Leaving Work Behind

Blogging Isn’t A Two Way Street

Written by Tom Ewer on October 24, 2011. 14 Comments

Blogging Isn't A Two Way Street

I am aware that this article will probably not attract many comments and won’t be particularly popular. However, I have something to say that I think is important, and that tends to overrule any of my other goals.

I mention comments and popularity for a reason. I read Marcus’ latest post over at The Sales Lion last Friday: 10,862 Comments Later, I Realize Blog Comments are NOT a Business Model. Although you probably understand that blog comments in themselves aren’t a business model without Marcus having to tell you, the article has a lot more to say than just that.

Marcus heads up the article with the following recent exchange between him and John Falchetto:

“Marcus, of all the comments on your blog, how many of the people turned out to be actual customers?”

“Hmmm,” I thought “I really don’t think anyone that has commented on TSL has ever turned into a paying customer. Some customers have turned into commenters after being a client, but not the other way around.”

“Exactly,” said John, “Me neither.”

Think about that for a second: Over 10,000 comments and not a single customer.

What does this tell us? Well, we can speculate endlessly, but one thing is for sure – your blog’s success does not depend on the number of comments you get.

Let me clarify that statement – whilst the number of comments you receive can be an indication of your blog’s reach and “engagement factor”, it is highly limited as a metric of success.

Why? I will refer to a post by Darren Rowse: 10 Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog. In it, he refers to a study in which it is purported that your visitors can be ‘split’ as follows:

Now I appreciate that the aforementioned post and study are rather dated, but I highly doubt that the figures have changed by more than a couple of percentage points since.

Where Are You Going With This?

Cater To The Masses

Don't cater just for your pond of loyal supporters when there is an ocean of readers out there.

I think we are all guilty of (at least occasionally) assuming that the readers who communicate with us (via blog comments, emails, social media, or any other medium) are representative of our readership. But they’re not! In fact, they probably account for just 1-10% of your total readership. That is a very small proportion.

We often find ourselves living and dying by the number of blog comments or emails we receive. But there is so much more to your blog. And if you cater your blog to the 10%, you are catering it to the “hardcore” fans of your blog – not the “lurkers” – not the undecided.

Don’t Sell To The Sold

It’s like a car salesman spending 45 minutes trying to sell a car to someone who has already decided to buy, whilst five other potential customers are ignored.

Car Salesman

You don't want to be this guy, do you?

Personal updates are a great example of catering solely to the 10%. Presuming that you don’t have a “personal” blog, let’s say that you post three times a week, and you decide to start dedicating every Friday to a “personal update”. It could be anything – a story about your dog, what you had for lunch, your Tuesday trip to a local food market… you think it is a good idea, as you seem to have attracted a following who are genuinely interested in you as a person.

That is fine, apart from the fact that only 10% of your readers give a damn about your dog. Sorry to give it to you straight, but the vast majority of your readers just aren’t interested.

I’m not saying that you should never do personal updates, but I am saying that it should not be at the expense of your regular content – which does appeal to “the masses”.

Don’t Stop Loving Your Biggest Fans!

Stormtrooper In Love

Even Stormtroopers have time for love...

Let me make something absolutely clear at this juncture – I am not saying that you should ignore your loyal supporters. Far from it. I am extraordinarily grateful to the guys and girls who have been consistently supporting me. It means a great deal.

But you do have to strike a healthy balance. Write for your whole audience – not just the ones that are interacting with you.

Blogging is in part a two way street, but for the vast majority of your readers, is completely one-sided. They come to read your content and learn, and for whatever reason, they have little or no interest in contacting you.

And for what it’s worth, that is absolutely fine – after all, if you go back 20 years, blogging as a concept would have seemed utterly bizarre. If you have any kind of audience, you will never be able to communicate with all of them, so be thankful that the majority don’t want to talk to you!

So please, don’t just write for the 10%. Make sure that you are catering for everyone.

Do You Write For The 10%?

I’d love to know what you think about this. Do you agree with what I’ve said, or do you take a different approach? Let me know in the comments section – because, people of the 10%, I value your thoughts!

Images courtesy of Steve Snodgrass, Kevin Dooley, Belly Acres and J D Hancock

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14 Responses to “Blogging Isn’t A Two Way Street”

  1. Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion
    October 24, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Tom, wow, what you’ve said here is really amazing stuff man. I’m not just saying that because you referenced me and because we share similar views on this, but this is a truth that many bloggers, especially newer ones, never understand.

    Many people mis-read the article I wrote on this subject last week. Personally, I do love comments. I’m extremely grateful for community.

    But I have fallen victim to writing content for that 1%…and not for the other 99.

    I’ve also let # of comments on a post dictate whether or not I felt it was a ‘job well done’.

    I’m happy to say that old paradigm is something I’ve grown out of now, and continue today to write what I feel inspired and pushed to produce. Just as you did with this piece my friend.

    Keep up the greatness brother,

    Marcus

    • Tom Ewer
      October 25, 2011 at 9:44 am

      “I’ve also let # of comments on a post dictate whether or not I felt it was a ‘job well done’.”

      That’s the killer, isn’t it? You might be writing what you think is a great post, but there’s a voice in the back of your head saying “but this isn’t ‘comments’ material…”. I think we’re all guilty of writing for comments at times, and whilst that is fine every now and then, it shouldn’t form the basis of your article writing strategy.

      Thanks for dropping by Marcus – I really appreciate it!

  2. Judi
    October 24, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    As I read your post, I kept thinking how do I learn more about the 90% to better serve them if I never get input from them.

  3. Tom Ewer
    October 25, 2011 at 9:58 am

    That is a great question Judi, and arguably one I should have answered in the article itself!

    There are a few different ways of looking at this.

    (1) How do I learn more about the 90%?
    (2) Hang on – surely *I* dictate who the 90% is?

    (1) If you want to learn more about the 90%, there are ways to engage with them. You can publish a post which specifically appeals to them – so you get the “I’ve never commented before, but…” type responses. You can email your newsletter list (if you have one) and get their feedback – a huge percentage of your list probably never comments. There are creative ways in which you can engage with the usually “unengageable” ;)

    But to be honest, (2) is the way forward. It is your blog, and as such, you should have a very clear idea in your head as to who you are targeting. This is where it can be difficult to not (even subconsciously) target the 1-10%. Rely less on comments (both positive and negative) and trust your own instinct as to who you are trying to appeal to.

    I hope that helps!

    Tom

    P.S. Love the blog – really interesting niche. I wonder if you have firmly set out who you are targeting? “Farmers” would be the obvious choice, but I would perhaps dig a little deeper than that and get more specific, if you haven’t already.

  4. Gregory Ciotti
    October 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Since I’m commenting, guess I’m part of the 10% Tom ha!

    But that rule you mentioned still seems to be supported by evidence today.

    http://lithosphere.lithium.com/t5/Building-Community-the-Platform/bg-p/MikeW/label-name/90-9-1

    I actually don’t have anything more to add to this post other than I thought it was awesome and a very needed take on the matter, I just had to be a 10%er by commenting ;).

    • Tom Ewer
      October 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      Yikes – that is a frightening article! With graphs and whatnot! Good to see that I’m not off on my wildly outdated evidence though ;)

      Thanks for being part of the 10% Greg – it doesn’t go unnoticed!

  5. john Falchetto
    October 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the shout here. I say be unpopular and stick to the 10%.
    Marcus and I had this discussion and it’s something I feel very strongly about.

    Comments should not be a measure of how successful a post is. Actually I often think they are a distraction. There is a reason Godin closed comments on his blog.
    Brogan also does it on some posts.

    The comments often take away from the post and more importantly can divert the author about his TRUE work. Working on ourselves to produce better products or services to better help our clients.
    This is the way I see it. Writing for comments is needy and yes comments are great and had I not commented and had comments probably wouldn’t have grown as a blogger but using comments as a benchmark of success is putting our self worth in the hands of others. Something we should never do.

    Great post and thanks for developing the discussion further. You just gave me an idea for my post today :)

    • Tom Ewer
      October 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm

      Hi John,

      Thanks for dropping by!

      “Using comments as a benchmark of success is putting our self worth in the hands of others. Something we should never do.”

      I wish I had came up with those words for the article itself, because I couldn’t agree with you more. At the end of the day, you need to be confident of (a) what you are trying to achieve, and (b) that you actually CAN achieve it.

      Whilst you shouldn’t be oblivious to outside influences and criticism, at the end of the day, you need to have an innate confidence in what you are doing.

      Thanks again for your thoughts John, and I’m glad I gave you an idea – the inspiration is passing from one person to the next :)

      Cheers,

      Tom

  6. Bon Crowder
    October 26, 2011 at 10:20 am

    I gave up banking on comments a long time ago. I still solicit them, and I’m not bothered at all if I get none. It may have something to do with the niche, too. Not many people chime up in a math class for fear of looking dumb. Perhaps the same holds true on a math blog.

    With all this talk of percentages, I wonder: of the people who are blog commenters (at all), what are their habits for commenting on different blogs or being loyal to the same few?

    For instance, if I read something, I’m likely to comment. (Probably one reason I don’t read Godin.) If I make it to the bottom of an article, I’m engaged enough to have an opinion. And since that little comment box is sitting right there, hey, why not.

    So I’m part of the 90% in the fact that 90% of articles I read get a comment. But only 1% of all blogs I have ever read get revisited by me. So I’m not a frequent commenter, I don’t even contribute occasionally. I contribute once.

    It’s probably useless information and so will never be studied. But I still wonder.

    Thanks for the good read, Tom!

    • Tom Ewer
      October 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      Hey Bon!

      It’s an interesting point you make about your niche, and you’re certainly right in theory – certain niches attract far more comments than others.

      I’m totally with you on reading leading to commenting. If I am interested enough to read all the way through an article, I will be likely to comment.

      I think it’s interesting information actually…a breed of person who may not exercise much ‘blogging loyalty’, and yet is ready, willing and able to engage when she sees good content! Why don’t you come back to blogs that publish articles you enjoy?

      On a completely unrelated note – I see that you’re from Houston! How are things over there? My sister, nephews and niece live just north of Houston, so I get out there once a year usually.

      All the best,

      Tom

      • Bon Crowder
        October 26, 2011 at 5:20 pm

        “Why don’t you come back to blogs that publish articles you enjoy?” hmm… very curious question…

        I had to think on it for a while.

        Turns out that I read and comment on articles that engage me – but that doesn’t imply that I enjoy them. For instance, I’m back here because I’m DYING to leave my day job (an event slated for 2013). So your stuff I’m actually enjoying – not just getting engaged with.

        Regarding Houston – what part? I grew up in Cleveland, Texas. They might be in Humble, Kingwood or Conroe.

        And there’s the PM of the day job…

  7. Vitaly
    April 15, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    On Way Street – my Blog.

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