Niche Is Overrated, Personality Underrated
Many champion niche as the definitive factor for producing successful digital media. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a recent post at SmartBlog on social media, Jesse Stanchak shares a poll of his audience’s qualifying factors for “what makes a blog great.”
The results were as follows:
- A distinctive voice – 43.41%
- Compelling exclusive content — 35.66%
- A unique niche – 11.63%
- Strong promotion via social-media channels — 5.04%
- Excellent SEO — 2.71%
- Connections to famous brands, personalities — 1.55%
And Jesse laments the fact that just 11.63% of his audience felt a unique niche was compelling:
The results of this week’s poll took me a little bit by surprise. Given that this question was answered by 295 SmartBrief on Social Media readers, I would have guessed that most people would have favored the niche answer. After all, social media is about building community, and communities thrive in niche environments. Think about your favorite blogs for a second. I’m wiling to bet most of them cater to a pretty specific audience. Niche blogs are lean, focused and easy to pitch to their intended audiences.
While the poll surprised Jesse, the results actually shouldn’t surprise readers here at all. After all, personality is what keeps your blog in demand (note, ‘niche’ was not a single reason listed in that post). As someone who has helped build web communities for more than a decade (long before the popularization of blogs, I moderated several web forums) I’ve experienced time and time again it is not simply category that defines a popular social destination. Not really — it’s the community. And in a blog’s case, the writer’s voice defines that, being within a category is pretty meaningless on its own.
Think about it – do you subscribe to a blog just because it’s about digital marketing, healthy eating, or astrology? Is that enough? Not really, simply because it is about that subject means nothing. You subscribe because you enjoy the writer’s content, their voice and perhaps the community which exists.
Also, it’s of note that of course Jesse is surprised by this, as he works for SmartBrief. Their main product is niche-focused newsletters, but their newsletters themselves are merely aggregation and don’t have personality or voice. SmartBrief will learn in time for their blogs, this is all that matters (if they want a legitimate community and rapid growth).
Glen Allsopp published a post which ties this all together: why choosing a blog niche might not be a good idea. Glenn is a proven leader at building ultra-successful blogs, fast and notes:
There are a few pieces of advice that tend to come as standard when you look for help with blogging. “Write compelling content”, “network in your niche”, and “stay consistent” are probably the most common words of wisdom you’ll receive. “Pick the right niche” ranks right up there with them as well.
After more than 15 coaching calls in the last month, I had the realisation that this advice just isn’t helping people, especially with 10 of those calls involving my client stressing out about which industry they should be blogging in.
I instantly replied with “Don’t worry about it” which not only helped bring these people some relief, but also touched upon something that I think everyone should think about. In my opinion, choosing your blog niche – in most cases – just doesn’t really matter anymore.
Glen is correct and it’s obvious why. The social web is already saturated and simply having a niche is not even close to enough. I’ve seen blogs which have an incessant focus staying within a category never attract critical mass to break through. They get dominated by sites unafraid to develop personality, character and break any rules of “staying within a niche.” Besides, interesting results always happen at the intersection. Consider the most interesting musicians, they live between genres and defy classification. That’s exactly what makes them great.
Pure niches blogs that never wander outside the lines are usually boring. Just because you create content within a certain vein doesn’t matter – that’s not what people want most.