I have a dog named Hippopotamus. Aside from being the goofiest, happiest dog dude on the planet, he’s an expert at seek-and-destroy tactics. Squeakers in toys, bird watching (and killing — I do recall one bloody bird-related event when I lived in Vegas involving flighted prey that made a fatal mistake in his presence). Lately, it’s been squirrels. This year, the tally stands at:
The first was lovingly deposited on my sofa. The second (yesterday) was not escorted/carried inside through the doggie door but rather, left by the tree that was its demise. In light of my impending move to Boulder from Denver, I have no doubt that the squirrel population of greater Denver will hold an all-night nut-and-kegger when Hippo departs the area.
Hippo’s a fan of The Same. He’s a dog. That’s what he does. He lives in a world filled with squeaky toys, chewy bones, birds, and squirrels.
You don’t. We don’t. And for fuck’s sake, can we please stop acting like we do?
Quit the “Look ma, I puked!” Routine
When is the last time you went out to dinner, ate your meal, and then came home and puked up everything and asked your best mate to have a look at the pile of recycle? Unless you have someone holding your hair back during a wicked bout of food poisoning, I’m betting the answer to that question is never. So why the hell are you doing it with your blog? When you sit down to write a blog post, slow down and think for a second. Ask yourself, “Am I adding anything new to this conversation?” If the answer is no, all you’re doing is asking your audience to gather around something you’ve regurgitated that they can find elsewhere (and in many cases, everywhere and anywhere else). It’s pretty hard to infuse a personality into thoughts that already belong to someone else.
Photographers don’t take someone else’s photograph, doctor it up in Photoshop and then post it on their website as “theirs.” But that’s what most people do when they ride trends and decide they want to hop on the latest and greatest bandwagon with their own iteration of a broad-topic post. So why don’t you…
Have an Original Thought for Once
For once. GAH! Quit it with the pithy quotes (and quit hashtagging them with #quote on Twitter) and use your Big People Words. Your audience will remember you NOT for the 82.5 ways to build a bomb-ass Facebook page post. They’ll remember you for making them think. Making them read another paragraph further. Making them look like a rock star for sharing a post that encourages their audience to think. And I get it — list posts are great. Everyone wants the shortcut. A quick read. Pointers. Tips. But the difference between the brands that earn and keep an audience and the ones that only get the fly-bys is the effort they make to serve their audience. Quotes? I can find those anywhere. A list post on Pinterest for business? Go hump an oak tree. Give your audience something that draws them in, makes them think, and builds a conversation in the comments section. And there’s only one way to do this…
The only way to attract and keep an audience that’s not a herd of sycophantic lemmings is to first challenge yourself. Ask yourself what isn’t good enough for them. Ask yourself what they deserve. If you really think your audience deserves an upcycled post designed to boost your keyword rankings, go ahead. Give it to them and see what you get. And here’s where I speak from experience.
I’ve always held my audience in the highest regard. I have never taken for granted that they’ll continue to stop by, subscribe, comment, or share. And the greatest detriment came to this blog when I stopped challenging myself. When I forgot what they deserved and why they started dropping my my little left-of-fucking-center neighborhood in the first place. And when I deigned to ask the question, “What do you miss?”
Shoo, lawdy — they told me.
Challenging myself as a writer means cramming my being into the most uncomfortable of places. Places where I might be wrong. Places where fucking up is inevitable. Little nooks and crannies where I do battle with grizzly bears with Sarah Palin heads wielding light sabres where I can emerge victorious and scream a battle cry of AYUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! with a bad ass ZZ Top soundtrack playing in the background. (Perhaps your battleground looks a bit different than mine…) And while every blog you post doesn’t have to be of earth-shattering import, each post always holds one pervasive responsibility: challenge.
You can’t challenge anyone by regurgitating shit that other people have already covered.
And I get it — there really are few new thoughts in the world of business, just new voices sharing them in ways that might reach new people.
But if you sit down to write something and aren’t challenged by what you’re sharing, how the everliving cherry popsicle of a fuck do you expect anyone else to be challenged by it?
Sidebar: I just took a potty break and ran into the “toilet paper roll is empty” scenario. I caught myself perching the new roll on top of the spent one in the wall holder. Who the fuck does that? Apparently a writer talking about how you shouldn’t be lazy with your blog content. Oh haiiiiiiiii pot — meet kettle.
Remembering Why You Blog
It’s not because your boss said you had to do it. It sure as hell isn’t to “monetize” anything. It’s definitely not to drive more traffic to your website.
The only reason to blog is because you have something to share — not “say.”
Sharing is collaborative. Saying is broadcast.
Sharing gives your audience the power. If we remember that we’re simply conversation starters that empower our audiences to join in and lead the charge, I’ll bet that the regurgitation, quote-dropping, and other mindless bullshit we might be party to stops in short order. We blog — we write — because we’re human. We have opinions, experiences, and our own iterations of grizzly bears with mutated heads wielding weapons. There’s no one who can compete with US. And you’re not a dog.
You don’t have to be satisfied with The Same. My brightest days come from conversations I never thought I’d be involved in, the realizations that others generally have better ideas than I do, and the humility that comes from sharing my shortcomings so that I can tap into the strengths of others to make my world — and business — places made up of stories.
Hippo? He loves him some squirrel. Humans? We love stories. Solid stories. We know they’re solid when we close a book, flip off the Kindle, or leave the room and still play them through as we close our eyes and drift off to sleep.
What story will you share today? We all have the opportunity to share a story like no other. Why would we settle for re-sharing someone else’s?