Everyone’s an expert on social media and blogging. Half the people on Twitter, it seems, are social media experts of one kind or another.
Over the past decade, I’ve read gigabytes of advice on how to “succeed” on social media and blogging, and I’ve never even once read a post or article that really nailed what social media and blogging are really all about—or how to “succeed” at it.
So I finally decided to write that article, and here it is.
This piece will challenge every canned precept you have ever read about creating content online, and transform your understanding of what people are doing right and wrong. But most importantly, I hope to inspire you to fully embrace the life-changing power of sharing yourself with the Internet.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a “blog”?
The reason people are confused about blogging is that they believe blogging is determined by the category of software used to publish—that a blog is anything you post using blogging software.
The truth is tools are irrelevant.
The best definition of blogging I’ve ever heard comes from Dave Winer (one of the founding developers of blogging), who says a blog is the “unedited voice of a person.”
Editing turns a person’s voice into publishing, rather than blogging.
That means, for example, that sites people call “blogs,” such as Engadget, Gizmodo, Mashable and TechCrunch, are not blogs at all. Each post on such sites conveys not the authentic and “unedited voice of a person,” but instead reflect the editorial mission of the publishers.
Likewise, the so-called “blogs” on the newspaper sites, as Winer points out, are not blogs, either.
These sites may use so-called blogging software, and more importantly try to hijack the blogging idea, in order to give their online publications an authentic spin (yes, “authentic spin” is an oxymoron).
Meanwhile, my social media profile on Google+—you can read it here—is a blog. It’s the “unedited voice of a person,” even though I’m not using so-called blogging software or publishing on a so-called blogging site.
This brings us to the next question.
What is “social media”?
While blogging is not software or site dependent, social media is. Social media is any content that exists on a site designed primarily for users to interact with each other.
So Facebook is the quintessential example of a social network where the content is social media. The reason is that social interaction is the main point, and the tools and features are optimized for that purpose.
However, if you build your own blog on your own domain using blogging software, that’s not social media because the site is designed for the publisher to communicate with the “users” of the site, and optionally for the users to communicate back. Yes, people talk to each other if comments are enabled, but that’s not the primary purpose of the site.
It’s not binary—it’s not like a site is either social or not social. Sites exist on a spectrum, with a no-comments blog on one end of the spectrum and Facebook on the other, with Tumblr right in the middle.
So a blog can exist either on a social media site or a site that is not social.
So when you post anything on a social site that isn’t edited or influenced by anybody else, you’re doing social blogging. Every post you do by yourself on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. for example, is a social blog post.
How to do social blogging wrong
The Last Social Blogging Guide You Will Ever Need
The majority of people who do social blogging do it wrong. They appear to believe that they either have nothing to say or nothing to share. And so they make the most common mistake on social blogging: They pass along something they found without even sharing their thoughts or opinions about it. This can be a link or a meme or a photo or a video. They believe that the content other people have created is more interesting than what they might create.
Such posts are spam—or at least taste like spam. The reason is that each of us can find links, memes and images on our own. We don’t follow people on social sites because they’re a clipping service.
We follow people for the same reason that all human cultures have stories and for the same reason that literature and books and movies exist—because human beings are greedy for life. Our own lives are not enough. We need to experience the lives of others, too.
By simply passing along links, memes and pics, we’re denying our followers what they followed us for in the first place—a window into our real lives.
Another common mistake is that people post with the goal of gaining more followers, which is usually inauthentic. People are sharing content they think other people are interested in, rather than the things they’re interested in.
And a third error people make is that they post propaganda in order to influence public opinion. Some people become so consumed by how wrong the Conservatives or the Liberals are that they must counter the lies the “other side” spreads and show people the truth. (Politics is just one category for propaganda—there’s also various social causes, human rights situations—you name it.)
Trying to influence public opinion is the wrong way to do social blogging, and I’ll tell you why in the section below.
How to do social blogging right
The purpose of social blogging is the profound and intrinsic joy of self-exploration and human connection. The idea is to put your authentic passions and interests into a public space so that others who share them might discover and follow you.
“That’s why posting other people’s content—or content engineered for popularity or to influence public opinion—is a big, fat fail. These reasons for posting stand in diametric opposition to the purpose of social blogging.
Social blogging isn’t an art. It’s a craft, by which I mean it’s an endeavor that takes skill, which can only be acquired through practice. What are you interested in? Social blogging is the best way I know to find out. But it takes consistent practice, and lots of it.
The single most important goal for social blogging posts is: Provide a glimpse into your world. Blog about three things: What you experience, what you think and what you make.
When you do that with energy and focus, something amazing happens. People all over the world who share your interests can find you. They follow you. They add comments. You follow them. A community forms. Everybody learns and grows and enjoys sharing a common interest. You discover what you really care about, learning more about both yourself and your passions.
Bad social bloggers simply pass along other people’s content, or post content designed to either make them popular or change the world. In doing so they fail to share themselves and fail to connect to others.
Good social bloggers post their own content that opens an authentic window to their lives. In doing so, they cultivate both their interests and a community of people who share those interests.
And that’s all you need to know about social blogging.