Three Ways to Grow Your Blog Community in an Economic Crisis

Panic Button

The economic news has most people pretty freaked out. There are rumblings about the next Great Depression, TV news gets more hysterical by the second, and everywhere you look, you’ll find someone immobilized with panic because the sky is falling.

The economic crisis creates real problems, both practical and emotional, for large numbers of people. So what’s your role? You’ve put yourself forward as an authority with your content community, so how are you living up to that challenge?

How will you make things better instead of worse?

1. Coach optimism

Although an abrupt interruption to your cash flow or having your 401K lose half its value are real and significant problems, the biggest problem in any kind of crisis is mindset.

Panic makes things worse. It makes things worse for your readers, and their panic can make things worse for the larger society. Fear is the enemy of good decisions, and panic simply makes them impossible.

Any time of great problems will also create great opportunities. When you look at solving problems as your key to success, you’ll start to see ways to create success in a very ethical, honorable way. (This is a fantastic time to be an information marketer.)

It’s often said (incorrectly) that the Chinese ideogram for “crisis” combines the words “danger” and “opportunity.” Bad etymology, but a good way to look at things.

Cultivate your own optimism, and share that with your readers. They need it right now.

2. Have patience with anxiety

I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you. In all likelihood, your readers are about to become a major pain in the ass.

Anxious people are difficult to be around. They don’t learn well, they’re not adaptable, and they’re obsessed with the worst possible scenario. They’re not good at seeing any point of view beyond their own distress and fear, and they become experts at raining on parades.

And nearly everybody is anxious right now.

While it would be nice to develop a virtual smacking machine that can reach through the screen and whack ‘em one upside the head, the fact is that your community needs a little old-fashioned compassion right now. They’re freaked out and afraid, and that makes them act out.

Think of them as little kids facing school for the first day, if that helps. You don’t have to coddle them, and you don’t want to reinforce the “rightness” of their bogeymen. But you do want to muster all the patience you can.

3. Point out options

No matter who your readers are, there will be ways they can survive and thrive in this mess. Make it your job to look out for those ways. Research all the things your readers can do to find new opportunities, to take advantage of unseen paths, and to zig while others zag.

You have more tools to do that than you might realize. You’re good at thinking about things in innovative ways, and communicating that. You’re good at synthesizing something new out of seemingly unrelated pieces. You know how to use the techniques you find on Copyblogger to tell stories that will inspire courage, confidence and action.

Create solutions to problems. If you have a food blog, run a series on learning to love cooking at home. If you have a freelancing blog, teach your readers how to pitch to companies in panic mode. If you have a political blog, break down your analysis to allow people to make thoughtful, rational decisions based on their own enlightened self-interest instead of their fear.

(OK, that last one might be a little unrealistic.)

Present those solutions in reassuring, step-by-step formats that can be followed by people who are a little crazy with anxiety. Some of those solutions you’ll offer for free. If the topic is appropriate, some you may ask your community to pay for. Paying for information will focus their attention, which benefits them as much as it does you.

At the end of the day, the question of whether or not you monetize these solutions isn’t that interesting. What matters is that you have an opportunity to step forward and make yourself a true resource for your community.

To quote from Seth Godin’s brand-new book Tribes:

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is an Associate Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

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Comments

  1. good point, Brian. In the recent past I’ve done posts on how to get free or discounted items and how to help stretch pennies in the neighborhood by volunteering. One thing I meant to do is highlight available jobs. I did one post on it but you remind me I should make it a regular feature.

    Brian, you are like Warren Buffet, you make good common sense.

  2. Good ideas and nice to see this topic brought up. Locally my community saw changes in November 2007 but many brick and mortar businesses are doing great and are up from 15% to 30%.

    Online I see growth and buying.

    I think picking your path and finding ways to look at the situation differently while focusing on new and innovative ways to help existing customers and attract new ones is critical at this point.

    Those businesses that are thriving are keeping their customer base happy and keeping in contact with them along with asking for the sale AND finding new products to offer their existing customer base.

  3. Thanks Carole, but as far as this post goes, I was only lucky enough that Sonia wrote it. :)

  4. I think it’s key that everyone has a calm demeanor so they can act appropriately for their situations and make the best decisions possible. Being rational to your users will only benefit you after the mess is over. Good karma comes back.

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

  5. I like your suggestion to coach optimism. It’s way too easy to focus on the negative and not do anything about it.

    A better approach is to acknowledge what’s happening, and keep pressing forward.

    Just this week I followed your suggestion to “Point out options” by writing a post about how to grow a business in bad times.

    This is the type of information people respond well to: information that offers hope in the midst of despair.

    Ryan

  6. Carole, thank you, I don’t believe I have ever (directly or indirectly) been compared with Warren Buffett before.

  7. Re the source for that Chinese ideogram, I thought the part about dinosaurs and other creatures even more interesting.

  8. Sonia,

    Great job. You had me at number one. Coach optimism. Nobody wants to play ball with the doggie downers.

    Take the Warren Buffet comment and run with it.

  9. “The Warren Buffett of Persuasive Copywriting.” Sure thing, I’ll take that!

    Jean, me too. The whale one was sort of alarming.

  10. Great article, just thought I’d point out that the case of the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is not so clear cut. Here’s an alternative viewpoint:
    http://www.garyfeng.com/wordpress/2007/03/25/danger-opportunity-%E2%89%A0-crisis/

    Also, technically ‘crisis’ is a word, made up of two characters. Better to refer to Chinese characters, since not all (or even the majority of them) are ideograms. Sorry to nitpick!

  11. Great points, especially number 3. You have to give people options which will create some hope in these hard times.

  12. Your third point is completely dead on. During times of panic and/or desperate emotion, people are looking for some sort of way to cure their chaos.

    With the media pumping community members full of hype and fear, going the exact opposite route and giving them a sense of “peace in the storm” is remarkable and helpful. Everyone wins.

    In a sense, during extreme times it is useful to be extremely, well, normal. The most powerful marketing strategy is pure, unending value. During a “crisis” the need for the value reaches even new levels, meaning you should publish the same content as usual … only more so. ;-)

    In the end it goes back to the basic idea of building a relationship through published value: If you aren’t changing lives then you’re doing something wrong.

  13. The best way from all of 3 is to point out options. This is what people need right now, they need solutions.

    The tools we have are a major impact on people who are looking for answers in this moment of crisis. We need to be as positive and innovative as possible in these days, doesn’t matter what kind of blog we have.

    Great article Sonia

  14. The whole Chinese crisis thing could easily be a full post by itself.

    The version I heard was the same as what Alison heard, that there is one Chinese word meaning both crisis and opportunity. If the story was supposed to be that crisis = danger + opportunity, that’s a lot less interesting. And if people have to debate whether it contains an element of truth, it’s not true enough.

    It’s similar to the Chevy Nova deal. In Spanish, “no va” means “it doesn’t go,” so supposedly it bombed in Spanish-speaking countries. But in reality, no Spanish speaker would actually interpret it that way. The English equivalent is said to be that if a dinette set had the brand name “Notable,” no one would refuse to buy it, thinking that it didn’t have a table.

    However, this is true: in Japanese, entrance = in + mouth, and exit = out + mouth.

  15. Sonia, you’re absolutely right in saying that panic does make things worse. You have to remain positive that, despite the economic circumstances, you’re going to pull through. There’s fear everywhere you look online. Practice positive thinking! Great advice!

  16. We had a fire drill today, which made me think of this very principle. When the alarms are sounding and no one is quite sure what’s going on, be the guy with the red hat who reminds everyone what the safe exit is.

  17. Ahh it’s that branding thing sorry Sonia great post!

  18. Wonderful article, especially reinforcing how important optimism can be. The only thing worse than a depressed date is a depressed blogger, focusing on the positive and helping people grow their community is what the web is all about.

  19. Oh yes…I am including more stories & jokes on my post to help entertain my readers. It’s nothing like keeping our vibes up through laughter!

  20. Always good to zig when others zag. In optimistic times, a little surliness, doom and gloom, and snark can be refreshing. Right now it’s just a downer.

  21. I’m excited about what’s happening in the economy right now. Yes, some of my stocks have fallen in value (but not much)… and yes, the value of my home has a dropped a bit (also, not very much), but I really do see this moment in time as an opportunity to make myself and my business stand out from the crowd.

    There are somethings/businesses/people that are going to be negatively affected by the economy right now, but I think we entrepreneurs are the ones who will always find a way out of our current situation. We are the ones who make lemonade out of lemons. That’s what I think we are going to do right now… and that’s why I’m excited about what’s happening right now in the world.

  22. I think people are getting a little too anxious. There are ways to thrive in this environment…you just need to find them. That is what I am going to show my readers in the coming months

  23. Just think positive about the economy crisis. Our market around the world not only for one country.

  24. “Panic makes things worse. It makes things worse for your readers, and their panic can make things worse for the larger society. Fear is the enemy of good decisions, and panic simply makes them impossible.”

    Well put. And it applies not only to economic downturns but to a lot of aspects in our everyday life.

  25. Hi Simone,
    An excellent article! You are right. In depths of depression, one must always stay optimistic and believe that the worse will pass soon. People sometimes panic not knowing why they are panicking. It could be a general sense of fear of something bad happening. But collectively, this instils greater panic. The vibes are just wrong. I believe that what is going to happen will happen anyway. The only way to weather this is how one reacts to it. Reaction is something all of us can control.

  26. @Darren, that’s awesome, I feel the same way. I do respect and feel compassionate about the many folks who are losing houses, etc. But I’m excited for myself too, for this chance to help solve a lot of problems.

    @Krista, good point, “social proof” works in the negative too. Helping people stay out of the stampede is a great thing.

  27. GREAT post !!!

    I’ll make an “interpretative translation” in my blog…

  28. Global economic recession is one of the hot topic being discussed in the blogger’s world. With regard to this economic scenario economists are expecting more down fall and adverse situations in the global economy. Thanks for providing information on how to grow blog community during this period.

    http://www.simplewayoflife.net

  29. Sonia!

    Thanks for your cool article, everyone really need this right now.

    I’m wondering: how was your very first day at school? I’d love to discover your wonderful little story : )

    For my part: I was extremely happy, and I was really constantly asking myself why the hell some little guys were crying like a waterfall, and catching their parents like a little cat affraid from water!

    How was your day, that day?

    Have very cool times!

    SSG

  30. Sonia, as usual excellent, articulate, actionable advice. I laughed when I read “virtual smacking machine.” It is true however that when you meet freak out mode with level-headed calm it eases the anxiety of the other person. Kind of like telling a kid, it doesn’t hurt when they take a little spill. When you’re calm in spite of blood, & make soothing noises they just believe you. Crying turns to a whimper and the situation becomes manageable.

  31. I think my role is the same as it was after 9-11–keep living. I don’t believe all the hype I hear as far as panic and I look at things objectively, not just what the news tells me.

    Really, I’m okay. But I never dig myself deep with a fancy house or things I can’t afford or risky stocks. THAT’s why I’m okay. I’m also smart and have faith in myself to pull through.

    GREAT post!

  32. There is an ebb and flow to everything and life is no exception, but we must always be on the lookout for other ways to tap into that inner creativity and stay positive no matter what comes our way.

  33. The panic button caught my attention and I imagine that most people caight up in the media frenzy will push it. Interesting though how the Warren Buffetts of the world (both left and right politically) will pounce on these opportunities with great vigor. My take-away from all this is that one can adopt an enlightened self-interest in the markets and participate thusly in the next Bull run — Or, they’ll buy into the “sell sell sell” mantra being peddled in the media and get eaten by the Bear.

  34. There are always opportunities in any given situation – maybe different than before, but still opportunities. The best way perhaps is to keep on trying and always be patient.

  35. @Chuck, good point. Warren Buffett didn’t get to be Warren Buffett by doing what “normal” people do. The key to thriving in mass hysteria situations is to clarify your thinking, sort out what’s really happening from all the hand-wringing and panic, then take action accordingly. It’s certainly not easy to do, but well worth the effort.

  36. “The economic news has most people pretty freaked out.” was your first sentence. News is the key word here. It is as much the way the media is reporting things as the “crisis” we’re in that is causing all the panic. Yes, things aren’t great, but the media sure makes it look worse.

    This is like living in a drought. You conserve, you ration, you don’t make hasty decisions and one day the rain will come.

  37. I have some bad experience with no #2 because i just have some bad reader coming to my blog and they keep submitting the same comment constantly, hoping to see their comment in the screen, lol. Lucky i got my patience otherwise i may ended up at closing the comment form

  38. @Takumi, what a drag. Most blogging platforms have a way to ban an individual. There’s always that one delightful person (or bot) to make things difficult.

    @Sam, it’s surely true that the media spreads the gloom, and I’m a big fan of setting limits on that. “If it bleeds, it leads”–that’s what sells ad space, so it’s always going to be what news orgs go for. Toxic & unhelpful, IMO.

  39. I scan the CNN web site for “real news,” not the kind the local TV stations lead with (“Department stores are starting to offer customer layaways again, just like in the 1960s.”

    As a part-time journalist, I say, what a piece of crap to lead your 30-minute news with. They are just fueling the hysteria!

    We just started an Internet-based information and we are seeing all kinds of interest in our marketing membership subscription programs.

    In 16 years with various businesses, I have never considered NOT starting a new business during a recession.

    Way to go, Sonia. Shine the light for us and show us the way.

  40. Great tips! I think the people who always do the best during recession are those that are really laid back, and know that one day, it’ll pass.

  41. Hi there,

    In a funny kind of way, this post kind of does the opposite of what it preaches. In other words, keeps saying, “Don’t panic!” at the same time as telling us how anxious everyone is and how they’re going to be misbehaving because of it.

    Personally, I don’t know anyone who’s anxious about the current situation really. The only person I know who might actually be effected by it is looking forward to his big, fat redundancy payout!

    Rob

  42. “The economic news has most people pretty freaked out.” was your first sentence. News is the key word here. It is as much the way the media is reporting things as the “crisis” we’re in that is causing all the panic. Yes, things aren’t great, but the media sure makes it look worse.

    This is like living in a drought. You conserve, you ration, you don’t make hasty decisions and one day the rain will come.