So far this week I've written about the Search Engine Optimization and Social Media lessons I've learned from watching my kids grow up. Today I'll be looking at what my two year old and four year old have taught me about creating content, building a community and increasing engagement rates for your blog.
Attention Spans are ShortAnyone who has spent more than 35 seconds with a preschooler knows they have the attention span of a squirrel on crack. Holding their focus on any one toy, game, conversation or activity for more than a few minutes is a challenge. They're always looking for the next great adventure and the next fun surprise. Over time, they learn to focus a little longer and a little more intently, but in the early days, it's all ADD, all the time.
Internet users aren't all that different. We live in a world where the next exciting thing is a single click away. The 30 second video you're watching on YouTube better be interesting or your eyes will wander to the list of related videos and you'll be off watching a new one before the first one even has a chance to finish playing. Tweets and Facebook status updates have taught us to communicate in sound bite form and a great deal of users have no interest in reading more than a few hunred words of content in a sitting.
In a world where social bookmarking, Twitter, search results and editorial links allow users to flutter from blog to blog, you have to find a way to keep their attention for more than a nanosecond. You need to make sure your content and your design are interesting enough to draw them in. Things like related posts, integrated video, images, and well formatted, scannable text can go a long way toward catching their eye and getting your point across.
Sometimes You Have to Start the FriendshipLast weekend, a friend of mine came to visit with another friend and his young son. This little boy was the quiet type. Very shy, very reserved...we barely heard a peep out of him for the first hour or so he was there. My children, on the other hand, have a little more of my personality. They're warm and open and friendly and willing to talk to nearly anyone. That means they make friends easily and quickly.
I watched my children descend on this little boy, invite him back to their room to play, provide him with toys and start playing "around" him. Eventually, he joined in and appeared to have a very nice time playing. It made me wonder how things would have gone if my kids were as shy as he was. Would they all just have hung back in a corner eyeing each other? Would they have found toys and played on their own, having far less fun than they could have together?
That's kind of how the blogging community works. Sure, you can blog in a vaccuum...sharing your thoughts and ideas and experiences without ever referring to or linking to any other bloggers. You might even succeed by doing so. Thriving, however, requires you to step out and make the effort to make some friends.
Find other related blogs and add your input via comments. Point out their best posts, or launch a friendly debate against them on your own site. Contact them via email or follow them on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Connecting with other bloggers in your niche makes nearly everything about blogging better. You'll have more sources for content ideas, you'll have an easier time getting coverage and you'll enjoy the experience so much more with friends.
Find People You Have Things in Common WithWhile all kids like to have friends, it quickly becomes clear they most enjoy spending time with other kids who share their interests. Kids might meet up on a sports team, in a martial arts class, at cub scouting, or any other variety of shared activities. Even outside of that, most children form friendships on the basis of the things they like to do.
This is a good rule to model when it comes to making connections around your blog. I mentioned above the value of finding other bloggers to connect with. In this section I want to stress the need to make sure you're finding bloggers who share your interests. If you run a food blog, seek out other foodies. If you're a marketing consultant, you'll want to build up a bevy of marketers to read and interact with. If you're writing about music or movies or celebrity gossip, you'll want to look for the other blogs that cover those topics as well.
The most successful blogs are part of a community. Their authors are connected with people who share their interests and together, they form a collective voice on a topic. If you want your blog to be a success, you'll need to step out and make the effort to find the people who share your interests and to connect with them. Otherwise your blog will be the shy kid hanging around at the edge of the party, wishing you had the courage to join in and experience the fun.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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