Everyone publishing things online wants to be unique.
Standing out is a sign you have something to offer. It’s a reason for people to flock to your blog or website or Patreon page and support you in any way they see fit.
A lot of people think that means you have to do everything differently. Forget the set of rules and standards all the successful writers have laid out in their own blogs, books, and business models. As long as you have something to say, people will latch on to your words.
For a long time, especially in terms of blogging, I thought that doing things my own way would make me unique. I thought straying from the norm would provide a place for people to come for a fresh take on modern internet content.
But that’s not how writing on the internet works.
People like easily digestible listicles and cringeworthy headlines (more so than you’d think regarding the latter). They like infographics and short pieces of writing. They love anything with a bolded TL;DR at the beginning (or end).
If you don’t like writing step-by-step, informative how-to articles showing people how they can be successful at the thing everyone else also wants to be successful at, well, too bad — that’s what many people want. At least mixed in with other types of content.
If you want to be an authority in a certain topic, you have to give people what they want, in the format they want, and put it in the places (e.g. Facebook) they want.
You just have to figure out how to make all that fit into your persona/professional brand. You have to give people what they’re coming for with your own voice and style there to set your content apart.
That’s why going to the other extreme — doing the exact same things everyone else is doing, publishing the same content and ebooks and trying to launch the same courses — also doesn’t work. I see a lot of aspiring “successful creators” trying to make the same old things work without adding their own value to it.
I’m not a business or marketing expert. But I have been writing for a long time, and I know a thing or two about how to capture an audience. My blog had basically no readership until I started paying attention to what other writing bloggers were doing. I started looking at their headlines and incorporating those general ideas into my own style and brand. And people seemed to resonate with that.
You can’t just go around voicing your stream of consciousness thoughts and expect that to work if you don’t already have followers that respect and care about you. As evidenced by every punny one-liner I have ever tweeted. :P
This is all a balance between what the internet wants and how creative you are at giving it to them in a fresh yet familiar way.
And you have to stay consistent in what you offer, too, which makes things even more confusing. If I were to publish any piece of my own fiction writing on this blog right now, people would be confused. They expect something informative or inspirational (?), not something random written by someone they don’t honestly really care about.
I wish I had better advice than this, but here it is anyway.
Keep trying different things until you figure out (1) what captures your audience and (2) what you can stomach writing about day in and day out, at least in one outlet.
Pay attention to what other people are doing. Don’t copy their content. Look closely at the topics they are writing about and the way they present those topics to their readers. What gets a lot of attention? Figure out how to structure your writing, your blog, whatever, to fit into a similar mold. But don’t forget to add your own ingredients to the pan to give added value to something people have seen before.
TL;DR: Being successful online as a writer is confusing and hard and you just have to keep trying everything until you figure out what works and what you like and good luck with that.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.