How to build an audience in 743 difficult steps

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The biggest question every writer asks when they start publishing online is, "How do I get people to read my stuff?" There are many answers to this question, and these answers are usually now referred to as "content marketing". Proposed methods run the gamut of SEO and Marketing advice, from back-linking and infographic making to the perfect way to write headlines ("People love lists!").

I've treaded close to these methods a few times in my darkest hours of need — the many times I'd vowed to just give up and stop writing because really, what's the use. But somehow the love of the web and the blogging format kept me going. And over the years I've made some discoveries about what it takes to build an audience, and why I think it's better to stay away from the easy ways and choose the difficult ways instead.

In this talk I'll share some of that philosophy, and how a struggling blog with an insignificant number of readers has become not only a source of great joy and expression for me, but also a source of non-insignificant income.

This isn't a talk about how to get to 1 million page views a month. It's a talk about how to make *your* page views count.

How to build an audience in 743 difficult steps

  1. 1. How to build an audience in 743 difficult steps
  2. 2. @RianVDM
  3. 3. Step 1 Pick a URL that no one can pronounce
  4. 4. Okay let’s back up
  5. 5. Why blog?
  6. 6. The art of public thinking
  7. 7. “The process of writing exposes your own ignorance and half-baked assumptions” — Clive Thompson Source: The art of public thinking
  8. 8. The new resume
  9. 9. Nothing will impress more than an individual who has taken the time to craft and share their perspectives about either the industry that they serve or what inspires them. — Mitch Joel Source: The new resume
  10. 10. Let’san build audience!
  11. 11. The lure of the easy will get you
  12. 12. “If you share, all I ask is that you credit the source. I can send visitors to your site as a thank-you if you would like.”
  13. 13. “are you sell link ads at insert article ??”
  14. 14. “I currently have a client interested in placing simple text link ads on sites like yours.”
  15. 15. “I would primarily be sending you paid content for publishing on your site…”
  16. 16. Source: How to get more Facebook likes
  17. 17. Why are we so unwilling to work hard for the things that we want?
  18. 18. A different way
  19. 19. The longhard stupid way Source: Frank Chimero
  20. 20. “Just because we're a casual restaurant, doesn't mean we don't hold ourselves to fine dining standards. We try to do things the right way. That usually means doing things the long, hard, stupid way.” — David Chang, Momofuku restaurant Source: David Chang gets a cameo
  21. 21. The hard way brings An endless cycle of growth, learning and mastery The easy way brings Learning how to play the part without substance or continued growth
  22. 22. Okay, fine. But what does it mean?
  23. 23. How to build an audience in 743 difficult steps
  24. 24. How to build an audience the long, hard, stupid way
  25. 25. Lesson 1
  26. 26. nobody wants to read your 💩
  27. 27. Nobody — not even your dog or your mother — has the slightest interest in your commercial for Rice Krispies or Delco batteries or Preparation H. Nor does anybody care about your one-act play, your Facebook page or your new sesame chicken joint at Canal and Tchopotoulis. ! It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy. ! Nobody wants to read your shit. — Steven Pressfield Source: The Most Important Writing Lesson I Ever Learned
  28. 28. This is liberating
  29. 29. Writing is a transaction Reader Time & attention You Something worthy
  30. 30. If we are going to ask people, in the form of our products, in the form of the things we make, to spend their heartbeats on us, on our ideas, how can we be sure, far more sure than we are now, that they spend those heartbeats wisely? — Paul Ford Source: 10 Timeframes
  31. 31. Lesson 2
  32. 32. some things aren’t worthy 💎
  33. 33. “Yahoo tests more than 45,000 combinations of headlines and images every five minutes on its home page.” — Tom Chatfield Source: The attention economy
  34. 34. 1,000 words 938 comments 300 words + 200 word excerpt >7,000 comments Source: Transfer of Value
  35. 35. “Once they are swallowed by the HuffPo’s clever trafficgeneration machine, the same journalistic item will make tens or hundred times better traffic-wise.” — Frédéric Filloux Source: Transfer of Value
  36. 36. Obsession
  37. 37. Voice
  38. 38. x = 💎 Source: Merlin Mann & John Gruber at SXSW
  39. 39. This is why I prefer to follow people rather than topics …while I know what to expect 90% of the time, I look forward to that 10% which I’d never have predicted, but which I still enjoy reading. — Callum J Hacket Source: Reading the unexpected
  40. 40. Lesson 3
  41. 41. Writing is one thing Publishing is a whole different thing 📰
  42. 42. Publish anyway (It’s the only way you’re going to get better at it)
  43. 43. “There is no avoiding the deliberate strain of real improvement.” — Cal Newport Source: The Father of Deliberate Practice Disowns Flow
  44. 44. So, how’s that working out for you?
  45. 45. Average monthly page views Slowly going up and to the right
  46. 46. But it also turns out Who your readers are > How many readers you have
  47. 47. But perhaps most importantly…
  48. 48. So…
  49. 49. Find your obsession Find your voice Publish more
  50. 50. (and do it the hard way)
  51. 51. “The danger of creating a path instead of following one is far more important than the feeling you get resting at the apex.” — AJ Leon
  52. 52. It’s going to make you happy
  53. 53. Thanks! Connect on Twitter at @RianVDM

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