This is the first 2016 post in my ongoing series entitled, “Reflections On Being A Writer In The 21st Century”. Other posts in this series are available on my Pulse archive page: You can spot them by the banner pic, which is the same the one you see above.
This year is a little different from other years in my life, mainly because of the last two years, which I have spent posting, commenting, blogging and trying to figure out the basics of how LinkedIn works.
The last two years that I have spend interacting on LinkedIn have taught me a great deal.
First and foremost is that there is a whole lot of bullshit that you have to deal with in order to be successful marketing yourself in this medium. Secondly, it has taught me that there is a whole lot of opportunity here once you figure out what you are doing. And finally, I have learned that there are a whole lot of really good and generous people here and I have learned more from them than I ever could have reading the LinkedIn instruction manual.
About two years ago, I transitioned from casual highly active on LinkedIn. Mainly as a result of being invited to post on their new publishing platform called Pulse. Little did I know that would become the biggest obstacle to and paradoxically the best part of my learning experience.
At first I was a bit of a drunken sailor, trying to figure out what my voice should be on Pulse. I tried a number of things.
I tried being a bit of a journalist, and wrote about stuff that was trending. Got a lot of views but very little engagement.
Then I started writing about entertainment, which is something I used to do a lot of on my WordPress site. Very little in the way of views. Some engagement. Some huhs?.
Then I started looking at the so called INfluencers. Most of them were writing about how to survive in the world of the corporately employed. Since I had never actually been one of those types, I didn’t feel at all qualified to write about that.
They were getting tons of views and tons of comments. But the comments were all quite sycophantic, and the weird thing was these people made no attempt at engagement.
I was confused. Nothing really seemed to make sense here for me. But then I had one of those lucky eureka! moments.
The Eureka! Moment
I was having coffee with a very good friend and we were talking about this. He had read all of my posts, and he was a very smart guy, (I actually don’t know any idiots…anymore), and so I asked him flat out for his honest opinion.
He thought about it for a moment and then said this: “I guess my opinion is that I am really not seeing enough of the real you in the stuff you are writing these days.”
He went on to explain that, in his view, I had a fully developed persona that was evident in my WordPress blogging for years. But for some reason, it just didn’t seem to be coming through on LinkedIn.
That was pretty much all he said, but is was enough.
When I got home, I opened up the Word file that I had created to archive the 500+ WordPress columns I had written since 1998. After re-reading only about a dozen of them from different years I realized exactly what my friend was talking about.
Then it got interesting. Over the course of just a few posts, which I never published, I was able to draw from and evolve that WordPress persona to suit the new role it would have going forward on LinkedIn.
It was different subject matter. But the voice was my own. And one I felt comfortable with.
In Retrospect It Was More Of Homer Simpson D’Oh! Experience
When you’re a writer, part of your job, especially in advertising, is to write in different voices, because each company or brand you work on has what we call a unique brand character, which dictates the tone and manner of the communication you write.
In hindsight, my mistake was simply barking up the wrong brand character tree. I was trying to create a voice for a specific purpose instead of adapting my own voice to that purpose. Because my brand character had already been established.
It was like my favorite sweatshirt. When I slipped it on, I knew I was home.
The rest, as they say is history. Pretty much everything I have done here since about November of 2014 has been in aid of honing and broadcasting in that voice. My business blogging voice. My LinkedIn voice.
Not a lot of people noticed at first. In fact relatively little happened for about 6 months. I got my share of views, so that, combined with my innate stubbornness and desire to see if I was right, kept me going. Then, people started catching on, and my view-to-engagement ratio* started to climb.
* FYI. This is one of the key things I learned. Views don’t matter anywhere near as much as comments and the quality of those comments. And I have a number of people to thanks for that bit of knowledge, especially Phil Friedman and Milos Djukic)
And it’s been more or less that way ever since.
The Reason I’m Telling You This
It’s simple. I have been a professional writer all my adult life. And it took me the better part of 2 years to find my voice here. Why? Because it’s not easy.
If you’re not a professional writer, then it’s even harder. You have to be conscious of a lot of stuff when you’re writing. And it’s not just hard. It can be discouraging as well.
But this system, love it or hate it, (I’m undecided), is as Darwinian as it gets in the digital world. Those who adapt…those who find their voice…those who work hard at honing it, and those who combine that voice with subject matter that supports their expertise are the ones who will survive and hopefully prosper in this Brave New World.
Fortunately for me, there is really no shortage of stuff to write about when it comes to marketing and communications. I don’t write exclusively about that. But this year, I will keep the marketing and communications writing in LinkedIn and my other business blogging sites and the other stuff I like to write about on my WordPress site, which is actually building a healthy following as well.
So here’s the learning in a couple of little memes. ‘Cause everybody likes memes.
Have a great 2016.
Jim Murray has been a writer pretty much all his life. For most of his adult life, including now, people actually pay him to do it. They pay him to art direct a lot of the stuff he writes too. He is also a mentor, blog post editor and a photographer. Fancy that.
Jim writes to help people and companies large and small with their marketing and he blogs primarily to help people get better at communicating. In today’s world, that’s almost a public service.
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Text Copyright © 2016 by Jim Murray
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