When the marketplace and online space gets evermore crowded, how do you stand apart and serve your reader? Is it worth even trying?
Growing up, I wanted so much to be a writer. I loved the magic of putting words on paper—somehow those words would affect the reader for good or bad. Being a novelist sounded like a dream to me. You get to spend all day in your pajamas, making up stories? Sign me up.
I discovered blogging several years ago with the same level of excitement. Spend all day in your pajamas, talking about makeup and everyday life? Sign me up. I blogged about saving money and did rather well. But there was a lot about blogging and SEO and strategy I didn’t understand. It was frustrating, really. I had to spend so much time marketing and trying to understand this massive learning curve. But all I wanted to do was write and connect with readers on a deep level. While I wanted my words to mean something, it seemed that if I wanted to be a writer like I originally intended, I’d have to hustle and not even do as much writing as I wanted. Eventually I tired from writing about money—but that’s a whole other story.
I started blogging to make money in a time where people all over the internet said blogging was already dead. There were already millions of blogs in existence, and the only successful ones started years before mine. If only I learned sooner what I know now, I may have joined with the legions of bloggers who entered the blogging scene when it was “too late” and still made it work anyway.
Even back then, right as blogging really exploded onto the scene and Instagram was becoming a thing, it seemed like I was shouting out into an empty stadium. I’d show up but the readers were nowhere to be found. I couldn’t be an early adopter in anything for the life of me, but I felt like I had to be on the cusp of discovering something amazing before anyone else would in order to become the influencer and life changer I really hoped I to be. It was like I was dancing on a crowded floor, without even the chance to stand apart. There was no room left.
For the past several years I’ve often come to the point of giving up and throwing in the towel. If I couldn’t have the platform of millions (or even on some days, just thousands), what was the point? I wanted to share with my readers, sure, but I also wanted a lot of them.
Who doesn’t though? When we feel that burn of a message in our very souls, why wouldn’t we want as many people as possible to hear it? Especially when we live in an age where we can access millions for free?
Of course, because it’s free—or cheap if you purchase a website and domain—anyone and everyone can build a platform and a blog. So a lot of us try our hand. And it feels like we’re fighting and scrambling over each other, trying to reach the people—or really, anyone—who we think need to hear our message. It gets very loud. Instead of those few, key influential men and women from past decades who could approach our hearts without distraction from a thousand other things, everyone has the chance to connect to someone. Yet that someone is already consuming content from at least thirty other influences.
I for one get disillusioned at the thought, thinking my dreams to reach people are not possible anymore. But maybe it’s not this all-or-nothing approach, where either we get to speak to hundreds of thousands of readers or customers or we share nothing online at all.
Why say anything when there’s nothing new under the sun?
Serve your reader: Reach the single reader
There’s an in-between, not even leaning towards the thousands side of numbers but closer to the zero. What about that one reader? What if your blog only ever got one reader? Would it still be worth it for you?
We disregard the idea of the one reader, or the one neighbor, or the one customer. In the age of social media, why concentrate on one person when we can serve thousands, maybe even millions one day? Why pour your heart and soul into hours and weeks and months of work if it’s only ever going to impact a single person?
Maybe because that one person is worth it. Maybe because if we think about that single person as we craft our content and try to draw them into the conversation, by finding the “me too” moments and fixing the reader’s point of pain, we may also draw others in. They may come in slowly, but they’ll come to stay. We may find that it’s a blessing to have a small readership, because we can learn to serve them better. We don’t try to throw out blanket statements that attempt to appeal to everyone and therefore no one.
Even if we’ve been in the game for a long time, even when we do succeed in drawing in the thousands, we can always go back to the idea of the one reader. We don’t have to fear getting personal as we try to solve a problem, people will find the similarities in their own story. And if they don’t, they weren’t the readers for us. But no matter how big our audience is—whether that’s online or in person—serve them consistently and wholeheartedly. Ask what they need, and be faithful to that while staying in your own gifts and passions. The two will meet. Just serve your reader, and focus on that for now.
Is there any point in blogging these days?
What about the crowded-ness? How can we ever imagine serving the one reader, when a dozen other writers target her? Seeing the number of blogs and books and businesses currently competing is staggering. But I also believe that we all have a time with our people. If we’re lucky, that time is coming soon and will last for a while. If not, we still have impact. I went to a workshop a year ago and the presenter gave me hope. She said that while we all believe there’s a limited number of pieces of pie, somehow the pie just gets bigger. “There’s always room for someone.”
People are still discovering blogs, even today. And some of the millions of blogs are no longer active, or their posts aren’t relative, or their content has nothing to do with what your reader needs to hear. We still have ample opportunity to poke through the crowd and reach them. And while there’s nothing new under the sun, we still have our own stories to share, no matter the avenues. Our stories will impact someone, so long as we’re faithful to share them.