A basic Google search will turn up all kinds of blogging and podcasting advice. How to get bonus Google Traffic using SEO tips. How to write great content. How to monetize. How not to become a viral ad for social media marketing douchebags. What to Tweet and What Not to Tweet.
What seems to be missing is what happens when you talk about your blog or podcast in actual public. But, the way that Twitter and Foursquare seem to encourage ‘meet-ups’ and the popularity of large-scale unconferences such as Podcamp Toronto make it more necessary to remind bloggers that the people who read your blog are also the people who are going to try and meet with you in public. They may never ever tell you that they read your blog or listen to your podcast, but that does not mean they do not have a dialogue in their head about what they like or do not like about your web presence.
Enter case study #1 – I’m at a bar mingling with a whole group of people with common interests in social media. I’m excited to meet so may new faces. I join in to a conversation half-way through and a woman is talking about her blog or podcast. She’s bragging about the huge response she gets from her readers claiming , somewhat disingenuously, that she does not know why they bother to follow her. Then comes the punch line: “Maybe they only read my blog because I’m a girl.”
I couldn’t help it – it’s part of my east coast blood to knock anyone just a little off their high horse. I mean no malice nor do I wish to give an air of arrogance, but I reply:
“Actually, I am almost convinced that everyone reads my blog because I’m a boy.”
What followed was a pre-rehearsed tirade of insults for my ‘sarcasm’ that I wasn’t able to hear because the music in the bar was too loud. I happily nodded-and-smiled my way to the end of the conversation and moved on to someone else. It was quite a funny experience, because I didn’t think anyone would take themselves so seriously as to take offence at what was obviously a small joke. But, now I have it behind me, I’m much more willing to take a look at why I would bother to quip at such sillyness.
A litany of red-flags went off when I heard ‘people only read my blog because I am a girl.’ Among other things, it implies:
- ‘my readers and listeners are a bunch of idiot men’
- ‘I create content to cater to stupid audience’
- ‘i will play insipid flirting games with my readers / listeners’
- ‘i am sexist and manipulative’
- ‘i am more than willing to add to internet noise to gain a little attention.’
Intended or not, it left a really bad impression. I felt it hard to imagine following this person or reading any of her content. I was not interested in any social media advice she had to offer. She’d need a real kick-ass portfolio showing some serious writing chops before I’d ever consider hiring her and even then, i’d be worried about the ethical side of her performance.
Of course, this is only a first impression situation. We could end up being the best of buddies. Still, it does say something about personal branding in general and the degree to which internet culture can honestly spill into the so-called ‘real world.’
Here are my ideas about how you might talk about your blog online:
If someone compliments your blog, say “Thank You.”
Nothing else. Do not go on about problems, issues, or mistakes unless people ask you about them. Ask them questions about what they like most about your blog instead. Keep them talking instead. It’s an old trick coming from my singing and acting days. If you do talk about problems and issues with your content, it will sound like you are saying your readers / audience have no taste.
Respect Your Reader/Listener
Your blog/podcast exists not because you write or talk into a microphone, but because there is an audience willing to listen to it. Speak approvingly of the people who make your blog possible. Just because they may enjoy reading trashy (or even *gasp* porn) content once in a while does not mean you can treat them like idiots.
Would you buy a car from an engineer who made even the slightest quip about its design? Nope. Respect your product. Respect that you put a lot of time into your blog and/or podcast. You deserve credit for the mere effort.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about a lack of transparency here. Yes, you definitely want to own up to errors in judgement or fact. What I’m saying is that you should respect the quality of your work and focus on the positive unless there is something glaring that needs to be adjusted.
There’s (Still) a Chasm Between People Who Know and Do Not Know Social Media
In practical terms, this means you could be explaining ‘what is a blog?’ to Chris Brogan or Cory Doctorow or talking about how ow.ly ‘s statistics through Hootsuite compare to bit.ly in front of someone who thinks the Internet is a bunch of pipes. Social media Gurus look pretty much like social media luddites.
It’s all About the Conversation!
Conversation wasn’t invented by Social Media sites believe it or not. The way to start a conversation is to ask questions, take interest, listen to others, appreciate new interests, learn and so on. In this way, a mingle in a bar is not that different from your blog. If you are genuinely interested in what your audience has to say then you are hardly ever going to have people wondering who the heck you are.
Conversely, if you are just name dropping famous bloggers to assert your social media status, you are going to lose very quickly.
Bloggers and podcasters have been a marginalized species for quite a while now. I can appreciate the self-consciousness now that the whole social media thing has become mainstream. There are people who have been in the space for years that are being eclipsed by just about anyone with a computer and digital camera. Social Media ‘experts’ are popping up everywhere, with little or no real social media experience.
Everyone simultaneously knows everything and nothing about social media. Fewer people are asking ‘what is a wiki’, but many of the people in the know still do not understand the usefulness of the ‘revert’ feature.
People are interested more than ever about what bloggers have to say. You finally have an audience willing to listen to you at parties. Relax and enjoy the attention. Answer questions sincerely and honestly – assuming nothing about your listener’s skill level or interests. It’s just a conversation, after all.
What advice / experiences do you have about talking about your blog or podcast in the ‘real world?’