When I first started blogging more than 10 years ago, things were a little different.
Back then, I was the Director of Strategy at a marketing firm, and “blogging” was what we called writing articles on our clients’ website news pages. It was all about the mythical SEO, so our articles were more like a long series of straightforward questions and answers dotted with keywords. No story. No personality. No unique hook.
Yet, decent results. We were working within the constructs of that time.
I started my own first blog on January 19, 2009. At that time, personal blogs were mostly stream-of-conscious diaries. You either put it all out there for the world to see, or you wrote anonymously. (Funny to think back to all the anonymous avatars that were used back then — today, that wouldn’t fly for a moment.)
I had the urge to blog, but neither of those options appealed to me. So instead, I wrote fiction. I created a young adult series — a story told week-by-week in blog form. It was on the Blogger platform.
I just Googled it, and it’s still there (cringe).
My second blog was one of a more personal nature, chronicling my pregnancy with my first daughter. I wrote it anonymously, at first. I was still scared to build my identity out there on those crazy internets. Yet, it got me some really great exposure. I built friendships. I joined a community. I learned how sharing pieces of myself could buoy others.
The narrative was emerging.
My perspective on blogging, and on all social content, changed when I attended a content marketing workshop with Mark Ragan, of Ragan Communications, in early 2013.
I was still with my marketing agency, and new social platforms were emerging daily. We were all struggling to keep up, keep informed, and stay strategic with how we used them to our clients’ benefits.
While much of the workshop was a refresher course in online content, it was interesting. But it wasn’t the workshop itself that changed everything. It was a realization — a true lightbulb moment — that I had when Mark Ragan said something that, in hindsight, sounds so, so simple:
“Stop obsessing about channels. You don’t need a Facebook strategy. You need a CONTENT strategy.”
He then went on to discuss what was a relatively new term in the marketing world: content marketing. He said that brands need to first focus on creating great content, and then focus on how to share that great content on social media. If it doesn’t start with a strong story, a strong brand voice, a unique opinion, then it will all fall apart.
Content marketing seemed to sum up everything I’d experienced and learned about online marketing over that past decade. I had seen what putting real and valuable content had done for me personally. I had seen that, yes, SEO was affected by content. I had seen that telling a true, unique story had the power to connect people across any platform (yes, even Blogger).
I had witnessed content marketing in action, over time.
Those early days of blogging, through my personal blogs, through the emergence of social networks and new strategies — what held it ALL together was content marketing. Story. Strong, unique, opinionated narrative.
I began to obsessively research content marketing. And then, I applied it all.
At the agency, I shifted our marketing strategy so that we were creating smart online content to build our own community. I worked with clients to revamp their content and social strategies to better fit this “story-first” mindset. I dove deep into the data. I examined other strategies. And I found the common thread.
Story always wins.
Blogs that used story to teach lessons and connect with audiences always had stronger results than those that simply reported the facts or shared best practices. (As we’ve previously said, that’s why people read food blogs — because if they just wanted a lasagna recipe, they’d open a cookbook.)
And this fact — the winning element of story — still holds true today.
(Joanna Wiebe, who is famous for her ability to create content that converts, recently said that the strongest articles she publishes are those that start with … wait for it … story.)
When I began blogging more than a decade ago, I could not have imagined what online content would look like today. And yet, elements of what is successful today was shining online back then. Bloggers who were able to hone their stories to help their audiences were — and still are — stars.
So while blogging can and will change in the years (months, days, moments…) ahead, story will remain.
If you’re scared to start blogging because you’re scared it’s constantly changing, well, you’re right. But as long as you focus on your story first, you will be able to adapt. You will be able to get results. You will be able to bring your audience along for the ride.
And trust me, it’s an exciting one.
Want to start or strengthen your school blog, but don’t know where to begin? Sign up NOW for our guided online program, School Blog School, and learn exactly how to create and share stories your audience will love. Enrollment closes on March 1. We hope to see you in class!
Yay, you're on the list! Now, be sure to check your email to confirm your subscription.