I had quite an enlightening experience the other day. I was (I’m sure you’ll find this hard to imagine) talking to someone about what I had most recently read in the Mark Twain autobiography. I thought the content was entirely fascinating, of course, and well, there was no QUESTION that I was telling the story in a most engaging manner.
All of a sudden, the person I was talking to stopped me and said, “Um, are you doing a presentation? Is this a lecture?”
The comment was made lovingly, but it raised a good point. I had become so entirely involved in what I was saying that I had lost track of how long I had been raging on. That was live and in person.
When you’re blogging, you can’t see facial expressions of people who are reading. You can’t hear the tapping of fingers or the exclamations of “OK, geeze, let’s move on to something else!” That can be great for you on the blogging/writing side, but it can hurt you without you even noticing on the engagement side.
How can you avoid this problem?
It’s really hard to avoid becoming “preachy” when you are blogging. I think we’ve probably all encountered subjects where we are just getting to the crux of the issue at word 1,205. But without immediate feedback as we’re writing, how can we make sure we aren’t boring our readers to tears – or boring them to the point where they don’t come back?
Here are some ideas that seem to work well for me. Perhaps they’ll work well for you, too.
1. “Similar Posts:” If you have a WordPress blog, look for the “similar posts” plugin. Now, the real idea behind this plugin is that you can ensnare poor innocent readers into reading other posts of yours when they see you have written lots on a given subject. The real reason I like it though is I can get notices of when I’m maybe settling on a subject too often. For example, when I write my next Lincoln post (because you know I can’t resist) I’ll be able to tell really quickly if I did a post that was virtually the same.
2. Word Count: While I stray away from saying that blog posts should be a certain number of words, for my own site I know that I like to hit around the 800 word mark. This helps me know that if I’m just getting to the heart of my post at 500 words, I’ve probably gone on for too long about stuff that doesn’t really matter. I don’t like that and neither will you.
3. Visit as if you were a stranger: Sometimes I go to my site not through the administration panel but rather just to the site like you would see it. I skim around and read some of my posts to see how they are reading. I try to put myself in your shoes. If I’m writing about something that gets me fired up, I’ll read the post 2-3 times before hitting publish. It’s really important to remember that just because you’re super into something, not all of your readers will be. In fact, it’s possible none of your readers will be.
4. Make sure you’re not a parrot: One thing that drives me nuts as a reader is when I go to three or four sites and all of them have posts that are virtually carbon copies of each other. I don’t know if this is purely by chance or if it’s worked out that way, but when I see posts stacking up on a certain topic from a certain perspective, I will sometimes comment from the opposite point of view just to make sure that I can offer a fresh perspective. I think sometimes you appreciate getting a different opinion on things, and I like using my posts as a balance against a lot of similar posts. I’m weird that way, I guess!
Like I said, it can be really easy to fall into the trap of sounding preachy or angsty or mean or just generally icky. We don’t have someone standing over us (most likely) reading what we’re typing. But there are ways to make sure you don’t drive your readers nuts, and sometimes, we do like to avoid driving our readers nuts. Right?
What methods do you use to make sure you are avoiding the preachy spectrum of blogging? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
This is post #74 in the Engagement Series. If you think you might be missing posts, please feel free to hit that ole subscribe button. Thank you!
Image by Colin Adamson. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Col6085