Today’s guest post is from Carson Brackney.
I wanted to create a client-facing blog that would serve as a branding and marketing tool for my content production and copywriting business.
That’s not what happened. Instead of finding a receptive audience of potential clients, the blog attracted other writers.
My audience was unintended.
Most of us blog with a purpose. We want to share our outlandish political beliefs with the world. We want to network with other professionals in our fields. We long for an opportunity to share our lousy poetry with other angst-ridden teens. We can’t wait to let other cat lovers see the latest hi-res photos of Mr. Fluffypants. We want to sell something.
We have a purpose and we have a particular audience in mind as we compose our posts.
Sometimes, everything works out according to the master plan. We write. The “right” people read.
Many of us, however, have a different experience. We write. People we weren’t targeting show up.
We have unintended audiences.
How do you handle the accidental readership? Do you ignore them, continuing to focus on your original plan? Do you give up on Plan A and tailor each post to your actual readers? Do you grow frustrated and make a Herculean effort to cull the unintended off your RSS feed subscription list?
I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you how I handled my unintended audience. The reason I don’t claim to have a perfect answer for all situations is that individual circumstances vary a great deal. If you’ve designed your blog as a means of direct income generation, for instance, you might have a different outlook than someone interested in branding. Hobbyists may see things differently than professionals. Cookie-cutter answers probably don’t do much good.
I decided to embrace my unintended audience, and it’s been a wise decision. Although I was initially aggravated that my fellow writers were outnumbering potential clients significantly, I decided that it was happening for a reason. I don’t mean that in some sort of quasi-religious “everything has a reason” kind of way. I mean it in practical terms.
I was attracting readers who were interested in what I was saying. That’s the way it always works. In my case, apparently, other writers found my observations more interesting than did potential clients. I thought about making a more concerted effort at building the blog I originally envisioned, but eventually I realized that wasn’t really the right path for me.
I decided to enjoy the networking opportunity and the exchange of ideas related to my field. I started to like my role as a “community member” and as a “conversation starter.” Although the blog continues to generate clients and leads, I now value that aspect of the arrangement less than I value having my own little industry soapbox upon which I can climb and scream.
I didn’t intentionally give up on attracting different readers so much as I opted to continue doing what seemed to be engendering an interest, albeit an unintended one.
Here’s the kicker, though. In the end, my decision to embrace the unintended audience turned into one of the best ways to fulfill my original goal. I’ve landed on the “Top Ten Blogs for Writers” list (along with Copyblogger, I might add). Other writers reference my posts and perspectives, which helps a great deal in terms of overall branding because potential clients do tend to do their homework. The professional networking has resulted in numerous referrals. It turned out that the best way to send a message to potential customers was to communicate with other writers.
I asked myself a few simple questions when deciding how to handle the presence of an accidental readership. If you’re finding that your readers don’t look like the ones you originally planned to find, and you’re following the generally accepted “basics” of blogging, you might want to think about some of these same things yourself.
- Are you writing about things that really interest you?
- Are you providing information or perspective that provides real value?
- Are you enjoying yourself?
- Are you communicating in an honest and comfortable way?
- Can your business survive effectively even if the blog doesn’t work the way you’ve planned?
If you can answer “yes” across the board, you might as well keep doing what you’re doing. If you have a few “no” answers in there, you might have to approach things differently. I was able to keep plugging along without making any radical changes.
I like blogging as a platform because it’s incredibly flexible, inspires interaction, creates an ongoing dialog and has an ability to grow organically. The things that separate blogging from traditional top-down publication models are what make it special. Part of that, to me, is creating something that’s authentic, responsive and free to grow instead of building arbitrary restrictions around it.
In the case of my blog, letting it grow naturally and honestly, without intentionally trying to reposition its content to appeal to the originally intended audience has paid huge dividends. I wanted a blog that would encourage business growth and I got one–even though it happened by writing with and for other writers, instead of potential clients.
If I had knee-jerked and retooled to maintain a strictly client-facing blog, I doubt it would have worked as well.
We might go out looking for a particular audience, but in the end, we’re left with those who’ve found us. That can be a little frustrating when reality doesn’t look like the sketch in the master plan, but it often works out for the best.
Carson Brackney is the proprietor of Content Done Better.