Are You Prepared For Blogging’s Dark Side?

September 15, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Content Strategy

You often hear celebrities say they hope their kids don’t grow up to be like them. That they hope, with all their might, that their kids choose normal careers and stay away from the harsh realities that sometimes come as a result of being known, putting yourself out there, and letting people feel they have a right to an opinion on how you live your life. Sometimes, I feel the same way about blogging.

I get a lot of emails from blogging newbies and up-and-comers asking what it takes to establish an audience. While becoming “Internet famous” may not pay the bills, when you see people turning it into book deals and free trips, it still sounds pretty sexy. If I had a dollar for every person who told me they’d love to have a “cushy” or “pretend” job like mine, I wouldn’t need a free trip. I could afford to go myself. And bring all my friends. All my Internet friends, even.

The truth is blogging is awesome. And making a career out of it has damn near been a fairytale. But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. It’s not all group hugs and solidarity. There’s another side to being a blogger. And while you shouldn’t let it deter you, you should realize that it exists. This way you enter stronger and with a skin thick enough to keep you safe.

What makes up the other side of blogging, the dark side? Here’s a short list.

Content Theft

Pretty much immediately after you publish your work, others will steal it, scrape it and make excuses for why it’s okay for them to use it. And you need to come up with a plan for what you’re going to do about that (other than punching them in the nose). You need to create clear guidelines for what appropriate use is and what is not, and decide how you’re going to handle those that break it. If you’re not okay with someone slapping your full 1,100 blog post on their site, you need to be vigilant from the start about having that content removed. Otherwise, people will see it as a sign that it’s okay.
I have a history of being pretty lax with people who steal my words, but that’s going to change. I’m about done waking up to examples like this.

If you don’t know how to protect your content online, I recommend you go do some reading at SEOmoz where Sarah Bird (she’s a lawyer, you know) has created some fantastic resources.

Trolls

The minute you achieve any kind of success in the blogging world (and sometimes even before then) you will be awarded with trolls. These people exist solely to disrupt your community and get an emotional response out of you, whether that be swear words, rage or big fat baby tears. Part of being a blogger means having thick enough skin to accept that. If you can’t find the humor when people make personal attacks and insult you, then, again, you’re too sensitive to be on the Internet. And while it may sound pretty easy to not let a perfect stranger ruin your day, it’s actually a lot harder than you’d think. I’m not embarrassed to admit I spent the first year or so of my Bruce Clay blogging career crying under my desk while Susan slipped me a combination of Red Vines and tissues. Luckily, life and experience has made me a lot tougher. Now I read stuff like this and find it 90 percent hilarious, 10 percent horrendous that their grammar is so poor.

[Just a sampling from the past 24 hours, mind you.]

Harsh Truths

So, not everyone who writes that you’re an idiot is a troll. Sometimes they’re right and you WERE an idiot. Or sometimes you’ll write something divisive and have to live with the consequences for a day/week/month/eternity while people form their own opinion over it and over you. Sometimes you’ll write something logical, and an otherwise intelligent person will have an emotional reaction and take you strongly to task and kick your dog. Over time, these things can really take a toll on your blogging and your spirit. While it may seem like its all glitz and glamor watching the A-listers be adored, there are also the times when they’re not. When putting yourself and your beliefs out there, day after day, can be a hard process and one that keeps you eternally vulnerable. But without the sour, you’d never appreciate the sweet. Good bloggers accept their war wounds, take the higher ground, and soldier on to the next post.

[Not all of it was undeserved, of course. I spent much of the Summer of 2008 being a butthead.]

Spam Emails

The minute you have a perceived audience, people will line up to try and profit off it. You’ll be asked to review books, include links, interview boring CEOs, talk about average products, and pimp your blog out like it’s a common street walker. One of the hardest things you’ll have to deal with is that other people will often not respect your audience, your blog or sometimes even you. However, they will try to make money off it. They will try to turn your blog into their own personal marketing machine. And it’s up to you to protect it. You are responsible for keeping your community clean and helping to grow it. And sometimes that means dealing with a lot of people who want nothing but to waste your time and flood your community with crap.

Always Being “On”

Bloggers live on the front lines. You don’t get to hide out when you’re having a bad day. When you’re feeling the backlash of the community, you can’t simply put your head into client work and hide out like other people can. You don’t get that luxury because the community IS your job. It’s your job to give them something fresh every day, it’s your job to handle their crises as they come up. It’s your job to be the public face of your company or brand. That means you don’t get too many off days. You’re expected to be front and center and you’re expected to be happy about it. No case of the Mondays for you when you have an audience waiting. Yes, sometimes being a blogger feels a big like being a trained monkey. Though monkeys get paid more. ;)

While it may seem like all fun and games, there’s a dark side to blogging that you want to prepare yourself for before you decide to jump in. Is the investment and occasional abuse worth it? Absolutely! Being able to connect with people, to learn from others, and to create a community around something you’re passionate about it is one of the greatest feelings in the world. It can change your company, your brand, and, sometimes, even your life. Swim in the waters, just don’t forget your life vest on shore. It can get rocky out there.

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