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It’s amazing how the time flies. It feels like just yesterday we were filling BBGeeks.com with content in anticipation of a full launch. Four years later and we’re still going strong. It hasn’t been quite a wild ride, but it certainly has been an educational one. That tends to happen when you go from a nothing also-ran blog to one of the most-trafficked ones in a particular niche.
[Photo via Flickr]
If you’re starting a blog, thinking of starting a blog, or are frustrated with the progress of your blog, fret not. There are a few simple, overarching lessons that will help point you in the right direction. These are the five most important things that we at BBGeeks have learned in the last four years on the job.
1. You are going to be wrong
The world of technology changes every day. Heck, it can even change multiple times per day. Things you think you know often end up being outdated by the time you put them to paper. This is just one of many reasons that every tech blogger, even the most knowledgeable, will be wrong from time to time.
Really, anyone writing about any topic at all will have instances where he’s wrong. It’s just part of the game. But one you realize you’re wrong, there is no sense in continuing to defend your original statement. This is not cable news; there are actual means of accountability in blogging. Smart bloggers will immediately add an update — at the top of the post — stating the correction. Wise bloggers will move the post atop the site, letting everyone know the mistake. That way the flow of misinformation doesn’t spread any further.
The overall point: don’t stop at accepting that you’re not always right. Embrace it.
2. People will flame
Whenever someone approaches for advice about starting a new blog, I implore them to read the comments sections of some popular gadget blogs. You’ll find all sorts of nastiness in there, even on blogs that have implemented filtration systems. Commenters on the internet are always right, and anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot. If your blog gains any level of notoriety you will see the same thing happen.
(And lord bless you in those instances where you are wrong. The comments get a bit interesting in those times.)
You can learn a lot from your commenters. They can provide points of view that you hadn’t otherwise considered. It is important, then, to recognize the difference between a productive, but perhaps critical, comment and one that is simply flaming. Ignore the trolls. That’s the only way to make them go away. But don’t take that to mean that you should ignore any critical comments. Sometimes those are the ones that will benefit you the most.
3. There is no substitute for original content
When we started BBGeeks it was essentially a BlackBerry news aggregator. Worse, we got all of our news from other BlackBerry blogs, so it was largely redundant. How did we survive? We supplemented that news aggregation with tips, reviews, and guides that BlackBerry users found helpful. Without that original content we wouldn’t have lasted a year, never mind four.
Eventually we even dropped the news aggregation and focused on the original content. That can make it tough at times; how much original BlackBerry material can we really conjure up? But with the myriad apps and accessories out there we can pull from a large library of items to review. We also do a tip once a week, which further helps us churn out original content. The news does make it into the blog, especially breaking stuff. But it’s definitely flavored by the BBGeeks experience. That is, you won’t catch us copying and pasting a press release. It’s all about the context. If the news is important enough to print, it’s important enough to frame in a BBGeeks way.
4. Niche is the way to go
So you want to start a gadget blog. I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re going to fail. Why? Because there are already a number of incredibly popular blogs that cover the gadget world. Sorry, but even if you employ some quality people chances are that you’re not going to supplant Engadget, Gizmodo, Boy Genius Report, or even the myriad gadget blogs that are a tier below. They’re already established with reputations, and there’s only so much room in the game.
[Photo via Flickr]
If you want to create a successful gadget or tech blog, you have to find a niche. With BBGeeks we found a specific gadget to blog about. Eventually we took that further, blogging only about ways to get the most out of your BlackBerry. That put us deeper into the BlackBerry niche. If we’d blogged about just smartphones, or even stuck with everything BlackBerry, we would have been crushed. The competition was just too great for that type of audience.
Even a specific platform is too general at this point. Think you’ll gain notoriety starting an Android blog? That’s an unlikely proposition. There are already at least a dozen Android blogs that post at least a dozen times per day. If you want to succeed when blogging about gadgets and tech, you have to find an ultra-specific angle. The world has enough iPhone bloggers, anyway.
5. Connections for products are more important than blogger connections
This one flies in the face of traditional blogging wisdom. Almost any blogger advice you hear involves connecting yourself with similar bloggers. Email them, befriend them, and make use of that connection. While that’s useful, and while there are surely plenty of interesting people in your niche, connecting with them shouldn’t be atop any aspiring blogger’s list. Instead, it’s important to make contacts that will get you closer to your blog’s topic.
For instance, I’ve connected with plenty of BlackBerry bloggers and have in general found them to be interesting, knowledgeable, and talented people. But few, if any, of those relationships have made BBGeeks better. What has made BBGeeks better is the connections we’ve made with BlackBerry-related companies. This goes from RIM, the big kahuna, all the way down through software developers and accessory manufacturers.
Why the people directly involved in your niche? Because they’re the ones that can set you up with reviews. Without a connection to RIM, we wouldn’t have been able to review the BlackBerry Monaco. Without connecting to accessory manufacturers and app developers we’d have to pay for everything we review. As even high-traffic bloggers will tell you, that’s just not realistic. Developing relationships with these parties allows you to continually provide reviews, which is a pretty critical aspect of any niche gadget blog.
Joe Pawlikowski is the editor of BBGeeks, a site dedicated to helping BlackBerry users get the most out of their devices.