I was recently asked via email how to generate “buzz” for a hike and a person’s website. I assuming the person is a long list of many people looking to be a professional backpacker and wants to make a name for themselves. I readily admit I could be wrong about this idea, but I’ve seen it enough where perhaps it is worth talking about.
I truly don’t know how to create “buzz”. I am a full-time IT monkey who is lucky enough to get out on a regular basis. If not as much as I’d like…
Personally, I have done no extreme activities. I am not an expert on gear. While I am generally a very competent outdoors person, my skill set is pretty common for any person who ventures off the designated trails and enjoys planning their own routes. I’m a pretty competent Nordic skier and a passable-by-sheer-stubbornness Tele skier (meaning I’m not graceful and I can get down the mountain and that’s about it). And who can’t car camp?
So, how to create a buzz? Could not tell you in the way that is generally meant.
What I do know is how to have a modestly well-known website in an obscure community.
How to do this?
- Go out and get outside. As often as you can. A lot. And preferably not just on long trails. Your skill set will be limited if all you know how to do is a hike a long trail with guidebooks, corridor maps and trail specific apps. The “trail famous” people don’t really have any staying power outside an obscure little niche. And that’s cool. But if you are wondering how to create a “buzz”, I a guessing being a niche person is not what is wanted. Now, if you want to be a well-known person who happened to hike a long trail once or twice as opposed to an outdoor person….that’s another story. I’m just an outdoors guy. See above not knowing how to create “buzz”. Either way, the more specific you make yourself, the less likely the general population will be interested.
- Write about what you have done and what you are doing as opposed to what you will do. No really cares about crap you are planning to do (well, at least until you are well-known). What have you done? What can you write about that is of interest and is something to share with other people?
- Write what you want, not what you think others will read. I write a lot. Partially because it is a hobby of mine, partially because I have a desire to instruct and inform, partially because it is an outlet for me. But I always write about what I want. I doubt many long distance hikers care about the effects a Catholic upbringing has on how time in the outdoors is perceived. Don’t give a shit. All writers, ultimately, write for themselves. Writing is a calling. I write because I want to…I do IT work because it pays reasonably well… Big difference. If you are lucky, you write about something other people can relate to as well. Since I consider myself an outdoors person first who has done some long hikes in the past a distant second, it seems to work writing about stuff other than long trails. If you write about things you care about..well, see below about your unique voice.
- Have a unique voice. What can you write about that is different? Your Epic Journey of Self has been done by many people (some crappily, some well done)…. Going to make yourself an ultralight guru for thru-hiking? See above about a small niche. How to make a unique voice? I couldn’t tell you. Find it.
- Write about what you know. If you hawk every product that comes your way despite if you really use it or not, if you talk out your ass about things you don’t know about..it will show. No one cares, in the long run, about Joe Blow’s take on really cool stoves. How many canister stoves can a person review in a year that they have actually used? Some people are born gear heads and can bring a unique and credible voice to gear discussion. Most people? Not-so-much.
- Keep it focused. What are you about? This blog of mine, and all blogs of course, are personal on some level. However, my website is mainly outdoor focused . Oh, I throw in some history at times that is at least tangentially outdoor related and once-in-a-while I’ll delve into something that is very personal. But if one day I talked about the joys of the Italian-American cuisine I grew up with, another day I discussed Star Blazers and then the third day I discussed web.config files, it would not be an outdoor blog. It would be a personal journal about everything and nothing. Unless you are a very gifted writer, which I am not personally, no one wants to read your personal crap exclusively. You can go off on tangent once in a while..it adds flavor and makes the site a little personal. But, just like cooking, too much flavoring that does not really go together well ruins the “buzz” dish… Want a personal blog? Cool. But, remember, that rarely creates “buzz”.
- Want to make the outdoors a full-time job? I’ve been online writing about the outdoors for almost twenty years. It has been slow and steady growth for a few paid gigs. And that has only, relatively recently, happened with the rise of social media. No coincidence I am sure. But for me to make the leap to a self-sustaining full-time outdoors person (as opposed to a bum with a GoFundMe campaign and/or mooches off others) , I have to commit to it. That means saving up money and then hustling for freelance jobs and/or starting my own business with the cushion provided by my savings. I have not made that full-time leap for various reasons. Few (any?) people who made that leap are doing it because it was handed to them. They worked hard to get to that point. So will you. Even the GFM people have to buckle down and work for something beyond donations eventually. And even full time outdoors people have to be inside, over a laptop and producing something and/or doing boring crap that is not glamorous sometimes People who spend all their time outside and don’t do anything to get paid enough to sustain their lifestyle? They are called retirees (who worked damn hard to get to that point), trust funders or lottery winners.
SHORT VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE: Get out there, do shit and then write about the shit you know. Work at it. That’s how to create buzz. But I don’t think that is what was meant.