3 Months of Blogging: What I’ve Learned

I just had my 10,000th visit. Way cool – my first post was nearly 17 weeks ago, and for the first couple of weeks not much was happening. It was important to me that I generate content and find readers; I was a newly independent analyst and consultant, and I began with the belief that this social media thing was going to be a key vehicle.  So I asked a lot of friends and mentors what to do, and I got some great advice. The list would be very long if I named everyone, but there are a few I simply can’t fail to thank: Charlene Li, Shawn Rogers, Ray Wang, Curt Monash, Jeremiah Owyang,  and Carter Lusher. There are so many others, but these folks got me going with the key ideas I needed to get straight.

And there some suggestions I didn’t take, mostly about “tricks” for Search Engine Optimization (SEO- now I know what that stands for! ) Some of those ideas didn’t feel to me like they had anything to do with content. I wanted to spend my time on making the content good, not invisible buttons that made me show up better. Not that it isn’t important to do those things, but it wasn’t how I wanted to spend my time.

So, with the deep wisdom of a four-monther, I figured I should share what little I’ve learned. I can hardly call myself an expert, but I’m happy to offer my thoughts on what has been useful in building this blog enough to have hit a milestone I never dreamed I would get to this fast. This is not SEO tips, it’s my social media content and behavior principles. A few key ones:

  • It’s the content, stupid. That was my belief from day one, and it sustains me still. I’ve posted 66 entries in those 17 weeks, and mostly I hope they were substantive. Yeah, there’s a rant in there about the French Open, and a little story about being happy to find wireless at a Marriott, but mostly, it’s non-trivial. At least I hope so.
  • Have an opinion, and be clear about it. I’m not out to get anyone, and I’m not chasing headlines, but nobody cares about happy talk pieces – unless you have a good reason to be positive and can back it up. I’m fine with that, but I won’t hesitate to criticize substantive issues about the companies and products I discuss.
  • There’s nothing valuable about embarrassing people. If somebody needs to be told they personally screwed up, the right place to do it is in private. If positioning is bad, or a feature doesn’t work, or something is missing from the plan – I’m content to say so – in the 3rd person – and say why it matters. But it’s rare that I will make it about a person – unless they have made it so, in which case I may be critical of that.
  • Respect the work of others – and reference it. Other people cover what I do, and sometimes their work is the place to point people who want to learn. I’m happy to do so, and much of my traffic has come from others who do the same. I’ve said it many times: social media are the most concrete expression of karma you’ll be likely to encounter in this world.
  • Always answer comments. Politely. Substantively. Even if only to say “thank you for being here.”
  • Visit blogs you respect and comment there too. And if you have something worth pointing back to, go ahead. Don’t be a jerk about it, and say why it’s worth clicking on, but do it.
  • Twitter is a great traffic builder.Tweet about your posts and watch the spike. It’s amazing. With 1100 followers (pretty happy about that too!), I get a nice bump from twitter.
  • Keept it short. As much as possible. Let me explain that in more detail. What I mean is that….

About Merv Adrian
Gartner Research VP, technology analyst and consultant, 30 years of industry experience, covering software mostly, hardware sometimes.

15 Responses to 3 Months of Blogging: What I’ve Learned

  1. Peter Thomas says:

    Merv,

    As a fellow blog ingénue, I have to agree with most of what you have observed. Good marketing helps a good product, but can’t save a poor one, so it’s all about content – but also about interaction.

    Very few of the things that I have written about came to me in visions, most were sparked by conversations, even ones of which I was a bystander. I think it helps to state what spurred you to write on a topic, even where your article takes a different slant.

    The cross-connections between blogs are also really good. I like to think of readers sometimes going in a big circle through other blogs and sometimes back to mine, having learnt more than if they had just stayed in my little world.

    I suspect then next 10,000 hits will come rather quicker than the first :-).

    Peter

  2. Rob Paller says:

    Merv, congratulations on your 10,000th visitor! I recently started my own blog and continue to find my way as I balance work and personal life.

    You’re observations regarding establishing a community that is willing to not only consume but contribute through comments is spot on.

  3. Merv Adrian says:

    Thanks, Peter. I always find your posts worth a look, and there are plenty of them – so we clearly agree on several points.
    So you haven’t been having visions? Hmmm…I’ll have to rethink that “what was he smoking?” piece I was working on…

  4. Merv Adrian says:

    Thanks, Rob. And what is this “personal life” you speak of? I left that one out. Must mean something.
    No, seriously, I find they blur somewhat, but my family is my anchor in the real world. Keeping priorities straight matters a lot.

  5. Peter Thomas says:

    Sorry to have disrupted your blog schedule Merv – if I start to hear voices, I’ll let you know ;-).

    Peter

  6. Neil Raden says:

    Merv,

    Congratulations. I subscribe and read your blog, and the content is A-1 as far as I’m concerned.

    One thing I’d add to your list. I know of a blogger who creates multiple blogs a day, and syndicates across four or five blogs a day. Every single one starts with “I read a blog” or “I read an article,” continues to summarize the other blog, then finishes with the same pitch for his concept/product. He even goes so far to include keywords in the titles that have almost nothing to do with the content.

    You don’t do this, to your credit.

    -NR

  7. Merv this is a great milestone, congrats keep em coming.

  8. Merv Adrian says:

    Thanks for that and for all your advice on the social sphere.

  9. Merv Adrian says:

    Thanks – coming from someone whose content I respect as much as yours, that means a lot to me. I d occasionally get inspired by someone esle’s commentary. When I do, I try to say so in place – in theri blog. But ya never know….

  10. Jon Reed says:

    Merv, that’s solid blogging advice. I’m not surprised you’re getting quite a few readers. In general there seems to be a surge in interest for independent voices in the analyst world.
    Another principle I try to follow in my blogging and podcasting in the SAP space is: “advance the conversation.” There is so much noise out there. What is especially valuable are posts that put new developments in a context. You seem to be good at that – it’s not always an easy thing to do.

    I wrote a piece on my SAP BPX blog on “What Should a Blogger’s Terms of Discourse Be? you might enjoy it if you haven’t seen it. It goes into more detail in terms of trying to be rigorous with information and how to handle opposing points of view. I can send you a link to it if you want.

    See you on Twitter…..

    – Jon

  11. Merv Adrian says:

    Thanks, Jon. That’s a great principle. If you’d like to send the link, please do. I’ll gladly put it in here, too.

  12. Shawn Rogers says:

    Congratulations Merv!! You are rocking and rolling. I really like the 8 best practices you list above they are all spot on. Very nice of you to include me in such a fun list of people. Thanks for the shout out never thought I’d be listed in a post about blogging with Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owjang…very cool.

  13. Merv Adrian says:

    Thanks, Shawn. Everyone has their contribution to make and that’s what makes this so much fun. What you helped me with was very different from what others offered, and no less important.

  14. Tom Grant says:

    I’d also add something that’s not exactly a specific suggestion, but more a perspective: your blog is your persona. The least interesting blogs are the ones in which there’s no personality. While there are other essential ingredients that go into a good blog, personality is one of them.

    Which is not a problem for you, Merv, since your personality shines through your writing anyway.

  15. Merv Adrian says:

    You’re very kind, Tom – thanks.
    I agree: one of the differences between blogs and formal research ought to be the degree to which the reader starts with an understanding of who the author is. Branded research publishers define a brand around methodology and style that they want all their analysts to use, for good reasons. Readers ought to be able to expect consistent approaches, definitions, and models from such research.

    Bloggers have some more freedon to experiment – but also some obligations around clarity as a result. And Jon Reed’s point about “advancing the conversation” is a key difference; bloggers participate in conversations, document them, and advance them in ways that analysts for the big research firms are explicitly constrained from doing. I believe it’s one of the reasons some of the best ones insist on their own blog as a platform.

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