I had plenty of reason to celebrate when Ongolo turned six months old on 1 October 2020. The journey from zero to six months was bumpy and left me wondering whether blogging was really worth all the sleepless nights.
I have a feeling that the next six months will be different because I have finally found my stride and put some of the nagging doubts to rest thanks to these five motivational tips:
#1 Remember your purpose
“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion” – Simon Sinek
My inspiration for starting my blog was Gwyneth Paltrow, who founded goop as a weekly newsletter in 2008. It took GP (as she is known) three years to grow goop from a newsletter with 10,377 subscribers into wellness and lifestyle brand with over 400k subscribers in 2011, when goop was formally incorporated as a company. Today goop is valued at $250m and has over 8m subscribers.
I liked GP’s story for two reasons:
- Blogging about what you truly love and enjoy is effortless
- Blogging success does not come overnight. Be willing to play the long game
My main motivation for launching Ongolo was to change the narrative about Africa. I was sick and tired of hearing negative news stories about Africa and Africans. Mainstream media only seem to report African news when it involves corruption, crime, disease and poverty. When two Westerners called Africa “deep, dark Africa” and “mickey mouse countries” to my face in 2019, I knew I had to do something.
Remembering my purpose is especially important when I feel deflated. I once stayed up all night to write an article on how the pandemic had disrupted the education section and was so disappointed to see that only five people had read it by the end of the day. I had to remind myself that my metric for success is not the number of times an article gets read or liked. Those five people who read the article was enough motivation to stay focused on the cause.
#2 Serve your audience
“Don’t try to serve everyone or you will end up serving no one. The more targeted your message is the more successful you will be” – Serena Carcasole
The biggest mistake I made when I started Ongolo was trying to appeal to all Africans. I crafted the tagline ‘Building a Pan-African community from Cape to Cairo, Dakar to Djibouti’ which I still believe in and hope I can use someday. In those first few weeks, I ran Facebook marketing campaigns to drum up interest and was frustrated by the lack of traction.
I decided to take a step back and solicited feedback from my regular readers about who they thought the blog resonated with the most. I also reviewed my Google analytics. The blog appeals mostly to Africans in the diaspora looking for content about home and non-Africans who have lived in Africa or are interested in Africa. Knowing your audience is important as it defines the content.
#3 Content is king
“Content is king” – Bill Gates
On 3 January 1996, Bill Gates wrote an article entitled Content is King in which he stated: Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet. Content is essentially the product that your blog offers. What will people read when they visit the site and what do you want them to take away?
I saw a gap in the market for fresh content on intellectual topics such as the economy, entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership. We also don’t do enough to showcase the arts, rich history and various aspects of how Africans live. I wanted to capture how African work, play and think from a different angle.
One of my major frustrations with African social media is the dominance of sensational stories that would delight the producers at Telemundo. In the same week that the Zambian government decided to skip a bond payment on the road to default, Zambian social media was dominated by endless discussions about a wedding that had been interrupted by someone claiming to be the actual wife of the groom. I still don’t know how the story ended.
My blog posts seek to:
- Teach readers something new about Africa
- Inspire readers to visit Africa or a part of Africa they had not thought of visiting
#4 Consistency is queen
“If content is king, consistency is queen” – unknown
Blogging requires real commitment. When I first launched Ongolo, I planned to produce five blog posts per week, which was remarkably ambitious given I have a full-time job and an active social life. This coupled with trying to please everyone meant I was perpetually stressed out about what to write.
I launched Ongolo Conversations on 1 May 2020 because I read somewhere that content was better delivered in a visual format rather than written. As a result, I completely neglected my blog for three months as I focused on building my YouTube site. Big mistake. Ongolo.com went from nearly 900 visitors in the first month to zero in August when I took the site down to revamp it. I am slowly rebuilding my reader base and playing the long game, one new reader at a time.
Consistency means I have made a commitment to publish two blog posts per week on Mondays and Thursdays plus a weekly news roundup on Fridays. Believe me when I say it is a struggle at times which is why I always go back to point #1: why am I doing this? My purpose continues to fuel me.
#5 Trust yourself
“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do” – Dr Benjamin Spock
The best advice I would give to anyone starting a blog or a new business venture is to keep your own counsel and trust yourself. I made the mistake of telling everyone and their dog that I was starting a blog (thankfully not easy to imitate) and then a YouTube channel (the barriers to entry are far too low! LOL). People gave a lot of advice – some good, some intentionally or unintentionally bad.
Examples of bad advice I received:
- Branding: Change the name or logo. Ongolo is a play on my name so should I change that too?
- Audience: the blog is too middle-class and intellectual. But so am I…
- Content: why is there no politics? We need to break the perception that politics is everything. Also, our politics sucks! I did say quality content…
- Content: why don’t you post articles from other sites? And lose my authentic voice?
In the end, where I got to was exactly where I originally set out to go in April 2020. I wasted months consulting and changing direction only to go back to my original plan.
The learning from this experience was:
- be clear about the purpose for whatever you set out to do
- your main driver should be passion not money or external validation
- define your tribe and let them find you
- define what you are offering your tribe and serve them to the best of your ability
- regular engagement is key and make a firm commitment to blog
- sometimes the only person you can trust is yourself
I wish you every success!
© 2020 Muloongo Muchelemba. All Rights Reserved
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