This post is probably going to piss a lot of people off.
I considered writing it earlier but have been putting it off until now. This a response to an article written by Alastair McKenzie at Travelllll.com: Why Community is Crucial for Travel Bloggers. Read it now if you haven’t.
I like Alastair and I consider him a friend. I also totally understand where he is coming from. Applauding the benefits of community is like extolling motherhood. Not many people are going to argue with you.
However, I have found the focus on “community” that many bloggers develop is ultimately distracting and counterproductive to what they are trying to do: create a successful blog.
Let me back up a bit.
Last year, immediately after Facebook launched their groups feature I started a group for travel bloggers. The group grew quickly and became the largest group of its kind for the travel blogging community.
Eventually, however, I realized something. I was spending more time on the travel blogger group than I was on my own Facebook page or my own blog.
- I was getting sucked into arguments that didn’t mean anything.
- I was letting myself get agitated over things that shouldn’t have mattered.
- I was answering questions from people who didn’t bother to take 5 seconds to do a Google search to find basic information. They wanted everything handed to them.
- I didn’t know most of the people in the forum. They were part of the “community” but they weren’t my friends. I’ve never spoken to most of these people nor had they ever introduced themselves to me.
None of this was helping me move the chains forward on my own stuff. (that is a euphemism from American football that means making progress).
I’ve noticed that there are a lot of bloggers who have replaced the “community” with making progress on their own site. The spend more time talking to bloggers, commenting on other blogs and talking about blogging than they do actually building and engaging with their audience.
I know many people who are considered respected travel bloggers who seem to mostly engage only with other bloggers and have never built up an audience outside of that community.
Back in March, without any fanfare, I left the travel blog group I created on Facebook and all other blogging forums.
The amazing thing was, no one noticed. I didn’t get a single comment or question about where I was or what was going on.
I was able to take all that time I spent on the “community” and put it back into my own projects. The result was a net positive for me. I got more work done and didn’t have my blood pressure rise every time someone said something stupid.
It isn’t just forums, however. Professional organizations have been about as unproductive. I’m a member of SATW, NATJA and IFWTWA. Has there been any real benefit to being a member? No.
As a blogger I’m not looking for freelance work. The conferences they put on offer very poor professional development, usually on topics that have nothing to do with what I do. I’ve never been contacted by someone in the industry due to my membership. At best they offer discounts on some services, but that is it. (Why am I a member? Good question.)
I have many friends who are bloggers. I like talking to other bloggers and I enjoy answering questions about blogging. I even have attended conferences like TBEX for the last several years.
However, bloggers are not my business. Too many people use community as a substitute for an audience. They start a new blog, get involved in the community and then get sucked into it. Other bloggers are the low hanging fruit to get traffic and comments, so that is where they start and where they stay.
I’m all for community, but not when it gets in the way of what matters.
You aren’t going to make a successful blog by pandering to the community. You needs to reach out and engage with people who don’t have blogs.