There’s a scene in “Mad Men”, the TV drama about a 1960s advertising agency.
One of the junior copywriters is showing the Creative Director an ad he’s just written. The ad is clever, flowery, and poetic.
The Creative Director cuts the copywriter down in five short, stern words:
“Don’t write for other writers.”
Bingo. It’s not the copywriter’s literary chums who are buying the product. It’s housewives in Indiana. Clever copy might get the copywriter clapped on the back by his colleagues, but it won’t get the product sold.
I’ve seen this happen a lot in the blogosphere. I’ve done it. You’ve probably done it, too.
We’ve written blog posts that other bloggers like (especially high-traffic, “A-Lister” bloggers who link to us). And we squealed like happy children when we saw our traffic stats spike up massively.
But there’s a downside
Traffic spikes can be quite addictive. The type of blog post that might get you a lot of “bloggerly love” may not be (and probably isn’t) the kind of blog post that gets people to buy whatever it is you’re selling.
Traffic and influence are great. It’s lovely having all these people kissing your hiney at social media conferences.
But at the end of the day, it’s not the A-Listers or the pajama-clad, Web 2.0 basement-dwellers who are paying your mortgage. It’s the regular shmoes with a regular problem who are willing to pull out their credit cards to get it solved.
Back in 2005, I was working with Thomas Mahon to create the blog EnglishCut.com so Tom could sell his $4,000 hand-made tailored English suits.
When I first started talking about the idea, a lot of people said,
This will never work. Bloggers don’t wear suits. They’re geeks. They like dressing down.
Those people were making the same mistake as the copywriter on Mad Men. That guy thought that just because he was writing, he was trying to impress other writers.
These people thought that just because we were blogging, we were trying to impress other bloggers with our product.
They were wrong
We knew the people who liked $4,000 suits were out there. We knew our content was better than anybody else’s out there. We knew our product was world-class, up there with the best of the best. We knew if we just kept at it, the right people would find us.
We weren’t trying to sell the suits to bloggers. We weren’t “writing for other writers”. We weren’t “blogging for other bloggers”.
We were writing and blogging about suits for people who loved suits.
And it worked. Spectacularly well. These days, for every suit order Tom accepts, he has to turn down four or five offers. He’s just too busy now.
Five years later, I’m applying what I learned with Tom to my own art business.
I never think about traffic any more. I think about my friends and people who can and want to support my business. “Bloggerly Love” might be good PR, but it’s a hugely unproductive time-sink if you spend too much time worrying about it — which many people do.
Sure, if you’re writing for Copyblogger, writing for other writers is what you do. But most of you don’t, so writing for other writers isn’t something to worry about.
Worry about the people who really matter to you. Create killer content that really matters to them. Create a killer product people actually want to buy.
Do that, and you’ll find very little reason to worry what writers think.
Hugh MacLeod is a cartoonist who blogs over at gapingvoid.com. He makes his living by selling fine art prints, doing “Cube Grenade” commissioned art work and sending out daily cartoons on “Hugh’s Daily Frickin’ Newsletter.”