I commonly hear stories of bloggers squabbling, gate crashing on events or at the receiving end of shabby treatment from reps of PR agencies, and worse, from fellow blogger acting as middle man.
And the common denominator to these? Goodies for grabs.
Because of this, I thought of this writing project– to provide a growth path template to bloggers who want to level up, from the experiences of fellow early bloggers who made a name for themselves.
This writing project is open ended, because I have yet to reach to bloggers (more recent and not so recent) outside my circle and even w/in my circle who also have an inspiring learning story to share. This post, however, can serve as a reference point for future discussions.
Below is the list (in alpha order) of 1st and fellow 2nd generation bloggers, who responded and generously shared their insights:
- Abe Olandres – @
- Carlo Ople – @
- Fritz Tentativa –@
- Fitz Villafuerte – @
- Janette Toral – @
- Jayvee Fernandez – @
- Juned Sonido – @ | UP Professor and Social Media Strategist
- Roel Manarang – @
- Tonyo Cruz – @
I also invited two non bloggers but are movers in the PR/ Marketing industry. One politely declined and the other did not respond.
Four more bloggers were invited, two in advocacy niche and a blogger turned middle-man between bloggers and brands were unable to respond. Another blogger declined bec. s/he was hired by this blogging platform, before s/he started blogging.
Those who participated, are not aware of each others’ responses. Interestingly, there is convergence to their learnings and ideas.
Our place in the value chain determines our monetary worth, influence and respectability in the community. And the best way to reduce the issues I cited on my opening paragraph is to lift the image and stock of bloggers to access higher value opportunities.
Why Move Up?
It’s a no brainer, regardless of profession, people would want to move up for economic and practical reasons. Now a better question is what can bloggers do to increase their stock and have access to better opportunities and higher revenues?
Free dictionary defined moving up as moving to a better position or better life.
I think before anything else, we need to answer the question “Can I sustain my future with blogging?” very honestly. For many who have been doing it for almost a decade, a good number have moved on to more sustainable ventures, if only because the status quo in their lives have changed – getting married, raising a family — the unpredictable paycheck of a freelancer can bring a huge impact on these life choices.
So lets proceed, what is the growth path of bloggers, is there one?
Honestly, when I thought of this project, my focus is the blogger or the person. But when I received the responses from our resource persons, my framework changed because apparently..
Moving up the value chain, applies to both the (1) blogger (person) and the (2) blog (start-up).
Bloggers need to quit the mindset that their blog is just a hobby and start thinking of it as a business or a start-up. Think long-term. They need to separate their personal identity from the brand that they are building that is their blog. Invest in things that add long-term value and plan for sustainability.
My convo via Skype with Janette Toral, blogging at digital filipino and mother of e-commerce in the Philippines yielded on similar premise . She explained how moving up the value chain can apply separately to the blogger (person) and the blog (start-up). She used the term moving-up for bloggers and moving down for blogs. But for purposes of directional distinction that both speaks of growth, I will use the term upward to refer to vertical growth (applies to the blogger) and sideward to refer to horizontal growth (applies to the blog).
Sideward (horizontal) Growth
The sideward or horizontal growth, or the moving down is Janette’s version of Abe’s (start-up) concept. Personally, I believe your blog is an extension of your personal brand, thus, whichever direction you go as a blogger, your blog goes with you. Apparently, this is not the case “all the time”.
A blog can acquire a life of its own independent of the blogger. A blog that creates value attracts readership and builds a community. With a loyal following and readership, information is easily crowdsourced and the blog develops more writers. As the blog’s influence and reputation increase, so are opportunities with brands – a steady source of moolah.
Blogging has always been and will remain to be about quality content. Through the years, I’ve experienced various trends in blogging and digital marketing — from SEO to social media marketing, from micro niche blogs to viral content marketing, and many others. For every trend, the foundation of a blog’s initial and continuous success is the ability of the blogger to create unique content that entertains, informs, or educates the readers. As such, if a blogger desires to move up the value chain — one must learn to adapt to digital marketing trends without compromising the quality of the content that they produce. A blogger must keep up with how people behave and consume information online, so that the content they create can be presented in the most effective context — if they are successful in doing this, they will remain relevant to their target audience.
Another pillar for sideward growth is the community that the blog builds. Roel Manarang, blogging at roelmanarang.com, Best in Business and Finance Blog Awardee and Principal at Tycoon.PH, said “Bloggers can increase their influence by creating a loyal tribe.
Jayvee also mentioned this two pillars, in his response to my query. He said “I think the age-old concept of building community through content is still true”.
Janette, further explained that sideward growth is possible when the blogger aspires for “operational efficiency”.
This is where the start up concept of Abe kicks in. As a business, a blog should ensure positive customer experience when they visit the site. Is the blog optimized for search engine and social sharing? How is the loading time? Are contact details available? Is the theme eye and content friendly?
a successful blogger needs to practice the following: (i) Consistency in focus and action. This does not pertain solely on the content but also on the action of the blogger on-line and off-line. To not be consistent will jeopardize the credibility of the blogger. (ii) Endurance : blogging is not just a sprint but a series of long distance runs. In other words to become a successful blogger, is doing it consistently and not fade into the darkness. (iii) Creativeness : the ability to package your post to make it interesting and unique, and (iv) the ability to share it online in a myriads of ways.
In addition, Janette said that blog operations include managing the community, other bloggers (contributors) and advertisers.
Upward (vertical) Growth
If blogs can move up, so are bloggers.
Further to my discussion with Janette. A blogger (the person) who moved up the value chain, she said, are those who offer high value services that is not the usual content creation and distribution. These bloggers, have become thought leaders, advocacy champions, entrepreneurs, executives and managers in their chosen craft.
By investing in themselves. They need to go beyond creating content for their blog. They need to learn new skills in the field they want to grow in. Biggest hindrance to a lot of bloggers is that they think too much of themselves. This stops them from having an attitude of learning which is key in professional and entrepreneurial growth.
Carlo is speaking from experience. He started as a marketing professional who blogs, and now one of the gurus of digital pr/marketing and entrepreneur.
If my memory serves me correct, I heard a PR person speaking in one of the iBlog summits in the past said, you have to be someone who blogs, like “an engineer who blogs” or “an accountant who blogs”. My understanding then is your professional background can (or will) have a bearing in the influence of your blog, to the people you’ll reach, and the brands that will be attracted to your blog. Seems like this premise, though not palatable to some, has basis after all
If we will visualize our discussion so far, this drawing will show the growth path of blogs and bloggers.
The diagonal growth is my addition since I believe the success of a blog rubs on the blogger, and the credibility of the person blogging will also have an effect to his/her blog. It’s highly possible to achieve both– have a blog that acquired a life of its own, independent of the founder, AND bloggers offering high value services- be it for commercial or advocacy purposes. This is on top of the usual endorsement, content creation, distribution and managing other bloggers (middle man).
Words of Wisdom
Whether you will aspire for upward, sideward or diagonal growth, these tips from our resource persons will come in handy.
Credibility is the blogger’s currency. Bloggers who aim to achieve mastery of the topic, language and conversation ultimately attain thought leadership. Brands and agencies should give bloggers access and, better yet, form relationships with them. That’s actually what bloggers need: access. Relationship that provide access are better. Payola, unfair arrangements, and unnecessary non-disclosure agreements destroy their credibility and those of the bloggers.
Many bloggers have used their sites as online springboards to grow into bigger things such as managing the digital strategy / digital PR. So it goes to follow that if all your site contains are press releases of the events you attend, it doesn’t become an attractive venue for bigger things. One factor that bloggers today are working against is time. Being a blogger back in 2006 is very different from blogging a decade later, today. Back then, we didn’t have the help of social media and apps on a smartphone. But, we were the first – so that benefit was able to steamroll to building something credible ten years later. If I had started blogging today — I probably wouldn’t. Because the playing field is so different. And sooner than later, there will always be someone younger, more vigorous and more “up and coming” to take your place as the next darling for PR agencies.
I still believe that “being different” matters. But more specifically, also answer the question as to what exactly sets your fashion blog apart from the 50 other fashion blogs out there. Especially if they all get invited to the same event and end up posting the same content. I’m not saying this is wrong — all I’m saying is that there has to be a way to differentiate yourself and make your brand stand out from the noise.
I think the age-old concept of building community through content is still true. But the value of a blogger is that he or she knows the nuances of every platform, and not just from creating content, but also from a strategic perspective. For instance, some bloggers post videos on their sites and re-upload them to their other social platforms. But the way I see them do this is still from days of 2010. Digital strategy takes into account the evolution of the platform and how many content creators here and abroad have taken advantage of new video formats such as the auto-play feature of Facebook, the 15 second limit of Instagram and the 360 VR videos now compatible with Facebook and YouTube.
I guess my TL:DR (too long didn’t read) version of it all is that if you see blogging still as an opportunity to get free stuff and attend events in exchange for a press release, know that you will not be able to raise a family with that. The industry needs bloggers — on both the publishing, agency, and brand side who can think for themselves and challenge norms
Luckily, in the early days, there were not much pressure from local blogs and bloggers: without the end goal of amassing hits and readers, bloggers had was total freedom in churning out content, however crude.
As time went by, the blog authors who felt they wanted to be better made an effort to be better. The early blogs started SEO or, rather, SEO evolved based on the ever changing online behavior of the pioneer blogs, those who immediately followed suit in blogging, the content, and reader behavior (I presented this idea to 3 other pioneer bloggers a few weeks back and the concept gave them chills of pride LOL).
Rather than still blog, most of the pioneer bloggers who started blogging in 2005-2007 blog less (or have completely stopped) and are now in fields whose core disciplines are related to or somewhat traceable to their blogger past: social media managers, digital marketing heads, online community managers, content providers, or holding various roles in advertising and creatives. Some became their own brands, marketing themselves, and armed with knowledge from years of adapting with almost every new social media platform that becomes a trend. Blog content have long evolved from what they were in the past and so did the “early” bloggers.
But what remained intact and held precious, for me, are the relationships built during those early times. Bloggers, among themselves, chose who to keep in touch with and kept them close. Some held dear to their relationship with brands they affiliated with. Others continued to nurture their relationship with the readership and following they have built. Preserving relationships as precious and improving on it help immensely in moving up the value chain. I could have never made it as a now professional commercial people and product photographer were it not for the trust I built and nurtured with the then-bloggers who are currently directly connected with marketing and advertising firms. Of course you have to be great with your craft and remain competitive amongst peers but, as they say (to be taken with a grain of salt), it may sometimes be “who you know” before “who and what you are” that could open the door to infinite possibilities.
I think that bloggers themselves are a great tool on moving up the value chain. One of the best things they can do especially those who are new to the blogging space is to (1) provide value based on purpose, (2) educate their selves better, (3) improve their presence and (4) increase their influence by creating a loyal tribe. The tribe that they will build will become one of their most valuable resources that can help them produce highly profitable products or services through surveys and interactions.
So fellow bloggers, we have three paths towards growth— sideward, upward and diagonal. Which path are you taking and why? Do you have a blogger or blog in mind that you want us to blog about? Think outloud and share your thoughts.