Ai Zhang

From Blogging Phobia to a Top Writer in Social Media on Medium

By: Ai Zhang | August 17, 2017 | 
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From Blogging Phobia to a Top Writer in Social Media on MediumIn March 2017, I had a chance to attend the mega Social Media Marketing World conference hosted by Social Media Examiner in San Diego.

It’s the best social media conference I have ever attended.

My mind was blown away by ideas, tools and apps, actionable steps, analytics, and more.

One of the major takeaways was the power of video.

Everyone seemed to be talking about video and live-streaming, and why businesses and individuals should embrace it.

As a live-streaming enthusiast, I completely see its value.

However, does this mean the written word, specifically blogging, is losing its attraction?

Quite the contrary.

Blogging still has value.

In fact, the reason you are reading this on Spin Sucks is a result of the visibility I gained through blogging.

A blog can still elevate one’s personal or professional brand to the next level.

In this post, I share my journey as a blogger and my top five blogging tips.

My Journey as a Blogger

I started blogging in May 2017.

Yes, I’m late to the blogging game!

Before that, I had blogged four times in my entire life, and two of those posts were guest invitations.

The conclusion seemed somewhat obvious: Blogging was not my area of interest.

As of today, I have regularly been blogging for three months.

Medium recently nominated me as a top writer in social media on the platform, with other experts, such as Gary Vaynerchuk, Larry Kim, and Jeff Higgins.

I also grew my followers on Medium from 600 to 1,000.

How did this happen? What led to my transformation?

Read below to find my top five blogging tips.

Understand Your Why

Simon Sinek is the person who truly pushed me to think about my “why.”

Blogging is no different from any other social media platform.

Many people jump into social media because it is cool or fun without understanding why they are on it in the first place.

It is fine if you are just seeking a channel to entertain yourself.

However, if you are running a personal or professional brand, you have to be wise about your choices and actions.

Therefore, here are my questions for you:

  • Why do you want to blog?
  • What do you believe?
  • What are your business or personal goals?
  • How can blogging move you closer to your goals?
  • What’s the role of blogging in your overall strategic plan?

Here are my answers:

  • I am a college professor.
  • I believe today’s students have changed and educators, as a result, have to change how we interact with our students.
  • Social media and technology play a huge role in how students have changed.
  • Thus, I embraced social media as a pedagogical tool.
  • I use it heavily in classrooms to facilitate teaching and learning.

How about you?

Answer these questions first and then develop a calendar to map your blog content.

For example, a social media influencer I know has a content calendar.

It means he crafts his material in alignment with the courses, webinars, workshops, training, or speaking engagements he’s selling.

For instance, if he’s doing a course on personal branding, his blog posts will be a series of tips on building personal brands.

Writing your blog content with the bigger business goals in your mind, so you do not just see the trees, but the trees and the forest.

Clarity in Your Focus and What Your Audience Wants

Once you understand your why, your next step is to identify a focus for your message or storytelling, which then helps you understand who your audience is and what they want.

Without a clear understanding of your why, focus, and audience, your content is going to struggle, and your blogs posts will look confusing to your audience.

You need a clear focus on storytelling to attract an audience to your blog and to become loyal to your content.

Two specific practices I undertook, that helped me understand my focus and my audience.

First, ironically, it is writing, which helps me develop and refine my ideas.

Often, the process of writing reveals my topic.

Second, reading books from authors who teach you how to find your voice.

I am fortunate enough to have discovered Mark Schaefer’s book, Known, which helped me tremendously to identify my voice and space.

Consistency & Rich Content

In the first two months, I blogged 17 times.

Each blog post takes an average of five to 10 minutes to read.

For a ten-minute article, it’s around 2,000 words; for a five-minute article, it’s about 700 words.

Those that generate the greatest traction for me are those that are long and thorough.

Although people’s attention spans are getting shorter, quality content still reigns supreme by both humans and Google.

I resonate strongly with the nine tactics Nat Eliason discussed in his article, 9 Blogging Tactics for 2 Million Views in 2 Years.

Long-form and rich content is what helps me rise above today’s digital noise and builds a community of readers who enjoy and benefit from my content.

Producing such content is what brings long-term wins.

For example, I recently got a podcast interview invitation from a person whom I have never interacted with, but he loves reading my blog posts.

My blog posts have helped me build credibility in my field of interest.

The same thing can happen to you.

Focus on producing quality content on a regular basis, and you will see results.

Be Vulnerable and Authentic

Once you identify your why and focus and develop a level of consistency, the next question is, “How should I approach the subject?”

As humans, we tend to share the good parts of our lives.

A precursory view of your Facebook news feed proves this.

No one wants to be a Debbie Downer.

We all tend to share the highlights in our lives.

My experience revealed a different scenario.

Among the 17 blog posts I wrote, the ones that generated the highest engagement rates were reflections on my failures and mistakes as a college professor.

What this tells me is that stories that aren’t positive — the ones of struggle and failure — are still very appealing to readers.

The key is being authentic with who you are and where you are in your journey; your audience will appreciate your transparency and vulnerability.

In fact, every time I publish something about my mistakes and weaknesses, I am always showered with love and support.

It’s reassuring to know we are all on a journey to make ourselves better.

Combine Blogging with Visual and Audio

Written Content needs to be combined with visual and audio formats to maximize its value.

One fundamental difference between blogging today versus five years ago is there is much more diversity in competition.

Before, blogging might have been your primary content creation and distribution channel.

Today, blogging by itself is not sufficient to reach your audience and to share your message.

Written content has to be used in conjunction with visual and audio formats to optimize its influence and impact.

Below I listed ways blogging can work with other mediums to improve reach:

  • Blog post recap of Facebook live shows or interviews
  • Facebook live shows announcing the release of new blog posts
  • Create quote images of blog posts and post them on Instagram and Twitter
  • Write blog post responses regarding trendy YouTube videos I watch or articles I read
  • Customizing the highlights of my blogs on Facebook and Instagram as microblogs
  • Sharing blogs on LinkedIn and Medium
  • Adapt your blogs into video or infographic formats and share them across channels

There are many possibilities. But, you get the idea.

Written content must be used in conjunction with other content formats to attract an audience and to build a tribe for you.

Take advantage of the numerous social media sites available to maximize the potential reach of your written content.

Textual, visual, and audio formats have to be used hand-in-hand to optimize the range of each.

Conclusion

Your blog posts can still elevate your business or personal brand to a new level, even in 2017.

Find your “why” first, and use that to identify a central focus for your message and storytelling.

Your focus will help you understand your audience and their needs and pain points.

You can then craft content of value to your audience.

Use rich and thorough content to attract your audience and to build your community, and do so consistently.

Be authentic in your storytelling.

And don’t be afraid to reveal your vulnerabilities.

Finally, use the synergy of textual, visual, and audio formats to maximize the reach and effectiveness of each.

Blogging is a marathon, not a race. Enjoy the journey.

About Ai Zhang


Ai Zhang is an Associate Professor of Public Relations at Stockton University in New Jersey. She received her MA in Communications from Syracuse University, and her Ph.D in Communications from the University of Maryland. Dr. Zhang is a social media enthusiast. She is an advocate of incorporating social media and digital devices into higher education as teaching and learning tools.

  • I love, love, love how you go through your process like this. Such a great behind the scenes that actually makes me think a lot about my own writing. Thanks for this Al!

    • Ai Zhang, Ph.D 🔥

      Awww… you are so welcome, Laura! Thanks for the comment here. I am glad that you can benefit from reading my journey. I would love to read some of your blogs. Share a link if you don’t mind. And thank you for sharing my article on Twitter.

  • Carol Ludtke Prigan

    Thanks for this post. I agree that you have to authentic and vulnerable. I struggle with this (I want to show that I’m the expert . . .), but through storytelling, I think I achieve some level of authenticity.

    • Ai Zhang, Ph.D 🔥

      Hello, Carol, thank you so much for your comment. Much appreciated. Yes, absolutely. It has been a struggle for me. We want to show that we are the experts; however, we also have struggles and make mistakes. I think somehow people understand that. When i disclosed my weaknesses and mistakes, people showed lots of support and ironically, engagement on these posts were better. I think people can probably somehow relate better to struggles as we all experience them. Would love to read some of your blog posts. Share a link if you don’t mind.

  • Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Ai. Very good reminders.

    • Ai Zhang, Ph.D 🔥

      Thank you, Corina! Honored to share my story with the Spin Sucks community. Hope it can offer some value.

  • Debbie Johnson

    I am in the process of developing an online portfolio of my writing work, and I want to have a blog as part of this. Your suggestions have given me much to think about.

    • Ai Zhang, Ph.D 🔥

      Thank you so much, Debbie. I am so glad to hear that. Would love to check out your online portfolio. Can you share the link please? Blogging is a journey. Let’s keep supporting each other.

      • Debbie Johnson

        I’m building my site now and hope to launch some time in September. I will definitely share the link once it’s live. If you have any tips or suggestions for creating the site, I would love to hear them.

        • Ai Zhang, Ph.D 🔥

          Thank you, Debbie. Yes, please do share the link with me once it goes live. I used SquareSpace to create my website. I love it. It is super easy to use.

  • Denise Hrdlica Rowell

    What a wonderful post! I started blogging in May myself, and I have a lot to learn. I am bookmarking your article. Thanks much!

    • Ai Zhang, Ph.D 🔥

      Thank you so much, Denise! So happy to hear this. Your comment just made my day. Glad the article offered you some good tips. Please keep me posted. Would love to hear more about your blogging journey and learn from your experience. Thanks again for reading my article!

  • Ai Zhang, Ph.D 🔥

    Thank you so much, Dorothy, for the comment!!!! I appreciate your support!!!!

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