Passion and Authenticity: Easy and Natural Ways to Attract a Blog Audience on SCN
Until recently, social media was of only mild interest to me – something I noticed in the periphery, but where I spent little time. I am new to SAP, had never heard of SCN, and had participated very casually in internal blogging only. However, this October a colleague launched a contest, promising prizes for the “first” and “the most” blogs on SCN about SapphireNOW. I’m a sucker for prizes! I threw myself into the fray – expecting to be rewarded solely because my blog was the first posted after he issued the challenge (the award has yet to be delivered, Michael…hint hint). I was stunned when one of the posts went from 300 views to 5,000 overnight; in a matter of weeks there were over 50,000 views combined across the first five blogs I contributed, which completely surprised me. It seemed those posts were attracting a far larger readership than many others about Sapphire. Though I’ve been writing for printed business media for years, blogging was a new endeavor for me, and so many views in a short time was far more than I ever anticipated.
Others were surprised as well – so much so that my manager asked for an investigation to ensure a technical problem was not the root cause of the high view counts!
As the ‘investigation’ progressed, it became clear that there was no technical error. There was no spam server in a poorly-governed country constantly clicking on the links. There was no odd glitch in a data center that led to quadruple-counting of viewers. It seemed instead, after many knowledgeable people had been consulted on the matter, that the very high viewer counts had a simple and natural explanation: The readers enjoyed the content – and told their friends. Key personnel in the SCN Community asked me to help explain why people were responding so enthusiastically to the blogs.
When I outlined, after much deliberation, what I perceived to be the top ten reasons for the success, Brian Rice issued another challenge – to share those observations with the readers of Business2Community.com. Several SCN contributors then asked me to repost to the SCN community as well. Below are ten best practices I have discovered and that I would like to share with my SCN colleagues. I trust you will find, as I did, that blogging for SCN or other sites can be both easy and enjoyable if you apply these principles.
- Have fun. I’ve spent my entire career writing the way someone else told me to, following style rules and editing cycles and getting legal approvals and so forth. Now that I finally have the opportunity to just write whatever I want and post it right away, I figure why not enjoy it? I like it so much that I write blogs on the weekends for fun, which I suppose makes me a total geek. I think that when I have fun, that shows, and that makes people want to read the content. Would you rather read, “MY Data is Bigger than YOUR Data” or (snore) “Applications of meter data to plant floor automation systems”?
- Treat others the way you want to be treated. I first started blogging on an internal forum, in the early summer. Though the view rates were acceptable, there were no comments and no interaction and I assumed no one was listening. So I stopped posting. Then I attended an event in October where three different salespeople approached me and said, “Why did you stop blogging? We love your blogs!” I was SO surprised, since they had never responded to anything I had written. So now, I actively seek out blogs of interest in my communities and I comment on them, so my fellow bloggers realize they’re not shouting in the darkness. I suspect that when I do this, they in turn read my content, but that is not why I do it – I do it because I genuinely want to encourage them to continue with their craft. (Four favorites are Jeff Goins, Garrett Heath , Florian Städtler and the very impressive Thorsten Franz).
- Be honest. I only retweet or favorite things I truly agree with. I only write about things I’m very passionate about, or that I find genuinely amusing. Vuvuzelas. Pumpkins. Owls.
- Be helpful. If someone asks a question, answer it. If someone is having a hard day, reach out and make them feel better. If someone seems to need encouragement, encourage them.
- Be kind. Some of my colleagues have wondered why they have few followers on Twitter. When I look at their Twitter feeds, they are snarky and mean. Who wants to follow that?
- Engage on Twitter. Engagement does not mean posting formulaic tweets every x hours. Engagement means listening – and responding. It means noticing that one of your fellow “live tweeters” at an event has lost battery power, and offering them your charging cord. Engagement means helping others achieve their objectives, like mentioning the pumpkin carving contest for energy-themed pumpkins from the Department of Energy so that others learn about it. Engagement means promoting your favorite group’s new CD to your followers, or telephoning an analyst whose tweet linked to a blog with a factual error, thus allowing him to correct it quickly and quietly. In other words, engagement means being a decent human being and participating respectfully in your community – just like you probably do in “real life”. The community participates in return. For example, a lot of my customers enjoy music, and I found them in a place that wasn’t purely software related with the blog about Naturally Seven. As a side benefit, it’s a place I love to be – a cappella is amazing!
- Engage on LinkedIn. What surprised me the most about my LinkedIn activity is that when I mentioned blogs in updates there, my competitors liked and commented on those updates – simply because they enjoyed the content. It’s refreshing to go beyond the bounds of competitive commercialism and truly connect with other professionals in your field on topics of genuine interest.
- Nurture. It takes only a few minutes each day, but I make minor edits to my blogs where appropriate and republish, without updating feeds – that way the content stays at the top of lists that are sorted by date. I also write fresh, catchy Tweets; doing this daily provides a brief, challenging mental break from my workday routine.
- Provide short links and your Twitter handle within the blog, and cross-link to your other content. It took me a while to get the hang of this. On many platforms – including SCN – if you use the tweet feature, you’ll get a ridiculously long and cumbersome link. So where possible I include a bit.ly link within each blog so a reader can easily tweet about it. I also cross-reference my other blogs where applicable so it’s easy to visit the other posts. I’m grateful when other bloggers do the same. (The bit.ly for this post is http://bit.ly/RdLEe2)
- Be You. 100% you. This, for me, was the most wonderful and overwhelming surprise of my social media experience. In social media, the only way to be is to be the most authentic version of yourself. My ability to do this is a direct result of SAP’s commitment to diversity. How so? At some previous organizations, I was expected to fit into a cookie-cutter mold of what the ideal employee was like. Which happened to be a beer-drinking, back-slapping, golf-playing guy from Cleveland State – definitely not me (I’m a tequila-sipping, cat-snuggling, Pilates-practicing, folk-music-loving Fulbright scholar. Rest assured I value and respect guys from Cleveland State, so no flames, please.) When I arrived at SAP, I expected to once again be “encouraged” to assimilate to the “norm”. And then I saw the “It Gets Better” video, with our co-CEO introducing it. That video changed my entire professional life. Though I am not gay, knowing that my CEO would go out in public about such a controversial issue and make it clear to everyone that our company accepts and values people for who they truly are made me feel proud, free, and liberated to my very core. That was the moment that I knew I could be who I am without risking my livelihood, and that freedom gave me a license to unleash my creativity in my blogs – and the rest of my professional life as well. For this I will be forever indebted to Moya Watson, who made that video possible.
Ultimately, all of this comes down to passion and authenticity. I’m crazy in love with the field of industrial energy management. Music brings me joy; rescuing animals brings me pleasure; pumpkin carving amuses me. And blogging gives me a medium to share these passions genuinely with other, like-minded people.
Find your passion. Find your joy. Let these shine through in your blogging, and you’ll find an appreciative audience. (A timely and stellar example was posted recently here!)
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