I received an email the other day from a blogger just getting started. Actually, she’s been at it for more than a year and was frustrated that her community and audience weren’t growing as quickly as she had hoped. She dreams of being a Brogan. Or a Bloggess. Or an Erika. Someone famous enough to have legions of Twitter followers, Facebook fans and adoring commenters. I gave her some tips on how I thought she could increase engagement on her blog, as well as her own branding, but then I also gave her a piece of advice I don’t think she was expecting.
I told her to appreciate her smaller community. And to use it. Right now. Because once it grows, she won’t be able to get that time or that freedom back.
So many of us think the key to social media success is to grow our audience as large as it can be. And that is one indicator of success for most people. But you want to be growing the right audience, and to do that, it means learning and finding yourself when you’re still small and taking advantage of the things that small size gives you.
Below are five advantages bloggers get just starting out that, if they’re not careful, they’ll lose when they bigger.
1. The Ability to Try Stuff & Fail
No one is going to lie to you: It’s a nice feeling to hit publish and immediately see 50 new comments sprout up. But most bloggers also miss the days when they could fail as freely as they once could. When they could try out different voices, media types, styles and ideas without having to worry how their audience was going to react and or what the commenters would say. Your community is the most supportive and accepting when it’s still young and small and growing. Take advantage of that and learn from it.
Embrace your smaller stature by using these days in your blog’s life to be fearless. Blog like no one and everyone is watching all at the same time. Take risks. Try things. Big things. Yeah, you’ll fail sometimes. But in doing that you’ll also find your voice, the one that will save your butt time and time again once you get bigger.
2. The Chance To Really Get To Know Your Audience
When there are only 15 people commenting on your blog with any sort of regularity, it gives you a great opportunity to get to know those 15 people. You not only learn their names, but you learn their issues, their trouble spots, the subjects that get them riled up, and maybe even their kids’ names. You can have email conversations or Google+ hangouts to learn more about them. All of this information helps you to target content toward them which, in the end, will make your blog stronger as it grows. When your RSS numbers begin to explode, it will be difficult to maintain this level of intimacy with the people who stop by your house every day. Have coffee with your community now to help serve them better in the future.
3. Talking to an Audience Who “Gets” You
One of the best “perks” of a smaller audience is the ability to talk to people who really understand you. They get your jokes, your sarcasm, and they’re interested in all your personal stories. These things don’t always convert so well as your audience grows. People become offended. Or they misunderstand. Or you end up spending half your time explaining what you meant to people who now think you’re a terrible person for making that “kick a puppy” joke. Enjoy this time. You’ll still be able to crack jokes when you’re bigger, but you’ll have a larger responsibility to watch your mouth. Hopefully by then you’ve crafted your blog persona so you understand what is funny to your type of people and what they’ll send you nasty tweets about.
4. Your World View Isn’t Skewed Yet
I’ll make tons of friends for saying this, but smaller bloggers are often more in tuned with reality. Or at least, they’re more in tuned with their reader’s reality. They’re worried about things like connecting with their audience, trying to do it all, and making sense out of all these social networks that keep popping up. Big-time bloggers are annoyed at their 500 pending Facebook requests, about the ToS of that new social network, and about all their apps not perfectly syncing together. The reason small business owners make really awesome bloggers? Because they share the same world view as the people they’re trying to serve. Do your best to hold on to that world view as long as you can.
5. Fewer Distractions
One of those #firstworldproblems mentioned above is all the distractions that come with being a popular blogger. The emails from people wanting to pick your brain. The phone calls. The pitches. The “discussions” that break out you spend your whole day moderating. When you’re not dealing with that, it allows you to put 100 percent of your time and your focus on your blog and what you’re trying to build there. The big bloggers wish they were you right now. Make them weep by taking advantage of it.
Growing your audience is great and it should be on your list of goals. But before you go chasing those larger waterfalls, realize the opportunity and the benefits that are in front of you right now. You don’t need to be big for your blog to be awesome. There’s an equal amount of value that comes with having a small audience, sometimes even more value. Instead of wishing you were larger, focus on nurturing that.