Since I’ve decided to regularly share my thoughts about socioeconomic issues, there’s been some interesting feedback. Some positive. Some negative.
But here’s the thing…
The divisiveness in the comments, rather than the substance of the comments itself, is an indication for me that I'm on the right path.
You see, when I first started my debt repayment journey, I found several personal finance blogs that told me how I could manage my money. Yes, there were some helpful articles out there that told me how to make a budget and how to save for an emergency fund. But I didn’t actually feel a connection to almost any of the bloggers because none of them were similar to me. Not in race. Not in gender. Not in sexual orientation. Not in political leanings. And to be honest, I’m sure I shared some of these internal traits with a few of them - but it just wasn’t something they bothered to ever write about.
And as a reader, that did matter.
Your age, race, gender, and sexual orientation directly impacts your financial situation.
Your socioeconomic status directly impacts your financial situation.
The demographics of your neighbourhood directly impacts your financial situation.
These aren't necessarily novel concepts. So why weren’t more bloggers openly talking about them?
Is it the fear that readers will leave?
Is it the fear that affiliate sales will go down?
Is it the fear that companies will stop working with them?
And maybe some of them will.
But here’s the only question that matters: Who are you writing for?
Because you can't please everybody.
I’m not a professional marketer, but I can tell you my thoughts based on the feedback I've had so far on my blog: readers are more engaged when you have a unique, and mildly controversial, position on something. It doesn't matter whether they fully agree or disagree -- the fact is that they appreciate your honesty. They may even actually submit a thoughtful comment or e-mail respectfully fleshing out their perspective on the topic. And I LOVE that.
When you want to write something for everyone, you'll end up writing nothing for no one. Out of the thousands of personal finance blogs on the internet, why should someone spend their time clicking a post written by some random person? Sure, it may answer a question they have, but that's no guarantee that they'll be coming back every week. In Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renee A. Mauborgne talk about avoiding market spaces that are already saturated with competitors fighting for the top, and creating your own uncontested market space. In other words, it's much easier to succeed in an area that doesn't have a lot of competition. From a purely marketing standpoint, trying to be like everyone else seems like a terrible strategy.
Ryan Holiday, the author of four bestselling books and former Director of Marketing at American Apparel, constantly reminds creatives to stop playing the comparison game with other creatives that are in your field. He writes:
Most of us got into what we do because we one, like it, or two, are good at it. We generally know what we want and need, as well as what we hope to achieve. The irony is, the further you travel down that path of accomplishment, whatever it may be, the more often you meet people whose success will stagger you and make you feel insignificant.
Like put everything you’ve done in a pile and it might not even register compared to what these successful people will do this year.
Sometimes that is measured in money. Or fame. Or power. Usually, it’s a little of all of these. But it almost always has to do with money.
And man are these forces attractive.
Especially if you work on anything remotely internet related. Because the amount of people making obscene, life-changing amounts of money doing what appears to be very little work is essentially infinite. Let me tell you, it doesn't matter how well you're doing, these people can make you feel like a chump.
He argues that it’s ridiculous for writers to compare themselves to other writers, especially when everyone has their own unique motivations, issues they care about, and audience demographics. Holiday goes on to share a story about an author he knows who is incredibly successful but still felt inadequate because he compared his "success" to other creative entrepreneurs who were richer than him. Holiday reiterated, “You have no peers. You are your own genre. You are the only one.”
Don’t get me wrong, you are in a race. A race against yourself. And the race is to make the best content that you can possibly make. But in the end, the most successful content will be written based on two factors: (1) unique ideas that are worth sharing, and (2) having a specific audience in mind who you are writing this for. These are the only things that truly matter. Forget what other bloggers are doing. Forget trying to impress people who will never understand your stuff. Focus on yourself and your engaged readers, and the results will come.