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Of blogging, hitting the “Topic Wall”, timing and success

Success is a curious animal. Success is also relative; my successes might be an awe-inspiring revelation to one person while being but a yawn-inducing triviality to someone else…

Success is a curious animal. Success is also relative; my successes might be an awe-inspiring revelation to one person while being but a yawn-inducing triviality to someone else…

When I consider the sum total of articles I’ve written over the past three years, by my reckoning, the quality of my writing peaked about a year ago. But that’s not a bad thing!

At certain points in our lives, we peak at a given thing and it’s likely we’ve hit the performance / efficiency ceiling. However, there are many, many aspects to writing, which means there are many more opportunities to explore. I could, for example, delve into investigative writing. Or, I could offer more supportive research, and then there are product reviews.

As it stands, I write about a very eclectic mix of topics, which affords me a certain degree of insulation from hitting what I call the Topic Wall, the avoidance of which can be characterized with a very simple mantra: diversification avoids stagnation. In summary, my idea of a Topic Wall is to disease what the mantra is to the cure.

Hitting the Topic Wall is when, as a blogger, you write within a very well-defined but also very crowded niche. Here I’m thinking about SEO. In this niche, if you’re not the thought leader, you’re really going to struggle to churn original out content on a regular basis, without: 1. going over old themes, or 2. simply syndicating what someone else has already said.

That’s not a route to success. It’s an avenue to blogging oblivion.

A question of professionalism

Without wanting to sound disrespectful, professionalism is something you begin to fully appreciate when you run your own business. Why? Because you become aware of certain facets of business. Things like the art of diplomacy, the deft approach to mediation and negotiation, as well as knowing how to present yourself to maximize your potential. So a lack of professionalism will probably harm you in ways you can’t even imagine.

We often use talent and professionalism interchangeably, which is totally wrong, sports stars being a great example of what professionalism isn’t:

“A huge salary is not a sign of professionalism. Nor is a insulting the competition, getting blind drunk in public, beating up your girlfriend, illicit affairs, gambling addictions, abusive behaviour or questionable TV appearances.”

And for those who don’t learn from their mistakes they’re doomed to repeat them.

So why mention professionalism at all? Because if you want to be a success in such a very public arena as blogging, or within the wider social media community, how you conduct yourself is key to your success as a person, which is the first step to becoming a success elsewhere.

In business, people have to buy into you as a person before they buy anything from your business.

Why time and timing aren’t the same thing

When I look at some of the articles I’ve written that have attracted huge amounts of visits, I can compare them to other articles within the last twelve months and the quality between the two is broadly the same. So why did the latter succeed where the former didn’t? Two things; time and timing.

Time — write for the people

A year ago, I had a measurably smaller social network. Because of this, my articles were exposed to considerably less people. A year later, I am somewhat fortunate to have people of sufficient skill, knowledge, influence and respect to push my articles into their social networks.

So, by having the luxury of such valuable people in your social network, the likelihood of your articles hitting the front page of Digg, or driving a week-long tide of visits from StumbleUpon are increased massively — and hopefully, measurably.

So to paraphrase a common truism: it’s not what you know it’s who you know, we could say: it’s not who you know, it’s who they know! However, who you are isn’t defined by who you know, but by what you know.

Timing — write for the moment

Over time, having all these great people is one thing, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy some wonderful moments. But the really notable successes are those moments when you capture the zeitgeist, distilling thoughts that are contemporaneous with current affairs, such as a political scandal, a momentous sporting achievement, a critically acclaimed film, or a controversial song.

In the first week of October, I wrote an article which examines the views of video games and their impact on children, but looking at the positives, rather than the more popular negative angles we read about all too often. To date, I’ve had over 20,000 visits, mostly from StumbleUpon. But why the success? Because I hit the sweet spot; parents everywhere are concerned about their children playing video games and the web is an instant source of information.

Why being stuck in a social loop isn’t a bad thing!

It’s at this point that we begin to come into contact with another buzzword of mine: the Social Loop. Effectively, the Social Loop is:

  1. An idea for an article, which leads to content production.
  2. Content promotion via social media, social networking and search traffic, which in turn leads back to the original article.

The final step is where you attempt to coax a conversion (an action) out of your visitors, which can entail many things, such as:

  1. encouraging people to subscribe;
  2. search for more content;
  3. befriend you on a social network;
  4. leave a comment;
  5. buy a product.

Armed as you are with my thoughts on success and how to make the most of what you have, I’ll leave you with an observation and a final thought. A partial message to a friend on Skype:

“Their success isn’t always because of their talent, but their proximity to those with greater talent and influence.”

Both expertise and success are relative, and require only two things of a person:
1. that you’re interested enough;
2. that you persevere enough…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.