Finding Balance: Pleasing Your Readers vs. Pleasing Yourself
By: Taylor Davies

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We established last week’s editorial calendar for IFB on the Friday before Sandy hit. The topic of pleasing your readers verses pleasing yourself was one I was going to tackle this past Thursday, but as I’m sure you noticed, our posting was severely hindered by the power outages in lower Manhattan (where our offices are located and most of our team lives).

In the wake of the storm I’m seeing this topic from two different angles:

1. After a natural disaster strikes your city of residence and it’s surrounding area – but you’re okay – what do you do? Do you post more-or-less as usual, because your readers beyond your immediate area will want some fresh content (and those nearby might need a break from the hard news) even if you’re still feeling rattled?

2. After you’ve been blogging for a while, with a significant body of content built up, you can see patterns in your readership. You know what kinds of posts they like and what gets shared and the posts that work well for brand partnerships. You also know very well what kinds of posts you like doing. Naturally, these two ideals don’t always match up. How do you find a balance that leaves everyone satisfied?

I’m interested to know how our readers who have experienced a scenario like the first one I mentioned have handled it on their blogs. In the comments below, please share your personal experience or opinions on the matter. I’m rather torn myself, and can see both sides of the coin. For the purposes of this post, however, let’s focus on the second scenario, since it applies more broadly to IFB’s global readership. (See what I’m doing here?)

Pleasing Your Readers:

 

Ah, the readers. They can really make or break your blog, can’t they? We love them and we don’t want to lose them. In fact, we want more of them all the time, and one of the primary goals of IFB is to help you win and keep readers on your site.

It’s interesting to consider just how much power your readers can have, both as a group and as individuals. One harsh comment on one post can have you reconsidering your whole blogging philosophy, and a slew of positive comments, Facebook shares or tweets can give you loads of confidence to keep on the same path.

When I started my blog (years and years and years ago…) I didn’t even know what a “personal style” blog was. I posted about things I wanted to buy, what I had done that weekend and the style of celebrities and editors I admired. A reader suggested that they would love to see daily outfits for inspiration, I obliged occasionally, the response was positive, and things evolved from there. Soon enough, personal style was a huge component of my blog content, and the one that got the attention of brands. These are the highest traffic-earners and comment-inducing posts on my site, and as of late, the ones that earn money. This is fantastic, and I do love sharing my personal style on my site, but I’m sure you can echo me in saying, “I’m so much more than that!”

Pleasing your readers is how you create a loyal following, and earn trust. These individuals come to you expecting or wanting a certain thing, and when you keep giving it to them, a pattern emerges. A routine develops. A niche clarifies itself amidst the scattered content. This is good, and making your readers (your customers) happy is key for a successful blog business. Give them what they want and they will love you for it.

Pleasing Yourself:

 

Most likely, starting your blog was a personal choice, to fulfill a personal goal, to make you happy, to be your outlet. When it feels like no one is watching, there’s a sense of freedom in posting whatever you feel, as often as you like, and on whatever topic you choose. This is authentic, but it can also be random and unfocused. (Who needs a niche if you’re the only one reading?)

There are a couple of specific examples I can give that sort of typify my stubbornness on this topic. The first is a post series I’ve been doing since the beginning of my site, called “Mid-Week Music Moment.” Each Wednesday I post a song that I love, and or  create a playlist to share with my readers. Guess what? No one cares. These posts get basically no traffic, but I refuse to give them up, because I enjoy creating them, and I like the variety they add to my content.

The second example has to do with Fashion Week. During the shows, I was able to sit front row in the photography pit and capture some great shots of collections I was absolutely enamored with. I was so excited to share these photos as well as my experience and the shows and guess what… That’s right… No one cared! (Traditionally, any fashion week coverage does poorly on my site in terms of traffic.)

Here’s the thing: When I visit my site, I want to scroll through my content and say, “This is me.” I want my posts to reflect who I am, what I like about fashion, what I have seen and what I am doing. To me, cool music and amazing photos from inside fashion week are elements of my life and my content that I am proud of, even if they aren’t a big hit with my readers.

Finding the Balance:

So where does this leave us? We have a few choices: please only yourself, please only your readers, or try and find a sweet spot that satisfies both. That sweet spot might be slightly elusive, and take some time to find. And while compromise isn’t always easy, it might be our best option. If you’re blogging for no one but yourself, you might as well make your site private and call it a diary. If you’re blogging only to pander to what your audience wants, you risk losing the joy in what you’re doing.

Depending on how stubborn you are and how much you like your readers, one side may have to give more than it gets. Personally, I’ve made peace with giving my readers more of what they want. I respect them, love them and have to admit that perhaps they know what’s best sometimes. They provide the push to keep producing high-quality content. Any you know what else? Growth feels good! Being liked feels good. So, I pepper my editorial calendar with music and lifestyle tid-bits that I can’t help but share, but keep the bulk of my content focused on personal style.

Knowing what your readers like comes from studying your analytics and paying attention to your comments and social media engagement. It will likely be different for everyone, so making adjustments and decisions about your content will be a highly personal process.

 

Whether the weather has affected your blog or not, you’ve probably had some kind of internal debate like this before. We all have to decide for ourselves why we blog, and what is most important. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Comments

  1. Avatar of Nasreen
    Nasreen says:

    Such a great post :) luckily what I love to post is what my readers seem to love too. If there is something I really want to write about then once in a while I will (I just did one yesterday) I don’t think there is any problem with that and maybe your readers will enjoy it too.

    Thanks for this :)

    http://lazyobsession.blogspot.com

  2. ByGoldenstar says:

    Thank you for this nice post. This is very helpful for me as a new blogger trying to figure out just this balance.

  3. Avatar of Pinksole

    Great post, I’m pretty new to blogging but I’ve been a blog reader for years and what keeps me coming back to a personal style blog are cute outfit posts and wishlist/collage so that I can get inspired on my next shopping trips. I also love beauty products reviews once in a while. I love blogs on nail art as well and such. Like you said I really don’t care about fashion week pics as I can go on certain sites and see all the collections or even stream the shows live.
    Now that I started blogging I try my best to think in a readers point of vue. So when a particular collection really inspires me I might post a few pics but I don’t make this a weekly habit because the average girl most of the time cannot even afford these clothing. One of my favorite personal style and beauty blogs recently got in a project that I guess was great opportunity for her but has nothing to do with the essence of her blog so I usually just ignore these posts.
    xo
    Rachelle
    http://pinksole.com

  4. Anna says:

    Thanks to SEO, a post I did about DIYing a t-shirt with Damask stamp gets a lot of traffic. Outfit posts get the most comments (but not all of them significant) and when I had a Facebook page, they got the more likes too. But I don’t have time for outfit posts and do one every other month. I prefer writing posts (not such a big hit) and travelling posts.

  5. NewLife says:

    I found it odd when bloggers who live in one of the areas affected by the storm just came back as normal without mentioning it. We want to know how you were affected, how you coped. It goes beyond “news” – it’s a kind of personal relationship bloggers have with their readers.

  6. Helen says:

    This is a constant struggle for me and one of my biggest blogging dilemmas. I don’t have an answer, it’s something I’m still working out, but listening to my readers does provide the push to try to keep producing high quality content.

  7. Avatar of Cyliaaaa
    Cyliaaaa says:

    “I’m so much more than that!” haha! That’s what I always think, and hear a lot of bloggers having the same thought. I agree and actually do the same, like you did with your blog. I feel like it’s daring to say ‘no’ to work and/or articles you can’t commit to or are just not your niche or cup of tea. It’s like when I see a DIY post of someone else, I think: ‘ohhhh thats so awesome, I mean I could think of something like that?’ But in the end realize that my post doesn’t come from a genuine place. I have never really been doing DIY’s so why do it now? I think it’s really hard to eventually stay true to yourself and stay in your niche, when you are a person that wants to do it all;-)

    I feel like I slowly but surely am going into the right path! I don’t post anything I don’t feel hundred precent sure of and I never publish anything without taking good care of my writing. It’s better to publish quality over quantity. p.s. I have the same with fashion week posts and I don’t do a lot of event or shop opening reviews, unless it’s super cool!

  8. Avatar of Cyliaaaa
    Cyliaaaa says:

    P.s.s. I’m so glad everyone is ok at the ifb office! I’m glad you’re ok. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you writing articles after such a shock.

  9. Ebony says:

    This is a good post. I’ve grappled with this lately. I see that a lot of my readers come to my site looking for ‘natural hair’ tips however, I like to write about other things. So far, I’m working thru this. This post gave some good advice on how to find the balance.

  10. Avatar of Elena
    Elena says:

    I 100% agree, sometimes it’s very frustrating to see that readers don’t care about your favorite posts. I learned how to find a balance and make my readers engaged to my blog and enjoy writing the right posts myself.
    P.S. Glad that your team is ok after the storm!
    Kisses
    Elena
    http://dcinstyle.com/blog/

  11. I hear you. I have had that happen a few times where a post I wrote with passion received nothing but the echoes of cyber crickets. I have found however, that often those same posts are the ones that will rise like a phoenix from the ashes once they are gone from memory. From the archives. Suddenly someone will stumble upon it … share it and “VOILA!” a whole new life. Sometimes it is a matter of timing. I keep them all.

    I did create a separate category on my blog. One for actual travel with a small dog posts. And a separate section for the Sailgin around the Mediterranean. The two are linked – but it isn’t the same topic. The tone is totally different. The one is more like a travel book focusing on reviews, impressions and so on. The second is more like a diary … with all the angst and joy that comes from planning a long term travel adventure.

    The business and the soul. You can’t split them up.

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