photo credit: Paul Bica
I’ve been blogging for the past six months and it has been great. A lot of fun.
There’s still a lot of work to be done. I’d like to pick a better looking theme template and eventually start podcasting but I’m pleased with the start.
In this post I’ll share some lessons learned but first a look at my top blog posts so far.
My top post, a letter to my daughters on dating, had more views than the next two combined. It was also the most shared blog. The share numbers got erased somehow but I think it was shared at least 150 times. Clearly, it resonated with readers. I love my girls, it is a topic I’ve thought (agonized) about for awhile. I think one reason folks may have liked it is a) I poured my heart into that one and b) there aren’t too many posts on daughters and dating that don’t mention shotguns. That are more serious than humorous and written by a dad, instead of a daughter.
Most of the other top posts have been about marriage, pornography, counseling resources, my About page. Lately, I’ve been writing more about perfectionism and being brave. Even though the post on dating and on stress and parenting are my only posts so far towards the top I’m planning on writing more about parenting. One reason I haven’t written much about parenting is I often use the blog to process and brainstorm current concerns that clients or potential clients may have. At home, the kids are in a good spot so I haven’t been reading, problem-solving, thinking and working on parenting issues as much as marriage, anxiety, etc. That being said, I do want to write a parenting book (or two) someday – I’ve got about a 30 chapter outline roughly drawn up – and some of our friends and schoolmates are in a season of life that is reminding me of when the kids were younger and things were more challenging, so I am thinking more. Feel free to ask any questions or let me know if there’s any parenting topic you’d like to read more about. I am planning on saying more about the challenges of parenting in the digital age of social media and smartphones.
One surprising thing about blogging: when I write things on Facebook I can count on one hand the number of things that were shared by more than 5 people. And I’ve been writing almost every day for 6 years. On this blog, in the first 6 months, several blog posts have been shared 10, 20 times. My daughter told me it’s probably because folks on Facebook are usually scrolling quickly through the content on their timeline while bloggers read blogs differently. Makes sense to me. Some of the blogs I’ve posted are the same things that I’ve shared on Facebook. So, blogging appears to have allowed me to share with a new audience. Like my colleagues in the Blogging Therapists and Selling the Couch communities on Facebook.
Although, I can’t be 100% sure. Which brings up another question I’m not sure about; I’ve had several visitors over the past few months but haven’t had much interaction, feedback or comments. I’ve had a bit on Facebook with my friends when I post but even though I try to ask open ended questions and really am interested in the answers, most folks haven’t commented or asked questions in return. Do you have any ideas why? Or how I might get more engagement here? The reason I ask is I’d really like this blog to be as helpful to readers as possible.
Thanks to those of you who have commented here, elsewhere online, or in person about the blog. It’s been really encouraging.
Three posts I’m surprised haven’t been more popular are The B Word, Smart People Anxiety and Stuff Therapists Like. Three different audiences for those posts: parents, folks with anxiety, folks who are thinking about counseling or starting counseling; four actually, the last post is also for therapists who love Brene Brown too.
My audience is still small. Some days I wonder if it’s worth taking the time. But I know it is.
I did a Periscope video about things I remind myself of when I get discouraged about not reaching more folks. The video was one of my favorite Periscopes so far because of the interaction with the viewers. It’s also amusing because I basically regurgiate the encouragement I’ve received from my friends Steven Shomler and Marc Schelske, local bloggers, authors and pastors. I hope others who blog, write, therapists who are starting out or trying to survive in private practice, anyone who’s trying to build their platform, make videos on Periscope and get their voice heard will be encouraged by this video or the summary below.
Here’s a few quick suggestions for When Your Audience Is Small from the video.
1) Everything I write is a memo to self. I write because I need hope. I need encouragement. I write because I want to have a better marriage, be a better dad, a better counselor, to grow in my faith. Writing is self-care. Writing is healing.
2) Stick to it because it’s needed. If I need the words I write as parent, as a husband, someone else probably does too. Your voice matters. Today, you may write or record something that someone may not read until years later when they Google a question or problem and they come across your blog. I know what I write on here is needed, even if people don’t realize yet because a lot of what I write here is exactly what I tell my clients in the counseling office. I write things I wish they had read before things got worse or so hard to fix. I write with the hope that you won’t ever have to come see me or another counselor.
Yes, there’s lots of blogs. Yes, there’s lots of coaches and counselors and writers out there. Your perspective, experiences, creativity are unique and the audience that needs you is out there. And you’ll find them or they’ll find you eventually. If you don’t give up.
3) It’s practice. In the meantime, while your audience is small, you’re practicing. I’m practicing right now. Getting slowly better and more confident. Not everything I write works. But it’s preparing me to communicate and teach and counsel with more clarity and effectiveness. If your audience is small, it could be a season of growth and focusing you and preparing you to step up at just the right time, in the right way, with just the words to mee the need of a moment you never dreamed of. This has happened to me several times.
4) What you blog or Periscope about you think about 24/7 anyway. You might as well write it down or sit in front of your phone and hit “publish” or “record”. Even if you have an audience of 1 or 1000, what are you passionate about? What do you have trouble turning your brain off about? I am constantly thinking about marriage, parenting, mood disorders, self-care, relationships. I love thinking of new ways to communicate and teach counseling principles, to model and teach counseling as a creative narrative process. I heard an interview with Seth Godin where the host asked him how he writes every day. He replied that he doesn’t have trouble writing every day because he doesn’t have a problem talking every day, he doesn’t have a problem thinking every day. We all think and talk every day, we could write plenty, we just have to deal with the resistance and the fear that it’s not good enough.
5) Have fun & experiment. This suggestion can help with the resistance and fear. Have fun. I’m still trying to figure out blog length, content, tone. I’m trying to incorporate more of my sense of humor, I think a few posts have it but not enough. So far. I’ve been having fun learning how to use Canva app to make the graphics for the blog posts.
6) You can’t skip this part. You can’t skip the stage of a small audience. You can get lucky and have a blog post go viral for some mysterious or fortunate event. But for the most part you have to pay your dues and learn the craft and work hard. I can’t go from 30-400 views to 4000 or 10,000. Being focused and purposeful now, in the present, is all I can control and enjoy. Thinking too far ahead, feeling discontent, envious of others or worried about it are all distractions and prevent us from doing good work now. Besides, when your platform grows and you have more readers and viewers, that just brings the pressure to keep them engaged and continue to produce quality content.
7) Focus on building up people and you will build a tribe. If you focus on a broad impact – on popularity you may miss impacting and influencing people deeply. If you focus on going deep, on impacting people deeply, you have a chance to do both.
8) Focus on being helpful, instead of good. Ryan O’Hara on the Periscope video commented “Helpful before Huge”. I really liked that. I’ve been reading Michael Port‘s Steal The Show book (great trainer on public speaking, has a podcast for his book too) and in it he says if you focus on being good, you’re focused on the wrong person: you. If you focus on being helpful, you are focused on the right person and it will be good.
These few points have been things I’ve tried to remind myself of in the past 6 months blogging and the past two months making videos on Periscope. I hope they will encourage you if you get discouraged about a small audience.
I’m curious, what are you writing or speaking about these days? Or thinking about sharing with others?
What do you tell yourself to get through the days when it’s hard to put yourself out there?
For those of you who have been writing awhile or have moved beyond small audiences, do you have any advice for me?