(The following is a Q&A that HowToMakeMyBlog.com put me through a couple weeks back. It posted today.) 

Some blog topics are very popular and seem to be able to attract a wider audience. This is a superficial impression.

These are two main reasons why you should not abandon the idea of dedicating your blog to a less popular topic:

  • Cultivating your real interests through your blog makes you personal, genuine and worthy to be read
  • Most popular can also mean hackneyed and overused. You may find it easier to grow an audience interested in a topic that is not extensively covered already

All that is well known to Park Howell, the blogger who calls himself sustainable storyteller and that we interviewed to get to know his blogging story. His posts are never trivial but always full of interesting news and original opinions.

When you finish reading one of Park Howell’s blog articles you know something useful that you did not know before.

How and why did you start a blog?

I started to blog about green marketing and sustainability to further define our ad agency’s position in this growing niche. We’ve been creating cause-related and environmental movements since 1995, long before being green was cool.

When the recession hit, I realized that we needed to do a better job of communicating our unique strategy and creative capabilities relative to sustainability. Blogging and using online social media was one of the best ways to share our agency with the world.

As our mission states: “Park&Co ignites the growth of people, products, companies and causes that dare to make the world a better place.”

How much time do you spend working on it and what are the usual tasks?

When I first began blogging over three years ago, I spent between 15 and 20 hours per week listening online, researching, writing and promoting my posts. My goal was to reach 50 posts as quick as possible, because it seems the search engines start taking you seriously after 50 posts.

This meant three to four articles per week, and I believe I wrote nearly 200 in my first year. It still is a ton of work, but your knowledge of your niche, social media and the world at large compounds itself through your blogging efforts.

What is the best lesson learned that you would like to share with people who want to start blogging?

Despite popular belief, blogging is not a popularity contest. If you fixate on the numbers of your followers and feel like a loser if they’re not growing as quickly as you like, then the whole process becomes a psychological train wreck.

I focus on writing about industry information I find interesting, and to help others see a different point-of-view, whether they agree with it or not.

Sometimes writing is just therapeutic, and I don’t care if the post gets a bunch of hits. Sometimes you can be a mad scientist and test your followers’ paradigms. Sometimes you can just be jovial, or pissed off, or obtuse and simply let it fly. But all of the time, be you.

I happen to follow the same philosophy that Seth Godin noted in this recent post. He wrote in part: “I’m not writing to maximize my SEO or conversion of even my readership. I’m writing to do justice to the things I notice, to the ideas in my head and to the people who choose to read my work.” Amen, brother Seth.

What is your best advice on how to grow a blog?

Write with a unique voice. Don’t regurgitate existing content unless you make it WAY more interesting than the original. Test, poke and prod your readers’ mindsets, and try to nudge the world in whatever direction you choose.

And by all means, keep this book by your side: Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.

What is your biggest success and biggest mistake as a blogger?

My biggest mistake was listening to the so-called social media experts. There are really only about three or four, and I count Jay Baer as the Gustavo Dudamel [look him up] of social media. I must also tip my hat to Michael Gass and his early mentoring – as well as his ongoing friendship – to help me become better at social media to build our agency’s business.

Unfortunately, I initially bought into the need to have massive amounts of followers and be loved by all. That just lead to superficial drama in my social media life, and I quickly abandoned the hedonistic practice.

I enjoy blogging so much more now, and my followers are more authentic in their interest of my work. I just realized that my biggest mistake has become my greatest success: Be at peace with your blogging, and your audience will find you.

Now I have a question for you…

What works for you and your blog?