Single Dad Laughing - Loved and Hated for the Exact Same ReasonsDan Pearce
AN INVITATION TO PARENT BLOGGERS TO DISCUSS A FEW CONTROVERSIAL BLOGGING DYNAMICS.
Single Dad Laughing. It’s a name that for many parent bloggers invokes instant and strong emotion, whether good or bad. Single Dad Laughing is the blog I started two years ago shortly after my wife left and I was struggling to adapt to life as a single dad.
To listen to many parent bloggers, you would believe that Single Dad Laughing is an incredible, beautifully-written, honest, and well-intentioned blog. To listen to others, you would believe that SDL is a poorly-written, dishonest, self-aggrandizing, and even fraudulent blog. Being that such “discussion” has now spilled onto the pages of Babble, I thought I would respond and share my thoughts about these dynamics here where we hopefully can have a productive discussion about it.
Indeed, it is a strange reality to have so many people applaud the exact things I have done to grow my blog that others feel I should be apologizing for. It is surreal to be loved and hated for the exact same reasons. I will be the first to admit that I haven’t always followed the conventional “rules” of blogging. I have marketed my blog and promoted my blog in a multitude of different ways, and I have grown a fairly big following in the process.
I come from a business marketing and sales background. It’s what I did before pursuing this odd life as Single Dad Laughing. And I was always very good at what I did. I don’t think any person I’ve worked with will dispute that I always brought in big results wherever I worked, whether they liked me as a person or not.
In the middle of it all, I bought a therapeutic mattress store. We sold specialty beds that sold for anywhere between $999 and $9500. I bought the store in August of 2008. I’m sure you all remember what happened to the U.S. Economy in October of that same year.
At the time I bought my store, the parent company was selling all 13 of its stores to individual owners. Most of the new owners started out fairly well. By the end of 2008, only half of us were still in business. By mid 2009, mine was the only store left standing. When an economy is crashing, people hold off buying what most would consider splurge items. I don’t know that the individual store owners can really be blamed for their failures. The whole country was going down in flames, it seemed.
But for some reason, my store always did great, even throughout the economic downfall. I made pretty decent money and was never in danger of going out of business.
As things turned south for the other store owners, I remember there grew some resentment from them for my marketing techniques and strategies. While everyone else was pulling back, I was spending more. When things occasionally got a little tight, I would go guerilla and figure out how to get our advertising out there with little or no money at all. The other owners didn’t care for my billboard on the freeway. They didn’t care for the army of teenagers I would hire every weekend to wave signs. They didn’t like that I paid top dollar for the best salespeople in the company. They didn’t like a lot of things, and they let me know it. They also let customers know it. And employees. And the folks over at headquarters.
A lot of these guys were my friends before we bought our stores, and even though they weren’t too pleased with my success, I never considered them to be anything less. I have always believed that success breeds more success in business. Had they all been successful, I would have seen fruits from their successes and visa versa.
In a bad economy like that, there is often a need to point fingers for one’s own failures. Eventually we got past the finger pointing long enough to bring all the owners together for a training. I promised to give them all my secrets for my success thus far, and told them I’d be happy to help them train their staff and help get their marketing in the right place, free of charge.
The owners congregated, and they learned everything I could teach them in the course of a day. They got excited, and any ill-feelings quickly disappeared. Surely from that point on, we could all work together to bring a great name to this product we were all peddling. Surely from that point on, we could all work together to help each other succeed.
Interestingly enough, after hearing me out, they openly admitted that I hadn’t done anything wrong in what I’d done to make my store successful. I never apologized for anything I had done, as there really was nothing wrong with it. They took my challenges and advice and they each went back to their own stores, determined to make it work.
Some of them saw immediate success after our meeting. They’re the ones that lasted a while. But even they, with time, stopped following my advice and stopped working together with me. The continued bad economy and subsequent drop in customers scared them too much. And they all went under, one by one.
Toward the end of 2009, I pulled the plug on my own store, having had a fun and profitable ride. Corporate was selling the manufacturing to another company who had their eyes fixed on national distribution. My little shop would be nothing but a thorn in their side, so it was time. I then worked in corporate marketing as an executive for the next year and a half. With a still horrible economy and a limited budget, I had to really get creative and unique with my marketing strategies. And, those strategies paid off just as they had with my store.
While working there, I started my blog Single Dad Laughing. At the time, I didn’t know anything about blogging. I didn’t know there were tens of millions of blogs in existence. I didn’t know that there were a handful of “super blogs” such as Pioneer Woman, Dooce, and The Bloggess. I didn’t know people made money from blogging, nor was that ever a goal of mine starting out.
I just wrote to write. It was my escape from the reality of my broken life.
And as Single Dad Laughing gained popularity, I naturally started learning there was a lot more to the blogging world than I ever dreamed there was. People actually had blogs as businesses. That was a weird concept, but a fun one to me. And if other people could do it, why couldn’t I?
As I mentioned, when starting Single Dad Laughing, I didn’t know much about the blogging world at all. I didn’t know there was this thing called “the blogging community.” I didn’t know there were things like blog conferences and blog events. I didn’t know there were a bazillion different types of blogs. I didn’t know there were conglomerate blogs. I literally just thought a blog was something you started by opening a Blogspot account and inviting your friends and family to follow your life updates.
I still didn’t fully understand all of that when I decided to turn Single Dad Laughing into a business. And, entering the “blogging for business” world full steam ahead, I did so wearing that same marketing and business hat that had fit me so well in the past.
Since then (two years ago), Single Dad Laughing has grown very quickly and has even become famous as blogs go (yep, I said it). And I have grown it via two methods.
First, and definitely foremost, Single Dad Laughing has grown by word of mouth. I have written several introspective and opinion posts that for some reason have gone viral. Every time it happens, my followership has grown.
Second, I have marketed my blog. Yep, marketed. I said that, too. I have done what I have always done in business, and found a way to put Single Dad Laughing in front of new people. After all, you’ve gotta have a lot of readers to make a full-time living blogging. I learned quickly that what I thought was a lot of readers, was nowhere near enough to bring security to me and Noah each month. And so I’ve consistently worked to find more.
The marketing of my blog is where I’ve solicited the most criticism. It’s what has caused other bloggers to label me as self-aggrandizing. It is where I have “broken the rules” of blogging so to speak.
You see, to market yourself (or your product or your business) you have to tout yourself. That’s what marketing is. No company convinces people to check out its product by saying “my product is okay.” Instead, they get people to look at their product by saying, “my product is unique, it’s awesome, it’s worth looking at, and it has value.”
The marketing of Single Dad Laughing has ranged from placing ads for my blog, to more guerilla forms of marketing such as participating on discussion forums, to extensive product giveaways. “That’s bad form,” some bloggers have said.
The latest flack I’ve gotten was after I put out a press release about my experience recently being rescued from a mountaintop. “That’s bad form,” some bloggers have said. And while at first I didn’t think of it as marketing (I had some other reasons for putting out this specific release), the truth is that press releases are just that. Marketing.
In many of my marketing strategies, I have called Single Dad Laughing famous, popular, or renowned. This has also gotten flack.
But let me ask you honestly a few questions. One, have you ever heard me use these phrases outside of marketing? Two, are any of them not true? And three, is it really wrong if it is all done from a marketing perspective?
To know me is to know that I detest the F-word (fame) and never on my blog, to my readers, or anywhere else do I ever use self-touting or self-aggrandizing statements. But marketing is different. My blog’s marketing is not meant for any other blogger or for my own readers. It is meant for those who come across that marketing, and it should only matter what they think when they see it. In marketing, those phrases are used so that people searching for popular or famous blogs find mine. It’s called SEO, it’s crucial in marketing nowadays, and it’s one more way that I run my blog as a business.
If you follow blogging blogs, you’ll see how widely preached it is that if you write a blog as a business, you should run it as a real business.
And no business is truly successful without solid marketing. And no marketing is truly successful without some levels of self-promotion.
I think what’s hard in the blogging world is that in the beginning, blogs weren’t businesses at all. Bloggers were expected to entertain the masses free of charge. It was their artistic gift to the world. And, as some in the blogging world soon realized, that was just silly. There was no reason why bloggers shouldn’t make money just like columnists and other entertainers did. And so, some bloggers started putting ads on their sites and participating in affiliate marketing.
From what I’ve read, the jaws of hell opened up after these bloggers and they were viciously decried by the greater blogging community. I’m sure many of them pulled the ads off of their site as quickly as they put them up. It’s scary when the angry masses come out. But there were also the stubborn few who believed their talents were worth something, and they kept the ads in place. It was those pioneers who made blog advertising not just acceptable but commonplace. And it was also they that made it possible for all of us to find this extra monetary motivation to continually put ourselves out there, even when the going gets tough.
This week I am celebrating my two-year anniversary on Single Dad Laughing, and I am entering year three with such a mixed bag of emotions about the blogging world.
There are some things I love about it. There are some things I detest. The same was true when I was in business.
I also think that a lot of the dynamics from running my bed business closely parallel those of blogging. So much of what I do to be successful as a blogger gets under the skin of others and there are some who believe my efforts and success are a direct nose-thumbing to their own levels of success.
But they’re not, and in all reality, it’s really not a competition at all. We’re all peddling the same product, and success for one brings success to others. It’s one of the greatest rules of business. It’s why Home Depots often go up next door to Lowes. It’s why Walmart and Sam’s Club often share parking lots. It’s why people buy booth spaces in big product shows and at farmer’s markets. Cooperative competition is healthy and everyone thrives more when there are more people putting a good face on the products being sold.
I look at Charlie and Andy from How to Be a Dad (they are also fellow bloggers here on Babble Voices). They’re fairly new on the block and are growing a nice following as quickly or more quickly than I did. They market their blog beautifully and put a lot of time and effort into their posts. It shows. And… I’m thrilled that they’re growing the way they are. Why? Because… it’s good for dad blogging as a whole. Eh, forget good; it’s great for dad blogging.
When I look at the way they market themselves through social media and whatnot, it isn’t lost on me that they speak of themselves in their marketing the same way I have spoken of myself, yet they haven’t seemed to attract much grief for it. The difference I’ve noticed is that Andy and Charlie are simply able to say it about each other which somehow makes it acceptable. They take turns saying it about whatever content the other posts. Where I might share a post and say, this is the most personally powerful post I’ve shared, they’ll share a post and Andy will say something like, “this is the most personally powerful post Charlie’s ever shared.”
And I think that’s fantastic. I think it’s great. And I don’t think it’s self-aggrandizing at all.
It simply is… marketing.
I follow Andy and Charlie. They’re entertaining, but they also are pioneering some great things in Dad blogging. I hope they are far more successful than I ever am, and I can say the same thing for all other dad bloggers who really give it their heart and time. Someone being better than me or bigger than me has nothing to do with my own value as a blogger and it has everything to do with daddy blogging gaining momentum as a whole.
What we need to all do is learn from each other and not try to force each other into molds of what we think blogging should be and how we feel blogging should be done. We need to be open to new ideas in blogging, different marketing techniques, and new ways of thinking. We need to not be tearing each other down. And when we do tear each other down we need to learn to see the damage we do to ourselves in the process.
There are no rules in blogging. Not really. If you’re blogging for a business, it’s your right and privilege to market in whatever ways you like because, as I mentioned before, your marketing isn’t intended for other bloggers. Your goal is to get new readers. If you put your marketing out there fearing the retaliation of other bloggers, you will struggle with it. Guaranteed.
Take for example my recent press release. I made a contract with a PR company before I ever put my first release out to do 24 press releases over the next year. And I intend to do every single one of them. Will there be a learning curve? Absolutely. Will some of them hurt more than they help? Maybe. Will there be some flack from other bloggers? Of course.
But in the end, I really believe that bloggers are entitled to everything that any other business is entitled to when it comes to marketing, and that includes press releases. I just have to have faith that standing my ground and being that “stubborn blogger” who doesn’t give up just because he gets flack from other bloggers will payoff for all bloggers down the road.
I have never done anything for my blog that for a business would be immoral, unethical, or wrong to do. I have done only one thing in two years that I feel a need to apologize for. And, I have never been fraudulent (despite what some other bloggers have put out there). What I have done, and will always do, is what I feel is right for me, and my son, and my blog, and my readers.
I did at one point need to apologize for writing a harsh response piece to some of the dad bloggers who haven’t had nice things to say about me or the way I do things. In mid-June, I removed that response, replaced it with a public apology, and admitted that it did more harm than good for parent blogging as a whole. Never again will I let my hurt feelings or strong emotions suck me into such practices, it doesn’t do any of us any good.
Anyway, all of this being said, I’ll finish with this.
I write Single Dad Laughing for my readers.
I build my blog and my business for Noah and me.
If I make fellow blogger friends in the process, great.
If Single Dad Laughing is hated and loathed by some in the process, that’s okay too.
Because that’s just how business is. And it’s time we all let go of the notion that bloggers aren’t allowed to run their blogs as businesses.
As bloggers, we give a lot of ourselves to the masses. We put our personal lives out there. We give all sorts of time and money to our endeavors. Don’t you think we should all work together to give ourselves and our industry a good name, too? Life will certainly be a lot easier for all of us if we do.
Today I’d love if you’d all have a constructive discussion about this with me, no matter which side of the SDL fence you’ve been on. I would like to invite all parent bloggers to put down your ideas of what’s wrong and right in blogging for the moment, and ask yourselves what should be wrong and right. Then, I’d like to invite all of you to find a way to bury the hatchet and move forward together to make dad blogging a truly respected platform.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
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More of me on Danoah Unleashed:
My Kid’s Booger Problem Just Got Personal
When Mommy & Daddy Believe Very Different Things
I Bit My Kid’s Head Off For No Real Reason Today
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