You’ve likely read all the articles that tell you the reasons to start blogging. Marko Saric does it right here every day. In fact his blog is the first one I subscribed to when I started out last August and I’ve found it invaluable. But does anyone ever tell you it changed their life? Because it can!
I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started WomanzWorld.com in August 2009. I just knew I had a bigger vision for my blog then simply writing my entrepreneurial story. I gave it a bold tagline – The Ultimate Resource for Female Entrepreneurs, and then I set about making that a reality.
The whole reason I had started was to connect with other women who owned businesses, to provide them with insight, intelligence and inspiration, and to learn from them in return.
As a cofounder of a technology company at the time I knew that I was just one of just 3% of women to do so. I wondered where all the women were! I thought my blog would provide me with a platform to tell the story of my journey into the world of startups, and also to use it to approach women I admired by asking to interview them and feature them on my blog. It worked.
I set up a WordPress blog, redirected it to my newly bought URL, got a hosting package and had a friend help me with the initial design. That in itself seemed like a big accomplishment. Unlike others I had not been doing this for years, I was not an online marketer, I was an offline traditional marketer who loved writing, entrepreneurship, connecting with people and learning.
So I did what came best to me and started doing the above. I also read – a lot. I read this fantastic blog and bit by bit implemented Marko’s suggestions when I could, all the time learning by doing.
I read other blogs that were related to entrepreneurship and women in business to see what their audience liked, what types of articles people enjoyed and could relate to and how they were designed.
Finding your voice
I initially played around with the style I wanted to convey. I struggled with the voice I’d use. Having dealt with corporate and consumer communications I found it hard to let go of the more formal speak, yet I wanted the blog to be really personal.
If there’s one thing that I hear loud and clear, especially with the phenomenal influence of social media and how this has shaped our language and behavior online, it’s that being your true and authentic self is what really matters.
So I did just that. I actually just wrote about what I liked, what I found interesting, what would help and be valuable to women running their business or aspiring to start one. I wrote on the fly, with no plan, and no structure and in my voice and people liked it.
Building a base
Surprisingly not many people visited my blog in the first few months. But I kept on writing. I started committing to writing at least two articles a week. The topics were always business related and they varied greatly. I was very focused on content and less on promoting what I was writing.
More people found my blog; I was fascinated by the whole process, where they came from, what sent them there so I started tracking some results. I was on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, dabbling in YouTube and using Ping.fm to do updates to all my networks. I installed Google Analytics, I used Bit.ly to shorten my links and track clicks, and I installed many widgets on my blog.
People could now retweet and share on Facebook. My blog posts became more regular – 3-4 times a week. I had momentum. I loved it. My audience was pretty small but I knew that if I did what I loved then people would come. And they did.
Setting up systems
I got more savvy and installed more widgets so that when I published blog posts from the WordPress dashboard it would automatically update Networked Blogs (and therefore Facebook), Twitter, StumbleUpon and more.
I would submit my articles to Ezine to expose them to a greater audience. I would submit articles to my LinkedIn Groups and start discussions. And so the WomanzWorld community grew, slowly but surely. It was enough to encourage me to carry on doing what I was doing.
The personal touch
The thing I enjoy above everything else, even writing, is the engagement. When I received the first comment on my blog I was so excited, the first email thanking me for providing a great resource, LinkedIn messages asking for my advice, complimenting me on a particular blog post – this all made it worthwhile. It drove me, made me want to improve my writing style, the quality of the content, work on more interviews and create more value.
A community is not built overnight
One thing is for sure, this stuff takes time. A whole lot of time and a whole heap of effort. Being active on other blogs and forums, commenting intelligently, partaking in discussions, answering questions and thinking up new content can be pretty exhausting.
Sometimes when you write an article and it doesn’t get a great response, it can be disheartening and then you realize people are busy and there’s a whole lot of information flowing out there, constantly 24/7.
For a long time I felt like I was operating in a void and no-one was listening and then all of a sudden my community grew. I have more subscribers, more newsletter sign ups, people talking back and forth; commenting everywhere and I feel my world has come to life. So never give up!
Marketing is key
I soon found out that I needed to spend at least 50% of my time marketing and 50% on building the business. You’d think as a marketer I would have known that. It’s a different type of marketing.
It’s not just self promotion, it’s real engagement, truth, honesty, genuine interest in others and then of course some strategic sales. I still don’t think I have the right mix either. I expect that if people like something they’ll naturally sign up for it, or buy a program I’ve spent weeks and months producing.
That was until I launched an online business coaching program and felt I had `over-marketed it’ only to find that several people missed out on attending because they hadn’t heard about it! It proved that 7-8 touch points at least are needed and you can never communicate enough.
What really led me to believe how much having the WomanzWorld blog had changed my life was the day I got featured in Forbes online. Strange and wonderful things started to happen after that. They invited me to become just one of 20 bloggers to be a contributor to the new Forbes Work In Progress blog for women. That was huge for me; it gave me credibility and also another platform to reach more women in business with a huge audience.
The Visa Business Network somehow found me and asked me to a featured blogger on their 100,000 strong community. I was honoured, especially when I was in the fine company of Brian Clark from Copyblogger!
I started using my `Media’ angle to get invites to cover great events for women and recently got given two tickets to an event in Las Vegas worth $2,000 to connect with and be inspired by some incredible female entrepreneurs. These are just a few examples.
Where to next
To give you an indication of how passionate I am about blogging, in April this year I actually left the company I co-founded to concentrate fully on turning WomanzWorld into a real online business.
So far it’s been a lot of pouring my heart and soul into it and working on products and programs that provide bite sized chunks of learning and value for business women. In fact I just spent 6 weeks travelling to Eastern Europe and working at the same time. That was an adventure.
More than anything blogging has opened up a world I just did not know existed. Whether you do it for yourself, the company you work or for business, just make sure you enjoy it, learn from it and always be open to where it can take you.
Never before has such an amazing opportunity been available to put yourself out there, to be found and more importantly to find yourself.
A guest post by Natalie Sisson, a self-described “Evolutionary Entrepreneur”, who brings to every project her curiosity about the world and an invigorating spirit of adventure. Natalie blogs at Womanz World.