Sixteen years ago, I was barely out of diapers, and I thought we’d take a stab at this blogging thing. We had no idea what we were doing, nor did we have a strategy. We just said, “Let’s see what happens.”
We sat in our conference room and brainstormed what the blog would be called, what we would cover, who would write what, and how often it would be published.
As we tried to decide its name, an intern said, “Well, you always say spin sucks. What if we called it that?”
Freaking brilliant! And spinsucks.com was available, so we went for it!
What a ride it has been! From completely bombing to finally figuring it out. From getting hundreds of comments on articles every day to building an empire that provides professional development for communications professionals, Spin Sucks has led us down paths we never even imagined that day in the conference room.
Lessons from 16 Years of Blogging
Sixteen years ago, WordPress was beginning to gain attention for this blogging thing they made as easy as writing in a Word document. Which was great timing for us because a little blog called Spin Sucks launched on a WordPress site in 2006.
And, as I do every year on our birthday, I’d like to share the very first blog post we ever published.
It’s really bad. And I’m not just saying that because it’s a far cry from the type of content we produce today. I mean, it’s really bad. Go ahead and pause this recording so you can go read it. It’s bad.
There are a few things we’ve learned about blogging since this first article was published:
- How to categorize content so it’s easily searchable and found both by humans and robots
- The importance of both internal and external links
- How to give credit to experts, authors, and influencers without it looking like a college term paper
- How to set up the blog like a magazine—with editors and authors and a calendar
- The importance of using multi-media: images, videos, memes, and more
- Creating formatting and making it easy for the reader to read
- How to use SEO and setting it up correctly
And lots and lots and lots of other things. Blogging has taught us not only how to produce compelling content, but how to promote it, how to gain subscribers, and even how to build a business around your intellectual property.
Learning from Brilliant, Creative Humans
The point is that you can come back from really bad. You can start out terrible and become something great. It just takes consistency, some studying, and an interest in learning. You have to start somewhere, and even if that somewhere is terrible, you will learn, and you will grow, and you will evolve. And what started out as terrible will become fruitful and interesting and fun.
It also has huge business implications as you build a community of prospects who not only become customers but also become your biggest advocates. I liken the Spin Sucks Community to an external sales force. My team could not generate the number of referrals that come from the community alone.
That was Paula Kiger, known as Big Green Pen on most social networks and VP of special projects at Digimentors.
We met Paula back when people still commented on blog posts, and community was built on the page there. Back when bosses didn’t care if you commented on blog posts and social media was, ahem, social.
That, of course, has moved to private social media, such as Slack and Discord, but back in the day, community was built in the comments section of blogs.
Paula was a community staple back then and quickly became a friend—one of our biggest advocates and referral source. And she also is a brilliant, creative human who does brilliant and creative things!
In just a few minutes, I’ll be back to talk you through what else you can learn from 16 years of blogging. I’ll be right back!
Learning from Professionals
Tony Gnau, the founder of T60 Productions, also was one of the original community members.
All of the professionally produced videos you’ve seen on or about Spin Sucks have been created by him. He also quickly became a friend. He personally helped me understand the value of storytelling through video. As someone who is not a visual learner, he’s been critical to the success we’ve had with video. Plus, when Chicago was completely out of Totino’s frozen pizza during the pandemic (I KNOW!), he bought some in Milwaukee and drove them to my house.
He has a book coming out in November about video storytelling, which you should check out. It’s called, “Lights, Camera, Impact.”
The past 16 years haven’t been just about Community, though I’d argue that’s the most important part. It has created friendships, a marriage (!!), and a huge brand for us. It’s allowed us to test different models and to become an industry leader. And it has, of course, generated lots of profitable revenue.
Stats from 16 Years of Blogging
As a communicator, I know how challenging it is to demonstrate the power of community to an executive, so let’s look at the numbers.
- 5,456 published blog posts (2,672 of those are mine)
- 265,394 comments
- 4,427 Spin Sucks students
- 1,165 community members
- 3,306,226 visitors (we started tracking on March 25, 2009…and there were only 32 visitors a day at that point)
- 513 speaking engagements
- Two published books
- 36 percent of our traffic has come from search
- 17 percent of our traffic has come direct
- 10 percent of our traffic has come from social
- 6 percent of our traffic has come from earned media
- The rest of the traffic is a combination of referral, email, and paid search
And, because I wouldn’t let any of you get away without measuring revenue, I will hold myself to the same standard.
What started out in 2011 as a gigantic loss, slowly built to $239,000 in 2015. In 2019, we surpassed the low seven-figure mark—and surprisingly maintained that through a pandemic.
Today Spin Sucks, with the blog, a free community, coaching, online courses, and the PESO Model™ Certification, is closing in on $2MM in revenue.
That’s all recurring revenue and doesn’t include the agency side of the business. Not too shabby for a blog that started out with no optimization, no images, no editor, no editorial calendar, no formatting, and no clue what anyone was doing!
The PESO Model™ Certification
Here is what Nikki Little, a partner at Franco in Detroit, has to say about what the PESO Model™ has meant to her personally and for her team.
Here is what Julia Carcamo has to say, as well.
Thanks to Julia, Nikki, Tony, Paula, Gail…and all of you!
Thank you for coming along on this wild ride with us. Thank you for being part of this crazy community. And thank you for trusting us to help you change the way you do your work, day in and day out.
Come Hang Out With Us!
That was Gail Sideman, the owner of PUBLISIDE Personal Publicity. And she’s right: the Spin Sucks Community is something pretty special.
If you’re not already a part of it, click here to join us.
It’s a community full of crazy smart professionals. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s smart…and you might just learn a thing or two from your peers.