Whenever someone wants to share their thoughts with the world, the first thing they tend to ask is, "Should I start a blog?"
This is a question I field a lot. I started a gaming blog when I was 17 years old that went on to become one of the most read World of Warcraft blogs on the Internet—with close to 10,000 daily readers.
But that experience in blogging was unique in that my blog was hosted on a community gaming website called GameRiot—which operated very much like a gaming version of today's Medium. Anyone could start a blog, and each week the top bloggers would be featured on the Top 10 list on the front page. It was the site's gamification that really got me interested—my competitive side wanting to be on that front page every single week. A year later, right before leaving for college, I was in talks with the website's owners about becoming a salaried writer because I was responsible for so much traffic. (The site soon thereafter went bankrupt and I quit blogging there.)
However, in those very early days of blogging, back when the pursuit of writing on the Internet was considered "laughable" and "a waste of time," blogging on a platform that already had readers taught me a valuable lesson:
It is a lot easier to build a following when people are already looking for content where you're posting.
In a sense, GameRiot was a blogging platform with a variation of social media built in. You could follow other writers, you earned points based on how often you posted blogs or commented on other people's blogs, and as I mentioned, the top writers were awarded front page real estate, promoting their posts.
If I had started a gaming blog on a site like Blogspot, for example, nobody would have ever found me—or, I would have had to work a lot harder to get people to know that I existed in the first place. But on GameRiot, there was already an audience. They wanted to reward popular writers. And the more popular I became, the more that popularity began to compound.
This is the exact same approach I took with Quora 2 years ago.
When people want to start positioning themselves as a thought leader, or sharing their work or their art with the world, they assume the best place to start is a blog.
That's actually the worst place to start—because not only do you have to figure out how to build a blog worth coming to, and post content worth reading or looking at, but you also have to work really, really hard to let people you know you exist in the first place.
Social media, or platforms like Medium or Quora where social elements are integrated, is a much better place to start. Here's why:
You Will Get Immediate Feedback
Starting on a social platform instead gives you the opportunity to practice out in the open. In order to become a really great content creator, you need to go through a lot of years of public practice—and truthfully, it never stops. You need people to comment on your Quora answers with things like, "This was the worst thing I've ever read in my entire life. Thanks for wasting ten minutes of my time."
Back when I was blogging about World of Warcraft (and you should know, the gaming community is ruthless), I endured months of people commenting on my blogs saying, "I hope you wake up, walk outside, and get hit by a car. You are a garbage gamer and an even worse writer." That sort of feedback, although not necessarily the easiest to hear, is what ultimately makes you better. You have to listen to what people are saying, contemplate it, and then figure out how you can continue to improve.
Otherwise, you will write by yourself, post your work on an empty blog, gain no feedback, and then have no idea if what you're doing is wonderful and amazing or horrific and shitty.
You Can Build An Audience
As I mentioned, the biggest benefit to building out a social platform instead of a blog in the beginning is that you can build an audience.
It's a lot easier for people to follow you on Twitter or Instagram than it is for them to subscribe to your blog, or remember to check your site every couple days. Also, the audience is already there. You can tap into millions and millions of people by using relevant hashtags or keywords, or shouting out and collaborating with other influencers in your space. Instead of trying to convince everyone to come join your own unique party, go join theirs first.
Then, once you have an audience, you can direct them to your blog.
Social Media Is A Blog In Itself
When I first started posting on Instagram, the way I approached it was like a micro-blog. I wrote really long captions with every post, and went into detail about my workout or something I had written and wanted to share. Everyone told me I was doing it wrong, and that on Instagram you were supposed to use short, quick captions. But I am a writer. I wanted to share more of me, and I did so through writing long captions.
That approach to Instagram is what ended up allowing me to build an audience of 20,000+ followers. People looked forward to what I was writing even more so than the photos I was posting. It became a mobile blog, and no different than how I would have posted that same sort of material on a website, instead I was posting it on an app where an audience already existed.
This can be done with any social platform. I've seen people do some really cool things with Snapchat stories. Twitter short stories. Long Facebook captions. Etc.
Social media is a "blog," but each platform has different rules and restrictions. Success on each platform then comes down to your ability to use the restrictions of the platform to your advantage and create something new and different.
So When Should You Start A Blog?
You should only start a blog once you've done all of the above.
You should spend a considerable amount of time practicing in public, getting in front of people, posting content where it can be easily found. You should begin building your audience, and figuring out what it is they are looking for and how you can provide real value you them. And you should start putting the puzzle pieces in place so that, down the line when you do launch a blog, you can use social media as the entry point and then guide people to much longer form content.
Because the truth is, you can only drive traffic so many ways:
2. Collaborations / Shout Outs (from other blogs, social pages, etc.)
4. Social Media
Especially today, social media is by far the most effective (and free—it just costs time) way to get people to know about you and know about your blog. So until you have that, in some shape or form, there's no point to invest (time or money) in building a site nobody knows exists.
This sort of content is what I am going to be covering in my new course, How To Build Your Personal Brand. I am offering a big discount to anyone that signs up before 8/1/16! If you're interested in learning how you can build your own audience and position yourself as a thought leader in your industry, sign up for early access here.