What’s wrong with my blog?
That’s a very frustrating question that many bloggers ask.
You’re passionate about your topic and you provide great advice to solve reader’s problems. You wrap up your posts with interesting questions, inviting readers to share their opinions in the comments. You offer clear calls to action.
Unfortunately, no one seems to be listening.
Post after post reveals no more than a handful of comments (and half of those are your own replies). Your subscriber numbers have flatlined. And forget fan mail, that showing up seems as likely as finding a tall glass of water in the desert.
I hate to be the one to tell you, but the problem might not be your blog. The problem might be you.
Why bloggers need good people skills
Considering you don’t share the same room, or perhaps even the same continent with your readers, the vital need for interpersonal skills on your blog may be a bit puzzling.
But as Jon Morrow points out, “Those traffic figures in your analytics account aren’t just numbers, they’re people.”
And people with high social intelligence are magnetic.
Have you ever noticed how popular bloggers have a knack for writing about their readers’ hopes and frustrations? Popular blogs sound like they were written just for you. The comments are filled with statements like, “This is just what I needed to hear,” or “Wow, I could have written those same words.”
Successful bloggers build the confidence of their readers, not just themselves. They create rapport by making readers feel valued, one person at a time.
Good writing alone won’t drive people to subscribe, leave thoughtful comments, or share your material. Social intelligence is the currency of the blogosphere. In fact, it’s the key to good business too.
And the best part? It can be learned.
Sizing up your social IQ
In his book, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success, Karl Albrecht highlights the five dimensions of social intelligence. The trick is understanding how to translate those often nonverbal dynamics into the text-based world of blogging.
1. Situational Awareness Having situational awareness means you understand the social context of situations and respond appropriately. People missing this skill take phone calls in the middle of meetings or blast their car stereo while returning home late at night. They’re not purposely rude, just oblivious to the wants (and reactions) of others. In the online world, this is the equivalent of committing the blogging sin of boorishness.
Need help developing better situational awareness? Check out LaVonne Ellis and David Crandall’s Customer Love e-book.
2. Presence Presence is the ability to project confidence and self-respect, and as a blogger, it derives primarily from your voice. If you’re used to writing term papers or corporate vision statements, finding your writing voice can be tricky. When you get it right, it’s an extremely powerful way to build connections with readers.
3. Authenticity The blogosphere likes to talk about the importance of authenticity, but what is it really? Albrecht calls it the “opposite of being phony.” Seth Godin describes authenticity as “doing what you promise, not being who you are.” Many associate authenticity with revealing the person behind the ideas, like Corbett Barr’s blog post “33 Things I Never Told You.” For bloggers, authenticity is probably somewhere in between ideology and action. The point is to be genuine: express opinions you believe in, endorse products you use, and network with people you actually like.
4. Clarity How well you present ideas and influence others comes, in part, from your clarity. It’s a balance between knowing enough to be specific and having enough distance to speak directly. The classic advice is to explain a topic like you were speaking to your grandmother. This is particularly relevant for bloggers, who often assume their audience is social media savvy instead of the “average Grandma Minnie.”
5. Empathy Empathy involves understanding the experiences and motivations of another person. Looking for a topic that has viral potential? Want to invoke an emotional reaction to your post? Empathy is the cornerstone of social intelligence.
Creating the complete social intelligence package
The best way to improve your social IQ is to spend some quality time alone. After all, if you don’t understand your own motivations, how can you hope to predict the fears and desires of your readers?
You’ll be surprised how hard this is.
I recently left a 20-year career in science. As I was evaluating new career options, I wrote down all the jobs I’d considered as a kid, before (I thought) society had imposed its expectations on me.
I’d always dreamed of becoming an actor. But the more I thought about it, I realized my interest in acting was more an interest in fame. I wasn’t actually very interested in joining a local theater company.
Many writers use journaling as an effective way to explore the undercurrent of their emotions.
What’s the first thing you worry about when you wake up in the morning? If the doctor gave you three months to live, what would you do with the time? Why aren’t you doing that now? What makes you cry tears of joy? Why aren’t you doing that?
This isn’t just advice for those woo-woo, self-help bloggers either.
Social media junkies are scared they’ll sell their soul to get 5,000 friends on Facebook and still won’t have anyone to call when they have a bad accident on the interstate. New tech users worry they’ll drop their iPhone on the subway platform and will never, ever re-create their contacts list.
That little voice whispering insecurities in your ear all day long? He’s a blogger’s best friend.
Listen to your insecurities carefully, then find a way around them. This will likely bring up more insecurities. Find a way around those too.
Write about the solutions you find, with all the social intelligence you can muster.
You’ll not only be a better blogger, you’ll be a better person.