(Blog) Post Secrets

At first glance, you might think that the two speakers at last night’s social media event, “If You Build It, Will They Come? An Exploration of Social Media Networks,” had little in common.

After all, they are very different kinds of bloggers. Frank Warren, founder of Post Secret, has a blog that is emotional, resonant, human, and very personal. Rohit Bhargava’s personal blog, Influential Marketing, is direct, business-oriented, useful, and actionable.

But the stories they told about their sites revealed some common threads.

It’s Not (Always) About You

Successful blogs don’t necessarily have to be the voice of their creators.

Frank has no individual voice on postsecret.com; every week, he lets 20 postcards speak for themselves. His voice is only revealed through the choices he makes as curator. In his talk, he compared himself to a film editor who must choose the right scenes and put them together in a meaningful sequence that tells a story.

Even though he has a book about personalities, Rohit’s blog isn’t really about him, either, per se. It’s about useful information and, well, influential marketing. He explained that his primary goal for posts is to write something useful that’s worth sharing. What you learn about him is through the information he shares and the ideas he offers.

In both cases, what’s most important about their blogs is authenticity. You believe what is said and shared.

It Doesn’t Happen Overnight

To answer the question of the evening’s title, if you build it, yes, they will come — but be prepared for it to take a while and to put in effort to build your audience.

Everyone would love to have a blog with the viral growth of Post Secret, and few of us ever will. But Frank has employed a couple of tricks that can be emulated to stimulate return visits: he has a single regular publication day, Sunday, to create a mindset of appointment viewing; and he has no archive in order to create an artificial scarcity of content.

In growing his blog, Rohit very carefully chose what to write about and who to tell. Knowing that it’s not important that 100 people read your posts, if the right 1 or 2 do, he wrote his earliest posts in 2004 aimed at subjects of interest to people he considered the biggest influencers. Then he would email those posts to the relevant influencers every week. Then he wrote a post in 2006 promoting a then-new concept, Social Media Optimization (SMO), and saw a spike of growth as the content was shared within the SEO community and then outside it.

Today there are even more channels for promotion, from Twitter to Facebook and beyond.

It Takes Planning

A successful blog doesn’t just happen organically. It takes planning — and even deadlines.

Frank only posts once a week, on a Sunday. Partly it’s to create the appointment viewing, and partly it’s due to the amount of time it takes him to review the 1,400 postcards he receives every week in order to choose the 20 that will be scanned in and posted to the site. He chose Sunday because it’s a day when people often have time to spend on a site like his, and also because of the spiritual quality of many of the secrets.

Rohit’s goal is to write 3 posts a week. Sunday is also a key day for him; he spends the evening writing one and getting 2 others started. He publishes the Monday post at 1 a.m. to make it available in India and the UK during their workdays.

It’s About Connections

Above all, what do they really have in common? Compelling content. Communication. Community.

Post Secret is one of the most widely read blogs in the world with over a million visitors each year. Its content is deeply compelling, even confessional; its readers are a community.

Rohit reaches thousands of worldwide users each month, and has over 5,000 followers on Twitter. And can see by reviewing referrer URLs in his analytics how frequently his posts are shared through email as well.

Frank said that blogs and social media make him hopeful for the future because they’re about “facilitating intimacy.” The web allows connections that were never possible before, and many of them translate from the online world to the “real world.”

Some Final Takeaways

  • Frank: “Respect your own authenticity.” Keep it simple; there is a cost for everything that’s on your page. Expect to make mistakes.
  • Rohit: There is power even in failed ideas. Don’t be defined by the posts that are successful; build from it and know where you want to be 1, 2 years from now.

Postscript

Thanks to everyone who made this event possible, in addition to the speakers: Robin Ferrier of Johns Hopkins University, who provided sponsorship, space and (most importantly?) food; Mayra Ruiz who wrangled the organization; and “social media swami” Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions and his team, for sponsorship and goodie bags.

Here are a few folks from the event on Twitter: Rohit (@rohitbhargava), Shashi (@shashib), Beth Harte (@bethharte), Jill Foster (@jillfoster), Mayra (@marketingmisfit), Steve Fisher (@stevenfisher), and me (@heidimoon). For more tweets and attendees, follow the #socstardom hash tag at Twitter Search

And here’s Rohit’s post today about what he learned from Frank and Post Secret about curation of content and more.

If you’d like to hear Frank Warren talk in person, he’ll be at the Lisner Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 23, at 7:30 p.m. You can get tickets from Ticketmaster. Here’s his detailed description of the event: “I share the inspirational and funny stories
behind some of the quarter million secrets I have received on postcards. I
project images of the secrets that were banned from the four PostSecret books.
I talk about my secret – an experience I never spoke of for more than three
decades and eventually drove me to start collecting secrets from strangers. And
I always save time to answer questions and listen to the soulful, humorous and
sometime sexual secrets from the audience.”

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