5 Advantages Small-Time Bloggers Get…& Lose


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.

Your Comments

  • miss donna

    #2 is the best advantage of all in my opinion. because my community of commenters is small, i actually know who’s going to comment on a post before i even publish it. i can anticipate what type of content will resonate with my readers. that’s definitely something you can lose when writing for the masses.

    one of my twitter followers RTed this and so did i..thanks so much for the honest insight!

    • Matt Beswick

      Completely agree – it’s all about engagement, which is much easier to analyse and drive when you’re small time. As you grow engagement is just as important but it gets far harder to please a broad spectrum of people…

  • Jeff Downer

    It’s all about the golden rule: “Blog unto others as you would have blog unto you.”.

  • Daniel Dessinger

    After selling my two biggest blogs in 2010 and 2011, I decided to take a hiatus from blogging. I’ve only posted sporadically since then because I honestly don’t see myself as a niche blogger. Everywhere I look, I see niche dried up niche bloggers looking for guest bloggers to pick up the slack.

    And the truth is, I don’t know that I really have that much to say of value on the topics that I care about most. I’m in an extended learning phase, and I prefer to do most of my learning in private.

    I envy people, even my own wife, who have committed long-term to a single site and pushed through the difficulties to remain relevant and interesting. Maybe that day will come for me. Maybe it will even come soon. For now, 99% of my writing goes into my journal.

    We’ll see if there’s enough pearls to warrant a regular blog post someday.

  • Susan Silver

    I continue to believe that small time bloggers are undervalued. I have something like 70 subscribers now, but only 15 regular commenters. Still, I know them very well and they support me even as I am getting more well known. They will probably still be there if I find the level of success of anyone with some notoriety. You can’t pay for that level of engagement or support.

  • Anthony Pensabene

    Good points here, Lisa, thanks. I especially like “Have coffee with your community now to help serve them better in the future.” In many ways, your community can help shape your direction and remind you of your strong and weak points.

    Also, as Jon Cooper put it in his post on the topic, they’re your ‘brand evangelists’; paying them attention and kindness has intrinsic and extrinsic value.

    Jon’s post: http://pointblankseo.com/brand-evangelists

  • Tea Silvestre

    Yes! Get to know your audience! Spending quality time with them is something you must do if you want to better understand their needs and provide them with more content that meets those needs. The relationships you make stronger will be your foundation for later success. (<–she says like she's already there)
    My audience is relatively small (compared to a Brogan or an Erika), but others might look at my numbers with envy. I find that when I focus on conversations with the commenters, newsletter readers, etc., we all have more fun, and then the convos spread naturally out to the interwebz.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    There are pros and cons to operating small and large blogs. This is a great reminder that it’s OK to start small. Starting small the right way- communicating with visitors, getting to know them, and creating content just for them- will allow you to grow over time.

  • Wasim Ismail

    Great reminders,
    Working with a small community is great for bloggers to get to know your audience, and engage with them. Also if you make mistakes, its easily forgiven compared to when you have thousands of followers.
    Just like Nick Said above, if you continue to give them good content over time you will naturally grow, and most importantly, you as a person would have also grown, and will be make knowledgeable on how to handle certain situations and responsibilities that come with larger communities.

  • Sandra Pawula

    There is so much to appreciate about being a “small” blogger and the simple humanness that can come with it. In fact, I may never want to grow big!

    BTW, I tried tweeting this using the twitter share button at the end of the post, but there wasn’t a link in the tweet.

  • Vicky Morgan

    I definitely agree with this! Being a small time blogger doesn’t mean you are already left behind by those huge businesses on the internet. In fact, you get all the advantages that big companies usually miss- the quality of the people you attract, and the trust you cultivate as you get to know your commenters well.

  • Jill Tooley

    Since I’m a small-time blogger, I can attest to the benefits of these points, especially the first and second! We don’t have tons of outside commenters (yet!), but the ones we do have regularly pop by to offer feedback. I truly feel as if I’ve gotten to know them because of that! Would I get to do that if I were a big-time blogger? Maybe, but it would be a lot harder.

    I’ve never considered the benefits of your last point…I guess it’s weird to think that a bigger blogger would envy someone like me! However, the way you put it, it makes perfect sense. I can’t even imagine the volume of distractions that comes along with being popular. But you guys and gals do it SO WELL, I must say. :)

  • alanc230

    This is good advice, and relevant to those who are frustrated with the slow growth of a blog. I guess the thing to do is keep moving forward, and not give up.