When I was in college, I had a professor who was fresh out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (better known as MIT) and in his first year of teaching. He was a brilliant linguist – a genius if ever there was one – but his first semester teaching undergrads at B.U. wasn’t going so hot.
Did you ever meet someone who was so smart that they couldn’t connect with other people? Well, for about six weeks, the other students and I had this professor pegged as that guy.
We struggled and wrestled with the course material, wading through stacks of academic articles for which we simply had no context. We weren’t connecting the dots. It was clear our professor knew everything there was to know about what he was teaching, but we were all just missing the point.
I stayed up late nights reading, met with classmates at the library, and even skipped an ultimate frisbee tournament to try to wrap my head around everything I was supposed to know. I thought I was doomed to fail a class in my major, in a subject I loved.
But right after midterms, Paul did something we didn’t expect.
He asked us what we were struggling with.
Have you ever taken off your blogging cap and asked whether you were really helping your readers? Whether you’re making a difference in their lives and not just hitting “publish” three times a week because that’s what good bloggers do? (tweet this!)
I can’t remember exactly what our issues were at the time, but I do remember that from that point on in that class, everything changed. He started giving a different kind of lecture, one that started with questions and ended with all of us students arriving at new understanding.
Where Paul had been almost an adversary – something we’d have to overcome if we wanted to get a decent grade for the class – he became our coach and advisor, helping bridge the gap between what we didn’t already know and what we needed to master. He became my favorite professor, and I’m sure I told more than a few people to take classes from him.
I’ve already touched on writing for that one ideal reader, focusing on helping that person overcome challenges, solve problems, think differently, or be inspired. But if you’re somehow missing the mark, if people are coming to your site and leaving without so much as a comment, then you need to ask the right questions.
Even if you only have a handful of subscribers so far, what made them subscribe to your blog? What was the thing that caught their eye? Why did they decide that instead of just reading the content they came for and leaving, they should agree to hear from you more often and become part of your community? What are the things you’re doing well, and which of their problems have you not solved yet?
(but Jeni, you said just the #1 question!)
I did, and here it is:
What do your readers struggle with, and how can you add value to their lives?
If you’re smart, you’ll use the answers to all of these questions to plan your next steps on your blog – at the very least, what posts you need to write to really help your existing readers. But this process will help you do something even more powerful than getting to know the people who already read your blog – it will help you step up your game and blog better for your target audience as a whole.
And having a better blog, friend, will help you connect with new audiences, with more subscribers and a growing community that is passionate about sharing your work with others.
What questions are you going to ask today? How are you going to ask them?
What are you going to do once you have the answers?
Share this post, then leave me a comment below and tell me how you’re going to start (or keep!) connecting with the readers who need you.
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