Basecamp, the company formerly known as 37 Signals, is a big name in the startup space and very popular among developers.
Their rise to prominence in that space came largely due to one thing: a blog.
They had a blog that turned into a book that turned into a movement.
Early on, though, they didn’t set out to create a content marketing strategy with a blog that would attract new users. They started blogging before Joe Pulizzi even coined the phrase content marketing. They had a blog even before we had a word for blog.
In the first episode of the new Basecamp podcast, Rework, Jason Fried shares the story about the early days of their blog and why it became a success.
Here is the most important lesson from what he said:
Share what you would share even if no one was reading (or listening or watching, etc.).
In those early days they weren’t checking the stats and analytics about visitors. There were no analytics back then. If they had, Fried points out, they probably would have been discouraged and stopped.
Instead, they decided that since they were having conversations about a new kind of business model and writing emails to summarize these thoughts, they might as well post the ideas online so other people could engage with them, too.
Not only that, they used this same line of thinking to create products.
They created things for internal use and then turned them into products for others to use as well. The most popular among these is web application framework Ruby on Rails.
They call this strategy: “Sell Your By-Products”
It reminds me of a lot of other stories of content marketing success that started as something someone was already doing and decided to share online.
Pat Flynn found Internet business success by posting the notes he was taking for the LEED exam for architects. Like Basecamp, he didn’t even have Google Analytics installed and he didn’t realize how many people were using the notes until he set it up one day.
John and Hank Green started posting videos to one another on a YouTube channel they called vlogbrothers because they wanted to have a creative way to keep in touch. The blog now has 3 million subscribers.
The point is to create what you would create even if no one was watching.
Create things you find useful.
Create things that you will come back to and use later.
There’s a likely chance that other people will find them useful, too.
Seth Godin recommends keeping a daily blog whether people read it or not. He posts daily and says he would do it whether anyone read it or not.
This is the 14th day in a row that I’ve posted to this blog. I feel guilty about the amount of time I’m spending on it, but I find it helpful to think through lessons I’m learning each day.