Standing Out In Thanet Blogging
By now the more forward thinking business men and women of Thanet (such as Michael Child or Simon Moores) will have started to realise that blogging has the potential to increase their sales disproportionally to the small effort required. Others have realised that blogging is a way to engage with others and "join the conversation". There is a problem!
The problem is the curse of conformity and it does not just happen in blogging but in "the real world" too. Look at all of the businesses in any given sector today. Just about all of them look roughly the same and are saying roughly the same thing. Yet, they each are hoping for better results.
It's natural to look at the competitors and see what they are doing but you will also be copying their mistakes and errors as well as their successes (if any). Without an understanding not only of what others are doing but why they are doing it it is impossible to do more than make yourself "yet another entry in the market". If you do that how will you stand out?
This is the solution.
What bloggers are doing right in Thanet
Do not get me wrong I am not saying that Thanet bloggers have "gotten it ll wrong" but there is sometimes very little to distinguish one from another aside from the frequency of spelling errors and interesting application of grammar (or lack thereof).
Even as I write this I am aware that there are very many exceptions. Blogs that break the mold, that shine brightly and do things differently. There are also blogs that have set the pace of which the clonistic approach is a mere shadow.
Most bloggers have tried to establish some level of unique identity, they have defined for themselves a "written style of voice" and sometimes have managed something somewhat unique in content. Most have gone beyond the supplied template and have attempted to draw attention to themselves with site feeds, tags and sidebar widgets.
But there is a uniformity among the vast majority that brings to mind the word "clone". If you can break out of this pattern and bring something fresh then you can easily become a strong voice in Thanet, Kent, England or the world. Did you know, for example, that more than 20% of my recent readers come from America?
Why is that?
In short it is because I have aimed to write content that while it is strongly and immediately pertinent to Thanet can also be applied outside of it. In doing so I have been drawing the world's attention to our little isle. I do not see Thanet as a limited resource of attention but as a space that can be encouraged to grow.
What bloggers are doing wrong
One of the biggest shortcomings I see is the harmogeny of platform, subject and methodology along with a lack of "branding". While these are not necessarily short comings they are things that one could do differently for some easy differentiation.
While none of these are a "requirement" for blogging the more you can do that is being missed by the larger sphere of Thanet blogging the more that you will be able to shine brighter than any other Thanet blogger.
I mentioned in "Is blogger.com harming Thanet blogging?" and in "Thanet and Blogger - Again(!)" several good reasons why not to use blogger.com so I shall not cover them again in any great detail other than to say that greater control is available if you are willing to pay a few pounds a month to host your own blog. I will be writing more on ways to cover these costs with your blog in the coming months.
Most Thanet blogs will cover the same few topics. For example when the listed building was demolished everyone posted about it. When the "Thanet gateway" was opened again it was widely covered. Some blog writers added interesting commentary to the subject and furthered the conversation while others just said what had already been said, often with similar words.
How can you stand out? There are two ways that you can shine brightly with this alone.
The first way would be to cover different topics, especially if the subjects have not previously been addressed. If the subjects relate to your business niche so much the better. If you can post photographs too then you have a winner.
The second way to shine more brightly than other bloggers is to extend the conversation rather than rehashing it. To do this introduce the topic and then summarise briefly highlighting the most salient points and linking to the sources directly before adding your own spin, interpretation and view. It is not enough to link to the blog with the post in question - you must use the "perma link" or article URL to directly link to the post. In doing so you become the "go to" blogger for the summary and insight.
Rather than loosing the readers to the other bloggers you will gain them because they no longer have to do the hard searching through Technorati, Google or their site feeds to find out what is being said. You become the finger on the pulse for them. You become the authority voice.
When writing the things that get the attention of others are often thought of as "hooks" and there are not that many. Aside from those that are unsuitable for long term use such as the sex appeal hook or the attack hook (which the pseudo-anonymous "One Voice in Thanet" seems to use rather excessively) there really is little more than the News Hook (report the news first or best), Resource Hook (provide things people need) and Controversy Hook (do things that get the tongues wagging).
Currently most Thanet blogs aim for a news hook or a controversy hook, if indeed they aim at all. Very few achieve this with any consistent success (yet). This leaves resource wide open but more than that both news and controversy could still be taken too.
The reason for this is that many local bloggers miss out some basic techniques that are considered defacto almost everywhere else. Such things as trackbacks (not supported by blogger.com), tagging, explicit reference linking and citing with reference. There are more advanced methodologies that are largely lacking: guest blogging, cross promotions, carnivals, do follow and social networking.
Of the above list I attempt to engage with most methods. Some, like trackbacks, would at present, gather dust with so few blogs with which links can be automagically exchanged. I'm hoping one day this will not be the case.
Branding is an art. It is a set of methods whereby the brand is easily recognised and so the message is remembered. If you have your own website yet blog on blogger you are missing a huge opportunity for a uniform brand - some of your efforts are given away to Google!
Even with blogger.com the blog can be published onto your own hosting and under your own domain name. Yet, why stop there? Wordpress, NucleusCMS and many other platforms are free and allow you to do things that are otherwise impossible. (For a small fee I can even set this up for you).
If you own a business then you are committing financial suicide by not keeping you blog and the rest of your site as uniform as possible and that includes the URL. A soul trader can "get away" with this to a limited extent but think of the message you send you customers - "my business does not understand the technology" is what you are saying. If your business is technology related (naming no names) then you have no excuse at all.
Getting and Keeping the "wow"
Rachel talks about "Keeping the wow factor" on behindthebuzz.com and in essence this is what you need to do. The wow need not be flashy, new or even especially innovative. The wow adds value.
Take for example the humble list post - a list of 100 ways to get a legal tax rebate or reduction would be worth something. An accountant would be on to a big winner posting this in February or March because it is something useful. Even if it is a list of 100 blog posts by other people the collection adds value by listing them all in one place. You can bet that it will be bookmarked and revisited each year. Not innovative and not flash but with plenty of "wow" from the otherwise "uninteresting" field of accounting and book keeping.
Lyndon Antcliff hints at a simple path to a good dose of "wow" on lyndonantcliff.com in a post entitled "8 Ways to be the best blogger in the World" with the suggestion "Improve the headline". A good headline can make or break an article's success and notability. Even if your content is fractionally better than your competitor's it is still better.
To get and keep the wow in Thanet you are going to have to embrace some upside down ideas that are coincidentally making some marketers a lot of money. Ideas like "give away your best ideas", "meet your customer's needs before you sell them anything" and "don't ever try to sell".
This might sound crazy but it works on two levels. First it removes the need for the market to use the services of some of your weaker or more secretive competitors. Second it sets you up as the authority on that subject because in the act of giving you have earned the trust of others and from that trust comes sales, readership and attention.
What you have done is shown that people can expect quality knowledge and resources from you. With that there is the expectation that as you have shown insight before and been "right on the ball" that you can be trusted to do so again. After a point a person can actually find that their word is gospel - for example Tim Berners Lee who invented the World Wide Web need only speak on a subject and people start acting in accordance with his suggestions.
Why Does Tim Berners Lee have that sort of power? Because he demonstrated his skill and ability and gave freely. In doing so he created an expectation that he might "do it" again.
To maintain a sense of wow you don't need a huge budget or invent a world changing concept just some honest generosity and a passion for your industry or topic will get you quite far. It helps if you know what you are talking about but if you do not then that passion is what will drive you to learn. Whatever you do - do it freely so that your light shines before all men (to abuse an old saying).
How does this stack up in Thanet?
Putting it to work for you
Everyone is different. To set out a formula and say "copy this and you will be rich" is silly. What is more if you are really just looking for "cheap adverts" then you have failed to understand the nature of the beast.
Matthew Peters addressed this issue on pandemiclabs.com in an article entitled "The Paradox of Self-Promotion with Social Media". In it he says "On the new web–the social web–information is carried on numerous currents, moving back and forth, and changing at the whim of immense social forces." Our aim, therefore, is in becoming a shining star of Thanet-based-blogging is to become one of the "immense social forces" and that is something that can not be achieved without first earning the respect and attention of those around you.
Locally there is not much information on places to eat. There is not a lot being said about places to go. In Thanet there is not so much focus on the good news, successes and potentially great things.
People love a bit of positive outlook and if you were to provide that you might be on to a good thing. However where it matters most is what you know. Only you have your unique knowledge, style and personality. Use this and don't be afraid to do things your own way but do it wholeheartedly.
People will spot a person who only puts in a token effort - they will come across as frauds and rightly so. If you want to shine give your reader something so that their lives are richer or better for having read it. The wow is available now from all industries if only you would care to see it.
Take for example the story in yourthanet.co.uk of the suspension of blogging of Simon Moores weblog "Thanet Life" entitled "Island strife: a blog turns sour". They quite accurately show the forces in question at work. On one hand there were the "immense social forces" that appeared to have overwhelmed Dr Moores and driven him from blogging but there was also the power of expectation there too. "Some bloggers claim Dr Moores’s move is a publicity stunt", they say. The general feeling being: "He’s resigned before, so I expect that after all the messages of sympathy, and publicity, he’ll find some way to come back from the dead."
It just so happens that the only recent example I could find was a largely negative one which is unfortunate but the principle is unforgivingly clear. You only need to don something once or twice and people will remember you for it. This can work for you in that you need only produce a few stunning resources for a specific topic and people will remember that you "know a thing or two" about that topic.
It all boils down essentially to a passionate and engaging approach to personal and corporate reputation management. The "SEO 2.0" blog (seo2.0.onreact.com) in "3 Approaches to Reputation Management: Which One Do You Need?" talks about getting the right sort of attention and says "We engage in online practices that shed a positive light on us". At the end of the day this is "all" it is about - getting the light and the right sort of light shining directly on your business or blog. That's no easy task but hopefully I have opened up the topic a little and pointed you in some fresh directions.