This wonderful addition to the Your Social Media Journey series is by Suzanne Vara. Suzanne, in addition to being a dear friend of mine, is queen of community and founder of Kherize5 Marketing and Advertising. Suzanne blogs and tweets (@suzannevara), and I recommend you find her in both places!
I first started blogging in June 2009. I remember that first post being so nervous to write it and read it over so many times to be sure it was free of spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors and what I really wanted to say. I wanted to look smart, knowledgeable and most of all something I could be proud of putting my name on for the entire world to see. I wrote the second, third and all the way up to the seventh one before I hit post for any of them. I did not want only one post up there as it was screaming newbie (like 7 posts was not but it made perfect sense to me). Four of them were list posts as I read that list posts perform really well and yes they did. It was amazing. I was averaging 75 reads per article … I was floating on air and was determined to get to that first 100 readers.
The First 100
Those first 100 readers were not so hard to come by but sustaining them was. So many unique but not return visitors. If I wrote each day the traffic would come but if I did not, it was as quiet as a high school football field on a Tuesday night. Just me and the crickets. This inspired me to write more and more. Research, learn, write; rinse and repeat. I was determined to get return visitors. Eventually I did and then it was a new goal. 100 subscribers. I was a three month blogger who was still learning the ropes but yet my expectations were high as the results were telling me to aim higher.
Pretender vs Contender
I moved from the pretender to being a contender in November 2009. I had a very long evening with my son at the hospital after he was diagnosed with pneumonia. It was awful. We had to go the pharmacy to get some medications as he could not wait. He needed those meds. The events of that evening promoted a very fast and experience driven post that I hit the publish button, shut out the light and tried to rest as I kept my hand rubbing my son’s back as his cough was relentless. I had no expectations of that post and only wrote it out of anger. Well at some time the next morning, I figured I would check the stats as my son was able to get up out of bed and eat some. The numbers were through the roof. What on earth? I checked the sources and low and behold, it was tweeted by Guy Kawasaki/Alltop and a featured story at 9:32am. I was a contender.
Previously I was not a pretender in the meaning that I was faking it. No, I was researching extensively and giving sound advice on what had worked for me to that point. But now, I was treated differently. People reached out to me for advice, inquired how they could help me grow my business, where I thought social media was going in 2010 and what we could expect from traditional advertising and tying that in with social media efforts. My opinion mattered off the blog.
The Bursting Bubble
This was short lived as in January 2010, I moved the entire website over to WordPress and poof in an instant all the readers seemed to have faded away like a name in the sand during high tide. Gone. What happened? It was still me writing and I notified all subscribers that I was changing platforms and to please meet me on the new site but no. I had to start over from square 1. It was difficult as I worked so hard to build up the blog and I felt as if I was trying to grab the air for balance while falling on ice. There was nothing to hold on to. I had to start over. Sure, after a week or so, some started to come over in drips and drabs but for the most part they were gone. What happened next was magical.
The Rise and the Lesson
The blog started to grow again but with a completely new audience. An audience that was engaging, friendly, supportive and while not very vocal in the comments, they are loyal. They dm’d or emailed if I did not post or if I was careless and had a typo. They asked me for advice, lent a hand when I needed some help and shared my triumphs and failures. I may have been a contender before but now I was building a community. That community continues to grow and become my core group of people that I am talking with and not to on the blog. I am a big advocate of the numbers not mattering. At first they did to the extent that I wanted to grow and become a contender. I wanted to have a successful blog that generated business and that would make me the contender. In the end, the contender came from the community around me.
The next big moment was on August 18, 2010 when I was awoken to the sweet sound of “MOMMY! it is your half birthday” and happy half birthday song. It was incredibly sweet seeing my son crawling up into bed thinking a half birthday at my age was celebrated. Two hours or so later I turned on the laptop and saw that I was asked to visit my friend Chris Brogan’s blog after 11:00am local time. A bit out of the ordinary as I was never asked to look at his blog as I always do but, well, we had met out the night before and were talking about so many things so maybe there was a “Suzanne-ism” quote or an article that I suggested he write that would do better on his blog. We were friends and friends talk about a gazillion things so I never ever imagined that the post was going to open up to my mug. Are you serious? This was a dream. I was still feeling the effects of the spirits of the previous evening, right? It was a very humbling and tender moment for me as the community that swarmed around me from people I went to high school with that commented on the blog to people that tweeted me and read my blog all were there. It was the Italian Sunday dinner that I grew up with.
The Next Steps
The next steps are about growth and expansion. How do you grow a blog when the author was featured on one of the biggest blogs? Wasn’t that exposure enough? That was the exposure but the growth is the proving that the blog and the author is a contender and not a faker. You gain popularity and notoriety but the pretender vs contender comes back. There is a new audience of sorts to show that you are contender while not failing the current audience to become the pretender. The growth of a blog is about remembering where you came from and building that through taking them all with you on the journey. When we forget where we came from, we become the faker/pretender as when we turn our backs, we never were really invested. We needed, we used, we accomplished and moved on. This is what separates the pretenders from the contenders. The contenders never move on leaving a pile of dust, they take everyone and build mountains.
This is my journey that is similar to the rise and fall of countless bloggers but at the same time unlike many through the triumphs that I have had. These triumphs were from the drive, determination and a community that made them all happen.