A few weeks ago, shortly after I discovered Approaching Joy, Paige offered a giveaway for one reader to attend an Alt Summit class. I won her giveaway and learned my first lesson as an aspiring blogger: be generous to your readers.
Paige offered for free something of true value, which made me feel fortunate to have discovered her blog. For that reason (and for the craft, food, and photo inspiration), Paige gained a dedicated reader.
As an aspiring blogger, lessons like that are gold.
That Friday, while normal people sat on restaurant patios relishing the summer spring evening and each others’ company, I picked up my Chipotle chicken burrito bowl and blackberry Izze and settled down in front of my Mac with my moleskin journal open and pencil poised to take notes on You Are My Fave blogger, Melanie Blodgett’s, Alt Summit presentation “Content Is King.”
In other words, I got my nerd on. And, I’m glad I did.
If you’re anything like me, you consume and consume and consume until one day you realize that you could (and should) create. Ultimately, this class edged me ever closer to making that all-important transition from consumer to creator. Here’s how it happened.
The Single Most Important Way to Get Readers
Melanie posed the question every blogger asks herself: how do you get a readership?
Quite simply, you create original content.
This doesn’t mean you have to create a new recipe or share how you constructed a backyard chicken coop and decorated it with vintage finds — unless of course you do those things and then, by all means, share away.
Creating original content is about you being you on the Internet. One of my favorite pieces of advice was to expand your mind and realize that original content comes in all shapes and sizes. By putting your own spin on subjects that interest you, you are creating something new. The key is that what you share cannot be found anywhere else; it’s yours on your site in your voice.
Inspiration for Original Content
Now, while the content itself is yours, it is perfectly fine and even encouraged to gather inspiration from others who are creating original content. But don’t copy them; learn from them.
Melanie offered themes around which people create original content, which included:
Unearth finds — just like Honey Kennedy, Black Eiffel, Odessa May Society, Eat Drink Chic and my absolute personal favorite, Maria Popova of Brain Pickings, who finds a lot of “thinky” stuff. If this sounds like you, make sure you expose yourself to a lot of stuff in order to offer the best of the best to your readers.
Wield your Photoshop (or any) skills. Readers, especially those who are other bloggers and/or creative sorts, are hungry for people who can teach them how to use these incredibly powerful, complex tools that make the blogging, writing, and photography world go round. If you’re one of those people who makes this stuff look easy, lucky you. Share what you know and I’ll be a reader from the get-go. My personal favorite example is Puxly Pixel.
Showcase your craft. This is similar to wielding your skills but encompasses more of the artsy stuff, like knitting, painting, photography and interior designing. My favorite in this category is Elise Blaha, who does traditional craft-related posts, but whose Project Life updates I’m enjoying most. Food blogs would also fit in this category. Gluten Free Girl is a great example of someone who shares recipes and keeps me coming back with her powerfully authentic writing.
Relate to the masses — like Cup of Jo. I guess this would be the virtual equivalent of being a guys’ guy or a best girlfriend. Just be you and be likeable and talk about stuff people like to talk about.
The ‘C’s of Getting Started
Again, if you’re anything like me, you might be a tad overwhelmed by the examples above. These bloggers seem to be the crème de la crème of bloggers. How will a newbie like me ever measure up?
Well, remember that, once upon a time, they were new too, and that you don’t have to get it right with your first post. Perhaps one of the greatest things about just starting out is that you don’t have a readership (beyond your mom and best friend), so it’s easy to experiment with what works and what doesn’t.
Just get started. And, as you do, take Melanie’s advice.
Consider your strengths. This is a natural starting point, but some of us are (unfortunately) blind to our strengths, so ask your friends, family members and co-workers what they think you do well. Then, figure out what that strength would look like as a blog or blog feature.
Create a series. These are good because they create predictability for your readers and give you a framework to use as you plan new content. Melanie said that her Birthday in a Box series became one of her most popular posts and led to other things "in a box," including a treat for today, Easter in a Box.
Collaborate. Do this with another blogger or a non-blogger friend or family member who is really good at something.
Contribute. Write guest posts for popular sites whose readers might also find your content useful. Do this by pitching posts, paying them or trading something to post on their site.
I thank Paige for the opportunity to take this class and share with her readers what I learned. In fact, the last lesson I take away from this experience is that sharing what you know or what you’re learning is extremely satisfying.
It’s what the people at Alt Summit do with their affordable online classes; it’s what Paige does with her blog; and, it’s what I hope I did with this post. It’s another type of original content that is sure to make your readers happy.
If you have any questions about the Alt Summit class, feel free to ask in the comment section. Otherwise, while my own site is in the pre-launch phase, you can find me on Twitter at @jennfunk where I love to share other peoples’ original content.