Have you ever wondered why some blogs just take off while others stagnate and disappear without a trace?
It’s easy to credit eye-catching designs, excellent writing, or just good ole’ elbow-grease for their success. Although each of these points are critical, they don’t seem to pinpoint why some blogs are simple irresistible.
But, if you look closely under the surface of top blogs you see something else working behind the scenes. It’s powerful, and seductive. I’ll call it Blog Culture.
Examples of Blog’s with Unmistakable Culture
Social Media Examiner carefully protects its best-of-the-best culture by only accepting posts from recognized social media experts.
Zappos’ soaks their blog with culture. They’ve even worked one of their core values into the tagline
(Core Value #3 Create Fun and a Little Weirdness)
You feel Zen Habits attention to “minimalist” culture within moments of visiting the blog.
Raunchy, brilliant, and practical is woven directly into the cultural DNA of Redhead Writing. Don’t mess with this community unless you’re ready to fight.
That’s Great for the Big Boys and Girls but What About You?
Wait! You’re probably thinking…How Can A One-Person Blog Have Culture?
Well, My friend, your blog absolutely has a culture. In fact, I bet if you ask your core readers they would agree that you ooze culture. You’re not seeing it because you probably are working with a faulty definition…
What is Culture Anyway?
I’m going to use Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s definition:
“Your Culture is Your Brand“.
Tony believes that every interaction with your company (or you) showcases your brand. Ultimately, the motivation for every action you take is found in your culture. At Zappos, their employees work hard to make every customer experience spectacular and they are very good at it. They are successful because everyone understand the company’s 10 core values. These core values shape their culture. Their culture shapes their customer service and Zappos’ legendary service defines their brand.
Let me put it another way; a brand without culture is simply a tagline.
Ok, let’s reel this in and apply it to your blog.
Every Blog Has Culture…
Your culture started the moment after you installed your blog.
From the beginning you made countless decisions about who you were and how you would present yourself to the world. If you made the right decisions, your readers are rewarding you with visits, comments, re-tweets, likes, and even sales. Your core values guided those initial decisions.
Those core values define your culture.
Just in case you are a little unclear about culture defining values, Let’s look at 9 key cultural signposts:
1. How your blog solves reader problems:
Review your posts and pay attention to how you coach, mentor, and educate your readers. For example some blogs focus on “how-to” while others spend more time on the “Why”. Your approach to solving problems is probably the most noticeable sign of your culture.
2. How you communicate your story:
Every blog should have a core story that explains its origins, its beliefs, and where it’s going. The top blogs consistently tell their story in multiple different ways. This story becomes a core part of their culture. Over time, the story becomes a shared tradition for core readers.
3. How you express your values:
Your readers rely on your About page to create a picture of you as person. Your About page paints a picture of who you are and your blog’s mission. This page serves as a touchstone for your culture.
4. How you treat your reader’s engagement
You can find important clues to a blog’s culture by examining how the author handles reader conversation. For example, comment policies, moderation, and response time are tell-tale signs of the authors respect for readers. You can’t say you “love” your readers if you never take the time to acknowledge them.
5. How You Make Money
This is a sore point among many bloggers. For some reason, the blogosphere frowns on making money. However, when I look closer, I realize that most readers just hate bad, disingenuous marketing. They don’t mind excellent resources that deliver practical solutions to their problems. How you market your products says more about your culture and brand then what you actually sell. Give this some thought.
6. How you choose partners
I am a huge cheerleader and fan of the Copyblogger Media organization. One big reason is that Brian partners with incredibly humbly, hungry, and smart people. I get as much from Sonia Simone as I get from Brian himself! I get the firm impression that his culture supports excellence and a focus on delivering value. His partners do his talking for him.
How about your blog? For example, are your guest bloggers an accurate extension of your culture? Do they represent your brand and its best? If you co-write your blog, does your partner pull their weight? Are they as gun-ho about comment responses as they are about speaking at conferences?
7. What you are willing to fight for
I believe that the blogosphere is way too polite. Everyone falls over backwards to find a way to agree with just about anything. This means that most blogs are middle-of-the-road and mediocre at best. As a result, readers can’t get a firm bead on what the blogger stands for.
At the end of the day, I like to know what a person is willing to fight and die defending. This defines their character and shapes everything they touch. Your blog’s culture must include a value, dream, or cause that you will fiercely defend. Once you’ve uncovered it, share it with your readers.
8. How you handle criticism
Last week I made some popcorn and watched a fight between two prominent bloggers. While both sides had valid points, one of the bloggers immediately took the douchebag crown. How? Offering a snotty and arrogant response to his reader’s criticism. I’m sure his response will chill any blog comments for months to come. Remember that your readers are watching YOU to decide how to act. If you handle criticism poorly then you show that your culture is just a self-absorbed monologue.
9. Glass Half-Full or Half Empty?
Optimist or pessimist? Encouraging or a cold splash of water? Your content’s tone creates your reader’s experience and expectations for your brand. Each post you write amplifies your perspective on the world. Here’s a hint – be an optimist. Sure you can be a realistic optimist 🙂 Just don’t try to impress the world with your cynical side. Just a suggestion. 🙂
Tell Me About Your Culture
Go ahead and apply these cultural signposts to your blog. Comment below and tell me about what makes your culture unique. Culture is kind of hard to get your head wrapped around so use the comments for questions too. Talk to me and I’ll talk right back! 🙂