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Getting Overly Focused on Your ‘Regular’ Blog Audience


This week, I had one of those “lucky” blog posts, How Are Enterprise 2.0 Vendors Pitching Web 2.0? Using Wordle to Find Out. What do I mean by “lucky”? It caught the eye of someone, which led to all sorts of goodness. I’ll come back to this.

The path of success for the blog post was different than some of my other more-read posts, by which I mean FriendFeed. If I go back to the posts which have gotten the most views – direct and syndicated – FriendFeed has been incredibly important to making that happen.

So naturally, if a blog post doesn’t get a lot of uptake there, I think, “well, not one that resonated a lot out there.” In fact, I sometimes feel lulled into a sense that FriendFeed is pretty much the barometer for how a post is viewed out there:

  • Get a lot of Likes and comments on the feed URL or someone’s share? Rock on!
  • Not too many people care about the post? Take satisfaction in your own writing and move on.

That sense isn’t wholly without merit. FriendFeed has a lot of smart, engaged people who love a good discussion piece.

But I can see how sweating that too much might undermine your sense of blogging. I’m thinking of those for whom blogging lost its luster recently, such as Colin Walker. He also became fatigued with social media.

The absolute greatest thing about FriendFeed for bloggers is that you “know” your readers. You see what they think in their comments. You get feedback via Likes. You follow them elsewhere on FriendFeed and gain an understanding for their perspectives and interests.

That feedbback loop can be a bit double-edged. Over time, I’ve developed a pretty good sense for when a blog post will work well inside FriendFeed, and when one will get a lackluster reception. I plow on with my posts regardless, because I write what interests me. But that sense that something will receive limited interest can be a touch dispiriting.

But then you get these out-of-the-blue successes, these “lucky” posts, and you’re reminded that there are readers all over the place, not just FriendFeed.

I’m going to describe three blog posts that really got me a good reception, only one of which was a FriendFeed-only phenomenon.

Three Blog Successes

FriendFeed ‘Likes’ Compatibility Index: I start with a blog post that achieved success within my favorite haunt, FriendFeed. And no surprise. It was about FriendFeed, and it caught a vibe that was powering FriendFeed. We were all meeting really cool people there, and this was a way to find even more users with similar interests. Between my feed and Louis Gray’s share of the post, there were 79 Likes and 68 comments. Plus action around many other shares of the post. And the post led to a really cool app produced by felix.

This post brought home to me the power of FriendFeed. For me, it’s still something of a benchmark for uber successful posts there. Outside of FriendFeed? Not a lot of clicks.

Should I Buy the Apple 3G iPhone or Nokia N95?: Written from the perspective of both a smart phone and Apple luddite, this post examined what was known about the two smart phones. It got a good reception on FriendFeed. Then the post was picked up by MacSurfer.com. I don’t know that site, but it apparently has a lot of readers. Because a lot of them clicked through on MacSurfer’s link to my blog. Since then I’ve enjoyed some nice search engine traffic thanks to that link.

Suddenly, I found a completely different audience than the social media friends I have on FriendFeed. Apple fans.

How Are Enterprise 2.0 Vendors Pitching Web 2.0? Using Wordle to Find Out: Published this past Monday, the post got a comparatively small reception on FriendFeed. As I mentioned before, you develop a sense for what blog posts will play well on FriendFeed. I kind of knew this one wouldn’t. My enterprise 2.0 posts usually are smaller affairs there. That’s cool. I write those posts anyway because I work in that sector and the subject interests me.

And then luck struck again. The post caught fire with the enterprise 2.0 crowd. Enterprise 2.0 A-Lister Dion Hinchcliffe tweeted my blog post to his followers. Views started picking up. He then asked to publish the blog post in Social Computing Magazine. I said ‘yes’ of course, and it was the lead story for the day.

Again, I found a whole different audience outside FriendFeed. Enterprise 2.0 professionals.

So What to Take Away

I write this as a reminder to myself that there are a lot of audiences out there, and that it’s easy to fall into a pattern of focusing on what your friends on FriendFeed find interesting. If I wrote exclusively about enterprise 2.0, might I question whether anyone cared based on lower response levels on FriendFeed? And I wonder if other bloggers feel this?

As Colin felt the burn-out from social media and blogging, the thing that was best for him was to take time off. Another person who shares some of Colin’s feelings is Alexander Van Elsas. For Alexander, rather than step back from it, he has established himself as The Guy Who’s Questioning This Whole Social Media Thing.

Louis Gray had nice advice to bloggers verging on burn-out: Relax, Bloggers: Nobody Is Keeping Score, and There’s No Quota.

To that I’d add this: Stretch your creative limits. Maybe you were on a tear for a particular topic, had some success, and now find the well running dry and reader engagement dropping.

Time off is certainly a good remedy. But how about another idea? Writing something different. Try a new set of topics. For instance, perhaps there’s a tangentially related set of topics to social media. Cloud computing. Data portability. The bases for human interactions over time. Enterprise 2.0. Or go well outside that. Energy. Politics. Parenting.

Sure, you may not get a lot of clicks. Maybe the reserve of “conversation capital” you’ve built up will be quickly depleted. However, you know that’s a real possibility because you’ve switched directions on your audience. That gives you the mental safety zone to experiment and to get the creative and analytical juices flowing again.

Remember why you started blogging in the first place. Explore topics that interest you.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Getting+Overly+Focused+on+Your+%E2%80%98Regular%E2%80%99+Blog+Audience%22&public=1

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

4 Responses to Getting Overly Focused on Your ‘Regular’ Blog Audience

  1. Hi Hutch, I like your stance on this. It’s so important to write about things you have an interest in or are passionate about. It really doesn’t matter what you write about then.
    Don’t know about this “Guy who questions this social media thing though”. I tend to question a lot more then that (you should see my iPhone posts ;-). I get passionate about First Use. A technology or service, no matter how cool, needs to provide its users real value. If it doesn’t, well, you simply won’t put in the effort to integrate it into your habits. That’s how I try to look at things (including social media) ;-)

  2. Kyle Lacy says:

    Real Value is def. the key. I had a good deal with success with a post that was catered to FriendFeed. Funny how that works out right? :-)

    Great post Hutch!

  3. Pingback: Colin Walker » Lessons learnt or common sense?

  4. Pingback: Lessons learnt or common sense? » Walker Media

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