How a Blog Post Made One Reader Feel Like a Failure
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of how our blog posts make people feel. Following on from that, I came across something last week that got me thinking even more about this – something that made me realise how careful we need to be, as bloggers, about how we dispense advice and, as consumers, how we respond to it.
It was a discussion in the comment stream on Jeff Goins‘ great blog, in response to a guest post by Paul Evans, entitled “5 Reasons Why You Need a Signature Product”. In case you’re wondering, a “signature product” is a high value digital product, typically costing anything from $97 to $997 – and the point of producing one is to increase your knowledge and skills, as well as enhancing your credibility and authority as an expert in your field (if you want to know more, follow the link and read the post).
One courageously honest commenter responded by saying the post had upset him deeply – he went so far as to say it made him feel he was “destined to fail”. He’d felt he was making progress, but was now in despair at being told here was yet another thing he “had” to do to be a successful writer.
I replied to his comment, saying I shared some of his feelings – I’m a long way from being able to create a $100+ product, so if I really “need” one I guess I, too, am destined to fail. But I also said I thought the problem lay in the way the author addressed himself to the reader with the didactic statement that “you need” a signature product. Says who?
We write in this way in order to get people to sit up and take notice – starting with our attention-grabbing headlines. But it’s potentially damaging if readers take us too seriously, as that heart-rending response to Paul’s post demonstrates.
I’ve come across tons of blog posts that have told me about things I absolutely must do – or must not do in order to succeed. And, especially if you’re new and desperate to make money blogging, it’s easy to take all this advice at face value and feel you have to scurry off and install that plugin, insert that code into your site (yikes!), subscribe that to that service…..
But some of those authoritative-sounding tips might not be what you need to hear right now – and could actually do you more harm than good.
What Makes Some Blog Posts Dangerous?
- THEY CONTAIN BAD ADVICE
The only person to edit and check a blog post is usually the blogger himself or herself and, let’s be honest, there are some rum posts out there peddling dodgy or half-baked advice.
Even expert, pro bloggers sometimes dole out questionable guidance – I read one post recently, on a highly prestigious blog, suggesting I should choose my friends with care if I want to avoid becoming a “dumb” blogger. I responded to that one saying I couldn’t subscribe to such a cold, utilitarian view of friendship, and if that makes me a dumb blogger, so be it.
Just because it’s published doesn’t make it true or right.
- THEY CONTAIN ADVICE THAT’S NOT APPROPRIATE FOR YOU
You may sometimes come across blog posts containing advice that’s just not appropriate for your particular niche, your skills or your level of expertise.
Here’s one of my pet peeves – the suggestion, often promoted in blog posts, that we’ve all got to make videos. NO WE DO NOT! Some posts give the impression you’re never going to make it if you don’t have a YouTube channel full of your home-made movies. Well, I’m sorry, but I disagree. Some people don’t come across very well on video at all and might do their blogs more harm than good. So if making videos isn’t for you right now, feel free to ignore that one.
You’re also likely to come across posts advising you to do things that may be way outside your level of technical competence – some techie blogs can make quite complex tasks sound a lot easier than they really are for the uninitiated, as I’ve discovered to my cost. I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to figure out things I just don’t have the knowledge and skills to handle.
Just because some tech-savvy whizz-kid tells you adding this smart bit of code to your blog is a “must do” if you want to get into the fast lane – it ain’t necessarily so. Your blog might end up in sick-bay if you fiddle about in the engine room without knowing what you’re doing. My good friend Tim Bonner has recently published a very interesting blog post about some products he’s tried that haven’t exactly turned out as expected, sometimes with scary consequences.
- THEY ENCOURAGE YOU TO DO STUFF THAT’S NOT NECESSARY
The blogosphere is full of posts about the latest plugins, social media tools, apps, browser extensions etc. There must be a new toy coming out for bloggers to play with every second of the day. YOU DO NOT NEED THEM ALL! Some may be just what you’re looking for – others might be a waste of your time (and money, in some cases), and perhaps a distraction from other more important tasks you should be focusing on.
I’ve lost count of the posts I’ve read about all those “essential” plugins I should have on my blog – if I’d installed them all, I’d have at least a 100 by now and this site would have ground to a halt.
- THEY MAKE YOU FEEL INADEQUATE OR DEMORALIZED
Any post that makes you feel down in the dumps has got to be bad news. Blogging’s hard enough as it is – you need encouragement, motivation, help and support, not a kick in the teeth. It’s great to read posts that challenge you – but it’s no good if they make you feel disheartened and undermined. When you come across posts like that, chances are they’re offering poor advice, or suggesting things that are inappropriate or unnecessary for you at the moment.
How To Make Sure Your Blog Posts Don’t Have a Negative Impact
- ALWAYS HAVE YOUR READERS IN MIND
Give a damn about the impact your posts are going to have on your readers. This should always be at the back of your mind when you’re writing a post - “how are my readers going to benefit from this?”
- GET TO KNOW YOUR READERS
Try to get to know your target audience. Listen to their comments. OK, you’re never going to have control over exactly who visits your blog and reads your posts. But if you build a relationship with your readers and get to know their needs, you can at least try to make sure your posts are pitched at roughly the right level and contain the kind of information and advice your regular visitors want to hear.
- QUALIFY ADVICE THAT MIGHT NOT BE FOR EVERYONE
If you provide a tip for which people will need a particular level of expertise, or which may not be relevant for all your readers, be honest about it. For example, if it’s about a plugin with complicated settings, why not say that some technically challenged readers might need help setting it up? Or if you write a post with more advanced bloggers in mind, make it clear the information or advice might not be appropriate for newbies.
If you publish a blog post that needs a health warning, for goodness’ sake, give it one!
And as a Reader: How to Make Sure Blog Posts Don’t Damage YOUR Health
- DON’T BELIEVE EVERY WORD YOU READ!
Read all blog posts, including this one, with an open mind and a degree of healthy scepticism. I don’t want to knock all the great blog posts out there, which often contain incredibly useful tips, information, instructions and advice.
Just remember, none of them have Biblical authority – and, let’s face it, there’s some weird and worrying stuff in the Bible you wouldn’t want to take too literally!
- REMEMBER – EVEN IF IT’S TRUE, IT MIGHT NOT BE APPLICABLE TO YOU
You need to analyse whatever you read with careful consideration as to whether the advice is right for you. Ask yourself whether it makes sense for you at the moment and whether you really need it, before you rush to try out that new plugin or embark on creating that signature product.
The blogosphere is full of an enormous range of information – some very simple and basic, some extremely complex and sophisticated. Not all of it will be relevant to you; not all of it’s going to meet your needs, and some of it may cause you more trouble than it’s worth.
One of the hardest tasks you have, but one of the most important, is to learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff as you look around for blogging advice.
Over to you:
- Have you ever come across blog posts that have sent you careering down a blind alley, wasted your time, or left you feeling demoralized?
- How do you think we can make sure our own posts don’t have a negative impact on our readers?
If you have any views you’d like to share, please let me know what you think in the comments below.
And please don’t forget to “share” this post with your friends and followers, if you think they’d enjoy it.
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Filed under: Blogging Tips
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