As I’ve alluded to in the past, I get a lot of email. With my email address located directly on my Twitter page, people use it to say hello, drop a comment, or sometimes throw a question my way. One question I get a lot is what does it take for someone to be A Successful Blogger? What traits or skills do they have to possess? Do I have any tips?
Because “um, not really” and “just be yourself” doesn’t seem to win me favor, I thought I’d share a list of common blogger behaviors that I look for and respond to. For me, these are the qualities you must possess to win yourself a spot in my Google Reader. I’d love to hear what attracted you to some of your favorite bloggers, as well. Teach me how to be better.
They’re good openers
The Web has given us increasingly shorter attention spans. You either capture readers within your first few lines or they’re going to go do something else. The problem with this, of course, is that most people aren’t good openers. When we set out to write a blog post (or, say, ask someone out) we don’t get into our flow until paragraph five. We spend the beginning part humming and hawing, greasing the wheels and trying to pinpoint what it is we want to say. This is fine for a first draft. But when you go to publish, eliminate as much of that throat clearing as you can. It’s better to cut your first 400 words than to bore people with them. The bloggers I love are the ones that skip the awkward introduction and get straight to buying me a drink.
[For future reference, I like mojitos and Sam Adams. Oh, and Rae is really good at cutting to the chase, in posts and IRL.]
They get it out quickly
Unless you posses dooce-like writing abilities, no one is going to read your 3,000 word blog post. They’ll see it, get intimidated and move on. As a blogger you need to set up your point, make aforementioned point, and then let people get on with their life. Marketers and people who don’t write for a living, ironically, tend to do the best job with this. It’s writers (like myself) and insecure people (shut up) who feel the need to constantly bore people to death elaborate. Writers are wordy because they like flowerly writing and insecure people do it because of their unhealthy need to explain and defend themselves. Don’t be an insecure writer. You don’t always have to spell everything out. People will follow. And better yet, they may even read your post. There’s a reason Seth Godin’s posts are 200 words, not 2,000.
They write on the edge of their topic
Newbie bloggers are told to “find a new perspective” to “avoid regurgitating everyone else”. What that really means is blogging on the edge. Get out of that safe, center space where everyone is saying the same stuff, fighting for the same readers and blog from the edge of your niche. That may mean taking the opposite perspective, blogging about the intersection of two parallel topics ($), or just being dumpster-diving crazy. Are people going to tell you you’re taking this approach simply to “be provocative” and write “silly link bait”?. Yes. But if it’s good, they’re also going to read it.
Sometimes I read blogs simply for the information, but most often I read them because I feel a connection with the person writing it. It sounds sappy, but there are a million blogs on SEO and marketing, right? Which ones do you read and why do you read them? Chances are it has something to do with the style and voice of the person writing it. One of the added perks of writing on the edge of your topic is that it helps you form a connection with people. Sure, you’re going to drive some people away but those are the wrong people. They don’t get you. You want to find the people that do. The bloggers I flock to know this and don’t compromise themselves for a mass audience. I happen to think this is one reason newspaper writers are struggling to find an audience in this new connected world. They write for everyone and connect with no one. Smart bloggers know their audience matters and they take steps to connect with it.
They’re always writing
Consistency is so, so important to becoming a successful blogger. Penelope Trunk once wrote that writing a great blog post is easy. Its writing consistently great posts that is rare. And while she’s right, writing consistently can help you create those consistently great posts because it teaches you how to trust your voice. When you do, magic happens. I’d say that most of my favorite bloggers are people that post at least three times a week. Not only is their content better from all that practice, but they also work their way into my daily routine and life, which takes them from random blogger to Beloved Internet Friend.
You can’t fake passion. And that’s the reason why most blogs sucks. They suck because either the person has no real interest in what they’re writing about OR because they’re afraid to be themselves and let their freak flag fly. And, holy moly, can people tell the difference. The reason the blogosphere loves rants isn’t because of the drama, it’s because of the passion behind it. People spend so much of their day in a haze that they’re hoping to feel something, anything. Even if the passion sometimes reads as slightly crazy. When I stumble across a blogger that sparks an emotional reaction in me, it doesn’t matter what their topic is, I subscribe. And when I can write strongly about something I’m passionate about, well, there’s no greater feeling as a blogger. Those are the best days.
Above are some of the traits I look for when evaluating bloggers, but I’m more interested in your opinions. Why do you love your favorite bloggers? What is it about them that caught your eye? What do they possess?