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 Short

distracted.jpgAnyone 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 Friendship

childrenplaying.jpgLast 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 With

sharedinterest.jpgWhile 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.

Photos courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license from users CD_Photo, MadMetal and The Shutter Babe.

January 29, 2009

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.


Is there anything you can't learn from your kids?

Jen, Iove this series or articles that you've done. Nice tie to the basics. Thanks for sharing.

Jenifer, the way of your observation and comparison of kids life and social media is awesome! Thank you for another informative article.

Wow, you have drawn brilliant analogy between the attention spans of your kids and the online users. Even though I am addicted to Youtube, it is true that I click on the related videos links all the time if the present video doesn't satisfy me, lol (but that is precisely the reason why they are there, no?).

That is also why I create extremely short and simple pages which load quickly. Too many graphics in case of html sites and too many plugins in case of wordpress blogs can negatively affect the load time. I don't use blogs much but the principle remain the same regardless of what platform you use to publish your content!

Marlena Burns from Weight Loss PLR Store

I like that you bringing up through this post the importance of relationship for bloggers. Build relationship is not only important in the real world. I have a blogger friend which now become my good friend. We start communicated when I make a post link to his article.

You said it right. There is no point blogging if you will only contain it in your own little world.

Attention spans are short, that is why I am always amazed at how well some of those huge posts from sites like Smashing Magazine do so well.

Bloggers with kids attention spans are short as well mainly because they are busy making sure the kids stay out of trouble. Maybe that is just at my house.

Kids now a days are more internet savvy than their parents.


Very excellent view. I learned something from this article. Hope you will write more and share your ideas to the world.

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That is so true, a blogger can't live without anyone else not even the visitor, they also need you. So build a network between blogger is most likely a must but you have to make sure that they have the same opinion as yours, Good thought!!

"but you have to make sure that they have the same opinion as yours"

I don't believe that statement is true. You could have a very lively discussion (and generate lots of traffic) by a back and forth debate with someone who does not agree with you.
Just like in the real world, you might spend most of your time with people who tend to agree with you, but you get along and have discussions with those who don't.

Thank you for a great new perspective on the whole idea of blogging. I am new at this and you have answered many questions for me in this one post.

The principles of human relations apply even here on the Internet. May be even more so. I like this site and will come back from time to time.

Thanks again,


Hi Jennifer,

It is better to learn internet and blogging from the children because they do not care about anything messing up. Thus, they end up knowing everything interesting over the internet... :)

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Hi Jennifer..

I never use Twitter since its booming, I just don't feel that I need to use it. After reading what your kids taught you about blogging, I guess I will at least go to Twitter and make an account and start adding friends. Let's see the benefits.


Kids rock in the tech world!

The comparrison you made regarding attention spans is spot on. It can be very hard to hold a users attention and make them focus on what you want them to focus on!


Love this article. Why is this fact so hard to get across to marketers? Why do they think that everyone is very, very interested in their product and why do they write in such silly broad strokes saying absolutely nothing unique or of interest.

I think I'm going to write a blog on your article here. Well done.

I'm always learning with my kids, they are not old enough to blog (yet) but I know I will surely learn something from them in this area on the coming years...

Lol, my kids have to show me how to turn the computer on, let alone blogging!

I agree with your comments about having to keep peoples attention. I have the same problem myself when I am working on my websites...I have a gazillion browsers open and I am moving from one thing to the I imagine my visitors are doing the same thing lol

Great article

Love this article much. Although i was have no children now, but soon i want. And your article make me realize that we can learn from they so much. I learned something from this article.

Attention spans are short indeed.

My kid teaches me new things every day, most important is patience but yes, it's highly important to be impactful and keep people interested both short-term and long-term.

I have a friend who is actually blogging every day from the POV of her new born baby. It is such a great idea I love it!

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Heh, I'm with the first comment on this one, is there anything you can't learn from kids? :)

- Jay

Thanks for this great article, Jennifer. I'm just getting started blogging and your article is my inspiration today!

Your kids are really great! I love being around kids... And sometimes they act beyond their thinking limits...

Such an inspiring and informative article, Jen. It's really great to see things in just the simple but meaningful ways.

I just loved this post, it was a great read, it is truly amazing how much one can learn from kids, I am not extremely clued up on a lot of things and have to learn't a huge amount from kids they are so much more in tuned with technology, but this could very well be because they use it on a daily basis, from mobile phones, XBox play stations, computers etc.

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