Qualifying Article for Year End $1000 USD Contest
A Fragile Alliance
In recent weeks, I’ve discovered that there is a tentative and fragile alliance between my inner optimist and my inner cynic, my inner idealist and my inner pragmatist. I propose that, as bloggers, we strive to balance our core values with our desire for financial success, and try to succeed at both. To do less is to be less.
To that end, I hope not only to influence your approach to blogging as we move towards the New Year, but also to enlist your help in ensuring my financial success – by voting for, sharing, and having a real and engaging conversation in the comments section of this post. There’s a $1000 prize at stake, so I hope you enjoy this post and find it thought-provoking.
Politics, Products, and Promotion
If there is one good thing about an ugly and contentious election year in the United States of America, it is that people who slept through high school Civics class are now catching up, gaining a deeper understanding of their Constitutional rights and obligations, including the right to vote. They are awakening to the fact that one vote, one person, can make a difference.
Even in the heat of battle, U.S. elections are still reflecting some of our higher values. Foreign election officials have marveled at the trust we have in the process and in each other. Is it worth losing that to sell more ads and airtime on TV? Buried under a barrage of ads and opinions, how do we decide who and what to vote for – or against? Remember that you can find all the answers by searching the Internet, so long as you don’t much care that any of them are accurate. The news media should reliably report the facts, and, through editorial opinion pieces, influence readers’ choices through persuasive arguments. But, as any blogger worth his salt knows, that facts aren’t as important to the advertising sponsors as a sensational headline or a tantalizing hint of scandal.
You may be wondering, “What has this got to do with me? I don’t blog about politics. Why should I care?” Putting politics aside, for a moment, ask yourself what it is you do as a blogger. Most likely, you blog to inform your readers, to influence their choices, and to sell products. It can be very tempting to use these catchy headlines and titillating bits – to weave them into your own blog like bait on a hook – without taking time to research the facts and build an argument on solid evidence.
I would urge all bloggers – but particularly the young, who still have so much to learn and experience – to resist the temptation to write about topics they barely understand and care even less about, just because someone has told them it’s going to make them a ton of money and it’s “good for SEO.” How many bloggers have become rich just following someone else’s lead, re-spinning the headline news without explaining their own thought processes or infusing it with fresh opinions of their own? Write what you know – but also share what you’re learning and the ideas that have led you to your conclusions. Be humble. The need to be right all the time makes people to want to kick you in the shins and prove you wrong.
Consider the awesome power of the press, and the fact that every blogger has the opportunity to reach a global audience of amazing proportions. As “citizen journalists,” we can be heard and we can make a difference in the world. It’s our choice whether we make a positive difference or simply add to the noise and confusion. That much is within our control.
Passion, Credibility, and Core Values
Forget about passion – figure out what your core values are, things like “honesty,” “integrity,” “family,” “success,” “faith,” and so on – and let them infuse your writing with heart and meaning.
“Wait, what? Core values? I’m writing about trashy celebs, gadgets, sex toys, diapers, and cell phones. There’s no money to be had in this ‘core values’ stuff.” I’m not so sure that’s true, but it can be tough to choose between the promise of short term gain and the slower, harder path to a solid reputation and authority. Do the things you’re blogging about matter to you, or are you just doing it for the keywords? Why do you think these things matter to the people who are searching for them? Do you think it’s possible for your cell phone to reflect your core values? Have you ever heard of Credo Mobile or Working Assets? How can you blog about your chosen topics, provide value to people searching for information, and yet make your blog a reflection of what matters most?
Just as important: How would you feel if a friend advised you to buy a piece of junk with your hard-earned cash? Would it matter to you that he’d read somewhere that it was a really great thing – and was just repeating what he’d heard? How would you feel if you could be sent to jail just because three people said, “Someone told me he committed the crime. Why shouldn’t I believe them?” Facts matter. If honesty isn’t one of our core values, as bloggers, we are really doing ourselves and each other a disservice.
You may think, “I can’t afford to be that honest, I have to earn a living!” Yes, we all do – but if we’re not honest and fair with each other, we can’t trust anyone. Where does that leave us?
Write for a Cause
There’s another old saying: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Refuse to be part of the problem. As we move into 2013, consider how you can influence everyone around you to be better, and resolve to make the world a nicer place. It’s the only place we’ve got.
Promote What’s Good!
Have you considered joining affiliate programs based on whether the companies and products you help to sell represent the things you believe in? Consumers are beginning to care about corporate ethics, particularly in the United States, after Citizens United v. FEC gave corporations unprecedented power to influence election outcomes. When choosing between two similar products, the decision may well hinge on whether the company that makes and sells the products reflects the buyer’s own values. Look into whether the companies behind the products and services you promote are actively working against the things you believe in. Can you turn a blind eye to abusive labor practices because it keeps your toys affordable? I think that issues will become a greater factor in buying decisions as we move forward into 2013 and beyond. Blog about your own choices and the information you found that helped you to make them. Then promote the people, the companies, and the products that help form the kind of world you want to live in. You will, at least, be starting the conversation.
Do something just because it’s good, too. Search engines don’t buy products or click on ads – people do. Join in Blog Action Day, in 2013. Or take up another cause. Raise funds to fight cancer or bring clean water to communities that don’t have enough of it. Or to help end hunger.
Learn & Share
Whether you’re 10 or 110, one of the keys to living a full, rich life is to keep learning new things. What are you curious to know? Share what you learn with others. If you’re writing blogging tips, look for some unusual work-savers and shortcuts. Develop a whole new method of doing something. What new things are you driven to create or to experience? Be sure to take pictures and tell your readers all about it. How did you go from dreaming to doing?
Stir the Pot
Remember: Controversy sells, too. There’s enough of it in the world that you don’t even need to add hype and drama – in fact, if you sincerely want to start a conversation and solve a problem, I’d suggest you ground your posts in facts and personal convictions, focusing on the issues that matter to you and avoiding the hype and drama that might cause readers to ignore you.
A good discussion involves listening, as well as speaking. Encourage people to engage in conversations – with you and with each other – and discourage vague generalizations. During the political campaign, I often heard people say things like, “Why should I vote? All politicians are alike. They all lie.” Perhaps that’s true. What can we do to encourage greater honesty, and lessen the rewards of lying (which could also be called “telling people only what they want to hear”)? Are all smartphones alike? What are the differences and, more to the point, why do they matter?
Together, as bloggers, we can make a difference. It doesn’t always have to be some grandiose effort on a global scale. Resolve to be credible and to make a positive difference in your readers’ lives, and you can change the world – starting with your little corner of it.
“Flying Pig” Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Balance” Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Circles Colours” Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Brain Design By Cogs And Gears” and “New Year 2013” Images courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Red Ants Team Work” Image courtesy of SweetCrisis at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you have enjoyed this post, please join in the conversation, below, and share the link with all your social networks. If you are a member of Blog Engage, I’d be very thankful for your Vote, as well.