How do you define success? It is by a promotion at your job, or by accolades and congratulatory remarks by friends and family? Do you define success by how much money is in your savings account — or by how many things you can purchase? If you’re an aspiring blogger, you are undoubtedly looking to also be a successful blogger. How you define this success may be similar to how you define success in other areas of your life. Many bloggers find success by cultivating a community that comments on posts and engages on other social media platforms. For others, success is being recognized by thought leaders in their topic niche. You may be surprised, however, to find that very few bloggers define success by the profitability of their blog.
There are dozens of categories of bloggers, and nearly everyone these days seems to have a blog, whether hosted on WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr, or self-hosted. Blogs can be a great outlet for personal thoughts, opinions, and rants, as well as a great way to demonstrate expertise about a topic to leverage for gaining freelance work or even a new career. Defining the end-goal of your blog is important to determine how you will define the success of your blog. If you are hoping to demonstrate competency about a topic, you may find that your blog is successful if you receive a job offer or are approached for a contract related to your expertise.
For many other bloggers, their blog is — or at least began as — a way to to provide a narrative dialogue about their life. This style of blogging gave rise to a generation of “mommy bloggers,” “daddy bloggers,” and a demographic that considers themselves “20 something” or “Gen Y” bloggers. These blogs — as well as personal blogs that discuss fashion and beauty — comprise a large segment of the blogosphere that centers around a specific lifestyle. These lifestyle blogs are often marketing portals for household brands, or retailers that carry common brands purchased by the blogger’s demographics. Mommy blogs are cluttered with sponsorships from Pampers, Walmart, baby food, clothes, toys, and any other product a mom might need. These mommy bloggers may receive a sample of the product in exchange for writing a review or placing and ad for the product on their blog. Similarly, fashion and beauty bloggers are often given samples to test and then review.
But what’s in it for these bloggers? For mommy (and daddy) bloggers, the benefit is often the actual product samples provided in exchange for a review. Diapers can be expensive, and if such a blogger can stock up on the essentials month to month, the “cost” of raising their child can be significantly reduced. But is there any real money in becoming a mommy blogger? Natali Morris, a former technology correspondent for CNN, started Mommy beta when she was in the second trimester of pregnancy with her son, Miles. She admits that “We don’t make very much money on the site. We have sponsorship on the podcast and that helps. I funded the site from the ground up and we are only starting to make some back.” For Morris, Mommy beta began, and remains, a way “to express how I felt about going from not being a mom to being a mom.” Morris says her blog allowed to her to build a community where she could communicate and share her experiences as a new mom with others.
For other lifestyle bloggers, their success is determined much in the same way. Some of even the most prolific Gen Y and fashion bloggers also admit that they don’t make much (if any) money from their site. Rachael King, who has been primarily blogging at The Southified Masshole since 2007, explains that for this demographic of bloggers, there just isn’t any money. King says that “there may be the occasional swag or blog giveaway here or there, but mostly we’re all here for the community. To connect, to meet people, to make friends.” She adds that for her, “that’s worth way, way more than any advertising dollar signs to me, and I’d wager most feel the same.”
While there are some blogs that can be self-sustaining, they are few and far between. Many of the most successful bloggers utilize their blogs to demonstrate a level of expertise about a niche topic, which then leads to consulting opportunities, speaking gigs, and book deals. The actual skill that can be drawn from a blog is typically what pays the bills for any blogger — not the blog itself. This is true for mommy bloggers like Soleil Moon Frye, blog experts like Brian Clark, and even your favorite expert geek, Chris Pirillo.
If you define success by financial stability, your blog is not likely to be successful by your own terms. However, if you can leverage a blog to promote a service, a skill, a product, or to help secure future projects, it can be a catalyst for the type of success of which you dream. Natali Morris points out, though, that while blogs like hers are not necessarily successful financially, she is able to cultivate a community by devoting time and effort that she then may eventually be able to parlay into profitable relationships with other brands or business, or even other opportunities.
For people like Natali Morris and Rachael King, the community they have formed via their lifestyle blogs has defined their success. King averages anywhere between 50 to 100 comments per post, and has over 7,000 followers on Twitter. Morris adds the support from other parents is sustainable in a way that other forms of blogging are not, especially in comparison to her former role as a tech blogger. “Because of the community, I know that whatever I am facing, millions of other moms have, too,” she said.
If you’re looking to build a successful blog, consider scrapping your plans to make millions of dollars with the blog and instead first focus on building a community that can relate to what you write about. Investing time into reading and commenting on other similar blogs, replying to comments, and incorporating social networks in which you actively engage with friends and followers is critical to establishing this community. It is when when you have this support and ability to commiserate with others about your specific lifestyle topic that you will know you are a successful blogger.
Do you have your own blog? If so, how do you define success? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Image via Keep Calm Shop