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.
As usual, your post leaves me nodding my head (or pounding it on my keyboard). Don’t have to go back and read your ancient history of blogs – have tons of fairly recent ones I can find stellar examples of what you’re talking about.
Yeah you can ead the old ones for the not-so-stellar, LOL. Hey, I was once a newbie, too. Thanks, Sharon for always taking time to comment. It is really appreciated.
This is terrific I need to go back and see how many I’s are in my recent post. I’m going to watch that from now on. Great tips!
Watching for the pronouns is a GREAT tip! I never would’ve thought of that! I think a great element in a blog that keeps me connected to a blogger is a sense of humbleness – knowing (and sometimes admitting!) that you aren’t perfect, sharing past mistakes and what you learned from them, and asking for feedback at the end. It really shows me as a reader that a blogger is down to earth when I see that!
Good post. I think sometimes I tend to do the “I” “you” thing too much.
I’ve been following #DBW11 hastag on tweetdeck. That stands for Digital Book World 2011. If you want an insight into what the ‘experts’ think is the state of publishing and the future, check it out.
I’m also posting a daily blog on the tweets I find interesting at Write It Forward along with comments and a specific subject of interest. Today it was the disconnect between all these ‘experts’ on social media, that have maybe 200 Twitter followers indicating they don’t consider Twitter important to their job. Uh. Duh.
Thanks, Bob, for the hashtag. I added it to my Tweetdeck. 🙂
Honesty always pulls me in, and someone not afraid to share helpful information. Like you. Your ideas are always great and well put. And I like blogs like yours where the writer tells their own truth as a means of showing by example even if it means a little embarrassment. Helps keep this tech connect thing real for me.
You’ve put so much good stuff into this post that there’s nothing left to say! As a commenter, I wish I had something to add. Just kidding *flashes cheesy grin*
I always realize when I’m getting loose with that letter/word I. Hard not to with so much fast-paced opinion, but you are right. WE need to be more aware of how we come across. And just to continue the other theme, vulnerability and openness is always good. Thanks for another good post.
Another helpful, terrific post, Kristen. I’ve been focusing on writing better posts and networking more effectively this year, and your book came to me at just the right time. I really appreciate all of your advice. My posts often start out with many “I’s” and “you’s” but I edit as much as possible for the same reasons you listed–too many “I’s” and it’s all about me, too many “you’s” and I’m some creepy accuser! Still working on it…
Love the title of your new book! Ha!
Excellent post, Kristen! I think you’ve hit it on the head with your comments about emotionally connecting with readers. And your suggestion to leave some information unsaid as a way to invite dialogue is great advice. I’ve found the most response when I guest blog on other sites (a great way to drive traffic to your own web/blogsite) and when the topic revolves around something vital to the reader (a post I wrote two years ago on publicity costs is the one that gets the most hits on my blog and others where it’s posted).
It’s difficult to not sound like pontificating know-it-alls when we want to share information. I’ll definitely remember this post the next time I blog and hope to do it better.
I come back to blogs with a lot of humor, it adds to that feeling of having a comfortable conversation among friends.
All I can say is thank you, thank you, for this post and all the topics you share with us every week. I’ve learned so much from you in the few short weeks I’ve been following this blog. Amazing!
Using correct pronouns and asking questions are helpful suggestions. This may sound weird, but I also like photos or graphics. Beth Trissel is great at this with beautiful photos. Thanks for your suggestions and instruction!
I connect through people through their flaws. When bloggers are too expert, and especially if they are negative about others, they are intimidating, and I’m shy to comment. I don’t want their criticism aimed at me. Thanks for taking us by the hand. You rock.
Excellent post, as always! The pronoun thing particularly resonates with me, since it’s something I try to watch for on my own blog. Though the nature of my blog can be me-centric with personal stories used to illustrate my points about writing, I keep an eye out for when I’m doing it too much and make it a point to plan a post that dials it back a notch.
Great post. Good info.
Q. What do you think about staking out controversial positions as a way to get people to respond and start a dialogue?
Risky and it can blow up. Can also infest your comments with trolls who like to rant. We can be contraversial about craft, but politics, sex and religion are just bad juju and we need to avoid them unless they are our platform. Now, if you want to challenge how blogging is approached, then okay. But the real divisive stuff is to hard to control. It can go careening off in a direction we didn’t intend and take our reputations with it :P.
I am glad you said that Kristen – I recently discussed, through several emails, these very things.
An acquaintance of mine got a very negative write-up on a somewhat controversial post that turned into Bash-fest 2011. Had it not been controlled properly, it could have gotten much worse (and, I am sure you have seen this also, would never have stopped going back and forth.)
I also discussed reputations with my blogging mentor. She and I agreed that we all need to be aware of, if not careful, how we interact with our ‘fans and followers’ when they display language or characteristics that do not necessarily coincide with our blogging/writing identity. We need to be willing to sacrifice a few followers or a ‘bad rap’ from individuals so that we don’t get passed over for opportunities later due to being inconsistent.
Good info. I can really apply this to my blogging. Thanks SO much.
Yes. Yes yes yes. I’m starting to get this and it’s so exciting. And really, the ideas here are some it wouldn’t hurt to think about a little harder for the fiction either. I’m excited for a new book to pimp out. I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic.
Humor is a great draw, too. You’ve made me think more about my pronouns, that’s for sure. Thanks for the post, Kristen!
Dialogue is how I connect. When I leave a comment and the blogger responds, I remember. I know not every comment warrants a response, but as long as I know the blogger will when he or she has something say, I’m in.
I look forward to your posts, and this is no exception. Thanks for the great tips and I will incorporate them as best as I can.
As a writer of fantasy fiction, there are so many blog topics that I could post about. I find that I get worried about how I write about a topic.
For example, if I want to write about the history of Dragons… should I invest a ton of time into research and then basically write the information into a blog post? Doesn’t sound engaging.
Do I write about my observations on different kinds of Dragons and how they have been used in media/movies/books?
There is a bit of confusion for me about being an expert vs providing my observations and opinion.
Are you able to clarify/help? 😉
Find something that piques your interest and your passion will shine through. What do you like that other fans of fantasy like as well? If you are an information junkie, then researching dragons and sharing that knowledge would be fun….but it doesn’t sound your style. What you are looking for is that common topic that binds fantasy folk together. I, personally, love the fan mentality. Why do we love fantasy so much? What is appealing? Ask others to give their input. What is it about this genre that creates such loyal fans? People willing to read books four inches thick…whole SERIES of them! Brainstorm topics that get fantasy people (and you) worked into a lather. That’s your blog, and that’s how you connect. Does that help?
As always, very helpful advice… i’ll see what I can come up with for the blog ^^
Thanks for the tip! I need to work on posting the questions. The “we” pronoun, I caught early on but I need to ask for a different perspective and to initiate dialogue.
Another great blog, another reason I have your blog listed on mine! You are funny, humble and full of great insight into how writers can connect with readers, which is what we really want to do. (Heh, I said ‘what I really want to do’ and then changed it.)
I agree with you about starting conversation. I always want to do that when I blog, but didn’t always look at how I was impacting that through my writing. Thanks for the wake up call, yet again! I’ll be reviewing my posts a new way now.
I just found your blog and I’ll be back. Here’s my question. I have a self-depricating parenting blog (Motto: If you can’t laugh at yourself, laugh at your kids). Many of my posts are bizarre anecdotes, that have a beginning, middle, and an end. I find it’s hard to ask a question to readers other than the has-this-happened-to-you variety. Any advice?
I think commiseration is great fuel for a healthy comment section. Get readers to contribute their similar experiences. You’d probably generate traffic to your blog just so people could laugh at not only your blog, but the comments section.
I’m going to concentrate on adding questions at the end of my blog. As a trained journalist, I’m used to tying everything up with a nice little tag line, but (obviously) a blog isn’t a newspaper. Thanks for drawing my attention to my blind spot. As always, great post.
I definitely need to work on the questions aspect. I want to engage my readers more. I am gaining more and more traffic, so there is no excuse for me not to engage them. Good luck with your new book!
I know I need to be more engaging in my blog, ask more questions. The thing is, I hate asking a question that nobody answers! It feels too similar to rejection. Like making a comment in a room full of people and all goes silent. Only the crickets Kristen. Only the crickets.
I will try and work on that.
Reading this post I was thinking, “I don’t have too many I’s and you’s, let me go read my blog.” OMG…they are EVERYWHERE!!! I didn’t even realize it! I’m a huge offender. Now this is at the front of my brain and I will concentrate on it with my next post. I do put questions at the end of every post, but rarely do I receive comments.
Blogs which I follow provide me with inspiration, motivation, and ideas on improving. I also enjoy honesty and humor. A few other blogs I follow are artists who wow me with their work.
Good thoughts, Kirsten.
When I first started blogging and used the pronoun “we,” a more experienced blogger told me that I needed to establish myself as an authority and use the pronoun, “I.”
I evaluated the well-meaning advice, rejected it as not applicable to me, and continued to use “we” whenever possible.
Glad to see that WE agree. 😀
Great blog as always. My current blog platform, sadly, makes it difficult for others to post comments but that’s where my following…er, uhm…follows me. *s* But I am able to measure visitors and so I’ve wedded the blog to the FB page where I can ask for comments, and that’s seemed to work pretty well.
What excites me is what is going to come around the corner with applications that leverage Facebook places Foursquare and other LBS systems in interesting ways. .Topguest is an application that you can download for your mobile phone or use their mobile site that combines LBS check in services with various loyalty programs for hotels.