As any content marketer knows, the blogging world is no longer run by teenagers on Tumblr who are writing about their high school dramas. (Fine, I'll admit I was one of those teenagers.) Today, blogging has become a lucrative industry. It has turned brands into storytellers, storytellers into thought leaders and writers into multimillion-dollar CEOs.
So, we have to ask ourselves how this is possible. What does it really take to successfully climb the blogging totem pole? It turns out, the requirements go far beyond just “hard work and dedication.”
Here are the five most defining factors to look at:
Every major blogger in 2016 has a keen awareness of his or her goals, target audiences, brand voice and purpose. Without these things, these bloggers would be completely lost. They would struggle to maintain a sense of identity within their niches.
They're also conscious of their own personal strengths, weaknesses, insecurities and pleasures, which allows them to stay focused on their goals and avoid the distractions that could steer them away from their work's purpose.
The ultimate example of self-awareness is Gary Vaynerchuk, a man who lives and breathes self-reflection and honesty. Gary is so aware of who he is as a businessman, a blogger, a parent and a thought leader that he has dominated the content marketing industry with his transparent rhetoric and charismatic presence.
Ultimately, Gary is completely aware of what he's bad at, and he leaves it at the door. Ain't nobody got time for weaknesses. Once you identify them and have a deep understanding of who you are, go all-in on your strengths and channel them to grow your blog.
Feel like you could use some self-reflection to get back on track? Check out this awesome run-through by The Social Media Freelancer. Learn how you can look yourself in the mirror and make a game plan.
Blogging is never a one-way street. If it was, it would be called a “book." Instead, it's an opportunity to learn from a community member, discuss and debate various topics, ask pressing questions and build meaningful relationships.
If you're a blogger, it's especially crucial to know what others are talking about within your industry. You need to know what people's concerns are, and what gets them excited. If you aren't aware of this, you're going into your writing process a bit blindsided.
Following other bloggers and joining already-existing conversations is crucial for providing the most well-rounded, valuable content for your readers. You need to offer insights that are unique to your brand voice and sentiment.
If you're looking for a place to start, check out Renoun. It will allow you to find every major thought leader, article and publication within your niche so that you can see which topics are trending and how your community feels about them.
3. Emotional Intelligence
The most well-known bloggers go beyond their own self-awareness. They know how to connect with their audiences on an emotional level.
This instills a deep sense of trust, loyalty and often times, friendship. By keenly understanding their audiences and psychographic analyses, these bloggers offer content that speaks directly to their readers' insecurities, personalities, pleasures and fears.
Without being able to connect with their audiences on a personal level, bloggers often struggle to create these relationships and form actively engaged online communities.
A great example of a blogger who wins at emotional intelligence is Daniel DiPiazza, who is the founder of Rich20Something. Daniel, who is the voice of the quickly growing freelancer community, has dominated the freelancing dialogue by offering both practical and emotional insights in order to help young people get out of their 9-to-5 jobs and start their own successful businesses.
No, this isn't one of those “get rich fast” Internet scams. His content is legit, and it speaks directly to his audience's needs and concerns.
In order to be a legit blogger today, you have to keep it real. There can be no fluff, no lying and no hiding. Just be authentic, open and transparent. The biggest bloggers feel all the feels, and they aren't afraid to show it. This allows their audiences to connect to them in a more natural way.
Think about it: If a co-worker confided in you that he or she had just gone through a really painful breakup, and you were going through something similar, you would be more likely to feel closer to that person, right? It's not rocket science; it's just basic relationship building.
Bloggers who are open about their feelings, insecurities, excitements and lives are more relatable and liked by their audiences. It's not easy, but it is essential.
A brilliant blogger and friend of mine, Shayna, recently wrote a piece about her anxiety and its crippling impact on her work as a marketing freelancer. Beautifully written and deeply touching, this piece allowed her viewers to see her authentic self, thanks to her raw and vulnerable voice.
5. Design Awareness
This might seem like an obvious one, but it fascinates me to see how many bloggers are unaware of the way their content is presented. Thanks to the demanding nature of attention in 2016 – smartphones, computers, apps, social platforms, etc. – readers have very little time to read your content. So, make it easy for them.
Allow plenty of white space, choose legible fonts and select a color palette that aligns with your brand. Presentation matters for everything, be it initial traffic, retention, brand awareness or community advocacy. Don't worry; you don't have to be a graphic designer or an artist to figure it out.
A great example of this is Lauryn Evarts' blog, The Skinny Confidential. Because it is a a lifestyle blog for young women, Lauryn is hyper-aware of her image selections, photo edits, blog design and content structure. It speaks perfectly to her brand and flows beautifully with its messages.
Ultimately, all of these aspects and efforts need to be followed by patience. Just as is the case with any other entrepreneurial path, success, traffic and profits take time to build.
You need to keep going, even when progress is nowhere in sight. So keep listening, keep engaging, keep helping and keep storytelling. Whatever you do, just don't stop.