What does it take to be a leader in your niche?
You need the courage to alienate the wrong people in order to resonate with the right people. You need to stick to your convictions when people tell you you’re wrong simply because your knowledge doesn’t mesh with their opinions.
Blogging by consensus is a recipe for failure. Your success will be determined by the execution of your vision. Think about it… if your audience is more qualified to write your blog than you are, why should they read what you say?
Don’t get me wrong—feedback in the form of comments, emails and posts that take issue with something you’ve said is invaluable. Since day one I’ve taken the feedback I get from my readers and used it to craft the direction of this blog.
All feedback contains a lesson. Realize, though, that the lesson may have nothing to do with what the person giving the feedback thinks they’re telling you.
The fact is, if no one hates you, you’re doing something wrong. Trying to please everyone is the goal of mass media. That’s why it sucks. We’re supposed to be smarter, right?
But day after day, I see smart bloggers battered by asinine comments, and watch those bloggers back down and second guess themselves. Soon their content is watered down in the hope that no one is offended, but by that time, no one is reading.
Some of you are thinking, “Sure, Brian… that’s easy for you to say. You have an audience.”
Yes, it is easy for me to say, because I lived it. In fact, I have people telling me I’m offensive to this day. Such is life.
Let’s take a quick trip back to a year-and-a-half ago.
At the end of 2005, the blogosphere was a much different place. It was perceptively changing, but that change hadn’t yet become obvious to everyone.
Keep in mind that this was long before the days of John Chow and Pay Per Post. A year-and-half in Internet time is forever.
When I launched Copyblogger in January of 2006, my tagline was “how to sell with blogs.” I knew some people wouldn’t like that, and I was right.
Thus came the attacks, both publicly and privately, by prominent bloggers who saw me as pond scum who “didn’t get it.” Did this deter me?
Hell no… that’s what I was counting on.
If the old guard bloggers would have embraced me with open arms, I’d have been wrong about everything. Instead, the reaction from certain corners of the community was as expected.
Better yet, the reaction from the right people—the people I wanted to reach (that’s you)—was as hoped. Commercially-oriented blogging was growing up, and people were looking for pragmatic advice.
Focus on the right people, and let the wrong people say what they will. It makes for great publicity when the sanctimonious blast you simply because they don’t realize that things have changed.
Do not try to appeal to everyone. Instead, take a strong stance and polarize people: make some love you and some hate you. Hate is an extreme, but here’s the gist: what you write, in order to create the highest pass-along value, needs to be “remarkable”. Is it something that is worth remarking upon?
Polarize your audience, elicit some attacks — which create disagreement and rebukes and debate — and be anal about the numbers. Track what works and what doesn’t. Fine tune what works and test it again. Rinse and repeat.
Leadership is not about genius. It’s about courage.
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