Monday, November 02, 2009

Stop asking the wrong blogging questions

Whether you are a new or seasoned blogger, many of you likely have many of the same questions:

"How do I get more readers?"

"How do I get more comments on my posts?"

"What about blog subscribers? How do I get more of them?"

"How can I use Twitter to drive more traffic back to my blog? Or Facebook, or Friendfeed?"

Notice that all of these questions are focused on YOU, the blogger. How YOU can get something.

What if you instead asked this question: "What superpower will I give my readers?"

I'm totally channeling Kathy Sierra here, but think of your blog as a telephone booth, and your reader is Clark Kent. Clark Kent goes into the telephone booth, but he leaves as Superman.

When your reader comes into your telephone booth/blog, what superpower will they have when they leave? What will a reader gain from having visited your blog?

When you shift your focus from what's best for you (the blogger), to what's best for your readers, then your blogging efforts will start to take off. Here's some reader-centric questions to ask yourself:
  • What are you going to make your readers better at?
  • What information are you going to share with them?
  • Who are you going to connect them to?
  • What are you going to make your readers think about?
  • What value are you going to create for them?
Oh and BTW, there are BIG direct benefits to you (the blogger) when you create reader-centric content. Look at this post that Amy wrote giving Lois advice on how to improve her blog. Now look at the (currently) 30+ comments. The value of Amy's post has been increased dramatically by the dozens of comments that her readers have left. Also, notice that the most frequent commenter to that post, is Amy. She's sending the message to her readers that she appreciates their attention and comments, and she's encouraging more of them by responding so often.

So instead of asking "How do I make my blog better?", ask "How do I make my blog better for my readers?"

And the ironic thing is, if you ask the second question, you'll actually get the answer to the first.


Brandon Sutton said...

Great point Mack! I think I'm going to try putting this into practice by typing 'what superpowers will I give my readers' at the top of the page when writing each new post. Keeping that in mind should help guide the content. Thanks for the inspiration!

Unknown said...

Mack -- I got my ass kicked for "trashing" Lois Geller's blog. She has 7,000 Twitter followers and many of them thought I was completely out of line. The thing most people don't know is that Lois and I have been friends for a very long time and I have watched her struggle with her blog since the first incarnation. She tweets at least once a week for help/comments/advice and nobody ever says anything other than "it's great!" which is not all that useful. When I wrote the post, I was sincerely trying to help her -- I know I have a different readership than most and my tough-love folks are whatever is the opposite of "atta boy." Needless to say, the comments are way better than the post -- from really talented people who gave Lois lots of solid tips & tricks -- and I've learned way more from them about my own blog than I could have imagined. I've already made about half a dozen changes on my QLOG because of it. P.S. I learned how important it is to respond to the comments in #blogchat. I used to just read and not respond.

Mack Collier said...

Love that idea, Brandon, good way to keep the benefit to the reader 'top of mind'!

Mack Collier said...

Amy that brings up an interesting point that I've been thinking about for a while. I think that people in the social media space, for the most part, either are too kind, or too disagreeable. What I mean is that it almost seems like we are sometimes uncomfortable disagreeing or challenging people. So there seems to be little 'actually, I disagree with that' back and forth. That's why I love people like Beth Harte and Shannon Paul, because they will challenge or disagree with you if they feel differently.

I think we need more people that are willing to be this way. And I don't mean the 'I call bullshit!' crowd, that's usually just wanting to draw attention to themselves by attacking who they believe the 'big names' are. I mean I think we need to feel more comfortable disagreeing with other people.

I actually LOVE it when people share an opposing viewpoint here in the comments, because it challenges me to think, and it also opens the door for more comments from people that agree with the commenter's stance.

Disagreeing doesn't necessarily equal being 'mean' or being disagreeable. I think differing viewpoints are great for cultivating discussions, and we shouldn't be afraid to share them!

Chris Thilk said...

OK Mack, first off let me say that I agree with you in principle. It's more important to look at what you contribute to the community with what you write than in devising strategies for this that or the other thing.


Engaging in those activities to some extent *can* help you answer those questions when you're asked them by a client. And, as I'm sure you're aware, while there's a lot of ground you can cover with "well we're joining the conversation" eventually client programs have to show hard number growth.

Certainly there's some overlap, as you point out, between what's good for the blog and what's good for the readers. But the key is to fold those "good for the reader" points into strategies that are clearly positioned as being "good for the blog" since that's ultimately how success will be measured in most cases.

Mack Collier said...

Chris, first, you were sucked in by the Superman image. I know you ;)

Second, I *think* I agree with your point. In the case of Company X that's blogging, their readers should mostly be current and potential customers, right? So if you are creating value for your current and potential via your blogging efforts, that should translate into impact on the bottom line, right?

As I said, I think we are on the same page here.

Chris Thilk said...

Yeah, I think we agree. As communication pros we should be fostering that sort of community-minded mindset in the writers we're fostering along, but doing so in a way that also has hard and fast business goals and objective as a result. And sometimes the best way to try something out is with your personal blog. Hell, I've used MMM as a testing ground for strategies I've later used in client programs more than a few times.

Janice @ Mom On The Run said...

I've just in the past two weeks realized that and have begun writing more thought provoking posts - thanks for reminding me why I've changed my writing style - excellent post!

Nicole DeFalco said...

Hi Mack, I think we fall into the trap of asking the wrong questions because we're so eager to grow readership. There are so many ways to promote a blog the task can become a full time obsession. You are so right though. It's the cart before the horse. Producing meaningful content draws a natural readership over time. Plus, if the blog offers consistent value from the readers' perspective, the readership will take over the job of promoting the blog. And 3rd party endorsements are far more effective than self-promotion.

That said...some self-promotion is inevitable at the onset in order to develop an initial base of readers. It just can't be the main thing. Your SuperMan perspective should be the main focus for any writer.

--Nicole (aka Fiona)

Karthik said...

Can't agree more - this applies to Twitter too, in my opinion. People are so stuck with 'my followers', 'increase my followers', that they forget to think about what is in it for them. This is especially relevant given the signal-to-noise ratio on twitter - it is so easy to miss/ ignore a tweet amidst all that noise. The only way to stand out is to consistently create stuff that is of value to your followers - both the points, 'consistency' and 'value creation' are equally important.

However, this is only for normal mortals. For stars (film/ music/ politicians), they do seem to have an easy way out since their real-life stature builds their profile with limited effort from them. Guess those are exceptions.

Suzanne Vara said...

Thank you for bringing this to the forefront. Clients are always saying how can I get more readers, how can I, how can I. My reaction is always what are you doing for the readers. This answers the questions and I will gladly send this along when clients ask those very questions.

Blogging is about making a difference and having readers walk away with a thought, useful tips, a new focus or something of the like that they can in turn share.

Thanks again for highlighting this so well.


Gale Beckwith said...

Agree. Will add that when you don't have much to say to your listeners, because you know who they are, go out and find what they are talking about. Repost, retweet and connect! It can be a 50/50 world. Gale

Twicklicious said...

Did I read over it or did you mention "super content"

yawn .... again

Mack Collier said...

Chris I hear you, and I think this goes back to companies knowing WHO they are targeting, and who they should be targeting with their social media efforts. When I say 'make your content reader-centric', I am assuming that if your company blogs, you understand that your 'readers' are the people that you need to reach in order to achieve your business goals for your blog.

I think some companies lose sight of this, as well as getting more Twitter followers, fans on their Facebook page, etc etc. More does NOT equal better, if the effort is reaching the wrong people.

Mack Collier said...

"Hi Mack, I think we fall into the trap of asking the wrong questions because we're so eager to grow readership."

Exactly, Nicole, and this goes back to the point I was making to Chris, I think we can get 'suckered' into thinking that if we can grow our readership, that the blog will be a success.

Let's say a company blogs, and it's written by 3 members of the marketing department. But every other Friday, the CEO likes to write a post about his favorite hobby, politics. These posts always get a ton of comments, and traffic spikes.

So if you just look at overall readership, you might see it growing, and think everything is fine. But the main catalyst for the grow is the old man's crotchety political posts. So unless opinionated political pundits are the people this company is trying to reach with it's blogging efforts, then the blog might not be as effective as they think.

Thanks ;)

Mack Collier said...

"Did I read over it or did you mention "super content"

yawn .... again"

Jan you didn't give me much to go on with this comment, but I think I'm going to use it as inspiration for my next post. Thanks!

Kelly said...

Hm, wondering if this stems from last week's blog chat?

I have gotten some big compliments from people I really admire on my writing, so I'm trying to focus on both the quality writing, AND connecting with people who are interested in what I have to say.

I have a fire under me now from talking to a blogging buddy who is moderately successful. He helped me realize it's not one or the other, but BOTH if you are a blogger.

teena, Website Designer said...

haha very true..and very straightforward, I like your post. I think you now gave me an idea to publish a new post.

Bonnie Bruderer said...

I really enjoyed your posting. It is great to see that view on social media. I work with a company that automates all of your social media, and it is so important to know what you are doing out there. Kudos to you!

Tana said...

Your blog contain a many useful information. I look for a lot of this experience. Thanks!

Jamie Search said...

This is some really great advice. Its important to keep in mind what your readers want from your blog and why they keep coming back to it.

Robert Phillips said...

Hey Mack thank you very much for giving some nice and useful suggestions about blogging. I banged my head asking myself the same questions which you mentioned here in this post. I finally got some answers here. I like the point which raised that is “What will a reader gain from having visited your blog? ”. Thank you once again.

SEO Denver said...

Cool! Loved the Superman theme...

You do have to give value to those that spend time on your site. Without it, they won't likely return.

It isn't just the content, its the value!!

Thanks for this!!