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.
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.