What ‘House of Cards’ can teach you about blogging

The antiheroes of the popular political drama might not be folks to emulate in your social dealings, but their traits and actions hold some lessons for the blogosphere.

The politics of the blogosphere are a lot like the politics of the White House: Hunt or be hunted.

It’s a ruthless world out there, teeming with movers and shakers, hand wringers, whistleblowers, and intimidating rule breakers and followers, all posting top-notch content with countless followers hanging on their every word.

How are you going to set yourself apart? A cutting-edge strategy? A tactful approach? A swift game changer?

Read on to learn what Netflix’s pulsating political drama, “House of Cards,” can teach you about becoming the master of the chess game that is blogging.

Have a scheme, and always be one step ahead

If Frank Underwood (played deftly by Kevin Spacey) is anything, he’s a rogue with pawns in play (that he planned three moves ago), swiftly laying them down with unparalleled finesse—and an iron first when necessary. Consider how he manipulated Rep. Peter Russo. Underwood took Russo down one step at a time by propping him up, then playing on his weaknesses, and eventually murdering him when he got in the way, but nonetheless…

Take this approach (perhaps in a less violent way) with blogging. Choose your direction, home in on the exact steps to get you there, and run with it. Want 5,000 committed followers for your fashion blog, or a captivating, all-inclusive lifestyle blog to represent your health food line? Many strides are required for such achievements.

Planning includes—and is not limited to—stockpiling content such as blog posts and visuals of all kinds, having a line of guest bloggers in order to come in and lend a helping hand, and compiling a mailing list.

Set up a content calendar for down-to-the-detail planning; this will help you manage the flow and direction of your blog, allowing you to tailor it how you see fit. Being one step ahead is an important component; that way you’re prepared when things don’t go according to plan.

Gather your followers

In a crucial point in the first season, Underwood lamented to a friend of the president (who eventually recommended that Underwood be vice president) that you cannot buy loyalty. Loyalty is a two-way street; both parties must be committed and forthcoming. Underwood demonstrates this with everyone he associates with, from a reporter to his bodyguard to his wife. He gives nothing to anyone who doesn’t commit full loyalty and assist him in reaching his goals.

A successful blog requires subscribers who are committed to reading every post. How do you get them? By demanding loyalty. Not in the I’ll-murder-you-if-you-cross-me way, but by sharing content readers want to come back for. You’re helping them achieve goals while they help you achieve yours: gaining an audience for your blog and your organization.

Find your voice

Spacey lays down his low, pierce-you-in-the-heart southern drawl; Zoe puts her foot down with her matter-of-fact articulation and blunt remark;, and Claire’s emotionless, deft delivery guarantees she gets her way. You can’t really adopt one of these voices for your blog, but it’s important that you project gusto and your one-of-a-kind personality-or no one will believe you.

This is no easy feat, either. You have to combine several components to convey your knowhow and credibility. Taking hold of a particular voice involves being ruthless, cunning, and determined to persist. Channel Frank’s (and most other characters’) no-shame, no-guilt approach and own it.

As Frank admits, “I pray to myself…for myself.” Yes, your blog is for others, but primarily, you have to be satisfied with what you’re putting out there. Another way to sharpen the edge to your voice is to go for the shock factor. Don’t be boring, monotonous, or spammy—mix it up even if only for the sake of mixing it up.

The first lines of the series sets up the audience for what Underwood has in store: He expresses his contempt for useless things, and he strangles a dog. Was that necessary? Probably not, but it got our attention.

The last and most effective element of finding and shaping your own voice is breaking the fourth wall—Frank does this beautifully by speaking directly to the audience, making absurd and sarcastic asides that bring us in as his accomplices.

Adhere to this by being direct and genuine with outreach; speak to your audience on a personal level for maximum real life engagement. Your readers want to know the person behind the blog and your brand.

Know your enemies; align with your allies

Part of playing any game is knowing whom you’re up against. Research the bloggers in your industry, examine their tactics and approach, allow them to teach you their ways, and be the Zoe under Frank’s wing. Besides those who are like-minded, look at those who are on the other side of the debate; run a liberal blog for your nonprofit? Take a peek at a conservative rant feed. You’ll then be able to take a more unbiased reflection, and everyone knows the best arguments recognize the opposing camp (and appropriately denounce them).

Knowing your enemies is great, but don’t let that be your main focus. Channel your energy into making allies through LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities, but choose wisely. Frank and his wife, are an unstoppable force because their likemindedness allows them to strive for the same goal-power. Partner with those whom you admire and who have large followings, but also lend a hand to those who need a boost for guest blogs and larger projects. Eventually, you can take your associations off screen and form true partnerships.

And remember…

One slip-up can bring down the house

In the White House and in the blogging world, your reputation is always on the line. Just like one card’s faltering can dismantle a house of cards, one small slip-up can mean the end of a career, no matter how well you’ve done thus far. Everyone is susceptible to a mistake: Even Frank embarrassed himself on a talk show when discussing an education reform bill, and Russo let substance abuse ruin his career.

You could commit similar slip-ups, like a social media blunder or an offensive take on a topic of a blog post. There are ways to recover, but even small mistakes can spur people to unsubscribe from your outlets and, more important, your business.

Channel the greats—but be better

Frank Underwood’s character is an adaptation from the original British version, but also draws from Shakespeare’s villains, like MacBeth, Iago, and Richard III. Kevin Spacey does a phenomenal job at channeling these famous power-hungry antiheros, but also makes the character unlike any other.

This can be directly translated to blogging—after you find your niche and voice, look to the greats of the blogging world to see how they operate; some of the most popular social media blogs like Social Media Today and Business 2 Community can be helpful, but also individual blogs like Seth Godin and Penelope Trunk examine that humanization factor, making their blogs addictive.

However, in Frank-like fashion, always strive to be better and self-promote. He climbed his way up the ladder for power and is only one step away from becoming president. Do you think that’s on his to-do list? Undoubtedly.

Play by the rules, but make your own

Are there blogging rules? Maybe, maybe not. There sure are a lot of lengthy list articles about them. It’s good to be aware of what other people are saying about what makes a successful blog, but rules were meant to be broken, right? Take it from Mr. Underwood: “Of all the things I place in high regard, rules are not one of them.” His initials aren’t FU for nothing.

Don’t just follow your own path; blaze your trail through the blogosphere. Think you can only post once a day? Or only do x, y, and z after you have a certain number of subscribers? Don’t be bogged down by so-called rules—like the cultures of the largest brands out there, each one has its own way of doing things, and that’s what makes them successful. Just look at Zoe; she broke all the reporting rules of journalism to get the scoop, and Claire put down her ruthless iron fist to run her nonprofit her way.

Hone your craft

Every great brand lives and breathes what its business provides, just as Zoe powers through sleepless nights to get to the bottom of the story and Frank is the master of coercion. Apply the energy you put into your business to your blog; look for ways to add new content, take new angles, find overlap beyond your industry, and experiment with new strategy to tailor your blog to your business to bring in new customers and retain loyal ones, but in baby steps. According to Frank, “That’s how you devour a whale—one bite at a time.”

Without Frank’s well-versed bite-size tactics, he wouldn’t be able to manipulate Rep. Russo, take advantage of Zoe, or snag the Vice Presidency. Hone your craft so you don’t just attract readers-you gather loyal followers that form attachments to what you have to say.

Building a great blog for your business is about exposure and outreach, forming a community, and networking to create a real world dynamic to your brand and grow your customer base, with every subscription.

Just as Frank uses his unmatched political skill to exploit, manipulate, and climb his way to the top of the White House leadership, implement your blog to establish authority and elevate yourself to the top of your industry. Generate leads and alliances like your life depended on it. Or you could end up like the late Peter Russo.

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