Ever wonder why no-one is reading your blog? You’ve written about your pop culture obsession, revealed some personal insights, made sure you were original but then… nothing.
Not a retweet, not a comment, not a like.
Here’s a clue. Maybe you were writing the right thing – but you were writing it in the wrong way.
Ask yourself these three questions
- Who was I trying to impress with my blog post?
- Was I writing it in the way my audience wanted to read it?
- Can I rework the blog post different ways for different audiences?
Yes, everyone’s telling you that you should develop your own voice and you shouldn’t compromise for fear of becoming like the herd. But here’s something they never tell you.
Voice is not about style. Voice is about content.
Think about Charles Dickens. He had a distinctive style. But when you think about Dickens and you think about his stories not his sentence construction (in fact, that might be the exact obstacle to you reading his novels cover to cover).
No, with Dickens, you think about his eccentric characters, his foggy London, his campaign for social justice, his version of Christmas.
His prose style was the most effective, populist means of delivering his message and his stories. If he was writing today, he’d be writing an HBO box-set. He wouldn’t be writing in any way we’d consider “Dickensian”.
Style follows content follows audience
So, if the answer to the first question is that you’re writing your blog post to impress people with your semantic gymnastics, get over yourself.
Yes, you can make a Spam, anchovy and blue cheese pizza because it’s original and notable and quirky and some millionaire chef might buy up the rights.
But make one with ham, cheese and pepperoni and you’ll get more people to your stall.
People want to read things the way they want to read things. Questions, bullet points, subheads, short sentences – these are the language of the web. People are not going to learn a new language just because you came along.
Why should they care? Chances are they can get a similar point of view from someone else who doesn’t require a translation.
(Spoiler alert. The lessons of this blogpost are not original. Nothing’s new. It’s just packaged differently.)
That doesn’t mean your Dickensian prose or high-falutin wit goes to waste. Your blog post has another function.
Think of your blogpost as branded breadcrumbs. You get an audience by delivering it their way – you get followers and a following – and then you can convert those followers into readers who, hopefully, become fans.
Follow the rules… then break them
Get some followers then share with them your Spam, anchovy and blue cheese pizza. They’ll gobble it up. Or, at least be receptive to the idea because it’s come from someone they know and trust.
Because, you’re sharing with people already on your side, already familiar with your way of thinking. You have critical mass of followers who’ll give you honest feedback.
Remember, in the first instance, it’s just about the numbers.
So don’t be precious – learn to adapt
If you can only write in one style – yours – and that style doesn’t work, you’re not the writer you thought you were.
You don’t write a film script like a novel. You don’t write a comic book like a haiku. A blog post is not a newspaper article or a diary entry. It is what it is.
Yes, refusing to compromising has merits. Sticking to your guns is laudable. You might be the one who can finally bust conventions and create a new paradigm.
If that’s your path then good luck. You’ll need patience, buckets of self-belief, endless talent and lots of luck.
But if all you want is lots of people to read and enjoy the posts you write, then make it their way.
Learn to adapt. Re-work a piece till it feels right (you, after all, are a digital consumer too).
Be prepared to lose the battle to win the war.