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Blogging at the Crossroads

Sometimes, knowing something on an intellectual level simply isn’t enough. Sometimes, the ego needs to be fed even if the fuel it requires has almost nothing to do with the actual end goal.

Such is the place where I find myself this week as I enter my third year on my All Phoenix Real Estate blog, which itself was preceeded by six months on RealTown blogs, making the anniversary of the switch to WordPress less a real anniversary than a simple milestone.

If I had to find a way to sum up 2008 from a blogging perspective, particularly the last six months, I would say it was a period where I found myself thinking too much and therefore writing too little. Listening to the various blogging experts I experimented with shorter posts, keyword-rich posts, posting less frequently to give everyone a chance to read everything. I stopped writing about national issues and tried writing for the audience that I wanted, only to learn the audience I want isn’t there these days.

Simply put, I stopped doing much of what I had done over the first two years (including the RealTown days) that made my blog successful and, even more importantly, that kept me engaged in my own blog.

While many real estate bloggers do so strictly for business, it’s never been quite so easy for me. Make no mistake, the ultimate goal is to generate business and I’ve been able to do that with some success. When other agents were trying to figure out how to market to Calgary when their main client acquisition strategy was an open house, I was reaching across the border through the blog and building relationships.

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But truly, as a writer by one-time trade and with a writers’ heart, there also was a real need to cause people to identify with what I was writing. Traffic for the sake of traffic is meaningless and my mind knows this, but my ego wants to see the traffic for the same reasons that drove Howard Stern through much of his career … the admittedly insane notion that everyone ought to be reading what I have to say.

Speaking of Howard Stern …

I once was told that I’m the guy who says what everybody else is thinking but doesn’t want to say. At the time, I accepted the statement as a compliment even if it probably wasn’t fully complimentary. When Active Bob told me at Inman San Francisco that I was a cynical bastard – less than 20 seconds after we had been introduced for the first time – I accepted the statement in stride, even wearing it as a badge of honor.

Truth be told, there are far easier paths to pursue. But after pursuing those paths and realizing they’re not necessarily going to lead to the ancillary benefits I would have hoped for (read: I’m waiting for that Social Media position to materialize), and after feeling the near-daily struggle over the past months to try and find something to write about … perhaps it’s better to accept what I am.

Acerbic. Caustic. An a-hole.

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But also honest, to my readers and to myself.

I can’t continue to write as if I’m trying to please an anonymous focus group. I also can’t continue to justify decisions to intentionally not pursue traffic, even if I know the traffic number itself is meaningless, when I need that number to feed my ego. I can’t add H2 tags when I’m too busy ranting to try and figure out a logical place to add a sub-headline.

Silly or not, these are the things that have spurred me on through more than 1,500 posts on sites ranging from my own blog to sellsius, NAR Wisdom, the sadly-murdered Phoenix Real Estate Technology Exchange and, of course, Agent Genius.

It’s not in my nature to sit idly by as some vendors attempt to promote their products by denigrating what’s offered by others. It’s not in my nature to remain moot as a totally meaningless debate over whether a real estate weblogger ought to accept a free trial of a vendors’ services.

(Missing in that argument is the reality that as real estate agents first and foremost, we ought to be in the business of using whatever services allow us to help our clients. This standard of alleged objectivity is a red herring, an attempt to focus debate on a non-issue lest the real issue – how many clients you have helped – be brought to the forefront.)

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Over the past couple of months I have found myself settling for counterpunching more and more often. There’s been little effort to mount an offensive; rather, I’ve leaned on the ropes and jabbed here and there without trying to move myself back into the center of the ring.

Ironically, business has not suffered because of this decision.

But that isn’t to say that it’s impossible to have it all – to meet business objectives, and to feed the ego that caused me to put the BlogTopSites widget back on my blog for the first time in two months. (In the interest of disclosure, since that seems to be the new buzzword, I removed the widget because it was slowing down the load time on my blog.)

That’s who I am. That’s what I need. And that’s what I’ll be doing from now on.

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Written By

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Susie Blackmon

    January 7, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Be true to yourself. ‘It ain’t easy.’

    It’s a pleasure reading your posts.

  2. Teresa Boardman

    January 7, 2009 at 9:44 am

    LOL I see a couple of things I can comment on in this one. I try not to listen to experts too much because it stifles my creativity and my desire to blog. I have learned what works for me and I try to be true to it and to my readers. I don’t apologize for anything I do on my blog. I don’t care what anyone in the “re-net” thinks about the blog, what I write, who I write it for, if I take gifts, bribes or graft or what platform it is on or how often I post or if I am doing it right or wrong or any other way. I do what I want to do for reasons known only to me that I will never justify or explain to anyone. I am currently working on some new things and approaching them the same way that I approach my blog. I do it my way or not at all.

  3. Jim Gatos

    January 7, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I have to agree with Teresa… I’ve become “bolder” in my posts, more concise and “tighter”.. Seems to be working… I keep it very personal and experiment with posts, mainly…

  4. Benn Rosales

    January 7, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Teresa, I agree with what you’re saying, but the truth is, the consumer of the content (the buying or selling real estate consumer) isn’t interested in watching the writer go through puberty.

    The questions are fundamentally for any writer on their blog: does my content deliver a message, and what is that message. There is nothing wrong with advocating on topics that impact the whole, but if it only impacts a narrow margin of the collective then it really is just ego driven, and often irresponsible.

    If the material is just another mood swing, chances are it was a waste of time both writing and reading it unless the reader is into reading diarys.

    At the end of the day, I’m with what Jonathan has said in his last several posts that if it isn’t about business, then what’s the point? You might as well get yourself one of those webblogs on livejournal, because no ones wallet cares about the day the writer had.

  5. Jonathan Dalton

    January 7, 2009 at 11:26 am

    One thing I’ve managed to avoid is to go through puberty on my blog, Benn. And I do mean that in all seriousness – you’ve not seen me talk about getting a day job, you’ve not seen me talk about how frustrating it is showing houses to people who don’t buy. (Yes, I’ve vented about a couple of dishonest souls along the way, but so be it.)

    Irresponsible or not, that’s the direction my blog once had (or lack thereof) and that’s where I’m returning to some degree.

    Once upon a time I wrote to an audience of one. And it was enjoyable and I received business from it. I’m still getting some business from writing to make the larger population happy, but I’m deriving less and less joy from the exercise.

  6. Benn Rosales

    January 7, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Yep, Jonathan, you haven’t, but neither of us can say the same of others in the space that have virtually been failing at trying to be everything they never actually were to everyone else for the past year and desperately succeeding.

  7. Jonathan Dalton

    January 7, 2009 at 11:55 am

    That’s definitely true.

    There are things I’ll write here at AG that I wouldn’t dare right on my regular blog. I’ve been far more introspective here than I’ll be there just because there are things – states of mind, emotions, etc. – that I want to share in case someone else feels the same that I don’t want in front of my regular audience.

    If people link the two, so be it, but they will have to work for it.

    I absolutely agree that there are some rather self-destructive things that appear on many blogs and, in spite of them, the agents continue to succeed. Or so it seems.

  8. Matthew Hardy

    January 7, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve been making an analysis of the blogs I read and altering my feed list. Here’s my new criteria: I am looking for graciousness, intelligence, humor and above all, helpfulness. Out: vitriol, hubris and mean-spiritedness.

  9. Benn Rosales

    January 7, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Matthew, you’re a gentleman regardless of what they all say about you! 🙂

  10. Jonathan Dalton

    January 7, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Wait, Matt … does that mean I did or didn’t make the cut? 🙂

  11. Elaine Reese

    January 7, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Jonathan, I think you’re on to something. When I started blogging, I began with AR. Wrote – or tried to write – to appeal to other agents. After a while, I decided the time spent doing that, was causing my business to suffer (in 2007). I couldn’t write to MY consumer on AR.

    So I switched to my own blog and wrote as if I were talking to my clients or trying to provide the info that prospects might like to know. I share the portion of my personal life that I might share with a client (which means that not everything is shared). It worked for me, as 2008 was good. Prospects can decide if they don’t like me (they don’t call) or decide if they DO like me (they call). WYSIWYG

    Not that I don’t enjoy the commraderie or knowledge gained from other agents, I just had to reset my priorities and evaluate the ROI to make sure I put food on my own table.

  12. BawldGuy

    January 7, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Blogging isn’t different than any other skill. You can choose to learn in public, or learn from those who’re skilled practitioners.

    Do it my way? Sure — but with professional guidance. I went from umpiring minor league Little League games to NCAA post season games in a relatively short time period.

    Think I did it all my way? Yeah, right. We all do it ‘our’ way, but purposefully and consistently stubbing my toe in the dark, ain’t my idea of the most efficient learning curve. I learned from some real pros.

    We get to do it our own way when we grasp and kinda sorta master the skills for that particular discipline. There just aren’t that many ‘naturals’ out there. And even naturals still learned from the truly experienced, no matter what they say.

    Good stuff, Jon.

  13. Matthew Hardy

    January 7, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    @Benn

    A really insightful comment from someone who’s “kind of a big deal”. 😉

    @Jonathan

    Still readin’ dude!

    @BawldGuy

    Quality people who are exceedingly good at what they do seem to become increasing humble. Jeff Brown is a man worth listening to.

  14. Benn Rosales

    January 7, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    haha no, that’s @tcar the ninja

  15. Ken Brand

    January 7, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Thought provoking post Jonathan.

    A struggle, introspection, reflection and a bit confusion and discomfort is natural and positive.

    Searching for voice, salient content, attractive prose, angle of approach, meaning and motivation are the scars, rewards, highs and lows of growing.

    Personally, I don’t factor in what others think about my subjects, I do focus on universally attractive aspects such as interesting writing style, composition, organization, clarity/brevity. Studying and reading damn fine writing is a must for the always aspiring blogger/communicator/thought leader/successful agent.

    You’ve given me pause to self examine. Thanks.

  16. teresa boardman

    January 12, 2009 at 6:28 am

    Of course I write about business. My blog is loaded with statistics that can’t be found any where else and some of my posts becomes the stories the local papers pick up six months to a year later.

  17. Bri

    January 23, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Our BTS image is just that – an image. It isn’t JavaScript – it could not have been the cause of your slowdowns.

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