The secret to maintaining your motivation as a blogger

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bloggersBlogging has never been more popular, but whilst the Levinson enquiry poo poo’d the power of blogs by stating that the majority of them are seldom read and thus not worth bothering with, this hasn’t put off thousands (millions?) of people turning to the web to share their thoughts.

Whilst Levinson was naive in dismissing blogs, there are undoubtably many of them that do suffer from a lack of traffic.  So it’s interesting, to me at least, to understand what it is that motivates bloggers to keep putting their thoughts online.  Do we do it for fame?  Do we do it to earn money or get that dream job?  Is it just a mind dump?

A recent study by Penn State might shed some light onto just what it is that motivates us to keep blogging.  The study revealed that bloggers loved being part of their niche community, and it also helped them to feel empowered.  What really kept them going however was the positive feedback received by their visitor stats and the number of comments left.

“Bloggers who received a high number of site visitors felt a deeper sense of agency about blogging compared to those who received fewer visitors, ultimately leading to a greater sense of influence,” says researcher Carmen Stavrositu, who is currently an assistant professor of communications at the University of Colorado.

“Also, bloggers who received many comments felt more empowered than those who received very few comments, due to a strong perceived sense of community.”

The research found that comments were a good indication of the connection the blogger had with their audience, whilst traffic stats indicated the influence they had in their community.

The research studied over 340 bloggers to gain an understanding of their blogging activity.  The bloggers were drawn at random from a web directory of blogs.

Interestingly it found that those blogging for purely personal reasons felt a much greater sense of community than those that wrote about external subjects.  Those bloggers believed that blogging made them more competent, assertive and confident.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers asked over 100 students (and virgin bloggers) to set one up, writing on it for a couple of days about a personal topic.  Another 100 or so were asked to do the same but for an external topic.

The researchers then manipulated site metrics indicating the number of visitors to the blog to test how they affected the bloggers’ sense of agency. The site metrics were tweaked to indicate that some blogs received 50 visitors each day, while others received just 20.

The researchers also manipulated the comments received on each blog, with some receiving a good number, and others receiving very few.  Interestingly it was found that the content contained in each comment was not as important as the number of comments themselves.  Bloggers who received a greater number of comments felt a higher sense of community.

“Those bloggers who write mostly about their personal lives and daily experiences become more empowered by developing a strong sense of community,” Stavrositu says. “That is, they connect with others who share similar experiences and feel like they are a part of the community.”

She adds that when people blog about issues that are not as personal, they feel more empowered because they believe they can change issues, especially when they have a lot of readers.

This goes a long way to providing insight as to why bloggers continue churning out content, even when the vast majority don’t provide much, if any, financial reward.

According to Sundar, these feelings of connection and empowerment may explain why blogging is still popular, despite a lack of financial rewards for bloggers.

These findings shouldn’t be that surprising, as social media has grown to the extent it has largely based on the instant feedback and gratification we receive for participating.  Whether that’s gaining a new follower or a new comment on a status update, we’re instantly told about our ‘progress’.  It’s an underlying factor in the progress principle.

If you want to leave a comment about your own blogging motivation though do feel free, it’ll make me feel good :)

12 thoughts on “The secret to maintaining your motivation as a blogger

  1. Hilarious conclusion to an otherwise pretty serious post. Indeed, you gotta wonder what keeps up writing all this stuff on blogs when the audience is so fickle. Yet, with social media, I believe blogging has reached a new dimension, where we are now able to give wings to great content.

    People have always written diaries, or shared thoughts through a local paper. Blogging simply makes this public with the potential to reach specialty niches and greater audiences alike. With social media, you can then spread it and reach beyond limits.

    It often boils down to "why" people blog. If you do to self-actualize, it's a much different approach than if it's for business purposes or as a means to make money. Me, I mostly do it for thought-leadership positioning, personal branding and as a marketing tool to get speaking engagements and consulting gigs. After 18 months or so of blogging, with the last 12 months on a more serious level, I can say the results are overwhelmingly positive. This is true for quite a few clients I have been working with as well. It basically boils down to "focus". Like many other things in business, really…

    Cheers,
    Frederic

  2. That definitely makes sense. We're social beasts and we're at our best when sharing and helping. I wonder if anyone will study the effects of making actual money while blogging! What if someone made money (through sales of a product or affiliate, for example) but didn't get comments? Hm. I think I might be content without the comments :)

  3. What a wonderful blog on…blogging! I am also a blogger and can attest to each point made. Especially the effect that the progress principle has on productivity. Even though there is a sea of unread blogs, I am still a firm believer in exercising the freedom we all have write freely and also read what others have to say. Blogs are (often) non-biased, not commercial, authentic representations of someone's personal experience with a service, product or life in general. There is a sea of people out there we don't yet know. Does that mean we should give up meeting people? I think not. Cheers to blogging and your wonderful post.

    Caroline D.
    – ChronicleXMedia

    • Hi Caroline,

      As both yourself and Frederic mention, our motivations for blogging do seem to vary quite considerably. It's interesting though that getting a bit of love, either through comments or traffic, does seem universal though. Thanks for adding to the love on here :)

      Adi

  4. I started my blog a few weeks ago and I can see why some may criticize blogging, but I'm loving the experience so far. I would love more followers for sure, but if I can interest even just a few people about my preparation process for my next big challenge ( participating in a team charity race running from Montreal, Canada to New York City in 3 days next May). Patience is a virtue as they say!

  5. Seems like a bit of a Catch-22 to me. You'll only be motivated to write if you've got an audience, but you'll only gain an audience if you show enough determination to write regularly. Do you really subscribe to the "If you build it, they will come" philosophy of blogging?

  6. Thanks for the comment Ivonne. I think blogging allows a much deeper and richer experience than tweeting so it's something I wouldn't ever give up. I'm glad you've found a renewed purpose and the results are returning :)

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