Grammar Girl: How to Own Your Niche

I had such a great time hearing from Mignon Fogarty at a recent AMA luncheon, which many of you may better know as “Grammar Girl.” With over 500,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook, and many notable achievements to her name, in addition to appearances on countless shows like Oprah, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and others, it was truly enlightening to hear more detail about her personal background and how she grew her career to the point it has reached today.

Grammar Girl

Contrary to what you may have heard about Grammar Girl, hers is not so much a story of overnight social media success, but rather a true example of how hard work, persistence, and dedication can really pay off.

Of the many interesting takeaways I picked up from her talk, the main two for me were:

  1. passion is oversold
  2. do what you love, but be flexible

For example, when Fogarty started her first podcast, she was in the midst of a Biology PhD program at Stanford. Because she was interested in podcasting, she started a podcast to talk about science. Despite winning an iTunes award, the podcast was time-consuming to produce and never gained much traction. (For a very thorough recap of her career path, click here to read a post from the Nieman Journalism Lab blog entitled “How ‘Grammar Girl’ turned a single hobby podcast into a growing media network.”)

While on vacation one day, however, she thought up the idea for the Grammar Girl podcast, and upon recording her first three podcasts, it literally became an overnight success. Eventually, she was offered a book deal to write three books pertaining to grammar. From there she developed her own iPad app, and continued to broaden her follower base.

Some of the things she learned along the way can be best summarized below:

Mignon Tips

When talking about growing her following on social media, Fogarty noted that her numbers have consistently risen over time as a consequence of simply “being online, answering questions, sharing content, and engaging with people.” Though she couldn’t honestly say whether or not all the time spent has been worth it, she did say that without her online presence she might not remain at the top of people’s minds, for even the littlest amount of PR can beget more PR. In fact, how she got on the Oprah show actually had to do with the fact that one of the show’s producers had a sister who was an avid fan of her podcast. As a consequence of growing her following, she was able to find ways to further grow and develop her brand.

Another point Fogarty made that resonated with me is to “be everywhere you can be” since audiences today are fragmented. Of course, you should know where your customers are and spend the most time in those places, but the truth remains, some people may only know you as an author, others because of your blog, and yet others because they follow you on a particular social media channel.


For the full recap of the Twitter conversation that took place on Storify, click here.


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