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The War for Influence and Attention: Why Companies Often Lose out to Solo Bloggers

The War for Influence & Attention: Why Companies Often Lose out to Solo BloggersOne of the biggest struggles that companies face is finding marketers that stand out from the crowd, particularly with content creation.

I saw a forum post not long ago where someone asked what blogs they follow for marketing information. Interestingly enough, most of the people that responded mentioned individuals rather than company blogs.

Isn’t it interesting that when it comes to influence, solo bloggers often outperform well-funded companies? Some businesses even have 6-7 figure marketing budgets dedicated to online marketing.

So how is it that solo bloggers are able to effectively compete against larger businesses for attention? And what can companies do to create more engaging content? Here are a few things to consider.

1. Solo bloggers are self-driven and don’t keep track of time

Solo bloggers are entrepreneurs. They are self-motivated to work hard and grow their business. The time and effort that they put into their content can increase their leads and income.

Paid bloggers, however, are working for a paycheck. A paid marketing employee is often less motivated to outperform other marketers. Of course this doesn’t mean that paid marketers aren’t willing to work hard and do good work. But the fundamental motivation is different.

Employees can quit working when the day is over. An entrepreneur will often work outside of business hours to get ahead.

Tip: It’s hard to compete with someone that’s willing to put in twice as much time as a salaried employee. Hire someone who enjoys their work enough that they’ll invest the time into self development and creating higher quality content. Being self-driven is key and it is possible to find self-motivated employees. People who take the initiative to master their craft will usually outperform those that don’t.

 

2. Solo bloggers are entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs don’t keep track of time as closely and can often spend more time working on their blogs than employed bloggers. Pride of ownership can also drive a solo blogger to work longer and harder.

Entrepreneurs also read, innovate and do interesting things. They experiment with new ideas and these activities make them interesting people to learn from.

Many company bloggers are only focused on writing articles and meeting requirements. Once they have completed those articles, they have succeeded for the day.

Some successful company bloggers encourage their bloggers to be entrepreneurial by experimenting and learning on their own. Buffer is a good example of a business that encourages entrepreneurial experimentation (for example, here’s a post where Kevan Lee talks about their experience with podcasting). Digital Marketer and Moz also run marketing experiments and then blogs about the results.

Tip: Hire someone that is entrepreneurial and has shown some initiative in mastering their niche on their own. Also, encourage risk taking and find people who are willing to think outside the box and take occasional chances. Thought leadership isn’t created by simply emulating what others have done. Create a company culture that allows content creators to see and write about the experience, growth and people in the company.

 

3. It’s more critical for solo bloggers to stand out to succeed

For a successful solo blogger, it’s do or die. They don’t have the comfort of a steady guaranteed salary and if their blog doesn’t attract readers, then they won’t make money.

So a solo blogger usually has more pressure to create content that stands out. Putting extra time into their content allows them to stand out easier, get shared more and ultimately grow their business.

As a business, you will have to provide a comfortable income for your content creators, which will inevitably reduce some of the pressure to perform.

So is there a way we can encourage paid content writers to compete with solo bloggers? Asides from hiring people that are competitive and self-motivated, try to think of ways to encourage and reward good performance.

Tip: A stable income is one of the benefits of working for a company rather than starting your own business. However, think of ways to reward good performance to encourage your content creators to create amazing content.

 

4. Successful solo bloggers seem more relationship focused on average

Businesses like to “measure” results and one thing that can’t easily be measured is the value of building relationships. Many solo bloggers build and leverage relationships to grow faster.

For example, check out Successful Blogging by Sue Anne Dunlevie. Sue has done a great job of networking with other bloggers and some of her blog posts get over 100 comments:

Successful Blogging - 122 comments

 

Some employed bloggers are good at relationship building, but not all. On average, I’ve found that company bloggers are less likely to respond to outside emails and comments than solo bloggers. I read a company review on Glassdoor where an employee complained that they were required to reply to blog comments without getting additional compensation.

Make sure that your content marketing on-boarding process includes training and education on relationship building. Your bloggers should know how and when to engage others and hire people who are naturally inclined to do so.

Tip: Find a blogger that takes pride in their work and sees the value in building relationships with others. Educate and encourage your marketing team to build relations with other bloggers and influencers.

 

5. Paid bloggers don’t self disclose / share their journey as often

One thing some solo bloggers seem to do well is share details of the journey and sometimes even their personal life. (self disclosure psychology study, or example)

A common mistake I see from businesses getting into blogging is churning out mundane articles on topics that have been written about many times before. Their content lacks personality and sometimes focus.

A few blogs that did well with creating engaging content to build their audience include WP Curve and Groove HQ. They do publish “how to” articles quite often, but also shared real life case studies and lessons from their growth. You don’t necessarily have to share personal details about your life, but sharing details about your business’s growth story can help.

Getting your writers to self disclose may involve training or a shift in content strategy, but it can be an effective way to create more engaging content.

Tip: Don’t just publish an “article of the week”. Connect with your reader, share your journey and keep them entertained.

 

6. Experience can be over-rated…look for talent

Many people that achieved massive success started from scratch, with no credibility and some with no prior experience. Michael Stelzner didn’t know much about social media when he launched Social Media Examiner and John Lee Dumas didn’t know anything about podcasting when he started.

Marketing talent is a limited resource and many skilled marketers are already working for someone else or running their own business. So if talent is scarce, you may want to consider hiring developing talent or even entry level people.

Here are some things to look for:

  • Identify the characteristics that lead to success. Look at where other successful marketers started out and learn about how they got to where they are now.
  • Work with an experienced consultant to develop a process and help identify potential employees. Sometimes a successful person will be able to more easily identify people like themselves.
  • Look for people who have shown some independent progress towards success. Cultivate and encourage further growth in such individuals.

Experience is far more critical when you need an immediate revenue increase. But for long term marketing success, you should consider hiring and cultivating less experienced talent.

Tip: Identify other characteristics that will lead to success. Consider hiring on talent and growth potential rather than experience, especially when talent is hard to find.

 

7. Make sure you aren’t incentivizing the wrong thing with your compensation structure

Are you paying your content marketers for their time? Or the number of words that they write?

Some types of articles are more difficult and time consuming to write than others. Articles that I have written that got shared over 1,000 times sometimes took 1-3 weeks to complete. For an employer, proper compensation for such content could come out to thousands of dollars for a single blog post.

Paying for words encourages writers to create content as quickly as possible rather than maximizing quality. Do you have a way to measure and reward “quality”? Have you even defined what “quality” means?

Tip: Be flexible with time and word limits. Define and reward quality instead.

 

8. Be long term minded

John Lee Dumas is known for running a daily podcast for entrepreneurs and made about $20,000 in his first year as a podcaster (here’s his income report for that year). However, since then, he’s grown his income into the 7-figure range and his podcast has been downloaded millions of times.

John is very transparent about his business and even publishes a monthly income report on his website. I’ve also heard of other bloggers who single handedly grew their blogs into 7-figure businesses.

So if blogging and podcasting are so effective, then why haven’t more businesses followed suit?

Companies are often concerned about ROI, but sometimes ROI is difficult to calculate or isn’t immediate. Many marketing techniques grow in effectiveness over time. But the effectiveness isn’t always apparent in the beginning. And often, the immediate ROI can actually be negative for activities like blogging, but the payoff can be massive in the long run.

Tip: Decide ahead of time if your business has the budget and is willing to commit to marketing activities with a long term time frame. Some of the most effective marketing activities require a longer time frame for success.

 

Influence is not required to succeed in blogging and content marketing, but it can be a significant multiplier of success. And most marketing managers that get into content marketing would prefer to achieve influence and thought leadership.

Doing content marketing from the business side does have some advantages. Businesses can win by being able to drive more traffic through paid channels and collaborations with other businesses. They can create more content which can result in more overall SEO and social media traffic which can increase reach and ultimately lead to more revenue.

So what do you think? Are businesses able to effectively compete with solo bloggers when it comes to influence?

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About Brian Lang

I've been making a living online since 2002, mostly through e-commerce sites and content sites with advertising. Through the years, I have also learned a lot about other types of businesses and helped other people with their business problems.

Comments

  1. I think reason #4 is probably the most important one – the average solo blogger spends much more time on networking, while people might struggle to find the same kind of connection with a brand.

    • Brian Lang says:

      Thanks Andrea! I think relationship building is a big one that a lot of company bloggers are definitely missing out on.

  2. Excellent post Brian. Sue is a fine example. She is everywhere, tweets my stuff generously and has built lasting long term bonds with a rich collection of successful bloggers. You cannot but that. No matter how many thousands of dollars you spend on ads and sponsored posts as a big company you cannot purchase what Sue has, what I have and what established bloggers in the game for the right reasons have.

    • Brian Lang says:

      Thanks Ryan! I see you everywhere too even just from blog commenting. I think businesses get so hung up on analytics and data that they don’t realize how powerful relationship building is. There are things that you can’t measure that just work.

  3. Brian,

    What could happen if companies are hiring solo bloggers to write for them?

    • Brian Lang says:

      Hi Martin. Reaching out to bloggers that are on their way up could be a good approach for companies to take to acquire top talent. What makes this approach a big challenge though is that a blogger can grow really quickly and get too busy to take on additional work if they figure things out. But it can be a win-win for both parties as it can allow the blogger to grow their own audience and the company’s audience at the same time while the blogger makes a full time income.

      A lot of companies are more passive in their hiring efforts and just post job ads.

  4. very nice article.. got lot of knowledge about solo blogger.. good work

  5. Good points Brian. I see how most successful bloggers don’t do income claims and heck, readers just want value and quality content above all else. Plus quality communication as you note.

  6. Very Nice Article, waiting for the next article, Thank you.

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THANK YOU for SUBSCRIBING
Join the Small Business Ideas Blog Newsletter to stay updated and also get access to member only downloads and content, including special reports, studies and articles I write on other blogs. Some member bonuses include:
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