worthwhile it’ll seem to readers to comment on your blog. For that reason, you might also use honesty to help drive the moderation of comments on your blog. For example, you might delete comments that are nothing more than thinly-veiled attempts to gain exposure or undermine others, rather than to add real value to the discussion.

My most-commented posts

As examples, take a look at these, some of the most-commented posts from the ProBlogger archives. In each case I’ve mentioned a little about the techniques the post uses to communicate its honesty:

Have you ever had an experience where a brutally honest blog post solicited an unprecedented number or quality of comments? Tell us about it (and don’t forget to include a link to the post if it’s still online!) in the comments.

Get More Comments: Use Energy to Spark Reader Response

This guest post is by Jon Morrow of Boost Blog Traffic.

According to the legendary copywriter John Carlton, the best way to understand your reader is to visualize them as a giant somnambulant sloth lying on the couch as they watch television. Your job as a writer is to get them to move. You have to be interesting enough, inspiring enough, captivating enough to get them to turn off the TV, get up off the couch, and do something.

The reason why most bloggers don’t get many comments is they fail the “Sloth Test.” Sure, their posts are useful, maybe even mildly entertaining, but that’s the equivalent of giving the sloth another sitcom to watch on TV. If you want them to go through the trouble of responding, you have to do more. Much more.

You have to give them the energy necessary to respond. Not just ideas, not just stories, not just advice. Energy. If you read posts that get hundreds of comments, the conclusions are so passionate, so full of energy that you can’t help feeling a little bit charged up after reading it. Through the magic of the written word, the writer transfers their energy to you, and it lifts you up and gives you the power to take action.

It’s like charging a dead car battery. You take a car with a good battery, run some jumper cables from it to the car with the dead battery, and rev the engine. And then “VROOM,” the dead battery comes to life. Same thing with blogging. To get lots of comments, you have to electrify your readers, and that, of course, requires you to be electrified yourself.

So, find your passion. Cultivate positive energy. Use that energy to inspire people. Do those things, and you won’t just get more comments. You’ll turn readers into raving fans.

In addition to serving as Associate Editor of Copyblogger, Jon Morrow is on a mission to help good writers get traffic they deserve. If you’re one of them, check out his upcoming blog about (surprise!) blogging. For more of his thoughts on generating comments, see his post, 14 ways to get more comments on your blog posts.

3 Blogging Rules You Should Break

This guest post is by Anish Majumdar of DashAmerican.com.

The most valuable piece of writing advice I ever got was from an editor at a print magazine after I’d handed in the first draft of an article. I’d spent hours poring over old issues to “get the tone right” and had fought my natural style every step of the way. The end result? A returned draft shot through with corrections and a one-line response: “Write from the inside and trust that we’ll get it.”

As a ProBlogger reader, you probably already know how rare it is to come across a site devoted to blogging that actually offers something besides the same old “rules” recycled in various forms. You know them: keep pieces short. Use bullets. Link to other articles, etc.

While it’s comforting, especially when you’re starting out, to find something—anything—to model posts after, it’s critical to understand that a reader will forgive a strong voice almost anything and a weak voice almost nothing.

Are the rules you’re following helping or hindering your voice? Here are the three biggest blogging “rules” I’ve broken … and the unexpected results I’ve enjoyed.

1. Make posts scannable

There’s a line of thinking behind blogging advice posts that insist pieces must be kept short and stuffed full of typographical tricks like boldfacing and bullets that assumes a typical reader has Attention Deficit Disorder. If you don’t hustle to offer value and get your point across at a glance, they’ll simply move on.

There is another way.

I was recently in the midst of writing a deeply personal account of growing up with a family member suffering from schizophrenia and realized there was no way to make the post scannable. The paragraphs were long. Themes wove in and out of each other without clear sections. And inserting bullets would wreck the overall flow. Anticipating a post that would sink without a trace, I hit “Publish” … and got the strongest reader response of any piece I’d ever written—as well as a Facebook recommendation from an influential literary magazine editor.

I challenge you to, in the words of Jim Carroll, “hustle like a cheetah instead of a chimp.” Don’t worry about gaining a reader’s interest. Don’t waste time with tricks we’ve all seen a thousand times before. Instead, write in a way that gets your heart racing—and locks in a reader from the first sentence.

2. Stay on topic

A blog that’s stuck in a rut is like a relationship where you do nothing but the same routine day in and day out: eventually, things will fall apart. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying you shouldn’t hold true to the underlying theme of your blog. You should. But endlessly recycling the same types of posts under the rationale of “that’s what my readers want” is not only shortsighted, it’s just plain wrong.

Sure, you may be receiving a steady stream of visitors now. But are they sticking around? Are they engaging in a satisfying way? Or are they dropping in to quickly scan the latest post or two and flitting off? Experimentation, planned for and consistent, is the lifeblood of blogging success, and can open up new vistas of personal expression.

I use the following strategy to keep things fresh: every third post has to be new. Not an idea based on an existing post. Not something I’ve pulled out of the “evergreen idea bag” which I assume every blogger has for those days when inspiration doesn’t come.

I’m talking about trying something you’re not sure you can pull off.

For me, that’s meant writing posts on current events, conducting interviews with people I admire, and opening the door to guest posts. Some of these gambits have worked. Others haven’t. But here’s the amazing thing: regardless of how far I stretch, the true fans, those who get it always stick around.

Dare to tinker with your formula. Your readers will respect you for it.

3. Be an authority

In the 10+ years that I’ve been earning a living writing, I’ve spent more time feeling insecure than an authority. I’ve pitched stories that haven’t gotten published. I’ve started projects that have stalled. There have been days when I’ve hated every word I’d committed to paper, and others where I’ve expected to make a huge impact … and haven’t. This comes with the territory, and yet we often feel the need to hide it, as if readers will flee at the first sign of vulnerability.

When I first started expressing my perceived shortcomings and fears on my blog, I felt hideously exposed. There went any claims to being an out-of-the-gate success. But what I received in return were readers who responded to who I was as a human being. They felt invested in my journey because it mirrored their own: what more can you ask more?

Which blogging “rules” have you broken? Let me know in the comments!

Anish Majumdar is the creator of DashAmerican.com, a blog devoted to the cross-cultural experience. If you’re interested in real-life stories detailing epiphanies, embarrassments, and all stops in between, please stop by!

Beyond Blogging: Facing Up to Your Long-term Future

This is a guest post by Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology.

What happened to all the railroads? Have you ever pondered that question?

In the 1800s, the railroad industry in the U.S. was booming. New businesses were sprouting up every year, and inventors were creating newer and more efficient locomotives. First it was steam, then it was petrol, then it was diesel. Times were good, and America had a bright, rail-based future.

So what happened? Why isn’t the country blanketed in rail routes and why doesn’t everyone hop on the metro-line in front of their house each day to go to work? Today, the railroad companies are a shell of what they once were. Why? Because the automobile came along and ran them into the ground.

But did this have to happen?

No. There were things railroad companies could have done to cater to the people who made their businesses possible, but instead they dug in their heels and said, “We’re in the railroad business,” and they stayed the course.

You’re not in the blogging business

Compare this story to Apple, today’s holy grail of technology companies. They started 30 years ago as a personal computer company, but today you could hardly pigeonhole them with a title like that.

Truth is, Apple’s computer line never gained traction like the PC did, but what they’ve done better than any other tech company is pay attention to the trends of what consumers want, and they’ve never been afraid to experiment with other products.

Thanks to that, Apple is responsible for the world’s most popular personal music device, smart phone, and tablet computer.

The rail empires of days past said, “We’re in the railroad business!” when they should have been saying, “We’re in the transportation business.”

Apple got this right by saying, “We’re not a personal computer company, we’re a technology company.”

When it comes to blogging and setting yourself up for long-term success, it’s probably a good idea to heed these stories and ask yourself what the real purpose of your work is.

Are you in the blogging business, or are you in the information business? Are you a writer, or are you an idea spreader that just happens to be writing right now?

The way you answer these questions can have a profound effect on your future, so they’re worth thinking about.

This is especially important if you make a living from your blog. If you’ve ever tried to earn money blogging, you know very well that—despite what anyone tells you—there is no blogging business model that “just works.”

You have to put in a lot of effort to find a model that works for you, and every so often, you have to change it to make sure it keeps working. No business in any industry sets up shop one day and says, “Okay, we’ve figured it all out. We’re done now.” And any blogger who thinks so usually enjoys a short burst of tremendous success and then disappears.

Be your own research and development team

If you’re the type of blogger who likes the idea of having a long-term impact, then you also have to play a long-term game. You have to constantly look for ways to stay relevant and find new ways to evolve the work you’re doing because what works today is in no way guaranteed to work tomorrow.

Essentially, you need to invest in your own research and development.

As a full-time writer myself, here are four ways I try to stay a step ahead of the pack and improve my own game on a regular basis:

1. Pay attention and listen to reader preference

The reason someone decides to read your blog is because they think what you have to say is interesting or useful. After that, the only reason is because that’s the only way you present information. Just because you choose to write doesn’t mean that your readers prefer to read—they may prefer audio, video, or something else entirely, like small group lectures.

The way people consume information is constantly changing. To make it in the long haul, your job is to regularly ask yourself if the way you’re presenting it is the best solution.

  • Read between the lines when people leave comments.
  • Look at the way they interact with different kinds of posts.
  • Pay attention to how other people in completely different industries deliver information.

How can you update or change the way you operate to better cater to the people who are giving you their attention?

2. Devote a portion of your time each day to new outlets

When you’re just starting out in the blogosphere, you want nothing more than to build your audience, find a formula that works, and get to a comfortable place. This is a nice place to get to, but once you’re there, realize that it’s a very dangerous place to stay.

As soon as you find a formula that works for you, be sure to devote some time every single day to exploring and testing out new ones.

When Google Plus launched in 2011, the first thing I thought to myself was, “Great, another social network that’s going to fail. Why waste my time on this?”

But since I’d promised myself to spend time every day testing new platforms and ways of working, I signed up anyway. And I’m glad I did! Google Plus isn’t going away any time soon, and by being one of the early adopters, I was able to establish myself there relatively easily.

Don’t be afraid of a new technology that looks like a time suck. Instead, devote an hour every day to playing with something that may never work out, and don’t feel bad if it never does.

3.  Always think bigger than blogging

The success of your work over the long-term, I believe, depends much more on how you see yourself and the work that you produce than the format you put it in.

The cold hard truth that we’ve learned over centuries but conveniently ignore in our own lives is that entire industries can disappear quickly and violently. What never goes away, though, is the idea and intention behind the industry. Look no further than the recording industry and the movie business to see this happening right in front of our faces.

Someday, the “blog” will cease to have any importance in the daily lives of people, but the good ideas that they used to spread will never die.

If you see yourself only as a writer or a blogger, your work will eventually die and become irrelevant. But if you see yourself as something more, as a creator and distributor of ideas and information, then you’ll be naturally inclined to evolve as necessary to keep creating and distributing those ideas.

4. Build relationships outside your niche

Have you ever noticed how you have the simple answers to all your friends’ problems, but you have a hard time finding solutions to your own? It’s because you can see other people’s problems from an outside perspective, but not your own.

The same is true in blogging. It’s important to build relationships within your niche—that’s a great way to build an audience—but it’s just as important to build relationships outside of your niche.

If all of your friends are in the same position as you, you’ll have a hard time finding creative solutions to any of the problems you face.

But when you surround yourself with people who are doing things much differently, you begin to see new and interesting ways to apply the lessons they’ve learned to your own blog.

This is not the end of the world…

My point here is not to scare you into believing the entire blogosphere is about to crash and burn, and everything you ever worked for is about to be flushed down the toilet.

What I really want is to encourage you to think about your blog, the reason it exists, and the long-term game you’re going to play to make sure the important work you’re doing is still relevant a year from now, a decade from now, a century from now.

I want you to ask yourself:

  • What am I building?
  • Why am I building it?
  • Am I only a blogger, or is blogging just the outlet I’m working on right now?
  • How will my message survive if blogging becomes irrelevant?

Get out a piece of paper (another industry slowly on its way out…) and write this down, it’ll help a lot!

The sky isn’t falling, your blog isn’t in danger, and there’s nothing threatening your existence at the moment. And that’s what makes right now the best time to think about these questions.

Tyler Tervooren spreads scary and unpopular ideas about life, business, and adventure at his blog, Advanced Riskology. Follow his updates from around the world on Google+.

Understanding the Hype Cycle of a Blog

This guest post is by Nischala Murthy Kaushik.

It’s the start of a new year—the time when organizations work on their business strategies. And when you work on strategy, the one thing you definitely do is get a perspective of two facets of your operation:

  1. internal aspects of your organization
  2. what the external world is saying: your customers, your competitors, your partners, and of course independent analysts.

One thing that I definitely read this time of the year are analysts’ reports by (Gartner, Forrester, IDC, and so on.

I’m always looking for ways to learn, apply, adapt, and leverage new ideas, thoughts, and insights into my blogs. During one such pensive moment, I was mulling over whether there was any evidence of Gatner’s Hype Cycle on blogs. And yes, I believe there is!

What is the Hype Cycle?

The Gartner Hype Cycle is a methodology that’s been used effectively by Gartner since 1995. The Hype Cycle provides a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities.

The Gartner Hype Cycle methodology gives you a view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, providing insight into managing its deployment within the context of your specific business goals.

The key phases in Gartner’s Hype Cycle

Each Hype Cycle drills down into the five key phases of a technology’s life cycle.

  1. Technology trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.
  2. Peak of inflated expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories—often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.
  3. Trough of disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.
  4. Slope of enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.
  5. Plateau of productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.

(Check the source of this information for more details.)

The hype cycle of a blog

If you’ve been blogging, or watching the blogosphere for any length of time, you can likely see how the hype cycle applies to blogging. Let’s step through it in detail.

The trigger of a blog

Every blog is triggered by something. Technology may not always be the trigger, but it is a definite enabler. Had technology not evolved to where it is, blogging may not have existed as it does today. The trigger for a blog could be:

  • a personal need to express, to capture, to consolidate, to be heard, to create a brand, to share, to learn, to connect, to belong to a community, to leave a legacy
  • a business need for new customer acquisition, marketing, branding, customer servicing, customer engagement, or revenue generation.

The key questions you need to answer when you start a blog are:

  • Why I am starting this blog?
  • Who are my target readers?
  • What do I really want to achieve by blogging?

It’s good to have some degree of clarity on these issues at the outset. Of course, they will change and evolve with time, but you need to have baseline answers in place if you are to move forward and start your blog.

In this phase, the blogger is usually unsure about many things:

  • Will there be any reader interest in my blog?
  • How do I reach my potential readers?
  • Will I be able to generate meaningful content over a period of time?

The best piece of advice for this phase of the Hype Cycle of a Blog is to test the waters by creating a blog. Keep at blogging, read about blogging, experiment, learn, and evolve. Along the way, you will discover your own commitment and interest towards blogging.

The peak of inflated expectations for a blog

This is the phase in which one of the following happens to your blog:

  • One or more of your blog posts generates interest, a good amount of readers, shares, and comments. You almost feel like a mini-celebrity in select circles and begin to enjoy the elevated status you’ve achieved.
  • One of more of your blogs is criticized, and you receive negative feedback and comments on your thoughts, and hence the content itself, or the way you’ve presented or written the information.
  • Hardly anyone reads your blogs or ever leaves a comment.

The best piece of advice for bloggers experiencing this phase of the Hype Cycle of a Blog is:

  • Study, observe, and analyze the blogs you wish your blog was more like.
  • Re-think these questions:
    1. Why I am starting this blog?
    2. Who are my target readers?
    3. What do I really want to achieve by blogging?
    4. How should I market my blog to ensure that I reach the right audience?
  • Don’t assume that the past precedents are indications of how the future will pan out in your journey as a blogger.
  • Keep a check on your future expectations of the blog.

The trough of disillusionment of a blog

This next phase in the Hype Cycle of a Blog is probably the most crucial as it will determine how long you will continue blogging. This is the phase when most bloggers are somewhat disenchanted with the results of their blogging efforts, either due to their own lack of interest in blogging, lack of a reader base, lack of interest from the blogosphere, limited shares and comments…

The best piece of advice for this phase of the hype cycle of a blog is:

  • Don’t let one or two highs or lows determine the future of your blog. Blogging is here to stay, and the way you leverage the power of this medium in your personal or professional context is completely your choice.
  • Re-visit your own reasons for starting your blog and make any course corrections that are required. Following are the key areas that you need to critically evaluate and plan:
    • quality of content
    • frequency of posting
    • identification of your target readers
    • blog marketing.

The reality is that many bloggers quit at this stage, disillusioned by their own capabilities at blogging as well as all the hype that surrounds blogging.

Slope of enlightenment of a blog

This is the best phase in the Hype Cycle of a Blog—it’s at this point that a blogger has his or her “Eureka” moment and feels that:

  • they have found their niche in the blogosphere
  • their creative juices flow incessantly—there’s no dearth of ideas and, most importantly, they can convert anything and everything they see, hear, think, and feel into blog content
  • they have found target readers
  • most importantly, they begin to enjoy blogging.

If you have reached this point, consider yourself lucky. Many congratulations to you!

The sky is the limit for what you can achieve here. You can sell products (like books), personal services (like consulting and advisory services), your own ideas, and other’s products services and ideas. You have the potential to become a cyber-celebrity and most importantly you have the opportunity to create an impact on those who read your blogs.

The only advice for this phase of the hype cycle of a blog is this:

  • Keep a self-check on your intent for blogging. It may have evolved along the way, but don’t lose sight of your answer to the question, “Why are you blogging?”
  • Value your readers as they complete your blog. Any creative piece of work has a creator and a consumer and their mutual to co-existence is a necessity and reality. A movie has limited value till it is viewed by an audience. In the same light, the blogs you create have limited value till they are consumed by readers.

The plateau of productivity of a blog

This is the phase when you mature as a blogger, and your blog matures too—both go to a new elevated level. Your blog has a brand of its own and you have a presence in the blogosphere. Not many bloggers get here simply because they don’t spend enough time asking and answering the key questions from the start of their blogging journey.

If you’re in this phase, you don’t need any advice: you know where to go and how to get there!

Which phase of the hype cycle is your blog in? Leave a comment to let me know.

Nischala currently works at Wipro. She blogs at Nischala’s Space, Thoughts & Expressions and VERVE: The Quintessence of my Life – both of which have been added to the List of Best Indian Blogs @ http://indianbloggers.org/. In addition, she writes guest posts at sites like Problogger, FamousBloggers, The Change Blog and 12Most.com. For the full list of her guest posts, refer to the My Guest Posts Section on her blog. Nischala has completed her MBA from Indian Institute Management Bangalore [IIMB] ,one of the premier Business schools in India. She takes pride in being a Mother, Philosopher, Writer, Scholar & Guru of Life for Life and most importantly, the Chief Happiness Officer (CHO) of her LIFE J. You can follow her on Twitter @ nimu9

How Gordon Ramsay Can Increase Your “Expert” Value by 23,900%

This guest post is by Amy Harrison of Harrisonamy.com.

To the public, not all experts are created equal.

What’s more, this division exists in all industries, and in every blogging niche.

And it’s not just about working harder, or longer than other people. It’s about knowing how to rise through the ranks of the expert “hierarchy.”

To illustrate, consider for a moment the difference between a chef in a restaurant, a head chef in a five-star restaurant, and then Gordon Ramsay.

In reality, they could have the exact same cooking abilities, but in terms of perceived value, you’re looking at an annual wage of: $30,000, $100,000 and … $24million.

Between the head chef and Gordon Ramsay, that’s an increase of 23,900%

This might seem like quite a leap, but when you understand the following five rungs on the expert ladder,  you’ll see how your own value can change dramatically in the eyes of your audience.

1: Generalist (the fry cook)

Most start out as generalists in their careers. In chef terms, this is like a fry cook. You can cook a number of different meals, but could be replaced by someone with little training and experience.

Your blog is on this level if:

You’ve just started and are still finding your blogging voice. You might cover a variety of topics, or taking a general view of a wide subject such as health and beauty or finance.

You’ll notice other bloggers writing about your subject and may be struggling to get your content shared and traffic to your site.

This is your starting step, and the launch pad of your expert journey. If you want to start standing out though, you need to move to the next level which is…

2: Specialist (the vegan chef)

Here you have a more focused area of expertise, for example a chef who only creates vegan meals. This specialist view means that when it comes to vegan cuisine, we value this level of expert more than the fry cook.

Your blog is on this level if:

You’ve drilled down your blogging topic to a more specific niche, such as skin care routines to help with acne, or how to get the best deal from credit cards.

By covering a smaller topic, your blog content has a more consistent theme, and you’re able to make points which are more in-depth and of greater value to your audience. You’re less overwhelmed by what other generalist bloggers are writing about and more aware of what topics fit into your niche, and what don’t.

This is where some bloggers stay, yet it’s only the second rung on the expert ladder.

You can continue to increase your expert value by moving to the third stage which is…

3: The certified specialist (the five-star restaurant chef)

People love credentials.

A certified Executive Chef has a competitive edge over someone with only “hands-on” experience.  They might both know how to cook a great steak, but when a Michelin starred restaurant is hiring, who do you think they pick for the position (and handsome compensation)?

Your blog is on this level if:

You have relevant qualifications within your topic AND you are displaying them on your blog, letting readers know your certified level of expertise.

If your goal is to prove your expertise to your audience, don’t underestimate the value of a sign that says “Approved by the Board Of…” and “Certified Specialist in…”

After that, you’re ready for the fourth stage of expertise.

4: Expert authority (the food critic)

Expert authorities invest time creating more in-depth studies and publishing the results. They may also have a firm stance on issues within their niche (which may or may not be controversial).

This is like a chef who has spent a year travelling to produce a guide to the top seafood restaurants, or written a paper on the effect of global warming on seasonal food production. Others can then access this information as a “shortcut” to answers without having to do the research themselves.

Your blog is on this level if:

You have published an in-depth white paper, ebook or series of articles. You may choose to focus on a recent trend in your industry, or some controversial news, or to simply create a “shortcut” to a more complex matter.

For example:

  • a white paper on why native plants should be encouraged into any garden
  • an ebook about how changes in financial legislation will affect home owners
  • a series of articles explaining a complicated news topic such as the SOPA bill.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, if you do the research others don’t want to (e.g. the top 100 free resources for web designers) you will gain an authoritative status.

From there, we move to the final rung of the expert ladder which is:

5: All of the above, plus celebrity status (Gordon Ramsay)

The highest level of being an expert comes with celebrity status. This is about being the go-to person within that niche.

Millionaire Chef Gordon Ramsay has 13 Michelin Stars, has published 21 books, has a controversial, outspoken style, and is featured in his own TV shows.

An extreme example? Perhaps, but if you’re passionate about your subject, why not strive for the highest level of expertise? Reaching this level takes hard work, but it might be the hard work people in your industry aren’t doing.

Warning: You cannot build celebrity status without having anything to say, or being properly qualified on your subject. You might see many bloggers shoot to fame seemingly overnight, but the ones that stay at the top are the ones who have mastered their art and skills for years.

Your blog is at this level if:

You are consistently producing and promoting content based on your expertise.

Some of the tools bloggers have used to achieve a celebrity status include:

  • “out of the box”  ways of getting online attention
  • offline speaking at conferences
  • guest posting regularly on other blogs
  • writing for trade publications or magazines
  • pitching for interviews on other websites
  • pitching your side of a current news story to media outlets
  • writing regular books or ebooks
  • holding regular events for example webinars, seminars and teleseminars
  • hosting your own online TV show
  • having a regular radio podcast.

Achieving this level as a blogger means you expand your audience and attract people who are willing to pay more to work with you, not just because of what you are trained to do, but because they get access to you.

What do you think? Who do you see as other experts in your industry, and can you see how they’ve used different tools to increase their value to their audience?

Next have a look at where you are and see what you can do get to the next level of blogging expertise!

Amy Harrison is a copywriter and content marketer for Personality Entrepreneurs wanting to connect and sell authentically to their audience. You can now download her free report on how to write sales copy when personality is part of your business at Harrisonamy.com.

Why My Blog’s Doing Okay: 3 Unexpected Answers

Yesterday we were talking about how benchmarking your blog and your performance against those of others only goes so far to give ou an idea of “how your blog’s going.” As I said then, looking at others—other people, other blogs—even subconsciously for an indication of where you and your blog sit isn’t usually very helpful.

I said then that today I’d give you some examples of areas where I think my blogging’s doing okay—things that have less to do with stats and revenues than they do with how blogging fits into my life. Here are a few of those things.

Balancing baby

Those who follow me on Twitter or Google Plus know that my wife and I had our third child in 2011. Suddenly, we had three children aged 5 and under in the house, which is also where I work. We bloggers don’t really get nice benefits like paid parental leave, so the arrival of our third son was definitely going to be a challenge.

I had built a close team in the months before my son’s birth, and while that took some of the pressure off, at the same time, it added different responsibilities to the mix. Even though I had a lot of help with my blogs, I couldn’t just drop everything when my new son arrived home.

As you’ll know if you’re a parent, you can never quite tell how a new baby will change the household dynamic. Life is unpredictable, and as bloggers, our incomes rely solely on our motivation and ability to keep pushing, day in, day out. Also I was very fortunate in that my new son is a pretty good sleeper and into a routine quickly, and my two older sons adore him.

But the comparatively smooth addition of a new person to my family was, in part, supported by my blogging. My flexible schedule, and the freedom to plan events so that I could keep the period when the new baby was due clear of product launches and other commitments, allowed me to be fully involved at this really important time for my family. That makes me feel pretty good about my blogging, and the way it works to support the other goals and things I value in my life.

Working with others

Expanding the team I work with has also been a great experience in a number of ways. As I mentioned above, it helped me manage work when my new son arrived, but there are other aspects that are working well too.

Firstly, I enjoy working with my team members. Anyone who’s ever partnered up with someone, or even hired a team member, will know that these things don’t always work out. But in this case, my blogging has necessitated that I team up with some good people who really work well together, and that’s been both enjoyable and satisfying in itself.

By working together, we’ve also been able to create more opportunities for others—other bloggers, photographers, and so on—through events like the ProBlogger Training Day, which was much bigger, and more helpful and valuable this year, as a direct result of team work.

In effect, my blogging has let me do more with, and for, great people—so in that regard, too, I think my blog’s doing okay.

A better understanding

Recently I ran the ProBlogger Census. This project gave me and my team a great insight into where you, our readers, are at with your blogs, where you need help, and what interests you. It sounds simple enough, and running a reader survey isn’t rocket science, but the quality and depth of the responses we received was extremely valuable.

This research really let me get a clearer picture of the people I’m here to serve (that’s you!). It gave me ideas, inspiration, motivation, and energy—four things every blogger needs, and some of the things I live for as a creative type of person. It also highlighted some areas that I could do better which has already allowed me to make some changes (and prepare for and plan others) that are of benefit to my audience. It’s empowering to be able to help others in a productive way, and to engage with them personally about that exchange.

Again, this experience made me feel like my blogging’s going well not just in and of itself, but in terms of its role within my life and the potential it’s giving to me and others.

As I hope you can see, none of these examples relates to any other blog, or involves any sort of “benchmarking.” While comparisons can have their place, when you’re looking at how your blog’s doing, why not focus more heavily on these kinds of personal aspects? After all, they’re the ones that will keep your passion for blogging—and life—alive in the long term.