I was thinking of starting TheOpenAlgorithm as a commercial venture in February 2011. The plan to create a great project that would attract people by giving away information on factors and potential factors. And make money from it by having a membership area or selling training books or video courses.
Then I watched The Social Network.
In it Mark Zuckerburg, billionaire and current CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world refuses to put advertisements on Facebook.
I abandoned my monetization plan after reflecting on the movie and the Facebook story. This proved a valuable blogging lesson for me that I hope to share with you.
What Zuck Can Teach You About Blogging
Obviously Zuck is a smart guy and a rich guy, so why would such a smart and rich teenager turn down the opportunity to make some money from a project that he had literally worked 24/7 on for over a year?
For two key reasons, that will help you become a better blogger.
The Business Model
Mark knew his business model better than everyone else. His argument was that Facebook had to “be cool” before they put advertisements on the site.
But how cool did it need to be? It was already in the thousands if not millions of members.
What Mark Zuckerburg recognized better than anybody else was that Facebook could only succeed if it had millions of active users. Until most of the civilized world was on Facebook, it was replaceable just like MySpace and Bebo.
To aid world domination Mark felt it necessary to turn off ads, because ads turn off users, and he was right to do it.
Blogging has the same business model as Facebook. Gain thousands of loyal and active fans (members), who comment, click, share and buy regularly.
Blogs fail without members.
When a blog reaches a certain number of members/loyal fans they become too big to fail, unless they doing something really stupid.
There are many measurements of when a blog reaches this point. But for me there are a few key indicators:
- Steady and growing traffic.
- Consistent numbers of blog comments and traffic per post.
- Constantly showing up for the keywords you want to.
- Having every post amplified by members via social networks immediately after publication.
- Number of email/RSS subscribers and social media followers as compared with other blogs in your niche.
There are a few vital characteristics of blogs and bloggers who reach this point.
Product Oriented: Forget About Money
Zuck was adamant that Facebook must be perfect for users.
When you build a website focussed on the user and not the money, the money will come.
When you build a website focussed on the money, it’s unlikely the user will come.
As a blogger your product is your blog as a whole.
From my point of view there are two parts to a blog, the information it provides and the platform it is presented on.
The information is essentially the content, how its written, is it user friendly, is it easy to understand, broken into small paragraphs, are the grammatical mistakes, are there images and videos, etc?
The platform is the blogs design, is it social, is the text easy to read, do you have a mobile theme, how long does it take to load, etc?
Being product oriented is the most crucial part of blogging, with 133 million blogs out there to compete with, you will need to have valuable, well written and presented content, to have a chance of competing, let alone dominating.
Like Zuck you need to be obsessed with making your blog perfect for users.
Gain Market Share
Worldwide Graph Of Market Share
Just like the movie it is not only crucial that you have a great product, it is even more important to market your product.
And as documented in The Social Network, Facebook grew gradually from college to college, gaining market share of each college’s social networking time.
That’s right even Facebook with it’s astonishing growth was one college at a time.
Look at Groupon the fastest growing company in the world, they have grown one city at a time.
Of course all the usual blog marketing techniques apply, blog commenting, forum posting, guest posting, etc.
But I think you should look at marketing your blog differently.
Go from one competitors blog (and remember every blog is a competitor for a users online time but that doesn’t mean you can’t live in harmony with them either) to the next blog. Dominating them, one step at a time.
At each blog/step, comment profusely, guest post, link, like, share and mention the blog on Twitter until you have won over as many of that blog’s users to be members of your blog as possible.
Then move onto the next blog, forum or group and the next, and the next and so on.
Take an aggressive marketing stance of your blog and you will win over new members.
Don’t feel bad about being so cut throat, if that blog or forum was any good then the users will remain members of both.
My argument would clearly be to forget about making money from your blog until you reach the goals set out in this post or your own personal goals for the blog.
Have a viable monetization model in mind and on paper before starting your blog so that when you reach these goals you are able to make money from your blog.
It’s crucial to have this done, otherwise you may walk into a niche where people simple don’t spend and you don’t earn.
You don’t have to stick to the monetization plan, in fact you probably won’t but make sure you have one or your blog may fail just when it had touched success.
Be focussed on your product i.e. information and the platform you present it on to users. Grow gradually, eating up market share and stealing users from other blogs and you will have set up your blog for Facebook style, probably not size, success.