This guest post is by Marjorie Clayman of Clayman Advertising.
Recently, it was announced that Richard Thompson was going to be awarded the OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Your response, in any order, might be, “Who cares?” and “Who is Richard Thompson?”
Richard Thompson has a career in music that spans 40 years. He is a brilliant lyricist, but even more, he may be one of the best living guitarists out there. He was a member of folk rock super group Fairport Convention and he partnered with his ex-wife Linda in the 70s to make some fantastic albums. He wasn’t much of a vocalist back then, but now, even his vocal stylings are outstanding. And yet, Thompson plays small theatres and “intimate” concerts, and has a hard time enticing record labels to keep him on.
Richard Thompson is great, but he is not big.
Big? Or great?
Over the years, at any moment, Richard Thompson probably could have chucked his own particular style and his own particular skills out the window. He could have promised himself and his fans that it was for just one album, so that he could get his name out there. Then he’d come back to being himself.
So it is with blogging. You bring your own particular voice to your blog. You bring your own unique experiences and skills to your readers. But at any moment, you could say that honing your skills is not nearly as important as getting a lot of traffic. It’s so easy to think that aiming for “big” may be better than aiming for “great.”
Let’s face it—it’s probably easier to achieve “big” in comparison to becoming great in this competitive space. Write a few posts attacking big names, offer link bait, be controversial—you’ve seen all of those tricks in action. But are those bloggers great? Will you remember them in 40 years?
Aiming for greatness
If you want to aim for greatness instead of trying to be big, here are some tactics you could try.
- Look at how you can improve. Richard Thompson probably realized that his vocal work needed improvement. Instead of resting on his laurels, he worked hard, and it paid off. Look at your posts from the last month. What would you do to improve each post just a little bit?
- Blog outside your comfort zone. Stretch your limits. Attack new areas that will enrich your experience and that of your readers.
- Look at the content of the comments you receive, not the number. Are people saying that you helped them out or helped them see things in a new perspective, or are they just saying, “nice post”?
- Track your subscribers. Although this can be a metric for size as well, subscribing is an action people take when they are confident every post you write will be of interest to them (though they won’t read every single one). Are people placing that much confidence in you?
- Become a cult classic. While Richard Thompson may not be “big,” his followers are about as loyal as they come. Look at your readers. Do you have people who are not just reading your posts but gushing about them to their followers and their community?
You can be big and great
This is not to say that everyone has to be like Richard Thompson, toiling away in the genius room while only the Queen of England cares. But becoming “big” is often a function of elements that are out of your control.
If folk rock had really become popular, Richard Thompson might well have become king of the world. The Beatles became as big as they did in part because they caught a new sound just as it was growing.
But aiming for great? That’s entirely under your control. It is defined by you, it is measured by you, and it is something you do from the heart. It’s important to remember that greatness can help pave the way for getting big. Getting big does not promise greatness.
Have you been concentrating on getting big lately or have you been working on honing your craft? Which do you value more? I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments section.
Marjorie Clayman is Director of Client Development at Clayman Advertising, a full service marketing communications firm located in Akron, OH.
Big and Great at the same time is best.
Can’t argue with that!
Beautiful post, Marjorie!
For a new blogger like me, it`s somehow difficult to try to become both great and big. As for now, I`m only thinking of writing quality posts–posts that would bring out the best and would challenge my writing skills, and at the same time engage and excites my readers. I love it when you said “It’s important to remember that greatness can help pave the way for getting big. Getting big does not promise greatness.”. Blogging to be remembered after many years can pave way for you to be recognized even now.
Thanks for this!
Sounds like your head is definitely in the right place, Cathy. When you’re first starting out, your main concern needs to be finding your voice, getting comfortable with the process, and all that kind of stuff. Just like you don’t want to try to run a marathon before you learn how to warm up, stretch, and run short distances. It’s all a process – whether you are striving for big, great, or both :)
Hang in there!
Thanks for the great tips. Really liked it and came to know many new things.
I’m concentrating on having a big and great blog at the same time.
Recently I had a great surprise because I posted an article a bit more different from the other ones ( “Blog outside your comfort zone” as you said) and the post had a lot of interest from readers.
It’s already been said, but I just wanted to let you know, clearly delineating “big”ness and “great”ness is a huge relief to me and probably thousands of other small-time bloggers. When I started my blog about seven months ago, my very first intentions were to strive for greatness just as you describe it. But I researched and read and tried to emulate guru after guru until I (very quickly) started working toward being big instead. I hardly realized when it happened. But a few months later when I completely ran out of steam and my blog started to crash and burn, I took a step back and figured out what went wrong. I am now focusing again on greatness, and it’s really encouraging to hear you say that that’s ok.
So glad this post helped you, Justin.
I agree – a lot of the emphasis in the Social Media world is placed on the numbers, and with good reason – a lot of people are depending upon their blog to make a living. They need it to get big. In that kind of circumstance, it’s extremely challenging to say, “Pace yourself and make sure that what you’re putting out there is the best you’ve got.”
However, I would also say that no matter what kind of job you have, the pressure is on to go harder/faster/better. Always. Yet there is also ALWAYS an extra 5 minutes to look over what you have. Just to tweak it. Just to make sure it’s meeting your standards. I think it’s well worth it.
Sorry to hear that you crashed a bit – we all go through that, but it was quite a shock to me when my blog flatlined for awhile a couple of months ago. Social Media is nothing if not a roller coaster! :)
Best of luck in your continuing blogging journey!
Thanks for this reminder, Marjorie. I think I’ve been hoping that if my writing is “great,” it will automatically become “big.” But that’s not automatically true, nor is it necessary. Thanks for helping me see that.
Happy to help, Melanie. Thanks for your comment!
This is so thought provoking! Just because someone is big in the blogging world doesn’t mean they are great! For some people I think there is a pull between being big and great – we want both. I think that is possible, but our focus should first be becoming great…then big!
I was having a discussion similar to this with my brother this weekend. We talked about how external forces/temptations to be “big” and internal fears of NOT becoming “big” or being “great” often keep people from even attempting something like blogging or writing or painting or acting or whatever. For me, my only goal in blogging, right now, is to balance out being a consumer of content with being a producer of such. The biggest hurdle has been finding my voice; finding what I want to say and the best way to say it. Yes, I watch the metrics, but, as of yet, they don’t mean as much to me as developing the desire and discipline to produce something of value. Whether that value comes through written words, video, audio, photography or another as yet unexplored medium remains, for now, the enduring question. Greatness and “bigness” will have to bide their time.
Finally, a post that says the emperor has no clothes! I was beginning to feel discouraged and disgusted by all the posts dashed off by rockstar bloggers (in their minds) who assure me I can and should write a post in 20 minutes flat and fill it with words that satisfy the SEO gods. And that I can sell my blog or buy one *snap! and make thousands. As with any media, blogs can be a force for greatness or a force for commercial crassness. Thank goodness for the voices who understand what’s what, and just keep on keeping on. Thank you, Marjorie.
Wow! I think you should write the next post :) Some definite passion there.
Glad the post hit a good note with you!
I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong. There are people who feel like just being present is the best way to go. I like to look at blogging as more of an artform though.
Once again I have to say I learned about someone new (some history) and you give great guidelines on writing and improving your blog.
On my side I find it difficult to go back to my posts without the intention to get back into them and change them. So I end up browsing over them and making sure that what I am writing now seems to look better.
Subscriptions are key. Many people might have hits on their site but a subscription really gives us the opportunity to really measure the influence of the person.
That’s true – there’s not necessarily a reason to go in and improve old posts, per se. However, as you say, you can look at your old posts in comparison with what you’re doing now and see how you can improve. I think it’s an interesting exercise – and often times it makes you feel pretty good :)
I truly enjoyed this post, and I agree that it is possible to be both, but I would definitely want to be great over big–I’m a big believer of having a strong following and strong relationships with my website visitors. My clients are like my second family, and a majority of my passion for what I do stems from the fact that we have built a solid foundation of becoming successful together. While a large amount of traffic would be great too, it’s not as important to me as my content benefitting those readers who have stayed loyal to me over the years.
Great comment, Krissy. There’s a reason why so many famous celebrities end up turning to drugs or alcohol – if you don’t have real relationships surrounding you, fame and fortune aren’t nearly as fun. Er, at least, I would imagine it to be so ;)
People actually think I’m social begging on my website, but it’s a repository for my thoughts. I’ve been commenting on blogs and forums for years, and thought, why give all that verbage away? So, now each time I comment on a blog or forum, I can leave my link, and if someone likes what I do well enough they can me a monetary return.
Will my blog be big or great? The concept is unique enough, but these things are impossible to predict. :)
True – especially in terms of whether your blog will get “big” there are a lot of things that run outside your reach that in the end affect how big you are. But greatness as you measure it can be within in your control. Now whether other people think you’re great – well, that’s hard to predict too, but one can always hope!
I think if you approach your blog as giving great advice/tips and you actually are good…
Then you blog will become great!
As a graphic designer of over 20 years experience I’ve started my own graphic design blog to help young aspiring graphic designers set up their own graphic design business and become their own graphic design boss! http://www.graphicdesignboss.com
Hopefully if my writing is good enough and I can connect with the right audience it will become great – not because I want it to be great, but rather because I’ve giving some great advice from what I’ve learnt.
That’s a great objective for a blog! Great idea!
Great post Marjorie. It got me rethinking how I blog. Definitely want to go for greatness. I may not have the numbers right now, but I know for sure I’m helping people. And I want to keep helping them.
Sounds great, Brandon. Good luck!
That was a GREAT post.
You know, I’ve been focusing on being great for this past year. It’s only been my FIRST year as a blogger, and it isn’t even over, and ALREADY I was named a “Top Ten Blog for Writers,” voted by WritetoDone, a blog co-founded by superblogger Leo of Zen Habits.
I was amazed because I didn’t focus on being big. I focused on being great. Other people had more readers, but I had great content and loyal followers. This is great advice and something that every blogger should take to heart.
That’s a great success story to share, and congratulations! That’s an incredible achievement for a new blogger!!
Just came away from a blogger’s conference with the challenge to be awesome. I think if you are great, eventually some form of *big* will come. If you focus on big, you may never achieve greatness.
Great words to make me think!
A break from our regularly scheduled programming…
Thanks, Bernice. Awesome can be defined in many different ways – the most important way is how you define it :)
This is super helpful and encouraging! Thank you! Very appreciated. :)
Only when you are great, you become BIG!
Reminds me of the book ‘From Good to Great’ and Steven Covey’s book ‘The 8th Habit.’ It’s all about going that extra mile.
is a learning curve. The best thing to remember is to not get discouraged. Think about what you