This is the 4th article from the series: “How To Build Reputation With A Blog”. If you came here directly, you may want to read the first articles too:
How To Build Reputation With Your Blog – The Series
How To Build Reputation With Your Blog – Clearly State Your Expertise
How To Build Reputation With Your Blog – Write Constantly
How To Build Reputation With Your Blog – Interact With Your Audience
Who Are Your Peers?
In short, they are people who are doing exactly what you are doing. They are bloggers performing on the same field as you are. From a traditional (and also, completely dumb) point of view, they are your competition. From a smarter point of view, they are your peers.
Why do I think that perceiving them as “competition” is a dumb approach? Well, because blogging is a very specific business. Although it shares a good deal of common points with traditional businesses, blogging is completely different in some key areas. And one of them is branding.
In traditional business, if two companies are making shoes, they are competing against each other. They are building the same object, using more or less the same technologies. If two bloggers are writing about personal development, they are not competing against each other. They are completing each other and, in a larger sense, they’re feeding each other audience. Although they are building the same type of “product”, which in this case is “motivation”, they’re not using the same “technologies”. They’re creating their products using their personal experiences. Putting their own life on the line. And that brings diversity and originality to the mix. Although in the same market, the final products will be really different. And consuming each product will increase the demand for similar products.
That’s a fundamental difference. The more blogging products you’ll have on the market, the bigger the demand. Your audience will always want to consume some new, fresh perspectives on their topics of choice. So, two bloggers writing on the same topic will never be competitors. Unless they are dumb enough to copy each other posts sentence by sentence which will totally wipe out any trace of authenticity in their products.
Now that we eliminated one of the most common and handicapping confusions regarding competition in blogging, let’s see how you can really interact with your peers.
The simplest way to interact with your peers is to guest post. Writing blog posts that will fit in other people’s blogging pants is a great exercise. There are some unquestionable benefits like: increased exposure, enlarging your circle of influence, refining your writing skills and so on and so forth. But the real, hidden benefit is the interaction with the host blogger. I know I built a long term relationship with all the bloggers who accepted guest posts from me. Some of them are way closer than the circle of influence. They are in the circle of friends.
Massive Guest Posting
This is a special case of guest posting. Basically, it combines a series of articles with guest posting. In a massive guest posting project, you publish a few related blog posts (preferably from the same series) on a few blogs, all at the same time. I did what I think it was the first massive guest posting ever on the internet last year and believe me, it was an incredible experience. The links and exposure were great, but the connection with some of the bloggers who participated in this challenge grew tremendously over the last year.
Hosting Guest Posts
This is the obvious counterpart of the one above. Open up your blog and give other people the opportunity to guest post. Again, the visible benefits will be in the line of: more content for your readers, a little bit of diversity and so on and so forth. But then again, the hidden part of this iceberg will be the connection you build with the people who are guest posting on your blog.
Every once in a while a collaborative project surfaces my inbox. Every time I am asked to do some writing for a collaborative project I’m incredibly motivated. I’m not accepting every request, mostly by lack of time, but the requests I accept are quickly climbing to the top of my priority list. Here are few types of collaborative projects I’ve been a part of so far, or I admire from a distance.
1. Free / Paid Ebooks
I’ve been a part of some very interesting projects, with both paid and free ebooks. One of the most interesting ebooks was How To Network Awesomely by Colin Wright, a book which I totally recommend. There are tons of other bloggers sharing their insights on networking in that book, not to mention Colin’s own thoughts on this topic. As for the free ebooks, you can check out one of the latest, Small Ways To Make A Big Difference.
A meme is usually a challenge launched by a fellow blogger. I get far more requests than I can handle on this area, so I decided to go on only if the topic is really close to me. One of the memes I’ve been doing lately is Abubakar Jamil’s 3 Life Lessons. Check out the page because you will start to understand why interacting with your peers is never competition.
3. Blogazines Contributions
Every blogging niche has some blogazines around. They can be collective newsletters, like the very fine SharingLifeSkills, of which I’m proud to be a part, or they can be magazine style, like The Daily Brainstorm. Of which I’m also honored to be a part of, by the way.
4. Shared Content Products
Another way to interact with your peers is to create shared content products. Put together your expertise, your strengths and some time, ask around one of your peers, brainstorm a little and voila, you created a common product. For an example of such a product you can check out Charlie Gilkey‘s and Johnny B. Truant Jam Sessions.
Social Media Interactions
The same rules that applies to audience interactions applies to peers interaction when it comes to social media. If you want to read them, go back and check out the audience interaction article in this series. One word though, when it comes to peer interaction, you are what you retweet. People who are on your stream are a measure of your own value. Pick them wisely and stick with them.
The Real Value Of Links
Now that we saw the practical side of interacting with your peers, let’s talk a little bit about links. And by that I understand at least 2 interpretations of the term “link”. The first one is “link as a human connection” and the second one is “link as a hyperlink in the internet”. As you will see, there is a big confusion between those two meanings, with a huge balance towards the second one. Many bloggers are valuing hyperlinks to their blogs over real life connections with other people. Which I think is totally wrong.
The focus of bloggers on Google ranking is understandable, to a certain degree. The problem is that the vast majority of bloggers are going way beyond this degree. Meaning they’re starting to obsess over it. I know I’ve been there and I’m not ashamed. It’s just a fact and now I’m over it. And I’m also able to explain it a little bit better, since it’s something that I experienced first hand.
In order to understand the importance of page ranking (and, subsequently, the real value of links as hyperlinks) I would like to give you an army example. You know the military ranks, right? A captain will always have a smaller rank than a colonel, and a colonel will always have a smaller rank than a general. This is how it works. And you identify their ranks by looking at their insignia.
The page ranks works exactly the same. You have a 3 PR page, which will always be smaller than a 5 PR page, which in turn will be always put to shame by a 7 PR page.
Many bloggers are trying to advance in this hierarchy by trying to acquire as many stars (read: page ranks) as possible. From a certain point of view, they think that a certain rank will give them access to a certain level of reputation. This is where the big mistake is taking place. A PR rank is just like a military rank, it will just say that you’re a captain, a colonel, or a general. Nothing more. It will never say something about your ability to influence other people. Nothing about your value as an individual. Nothing about the value of your products. It will just say you have a certain rank.
Of course you can guess a little bit of information about a military by his rank. A certain degree of experience or skills. But the real value of a military is never given by the rank. It’s given by what that person is doing on the field. By how that person is engaging in combat. By how he’s applying the strategy right there, in the trenches. There’s no rule that will say that, once in the trenches, a general will be spared by a bullet just because he’s a general.
Page ranks, just like military ranks, are just a way to categorize your blogs with an incredibly large tolerance. They will never say something about your reputation.
In the army, if you do your job constantly, in time, you’ll be promoted. You don’t have to do something especially for this. Just go to work every day and you’ll be promoted. In blogging is the same. If you keep your blog alive long enough, it will eventually receive a higher page rank. At some point, you’ll receive a rank of a general.
But, please pardon my French here, I don’t really give squat on that general.Â I’ve been through a real war, and I saw how bureaucratic captains were acting on the field. A real life disaster. No, siree. Those generals are not for me.
On the other hand, there were some officers who were really inspiring those days. Courageous, generous, brilliant in terms of strategy and so on. Those officers were wearing the same insignia as the bureaucratic ones. From the outside, they looked the same. But they were fundamentally different.
The same goes in blogging. Two blogs with an equal number of links will get an equal page rank in Google, Alexa or whatever. But more often than not, the real audience of a successful blog is a few orders of magnitude higher than of other, equal blogs in terms of ranking. You start to get it now?
I’m not saying that using aggressive linking and social media automated strategies won’t give you a certain Google page rank or a certain Alexa rank. I’m saying that, form a certain level of performance, those rankings are useless. They’re not building reputation, they’re building empty numbers. It’s blowing in the wind.
On the other hand, when focusing on real life interaction, on building honest relationships with your peers, you won’t generate only links and empty numbers, You will generate a movement. You will generate support and you will ignite new ideas. You will create inspiration. I don’t know how to measure inspiration. I don’t think there’s such a thing like inspiration ranking. But in my experience inspiration is far more powerful than any Google page rank.
At the end of the day, a PR 7 blog which is there only by aggressive linking and social media automated techniques, will have the same PR 7 as a blog that reached there by creating genuine trends, by providing real value, by inspiring people to propagate its message and spontaneously create links for it. From the outside, or, to be more, clear, from the mathematical point of view of the rank, they will be the same. But on the inside, those blogs will be completely different. The second blog will generate far more in interaction (and, if you really want to know, yes, far more sales) than a blog which relies only on page ranking techniques.
You will get results on both cases. And the choice is entirely up to you. You can choose to be a bureaucratic general, and you’ll be wiped out by the first genuine revolution on the Internet.
Or you can be a general to lead that very Revolution.