A Return to Blogging for Communication

Blogs serve a variety of purposes. They provide a voice. They offer valuable information or advice. They allow people to express themselves and their creativity. They help people learn and grow. They build people’s expertise in a subject. They create and connect communities.

Many contemporary blogs also serve as cornerstones for content monetization. On Pinterest I regularly see pins about inserting advertising into a post and making four figures per month. Visiting those highly monetized blogs provides another adventure in uncovering the content through all the advertisements. One post I read discussed a 12-step process, but it also contained 45 ads embedded among the paragraphs, making the post nearly unnavigable and unreadable. I gave up trying to get through it. There are better ways to make money from your content than embedded ads.

With so many blogs today focused on revenue generation, the art of communication disappears among all the ways to make sure that every word generates pennies with each impression. But every word does not a blog make. In her book Blogging, Jill Walker Rettberg writes, “A blog conists of more than words and images. It cannot be read simply for its writing, but is the sum of writing, layout, connections and links and the pace of publication” (4-5). A blog is the sum of its parts, not the sum of its ad revenue.

This post encourages an emphasis on blogging for communication. It invites this communication return through three points to remember when composing your own posts.

Audience

The online audience is difficult to define. Some models mention the 90:9:1 ratio, which relates to user engagement.

In general, about 90 percent of online audiences lurk — they contribute nothing to the site or its content at all. The next 9 percent offer some limited engagement, such as a share, a like, or even a comment — hopefully a positive or helpful one.

The final 1 percent is your most active audience members, the ones who not only comment but also reply to others’ comments, share your posts and their insights on all their socials, and in general serve as your biggest fans.

What this ratio means is that you remain mostly unaware of who exactly is visiting your blog and why. Though writing from a consumer-based perspective, Adele Revella’s Book Buyer Personas offers the most methodical approach for their creation. Revella explains further their purpose: “In simplest terms, buyer personals are examples or archetypes of real buyers that allow marketers to craft strategies to promote products and services to the people who might buy them” (xx).

Another term here is “audience profiles,” or representations of your potential blog readers, to provide a mental picture of your target audience. These portraits guide choosing topics, angles, images, and more.

Voice

A strong voice distinguishes a great blog from a mediocre one. It provides a sense of personality, a sense of the person behind the words. In a dark universe of too many anonymous and sterile blogs, voice becomes that bright beacon of light through the darkness.

Who are you? is the key question many audience members ask. That answer can be the difference between them returning or not returning to the blog.

People connect more with other people than they do with the medium itself. They’re curious. They want to know more about you and your stake in the subject.

Many ways exist to show your voice on a blog. One is the choice of topic and your connection to it. Another is your take on the topic, whether it be conventional, controversial, or confrontational. The connection and take will show in your post topics and approaches.

Voice also comes through in writing style, which more than just proper grammar and language use. “Style” describes the overall writing approach used in a blog.

Some blogs tend to be more narrative in their style. Others lean more toward facts. Some blogs are quite wordy in their exposition. Other blogs look more like Hemingway wrote them. Some blogs tend to be quite formal. Other are more conversational.

Focus

Focus is essential for maintaining your blog’s goals, choosing your post topics, and writing your posts.

A blog should have clearly stated communication goals, such as on the site’s “about” page. These goals should be a few in number; too many goals scatter the blog’s focus.

These goals should be described in ways that connect with the intended audience. In other words, what does your audience stand to gain from these blog goals?

Post topics also should relate clearly to the blog’s goals. It is recommended that bloggers stick with three main, but related, topics for the majority of their posts. A blog about minimalism might offer topics about fashion and budgeting so long as the main theme weaves through the other posts. A fashion post documenting a $500 shopping spree would defeat the purpose of the mindful buying and owning that minimalists often support.

This is not to say that bloggers never should go off topic. Instead, they should have a stated reason for doing so.

The writing in your posts should be clear as well. Be able to explain the topic and goal of each post in one short sentence. Use details to support that focus, and organize them to flow logically through the post. Avoid tangents that pad the post.

Also uphold standards of writing for clarity, such as avoiding acronyms, specialist terminolgy, or obscure words. Use simple sentences. Stick to short paragraphs.

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