Blogging Part 8–Connecting with the Readers
Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the day I dedicate to help you guys rock it hard when it comes to social media. For the past two months, we have been discussing blogging. If you are new to the blog, I recommend going back and reading the previous lessons. It will save you a lot of time and heartbreak. I am going to assume all of you are clever enough to look to the sidebar to take you there ;).
For the past eight weeks, we have discussed blogging from almost every angle. Today we are going to discuss ways to make our blog connect with our readership. I read too many blogs that sound like the author is lecturing, ranting or having a party all to herself. Those blogs do not connect with me, and I doubt I’m alone in this. I have to admit, in the beginning, I was a lousy blogger. Make no mistake, I was an excellent writer, but blogging is more than preaching…it’s connecting. When I look at my early blogs even on this site, I see how my language, my topics and even my writing “voice” failed to connect with the reading audience.
Actually, the tactics I will show you today are so simple you are probably going to smack your forehead. So much of this is common sense, but as humans (particularly writer humans) we love to overcomplicate things. This is why I suck at True and False. Choose ONE? Can’t I write an essay? Why am I sweating? Is my shirt on backwards?
Dichotomy is my enemy. But back to blogs.
When we decide to vest ourselves in social media, it is smart for us to pull back from the gidgets and gadgets and whats-its to look at WHY people are on social media. What do they want? Information and entertainment. No, what do they really want? Connection. Noooo, what do they really, really want? Relationship. We are people, and we need connection to stay sane. We crave attention and praise, and we like to feel as if we matter. People who intrinsically understand this principle will enjoy far more success in all realms of social media, whether it is a blog, a tweet or even a status update.
Feed the real need. Relationship.
How are relationships created? With dialogue. Have you ever met someone who was witty and charming and interesting…but they never shut up (*whistles and looks away guiltily*)? They go on and on dazzling you with stories and jokes, but yet there is still something lacking. On the other hand, have you ever met someone who asked about you? Your thoughts, your opinions, and your ideas? They patiently listened and even seemed interested? We LOVE these people, but they are so rare.
I believe it has to do with fear. We feel we don’t have much to offer so we put on a good show, failing to understand that we don’t have to jump out of planes or go on safari to be interesting. All we have to do to be perceived as interesting, is to genuinely be interested.
If you go back and look at the early posts on this blog, it is easy to spot that I was very insecure. You can also see that I really wasn’t engaging with readers. How? Very few comments, but we will talk on that more in a bit.
Thus, though trial and error, I have found some ways that can make your blog feel more intimate and engaging.
Pay Attention to Your Pronouns
Throughout this blogging series I have emphasized over and over that we are serving the reader first. Our blog is a service. We must be careful how many times we use the pronouns “I” and “you.”
If our blogs are full of sentences with “I, I, I, I, I”…then we risk coming across as self-centered. We will be like that person at the party who only talks about herself. Can we use “I?” Yes, duh. We just need to do a quick sweep and make sure we don’t have a personal pronoun infestation. If we go on and on with “I, I, I, I” it makes it hard for readers to feel as if they are part of a conversation, and leaves them feeling like spectators. This isn’t entirely bad, but blogs that grow the fastest create dialogue.
“You” is another pronoun that can get us in trouble. How? Subconsciously, it places the author and the audience on opposing sides of a dividing line. One is right and one is wrong. Too many “you, you, yous” and the reader likely will feel more like she’s being lectured or chastised, and that doesn’t make for a positive experience this reader will want to repeat.
Notice in my blogs that I go out of my way to use “we,” “us,” and “ours.” Why do I do that? First of all, it is because I need to be mindful that I am not above my own advice. Also, because most of my blogs are instructional, inclusive pronouns are the best way to calm your nerves, ease your fears, and help you begin to feel as if you are part of my team…which you guys are. It is my subtle way of joining forces with you. Choosing inclusive pronouns subconsciously impresses on you (my readers) that I am on your side, and that social media is our collective endeavor…because it is!
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, I wasn’t born knowing social media. Most self-help or instructional experts would be wise to admit openly that they weren’t always perfect. It connects us as teachers to those who desire to learn from what we have to say. We can be professional and empathetic without losing the respect of others. In fact, when we come down to a human level, it helps our audience learn faster because it peels away that layer of fear. Our audience feels as if we understand them on a far more intimate level because we have battled the same dragons.
As a social media “expert” it is really easy to slip into “Know-It-All Mode” super fast. I used to feel that asking questions at the end of a blog was dangerous for a NF author, but I believe that was from my own insecurity at the time. People who are truly secure do not mind a different perspective, and, in fact, should welcome it. I grow every day from the comments posted here. Many of you have life experiences and insight that offer a totally unique perspective I might not have thought about. When readers offer comments, insights and opinions, it challenges me and makes me grow. It offers fresh content that makes my teachings more dynamic. I don’t always have to agree, but if I am confident in what I know, then a different opinion (offered respectfully) should be welcomed.
Dialogue is very important. Try to have questions at the end of all of your posts. Actively spark conversation. In fact, often I reserve information, because I like challenging you, my readers, to rise to the occasion and give your thoughts. If I cover every detail, then not only does that make my blog too long, but then no one has anything to add. What fun is that?
Look for the Common Emotional Ground
We can blog on all kinds of topics, but the ones that will resonate are the ones with a central theme. Common emotional ground builds instant rapport. For instance, I could tell some great tales of living in a refugee camp in Syria (which I did). The story would probably be interesting, but would it engage? What if I took it to another level and added a universal theme? Instead of focusing on life among the bedouin and the refugees, I could talk about the profound loneliness of living so far away from home surrounded by people I couldn’t communicate with effectively (my Arabic was less than stellar). Almost everyone can relate to being homesick or lonely or misunderstood. Now this exotic story (blog) is far more intimate, and opens a way for readers to offer their stories and, ultimately, connect.
Most of us feel a need to be heard and understood. We long for relationship and like people who care about what we have to say. As bloggers, if we will give others something more to take away than simple entertainment or information, we have the foundation for a hit blog.
What are some things I missed? What element makes you guys feel really connected to a blog or blogger? What is it about style or voice that draws you back week after week?
Until next time…..
This week, I do not have a Mash Up of Awesomeness. I am in the process of doing the final edit for my new book Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. I simply have not had enough time to read blogs like normal and collect them for you, so I hope you will forgive me. I don’t believe in posting stuff I don’t read first. Thanks for understanding. I am super-excited about this new book, and the Mash Up of Awesomeness will likely resume next Wednesday.
In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.
Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home.