Since I recently left my well-established Blogger writing blog to come over here and try to build something more well-rounded on my website, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what my goals are over here. (Okay, actually kidlet woke up at 3am last night and I was up for 2 hours lying in the dark, which led me to thinking about such things.) And this led me to look at some of the most successful blogs out there to determine what makes them so awesome.
Now I could sit here and list at least a hundred things about having a clean web design, about a consistent schedule, about promotion, etc. But I really wanted to look the core components of those blockbuster blogs. And what I discovered was that it had everything to do with what the blog provided to the reader. Duh, right? But here's what I mean...
People Read Blogs for Three Main Reasons
1. To be informed or inspired
We want information and can't seem to get enough of it. If a blog can teach us how to do something, help us fix a problem, or enlighten us on a topic, we will be there.
2. To be entertained
All that information can be exhausting, so another reason we seek out blogs is because we want to enjoy ourselves and be entertained. If a blog can make us laugh or make us forget about work for a while, it's going to keep us coming back.
3. To connect
All this social networking we do is, at its root, about connecting. And blogs can often provide that as well. This can either be someone trying to connect with the author of the blog (readers wanting to connect with a favorite author, writers wanting to connect with a blogging literary agent, etc.) or it can be readers of the blog connecting with each other in the comments.
Now some blogs focus only on one of these. For instance, there are thousands of blogs giving writing how-to information. Ones that do it in a strict teaching style are focused primarily on INFORMING. Other sites may only be there to get a laugh.
And if a site does that one thing REALLY well, they don't need to focus on the other two. You can be a big deal with just one done well. Think Copyblogger for informing and things like Damn You, Autocorrect for entertaining.
But for most of us, building that kind of site and following are a little unrealistic. We're writers. Our goal is to write and publish books, not to be professional bloggers. We can build a nice, healthy following. I managed to do it with Fiction Groupie even though I was an unpublished writer with no platform to speak of when I started it.
(Though, one can argue that if my goal was to reach beyond my peer group of writers, then I probably was unsuccessful. It was a writing blog for writers. I don't regret that. The people I've met and the network I'm now a part of are the best rewards. However, I am making an effort to expand my range of topics these days so that non-writing readers can also find something worthwhile here.)
But if you're trying to build a blog that will have an active and engaged following, then perhaps look at ways that you can tap into all three components above. Think of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books site. She INFORMS by providing honest book reviews, she ENTERTAINS because she's damn funny, and she helps readers CONNECT with each other via the comments and their shared interests of romance novels. It's a winning recipe.
So I'm taking a hard look at this new bloggy home and wondering where I can improve in these three areas. I'm always most comfortable with the informing thing. That's my comfort zone. And I hopefully manage to be entertaining at times, though I can always improve on that.
And connecting...well, that has dropped off a bit, unfortunately. I used to have a thriving comments section at Fiction Groupie, but when things got busier and I wasn't able to respond to all comments every day and wasn't able to visit other blogs and comment regularly, that community aspect dropped off a bit. Now I find myself doing the community thing more on Twitter. I'm not sure how to fix that here as I think commenting is a dying art across the blogosphere. But we'll see.
I have no notions of becoming a blockbuster blogger, but a healthy blog is a happy blog. : )
So think of the blogs that you return to consistently--what are things that keep you coming back? Which of the three areas are those blogs focusing on? And what do you think you do best on your own blog? What do you think you can improve?