September 14, 2007 — yes, just a year ago this week — was the date of the first blog post on Social Media Explorer. At that point, very few people in the social media world knew who Jason Falls was. My grand idea for a public relations blog fizzled but my passion for blogging, social media and introducing those concepts to the clients we work with at Doe-Anderson led me here. While I have a healthy ego, I’m not one to tout my own accomplishments, but there are sites, listings and rankings from around the web that say this little blog of mine serves as a relevant voice in the worlds of social media, public relations, marketing and communications. I owe a great deal of that success to all of you — without traffic, the comments or the inbound links, the site doesn’t even make the radar, much less the list.
Today is also the first day of Blog World & New Media Expo, one of the finest and, I believe, the first, true blogging conferences. I attended last year’s conference as a participant (though it was held in November, not this early in the year) but am going back this year as a speaker and panelist. Again, those of you who have helped make Social Media Explorer a relevant place to visit for social media thinking are to thank. What a difference a year can make.
Several people have asked me how I came out of nowhere to be where I am. I normally just shrug and say, “focusing on good content and networking,” which is the short answer. But to give you a more detailed list of what it takes to build a successful blog and personal brand in any niche or business, here are some things I would recommend based on my own experience:
Content is king. If you’re the nicest guy in the world but your blog offers nothing different than the other 500-600 bloggers out there in your niche, you’re just one of them, only nice. Take a stand on something. Call someone else out. Don’t be afraid of saying something stupid. If I were, I’d never speak.
This is the two-word essence of The Cluetrain Manifesto. While that instruction applies to businesses and industries in that particular work, it’s really the key to establishing relationships. I might have strong opinions. I might have a distaste or intolerance for certain people or opinions. But everyone deserves a firm handshake and a smile and the acknowledgment their work, opinions and person are worthwhile. Yes, even her/him.
I was going to call this section, “Be Genuine,” and could argue they are the same thing, but real is better. Yes, it sounds cliche, but there’s more to it that the surface interpretation. It means being honest, even to a fault, participating on people’s blogs or social networks because you really want to, not just because it’s advantageous financially or otherwise, and not compromising your approach or principles to “play the game.” To use a political analogy, being genuine is being the anti-politician. There’s no such thing as you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. If I like your product, I’ll write about it. If I don’t, I won’t and won’t apologize for it. If I say I read your blog, it’s because I do. If I don’t, it’s not because I don’t like you or your writing. It’s either because I haven’t found it yet or it doesn’t provide me with something I can’t get elsewhere. It’s about not blowing smoke up anyone’s ass — including your own.
If I can point to one reason over another my blog is widely read in the industry it’s that I’ve reached out to people, shook their hand and smiled. I’ve listened to them. They’ve listened to me. We’ve established a relationship, if not friendship, and they’re more apt to read the blog of someone they know. You can blog all you want, but meeting folks in the flesh make the relationship more meaningful. I don’t know Mark Dykeman well, but I’ve met him in person. I’m 10 times more likely to read his blog as a result. He would probably say the same of me.
And this doesn’t just mean go to a lot of conferences. Todd Earwood and I started Social Media Club Louisville to do something locally to embrace those interested in social media and share experiences with them. I easily know 100 more people in Louisville now as a result. Shawn Morton and I hopped in the car one morning and drove to Cincinnati — about an hour and a half drive — to meet some folks up there. If it weren’t for that, I would still only know Albert Maruggi as an avatar and a voice. It’s not only about connecting with people online. You have to also connect with people … period.
The more bold, nice, real and involved you are, the more you’ll be asked to contribute elsewhere. Whether it’s speaking at a club meeting, a conference or just attending a meet-up, consider it part of your job as a personal brand builder. In the last year, I’ve given talks, presentations, hosted webinars and teleconferences, served on advisory boards and committees, written guest blog posts and done countless podcasts and Blog Talk Radio interviews for no other reason than the people responsible asked me to. I embrace and enjoy the conversation, the camaraderie and the connections as a result. Any benefit I get out the effort in terms of money or clients is gravy.
Here’s the secret sauce to it all, though: Most times, you don’t know more than other people. You’re just more visible and willing to participate with what you do know.
Don’t Trust Just Me
There are lots of other smart folks out there who have great things to say about personal branding. I’ve linked to some of my favorite posts and content on the matter below. While I might have a personal case study to provide, there are lots of great examples of people coming from nowhere to be a visible or relevant voice in their space.
What have you done with your blog, business or social networking connections to elevate your visibility? Tell us your secrets and tips in the comments so we can all contribute to a larger resource of tips and tricks.
And from the bottom of my heart, thanks for reading.