Good Sunday Morning. I should probably be in Church right now absolving my sins, but I have to clean and stuff.
See what I did there?
You probably missed the keyword in the second sentence unless you were looking/listening for it. This is already starting to feel like a grammar lesson…
*Grabs pointing device and slaps chalkboard with it*
The word I’m talking about is should.
Or, if you’d like me to make it sound a little more intense, I can add a broken German accent to it:
*Grabs pointing device and slaps chalkboard with it while speaking in a broken German accent*
Ah! Zis vurd vright he-are! Dus is eine vurd, “Shood”
It’s such a shitty word – a shouldy word – and whether it’s spoken with a broken accent, or fluent English, it’s a bad word. It’s worse than fuck, shit, bastard, moist, or snow, and that’s because it has guilt smeared all over it like cream cheese on a bagel.
When you break it down, it seems like should implies that you’re not doing something that you’re supposed to be doing, or that you’re doing something that doesn’t meet another person’s standards, or that if you don’t do something, you’ll miss out on something great.
It’s like a really subtle form of controlling somebody via the guilt trip, or a take-away of personal power. It’s one of those trigger words that PISSES me off whenever I hear it, and yet, I’m aware that I also use it too. Break it down, and it’s like being conditionally accepting of somebody else’s current state of nirvana.
I have a folder full of preachy-sounding articles sitting on my desktop right now, and none of them will ever see the light of day because I’m not qualified to be handing out ‘life advice’. I have my own pile of dirty dishes to attend to. But I thought this might be an interesting conversational piece, and I’m curious if it has the same effect on you.
How big is the should pile in your life?
Talk to me.
A few weeks ago I was experiencing a blog identity crisis and announced that I would be undergoing a sex change. I mean a name change. Since then, amid all of your incredibly cool suggestions, and all of the dumbass names that I came up with myself, I still haven’t decided on one.
My indecisiveness leads me to believe one of two things: 1.) I’m not incorporating enough essential fatty oils into my diet, or 2.) I’m pregnant.
All that aside, I made a promise that I intend to keep and I’m gonna make good on it today. But I’m changing the rules up a bit; instead of blabbing on and on about one person, one winner, I’m about to throw a bunch of thick-skinned blogger buddies of mine onto the barbecue.
Congratulations. You’re all winners of the Name Adam’s Dumb Blog Contest!
Here’s how the whole thing’s gonna play out: I rip you to pieces, you cry for a few minutes, then you send me an anonymous death threat or a horse head, then we hug and makeup, and then you drop me a PayPal contribution for publicizing your blog! I just threw that last part in there. It’s not mandatory.
The Premise of the Roast:
I have a couple of really sharp computer geek friends that figured out a way to reverse the search term feed. I know who used what search terms to find my blog, and today I’m gonna let the dirty little kitty out of the bag. I’ll also try my best to address your long-forgotten queries. Of course I’m making all this shit up right now, but just play along.
If you’re not tripping over an autograph line of rabid followers of your blog right now, I think I know the reason(s) why. I know what you’re thinking, “sounds kind of uppity coming from someone with less than 200 followers”. Don’t worry, I’ll get around to reading this myself too, eventually.
Despite being a relative newcomer to the whole scene, to my credit, I’m a fast learner and a close observer of people and their habits. And hot chicks. Throughout my travels, I’ve noticed a lot of stuff that us bloggers do which I believe is counterintuitive to acquiring and maintaining a fan base — providing that this happens to be one of your goals. That is what you want, isn’t it? The debate goes on…
Allow me to break down my Eureka moment for you.
The way I see it is that everything you’ll ever come across on a blogging site – regardless of what platform you use — falls somewhere along a continuum that is anchored by two different stylistic approaches.
At one end of the spectrum is what I call the Art Blog, which is more or less an exhibit; and the second type is what I call a Conversational Blog, which is used for exactly that — starting conversations. It’s difficult to distinguish the two from each other at first glance; however, a quick skim of any blog will reveal the author‘s motivation for creating his or her content.
Once you become familiar with this concept (that I invented just now), you’ll not only realize where your blog falls along the continuum, you’ll also understand what areas you may be lacking in. Hopefully you’ll be able to increase your following by making the necessary adjustments. Keep in mind that most blogs fall somewhere between these two styles. Let’s delve deeper.
Dorothy, step forward into the world of Technicolor…
The Art Blog
The majority of posts found on an Art Blog are exactly that — works of Art. Compositions are shared for the sole purpose of being observed and appreciated. Art Blogs are the poets, stream of consciousness writers, story-tellers, comic-strip artists, etc. Successful Art Blogs usually have a lot of likes, though they normally lack any significant interaction beyond that. Sometimes, if it’s a particularly great piece, many will drop an appreciative comment, but the conversation abruptly tails off at “Great job!” Really, what else can be said? Again, whatever was posted was meant to be looked at, not hashed up and down.
Art Blogs are like museums. When visiting one, the guest usually strolls about casually, looks around, stops, stares, maybe sits for a minute, contemplates, wanders off, and eventually leaves with a sense of appreciation for whatever was on display. It’s rare to happen upon a conversation during a visit. It’s not the type of setting that really promotes “mingling” with random strangers. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen. Art lovers talk art, but the displays are usually designed to stir the emotions of the observer on a personal level. Plus, most pieces are open for wide interpretation – like a mangled ball of steel, for instance.
Writers of Art Blogs are probably aware of what they are already. They’ve constructed this type of setting for exactly the reasons listed. Most authors are either content with creating pieces to be appreciated, or use their blog strictly as a medium for online-journaling. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many will grow large followings based on their commitment to producing high-quality, artful content.
The Conversational Blog
On the flip side is the Conversational Blog. Content found on this type of page is constructed with the intention of promoting interaction with and among readers. The author usually bases his or her posts on topics that are meant to be viewed by a larger audience by comparison. Topics can often times be controversial in nature, and/or are emotionally-charged. A crafty author of one always leaves the piece open-ended by the end. If executed well, the article will continue to be expanded in the comment section by other readers – engaged readers. Write that down. I just wrote it down too. Wait a second, this is confusing now…
Conversational Blogs also incorporate other bloggers into their posts and/or pages. They’re not only excellent networkers, but also good cultivators of friendly “blog neighborhoods” (bloggerhoods? Hmm, I like that…) within the bigger sphere. Inviting guest bloggers and contributors, dual-posting, and reblogging are all tools that they use to help solidify and grow their audiences. By incorporating these tools and techniques into their pages, they’re not only promoting themselves, they’re also practicing good “PR” . By doing so, they increase the likelihood of future interaction with their fan base.
This type of approach doesn’t require a particular format or genre. Conversational blogs incorporate a wide variety of content. News, politics, random humor, medicine – whatever — the possibilities are endless. However, the goal is always the same — to pose or imply questions that elicit responses with the intention of opening a dialogue.
Cultivating a Fan Base
This may come as a surprise to some, but there are a lot of folks out there that want to engage with you. The challenge is to attract them and build a relationship from there.
When someone takes the time to read through one of your posts, don’t just thank them for the visit, seize the opportunity and speak. There are some interesting characters out there (like me) that are frothing to spar, share a story, or provide a laugh. Why pass on an opportunity that you’ve tried so hard to cultivate? By going into social-phoebe mode, you’re only setting yourself back and creating more work.
A post a day is difficult to do – especially when nobody’s reading.
When you’re hopping around and looking for a conversation, you’ll find that some will oblige, and others will decline. It’s worth a shot either way. After all, growing a following is based not only on consistently producing interesting content, it’s also about being likable. Charming is the word I prefer.
People are smart enough to pick up on sincerity, despite the fact that many operate through a persona. They also know whether you appreciate them or not, and it’s up to you to convey that.
More Free Tips
- Shtick ‘em Up – Most bloggers have a shtick. If you’re one of them, ask yourself if it’s a concept that will limit your writing, long-term. Personally, I consider this question daily. I may be limiting myself in the long-run. Don’t place limitations on your blog. It’s hard enough as it is. Variety is the spice of life, or something like that…
- Good Writing vs. Good Blogging – Being an excellent writer is one thing. Being an excellent blogger is something different all together. Consider this article. Where do you fall within the spectrum? Have your efforts been fruitful? Again, ask yourself if what you write about is something that an audience would want to engage in.
- Brevity is Key – There’s nothing that deters me as a reader more than an extremely lengthy post. I think I speak for most when I say this, but I don’t want to read a three thousand word submission. Ever. I hate books, and three thousand words is getting close to a book. Succinct and effective is the key. Get to the point, make it a good one.
- Quality, Not Quantity – If you’re in a hurry to post something daily, you might want to consider not only how it affects the quality of your content, but also how your audience is reacting to the frequency of your posts. With so many blogs out there, and with each of us following our fair share of them, it’s likely that most followers aren’t reading your stuff on a daily basis — unless it’s top-shelf, every day. It takes a lot of time to be a “follower”. Being mindful of that, it’s safe to assume that most people are selective about what they read. Also remember, it takes time to produce something high-quality, even if it’s only a thousand words. Be selective. Otherwise, you might not only burn yourself out, you’ll also burn your audience out too.
Hopefully you’ll find this article useful. If you’re like myself, you’re always looking for ways to improve your stuff. Interacting with an audience can be just as fulfilling as the writing part. So, considering all this begs the question:
Are you the Curator of an Art Blog or the Mediator of a Conversational Blog?
Let’s get this party started…
- The Art of Writing Blog Comments (zemanta.com)
- Zen and the Art of Blogging (clownonfire.wordpress.com)
- Art of Writing Persuasive Blog Entries for Greater ROI (mokshis.com)